After a decade, the letters trailed off into background noise, since my daily discoveries in my new culture were tapering off, as well. Don't get me wrong: Indonesia never ceases to shock and amaze. After a while though, it becomes more internalized and harder to regale others with tales of adventure. You can only see so many massive lizards stretched across jungle highways, or elephants working in the fields, before it becomes a normal part of daily life.
Ultimately, this blog became two-pronged: 1) a means to inform, entertain and express those things for which I believed I had a unique perspective on; and 2) a means to keep my mother tongue sharp and my vocabulary fresh.
With regard to the latter point, folks who haven't lived outside their home countries probably aren't aware of how much one's own native language can suffer when not used moment by moment. Teaching English doesn't serve the purpose, since that involves a lot of time rehashing the basic rules and regulations of language. It does noting to maintain style and vocabulary, and for a writer (such as I pretend to be), that is a death sentence.
Three years ago, I added Radio Far Side, since I had this burning desire to talk to thinkers and authors that I admired. Naturally, it was easier to entice them into impromptu discussions if it helped promote their own work, so recording and publishing the conversations was a logical methodology. It also allowed me to use my media background for something other than family vacation photos (folks get angry when I continually refuse to put people in my photos).
Over the years, the audience here has expanded and has fallen more or less into two camps: North America and Asia, being about equally balanced. I lost many folks when I took a two-year hiatus to work on a major project here in Jakarta, but I have slowly recovered some and gained many others.
Last year, I launched the Reaser Survey (still up below every column) to gauge what people liked here, what their reading habits were, and what improvements I could make to keep this site fresh and relevant. To date, I have received 310 responses with some interesting results - at least to me.
The vast majority of respondents, 87%, are daily or weekly readers, which is fantastic even though it puts a hell of a lot of pressure on me to produce. The remainder were first-time readers who did not indicate whether they would be back for more.
In terms of how folks found this site, 50% got a link from another site (thanks y'all!), while the rest found it via friends, search engines or random clicks in the Dark Web.
The overwhelming majority, 93%, come here just for the articles, which I interpret as putting us in the same league as Playboy, since no one looks at the pictures in that second-rate mag, either.
When given multiple choices about what they like to read here, respondents said 82% politics, 68% witty anecdotes, 63% science, 45% religion, 31% travel/ex-pat, and a full 64% wanting weird stuff. I've adjusted content accordingly, figuring most of what I write about is weird stuff anyway.
As for the question of what we can do better, the comments were overwhelmingly positive, with most saying "keep it up," a few expressing appreciation for our rather off-beat take on things, and a couple taking me to task for disappearing for a year-and-a-half. OK, OK, I've set aside the weekends to write as many columns for the coming week as I can, so that my usuall 12-15 hour work days don't interfere with the regular content here.
As for rating the Far Side, 60% gave us a 4, 23% a 5, and the rest were 3s. On a college-level grading basis, I interpret this as a solid B+ GPA, which is rather amazing, since almost every column is first-pass only (meaning no follow-up editing), and I am well-sotted when I write half of them. If I were attending a party college, I would probably have a full A average after the curve, while not missing a moment of fun.
Fully 11 folks took time out of their lives to leave a note in the essay section. All were very positive (which means I didn't piss anyone off enough to say so), with comments spanning the spectrum of simple encouragement to appreciation for my headline writing, to requests for additional columns on specific subjects (which I have tried to do without becoming too monotone or drole).
At the beginning of the year, we launched a Patreon page. This is not so much a way to beg money as a means to fund some specific projects we have for the real world.
One of the projects is Cabaret Indonique, which will be an original entertainment venue blending the unique Indonesian culture with the style and irreverence of cabaret. We hope that the project will become so popular as to allow us to franchise and tour our all-original productions, giving the highly talented local artists a global platform for their remarkable abilities.
Another major project is to launch a couple of new YouTube channels (in addition to Radio Far Side) for producing and distributing original content that spans the gamut of entertainment, infotainment and down-right grousing.
Both of the projects require significant up-front funding to pay artists and equipment during the set-up phase. We are selling off our real estate holdings to invest in these projects, but we need additional input from the global community, as well. Not only can you become a supporter of real, cultural enhancement, but you will receive special benefits like production credits, sneak previews, documentaries, etc. We also plan to do special live-stream performances just for subscribers. Could be fun!
If you have any doubts about what I am capable of, see here and here.
The bottom line today is that we are attempting to convert some of our online goodwill into real-world projects that we hope will have positive effects on not only the local arts community, but also the world (never dream small). By becoming a Patron subscriber, you are not just supporting some YouTube video channel, or a slightly off-center writer, but an entire gang of artists, performers and musicians who are dedicated to creating something new and envigorating for a potential audience of millions.
And you, dear reader, can be a big part of this effort. Not many websites out there that offer this kind of opportunity, but then we've never tried to be just another website.
If you like what you see here, not just today but regularly, then consider doing the following action items:
- Send a link to at least three other people you know;
- Subscribe to our Patreon page (as little as $12/year);
- Follow our Twitter feed (links in right-hand column);
- Follow our YouTube channel (links in right-hand column).
We are not using hyperbole when we say those four simple steps could actually change lives.
Most of all, thank you dear Reader, for being a regular part of the Far Side, supporting our efforts through the years, and for spreading the word It's been a slow but gratifying process to create something fun, interesting and informative. With your help and support, we intend to continue growing in new and surprising directions.
God willing and the creek don't rise, we'll continue to do what folks here apparently like, strange stuff.