East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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OK, it all started with an article that came out one month ago on the Strait Times.

For $12 an hour, a middle-aged Japanese man will listen to your woes, do chores and offer advice on things like love and life.

Now that’s not a bad rate, right?
I mean, 12 bucks per hour makes almost 100 bucks a day working 9 to 5.

ossanTurns out in 2012 a guy called Nishimoto Takanobu started an online service from his apartment, called Ossan Rental, basically Rent-an-Uncle, where uncle is not exactly a compliment, but rather a disparaging term to label fifty-something men.
The service charges 10.000 yes per month (roughly 3 bucks per day) the “uncles” that want to make their services available to the public. Services that range from doing small chores to providing counsel and suggestions. The most requested of Nishimoto’s uncles can get up to 60 jobs per month, racking roughly 900 bucks.

I am not kidding you – here’s the website (and right now there’s a guy labeled as sold out… wow!)

Now I read the articles about the Rent-an-Uncle service, and…

On one hand, I fully understand and empathise with the “uncles” – I died as a viable employee when I turned 45, and that’s the direction the work market is going.
One has to re-invent oneself.
And I’ve been often been called upon by younger contacts to provide suggestions and advice. I remember an up-and-coming acquaintance that paid me a pizza so he could pick my brain for suitable media-related books he could suggest to his publisher for translation: he had just been given a post as editor for a small publisher, and he wanted to look good, but did not have the knowledge, the experience or the skills. My advice made him look good with his new bosses, and cost him 9 euro, a pizza Napoli-style and a bottle of coke.
Tip_JarAnd what about the guy that asked me to compile for him a bibliography of post-2000 essays about Robert E. Howard, so that he could update the bibliography of an article of his he wrote in the early ‘90s, and sell it as new and updated while it was not?
And the half-hour I spent yesterday giving suggestions to a young writer about how to use Facebook to market her first novel?
And that old friend that sometimes messages me through Facebook with “I need a sword & sorcery book for the weekend. Any suggestion?”
Or the friend that is asking for my help with her slow cooker and her rice cooker and assorted other home appliances?
So… why not put up a service like Nishimoto-san?
Ask me anything @ 5 bucks per bang.
Or something. Set up a pricing-list. Might be a nice way to pay the mortgage.

On the other hand, of course, I thought about it from a writer’s point of view. Because if to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail, to a man with a typewriter everything looks like a story idea.
5135tF5UhbLAnd Nishimoto’s online service could be a nice start for a series. Indeed, I do remember an old, short-lived French series, called Agence Intérim (13 episodes in 1969), about a company that provided replacements – guys that would go to that boring lecture instead of you, or meet your in-laws, etc.
It would be fun. I could create a small cast of regulars, and have them involved in weird jobs, one episode after the other.
It would make for a great TV series, and also for a fun premise for a campaign in a roleplaying game.
It’s also the sort of service Buscafusco could add to his catalog of odd jobs. It could even become (gasp!!) a Buscafusco spin off!

And really, the situation’s so surreal here where I live, that I will evaluate both options. One never knows what might come out of these weird ideas…


Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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