Burnout

November 8, 2002

You can now buy bread with added calcium. You can also buy orange juice with added calcium. You can buy potato chips with added calcium, soft drinks with added calcium, cookies with added calcium, soup with added calcium, hot dogs with added calcium, and pretty soon you’ll probably be able to buy milk and ice cream with added calcium. You can already buy cheese, those little individual slices for sandwiches, with added calcium.

When did calcium become so popular? When did it become the powdery white metallic element that could? For that matter, why an element? Calcium is everywhere. Calcium is to the new millennium what bacon was to the 90’s, and bacon was to the 90’s what ranch flavoring was to the 80’s. When osteoporosis was big news, calcium became a breakout star because companies started trying to convince aging women that consuming large amounts of calcium would prevent it. Actually exercise plays a big part in preventing or slowing osteoporosis, but since you can’t put exercise in a bottle, bag, or box, putting calcium in everything under the sun seemed like a good idea. With the growing popularity of milk, calcium achieved superstar status, beating out the naysayers who thought it would eventually wither under such close scrutiny like its close cousin sodium. Now it appears the marriage is over and calcium is poised to leave milk well behind.

But what happens when calcium comes down? It’s inevitable that calcium will suffer the same decline that eventually affects all celebrities, whether organic or not. What element will step in to take its place? I remember from my high school health textbook that our bodies need trace amounts of various exciting and interesting elements, but let’s face it, no matter how much it’s promoted no one’s going to say, "Thank goodness this breakfast cereal contains the .001 milligrams of molybdenum I need", and no one’s going to buy bread with bold letters exclaiming, "Now with added arsenic!" on the label. I suppose there’s magnesium, which you may remember from your high school chemistry class (that is, if you had a cool teacher like mine who liked to do things like put pure potassium in a beaker of water so it would fizz and smoke) as being the stuff that, when applied to a flame, burns really, really brightly. But with an element like that there’s too much chance that its success will be a flash in the pan.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


This Is An Offering?

Freethinkers Anonymous has not had a long and convoluted history, which would make it easier to write something called A Brief History of Freethinkers Anonymous, but ever since Stephen Hawking coined the term with his book A Brief History of Time, everybody’s written a brief history of something. A book on poetry was called A Brief History of Rhyme, an instruction manual for janitors was called A Brief History of Grime, and a book about the citrus industry was called A Brief History of Limes.

Freethinkers Anonymous started with a short article that someone forwarded to me about the Ayatollah of Iran condemning seedless watermelons because they weren’t, well, fruitful and multiplying. Despite the fact that this sounded more like the Old Testament than the Koran and therefore not something the Ayatollah of anything would be saying, the article was still funny, and I thought I’d share it with some other people I knew. For reasons that were entirely unknown to me I thought I’d create a list and name it Freethinkers Anonymous. The anonymous part was so nobody would know who else was on the list, and the Freethinkers came from the name of a 19th Century group which, as I like to tell people, Mark Twain would have belonged to if he didn’t have a strict policy against joining any club that would have him as a member. The fact that this sounds more like Groucho Marx than Twain has gone unnoticed so far.

As I gathered "offerings" and began distributing them regularly, I started writing my own little introductory notes. The early notes were crude, made out of sticks and piled dirt, but eventually I learned to make primitive ropes out of honeysuckle vine and was able to drag sarcen stones over long distances. Scientists remain divided about the original function of these structures, although they agree that they should be discarded if chipped, cracked, or heated empty. But I digress.

As time has gone by and copyright restrictions more intense, finding offerings has become more difficult. And sometimes possible offerings seem so much funnier than anything I could come up with that I have to delete them. I’m kidding–I’ve never found anything that funny. What I’m getting at is, some times you may not see offerings in this space. If that happens, don’t panic. Just relax, take a deep breath, and remember that laughter may be the best medicine but in a world like this we sometimes run the risk of overdose.

Thank you for your support.

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