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Argyria

Snake oil salesmen have long been fans of colloidal silver, peddling it to unsuspecting rubes as a homeopathic cure-all for everything from shingles to psoriasis. The concoction is easily produced with a little high-school chemistry. Dip two silver wires in water and run an electrical current through them: electrolysis will create a suspension of silver in the water. The resulting bromide can be bottled and labeled with delicate filigree, hawked by a man in a stovepipe hat amid signs promising miracle cures. Slack-jawed suckers will buy it up and chug it down with a grenadine chaser, while the nimble carpetbagger quietly packs up shop and disappears down the corduroy road with but a cruel cluck for the huckleberries.

Argyria is a dermatological condition in which the skin changes in pigment from its natural color to a greyish-blue. The condition occurs as a result of cumulative exposure to silver nitrates, which over time percolate into the dermis. Initially tinting it a pallid bluebell, continued treatment tarnishes the skin first to slate, then puce, then finally a dull confederate grey.

After ingestion, silver salts are deposited in the skin and oxidized by sunlight, via the same process that develops photographs. Discoloration is first noticeable in the fingernails; gradually it spreads to the face and gums, and eventually the whole body. Face creams containing silver can even result in a bluish-brown discoloration of the eyeballs themselves. While Argyria has no real side effects aside from a slight itching, the condition is irreversible since silver becomes trapped in the deepest layers of skin. Some sufferers have tried "dermabrading", a painful-sounding surgical process which strips the top layers of skin from the face, though little success has been shown.

Most people afflicted with Argyria -- or its sister disease, Chrysiasis (discoloration due to gold overdose) -- argue that the severe social stigma associated with the disease far diminishes the benefits of the placebo effect. Sufferers find it difficult to win jobs and blowjobs while sporting the Al Jolson equivalent of AIDS spots. One need only parade across the town square with a slight list and a drool-dripping grimace to convince women and children that your sleepy town has a zombie problem. A homeless Argyria sufferer asleep on a park bench might be awakened by paramedics trying CPR, afraid that the local wino has stopped breathing. A hundred years ago, syphilitic Argyria sufferers pranced about circus sideshows as the Incredible Blue Man; nowadays a few of these lazars find work as mimes doing the robot at tourist hotspots, but nobody's buying it.

Starting in 1999, Montana native Stan Jones drank colloidal silver daily, believing it to be a natural antibiotic which would save him from the forecasted Y2K disaster, with its exploding toilets, scant antibiotics, and menacing clouds of anthrax. Jones would later emerge transformed from his sun-dappled home on the Gallatin River, entering the 2002 Montana senate race as the first blue Libertarian candidate.

It's not like the election wasn't a circus to begin with. One Republican candidate had already dropped out after a negative ad portrayed him as a gay hairdresser. The Dems seemed to have it cinched -- until the Blue Man from Bozeman strolled into the place. Soon Jones was making Oddly Enough... headlines across the country, as both a colloidal silver sufferer and a supporter of the practice. Citing his recent lack of colds and other maladies, he became the first high-profile pusher of the alternative medicine in decades, despite his complexion: "It's my fault that I overdosed, but I still believe it's the best antibiotic in the world," Jones said.

At a press conference at the Days Inn in Bozeman, MT, he assured a rabid press that he wasn't a spoiler candidate running on a gimmick. "I'm just practicing for Halloween," he joked, trying to change the subject. Jones promises to end the war on drugs, stop campaign finance reform, and repeal the federal income tax -- which he hasn't paid in three years. Jones steadfastly weathered a storm of smurf jokes and crude flash animatronics before emerging at the bottom of the heap in the contentious Montana election. Jones received 3% of the vote, beating the envious Green party candidate by almost three-thousand votes.

"It's not up to the government to tell any individual what he can put in his mouth or shoot in his arm," Jones said. "The war on drugs is unconstitutional."


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