Ten years ago, I was in North Carolina—specifically, in a small town outside Camp Lejeune—on a consulting assignment. I was bored stiff. The dialup at the hotel was awful—and yes, there was dialup; this was before wifi, before Ethernet in every room, and at least in this hotel before reliable plain old telephone service to every room. Even then I was an Internet addict, so this was like a virtual guarantee of death by boredom that night. So I got out and walked down the street from one strip mall to the other, ending up at a Wal-Mart. In the music section. Where I decided that it was the right sort of night to take a risk on an artist I had listened a little to but didn’t know that much about, and pick up OK Computer by Radiohead.
And something, even as I played the album through my computer’s crummy speakers, exploded in my head.
Ten years on, and I am writing a blog post at my parents’ retirement house in western North Carolina, over wifi while I download OKX, a tribute to OK Computer. While I haven’t heard of most of the artists on the album, those I have—Doveman and the inimitable John Vanderslice—make me think that this is going to be pretty darn good.
A lot has changed in the intervening ten years, but the basic message of impersonal alienation has more relevance than ever before.