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It is hard for me to imagine having so many self-winding watches that I would worry about them stopping and needing to be reset. It is even harder to imagine being so indolent and rich that I would rather pay $100 for a machine to shake my watch, than have to reset it once in a while. Someone needs to shake these people and remind them that 2 billion people live on less than 1$ a day.

I could sit still for an electric filet knife.

Not that I have ever found it hard to filet a fish by hand, but maybe some lazy or incompetent people need to have the knife moved for them. I guess if you were too stupid to bring a flashlight, or carry your fish to camp, you might even need a light attached to your electric fillet knife, though if you were that stupid, how could you ever remember to charge up your knife before you went on this fishing trip. But why does it need to be camouflaged? Then you won’t even be able to find it! Cabelas, where I found this item, sells everything else camouflaged, including toilet paper.

The Satellite Dish for campers.

Don't miss CNN just because you are in the wilderness!

This could be a category all its own.

The game of golf seems to generate more weird and strange consumer goods than any other sport or enterprise – what is it about golf that leads people to throw away money on stupid stuff they will never use? Are they supposed to be funny gifts? There must be millions of closets full of these items, still in the boxes. How many people actually use a hot drink caddy in their golf bag? This is from the Brookstone catalog – a fount of disposable useless consumer trivia.

Solar energy at its most absurd.

I thought I had seen the worst with the solar-powered insecticide-sprayer. But this one beats it! A solar-powered milk frother for making your cappucino in an eco-friendly way. There are so many absurdities in this product, I don't know where to start. From the Real Goods catalog, also at www.realgoods.com.

I don’t know about you, but I often worry that my steaks are going to be lost somewhere between the kitchen and the dining table. That’s why I was so relieved to find that Skymall had come through again with one of those hard-to-find but necessary cooking items that every chef needs.  Just send off 100 bucks and get your own personalized steak branding iron in a Custom Gift Box and everyone will know how much you care about your consumption!

Prince Lionheart Electric Baby Wipe Warmer.  

This is the recall notice for these vital tools of modern living. Consumer Reports says they are a shocking hazard. I find it more shocking that they sold 152,000 of these little items for $25 each! That’s enough money to buy a lot of polio shots or anti-malaria mosquito nets. But we can’t let our baby’s but get cold, can we?

What can one say about this item?

The orb is connected to the internet, and it changes color in response to the movements of the stock market index of your choice – a kind of Wall Street capitalist mood ring. If you cared enough about the markets to want something like this, wouldn’t you want to know the details? Or maybe it is something you put in your bedroom, so if there is a market crash while you are about to have sex, you can make your excuses?? If there is a real crash, does it turn blood red to signal suicide? Just bizarre. More great stuff from Brookstone.

Losing your hair? 

Have no fear! Skymall panders to all the latest fears and health scares with expensive products which offer some kind of high-tech solution. Afraid of germs and infections? They have a magic sterilizer wand with UV light! Now we all know men are afraid of going bald. And lasers are high tech and scientific, right? So why not sell men a laser gadget to keep them from going bald? Here it is, a 9-beam laser comb for only $545. I bet these cost about $10 in parts!

 

Electric Koran.

Guliz Ger sends this picture from a shop in the old quarter of Ankara in Turkey. The electric clock is decorated with Koranic verses. The clock is a favorite site for decoration in many parts of the world. In Belize the clock often has scenes from the Bible.

 

Bulls Balls for your appliances.

I have a hard time saying anything coherent about effigy bull's testicles cast from steel which are made to hang from the rear bumper of a truck. As an artifact they say so much about the culture of the USA...and a careful reading of the website where they sell these things is a tour through what consumer culture has done to masculinity (and vice versa).

 

Have you accepted Jesus as your personal shopper? Despite the content of religious teachings about poverty being holy, for the last few thousand years, consumerism and religion have been locked in tight embrace. Worship and faith promote all kinds of consuming behavior, whether its building a new temple to Baal, importing war captives to sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli, or cooking a huge dish of green bean casserole for the church social.

           

           

Kitschy Cars?

The World of Kitsch website is always worth a visit, since it features many pieces of bizarre consumer culture. Some of these, like the car illustrated here, are one-off custom made designs, but if you go to the "objects" section you will find some amazingly awful clocks and furniture. But the category of Kitsch doesn't quite capture what I am after in this website...

           
 

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Richard Wilk

Anthropology Department

Indiana University Bloomington

701 E. Kirkwood Ave. SB 242

Bloomington, IN 47405

812-855-3901

wilkr@indiana.edu

 

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This site  is generously sponsored by the IU

Department of Anthropology

and IU Campus Instructional Consulting

and was designed by Cierra Olivia Thomas-Williams.