With the nation wilting under house arrest, it’s likely that we’re binge watching and/or submissively scrolling our IQ’s into single figures. It’s sedation on demand and the sofas of the UK are burdened with a critical state of Netflix and dribble.
But soon we’ll abandon our over-heating screens and grimace in the presence of the great outdoors. We’ll venture out into the world to try and remember what it is we do - how to live IRL? Some of us will proceed with Covid-caution, tentatively tip toeing back to the daily grind, pondering how to eat a Pret wrap with correct mask etiquette.
Others, energized by release, will embrace new interpretations of the constructs of life. Prioritize your passions, create new realities, live on your own terms. What stories will come of this radical wave of re-birth? One thing’s for sure, breaking from the norm is risky business.
So before we get all giddy and gung-ho, there’s a lot to learn. Let’s delve into the cult chronicles of some inspiring modern-day crusaders - the publications of which are all available at your convenience via our beloved world-wide-web!
Flash Crash by Liam Vaughan
“Wait a minute, bruv.” The nonchalant reply of my lockdown hero, Navinder Sarao, as the FBI, the US Department of Justice and Scotland Yard turned up at his parents’ doorstep in Hounslow to arrest him. The crime? Earning $70 million on the US futures market from his bedroom PC, which in turn was allegedly responsible for the market’s ‘Flash Crash’ of 2010.
If like me you have no real understanding or interest in stock market trading, this account of the “Hound of Hounslow” is for you. Nav’s matrix-like antics within the world of high-frequency trading not only outwits the entire system, but hilariously mocks the overinflated personas and lifestyle we associate with the industry. There’s no Brooks Brothers or Nobu for Nav, he favours a Filet-O-Fish and Fila. On the rare occasion he drags himself to a city boardroom, to discuss his ludicrous earnings with his elite brokers, he carries his papers in a Tesco bag.
It’s hard to label Flash Crash as the story of an underdog, considering that Nav executes his sheer genius to “spoof” the market for millions with the same blasé attitude that one might take advantage of a shortcut in Mario Kart. He is more of a revolutionary – taking a stand against (and humiliating) an unjust behemoth of system.
What’s more, Navinder Sarao barely squanders a penny of his millions. Money is of no material value to him. He does however own a coveted “Lambo”... it just happens that his is a yellow bicycle.
Chamber Music: About the Wu-Tang (in 36 Pieces) by Will Ashon
This isn’t your typical “story of” an iconic group or record. This is an interdimensional voyage through a solar system where the Wu’s debut album is the sun. It’s a curriculum compromising of 36 historical, political, cultural and socioeconomic tangents that intertwine with the Staten Island Clan’s seminal album of ‘93.
Will Ashon’s approach to telling the infamous saga of the Wu is that of an obsessive archivist – you’re abruptly thrown from one subject to another, from the influence of Hong Kong martial art movie movement to the social consequences of the inner-city crack epidemic. Always delivered in context of the Wu-Tang, Ashon’s theories aren’t tenuous but eye-opening, you develop genuine anticipation for what the next chapter will drop.
This is indeed an education for all, not only in hip hop history but in sociology, in spirituality, where RZA is often deemed the silent professor, the prophet. And with current events as they are (not much better for many than in 1993), this book can impart a few truths that we could all learn from.
True Norwegian Black Metal by Peter Beste & Johan Kugelberg
As the Wu-Tang Clan gave the NYC rap scene a gritty slap in the face during the early 90’s, these charming chaps were scaring grannies over in little ol’ Norway with their own musical subculture. They also adopted artist pseudonyms, but, instead of Ol’ Dirty Bastard or Ghostface Killah, there was Necrobutcher and Dead. Unfortunately, Dead is actually now dead. He shot himself in the head with a shotgun and his band mates took a snap to use for their album cover. Obvs. That’s pretty gritty.
Sadly, it’s shocking stories like these (along with a penchant for church burning and murder) that have made Norwegian Black Metal a cult phenomenon, not the actual music. Which as a heavy music fan, I am ashamed to reveal is terrible. So what’s to like here? It’s a fascinating, visceral turn of events that spiraled out of control from what was essentially small-town teenage angst. It was like the punk movement, but the only real cause for rebellion was that there was nothing major to rebel against. So it became largely about shock without much thought. Music that shocked. Aesthetic that shocked. Behaviour that shocked...
Which does make for a fantastic coffee table book. Not one that is idly fingered once in a while, one that demands you pay attention.
Peter Beste specializes in documenting isolated communities through his intimate photography, revealing what looks like a real-life horror film against the unassuming, peaceful Scandinavian backdrop. The story that accompanies is equally as thrilling, as culty as a subculture can get (back off Netflix!)
Get it out when your gran comes round for tea.
Frontline Magazine UK
Pseudonyms again. But you won’t hear about them. You’ve got to look and find them for yourself, blink and you’ll miss them. And when you do – there’s no face, just the names. 10 Foot. Cosa. Oker. Zombie...
Not to be confused with the Frontline products that rid your pets of pesky fleas, this Frontline is more about ridding “street art” from your graffiti. More accurately, this publication is an uncensored celebration of real London graff, warts and all. From the writers for the writers. Unfiltered documentation and accounts of all that differentiates true graffiti from other art forms. The way of life, the commitment, the risks, the addiction. A community that is aggressively anonymous, off the radar, literally underground from the mainstream – a passion for life and expression that functions in a parallel reality.
What Frontline Magazine really delivers are the pearls of this culture, that most of us would never see. The art on the steel of the trains meters below our feet. The work before the buff, the true stories.
I’m sure the British Transport Police have a subscription. One thing’s for sure - when so much of the country has been unable to use public transport for a few months, it brings a smile to my face to see that London writers have been sure to keep it business as usual.