20 years of OK Computer

It’s twenty years to the day since Oxford band Radiohead released OK Computer.

I lived in Oxford back then, and the local HMV on Cornmarket Street opened at midnight for Radiohead fans to buy the album before anyone else in the UK got the chance – no mp3s or downloads back in those days, remember.

And yes, I was looking forward to the release, but wasn’t a HUGE fan, so I wasn’t planning on heading into town. But then, finding myself still awake at the witching hour, thought “why not?”, jumped on a bike and hit the High Street.
I was only just in time. The crowds (such as they were) had gone (it doesn’t take long for 50 people to each buy a CD), and the staff were about to close up, but a friendly guy let me in just before locking the door, and I got my CD and my free poster (woo!).

The album was definitely one of the best releases of the 1990s and has aged really well. And yes, the CD is still somewhere safely boxed up in my loft. The poster never made it out of the damp Cowley Road flat we lived in though, and even the branch of HMV succumbed to the pressures of the modern retail environment and closed in 2014.

Favourite track? I liked all of it, but the slower stuff hit home more for me – No Surprises, Exit Music (For A Film) and of course Karma Policeas mentioned here.

Taking tea with the President

Number 1 in a series of 1. Probably, anyway.

A nice piece by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic descibing the day that he was in a cafe in er… America (he doesn’t say exactly where he was), when he was joined by the President. Of the country. The big cheese, le grand fromage, die grootste kaas [That’s enough cheese now – Ed.].

I had been there for a few hours when youthful, vigorous men and women wearing Business Semi-Formal started quietly going one by one among the customers sitting near me. They would crouch, adopt an expression of deep sympathy, and say something. The customer would look a little confused, pick up laptop and coat, and move to another table.

Next to me, cafe staff had made a long table by pushing three smaller tables together. Five Millennials sat around it. They were well-dressed like Ryan Seacrest is well-dressed, and they seemed nervous. The head of their table hadn’t been filled. I had assumed someone important, someone hoity-toity, would be coming, someone like a foundation executive director.

Except, as I’ve already hinted, it’s Barack Obama that turns up to have a chat with them.

Meyer’s account is interesting as it’s clear that while he was (perhaps understandably) overwhelmed by POTUS popping into his local cafe, he is also very objective about the way that Obama “works the crowd”, including the author:

The president makes eye contact with me.
“Great to see you,” says the president.

The president extends his hand while simultaneously pivoting on his right foot.
His hands grasp mine. They feel like the rough surface of your favorite baseball.

Eye contact was broken mid-handshake. His hand trailed his turned body *which has already turned on the pivoted foot.* He greeted a couple across the way from me.

This concludes my communication with the president of the United States.

Obviously, the whole thing is just one big PR exercise, otherwise the meeting would have been held somewhere private, not in a downtown cafe in… America. But that fairly obvious observation doesn’t mean that it isn’t a special or memorable moment for those present. The whole post is definitely worth a read, if just to see how this sort of thing operates.

I do have a bit of a story in this regard as well. Back in the day when I used to frequent the excellent Quod Brasserie on the High Street in Oxford, even on a Friday or Saturday when the queue outside would be down to Longwall Street, suddenly – astoundingly – 3 empty tables would be found. Two of these tables would be taken by… well… as Meyer describes above: “youthful, vigorous men and women wearing Business Semi-Formal”, and a few moments later, in would walk Chelsea Clinton with her friend/friends/colleagues and take the third table.
We would glance across at her over our Bloody Marys and rib-eye steaks, but not for too long, in case the youthful, vigorous men and women got antsy – this was just after 9/11, after all – but she seemed very down to earth and quiet, and thus, so were we.

I bumped into Chelsea at Quod on several occasions, which either indicates that she also has excellent taste in restaurants and she was hoping to see me or that it was just very convenient for her security detail to get her to, in and out of, since it’s virtually next door to University College where she was studying.

Seems Legit

With all the fuss marking the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, many readers will be surprised to learn that – in an effort to sell more copies of his book – Oxford author Robin Gardiner claims that it was not the Titanic that sank, but her sister ship, the Olympic.

In a story which could have come straight from the pages of infowars or DavidIcke.com, Gardiner – a plasterer and father-of-one from Barton – cites commerical wrongdoings, insurance fraud, gold smuggling, aliens living amongst us and government collusion* leading to White Star (this White Star, not this White Star) switching the identities of the Olympic and the Titanic:

This was collusion, conspiracy and cover-up on an unprecedented scale.

The evidence is overwhelming; eyewitnesses themselves describe running along Titanic’s decks, but where they said there were promenades, there should have been cabins.
And while survivors on B Deck described seeing lifeboats being lowered from above, there’s no way they would have seen that on Titanic – only on the ship Olympic.

You only have to look at the ships’ specifications to see the Titanic passengers were actually aboard Olympic.

I can imagine that in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, in the early hours of 15th April 1912, with the realisation that the ship you were on was sinking, and over 2000 passengers and crew desperately trying to get into lifeboats in the dark that promenades and cabins could be easily confused, as could lifeboats being lowered from ab… OH MY GOD HERE COMES THE WATER, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!1!!!

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m questioning his sources a bit.

The best bit for me is where Gardiner claims that the Titanic (presumably thinly disguised as the Olympic) sailed around the world quite happily for another 25 years before (conveniently) being send to the breaker’s yard in 1937, thus handily destroying any evidence of White Star’s naughtiness a whole 75 years before Mr Gardiner broke the story.

* I may have made a bit of this up.