Monday, November 27, 2006

GTA: Liberty City Stories: At Least the Mayor's Paying Attention to the Subway System

Put yourself in the Mayor "Mumbles" Menino's shoes: You're relaxing in the back seat your state-funded luxury car that's driving down Huntington Avenue by the Northeastern University Green Line MBTA stop. In a quick glance out the left window you notice a single E-car sitting in the station. Something about the scene upsets you. Is it:

A. The paint chipping away nearly everywhere on the streetcar after years of bodily neglect?
B. The for-emergency-use-only red and green lights flashing on the front and rear of the train that the T/O' like to use?
C. The fact that after over 109 years of "renovations" and "modernization," at no point in the trip has or will the streetcar reach speeds higher than 30 mph; in many spots the train will come to a dead stop due to speed restrictions and antiquated signaling even if there's no train ahead for 1/4 mile?
D. The huge throng of people attempting to cram into this single streetcar because the last one was runnning so far behind it went "express" right on through to Copley?

Nope, try E. The ads on the side which depict the latest video game from the smash-hit (literally) Grand Theft Auto series: Liberty City Stories. Dear Mayor, I could stomach your whining about the FCUK ads earlier this year, depicting, in the storefront of the English fashion company's Newbury Street store, lifelike *gasp* scantily-clad female mannequins engaged in a fight scene. This was no random fight scene, to be sure, but the one FCUK was already running in selectively shown (i.e. not in conservative areas) TV ads. While I tried to entertain your correlation between the wax fight scene and rising homicides in Boston, I just couldn't get the Kool-Aid down. Guess what... it's not working here either. Here, again, the ads are of scantily-clad women; again, there are fight scenes (albeit this time it's all about guys with weapons). And again you, Mr. Menino, are whining... not about the scantily-clad women,

but about your incomprehensible correlation between advertising and violence.

Here's the Mayor's, and other "save the children's" groups' warped logic:
A. The Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories ads are appalling.
-That's fine, but you're going to need to elaborate. I find it equally as "appalling" that a public transit company sells millions of dollars of ad space every year to companies promoting automobile usage, the most offensive ad of all, which I will never forget, being one a few year ago which read "wouldn't your rather be in a company car instead of this bus." Did I mention it was on the side of a bus. I mean the implication was good--if you worked for us, i.e. a better, higher-paying job, you'd get perks, such as driving a company car. But the underlying theory is that you've not only moved up in the world, you've moved beyond public transit. That's what the old, slow MBTA needs--to be de-promoting itself.
B. The Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories ads encourage kids to buy (and play) this "violent" game.
-Sure, except for one TINY thing. Anybody young enough and impressionable enough to be influenced by the game... probably isn't buying the game--his or her parents are. Which means it's at his or her parent's discretion whether or not he or she even plays the game. Got an older kid who works at McMinimumWageFastJoint and can afford to buy the game him/herself? If your teenager is that impressionable, I wonder what else he/she is getting him/herself into. Hint: don't wait 'til the police blotter comes out. It's time for that talk about what's really being grown in the bedroom.
C. "Violent" games like Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories are a major force behind the spike in city-wide homicides this year (70 to date).
-Here's the grand-daddy of all excuses: A + B = C. Just like with the FCUK ads, sure, let's blame video games on the high homicide rate this year. Heck, why stop there--how about the rash of new "violent" shows from Cold Case to Criminal Minds that young, impressionable minds watch every day. Here's Train Mon' idea: why don't we out the truth:

The Boston Police force has a deficit of over 120 sworn officers.

And if that doesn't leave a foul enough taste in your mouth after saying it over a few times, consider the fact that, between overly-abundant vacation, sick and injury time, on any given day the force is only at 80-85% of its current numbers (taken from reports in Boston Metro, The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald). That's funny because the police department recruiting hardcore right now, throughout the U.S., is NYPD. You can pretty much search for any type of job in the Metro-Boston area from transportation to to tourism... up bubbles NYPD. Why: Boston's not hiring new officers anytime soon; instead all of the fanfare goes to the recent (overly dramatized) changing of the guard on the Commissioner level, and a subsequent hosting by BPD of a meeting of city police chiefs to discuss, of all things, lowering city violence. *Lesson #1: How to lower violence without increasing your ranks, using BPD as a model*. It's becoming a joke to hear from a BPD spokesperson after every single incident, violent or not, such as this morning's Channel 7/NBC reports of break-ins in Westie, that the force will "step up and increase patrols in the area." Somehow, for Westie in particular, while that should mean more police presence in the neighborhoods, all that's really going to mean are more speedtraps on the VFW Parkway. Because, as we all know, speedtraps generate revenue... for more vacation and sick time, as well as overtime pay to help out the fellow officers Downtown "directing" traffic on every street corner, which is itself ironic because "directing" traffic basically means waving people through the red lights and "No Turn on Red" signs designed to generate revenue for the city by ticketing people who run red lights and take turns on red where there's a sign posted. Is your head spinning enough yet?

But I digress (as usual). It's nice to know the Mayor's paying attention to our antiquated, but beloved transit system, and its dire attempts to generate revenue to fill an $8 billion deficit, even if it's just the ads clinging to the sides of the rickety coal carts known as the Type 7's (*3600-/3700-series). Maybe he can earmark more money--$8 billion, please--for the MBTA, but Green Line in particular, so the company won't have to post any "appalling" ads to keep itself running.

*For those who know me, you know that I'm old-school: I love the President's Conference Committee (PCC) 3400-/3500-series cars, soon to be reactivated on the Mattapan High-Speed Line and I love the old Type 6, 3500-/3600-series Boeing Light Rail Vehicles (LRV's), rebuilt by Amerail in the early 1990's. I've disliked (not hated, because you can't hate) everything since. But that's another rant (or two) for another time.

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