Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Absolute Reality of Kitchen Nightmares and Kid Nation

Over the last couple of weeks life has been hectic. From a job search, to finding ministry support, and from family issues to seeking God’s direction, this has been an incredible run. This is absolute reality; I am going to try and get caught up on a few things this week, starting with the concept of reality television.

I have to admit, I am a reality television junkie. I have learned to control my fix, thanks to one of the great inventions in my lifetime, TIVO and/or DVR’s. Thanks to this wonderful invention, I can watch two programs in what would normally take me the time to watch almost one. I seldom see commercials, and that saves about 22 minutes per one hour program.

I have many favorites, Big Brother, Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol and the list could go on. I even get into Dog the Bounty Hunter and programs like Runs House. While I don’t watch as many of those as I could, I enjoy an occasional viewing. This season, right on the heals of one of the best Big Brother Seasons comes two wonderful shows, shows I didn’t know what to expect at the start, but right from the start, found myself hooked.

One of my favorite shows is Hell’s Kitchen. That comes from my love for cooking and having actually managed the operation of a commercial kitchen for a large part of my life. I know some are thinking, “When did you do that?” The answer is simple, in the rehab programs for the mentally ill I worked at and ran, we ran a fully functional commercial kitchen that served anywhere from 2 – 3 meals a day, plus snacks. These kitchens had to meet commercial and city and state health department guidelines. I always took pride in the quality of food and cleanliness of those kitchens.

There is a new show with Chef Ramsey of Hell’s Kitchen fame that has me hooked, and moves me emotionally each week called Kitchen Nightmares. The surprising thing is we still see the gruff, in your face, demanding excellence we have come to expect from Chef Gordon Ramsey. The one who will cuss you out, tell it like it is, and kick you off a show as quick as you can imagine Chef Ramsey that we have come to expect from Hells Kitchen where he is hosting a chef competition. Love him or hate him, there is no doubt, Chef Ramsey is entertaining.

The new show Kitchen Nightmares is a surprising wonderful twist of America’s Most Extraordinary Home Makeovers and Trading Places. There is that touch of Chef Ramsey being Chef Ramsey, calling out people, being critical of their food, and about every other word beeped by television censors. What we see though is a side of Chef Ramsey we haven’t seen much of in the past. Kitchen Nightmares shows a side of Gordon Ramsey that genuinely shows emotion and caring. This former International soccer player is a competitor, he was when he played for his country, and he still is as he works to attach quality to the things he touches. This surprising feel good series is a reminder that we can all come back and go after our dreams. It teaches us how to rekindle the love of our lives, whether running a restaurant, or becoming a loving husband.

There is another show, on the same night on CBS television I thought I was going to hate. I decided to set the DVR and watch it just to see how bad it was. Kid Nation has been an unbelievable program. CBS takes 40 children, from the age of 8 – 15 and place them in a ghost town in New Mexico where they will stay for 40 days. The purpose was to have the children rebuild a town and see if they could make it succeed where adults had failed. This fascinating study of childhood behavior and maturity has been a thought provoking blessing.

The town which features no adults other than an occasional visit from the shows host does not kick children off the show but allows them the opportunity to leave every 3 days if they desire, so far only 2 have left the show. While on first impression this show may seem bad, it has wonderful lessons that are important for not only children, but parents.

Parents can reflect on how children pick up on our behavior and habits. It helps illustrate the importance of how to raise children, and the character traits taught children. From a young girl on the counsel who refuses to do her fair share of work and tells others to “Deal with it!” on a constant basis, to a young Jewish boy who goes through the town doing his work, but always with a carefree, wonderful enlightening attitude. We even see one country boy who stares down a bull with unbelievable courage, inspiring other children to face their fears.

On last weeks episode there was a wonderful, thought provoking conflict played out. One of the things about the program is the children will get instructions from the unseen producers who leave notes and directives as if they had been written by former towns people. The object is to learn from the mistakes of the past. This last week there was a note that the town needed to consider the development and opportunity to establish religion for the town.

The conflict of establishing religion for the town was not only entertaining, it was thought provoking. The town council, a group of 4 youngsters decided to dictate to the town that a singular religious ceremony would start to be held on a regular basis. Amazingly, the town which consists of children from Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Islamic, and Atheistic backgrounds rebelled against the demand of the leaders. They wanted to stay in their own particular faith group and when commanded to come to the town religious service, not a single one of the towns’ children showed up as they rebelled against the mandate of attending a religious service.

The children of the town appreciated the concept of religion as was indicted when one of the towns’ children decided to go to the other children on her own to gather for a prayer service around a bond fire. When given the opportunity to voluntarily go to a religious service without being forced to, the majority of the towns’ children showed up. There was respect given to all faiths as each child prayed in their own way. These were some of the best prayers I have ever seen or heard on television, and the sincerity of the children showed through their tears as they prayed. In this particular program there were so many lessons, lessons one would have never imagined existed among children.

Each week on the program there are competitions that establish the role of the children for a particular week. They may be a laborer who has to clean bathroom latrines, or they may be an upper class person who does little. If all children complete the given task, they are all eligible for a prize, normally a choice between something that will be fun, and something that will provide something the town needs. On this particular week, all of the children completed the task and the town was offered one of two prizes. One was an 18 hole putt putt course, something bored children in a town without television or music would enjoy, and the other choice was a collection of religious books for all faiths represented in the town, and different translations of various books like the Bible. Surprisingly, the children chose to take the religious books over the putt putt course. The footage closing out the program was touching as it showed the children reading the books of their faith, and at the same time, attempting to understand the books of faith of other religions.

Many have given up on children. Many have expressed the future is in danger, but I have to say, shows like Kitchen Nightmares and Kid Nation provide hope. Hope that adults can still conquer their dreams, change their behavior, and that the children aren’t as messed up as we make them out to be.

When it comes to reality, especially absolute reality, a couple of things come to mind. One is the new upcoming documentary I recently reviewed and spoke to the movie producers about, Rebellion of Thought, post-modernism, the church and the struggle for authentic faith, and the song by one of my favorite bands, The Alarm. I have had for a long time and expect I will for a long time to come, The Alarm as my featured artist on my myspace page. They did a song a number of years ago called Absolute Reality. The song kind of sums up the concept of my thoughts on these subjects, hopefully the lyrics hit home for you as well.

The Alarm
Absolute Reality

Hey now now
Hey hey hey

You may be rich
You may be poor
You may have nothing in this world at all
You may be black, you maybe white
You may be a prisoner in your own times
You may be lost. You may be found
You may have been beaten up and knocked to the ground
You may have belief, suffer from deceit
Or you just might be blind
Oh no no

You may affect the truth
You may be seen as false
You may be a king or a vagabond
You may be up, you may be down
You may sit in judgment with the rest of the clowns
You may have love
You may have hate
You may be the president of the United States
But even you, you can’t sit and hide
While the world’s resources die

This is absolute reality reality reality
We are all the cause,
The solution to reality

Ooh yeah yeah
Hey now now
Hey now now

You may be in control
You may be controlled
You may sit down ’till you do as you’re told
You may work hard
You may never work at all
You may be accused but you don’t know what for
You may be innocent or partly to blame
You may just be afraid in this power mad age
But there’s one thing we all must find
Some peace in our time

This is absolute reality reality reality
If I may speak of truth this is absolute reality
The absolute time, the absolute place
The absolute now for the absolute solution
It’s absolute reality now
Now now now

This is absolute reality reality reality
This is absolute reality reality reality
This is absolute
Oh reality

La la la la la
This is absolute
La la la la la
La la la la la
This is absolute

To watch past episodes from this season for Kitchen Nightmares click on the following link:

The following is a teaser of Kitchen Nightmares:

To watch past episodes of Kid Nation click on the following link:

Kid Nation Takes a look at Religion:

To see and hear the song Absolute Reality by The Alarm, double click on the video below. If the video don’t appear, just click on the link.

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