Newsletter #4, May 2015: What I'm reading
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They are so nice to hold. Here are my hands holding some favorite parts in books I'm currently reading (click on images to enlarge). Hands on books should be a Thing. 
Tiada Tuhan Melainkan Allah: Asal-usul, Perkembangan dan Masa Depan Islam, Reza Aslan

A very good translation of No God But God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam, by ZI Publications. Reading it in Bahasa allows me to anchor this story of Islam, as told by an Iranian-American scholar, in the Malaysian context. This sideways, crab-like way of approaching Islamic discourse in Malaysia has been fruitful, and freeing.
The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy, Murray Bookchin

Reading Bookchin is like discovering anarchism in 2011 through Ursula Le Guin's fiction and being able to give a name to my politics for the first time. These essays deal with the failings of anarchism and communism, and suggest practical solutions. Most useful so far has been his distinction between politics and statecraft - an idea that blew open a window in my mind.
Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry is the antidote to my perfectionism. Her latest book is a hand drawn syllabus from the groundbreaking, university-level courses she teaches in writing and art. It's so good.
  • We're not good enough to not practice, Kiese Laymon
    'It's okay to write 3000 words to find 15 that really glow. That is the work.'

  • The Hypocrisy of the Internet Journalist, Quinn Norton
    Essential reading on metadata and surveillance for anyone who uses the net. It explains why I don't track my website numbers or the open/click rates of these email newsletters, though I'm as hungry for numerical validation as anyone. 

    'And I’m going to keep selling you, because I have no other way of reaching you. I’ve thought a lot about it, and I really don’t. I still love the net as a whole, I still believe that it makes everyone into a superhero.'
  • The Shield of Perseus: Writing in the face of climate change, Dougald Hine
    'These are two kinds of failure for writers to try to avoid: on the one hand, scribbling while the world burns, producing work that seems oblivious to the seriousness of our situation, and on the other, writing words that die on the page because a sense of the duty to ‘do something’ is forcing the hand that writes them.'

  • A Mountain River Has Many Bends: The History and Context of the Rojava Revolution
    Murray Bookchin's principles of social ecology and Libertarian Municipalism being put into practice, right now. If you've seen viral news about 'badass' female militias fighting ISIS, they are the women of the Rojava revoultion. 

    'In Northern Syria, 2.5 million people are living in a stateless, feminist, religiously tolerant, anti-capitalist society of their own creation. They call their territory Rojava, and they defend it fiercely. They’re at war with the extremist group ISIS, and they’re doing better than anyone in the world expected — least of all the Western powers who seek to treat them as pawns.'

  • Fathi Aris Omar's Facebook posts
    Author, intellectual and former senior editor at Malaysiakini. His writing is some of the most lucid and incisive work being done in Bahasa today. I hate having to read it on Facebook, but understand that that is where the target audience is.

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‘I found an inexplicable beauty in this most practical, and not especially complicated, piece of technology. The white glow of each bulb seemed to hold the heartbeat of the river. I’d charged my iPhone with its power. At night I heard its low roar, flowing 50 feet from where I slept.’

The first story for ‘In The Land That Never Was Dry’, my illustrated journalism project about water issues in Malaysia is now published on It’s about my trip to Sabah with Lightup Borneo, an NGO working to bring micro hydro electricity to rural areas. READ IT HERE
Antidotes are drawing exercises posted every other day to my blog. 

A few months ago, I started taking regular walks and making drawings afterwards as a way to deal with worry, procrastination, hopelessness, writer’s block, internet rage, and digital distraction. It gives me alot of joy. It also stops my mind from eating itself.
New to the mailing list? Here lies the vault of past newsletters. Also, I'm trying to think of a name for this, instead of, you know, 'Newsletter #3'. Ideas? EMAIL ME. 

#1, Dec 2014: The Blank Page
#2, Jan/Feb 2015: The City at 4.30AM

#3, Apr 2015: Dear Janet

Second water story is in progress, about hundred year-old wells in Kg Hakka Matin. Follow me on Tumblr or Instagram for more (if you want).

The Unseen Files

In this section, I’ll put a drawing or a piece of writing that I won’t post anywhere else online, now or in the future. 
Pencils for a kids' activity book commission, featuring The Mysterious Musang King and Mr/Mrs The Garden Snail. I can't say more about this project right now, but it will be published soon. Drawing cute animals and making them have a slightly ironic, sarcastic friendship is the stuff of my deep desires.
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