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The Delivery of the "Universal Sigh"

I admit it, I participated to this hipster thing which made me wait at a certain Silver Lake location in company of a few hundred strangers all expecting a mysterious vehicle (will it be a white van? A random car?) bringing the ‘Universal Sigh’ copies to the masses.
Radiohead’s fans are very well organized and a girl had decided to write a number on the hands of people as they were arriving at the location, to keep the paper distribution in order, and it worked perfectly well. I got number 100, and waited my turn to pick up the copy handed out by Gavin Poole from ‘Amusement Parks on Fire’. I did not know that at the time, but read who he was later, but I expected Thom Yorke or Jonny Greenwood, so I was kind of disappointed. It took forever because they were taking a picture of each person holding the paper, and my picture probably ended up on the Universal Sigh website, but who has time to search among the hundreds of photos?

A guy was making fun of the whole thing, asking someone who was leaving happy with the newspaper, ‘Was it worth it? Did it change your life?’

Did it change my life? Well, it was not exactly a big effort to get a copy, there was not an overwhelming number of fans waiting and the delivery was on time, but this Universal Sigh paper, with its 12 pages printed on recycled paper, looks exactly like any free rag you would pick up on the street.

It has cryptic prose about frozen forests in winter, weird advices like  ‘See life as a struggle for financial security. Great fear of poverty even if financially successful. Clean-living, critical, meticulous, reliable. Fear the supernatural, prefer daylight to darkness, have very fixed ideas’, a sort of update on OK Computer’s ‘Fitter Happier ‘.

There are also some lyrics from ‘The King of Limbs’, plants and fungi drawings entitled ‘Root of Roots’, ‘Ragnorok’ (some kind of great battle resulting in the death of the gods in Norse mythology?), ‘Urpflanze’ (a magic plant?), ‘The King of limbs’, ‘Codex’ (a trunk?), ‘Axis Mundi’ (center of the world?), and rather depressing stories about ‘Tree Climbing’ by Robert Macfarlane, a trip in the Amazon forest to cure depression entitled ‘Forests of the mind’ by Jay Griffiths, and ‘Sell your house and buy gold’ by Stanley Donwood.

You can now download the paper over the internet, buy the real thing on ebay, but the dark stories seem only vaguely to be about materialism, nature and disasters, and the whole thing is overly enigmatic, mysterious and pointless.

You have to wonder what was the purpose of all this. An artistic expression or a publicity stunt? An innovative campaign or a boring paper which will end up as garage sale material or toilet literature?


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