Archives for March 2014

Mike Oldfield Man on the Rocks Review


I’m so superficial: I love the blue vinyl

First a disclaimer: I’m an enormous Mike Oldfield fan, who in conjunction with my wife had an excerpt from Tattoo on Tubular Bells II as our bridal march.

Like the majority of Oldfield fans, I was drawn to him through his instrumental work. That said, I’ve always really liked his rock work – Discovery and Islands are two favourites. So it was with a fan-based, but open mind in regard to genre that I’ve come to review Man on the Rocks.

This is an album from a man who has nothing to prove artistically – his reputation has been established for decades and if you’ve listened to many interviews, Oldfield will regularly emphasise it’s about creating the music he feels he needs to. That’s exactly what he’s delivered here – eleven songs that are infused with his current living situation (The Bahamas) and his semi-recent personal life (divorce).

If you’ve heard or seen much about this album, it’s hard to escape the Bahamas imagery. Combined with Sailing as the opener, it creates the strong perception of a relaxed / AOR approach, and I think it does the album a disservice. There’s a range of themes on here, but it takes a couple of listens to put the whole album into context.

Sailing is the lead song of the album and its obvious why – it’s upbeat and has a hook that’s hard to move on from. Moonshine and title track Man on the Rocks build the momentum nicely. Castaway is a slow burner that delivers a punch in Oldfield’s guitar solo toward the end. Minutes is a four to the floor soft rock classic as good as anything Oldfield has delivered previously. Nuclear and Chariots are the two most introspective songs, and it only takes one listen to work out it’s not a happy look inwards – Chariots instrumentally seems to be one from the vault. Following the Angels made little impression on me, but Irene is a nice rocker with some brass swagger added. I Give Myself Away is the final track and the only one not penned by Oldfield. It’s a mellow finish to the album and one that sits nicely.

Is Man on the Rocks one of Mike Oldfield’s better albums? It’s too early to tell, but it certainly can sit proud amongst his other rock albums. As far as replayability goes, I can see Sailing, Minutes, Irene and Castaway being on regular rotation, with the others pleasant surprises as they come up on a playlist.

The best compliment I can give this album is that it’s honest – and that honesty delivers a number of high points that will keep me coming back for a long time to come.

Oh and Mike: please tour Australia sometime – we’re just like The Bahamas but with even more flora and fauna.

Marriage Jokes

Typical macho man married typical good-looking lady, and after the wedding, he laid down the following rules: “I’ll be home when I want, if I want and at what time I want – and I don’t expect any hassle from you! I expect a great dinner to be on the table unless I tell you that I won’t be home for dinner. I’ll go hunting, fishing, boozing, and card-playing when I want with my old buddies, and don’t you give me a hard time about it. Those are my rules. Any comments?” His new bride said “No, that’s fine with me. Just understand that there will be sex here at seven o’clock every night… whether you’re here or not”.

Husband and wife had a bitter quarrel on the day of their 40th wedding anniversary! The husband yells “When you die, I’m getting you a headstone that reads ‘Here Lies My Wife – Cold As Ever’!” “Yeah?” she replies “When you die, I’m getting you a headstone that reads, ‘Here Lies My Husband – Stiff At Last’!”

Husband (a doctor) and his wife are having a fight at the breakfast table. Husband gets up in a rage and says “And you are no good in bed either” and storms out of the house. After some time he realises he was nasty and decides to make amends and rings her up. She comes to the phone after many rings, and the irritated husband says “What took you so long to answer to the phone?” She says “I was in bed”. “In bed this early, doing what?” “Getting a second opinion!”

A man has six children and is very proud of his achievement. He is so proud of himself, that he starts calling his wife ‘Mother of Six’ in spite of her objections. One night, they go to a party. The man decides that it is time to go home and wants to find out if his wife is ready to leave as well. He shouts at the top of his voice “Shall we go home Mother of Six?” His wife, irritated by her husband’s lack of discretion shouts right back “Any time you’re ready, Father of Four”.

A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly the man realised that the next day he would need his wife to wake him at 5am for an early business flight. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper ‘Please wake me at 5am’. He left it where he knew she would find it. The next morning the man woke up, only to discover it was 9am and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go to see why his wife hadn’t wakened him when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed. The paper said ‘It is 5:00am. Wake up’.

There are two times when a man doesn’t understand a woman – before marriage and after marriage.

A married couple goes to a marriage counsellor to work out some problems. The counsellor sits them on the couch and says “Let’s start by talking about what you both have in common”. The husband says “Well for starters, neither one of us sucks dick…”

A husband and wife were at a party chatting with some friends when the subject of marriage counselling came up. “Oh we’ll never need that. My husband and I have a great relationship” the wife explained. “He was a communications major in college and I majored in theatre arts. He communicates real well and I just act like I’m listening”.

Newlyweds are into their second week of marriage when the wife says to the husband… “I want to set the rules down about sex. When my hair is nice and perfect – I definitely don’t want to have sex! If my hair is a little messed up and not that perfect – maybe I do, maybe I don’t want to have sex. But when my hair is messed up… I definitely want to have sex”.

Husband says… “Okay but I have my rules about sex also… every night when I come home from work I will have one can of beer. When I have one can of beer I definitely don’t want to have sex. When I have a couple of beers – maybe I do, maybe I don’t want to have sex. When I have a six pack or a case of beer – I don’t give a toss about your hair!

At All Saints Lutheran Church they have a weekly husband’s marriage seminar. At the session last week, the Pastor asked Ole, who was approaching his 50th wedding anniversary, to take a few minutes and share some insight into how he had managed to stay married to the same woman all these years.

“Well” Ole replied to the assembled husbands “I’ve tried to treat her nice, spend money on her, but best of all I took her to Norway for the 20th anniversary!” The Pastor responded “Ole, you are an amazing inspiration to all the husbands here! Please tell us what you are planning for your wife for your 50th anniversary”. Ole proudly replied: “I’m a-gonna go get her!”


I met a man who had been married for 66 years. “Amazing. 66 years!” I said. “What’s the secret to such a long, happy marriage?” “Well” he replied “It’s like this. The man makes all the big decisions… and the woman just makes the little decisions”. “Really?” I responded. “Does that really work? “Oh yes” he said proudly. “66 years, and so far, not one big decision!”


Facebook Buys Oculus: What’s The Downside?

There's one hell of a ride ahead for virtual reality

There’s one hell of a ride ahead for virtual reality

The news that Facebook have paid $2.2 billion dollars in cash and Facebook shares to buy Oculus, is far from surprising. The Oculus team have a huge profile and one of the behemoths were always going to buy them out.

What I’m interested in is the potential downsides of the takeover and its implications for the technology. Here’s a couple I can see:

1. Accentuating the Generalist

Although gaming is the primary focus for the Oculus Rift VR headset, there’s a lot of emphasis on other applications for it as well. Personally, I intend on using it for some clinical simulation research for my PhD. This takeover won’t stop that as far as I can tell, and it could actually speed up access to the retail units, but I worry that Facebook may dull some of the sharper edges the Oculus team have. Games are where the money is, so hopefully there’s still some support for other areas of R&D to keep a wider but smaller audience in the loop. On the encouraging side, the Oculus team seem to think it’s not just about games:

As we talked more, we discovered the two teams shared an even deeper vision of creating a new platform for interaction that allows billions of people to connect in a way never before possible.

That said, there’s always lots of starry-eyed optimism during a honeymoon period – it’s the long term commtment that will count.

2. The Facebookisation Risk

As bizarre as this sounds, I worry that Facebook will try to put too strong an imprimatur on the Oculus technology, making it appear more a niche product than it deserves to be. Yes, Facebook has huge user saturation, but it’s also starting to suffer from the perception of its size and age. If the Oculus Rift is seen as being grafted to the Facebook brand, it could actually suffer. If its first outing in Facebook land is perceived as a novelty, then that risk increases further.

On the extreme side of the equation from my concerns, here’s what the Oculus team have to say:

This partnership is one of the most important moments for virtual reality: it gives us the best shot at truly changing the world. It opens doors to new opportunities and partnerships, reduces risk on the manufacturing and work capital side, allows us to publish more made-for-VR content, and lets us focus on what we do best: solving hard engineering challenges and delivering the future of VR.

There’s no doubt there’ll be more funding, though I find it hard to believe it’s been too hard a struggle raising money given the profile the Oculus tech has. If Facebook operate at arms length, with some reasonable requirements for integration with Facebook, it may work very nicely. It’s just finding that balance.

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is very upbeat in his blog post about the buy-out, but he has to be to some extent. How upbeat do you feel about it?


Fourth Marriage

The local news station was interviewing an 80-year-old lady because she had just gotten married for the fourth time.

The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband’s occupation. “He’s a funeral director” she answered. “Interesting” the newsman thought…

He then asked her if she wouldn’t mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living. She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years.

After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she had first married a banker when she was in her 20’s, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40’s, and a preacher when in her 60’s, and now – in her 80’s – a funeral director.

The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.

She smiled and explained “I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go”.

The Winter Boots

Anyone who has ever dressed a child will love this.

Did you hear about the teacher who was helping one of her pupils put on his boots?

He asked for help and she could see why.

Even with her pulling, and him pushing, the little boots still didn’t want to go on.

By the time they got the second boot on, she had worked up a sweat.

She almost cried when the little boy said, ‘Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.’

She looked, and sure enough, they were.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off, than it was putting them on.

She managed to keep her cool as, together, they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the correct feet.

He then announced, ‘These aren’t my boots.’

She bit her tongue, rather than get right in his face and scream, ‘Why didn’t you say so?’ like she wanted to.

Once again, she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet.

No sooner had they got the boots off when he said,

‘They’re my brother’s boots. But my Mom made me wear ’em today.’

Now she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry.

But she mustered up what grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots BACK onto his feet again.

Helping him into his coat, she asked, ‘Now, where are your mittens?’

He said, ‘I stuffed ’em in the toes of my boots.’

She’ll be eligible for parole in three years.

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