Archive for the ‘capitalism’ Category


My Grandfather, the Engineer

12 December 2013

He’s 87 years old and going strong. This month Progressive Engineer features John Ebbinghaus as the inventor of a line of electrically conductive pastes that could affect a number of industries. See more about my impressive grandfather here.


Manly Candy Flavors

4 October 2013

Candy companies have for a long time marketed to boys. Aside from rockets and bombs and superhero packaging, confectioners know that boys can’t resist gross-out foods from the innocuous gummy worm to candy boogers to the all-important barf-flavored jelly bean. More recently, products have been rolled out that cater to grown men – well, men who straddle the line between hobbyist gourmand and playground kiddo. Here are a handful of the more creative candy efforts:

1. Gummy Bacon
A bac candy

The 6.75″ strips are savory, smokey – and to be served raw.

2. Tequila Worm Lollipops

A teq worm

Tequila flavored (naturally) with actual worms imprisoned in the sugar shell.

3. Ugly Raz-Stout Fudge Balls

Chocolate chips, almond bark, and frozen raspberries congealed in Alaskan Brewing Company oatmeal stout. Find the recipe here.

4. Breast Milk Lollipops

A breastmilk lolli

While the company Lolliphile does not use the actual product, they swear their own flavor went through rigorous testing to make it taste as authentic as possible. Designed for children? Not at $2.50 a pop. Surely they are targeting those men willing to regress to Freudian simplicity for the sake of culinary science.

5.’s Manly Jelly Beans

Alright, so they never went through with it, but came up with a whole line of hypertrophied flavors: leather, chili dog, rattlesnake, war medal, gravel, hot wings, and (my favorite) headbutt. See them all right here.


Capitalism and the Exploitation of Women: Wal-Mart’s Bangladesh Factory Fire as a Test Case

5 December 2012

Wal-Mart currently resources one billion dollars worth of inexpensive clothing from Bangladesh each year.  So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that when 112 workers died in a factory fire last month, cloths labeled for Wal-Mart were found in the ashes.  The mega-retailer distanced itself from the disaster, saying that Tazreen Fashions was no longer authorized as a producer for the chain.  They offered no explanation for how the giant company with its giant factory somehow continued to produce massive quantities for Wal-Mart undetected.

Over 70 percent of garment workers in Bangladesh are women.  Their reported wages are low, usually around $50 a month.  Managers make more, but such positions are usually filled by men.  The 112 workers dead in the November blaze continue to go unnamed by the American media.  The vast majority, I assure you, will turn out to be women.

Bangladeshi men are starting to feel the heat in the disaster.  The factory, identified as “high risk” in 2011, had violated building codes from day one, being built three times larger than was initially authorized.  Male government officials pushed it through.  Likewise, it was male managers who failed to install proper fire exits.  It was a male manager who trapped the women inside even after the fire alarms went off.  Such men are facing public ire now.

Who isn’t being forced to own up to such exploitation of women?  Wal-Mart executives, over 80% of whom are male.

Wal-Mart’s PR fire could get bigger before it gets smaller.  In April 2011 over a dozen representative from major retailers met in Dhaka to discuss safety issues.  Wal-Mart, the lead retailer among them, explicitly opted not to invest in electric and gas system upgrades in their factories.  The other retailers followed suit.  In the document from the meeting, Wal-Mart and the others expressed that “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments” in factories.

Is advanced global capitalism, spearheaded by bottom-line giants like Wal-Mart, going out of its way to empower women?  Look inside the body bags.  The charred corpses will tell you in no uncertain terms.


New Avenues for Birth Control Pill for Men

17 August 2012

In that perennial quest for the holy grail, the pill for men, scientists are showing a new round of optimism.  Every attempt in recent years has failed due to a host of complications with terminating billions of sperm effectively and without side effect.  Organon’s attempt at an implant failed in trials, for example, despite it being heralded as some kind of messiah-pharmaceutical.  Nevertheless, some new drugs are in testing phase, however, pursuing the prospect of massive sums of money to the winning developers.

James Bradner reports for his squad, which has seen successful results among mice.  The drug JQ1 targets a testis-specific protein, rendering production of sperm impossible.  Bradner reports elsewhere that he suspects the pill for men will be available within a decade.

Indian scientists have developed a gel called RISUG which is injected into the vas deferens in a procedure much like a vasectomy.  The chemical somehow disrupts sperm by electrocuting them with a charge produced by the surface of the polymer.  It is in phase III trials in India as of 2012.

Testosterone undecanoate, currently used with success for hypogonadism, is being considered as a contraceptive.  Chinese researchers report early success in trials with their injection method, which mixes the compound in tea seed oil.  Some permanent infertility was noted, however.


NASA’s Territorial Pissing

29 May 2012

With a blog name like “Men on the Moon,” why not talk about men on the moon every once in a while?

With the advent of commercial space flight, the old guard of NASA want businessmen everywhere to know that the moon (at least select parts of it) is their jurisdiction. In July 2011 the world received “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities,” a set of guidelines to private sector missions. The document included parameters for lunar explorations, namely, “exclusion zones” of historically significant areas. The Apollo landing sites, for example, should not be approached by a lander within 2km, and even rovers are prohibited within immediate vicinity.

Is it just me, or is the “preservation” line ringing a little hollow here? Since the surface of the moon is essentially a collection of powder, what is being preserved is NASA’s claims to real estate, which belongs to them by virtue of a set of footprints. One doesn’t have to go to the moon to discern the tell-tale trail they’ve spritzed into the lunar dust.


Ashton Kutcher’s Comical Masculinity and the Meaning of Whiteness

5 May 2012
As for white males after 1800, masculinity has had do in part with the power to assume others’ identities.  One might try to stand apart in one’s whiteness (donning a Klan cap perhaps), but more commonly the better strategy is to show one’s range of mastery of identities.  How much knowledge does a guy have of “non-white” culture, like hip-hop and sushi?  How many languages does he know?  Is his spirituality able to draw off of many world religions?  A white man’s pursuit of plurality and cultural flexibility can count as a masculine pursuit insofar as it establishes him as one who stands in and above multiple personas. In recent years a comical variety of this has come forward, in which a man’s “sense of humor” is the arena in which to demonstrate his intelligence and power to navigate other cultures.  Debate as to whether this kind of thing is colonialism in disguise (see the work of Vine Deloria, Jr., for example) or genuine multiculturalism is up for grabs, and often evaluated by Americans on a case-by-case basis.
In this instance, Ashton Kutcher, already known for exploring new comical masculine avenues (the brilliantly funny stoner in Dude, Where’s My Car?; marrying Demi Moore, fifteen years his senior), tried pushing the envelope with his new Popchips advertisement.  In it he plays a biker, a hippie, a diva – and a Bollywood producer named Raj.  This Indian persona has created a small storm of outrage from critics, claiming that Kutcher is doing “brownface” to get a laugh.  By playing into the stereotype the ad is racist, goes the argument.  The Popchips ad has been pulled.
The “brownface” terminology alludes to a common practice a century ago (though also more recent in parts of the south) in which white men would don paint on their face, preferably black (and thus “blackface”)  in order to sing songs, act sillily, and relive the sentiment of childhood through a race deemed naive and childish.  The meaning of whiteness thus became the ability of whites to utilize other racial identities for their own gain.  Kutcher crossed over too far into this tradition and got called on the carpet.
What isn’t being discussed by critics is why Kutcher cannot play an Indian movie producer, but why he can play a biker, a hippie, and, most notably, a woman.  The freedom of role-playing for funny white men still boasts quite a range.  But is there any firm principle behind any of society’s latitude and restrictions toward white man’s “faces”?  For the time, it appears that the ethical scoresheet is as white and unmarked as the comedians daring to color themselves.

God and Man in Business, ca. 1930s

14 December 2011

Historical studies about American evangelicals in business can feel a little few and far between.  Outside of biographies of tycoons like Andrew Carnegie, few important works arise.  So I was happy to see that Church History published an article on R.G. LeTourneau, a New Deal era evangelical who tried to hold onto long-held ideals capitalistic Christianity during the expansion of the federal government.  Here’s the punchline:

Just as it would be a mistake to ignore LeTourneau’s conventionality within right-wing Depression and World War II-era business and politics, it would be misguided to minimize his distinctiveness as an evangelical.  He was God’s business man, not just any business man.  His answer to the New Deal was not simply a shrinking state, but a revival that would put a fallen nation back on good terms with its creator. . . . In this light, revivalism was not apolitical.  Revivalism was politics (Sarah R. Hammond, “‘God Is My Partner’: An Evangelical Business Man Confronts Depression and War, Church History 80:3 [Sept 2011]: 519).



Manly Man Gifts, Christmas 2012

24 November 2011

What?  You’re tired of me pontificating on gender theory and obscure men’s movements?  Fine.  Here’s your ultra-practical, no-fail list of men’s gifts for Christmas 2012.

1. Manpacks.  Manpacks delivers fresh socks, shirts and shaving supplies to that special guy on a monthly basis.  No more last minute desperation runs to Target.  Starting at $14 for 3 months.

2. Robert Rothschild Farm Blackberry Chipotle Sauce.  Slather this on pork tenderloin for something unbelievable.  Pour it over cream cheese and serve with Triscuits.  Berries have never been so masculine.  $9.

3. Beretta PB Copper Knife.  If a man needs to pull out a knife for some high-skill application (like slicing off ribbon), he should have something to show off to everyone at the same time.  This replica of the 1940’s Beretta knife has nice talking points, including a shell extractor.  $40.

4. South Dakota Magazine.  Forget another subscription to People.  Go for something unique, like a magazine from a state he’s talked about visiting but never has.  South Dakota Magazine is a well-run monthly publication with articles on great tourist spots, historical legends and local culture.  $19/year.

5. Antique Maps.  Find an original antique map on eBay, then mount it.  Replicas can be found all over the internet, such as this one of Geneva:


Hitman Sniper and Zombie Blood: Drinking Masculinity

6 September 2011

There was once a day – I’m thinking of the late 19th century – in which special drinks with dubious medicinal effects were sold on the basis of overconfidence in scientific breakthrough.  What has changed isn’t the wild claims and general quackery, but the kind of willful ignorance we as American consumers exhibit as we buy such products.  We know that 3 mg of Echinacea isn’t going to restore our entire psycho-somatic equilibrium.  But it sure feels good to buy a pretty can of sugar water labeled “Overdrive.”

As long as we’re buying 16oz containers of fantasy, why not market them with a gendered identity in mind?  With gender is more and more an ornamental accessory to our lives, we can finally drink ourselves into manliness.  Such has become the reality of 7-11 stores everywhere.  Marketers have pegged young males as the primary consumers of energy drinks, so much so that you’ll never see something advertised as “manly.”  That would unpoetic, stating the obvious.  Instead companies sell the feeling, offering something akin to the experience of primitive hunters amplifying their own power by consuming the life-essence from the slain.  Accordingly, we’re offered a veritable smorgasbord of dude-drinks with names like “Mountain Dew Game Fuel,” “Adrenalyn Stack,” “No Fear Bloodshot,” “TAPOUT,” and (my personal favorite) “Zombie Blood Energy Potion.” 

“Of course I’ve been awake for four days straight.  I’m an assasin-dunkmaster-executive-rockstar-bodybuilder-fratboy-ninja-warlord-executive who drinks zombie blood for breakfast.”

Not to leave anyone out, there are a handful of opened up for women’s energy drinks: “Redline Princess,” “Pink,” “Vixen Energy Drink.”  But the fact that these libations broadcast their femininity as loudly as possible just underscores the fact that marketers by and large have oriented sales to the peddling of masculine identity.  Kathleen E. Miller found that college undergraduate men on average consumed 2.49 energy drinks a month, compared with a modest 1.22 cans of the stuff among women (Journal of American Journal Health 56:5 [April 2008]). 

Miller does not claim a 1:1 correlation between energy drinks and irresponsible risk taking, but she warns that energy drink consumption is a good predictor of “toxic jock identity.”  I wasn’t aware that “toxic jock identity” was a condition, but, dear me, it sounds serious.  If only the energy drink industry would devise thirst-quenching technology with extracts to offset the symptoms of such macho ridiculousness in the first place.


Kick-butt Self-actualization

4 August 2011

In the long, sweaty tradition of Jazzercise, Tai Bo, and countless other dance/exercise programs, another has been added: piloxing. As a hybrid of pilates, boxing and ballet, it is being marketed as a workout specifically for women. Its sell-line: piloxing turns average women into “tough and agile boxers, gracious [graceful?] ballerinas and hip street dancers.” A snippet from one of the initial DVDs features an exotic dance instructor wearing pink trim and encouraging composure while building ripped abdominals.

In a capitalistic culture promising vicarious experiences for every type of self-fulfilment, piloxing fits in nicely for women. Administrative assistants and saleswomen and homemakers everywhere can be hardened warrior princesses. Now, which exercise routine serves as the equivalent for men?  Where can I sip a martini like James Bond while landing devastating roundhouses?