Parker and Stone Navel-Gazing

Parker and Stone Gaze Earnestly at Their Navels While a Writer from The Hollywood Reporter Looks On

By Ken K. Gourdin

At Mormon Dialogue and Discussion, I ran across a discussion of the above-linked article (that and all other links last accessed September 29, 2016) in which a writer from The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators (along with Robert Lopez) of the smash-hit musical The Book of Mormon Musical. (My title to this post is the same title I gave the above link.)

I have been much more charitable and tolerant of Parker and Stone and of their work elsewhere on the blog. See here:

I was much more frank and less charitable in this discussion. (WARNING: In my frankness and uncharitableness, I don’t mince words here, including using strong language.) Passages from The Hollywood Reporter story are in quotations, followed by my response in bold:

[Talking about how the play has wreaked pure havoc on their schedules] And yet its [South Park’s] success comes at a price: When they return to Los Angeles, Parker and Stone will have just two months to produce a batch of seven new episodes, followed by seven more after a brief hiatus. Without their usual two weeks of prep before the season begins — and without their habitual five-day writers retreat — they’ll be scribbling ideas on Thursdays and working nonstop till the early hours of the following Wednesday morning, the very day each episode airs, when it is finally locked.”

Awww … cry me a river! Gee, that’s soooo rough! These guys need a serious dose of reality. They should go spend a few days with a sanitation crew or a shift of police officers or an emergency room staff; then I might half-listen about how rough their lives are.

But it wasn’t until they made a much-talked-about video greeting card for Fox executive Brian Graden that they were commissioned to make South Park some 15 years ago. Other than the two forays into film and a TV misfire, [Title deleted: I’m not giving Parker and Stone’s work more play than it deserves], they’ve remained exclusively with South Park ever since.”

Obviously, this writer has forgotten the little gem [Title deleted: Again, I’m not giving Parker and Stone’s work more play than it deserves]. If I were Parker and Stone, I would be positively livid at the slight! That was Oscar-worthy material, fer shure!

The Cruise episode was one of many that defined South Park as among the most cutting-edge shows of its era, a creation that made fun of individuals and institutions alike. Which makes it surprising to discover there’s a gentleness and even a kindness about Parker and Stone that’s far from the flipness one might expect.”

Given enough time, we’ll produce enough trash that we’ll somehow offend the entirety of the human race in one way or another, but hey, if we’re “gentle and kind” in our personal lives, that’ll make it all better!

Even at their most sacrilegious, Parker says, they never plan to inflict pain.”

T’ain’t whatcha actually do that counts; it’s whatcha plan to do! Got it!

When someone goes, ‘Oh, this group is really p!$$ed off at what you said,’ there’s not a piece of my body that goes, ‘Sweet!’ Parker asserts. ‘That means I did it wrong. I’m just trying to make people laugh.’”

Oh, please! As long as someone keeps signing the paychecks, Trey, the truth is you don’t give a tinker’s dam what happens “in your body” or who(m) you p!$$ off …

Once you get yourselves into things that are working on a deeper level, you just have to keep going,” Stone reflects. “When you reach that deeper level, you can’t go back.”

Once you get yourselves to the point where people are signing paychecks this big for you, you just have to keep going,” Stone “reflects.” “When you reach that deeper level, you can’t go back.” And oh, by the way, the point of the piece, in case you missed it, is that we now realize that “it’s ‘wrong’ to offend”: since we know it’s wrong but we do it anyway, we flog ourselves mercilessly for at least 30 minutes every week before cashing our paychecks!

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How Should Judges Be Selected?

Should Judges Be Elected? Appointed? Why Not Both?

By Ken K. Gourdin

Some time ago, in response to a story in the Salt Lake Tribune about news from a jurisdiction in which the state’s Supreme Court justices are elected rather than appointed, I commented thus:

While I understand the position of those who believe that direct election of judges best keeps them accountable to the people they serve, I think the Constitutional model of the Chief Executive nominating them and the Senate confirming them, with the people remaining free to choose other executives and senators if they feel the performance of either with respect to staffing the judiciary is inadequate, is the better system. I actually think Utah’s system of Executive nomination, Senate confirmation, and periodic retention elections is quite innovative and is the best of both worlds: It keeps members of the bench directly accountable to the people (at least, to the ones who bother to educate themselves and to vote) without creating too much of a revolving door in the judiciary.

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Chris Burbank and Illegal Immigration

Although Many Utahns Were Disgruntled With Former Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank’s Refusal to Enforce Federal Immigration Law, He Was Right

By Ken K. Gourdin

In 2011, The Salt Lake Tribune named (now-former) Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank its Utahn of the Year for his efforts to build bridges, to improve communication, and to ensure positive police-community relations. While many people were and are unhappy with Chief Burbank’s refusal to allow his officers to do the federal government’s bidding by enforcing immigration law, that refusal was a key part of his bridge-building, communication-improvement, and community relations efforts, because allowing local officers to enforce federal immigration law likely would decrease the willingness of a key segment of the community to provide information crucial to supporting law enforcement and crime fighting efforts. I said as much in my response to the story, which can be found here (last accessed September 28, 2016:

I commented as follows:

Yes, immigration laws need to be more strictly enforced, but local law enforcement isn’t the appropriate apparatus to do that. Illegal immigration is malum prohibitum (wrong because the law says it is) not malum in se (inherently [morally] wrong). Enlisting local law enforcement to enforce immigration law will make those who have information regarding more serious, mala in se crimes (but whose immigration status is in question) even more reluctant to come forward. People are already reluctant to talk to law enforcement as it is: we don’t need to add to their reluctance.

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Taysom and Dexter

Taysom Hill and the Tragic Story of a Wayward Older Brother, Whose Legacy He Now Carries On

By Ken K. Gourdin

While Brigham Young University’s football team, perhaps, is not having the kind of season its coaches and players had hoped for (thus far, at least), its quarterback, the oft-injured Taysom Hill, is playing this season in memory of his elder brother, Dexter, who recently passed away of an apparent drug overdose.  Dexter played at one of my alma maters, Dixie State University (when I attended, Dixie College).

Taysom switched his number from the former number four to the current number seven, Dexter’s number. One of Dexter’s coaches describes him as “a shorter version of” the athletic, mobile, elusive, muscular Taysom. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Kurt Kragthorpe recently chronicled the elder Hill’s struggles and the brothers’ relationship. See here, last accessed September 27, 2018:

I responded:

There, but for the grace of God, could go anyone. Well done, Mr. Kragthorpe. I hope the elder Mr. Hill has found some of the peace that eluded him in life. Often, the only difference between someone who’s addicted and someone who’s not is the choice of coping mechanism. Best wishes and condolences to the Hill family (from a “U” [University of Utah, whose former football coach, Urban Meyer, used to refer to BYU as “the team down south”] alum).

To another commenter who wrote, “Drugs are a dead end,” I responded:

True enough, but no one who tries any drug for the first time thinks, “Hey, you know what? It’d be fun to get addicted!” I have a lot more sympathy for that situation since I spent a few years working in a support capacity in recovery, and, while drug addiction isn’t one of them, I’ve been trying to keep my own demons at bay for quite a while now. As I noted above, there, but for the grace of God, could go anyone.


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More pilots like Sully

We Need More Pilots Like Sully”: The Truth Is, More Pilots Than We Realize Are Like Sully—They’ve Simply Never Faced a Set of Circumstances Which Calls Upon Them to Prove It to the Extent that He Did

By Ken K. Gourdin

The movie Sully has rekindled interest in the events of January 15, 2009, when Captain Chesley Sullenburger landed U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson river after losing both engines to bird strikes shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport. In response to commentary about a Youtube clip that contains Air Traffic Control audio of the exchange between Captain Sullenburger and the air traffic controller who attempted to guide him to a safe terrestrial landing, in which my interlocutor pleaded for more Captain Sullenburgers and lamented the prevalence of pilots who, in contrast to him, e.g., fly while intoxicated, I responded:

I share your admiration for Captain Sullenburger. He is a credit to his profession. However, I suspect that more than a few pilots could do what he did if similar circumstances were to confront them. It’s not the man or woman who makes the occasion; it’s the occasion that makes the man or woman. For more on this idea, see here:

As long as there have been pilots, and as long as there have been idiots, there have been idiot pilots (though, thankfully, the combination is pretty rare). And as long as there have been pilots, and as long as there has been alcohol, the potential has existed for pilots to fly while under the influence (though, thankfully, that, too, is rare).

You’ve heard the old sayings, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” and “Everything old is new again”? The only difference between “now” and “then” is that idiot pilots, and idiot intoxicated pilots, are much more likely to make the news now than they were then: News travels much faster and more efficiently now than it did in an era of three television networks (and before that, only radio and print).

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Mosquito v. Sledgehammer?

Swatting a Mosquito with a Sledgehammer? Georgia Girl Referred to Juvenile Court After Bringing a Knife to School to Fend Off Clown Attacks

By Ken K. Gourdin

The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran an Associated Press item about the referral to juvenile court of an 11-year-old girl Georgia who girl who brought a knife to school, reportedly to fend off malevolent-minded individuals in the area who perpetrate their evil while dressed as clowns. One poster wondered whether involving the girl in the juvenile justice system is the best way to deal with the situation. For Tribune coverage, see here, last accessed September 21, 2016:

I responded:

You’re probably right. Sometimes, however, the best way to teach someone what she shouldn’t do is to introduce her to the potential consequences of that action. True, her support system probably is lacking, if only because she doesn’t realize where she could (and should) have gone for help: a parent, a teacher, a member of the clergy, a behavioral health professional, and so forth. Dealing inadequately with early instances of delinquency, however, may cause a small problem needlessly to morph into a bigger one later on.

If her support system has failed her, hopefully, this is a wake-up call for all concerned in that now, she realizes where she can go for help and those sources of help will be more proactive about soothing her fears and otherwise meeting her needs. And as backward and unfair as this might seem, sometimes the justice system is a necessary gateway to people getting help that otherwise might be unavailable to them. Ultimately, though, I think you’re right: a lesson will have been both imparted and learned.

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“These People Cannot Be Helped”

“These People Cannot Be Helped”: Wherein I Respond to this Defeatist Notion

By Ken K. Gourdin

And then there’s the sad case of former college basketball coach Steven Dewitt Craig, who was recently arrested for intruding upon a school and claiming to have secreted an explosive device nearby. Apparently, Craig has been less than stable for quite some time, and The Salt Lake Tribune recently provided background, chronicling, somewhat, his descent from promising college basketball coach to deeply troubled soul. See here for Tribune coverage, last accessed September 21, 2016:

In response to the notion that “these people”—whatever that means, and I’m not exactly sure: Those with a history of drug use? Those with a history of behavioral health challenges?—“cannot be helped,” I wrote:

I agree that this is a sad story, I agree that this gentleman needs help, and I agree that perhaps the best method for providing intensive help for a time is a period of institutionalization. However, I dispute the defeatist, unsupported notion that “many of these people simply cannot be helped or cured.”

If I remember correctly, in other coverage, I’ve seen allusions to drug use in this gentleman’s past. While it is a tremendous struggle, and while it requires confronting life in small units (sometimes very small units) such as minutes, or hours, or a day at a time, people get clean every day, and they stay clean. If a behavioral health diagnosis is part of the picture, people get well every day, and with the right kind of support, they stay well.

I have a behavioral health diagnosis and a minor criminal record, though I’ve never done anything as serious as this gentleman has, and I’ve been written off in exactly the manner you suggest. It doesn’t do anybody any good. Society isn’t any better off because I, despite the fact that I have a post-bachelor’s, terminal degree in one discipline, am not working in that discipline and have, instead, come full circle and am doing the same kind of job I left when I decided to pursue that degree.

I’ve seen other people, whom many thought “cannot be helped,” overcome behavioral health issues and/or substance abuse, stigma, isolation, and marginalization to go on to live productive lives and become stable, happy, fulfilled, contributing members of society. As much as my own efforts have been thwarted heretofore, I hope to become one of them. (To an extent, I already am.)

I agree, a person has to know he needs help, has to believe he can be helped, and has to be committed to his own recovery in order to be successful. I agree, if those conditions are not met, the chances of such a person being helped successfully are not high. Yes, perhaps a period of incarceration or institutionalization is indicated in order for this man to pay his debt to society. However, the notion that such people, a priori, “cannot be helped” and ought simply to be locked away for an extended period is an incredible, needless, tragic drain on human potential.

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