Why I’m Disappointed in the Philadelphia Amtrak Train

Yesterday,  über-edgy news outlet VICE published a writer’s racial cry for help in the form of the thinkpiece Why I’m Disappointed in Mindy Kaling. The long-winded rant boiled down to the fact that Kaling, the actress/creator of “The Mindy Project”, was not being Indian enough for the author’s liking.

I’m glad that there are websites that will gladly post the self-loathing of people on their payroll. And in the spirit of making that money, I solicited the Hunter S. Thompson-wannabe content generator with my own thinkpiece about a recent news story. Enjoy!

Why I’m Disappointed in the Philadelphia Amtrak Train

May 16, 2015

by Genial Black Man

vice-socialmedia

amtrak-train

The Philadelphia Amtrak Train and one of its many unsafe journeys practice the unsafest thing of all: a high-speed trip

I should preface this by saying I don’t want to hate the Philadelphia Amtrak 188 train. I want to adore and cherish the railroad. I want to watch the news coverage and website video it stars in and think, “Isn’t it great? It’s great, right?” I want to ask a friend over text if they want to go watch the new breaking news story it is in, and for them to say, “Fuck yes, I do.”

Why? The true glee of watching the first locomotive to have killed more people than the Boston Marathon bombing is truly novel, and more importantly, historic.

But when I found out that the wreckage was cleaned up this week, I let out a big, “ZOOP-E-DEE-DO! This is great news.” To my chagrin, the FBI announced it would “investigate” the crash yesterday, and has ordered a look into whether a flying object may have caused the tragedy. Foiled again!

I’ve seen every single piece of news footage of the crash, which ran a short one week, half hate-watching and half leaning in and enjoying the fact that I was witnessing a train who looked like a 1940s party wagon gone horribly wrong. It was a confusing week.

The news coverage is the televised footage on which the Philadelphia Amtrak train plays the Northeast Corridor trainwreck coffin, and essentially, other than being a metal death container, the stories hinge on it being as unsafe as a bareback gangbang. The few times they address that fact, by having other news outlets call it out on its wrecklessness, it recalls the time it was totally safe: “I haven’t had a crash in 28 years!” Nice, Philadelphia train. Here is why it sucks.

Reason 1: Amtrak 188 doesn’t care to comment about being unsafe
Unfortunately, Amtrak 188’s inability to speak about safety follows it outside of the burned-out husk it plays on television. Amtrak 188 has been asked on a number of occasions to comment on its presence in a predominantly safe space and its status as a pioneer for scrap metal cadaver creators specifically. Like a grumpy old safe trains, Amtrak 188 counters, “I’m a fucking unsafe train who has his own fucking graphic package on the news, OK?”

Not only does it scoff at the safety identifier, but passenger comfort as well. In its first breaking news coverage on CNN, No Plane Disappearance; Just a Train Derailment, it preemptively asks, “Why didn’t you talk about whether trains are safe or not?” Its answer: “I just thought that by commenting on that in any significant way, it would be explicit approval of it as a serious topic, which it isn’t.”

Reason 2: Amtrak 188 doesn’t care about passenger comfort
I agree with Amtrak 188. It shouldn’t be a topic; trains are safe. But why is the engineering crew of Amtrak made up of engineers (with the exception of Joe Biden)? And why have most of its passengers deceased due to weak bodies?

Reason 3: Amtrak 188’s strange love for unsafeness
I expect more responsibility from Amtrak, especially since it is also a train of safety in the Northeast Corridor and its dual transportation and carbon-friendly roles are realities for a lot of trains created and ridden in North America. It has acknowledged that it has faced safety probes in the industry, and yet refuses to comment on whether or not it is safe. I think part of the frustration lies in Amtrak 188’s less than intersectional passenger comfort. Amtrak 188 seems to be more driven by traditional notions of unsafe and crash-prone relationships. Viewers are bombarded by unsafe depictions of train crashes  with every new bombastic news piece Philadelphia Amtrak is in. Its pursuit of and desire for unsafeness is reflected in the loud coverage on countless occasions. In the Atlantic article “The Aftermath of the Amtrak Crash,” Philadelphia is caught speeding at 106 miles per hour around a 50 mph curve and hands its life to the nearby field, saying, “OK, I know that my life says that I’m safe” with automatic speed control, positive train control system with transponders yet to be activated. My philosophy is that a life should be aspirational.”

Reason 4: I need Amtrak 188 more than it needs me
OK, fine, I know, safety is not an easy goal to achieve. It requires a lot of work from everyone involved. But just because Amtrak 188 is a train of unsafeness who leads a news network’s broadcast, doesn’t mean it gets a pass on the safety issue. All of that work is undone when you avoid questions about a lack of safety and insert safety-based gags into your coverage, such as “… Philadelphia Amtrak hates not being the only unsafe train in the news.” These attempts to poke fun at safety are lazy because they are not properly taken up in the news: they are simply inserted and forgotten about. Amtrak 188 uses safety when it works, and conveniently avoids it when it does not. In an interview with NBC it shares: “I was just born in this track, so it’s not something I think about while I’m careening ’round corners.” Just when it’s newsworthy, right?

I’m yearning for trains like Amtrack 188, because they are not readily available, which makes it ultra disappointing that it doesn’t recognize her complexity as an unsafe caravan. Amtrak 188 instead completely rejects these aspects of its identity, and chooses to implant visions of safe ideals, in an industry that is already saturated with Thomas the Tank Engines.

That is why I hate Philadelphia Amtrak 188.

10 Ways To Make Racism Relatable to Dickbags

taylor-swift-surprise

Image courtesy of ipicturee.com

  • A Taylor Swift song about the prejudice suffered by her one black friend
  • James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequels are hamfisted allegories about brown cat people during the Civil Rights movement
  • A new Instagram feature where you can’t post a selfie or food pic until you watch the Eric Garner video in its entirety
  • Chris Pratt makes a profound statement about racism in an adorable way
  • Your one known gay friend/family member says, “Now you can accept people of color”
  • The Ice Bucket Challenge, but the water is replaced by the book “Roots” by Alex Haley
  • Jimmy Fallon makes a profound statement about racism in an adorable way
  • Louis C.K. launches a 60-minute tirade about why closeted bigotry by white people is the WORST
  • A reboot of “The Wire” focusing on racist Baltimore police officers getting the book thrown at them
  • Jesus, the ghost of Paul Walker, and the “Fast and the Furious” team race and crash cars of all colors

 

Abandoned “Sex Box” Knock-offs

sex-box-set

Image courtesy of Hollywoodreporter.com

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; “Sex Box”, the potential Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of television studio voyeurism and fucking, is no more.

When WE tv reheated the UK’s “Sex Box” for American consumption, the idea of a literal box being filled with sex was too racy to be done with the lurid looseness that shackles most basic cable. And at least one review agreed, noting that there was too much talking and not enough sexing — or peeping.  And sure enough, it was taken before its time to really turn up the filth.

But there was initial optimism for the show. It may not surprise you that several networks planned their own versions of “Sex Box” to cash in on the ghastly train. Uncovered in the Sony hack that was recently published on WikiLeaks, we have the first details of the proposed shows. It MAY surprise you that well-known Jason Statham sociologist “Arran” collaborated with macabre author “Elias” to bring these revelations to light.

Here are some excerpts:

Date 2014-08-07 07:34:42

From amy_pascal@spe.sony.com

To amy_pascal@spe.sony.com

amy: sex box wiil bee HUGE.. greenligght ideeea that camme to you inn a dreeam: coitus cube

On 8/7/14, 12:14 PM, “Lynton, Michael” >> wrote:>

coitus cube? we’re not going to let that CRazy bitch get the best of us… we need to trademark the following… Pussy pyramid, snatch sphere and cock container

On Oct 8, 2014, at 1:05 PM, “Weisberg, Jacob” wrote:>> >>

Michael, all of these sound great, especially Cock Container. The trick will be to have all the alphabet covered. And for that, may I offer Doink Dungeon and Pork Pontoon. Hope something works out.

Jacob

On Oct 8, 2014, at 3:55 PM, Barnes, Brooks wrote:

> supporter and advocate of pork pontoon— so glad to have heard about it. i think a t-phrased show would be great. tallywhacker tugboat. hope you manage to squeeze in some white horse rail rides.

XX brooks

> On Oct 8, 2014, at 4:09 PM, Deborah Needleman wrote:>

> Tallywhacker Tugboat???? We need to get in the game!!! Lets fasttrack Yank Yacht!!!!!!! Xx> >

Sent from my iPhone

On 10/9/14, 9:14 AM, “Lynton, Michael” >> wrote:>

jacob we need to talk about beating yank yacht to the punch… how about cunnilingus cruise? let’s hash it out over lunch>>>> On Oct 8, 2014, at 9:09 PM, Weisberg, Jacob wrote:

Needleman’s group is readying Yank Yacht – we got blown in its wake. See you tomorrow.

Date 2014-08-09 011:21:23

From amy_pascal@spe.sony.com

To amy_pascal@spe.sony.com

amy: forrrrgeet coitus cube….its time to pppull outt the bigg gunns….fuck fort.

What could have been.

The Plights of Being Black

Jack-Johnson

Image courtesy of tc-pbs.org

I’m acutely aware of the fact that I am Black. I’m reminded of this on a daily basis–from the time I wake up to the news report of another murdered black man by police, to falling asleep after watching a television show absent of people of color.

In between, during the waking hours that seem increasingly like a nightmare, I encounter: people that appear visibly uncomfortable, stare, shift purses, and/or avoid my glance until out of earshot; media that highlight tropes of black violence, limited and defined behaviors, monolithic examples of expression through entertainment (music, athletics, movies, TV, etc.); culture-coded conversations on societal issues (crime, sexism, racism, violence) that reveal willful and dangerous ignorance; and the fear that these things, though slightly getting better, are not progressing in the ways that the dominant culture carelessly chirp that they are.

I’d like to think that every police-induced death, every revelation of a new voice on black culture, and every technological miracle can bring about a newfound empathy for and realization of the binding strands of humanity that everyone shares. But the former, despite the world-shrinking effect of the latter, remain pervasive because of the aggressive obtuseness of people to look outside of themselves and acknowledge what they don’t understand.

And this is present in how we perceive blackness.

This is not a new thought in my head. But it is something that is becoming increasingly lost in the public discourse despite a bumper crop of reminders that blackness is fraught with negativity and complexity–and little understood. In reading “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay, I’ve been reminded how my increasingly pessimistic view of interactions with other races boil down to cultural brainwashing on all sides: Black people–particularly men–are painted as violent, hypersexual, lazy, poor, dumb, unmotivated, ugly people that are only good for entertainment (both earnest and cynical).

That assumption of fear that I perceive others have of me as I pass by them on the sidewalk; that coloring of blacks when I watch, read, or hear the news; that stain from the shallow in conversation online and offline: I feel it all, and it weighs me down. These traits are like shackles, binding people into negative stereotypes while grasping the freedom of being able to skip through life with weightless problems of not being killed by police officers and having good shots at jobs.

These idiosyncrasies are forced upon us, programmed by us into others, and taught to be the only way to live; it’s like Christianity, and the Crusades are being a person of color in everyday life. They’re seen as the norm by the dominant culture and often by our own, and we’re socially punished for deviating from the script. Being shunned is getting off light; murder is the case given by the violent intolerant.

We can be seen as “one of the good ones” if we mimic the dominant culture to the chagrin of our ethnic brothers and sisters; we’re chastised if we are the embodiment of those confining stereotypes that are reviled. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, and it’s fucking insane.

I can complain on my soapbox until I shout myself hoarse, bear my soul until the tears won’t stop, and protest society’s ills until I meet my end, and it won’t help. Not when the very people that need to hear it, need to understand others, need to change, won’t remove the fingers from their ears and the blinders from their eyes. And with all of the ways we can learn from and relate to each other in 2015, that is a baffling, excruciating pain to feel. And I feel it all the time–from when I wake up until when I go to sleep.

Ask a Genial Black Man! – April 2, 2015

Sometimes I receive interesting queries on my many social media pages (up to 105 Likes on Facebook! PROGRESS?!) that are as thought-provoking as they are typed into a user interface. They’re more deserving of 1-2 paragraph answers afforded through Facebook and Twitter.

That’s why I’ve devoted this post for my advice/opinion column (not to be confused with my op-ed column, EAT POOP!), “Ask a Genial Black Man!” !!!

Clint Ingram wrote:

God I am so sick of all this white privilege and white are racist bullshit …. Is there still racism? Sure. You’d have to be an idiot to think otherwise. But is racism exclusive to whites? Not by a long fucking shot. Everyone is a racist in some way. Its not exclusive to any race, to point at any one race and claim they are racist for something that happened in the past, something they don’t condone or had any part in, is racist in itself.

Not really a question — unless you count “Is there still racism?” as a legitimate inquisition — but here goes.

I understand what you’re saying, and yes, racism is not limited to one race. That said, there is a valid reason and right for people to cite a majority group for instituting and profiting from systemic racism. By voicing what they are feeling, they are making their reality known. It may not make sense to your reality, but that doesn’t mean it is any less valid.

And in terms of privilege, the ability to say that someone’s racial views are bullshit and be sick of it is within the definition the article covers. To be in the majority group and not be sympathetic to the plights and comments of a minority group is to use phrasing like “I am so sick of all this white privilege and white are racist bullshit.” If you were a person of color in a society with a majority ethnicity, you would be exposed to unique situations and treatment, and that might lend some shading to your viewpoint.

There are troubling things happening in society relating to race, and a fundamental problem is that there are people that are being treated unfairly because of the belief that someone of another ethnicity is different from the majority and poses a threat to their way of life.

The ability to not suffer the same fate when placed in the same situation because of your ethnicity is privilege. The ability to disagree with a person of color and view their opinion as bullshit because you don’t have that perspective is privilege. The ability to complain without offering a solution is privilege. The ability to not truly engage in conversation and learn from others is privilege.

No one is stopping any race from complaining about racism and privilege. But to ignore the very real commentary from others and/or dismiss it as “bullshit” is as ignorant as any blatant racism that is unfortunately performed on a daily basis.

A sane person wrote:

(Regarding the Phoenix police officer not being charged for killing an unarmed black man) so, basically what has been decided here is that death is the penalty for resisting arrest if you’re a black man in Phoenix?

Yep, if you’re a black man in Phoenix, New York City, Ferguson — basically America.

***

That’s it for this edition of “Ask a Genial Black Man!” Please send any questions, and I might answer them in 18 months or so.

TEN RACISM PREVENTION TIPS

Last week, Twitter user @texpatriate posted a satirical list of rape prevention tips aimed at turning the victim-blaming mentality of society on its head. When comedian Sarah Silverman retweeted the post, masses of people were offended at the joke — unwittingly at their expense. Rape is a serious issue that doesn’t get the acknowledgment it deserves, and barbs that shed light on the layers of issues that foster a culture that not only let it happen but find ways to shame and silence those that experience the horrific act.

There are many other societal ills that are swept under the rug — a hard feat considering the 24-hour news cycle and bumper crop of websites more than willing to call people on their shit. In that spirit, let’s highlight another of man’s failings, racism, with racism prevention tips.

ten-racism-prevention-tips

Courage Under Lonerism

theloner

Image courtesy of directorsnotes.com

I sat in a leather chair at the EXIT Theatre among a packed crowd of four-dozen people facing the stage of a black box theater, waiting for actors to be called. Some of us, writers, eagerly anticipated how our words, monologues thrown together with Pi Day and murder-inspired prompts given 30 minutes prior, would be interpreted by the performer. Others, holding the pages of words written by strangers, wondered how their enactment would be received by the crowd. As player after player read the pieces, I was nervous about how my work would go over; I hadn’t heard the word “monologue” until well after the assignments were finished, so my piece was a three-person, one-act play, with only one person to play all three roles. And I wondered whether to slink out the door and not suffer embarrassment — let alone how I ended up there in the first place.

***

I was always a shy person, but I had friends in childhood. But I became more withdrawn in junior high and high school as the combination of isolation due to being ostracized at school and feeling helpless at home due to a pestering brother and increasingly absent father led me to shut myself off in my bedroom. It took finding a voice in writing in my junior year of high school to feel like I had something to look forward to after classes, and a few good friends senior year of high school became my light out of the emptiness. But then I went away to college, and it took a few weeks to find a solid group of friends to bring me out of my dorm room.

This pattern persisted throughout my early 20s, relying upon friends to dictate my social life. But within a year of moving to Phoenix from the Chicago area, I realized that I had to be the catalyst to have fun. And so I found myself indulging in more activities on my own, from concerts and movies to long drives and comedy shows, and there were many days and nights at home playing video games or watching movies. I started trying activities that I previously thought impossible, such as longform improv and sketch writing.

There was (and is) that part of me that still relied on friends to feel like I had place to belong. But the longer my tenure into Arizona, the lonelier I felt. And when I finally moved to San Francisco, I hoped that those Phoenix friends that blazed the trail to the Bay Area would have more time to hang out. Again, I found myself twiddling my thumbs at home most nights. I quickly realized that I would once again have to find my own path to amusement — this time in a new city. So I turned to the internet for recommendations and felt overwhelmed with the culture, entertainment and food at my disposal. Being an introvert with a frugal streak, I found that careful selection of activities would ensure having something to look forward to as well as downtime to re-cooperate after a long workday; free events one night a week sandwiched between maximum chill time was my new way to live.

One of those lifelines was Funcheap SF, a website that clues city folk into the happening spots and events on a daily basis. I found that comedy events and absurd one-offs (like a “Real Housewives”-inspired table-flipping contest) appealed to my unique sensibilities. And a few days ago, I learned of a writing event that involved drafting a script based on a prompt given by the organizers. I added it to my calendar, but as the hours wound down to the event, I started getting cold feet and debated making it another movie night. But I pulled myself off the couch and onto the bus to take me

***
Staring down potential awkwardness in front of a live audience, the actor tasked with reading my lines figuring out how to pull off all three characters of what was supposed to be a one-person monologue, and hearing great works fired off in unison, I fought the urge to flee. And sure enough, the actor for my “monologue” was called last. And he was great, giving my words life and wringing laughs out of a mash-up of a murderous Pillsbury executive and the prompt “what do you mean it’s no bake.”
As the audience laughed and clapped, I was happy that I didn’t chicken out of staying for the performance — let alone leaving the house. I felt that while I didn’t follow the rules to a T, basically playing out like a lot of things in life, I could get over the hump and accomplish what seemed to be insurmountable tasks. And now I feel empowered to find my way out more often — with a bit of downtime for good measure.

10 Suggested “Chappie” Review Headlines

chappie-promo

Image courtesy of moviepilot.com

With 2015 already burying people in snow and bad movies with singular titles (“Mortdecai”), “District 9″ and “Elysium” director Neil Blomkamp served critics up a fat softball over the plate with the easily pun-worthy movie “Chappie”. Already, movie writers and critical wannabes are teeing off on the title but they need to step their game up.

Observe:

  • “Chappie”? More like “CARPIE”! (Named for the noxious freshwater fish)
  • “Chappie”? More like “RAPPIE”! (I’m guessing this critic doesn’t like the rap music.)
  • “Chappie”? More like “DAMPIE”! (Really, who likes being damp?)
  • “Chappie”? More like “NAPPIE”! (The movie made you so tired, you drooled on the lip-locked couple next to you.)
  • “Chappie”? More like “GLAMPIE”! (Making fun of the glamping trend, which is a dumb and ignorant activity to engage in.)
  • “Chappie”? More like “SLAPSIE”! (A damaging commentary on NBC’s show, “The Slap”.)
  • “Chappie”? More like “PAP-SIE”! (Comparing the movie to a pap smear? A sexist burn.)
  • “Chappie”? More like “BAPS-IE”! (If you’ve seen the Halle Berry movie “B*A*P*S”, I’m truly sorry.)
  • “Chappie”? More like “SCRAPPIE”! (Named for Scrappy-Doo, one of the most annoying cartoon characters in history.)
  • “Chappie”? More like “SHITTIE”! (The defense rests.)

Will I Buy The New Chris Brown x Tyga Album?

fan-of-a-fan-spotify

Image courtesy of Spotify

They may as well given the album an alternate title:

mario-lopez-worst

White History Month Food!

 

Image courtesy of theroot.com/Twitter

Whenever a racist complains that there’s no White History Month, usually around February for some unexplained reason (Black History Month coincidentally happens in February), several things come to mind: the fact that white history is literally every day in America; that the same person uses the same faulty questioning as to why there’s no White Entertainment Television (not true; have you watched Fox News?); and that misguided logic leads to stuff pictured above.

True, it probably wasn’t a hillbilly racist that concocts Black History Month menus or “doesn’t know” the meaning the word “jigaboo,” but the lack of knowledge, combined with the brazen ignorance of an asshole, leads to such examples of racial embarrassment.

And I’m here to join in.

Hey, if we’re POST-RACIAL, that means that a black person can make off-kilter assumptions about what white people eat. Hell, people mistake me for a gun-toting, violent thug, so why can’t I dare dream up scenarios where gullets are pumped full of stuff that I can only believe is food? In fact, here’s my theoretical menu for White History Month, which takes place January 1 – December 31:

  • Green bean casserole
  • Kale with nothing to disguise how terrible kale tastes
  • A tall glass of milk
  • Mayonnaise
  • Dog slobber
  • Bottomless mimosas
  • Brussell sprouts
  • Lavender
  • Something ethnic that was popular 10 years ago
  • A mug of sriracha (see above)
  • Anything worth standing in line for
  • Stuffing made with white bread
  • White bread — the least nutritious, fragile of breads
  • Water (to dip white bread in)

Am I missing anything? Add to the list in the comments below! We’ll get White History Month right, dang nabbit!

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