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Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Writer's Life 12/11 - Cultural Phenomena

Today's NY Post is filled with great articles. Here are excerpts from three, edited by yours truly:
Japan has several cultural oddities — from cat cafés to graveyard eviction notices to the infamous Suicide Forest, where an estimated 100 people per year kill themselves. Maureen Callahan cites a new book about a hushed phenomenon -- The Vanished: The "Evaporated People" of Japan in Stories and Photographs by Léna Mauger & Stéphane Remael (Photographer). Since the mid-1990s, it’s estimated that at least 100,000 men and women have vanished annually, architects of their own disappearance, banishing themselves over indignities large and small: divorce, debt, job loss, failing an exam. Mauger says: "When people disappear, they know they can find a way to survive.” These lost souls live in cities that don't show up on any map, and take on odd jobs to survive. A shadow economy has emerged to service them. Nighttime Movers charged $3,400 per midnight move. Whatever shame motivates a citizen to vanish, it’s no less painful for the family — which, in turn, is so shamed it often won’t report the missing to the police. Japan’s suicide rate is 60% higher than the global average. There are 60 to 90 per day. It’s a centuries-old concept dating back to the Samurai. In another cultural phenomenon, those who want to escape but don’t want to completely cut ties with family and friends live as otakus, a parallel life as a favorite anime character. Disappearing from time to time into an alternate reality, in costume, they find themselves.

Uber driver Janis Rogers picked up a fare in Virginia and drove her to Brooklyn. It is believed to be the longest Uber ride on record. The bill for the grueling 397-mile, 7-hour-42-minute jaunt: $294.09. A NYC yellow cab making the same trip would cost $1,182. a plane $188; train $95, bus $45. No one knows what the 20ish woman was thinking. She curled up in a blanket in the back seat of the 2005 Prius and slept the entire way. After driving 15 ¹/2 hours round-trip and spending $32 for gas and tolls (Rogers didn't spend a dime on food or drinks), the trip earned her about $9 per hour  “I did it because it was an adventure,” she said. She claims not to have taken any bathroom breaks, which is hard to believe.

Ciro Ortiz, 4-foot-8. 11-year-old Bushwick sixth-grader, is beyond precocious. He's been counseling anxious Brooklynites at the Bedford L train stop. For $2, he offers a five-minute “emotional advice” session. His office hours are noon to two. “It’s a good way to give back and make money,” he said. On an active Sunday he rakes in $50, but he has no plans to pursue a career as a psychotherapist. He wants to be a video-game developer. He hates school but is on the honor roll and excels in science and English. I hope I'm around to see what this kid does with his life. Here he is on the job:

It was cloudy and cold, but I decided to open up the floating book shop and got two hours in, ducking into the car several times to warm up. My thanks to the Russian woman who bought a book on simplified physics. She has written ebook educational guidelines and asked my opinion on getting them published. I suggested Kindle and warned her it will be hard to get the books to sell but, since it's free, she had nothing to lose. My thanks also to the woman who bought a collection of the works of Emile Zola, and to the woman who donated six paperbacks, four by Nora Roberts, two by Danielle Steel. Not bad for what I'd expected to be a lost day in terms of sales.
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