I’ve been a fan of Mothers News for awhile now. I can’t remember how I found out about it. The internet that I love is so different from the way corporate-owned social media works. I have nodes, fixed points of reference that I keep going back to (favorite writers or creators, but also sites like this and this), and they lead me to other things, some of which become new nodes. It’s internet scaled to the human in me.
Social media feeds, on the other hand, turn me into a scroll zombie, an eyeball machine with a measurable attention span. The very architecture of the feed functions differently from the internet that feels like my home.
Anyway, Mothers News. I can’t remember who or what led me there, only that it became one of my online nodes. It’s a free monthly newspaper created by someone in Providence, Rhode Island. 5000 copies are printed, supported by subscribers all over the world, and also by ads. The ads, like everything about Mothers News, are strange and magical.
The drawing above is a rough draft for a kids’ activity book commission. I was past deadline, and stuck. There was nothing I wanted to do more than stay home and berate myself about it, but instead, I took a walk around my neighbourhood, Taman Toh Kee Kah. Somewhere below the buzzing worry, my inner eye could still register the shapes of plants, and bits of trash on the road, and squirrels hopping past on their electrical wire highways, and the deepening colours of the evening sky…
Walk, walk, walk.
I thought about how I was struggling with my other illustrated journalism project. I thought about how stupid it would be if I made a newspaper that only reported on the tiny circuit of my walk – one block of houses, down the hill to the main road and back up again. I’d record all the trash I saw, make portraits of the trees, do an impossible tally of the weeds. I’d document different gates – the old iron ones with their simple, beautiful, repeating patterns, the newer ones high chromed and generic. I’d survey the cats.
Walk, walk, walk.
I thought about how neighbourhoods were central to Murray Bookchin’s ideas of Social Ecology and Libertarian Municipalism. I remembered how much I loved Mothers News, and quite suddenly, I knew I had my idea for the kids’ activity book: a template for a Totally Regular Neighbourhood newspaper that they could fill in, photocopy and distribute.
I got home, immediately sat down to draw a draft, and emailed my proposal to the editors.
It was going to work.
I was glad I went for that walk.
Antid Oto – italian for antidote – was one of Leon Trotsky‘s earliest pen names. I also love the Malay word for it: penawar. 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. I’ll post a series of them here, one every other day, for as long as I keep making them.