All posts tagged: brand names

The Most Public Weight-Loss Journey in History

The Most Public Weight-Loss Journey in History

Nearly 13 years after the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, it’s easy to forget just how vicious the public scrutiny of Winfrey’s body was during her talk show’s decades-long run. But those memories haven’t left Winfrey, and they take center stage in her new prime-time special, Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution. “For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport,” she recalls in the opening monologue, which addresses the stigma of obesity and the emerging culture around weight-loss drugs. As evidence, she cites several tabloid headlines that ran while she was on the air: “‘Oprah—Fatter Than Ever’; ‘Oprah Hits 246 Pounds’; ‘Final Showdown With Steadman Sends Her Into Feeding Frenzy’; ‘Oprah Warned—Diet or Die.’” It wasn’t just weight gain that had inspired ridicule—in response to this relentless commentary, Winfrey staged gimmicky, sometimes dangerous segments devoted to her many attempts to lose weight. Most infamously, after losing 67 pounds on an all-liquid diet in 1988, she wheeled out a wagon containing 67 pounds of animal fat onstage. For years, she’s …

Take Crossword Puzzles Seriously – The Atlantic

Take Crossword Puzzles Seriously – The Atlantic

This past December, I threw a party to celebrate a major milestone in my life: the 1,000th day of my New York Times crossword-solving streak. My friends, none of them fellow cruciverbalists, poured in wearing their black-and-white best, armed with outsize praise for my presumed intelligence: How smart I must be to complete the Times puzzle every day! Their comments affirmed that the crossword—and particularly the Times one—carries a certain mystique. For 1,000 consecutive days, I had passed this bourgeois aptitude test, proving my linguistic and cultural acumen in my guests’ eyes. Since its invention in 1913, the modern American crossword puzzle has undergone something of a reputational shift, from frivolous distraction to status symbol. In reality, the crossword is many things: a site of play, a cultural forum, a daily pleasure. And, because it traffics in language—the stuff people use to form identity, signal belonging, and ostracize others—it’s also a political entity. The writer and crossword constructor Anna Shechtman knows that casting such a pastime as political might sound ridiculous. As she writes in …

Take Crossword Puzzles Seriously – The Atlantic

Take Crossword Puzzles Seriously – The Atlantic

This past December, I threw a party to celebrate a major milestone in my life: the 1,000th day of my New York Times crossword-solving streak. My friends, none of them fellow cruciverbalists, poured in wearing their black-and-white best, armed with outsize praise for my presumed intelligence: How smart I must be to complete the Times puzzle every day! Their comments affirmed that the crossword—and particularly the Times one—carries a certain mystique. For 1,000 consecutive days, I had passed this bourgeois aptitude test, proving my linguistic and cultural acumen in my guests’ eyes. Since its invention in 1913, the modern American crossword puzzle has undergone something of a reputational shift, from frivolous distraction to status symbol. In reality, the crossword is many things: a site of play, a cultural forum, a daily pleasure. And, because it traffics in language—the stuff people use to form identity, signal belonging, and ostracize others—it’s also a political entity. The writer and crossword constructor Anna Shechtman knows that casting such a pastime as political might sound ridiculous. As she writes in …

‘Nancy’: The Comic Strip That Showed Us How We Think

‘Nancy’: The Comic Strip That Showed Us How We Think

The great cartoonist Wally Wood once observed that not reading Ernie Bushmiller’s long-running newspaper comic strip, Nancy, is harder than reading it. Its minimalism makes the strip into something like a stop sign or a middle finger—it’s just there, all of a sudden, and you may find yourself responding to it before you’re ready to do so. This suddenness is part of what makes Nancy so funny. In many ways, the strip is a series of jokes about the nature of jokes. Despite the two rambunctious kids, Nancy and Sluggo, at its center, it’s not about childhood, like Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes are. And, despite its surrealism, it’s not about the silliness of life, like The Far Side is. It’s about the rules of comics, which Bushmiller made so clear that the reader can understand them at the first, most casual glance at one of his strips. A deeper look—which Nancy resists with all its might—suggests that Bushmiller’s great contribution to popular culture was the way he understood language itself. Take, for example, a …

How Did an Ineffective Cold Medication Get So Popular?

How Did an Ineffective Cold Medication Get So Popular?

You wake up with a stuffy nose, so you head to the pharmacy, where a plethora of options awaits in the cold-and-flu aisle. Ah, how lucky you are to live in 21st-century America. There’s Sudafed PE, which promises “maximum-strength sinus pressure and nasal congestion relief.” Sounds great. Or why not grab DayQuil in case other symptoms show up, or Tylenol Cold + Flu Severe should whatever it is get really bad? Could you have allergies instead? Good thing you can get Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion, too. Unfortunately for you and me and everyone else in this country, the decongestant in all of these pills and syrups is entirely ineffective. The brand names might be different, but the active ingredient aimed at congestion is the same: phenylephrine. Roughly two decades ago, oral phenylephrine began proliferating on pharmacy shelves despite mounting—and now damning—evidence that the drug simply does not work. “It has been an open secret among pharmacists,” says Randy Hatton, a pharmacy professor at the University of Florida, who filed a citizen petition in 2007 and …