A Complaint About What The Readers’ Submissions Has Become
First, I want to apologize to Stickman for this long complaint about what is essentially a free service. But I need to get this off my chest.
I first discovered Stick’s website back in 2011 when I was planning a holiday to Thailand. I’d lived in East Asia for a few years, so I was surprised at how different the cultures and the foreigners in South-East Asia are to Korea, Japan, and the tier-1 Chinese cities. I enjoyed the stories of this exotic culture where sex, money, fun, and pleasure traveled so much more freely and openly than the uptight and closed-door Asian cultures I was more familiar with, and I quickly got hooked.
I visited Thailand for a month and have since moved on, now living happily in America. But I do still enjoy reading Stick’s website to get a whiff of this exotic, bizarre culture that has ample supplies of beauty and horror.
In 2011 and 2012, the stories were much more engaging than they are today. The stories of prostitution and expat life were great, occasionally peppered by the “whore done me wrong” narratives that have become much more frequent. There was also a fair amount of wit and self-aware humor. In short, writers did not take themselves or their absurd situations too seriously.
Slowly in 2013, things changed, and in 2014 the transition is complete. The writers these days either stick to impressionistic fiction or, much more frequently, reflect a level of mouth-breathing idiocy that would impress the most inbred Alabaman or Manchester United supporter.
For instance, in Leaving Thailand Forever, we hear the lamentation of a man who “innocently” lied to a family member whom he was living with after leaving a decade of life in the LOS where his ex-wife (and most probably ex-bargirl) was enjoying the car and house he had bought for her, not to mention the undisclosed amount of cash in an account he deposited in her name.
The stupidity of buying a house in someone else’s name, no matter how beguiled by love or lust, is obvious enough to a man in his twenties, but this guy is sixty. Sixty. And he doesn’t know not to buy a house that he has no legal right to. Yes, you can make excuses for guys like this and say that he was blinded by passion—but that doesn’t change the fact that he is a complete moron.
Of course, the author of that piece is a towering figure of intellect when compared to the guy who was Burned by a Woman from Isaan. Here is a man who keeps $1,000 in cash in his wallet when around people living in one of the poorest regions in Asia. This is a man who eagerly looks to marry a woman in a country where prostitution and marriage create a very fat venn diagram, and where women are plentiful, beautiful, and available. The guy spends 4 years with a woman who slowly siphons cash out of him at every turn, spends 9,000 AUD on a wedding, and only sees the truth of his money-grubbing girlfriend only after going to the police station with her.
Here is a guy who willingly goes to the local police in one of the most corrupt countries in the world, who complains that his ex uses charm to get her way, and who then has the gall to say it’s “wrong to suggest there is stupidity involved here”! I always wondered if morons knew they were morons, and in this case the answer is a very clear no.
I know that these kinds of submitters and stories have always existed on this site, but they used to be diluted by insightful, informative, and entertaining stories about Thailand’s past, present, and future.
We used to have some very intelligent submitters to this site. Dana was obviously insane, but funny. Korski has been too quiet, and we need more of him. Fortunately we still have Starky, Farang Dave, the Professor, Ishiro, and Pattaya Gary, but these posters, for all their intelligence and insight, are not enough to keep this site fresh and full of enthusiasm for the LOS. In fact, their posts lately seem to lament how bad the country has become for foreigners (and aren’t many of the old-timers, like Starky and Pattaya Gary, leaving Thailand, not to mention Stick himself?).
Thailand is getting richer and getting better known. We all knew this would happen, but it didn’t mean the site had to end this way. Instead, we could have seen more posts about being a white collar worker or executive in Thailand, and about fun nights out on Soi Cowboy spending 5,000 baht on beautiful coyote girls. An entire generation of 20-something and 30-something middle class men could have replaced the working class retirees with stories that brought the Thai tradition of sex, sun, and sanuk to its next stage of socio-economic development. Stick’s site needs to make this transition, but it is not.
It’s sad to see the world of Thailand expats end with a whimper.
I think there are a number of points to address here and I will try to cover them all. But let me first start by saying that I feel it is a great shame that people make comments about the sort of submissions they would like to see written, but make absolutely no effort to write such articles themselves. It is something that has had me wanted to bash my head against the computer screen numerous times!
Everyone has their own experiences and ideas about Thailand, and their own ideas expectations about what should and should not be included in the readers' submissions. A few years back I had some major contributors complaining that I allowed non-fiction articles. They thought the readers' submissions section should only be for fiction. There are readers who crave sex trip reports (which I don't allow), while others have zero interest in anything to do with prostitution. Some become feral if someone says anything that even hints they are from the other side of the political spectrum and there are those who hate to see even one positive word about Thai women. The readership is diverse and the stories will never appeal to everyone.
When you complain of people who have written tales which involve some bad decisions, there is no need to be so harsh. In most cases they know they have made bad decisions and writing about it is therapeutic. It also helps others to learn from their mistakes. I think such people should be congratulated for their bravery rather than criticised for past actions.
Some of what is posted these days may be different to the past and that should not be unexpected because the city has changed markedly in that time. When I first came to Bangkok in '97, the city felt so much more exotic than it was now. There was not a single Starbucks branch, internet connections were limited to dial-up with disconnections frequent and the majority of expats could be found in the red-light areas at least one night a week. There weren't a lot of regular / mainstream / non-red-light bars for expats. This has all changed. Now the majority of expats don't go anywhere near the red-light areas, shopping malls are full of Western brand names and downtown Bangkok has lost any notion of being exotic and in some ways feels like just another international city.
The challenge as I see it is in attracting new readers, and more succinctly, more contributors. The format of the site appeals to older readers (let's say the over 35s), but it does not appeal to younger readers. The problem is not so much the look of the site which while very dated, most seem to accept, but the way in which the information is presented. Older readers seem to appreciate the simple format and over the years many have applauded my decision not to allow comments to be posted directly to articles and stories. Younger readers seem to like the information, but they want it presented in a very different manner. Even 800 words is too long for many of them, let alone the lengthier articles. More than anything, they want to be able to have their say, even if it is some ridiculous comment like "You suck". These younger readers HATE it that I won't allow them a voice, at least not unless they meet the 800-word minimum requirement. So the problem is attracting new blood. A friend who is an internationally acclaimed author recently explained to me that it is exactly the same with paperback novels. The younger generation are just not interested in reading a 400-page novel and much prefer a shorter ebook / novella….and they can download those for free. It's a similar challenge with this site, in attracting new readers and contributors.
This site has an amazingly high loyalty factor with many readers have read and contributed since I started the weekly column was and the readers' submissions section was launched, each way back in 2001 – a lifetime in Internet years. However, over time people do move on, their interests changed and more than a few have have passed away. While many readers have been tuning in for 13 years, they have seen it all before and with 8,700+ articles on the site, they may think they cannot come up with anything that has not been written before. As much as I encourage people to put something together – and many people tell me stories in emails that would make a great story to be posted to the site, it is ultimately up to them.
I just wish those who complain would actually put their fingers to the keyboard and write articles in the style they would like to see more of. As I have said countless times, if every reader put their head down and tried to write just one decent article a year, there would be many thousands of great articles posted every year. I do my bit by writing 50+ articles a year, is it too much for me to ask each reader to send in just one article per year?