Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No. 106 – Siberian Khatru

Performer: Yes
Songwriters: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman
Original Release: Close to the Edge
Year: 1972
Definitive Version: Keys to Ascension, 1996.

When I came home from the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2007, I was whipped mentally, and even a little physically. Covering CES was like nothing I’d ever done before. I must have met with representatives of 40 companies, and walked … I couldn’t tell you how many miles.

It had been interesting to see Las Vegas at a time when everyone wore jackets and even the odd coat with high temperatures in the mid 50s. It was even more interesting after a few days when the AVN Expo took over the other half of the Sands convention center behind the Venetian.

For those of you unaware, the AVN Expo is the porn industry’s CES equivalent. It’s where they hand out the annual “porn Oscars.” (AVN, of course, stands for Adult Video News.) A transformation took place from electronics geeks ogling silicon to electronics geeks ogling silicone.

Now, I hear what you’re saying: Will, you’re in Vegas. How do you tell the difference between a porn star and a random Vegas hoochy? Believe me, you can. Heck, there’s a big difference—accent on big—between a porn star and the typical stripper. Everything’s bigger—the hair, the lips, the rack—except for the clothes.

A few years after my first CES, the magazine sent me back to cover the event again. That year, the AVN Expo completely overlapped CES. I was in the line to get into the Panasonic press conference when I overheard one of the AVN attendees on her phone.

I assume she was an AVN attendee, because she wore 6-inch see-through heels, mesh hose and a jacket. I assume hotpants or a thong covered her under her jacket, but it appeared as though nothing did. Anyway, she spoke loud enough for anyone standing within 100 feet of her to hear her clearly, and she said the following: “Tell Giorgio that we had a great time last night, but I think I lost an earring in the back of his limo.” I’m guessing Giorgio had a pretty great time, too.

Covering CES that time was so much easier than the first time. Familiarity helped a lot. The result of a lack of it in 2007, however, was that I was done when it was. I had been humping it really hard, pretty much working nonstop since April. When I got back and endured a particularly difficult project with a particularly big prima donna author, that was the final straw.

I appreciated the opportunity the editor of the magazine gave me in hiring me, and the job had become a bit easier the past few months as I got my head above water, but I needed a change. I decided that after my anniversary in a couple of months, I would start to look for a new job. Further, I decided that out of respect I would tell my boss, so if he heard from another company, he wouldn’t be caught by surprise.

In April 2007, just before my anniversary date, Tributosaurus became Yes. I’ve referred to this show before, but it was spectacular to the point where even though I’d been something of a Yes fan since high school, I had a deeper appreciation for their music than ever before.

I mean here was a band whose members mocked Yes openly for the band’s many very mockable characteristics. At the same time, though, they made it clear how much they respected the music. Sure, make jokes at the expense of Jon Anderson’s voice, Rick Wakeman’s capes and Yes’ pretentious lyrics and demeanor all you want. Then play their music. When musicians complain about the difficulty of playing a fellow musician’s music, that’s a real tribute.

And you could see that respect from the outset. This song, of course, was the first song. (I say of course because it seems Yes always plays this song first.) After the final lyric, the singer and the usual Tributosauraus lead singer (who can’t match Anderson’s range) went eyeball to eyeball for Siberian Khatru’s  vocal duel … and nailed it. At the end, the singer fired his arm in the air like he just hit a walk-off dinger. YES! We pulled it off!

Right after that show, the editor said he wanted to meet with me about my annual review. Imagine my shock: At The Dispatch, the closest I ever had my annual review after my anniversary date was three months. Heck, one year I had it more than a year after my anniversary.

He took me into the conference room to chat, and before I had a chance to say I was thinking of moving on, he said the following: You’ve had an outstanding year here. It’s gotten so I don’t know what the magazine would do without you. With that in mind, I spoke with the publisher, and we want to promote you to managing editor, so you can have a hand in every project we publish, not just yours.

Now you can REALLY imagine my shock.

I’d never been promoted before. I came to believe through experience that promotions went to the suckups, not necessarily the ones who did the most work. Now, I had a good relationship with my boss, but I wasn’t a suckup—there wasn’t time for that. No, this was vindication that hard work can lead to rewards.

Aside from a better title and a huge raise that took me almost to what I made when I left The Dispatch, I actually was going to have my workload lightened. I still would oversee one project from start to finish, but I would get rid of the rest. (We’d hire another senior editor.) That meant more work that I enjoyed—editing projects for content—and less that I didn’t—dealing with big prima donna authors.

It wasn’t a hard call: I took the promotion and shoved my job search in my back pocket.

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