Our 10 Must-Read Stories — the OZY Highlight Reel

As we end another week of social distancing and other efforts to flatten the curve, we are learning more about COVID-19 –– from new, convenient options in testing to how the virus might affect our morning tea. We also learned ways that small businesses can weather the storm and how, yes, you can find love in a coronavirus place.

In other news, classic video games are making a comeback in the world of esports (and this started before the pandemic) and post-pandemic Harvard might be easier to get into –– that is, if you can afford it.

A Paralympian’s story about losing her legs and making it to the podium is the best thing you’ll see today. Here are our other favorites on OZY this week.

No. 1: Keep Calm, Carry On: This Buddhism-Inspired Wearable Pledges to Slay Anxiety

Why You Should Care: Rohan Dixit’s heartbeat sensors reimagine remote mental health in a time of deep despair.

Much more >>

No. 2: Harvard Hopeful: It’s About to Get Easier — and More Expensive — to Make the Ivy League

Why You Should Care: Because American higher education is preparing for a seismic shift.

Much more >>

No. 3: Car-Swabbing: How Drive-Through Coronavirus Testing Took Over the World

Why You Should Care: Other countries are adopting the approach that has helped South Korea test its population faster than any other nation.

Much more >>

No. 4: ‘Street Fighter’ Returns: The Next Wave of Esports Is Old-School

Why You Should Care: When it comes to sports, these classic video games are proving the maxim “old is gold.”

Much more >>

No. 5: Tea Shortage: The Next COVID-19 Casualty May Be a Nice Cuppa

Why You Should Care: Lockdowns have interrupted the tea harvest around the world.

Much more >>

No. 6: Musical Speeches: Greta Thunberg, Protest Music Star

Why You Should Care: Because her speeches are being remixed in songs everywhere.

Much more >>

No. 7: Opinion: Don’t Bet on China Filling the Post-COVID-19 Global Leadership Void

Why You Should Care: Former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin tackles key long-term questions from the pandemic.

Much more >>

No. 8: Love Curiously: How to Come Out of Quarantine in a Relationship

Why You Should Care: Dating during coronavirus is possible — you just need to be creative. 

Much more >>

No. 9: Defining Moments: Losing Limbs, Gaining the World

Why You Should Care: Paralympian Amy Purdy went from near death to the medal stand. Here’s how she got there.

Much more >>

No. 10: Class Closed: The Mao-Era School Shutdown That Forever Changed Education in China

Why You Should Care: Staying at home when school is shut is a breeze compared with what a generation of Chinese students had to suffer.

Much more >>

What the World Looks Like on Lockdown: Webcams at Popular Tourist Spots

When in your life have you ever seen this: New York’s iconic Times Square devoid of traffic, except for a few cars and a handful of people. But that’s what the famous landmark looks like these days as people practice social and physical distancing.

timessquare1040327

Times Square, New York, on March 27, 2020.

Source EarthCam

People tend to tune into webcams in popular cities when they’re making holiday plans, want to soak in an exotic location or to watch major events taking place. But in the age of the coronavirus, these webcams are a window into worlds that have (surreally) stopped.

It’s a bit eerie seeing empty beaches, abandoned squares and popular attractions without a soul in sight. But watching these cams might calm down that Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) –– and maybe bring some comfort knowing that many people around the globe are definitely staying home.

Here are some of the best webcams you can watch around the world. In many cases, you can zoom in, choose a different view or listen in to live sound (which might just be the sound of silence).

Beaches

One thing is for certain: People are staying away from typically crowded beaches. On the Santa Monica Pier, the amusements have stopped and there’s barely a sunbather in sight. The webcam of Pacific Park offers multiple views of the pier, beach and the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s a similar story at Miami Beach, where the sandy shores are practically deserted.

Around the world, you can check out the famous sandy hot spots of Bondi Beach in Australia (which, until as recently as March 20 was crowded with beachgoers) and Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand. Take a virtual gander at the sandbank of Pwani Mchangani in Zanzibar, the Playa Las Flores in El Cuco in El Salvador, or the breathtaking blue sea at Turks and Caicos Islands, the white sand pristine and void of people. Perhaps one of the more striking views is the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, where along its two-mile sandy stretch, you now see only an occasional jogger.

santamonicabeach

Santa Monica Beach, March 26, 2020.

Source Pacific Park

copacabanabeachrio327

Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro on March 27, 2020.

Source EarthCam

Popular Tourist Spots

Across the U.S., tourist meccas like Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip are extremely quiet. And there’s not a tourist or Spider-Man in sight on Hollywood Boulevard. Up north, you can check out Niagara Falls, where only essential businesses are open or Toronto’s CN Tower cam that offers a live high-definition stream from above the (currently closed) attractions and the city streets.

When it comes to Europe, Italy has a plethora of live webcams. You can check in on everywhere from the Trevi Fountain in Rome to the Piazza della Signoria in Florence to the Rialto Bridge in Venice. These normally bustling destinations are pretty much empty –– it can be unnerving, but perhaps it’s a chance to marvel at some of the extraordinary Baroque and Venetian architecture without distraction, from the comfort of your living room.

There’s also an Eiffel Tower cam and a livestream view of Abbey Road (London). Traffic on the normally busy thoroughfare has been so quiet that road crews were recently able to repaint the lines on the pedestrian “zebra” crossing –– a significant touch-up as it’s a site of national importance (The Beatles connection) that requires special permission for any maintenance.

City Scenes

To get a sense of what social distancing looks like around the world, there are tons of city-based webcams to pick from. Check out what it looks like in Atlanta or Houston or Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

Or see some of the famous squares around the world from Prague to Cusco and from Bruges to Mexico City. Then there’s Leopoldsplatz in Baden-Baden, Germany and the Puerta del Sol in the heart of Madrid. Visit Sydney or Tokyo –– the options are many.

You can find pretty much any destination on sites like EarthCam and Skyline Webcams, but there are also dedicated cams run by parks, cities and also private businesses like resort hotels. Where you won’t find many options: most of Africa, India and China.

Have a favorite travel destination or cityscape webcam to recommend? Leave it in the comments below.

Our 10 Must-Read Stories — the OZY Highlight Reel

It’s been another challenging week as worldwide coronavirus cases pass the 1 million mark and the U.S. sees 6.6 million jobless claims.

So we look to the future. This week we met a man who has created a small, cheap device that can detect the presence or absence of coronavirus in chickens –– with an eye on human options. We also learned how the virus could contribute to safer dating in the future and discovered a small family business hard at work creating ventilators for Italy.

In other news, we find out why open-source software is suddenly more appealing and we meet the dancer behind Afrobeats’ biggest stars. Here are our favorites on OZY this week.

No. 1: Man With a Mission: Can His 10-Minute Coronavirus Test Help Stop the Next Pandemic?

Why You Should Care: Suresh Neethirajan can test for coronavirus in poultry with a colorful strip. All of a sudden, he’s in high demand.

Much more >>

No. 2: Remote Hookups: Can Coronavirus Make Online Dating Safer and Global — Permanently?

Why You Should Care: We’ll need love — not just a vaccine — to survive the coronavirus.

Much more >>

No. 3: 2020 Election: How Republicans Plan to Win, Even With Social Distancing

Why You Should Care: Because relational organizing may be the key to campaigns in the coronavirus era.

Much more >>

No. 4: Move Master: The Captivating Dancer Behind Afrobeats’ Biggest Stars

Why You Should Care: Izzy Odigie is going global with innovative takes on contemporary dances.

Much more >>

No. 5: Lung Fan Man: A Family Ventilator Company Tasked With Saving Italy

Why You Should Care: Because small medical device companies are springing into action around the globe.

Much more >>

No. 6: Next Dot-Com Bubble?: Amid Economic Turbulence, Don’t Bet on Artificial Intelligence to Save Us

Why You Should Care: For all its promise, artificial intelligence has yet to make our economies dramatically more efficient.

Much more >>

No. 7: Coronavirus Cash: How to Spend Your Trump Check

Why You Should Care: From an emergency fund to pet lizards to charity, there are many great ways to spend your stimulus money.

Much more >>

No. 8: Opinion: Disabled Community: We’ve Always Needed Today’s Flexible Work Arrangements. So Make Them Stick

Why You Should Care: “Radical” accommodations finally getting a test drive should be permanent.

Much more >>

No. 9: Free Spirit: Open Source Moves From Rebel to Mainstream

Why You Should Care: Open-source software has an image of radicalism. Yet it’s increasingly an ally — not enemy — of big tech.

Much more >>

No. 10: True Story: Getting Your Ass Kicked in Lagos

Why You Should Care: In Lagos, while trying to get a Ph.D. from Yale, a student learns a valuable lesson about police politics: Avoid it.

Much more >>

Have a Cough or Flu (But Not Coronavirus)? Try These Home Remedies

The world is watching the journey of coronavirus with bated breath. But it’s also still flu season in the U.S. –– last year influenza impacted 35 million people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. And to help prevent catching any nasties, we’ve seen recommendations of everything from Vitamin D dosing to downing turmeric and cinnamon drinks to enduring drops of fiery oil of oregano under our tongues.

When you do get sick with a cold or flu, lots of chicken soup (or vegan equivalent) and fluids can help (and dare we say, hot toddies). But you can also get relief from concoctions made from everyday ingredients in your pantry. Turns out, when it comes to sniffles, coughs and upset tummies, Grandma knew what she was doing when she made you that spicy warm drink (which may or may not have been a hot toddy).

Here are some home remedies from around the world –– sometimes herbal, sometimes a little bit “magic.”

The Home Remedies Indians Swear By

gettyimages717354949copy

Girl with a turmeric plant.

First a caveat: These garden and cupboard concoctions aren’t going to taste good. But they’re gonna work. You’ll thank your auntie when you’re an adult for rubbing alcohol on your chest to clear congestion or making you that warm milk with haldi and garlic for a sore throat. If you’re looking for relief from stomachache, nausea, diarrhea, earache or even colic in babies, these traditional Indian home remedies have you covered. Plus, there’s always feni.

About 30 minutes after drinking, the sorcery sets in and you’ll be hacking up so much nastiness.

Got a Cough? Try Bosnia’s Witchy Brew

Bosnians have known the secrets to busting up troublesome coughs for hundreds of years. They already have a great cough syrup (Apisirup) made from honey and thymol. But it’s a simple drink, made from just three ingredients you’d typically find in caramel sauce or fudge, that gets the congested expectorating nicely (note: it tastes nothing like caramel sauce or fudge). About 30 minutes after drinking, the sorcery sets in and you’ll be hacking up so much nastiness. But afterward? Look forward to breathing easier and coughing less.

Ancient Mexican Cures Treat the Body and the Mind

gettyimages144105485copy

A shaman during Day Of The Dead Festivities at Xcaret near Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

Source Getty Images

Feeling the need to purge yourself of toxins? Try a traditional eucalyptus-infused steam treatment. Or for respiratory issues, boil eucalyptus and drink it as a tea. In Mexico, curandería (“the practice of healing”) uses everything from herbal medicine to ancient native spiritual practices to get you better. But here you also have a big role to play in your own health, and that means talk therapy and focus on relationships. And speaking of getting calm, if the coronavirus has you all panicky, try rubbing dry sage all over your body.

The Magic Guarri Tree Is a Natural Medicine Cabinet in Africa

As its Latin name suggests, Euclea divinorum is used for divination in Zambia, sorcery in Angola and to remove spells in Uganda. And while it has loads of uses (tanning hides, dying material, fermenting beer) the Magic Guarri’s roots are also used throughout Africa to “cure” everything from cancer and arthritis to miscarriage, snakebites and leprosy. There’s a lot of witchcraft and wizardry at play, but the tree’s bark is known to work as a strong laxative and the roots contain compounds that have healing effects on the nervous system. So again, in times that call for calm, psychoactive plants (not the drugs) can be your friends.

Our dear readers also suggest a host of other home remedies –– many involving booze, but also lemon, wasabi, ginger, cayenne and … marijuana scraps and Coca-Cola syrup.

Of course, see a doctor if you have worsening or worrisome symptoms. If you’re sure it’s the common flu? Try a home remedy and head to bed with a good book or your phone. And keep washing your hands!

Six Irish Bands to Listen to in Self-Quarantine

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and that often means busting out the green beer and Irish drinking songs (in 2020, that’s likely happening in your own home by yourself, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic). But the new music coming out of the Emerald Isle? Forget harps, fiddles and folk (and U2).

These six bands –– all distinctly different –– will shake your associations and assumptions about Irish music. Here, you might even find a new favorite song … that isn’t about drinking. Or maybe it’s about more drinking, because the music is just so emotive that you’ll want to raise a glass. Sláinte!

The Murder Capital 

Irish band, The Murder Capital perform at Truck Music

The Murder Capital performs at the Truck Music Festival, near Oxford.

Source Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The post-punk coming out of Ireland is, well, riveting. You may already know Fontaines D.C., the Dublin-based trio whose boisterous 2019 album, Dogrel, was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Also from Dublin, The Murder Capital is a five-piece group who “are outrageously exciting live,” according to The Guardian. The music is driving and cathartic, melodic and (loudly) plaintive, with themes of heartbreak, grief and revenge. Grab a Guinness and check out “Love, Love, Love,” “For Everything” and “Don’t Cling to Life,” an anthemic tune about moving on past grief. The Murder Capital is currently on tour in the U.S.

Just Mustard

You may not have heard of Just Mustard, a five-piece group out of Dundalk, but the Cure have. The goth legends handpicked Just Mustard to open for them at a big show at Malahide Castle last year. And while they’re definitely shoegaze –– with a pleasant, ethereal mix like that of Beach House, Cranes and Slowdive –– there’s a shiny pop side as well. NME recently named them one of their essential new artists of 2020. You would have been able to catch them at the now-canceled SXSW this year. For now, just check out “Seven,” “Deaf” or “Frank” for a taste.

Happyalone.

Happyalone. is a challenging band to classify. The music is sonic-y and synthy and definitely trippy –– yet sometimes bad-boy indie. Even a little of Billie Eilish meets hip-hop. Each song is different. The music feels a bit like it’s being beamed from another place –– not surprising considering that the Cork-based trio claims to be from “Andromeda Galaxy.” The Irish Times calls the music “delightfully odd and full of lo-fi charm.” Grab your favorite beverage, have a listen to “L U C I F E R,” “Bodybags” or “Colours” and blow your mind a little.

Jealous of the Birds

Naomi Hamilton, the melodic force behind Jealous of the Birds, might make you think of St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett or Laura Marling –– her music is singer-songwriter, indie-rock confection. In a 2016 interview with The Irish Times, Hamilton said that she wanted her music to be “down-to-earth songs that you could share with a friend.” (During this coronavirus outbreak, we don’t recommend sharing with a friend, unless it’s over FaceTime.) Sink into “Plastic Skeletons” or “The Grass Begins to Eat Itself,” with elements of Khruangbin guitar layered with bluesy-rock vocals. Jealous of the Birds will be touring the U.S. in May 2020.

ELM

Put on one of ELM‘s perfectly polished electropop tracks and try not to dance your green pants off. If the rousing, uplifting music doesn’t get you, the honest, relatable lyrics will. This Dublin-based four-member queer pop band was dubbed “a new voice in the LGBTQ community” by EQ Music last summer. Get your hands in the air and listen to “Golden,” “Fear” or “Paris.”

Alex Gough  

Waterford-based rapper Alex Gough has been playing drums since age 6, and at 21 he’s now making waves with his own brand of hip-hop –– a mix of rap and lo-fi- and jazz-infused hip-hop. Turn up the volume with “Breakfast” (which has over 500,000 streams on Spotify) and “Step to Me.”

If You’d Like a Little More

More Rock

More Rap & Hip-Hop

Pop and R&B

More “A Bit Different”

Fun Things to Stock Up On (But Not Stockpile) for a Self-Quarantine or Lockdown

We’ve all seen the headlines about people clearing stores out of hand sanitizer, face masks and (oddly) toilet paper in the event of a coronavirus self-quarantine or lockdown. But really, should you be stockpiling anything?

No! Health organizations are advising to have a 30-day supply of food, vitamins, medicines and pet and household supplies (soap!) on hand –– essentially the kinds of things you wouldn’t want to be without in the event that you might have to spend a long period of time at home. You know, like chocolate, wine, diapers.

inline fix

Source Getty Images, Composite by Ned Colin

So think about it: What would make your extended homestay more bearable, considering that you also might get sick and not feel like doing much? Note: This is not a list of things you should stockpile. We’re talking about stocking up. Put the Costco card down and chill. No panic-buying, please.

Stuff to Help Weather the Flu

Let’s get this out the way: If you’re self-quarantining, you might get sick (but keep in mind, 80 percent recover without needing special treatment), and you also might come down with a common cold or flu. So it’s best to have things on hand to help soothe your symptoms –– like soft tissues, medicines and ready-to-eat meals, but also home remedy options like herbal teas (licorice is good for respiratory ailments), eucalyptus and oregano oils, fruit juices, honey and lemons. And, alas, disinfectant spray and wipes. For everything.

Things to Keep You (and the Kids) Entertained

If you’re going to be cooped up in your house for a few weeks, you’re going to want something other than your phone to keep you entertained and mentally engaged. And if you have children, the boredom situation becomes more urgent. Consider loading up on board games and supplies for creative home projects. Maybe splash out on that PlayStation 4 Pro. This might also be a good time to get that Netflix or Amazon subscription. Remember how you always meant to start watching The Sopranos? Now’s the time.

You could also try an online course or pick up a new hobby. Like woodworking, subversive cross-stitch or (two trends for 2020) embroidery or soap making –– how can soap be a bad idea in times like these?

Your Favorite Foods … Because 30 Days Is a Long Time Without Fat and Sugar

Yes, be sure to stock up on soups and canned goods, pantry staples and frozen options (please leave some frozen pizza for your neighbors). If you have the time, you can make and freeze some of your favorite recipes for heating up whenever you need them. But also think treats. Yes, keep eating balanced meals and get your five-a-day –– however if there was ever a time to pick up those cookies or chips you love, it’s now. And if they somehow last until the end of the quarantine period, it’s likely there will still be a few months left until expiration.

Tips: Because perishables are, well, perishable, you can blanch and freeze fresh vegetables as well as grated hard cheeses. And for a fresh milk alternative, this might be the time to try shelf-stable oat milk like everyone else.

Grab that cheeky red you’ve been eyeing and enjoy a glass on a Google Hangout with the date or friend you’d otherwise be drinking with IRL.

Vodka

… but for your creative at-home cocktails and definitely not to make hand sanitizer (leave that to the professionals; drinkable alcohol isn’t strong enough to kill virus nasties). And why would you waste your best Belvedere on cleaning?

A time of lockdown or quarantine means no nights out at your local bar or drinks with friends. Have some of your favorite tipples on hand for Friday evenings (while you’re watching The Sopranos or sitting through your teen’s pick for movie night). Grab that cheeky red you’ve been eyeing and enjoy a glass on a Google Hangout with the date or friend you’d otherwise be drinking with IRL.

Moisturizer, Your Friend

With all that hand-washing, sanitizing (and wringing), you might want to grab some extra moisturizer. The alcohol in sanitizers and frequent hand-washing can be super drying. And dried-out skin can crack, allowing germs to enter the body. Give your stressed-out skin some extra love. Lotion up. Be dewy, be content.

This We Don’t Recommend

Boredom leads to the internet and the internet is hell-bent on telling us things we don’t want to know. Like, did you know that there’s a website that tracks every confirmed case of coronavirus? In the world. In real-time? The site, simply titled Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases (Johns Hopkins University), is a dashboard of deaths, recovery figures, maps and more. Don’t go there.

Instead, embroider this mantra on a pillowcase: Be well, be patient, be kind.

2020: Welcome to the Year of Fitness

It’s that time of year again: We’ve fested and feasted and now we want to do something about it. It’s January and we want to get fitter (cue New Year’s resolution groan).

But there’s good news for getting fit in 2020, even if your partner didn’t surprise you with a Peloton this holiday season: It’s all about you. Yes, some trends involve the latest in gear and equipment. But there’s more focus on metrics (as they relate to your body) and how you choose to participate. From wearable tech to virtual classes to mindfulness, it’s all about putting you at the center of your workout.

That might involve “online training, more lifting, especially geared toward women, and ‘entertainment-style’ indoor cycling,” says Magz Kordiuk, a Toronto-based fitness professional with 10 years of experience.

Whatever your style, here are the ways we will be embracing fitness in the year to come.

Wearables Are (Still) Hot

Lifestyle photo of Ionic Indoor Young Adult Female

Stay on track during workouts with wearable devices.

Source FitBit

You might ask, weren’t wearables big in 2018 and 2019 too? Yes, and they are maintaining that fierce pace in 2020. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) annual survey of worldwide fitness trends recently found that wearable tech is the No. 1 trend for the year ahead. It’s all about keeping an eye on your personal stats, whether that’s with smartwatches, fitness and GPS trackers or heart rate monitors. It’s an estimated $95 billion industry with no signs of slowing down. Case in point: Google’s plans to snap up FitBit in the coming year.

High-Tech Fitness … at Home

Lifestyle-x32i-2

At-home fitness with high-tech equipment is becoming more popular.

Source iFit

Raise your hand if you love going to the gym. Some fitness enthusiasts are ditching gym memberships in favor of high-tech home equipment. Think the Mirror (that helps you watch yourself exercise), virtual reality sports (play away those calories), and yes, the Peloton bike, where you can livestream classes from the comfort of your own home, sweating as much and wherever you like. But virtual coaching is also tailoring the workout experience. For example, iFit takes treadmill runners and walkers around the world via instructor-led, screen-based workouts –– the incline and speed adjust according to the terrain, whether that’s the mountains of Patagonia or the beaches of Portugal, and you feel like you’re kinda almost there. “Virtual coaching removes the guesswork out of fitness,” explains iFit trainer Mecayla Froerer, and eliminates the possibility of ‘cheating.’”

Short Workouts With Big Payoffs

We want to get fit, but we don’t always have the time, and let’s face it: these days we’re more distracted than ever. Which is why we can likely expect the fitness world “catering to shorter attention spans” in the new year, Kordiuk says.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which involves bursts of high-intensity effort with periods of recovery in between, has long been used for cardio and fat-blasting. As we move into 2020, look for HIIT to continue to feature in fitness routines around the world (it ranks No. 2 in the ACSM study). But we might see an uptick in hybrid workouts, such as HIIT yoga. Variations of yoga are also looking to become popular, according to IPSO.com –– although gin yoga (yes, you get to drink gin while perfecting your Toppling Tree) might end up being just a flavor-of-the-month option.

There’s also the HIIT workout that’s a hit with the likes of Meghan Markle and Khloé Kardashian: the Megaformer, a beast of an exercise machine that combines cardio, endurance, strength and flexibility all at once. It’s one of the fastest-growing fitness trends, according to ClassPass, and Livestrong.org cites it as “the breakout workout trend of 2020.”

Mindfulness Is Kindfulness

When working on our fitness, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers: split times, crunches done, pounds lost. In 2020, look for a focus on mind and body connection –– being kind to yourself and, in turn, the muscles and bones that keep you going. This can encompass everything from mindful eating to meditation to getting proper rest. Slowing down and being good to yourself can result in a plethora of benefits, including injury prevention and better mental health. “Mindfulness goes hand in hand with any fitness discipline,” Kordiuk explains. “The more you can hone in on being present in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, the more clear your intention becomes,” adding that with intention and mindfulness, focusing on your fitness “can become a journey, a transformation and/or evolution.”

Regardless of how you decide to get up off the couch in 2020, there’s one surefire path to improved fitness: “Make yourself accountable,” says Kordiuk.

Remember: It’s all about you.

OZY Looks Back on a Year of Food

Food, glorious food. Sure, you might be nursing a carb hangover from all your holiday eating, but we’ll bet you’re still hungry for more. Not more food necessarily, but for more news about what we put into our bodies and what it brings to our minds and souls. (And OK, maybe you’re still craving a bit more delicious stuff to eat).

As 2019 winds down, we’re looking back at the best of food on OZY. These stories remind us where our food comes from and where it’s headed in the future, reflect on eats with a meaty message and offer up some tasty options for 2020.

Today we’re devoting OZY’s Daily Dose to mouthwatering stories from the past year. The virtual buffet is open. Feast with your eyes (and you won’t gain a pound).

First off, the humble pineapple is having a significant impact on immigration to Europe from Guinea. Thousands of migrants once fled the West African nation, but cultivating the tasty tropical fruit is helping end that. Switching to grains, quinoa has been having a moment — not just on your plate but also in the fields of more than 100 countries. And it’s not just because the superfood is increasing in popularity; there’s a climate connection too.

Onto another buzzy health craze: weed. Dietitian and nutritionist (and cannabis evangelist) Laura Lagano is working to get cannabis into our diet to help with medical conditions. And a couple in North Carolina are turning leftover groceries — essentially wasted food — into menu items and cocktails targeted at the wealthy. Bon appétit!

The economy is often closely tied to food, but sometimes its creation is rooted in upheaval or scandal. This year we brought you the When Food Gets Political series, which explores everything from “two-faced” cookies that mock a politician to the reason why Iran is turning to carb-rich potatoes to stave off protests and hunger.

Speaking of carbs, did you know that fettuccine Alfredo was created to help combat a common pregnancy ailment, or that Volkswagen’s best-selling product is made from pork (hint: It’s sausage-shaped)? Those are just a couple of the tasty tidbits we dished up that you can share at your next dinner party.

If you’re planning on traveling in 2020, you’ll want to know where to get the best nosh. This year we explored the best (and most stomach-safe) of Bolivian food stalls, toured the hidden hub of Turkish cuisine in London, checked out a cheese-lover’s festival in Panama, watched an ancient Iranian bread baking method and learned how to find a scrumptious — and supercheap — feast in Prague.

We also sampled melt-in-your-mouth koeksisters (sweet braided doughnuts) from South Africa, the best fried fish in Punjab and two mayo-drenched delights: a cold Argentine holiday feast and a Mexican hot dog wrapped in bacon. An added bonus: a superboozy Black Forest Cherry Cake.

Full yet?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this culinary tour through some of the most delectable stories we’ve served up this year. There’s so much more to come in 2020.

Autumn Romance Reads: What’s Hot in Lust and Love

As the year winds down — and in some parts of the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights colder — it’s a good time to snuggle up with a good book. And by a good book we mean romance. Because all that happily-ever-after and fulfillment of desires? Well, it’s just the kind of thing that’s welcome in the hectic homestretch to the holidays (or whatever lies ahead for you in the upcoming months).

Romance has come a long way, baby. While it still delivers on long, lustful looks and raunchy romps, the genre also offers up more depth and breadth when it comes to characters and plots — overall, it’s becoming more inclusive. After all, love is for everybody.

Here are some romantic options to check out this fall:

Hot Romance Reads That Aren’t About Straight White People

These novels are packed with the usual steamy storylines. They just happen to feature queer or non-gender-conforming characters of color. Here are some of the best reads on the rack with LGBTQ leads and plots that include religious and cultural diversity.

Love Rom-Coms? Check Out These 10 Rom-Com Books

Yes, the rom-com novel is a thing (just check out the New York Times Best-Seller list). And yes, it can be even more satisfying to read a rom-com than to watch Love Actually for the 12th time. We’ve compiled a list of romance novels to substitute for a rewatch of When Harry Met Sally, Bridget Jones’s Diary or Sweet Home Alabama.

Getting Royal With Your Next Raunchy Read

Royal romance may not be new, but novels about it have been flourishing — royally. (Harry and Meghan may be responsible for that.) These recent romances will have you swooning over princes and duchesses, and oohing and aahing over their monarchial moves. All that grandeur and folly, we’re in.

The Satirical Romance Ahead of Its Time

Love, Stars and All That, described by some as a cult classic (it was published in 1994) as well as a “gentle romance satire,” brings together romance and astrology and features Indian leads. Considering how ethnically diverse characters and astrology are hot topics these days, this book was ahead of its time. Author Kirin Narayan, an Indian-born American anthropologist, tells us what her novel meant then, and what it means now.

  

Eric Dean Seaton: A Childhood Dream Beckons

Do childhood dreams ever fade?

Not for Eric Dean Seaton, not even after he’d already accomplished one of his childhood dreams: establishing himself as an LA director and producer. By his early 40s, he had under his belt 175 television episodes, 18 music videos, Nickelodeon pilots. He’d been nominated for the NAACP Image Awards for his work on That’s So Raven and Mighty Med.

But another childhood dream still beckoned. And so here he is on a muggy July afternoon, wife in tow, manning a booth at the San Diego Comic-Con and promoting his forthcoming graphic novel, Legend of the Mantamaji.

For the most part, African-Americans are only added to an already existing universe that is otherwise devoid of color.

Headshot of Eric Dean

Source Getty

“Before I went to Ohio State, there were two things I always wanted to be: a director and create my own graphic novel,” says Seaton, sleepy eyed but smiling and clean-shaven. A handful of convention attendees have gathered at the Small Press Pavilion to get a glimpse of his book, and him.

Seaton got his first taste of the superhero universe from his father. Dad worked out of town, but every weekend he’d come home and take his young, only child to a nearby comic shop in Cleveland. There, the little boy would lose himself in Batman, Superman and Iron Man while his father made his daily runs around the city.

Seaton’s desire to become a storyteller was born in that shop, and in front of the living-room television, too.

“I was always looking at how things were made, and I loved movies, TV and comic books so much that telling the story became just as important as watching the story,” says Seaton, who now lives in Toluca Lake, California. “I would watch the credits and always know directors’ and writers’ names, and I always wanted to make a story of my own.”

It didn’t take long for Seaton to decide that he would one day create his own story where he, an African-American, could be a hero.

“It was important to me that my character be a minority, because people of all nationalities are around us in the real world,” Seaton says. “And even though the book is multicultural, since I didn’t see a lot of characters that looked like me growing up, he had to be an African-American.”

To be sure, there’s more diversity in the comic universe today than when Seaton was a boy. Marvel recently appointed an African-American as the new Captain America, a black Hispanic as Spider-Man and a female as the new Thor. It also cast actor Michael B. Jordan in the role of the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot film.

Superman didn’t start off with the ability to fly, or an archnemesis, or a kryptonite weakness.

Still, for the most part, African-Americans are only added to an already existing universe that is otherwise devoid of color.

Seaton began imagining Legend of the Mantamaji nearly a decade ago. What started as an admittedly unoriginal African-American version of Batman has evolved into an entire universe, a backstory, richly drawn characters.

Legend of the Mantamaji concerns Elijah Alexander, a pompous district attorney who finds out that he is the last of the Mantamaji, a mythical race of knights who once protected mankind. When an ancient evil is resurrected, Alexander has to turn his back on all that he has worked for in order to defend humankind. Aside from being challenged by the malevolent sorcerer Sirach, Alexander struggles internally, too: He must transcend himself and his self-absorption for the good of the world.

“It’s so hard to tell an original story,” Seaton says. Superman didn’t start off with the ability to fly, or an arch nemesis, or a kryptonite weakness; that evolution took decades. To build Mantamaji’s universe quickly, Seaton immersed himself in Egyptian and African history. He pulled from those chronicles — and his years of visual storytelling as a TV director — to nail down a rich backstory.

He sees parallels between his children’s TV work and the graphic novel.

“Even though the stories are built for kids, the basis of a story is still the same,” he says. Some of their features, too: a flawed main character, for instance, and an adventure or quest. Both TV and comics require storyboarding, too, so the transition didn’t much jar Seaton: “To be honest, working on the book actually helped me become a better director,” he says.

Seaton already had practice breaking into a white-dominated field, of course. He got his start in television by sending a letter to Bill Cosby, who was so impressed by Seaton’s ambition that he invited him to intern on The Cosby Show’s last season, which itself broke new ground in entertainment. “The scarcity of minorities in comic books parallels the film industry,” Seaton says.

But as he worked his way up the TV ladder, Seaton kept looking back at his other dream — to create his own comic. As a production assistant on the ’90s sitcom Living Single, Seaton discovered that one of the show’s directors was married to a Marvel Comics executive. Between shoots, Seaton would soak up everything he could about the comic book world and used that knowledge to begin working secretly on his own graphic novel.  

Instead of shopping Mantamaji to Marvel or DC Comics, Seaton decided to self-publish it, through his “And… Action!” Entertainment Co. Of course, the mountain becomes more difficult to climb. From his modest booth at Comic-Con, you can’t help glimpse the colossal installations of the industry’s biggest publishers. He’s had to set up distribution streams, control his inventory, make a million phone calls. “The work has become very hard and time-consuming,” he says. But the payoff — creative control, ownership — may be worth the risk. That is, if Mantamaji sells big.

By the end of Comic-Con, Seaton had sold 288 advance copies of Mantamaji. Not an overwhelming success, but not a bad start either. Seaton is now preparing for the official release date of Oct. 8 for the first installment of the three-book trilogy. It may be, too, that sales are secondary. Creating something he fully owns and that could inspire more minority superheroes — just as the The Cosby Show inspired him — might be enough for Seaton.

“Now that I have two children, I can’t wait until they’re old enough to read my book and, instead of Batman or Superman, they want to be the Mantamaji.”