Archive for the ‘Health’ Category


Arriving at Cures for Man-parts the Hard Way

24 June 2014

Once a year my wife lets me shave a mustache. I use the word “lets” very loosely. She chooses not to change the locks to our house on the one day a year I shave the caterpillar of doom. The truth cannot be denied: it is a nasty feature on my face. Even so, once a year I elect to desecrate myself and risk my marriage.

In the past my mustache day has corresponded with pheasant hunting season. This year I may use up my prickly grace for a good cause: the Mustache Dache in Sioux Falls. On July 12, 2014 hundreds of men, women, and children (some with real facial hair) will race five kilometers in an attempt to raise money for men’s health. According to the web site (, funds go to a battery of ailments facing men: testicular cancer, prostate cancer, mental health, etc.

There’s a certain logic to it all. Who wants to think about the prostate, that funky little piece of flesh controlling the tubes down in the nether-regions? No one. But each time a disturbing mustache flashes into view, people can say to themselves, “As much as I don’t want to consider it, there are man-parts in need of care. Especially in men.”


Manhood, Modesty, and Pandemics

28 July 2013

The World Health Organization has reported that the death rate of the new MERS virus is higher than SARS (50%) but slower-spreading. Only 90 cases have been reported since last September, most of them in Saudi Arabia. Oddly, 80% of the cases from the past year were men.

Dr. Christian Drosten from the University of Bonn was quoted in The Times of India saying it probably has less to do with manhood and more to do with standards for female modesty.

MERS also appears to be mainly affecting men; nearly 80 percent of the cases in the new study were men. Drosten said there might be a cultural explanation for that. “Women in the [Middle East] region tend to have their mouths covered with at least two layers of cloth,” he said, referring to the veils worn by women in Saudi Arabia. “If the coronavirus is being spread by droplets, [the veils] should give women some protection.”



Oldest Man in Modern History, Dead at 116

12 June 2013

According to Genesis 5:27, Methuselah lived a whopping 969 years. But that was before the flood and before Guinness Book of World Records. The longest-living male just died today, Wednesday, at the ripe age of 116. Jiroemon Kimura of Kyotango, Japan, used a low-calorie diet and a good set of genes to get him all the way through the 20th century alive.

116 years, however impressive by itself, is a long way from the all-time world record. It was set far out of reach by Jeanne Louise Calment when she died at age 122 in France. That a woman holds the record got me wondering about the longevity of men vs. women over age 100. It turns out there’s a graph for that, compiled by Afrim Alimeti:

Gerontology Research Group,

Gerontology Research Group,


Lunch Conversation with My Son, 2.15.13

15 February 2013

Halloween Eyeballs
Z: This soup is good for you.
Me: Yes, it is. What other kinds of foods are good for you?
Z: Carrots.
Me: Sure.
Z: Meat.
Me: Yes. And don’t let anyone tell you differently. You’re a man; you need meat.
Z: Salamanders.
Me: Um… haven’t tried them personally, but they do fall into the meat category…


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.


Men Less Likely to Be Cremated

9 December 2011

An interesting shift seems to be afoot in funeral culture.  Men led the numbers of cremations as the practice gained popularity in the twentieth century.  Stephen R. Prothero notes that men made up the majority of cremations then, even 76% in one area.  Not that men were the only ones interested in the practice.  Lisa Kazmier found that The Cremation Society of Great Britain’s membership consisted of 60% women (“Her Final Performance,” Mortality 6:2 [2001]).  Prothero also writes about women’s role in cremation activism, though he notes that these vocal exponents tended to be college-educated women, and thus very much in the minority.   Anecdotal evidence from the time suggests that women were more likely to protest cremation.  Primarily, men’s bodies were put to the pyre.

That statistic has changed.   Women’s bodies made up 52% of all cremated in 1996-97, according to the Cremation Association of North America.   A demographic study in Great Britain found that women showed the greater preference for cremation over decomposition in the ground (Davies and Shaw, 1995).   Does this general trend have more to do with women’s changing conceptions about the body?  Or does it have to do more with finances, with women’s higher levels of poverty?


Can the Stache Be Used for Good?

19 November 2011

I have a tenuous agreement going with my wife in which she allows me to shave a mustache for exactly one day a year.  I say “tenuous” because she really hasn’t ever agreed to it.  This day almost always falls on the pheasant hunting opening day in South Dakota.  A buddy and I shave creepy little lip blankets, put on orange clothes and grab a couple of shotguns.  Beef jerky and obnoxious music are involved.  Personal hygiene that day is discouraged.  My wife hates mustache day.

Would you believe that the moustache expressed a similar deviation from the norm a hundred years ago?  According to Christopher Oldstone-Moore in the Journal of Social History, men in early twentieth century America expressed their allegiance to national and social agendas through clean-shaven faces.  Showing skin expressed conformity to one’s peer group and good teamsmanship.  Conversely, donning a mustache meant you were independent.  That independence didn’t have to be expressed as roguishness, explains Oldstone-Moore.  It could suggest one’s patriarchal status in the home or business as he worked to create society.  But the mustache made a man a stand-out for those with the luxury of standing out.

Fast-forward a hundred years.  We are seeing the growing popularity of Movember, in which men grow moustaches in November to bring attention to various causes (usually men’s health issues).  The official Movember web page notes that participants have exceeded the million-stache mark.  Mustaches for good?  Mustaches for charitable sociality?  I can’t decide whether the staches-for-social-good phenomenon is in keeping with older patterns or if this suggests a more radical domestication of the face caterpillar.

So long as that hairy streak crosses my face, my wife insists it will never be aligned with the forces of light.