Posts Tagged ‘Yaz’

Hello, fellow pandemicians. I know you were all stunned by the decision on March 26 to stop the Candidates Tournament for the Men’s World Chess Championship. I certainly was. The games were exciting and one of the Russians got so cranky and insulted so many people that he was briefly trending on Twitter.

How weird is it that the last sporting event on earth was chess? See, I’ve been right all my life.

I hope you’re doing OK, and that you’re getting your facts from the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and not from uncredentialed idiots. Tying garlic around your neck or balloons to your ankles or eating 44 tons of plankton a day will not protect you.

Here in Oregon, I’m working from home, which I don’t like – work is work and home is home, and I prefer that they not meet – but at least I still have work. I have my wife and my dog. I’m learning how to talk to them and not just walk absently past them. I’m planning my July retirement party – we’ll be on Zoom or GoToMeeting, each with our own cake. This is not my idea of a good time, but I do like the idea of my own cake. Assuming anyone will be baking cakes.

It’s my task to distract you and help you find alternatives to chess, so here’s a movie I made starring a bird. Here’s the DJ whose live stream is boosting my morale. If he’s not on the air – his hours are unpredictable – here’s a recording of his show at the Slam! Quarantine Festival. This is whom I want to be when I grow up. That is the correct use of “whom.”

Let’s return to 1989, a year when the only things we had to worry about were invading Panama and finishing the World Series following the Loma Prieta earthquake, and listen to some music you older teenagers paid good money for.

Depeche Mode, Depeche Mode 101 (1989)

This double-record set gives us Depeche Mode on the night they ruled the universe, their 1988 concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena before 60,000 mesmerized DeModers. It took the Seattle Mariners 12 years to pull 60,000 fans into the Kingdome – and that was the day in 1989 when they promoted the teenaged Ken Griffey, Jr., from the minors.

It took me a long time to engage Depeche Mode in a committed relationship, which seems counterintuitive given my status as a synth-pop artifact. In fact, I panned Depeche Mode 101 in this blog in 2016: “…the songs don’t budge a centimeter from the studio versions. Sorry, boys, but a concert is more than a crowd screaming with joy because you blew up a firecracker. AC/DC would’ve fired a cannon out of a bagpipe.”

But I wrote that after enduring the third Star Trek reboot, which made me angrier than the Hulk trying to play toilet paper bride during a pandemic. Further spins of 101 gave me a different perspective. Sure, Depeche Mode (a former co-worker innocently called them Pesh de Mode) take few chances on these tracks, but overall the drumming is much more muscular and the songs generate far more revolutions per minute.

The audience eats this stuff up – this is the concert where the show ends with the fans still singing the chorus to “Everything Counts” 30 seconds after the band stopped playing. The effect is electrifying, but to give anti-Depeche Mode voices some space here, I’ll quote another former co-worker: “If I went to a show and the band stopped playing and they expected me to sing, I’d want my money back.”

I give Depeche Mode credit for including in their set list one of their earliest hits, “I Just Can’t Get Enough,” from their salad days playing bright poppity pop-pop-pop. That was when the band still had Vince Clarke, who left early on rather than be vacuumed into the gloom machine envisioned by Martin Gore. Clarke did pretty well for himself, founding Yaz (“Situation”) and Erasure (“Chains of Love,” “Who Needs Love Like That?”). By 1988, “I Just Can’t Get Enough” didn’t sound anything like Depeche Mode, but on their big night they played it, and they played it well.

Yaz Fact! The band was called Yazoo in Clarke’s native England, but in the U.S. they were Yaz in honor of former Boston Red Sox left fielder Carl Yastrzemski.

I also give Depeche Mode credit for transforming “Pleasure Little Treasure” – a song with a subtle message: If you’re looking for a reason to live, I’ve got one right here for ya – from filler into a dark, howling rocker.

I love this disc now, but there’s an odd moment when someone in the band asks the audience, “Are you having a good time?” This strikes me as a fundamental misunderstanding of what they’re selling and why people are buying it. Listening to Depeche Mode, you can have an epiphany. You can have an emotional release. You can have a nervous breakdown. But to have something as light-hearted as a good time, what you have to have is Yaz or Erasure.

In the first week of May, I made my 500th connection on LinkedIn. What does this mean?

I don’t know. But it must be a milestone because 500 is a cool number. It’s not a prime number, but it’s right next door to one: 499. So when I made my 400th connection I decided to work very seriously on my next hundred. Because these numbers look like career homerun totals, I made a game of it, announcing each stage to my wife:

407: “I’m neck and neck with Duke Snider.”
439: “I’ve got Andre Dawson in my rearview mirror.”
453: “Bye-bye, Yaz!”
493: “Did you know that Crime Dog was tied with Lou Gehrig? What? Who is Crime Dog? Why am I talking to you?”

I stood at 499 for about two weeks. I wondered if I should invite someone special for my 500th. The obvious choice was Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, but I figured he was kinda busy being a co-founder and I didn’t want to wait 200 years for Reid to say yes. I also thought it would be fun to connect with someone who had the same name as a person I admired, but either that person had no presence on LinkedIn or there were 119 of them (as with David Bowie).

Number 500 arrived when I wasn’t looking – an invitation I’d extended weeks before and forgotten about. Lucky 500 is an editor who works with a publisher I once worked for. As with many of my connections, I’ve never met this person, but if he’s one of my guys you can be sure that he rocks.

(Note: At this point I didn’t actually have 500 people in my network, because at least one had died. Her profile is still active. If we’re connected and you’re still breathing, write and say hi. I’d love to hear from you.)

When I hit 500 feedbacks on eBay, they sent me a certificate. Actually, they sent me a link to a certificate that I could print myself. I wasn’t expecting LinkedIn to give me a handjob and a parade, but still I was disappointed when nothing happened. Then I thought, maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I’m the one who should be doing something, and not just my end-zone dance. Maybe I should be printing T-shirts for my posse. (Don’t send me your shirt size. I’m not doing this.)

LinkedIn (the site also spells it “Linkedin”) long ago transformed itself from sparkly toy to networking ninja. If I want to find out who I know at a particular company, I can do it in seconds. Before LinkedIn, this would’ve taken days or weeks, if it could be done at all.

So if nothing much happens when you make your 500th connection, so be it. In fact I’ve moved past that mark now. I believe I’m tied with Eddie Murray (504), but then, who’s counting?

Random Pick of the Day
Various artists, The Crow (1994)
This movie is about a murdered man resurrected by a mystical crow to reign death and destruction upon his enemies. Please don’t make me write a sentence like that again. The heart of the soundtrack is “Burn” by The Cure, closely followed by Nine Inch Nail’s cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls,” “Snakedriver” by The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the dreamy “Time Baby III” by a band called Medicine. (The vocal on that one is by a former Bangle.)

As for the other 10 songs, Stone Temple Pilots’ “Big Empty” has had so much radio play that it bounces off my brain. The remaining nine are interchangeable, but appropriately mopey, metal.

Random Pan of the Day
The B-52s, Cosmic Thing (1989)
Why am I panning this record? I love The B-52s. Cosmic Thing was their big comeback. It has “Love Shack,” “Roam,” and one of their best lines, on the eternal topic of shaking your booty: “Don’t let it rest/on the president’s desk!”

But most of Cosmic Thing is easy-listening filler. “Roam” still sounds good, but “Love Shack” is getting tired. When this record came out, the mellifluously named Bart Becker, music editor at my paper, Seattle Weekly, wrote that this was a band that had pretty much lost it. Twenty-five years later, I reluctantly agree. By 1989, The B-52s were not even all that wacky anymore. I can only recommend Cosmic Thing to confirmed idiots such as myself. For anyone else, The B-52s and Wild Planet are all you need.

Bart Becker would’ve been the perfect name for an infielder on the San Francisco Giants.