Saturday, January 26, 2008

Losing 200 Pounds via Gastric Bypass Surgery Does Not Make You a Hero

You know, looking at Mario Batali's full, cherubic face reminded me of this topic - something I had meant to write about before but had forgotten about.

I'm sorry but it's true. If you lose a few hundred pounds through diet, exercise and sheer determination and will - well now that's a heartwarming story. That's a story about character. That's a great, rousing, stand up and cheer, life affirming tale. You can sell that story to me over and over again. I will always stick around till after the commercial to see the new, slim gal and to watch the spouse's tears flow freely. I might even get a little misty myself.

But some fat tub who lost 200 pounds because of a gastric bypass? I mean sure, hooray and all. Nice that you're alive and not dead. But.... I'm supposed to be proud of you? I'm supposed to reach for the kleenex as I watch your touching story? Well, no. My opinion, madam, is that you didn't do shit. You learned nothing.

The problem originates with the TV people. You see, they have a "woman loses 180 pounds" script. They've had it for decades. They wait till someone loses 180 pounds and then they step in. They get the "before" photos from the woman's scrapbook, they film some new video, they get a few tearful interviews. Whammo, it's all done in one morning, and they can broadcast it that night at 5:30. But this gastric bypass craze is so recent, so unexpected, that the networks haven't had time to adjust their well worn playbook for fat women who lose 200 pounds.

They still frame the story like its a heroic triumph of great courage. So let me get this straight. Stop me if get any part of the story wrong.

1) A person gets fat to the point of imminent death.
2) Rather than summoning the will power to stop eating, she agrees to surgically reroute her digestive system, limiting the amount of food she can intake at any time.
3) Thanks to her insurance, society as a whole gets to cough up the 20-50 grand for the procedure and associated post-surgical therapy.
4) The post-op woman sheds 200 pounds, regardless of any will-power or lack thereof.
5) CNN rushes a camera crew over to interview the hero.

Am I missing something? Maybe there are a few heroes in the story. There are the medical researchers who developed this lifesaving surgery. There are the surgeons who went through a lifetime of study and training to be able to perform it. There's you and me, working away at our jobs so our health insurance contributions can foot the bill for the fat tub's surgery. I can't see who else qualifies for the hero label here.

Am I wrong or does the morbidly obese person have absolutely no redeeming qualities in the gastric bypass story? At least the old fashioned 200 pound losers had a character arc. They were gluttonous, they looked death in the face, then they made a commitment to fight for their life and turn over a new leaf. That's good TV. That's a story. But the gastric bypass people have no story. They started pathetic and ended pathetic. They didn't decide to turn their life around. They decided to have others turn it around, and at great expense on the public coin.

Look, I'm not saying don't have a Gastric Bypass. Go ahead, get the surgery. I encourage the surgery. Go and save your life. Rediscover the joy of having your leg not touching your other leg. But network TV: stop showing me these people. They've learned nothing. They destroyed their own bodies and were rescued from themselves by the charity of society. They're not heroes.

A small programming note: I will try at some point to get a reservation at Carnevino. And then I will try to engineer an encounter with Mario Batali. I will then ask him what the soil and air are currently telling him, and maybe we'll chat a bit about organic farming. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Close Encounter...

I had a brush with fame the other day that I need to mention. I was attending the grand opening of the Palazzo last week - the new resort on the Las Vegas Strip - and I found myself outside the restaurant Carnevino. Actually, I was just passing by on my way up the stairs. As I walked past, a chef came out of the restaurant in a hurry. He was a roly poly little man, fairly barrel shaped, and he had on the whole chef's outfit, complete with poofy hat and a tied-off scarf. He also had a fairly striking ginger beard. He huffed and puffed, and craned his neck upward, looking out into the crowd, staring intently into the middle distance.

My only thought at the time was "What an odd-looking little man." although as I walked away it occurred to me that line chefs wouldn't be permitted to walk outside the restaurant like that and that therefore this guy must be the head honcho. But that's all I thought about it.

Until the next day, when it suddenly dawned on me: doesn't Mario Batali, the imbecile author of that idiotic Starbucks cup quote have a restaurant at Palazzo? Could that have been the restaurant? And could that have been Mario Batali? The guy who talked about what the air and soil "knows", and argued that the only way to find solace from the headaches of soul searching on how to acquire inner peace was to have a grandfather who once shook the hand of the individual that shucked his corn? The same guy?

So I google-imaged his face and lo and behold:

So it was Mario Batali! Just think, I was only feet away from the guy whose irritating prose I had to read on my coffee cup for months and months. I could have confronted him. I could have called him an idiot. I could walked up to him and said "Hey man, do you know that I pick your peas? How bout a hug?" At the very least I could have grabbed his hat and ran away. Too bad.