How America is dying
Caitlin Doughty wants to give death a makeover. A mortician who resembles a cheerful Morticia Addams, she belongs to a new generation of hip pathologists and undertakers intent on making the Grim Reaper a little less grim. Doughty answers questions about death on her YouTube series, “Ask a Mortician”, and sells T-shirts branded with slogans such as “Future Corpse”. Her organisation, The Order of the Good Death, hosts “death salons”, where conversations about mortality are the order of the day. Doughty is at the vanguard of the “death positive” movement, which reckons that concealing death behind closed doors is harmful to society. Better to look it squarely in the eye over coffee and doughnuts.
What Switzerland is building
Most cats want to come and go as they please, even if they live several storeys above ground. Which is why many residents of Bern have built outdoor climbing aids to help their feline friends make the descent from high windows and balconies. Catalogued in Brigitte Schuster’s forthcoming book, “Swiss Cat Ladders”, they come in all shapes and sizes. Some consist of no more than a wooden plank or thin pegs affixed to a drainpipe. Others are complex, scaffolding-like structures that zig-zag up four storeys. At least one lucky cat even has a tiny spiral staircase. Human burglars, be warned: the cat-ladders aren’t strong enough to hold your weight.
What Canadians are buying
Anyone who lives with a modern lumbersexual knows that beard trimmings have a habit of clinging to soap bars, clogging drains and endangering marriages. Enter the beard bib. A plastic apron that fits snugly around the neck, it has two suction cups at its base which, when secured to a mirror, create a basin that catches the shavings. Rockwell Razors, a Canadian company, says that the beard bib is its most popular beard-grooming product, out-selling folding beard combs and even boar-hair beard brushes. And at $15, it’s cheaper than a marriage counsellor.
What Nigeria is reading
Want to go into Nigerian politics? Keep all doubts about God’s existence to yourself. Banish shame from your repertoire of emotions. Buy a cap and wear it often. Elnathan John, a lawyer and novelist, proffers these tidbits in his new book, “Be(com)ing Nigerian”. A satirical guide to modern Nigeria and the greed and ambition that make it run, it takes aim at Nigeria’s elite. (Want to become a pastor? “Do not pay tax.” “Fly private.”) It is an excoriating, loving and hilarious critique of a nation plagued by abuses of power.
What Lebanon is listening to
Slaves to Sirens, the first all-female metal band in Lebanon, is on a mission to enslave humankind. Though their voices aren’t quite as exquisite as their namesakes, the mythological creatures who lured sailors to their deaths with their captivating songs, the harsh screams and growls of this new incarnation have seduced Lebanon’s metal scene. Among the wider population, the band has withstood sexism and accusations of Satanism. But the Sirens won’t be dialling down the volume anytime soon. Prepare to be ensnared.
What America is drinking
Mead isn’t just for Renaissance fair-goers and “Game of Thrones” cos-players. Thanks to a surging interest in craft brews with natural ingredients, the millennia-old “honey wine” – made by fermenting honey with water, and often flavoured with fruits, flowers, herbs and spices – is one of America’s fastest-growing alcoholic beverages. Over 500 meaderies have opened in America since 2011. Not long ago Dylan Sprouse, a former Disney child star, opened All-Wise, a meadery beneath a trendy Brooklyn hotel. Three miles away, in an industrial-chic part of Brooklyn, Honey’s cocktail bar serves locally sourced mead with names such as Nought and Saturnalia. If you’re put off by the thought of cloying, sugary booze, don’t be – like wine, mead can be still or sparkling, dry or sweet, fruity or earthy.
What China is watching
Su Daqiang and his no-good sons have become the three most hated men in China. Their crime? Being beastly to Su Mingyu, the last remaining woman in the family and heroine of hit TV drama “All Is Well”. This tells the story of Mingyu’s struggle to make a life for herself after her mother dies and the family starts to antagonise her. Entrepreneurial netizens have now found a way to profit from the widespread ire towards these fictional characters: businesses on Taobao, an e-commerce site, offer the chance to scold the men of the family (or their virtual avatars) for just 0.5 yuan, or 7 cents, a pop.