The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 2009

In the cold waste 3

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This is the 163rd posting of the Newtown Pentacle, last one of 2009, and just about 6 months into this little project. Halfway through writing this, I had to evacuate the building due to a fire in another apartment. NYFD was prompt and performed their work in the normal fashion. Thanks Guys, and Happy New Year… now on with the dirge, apostasy, and dire prophecies…

Gondor, or Manhattan- from recently completed sections of Gantry Plaza State Park – photo by Mitch Waxman

The new East River Parks are magnificent and welcome additions to the waterfront, a tony garland showcasing the shining shield wall of Manhattan, and a value adding loss leader for landlords to dazzle the prospective Tower People with. Queensbridge Park was similarly awe inspiring upon its completion in the 3rd incarnation of Ravenswood, until things went horribly wrong in the Housing Complex it was designed to serve and the vain optimists in City government lost interest in funding it.

Today, its bulkheads are collapsing into the river and the muddy ball fields and patchy lawns are shoddy at best. Perhaps the experiences of the Tower People will be different as the calendar pages roll by, here in the Newtown Pentacle.

From the Wheelspur Yard road crossing beneath the Pulaski Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

The story of Long Island City, as one proceeds south, is told in steel and concrete. Leave the modern world, which is possible in Long Island CIty, and see the apotheosis of victorian aspirations. The industrial past of the 19th century, whose cracked pavement and toxic inheritances define the modern era, can be accessed merely by crossing the street. By 2020, the Manhattan Skyline will be hidden behind even more Tower Condos, and Hunters Point will accommodate some 5,000 new housing units. Hotels and Parks are also planned.

All the while, the City is closing Queens Fire Houses and Hospitals.

LIE from the Pulaski Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Surmount the Pulaski Bridge, but do not touch it with your bare skin. From here, the early and mid 20th century is visible. Witness a steel highway- Robert Moses’s LIE soaring over “the empty corridor“. It once carried the terrified middle class away from a troubled mid and late 20th century New York, in the manner of some open artery, creating the vast populations of suburban Long Island. It also blighted and depopulated western Queens, turning the valuable industrial land it shadowed into empty warehouses and abandoned brick lots. For the last half of the 20th century, Long Island City and the surrounding communities became ethnic ghettos and crime infested wards of municipal indifference. In this mid century midden, the rats ruled, and rat kings ruled over all.

Open air warehouse at Newtown Creek – photo by Mitch Waxman

And then there is the Creek. The Newtown Creek. I have a lot of purple prose fun with the Newtown Creek- these quotes are culled from various postings-

“I’d rather drink a glass of that queerly coloured effluviam which flows lugubriously through a crucible of dictatorial capitalism called the Newtown Creek.”

“just a little bit of the chemical recipe that produces an anaerobic broth like that found in the Newtown Creek”

“VOC’s are amongst the primary pollutants fouling the waters of a nearby cautionary tale called the Newtown Creek.”

“and indeed- swirling within a nearby cataract of tears called the Newtown Creek”

“which I attribute to the possibly mutagenic qualities of the chemical pollution of that nearby extinction of hope called the Newtown Creek.”

“languidly across that gelatinous slick of black water- called the Newtown Creek- triggered its horns”

“The secular spectacular merely whets the appetite of your humble narrator for the open skies and sacred vantages found along those unhallowed backwaters of an urban catastrophe called the Newtown Creek.”

“The motive engines of the Pulaski began grinding in those deep pilings sunken on both sides of that vexing mystery called the Newtown Creek”

” is powered, fed, and flushed by that which may be found around a shimmering ribbon of abnormality called the Newtown Creek.”

“flabby jowled, staring eyed, scaly group which had been tormenting me- and whose apparent leader was a young girl carrying a curiously polydactyl cat whose aspect “I did not like”- were running off in the direction of that stygian cataract called the Newtown Creek”

There is actually nothing funny about the Creek, its a sobering subject, but I do my best to keep things light. One of the maddening facts though, is that the open air warehouse observed above, is designated to become a City Park as the Hunters Point South phase of the Queenswest development gets rolling in 2010.

Still Waters Run Deep – photo by Mitch Waxman

The EPA comment period on the issue of “superfunding the creek” has just ended, and as expected, the Oligarchs of Manhattan have rendered their opinion that the Creek should remain under their jurisdiction.

Did you think, honestly, that City Hall is going to cede control over a 4 x1 mile strip of Brooklyn and Queens to Washington without a fight?

That’s what Superfund means, the feds TAKE OVER, for as long as it will take to clean up the mess. They will fine whoever they want to for whatever they want to, issue orders that MUST be followed by commoner and king alike, and will not take “NO” or “That isn’t possible in this climate” as an answer. In the case of the Newtown Creek, the estimates for completion of project (at the medium estimate) are 30-45 years (45 years ago in 1963, John Kennedy had just been assassinated in November and LBJ was president). A river of federal money will flush out the Newtown Creek, but the tide is going to hit the masters across the river in Manhattan.

Our fellow citizens in the Western States have been chaffing under the authority of the EPA for a long time, which has created an electoral preference for smaller and less intrusive government policy amongst the citizenry. A lack of “institutional memory”, a disturbing modern trend easily blamed on a 4th estate owned and operated by real estate interests, is a smoking volcano.

Your Humble Narrator – photo by Mitch Waxman

It is the end of a year of change- but all years are “years of change”. New York, and the United States on the whole, continue their trend toward apathy and quasi-fascism.

  • The rich are always right- for by virtue of their fortunes they are proven so
  • Our enemies are all around us- and we must consider which rights to trade away in the name of security
  • Endless is war, with new fronts opening in Northern Africa and the Far East as we speak (did you notice how fast the story of “the underwear bomber” came together?)
  • The burdens of the social contract suddenly seem to be too much to bear as the Baby Boomer population begins to retire.

Ceasar is just a few years away now, and will choose to reveal him or her self shortly- and offer clarity and purpose to the masses- who will love their Ceasar, along with the bread and circuses.

And all the poisons in the mud will leach out.

In the cold waste 2

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from Vernon Blvd., Queensboro – photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite fingertips bleached to parchment white by biting wind and polar conditions, the cold waste beckons, and your humble narrator perseveres.

The relict shores of Ravenswood’s 3rd world persist in atavist glory at Vernon Blvd. and 44th drive, near the Gordon Triangle, which is what passes for a city park in this stronghold of the Oligarchs.

Brutal realities confront one here, 1 and 2 family homes still can be found, abutting vast victorian mill buildings converted to warehouse duty in the early 20th century. Fingerprints, left by the fattened digits of the masters, greasily smear across the neighborhood- every “available” sign on a relict warehouse is a signal of avarice and intent.

Taxis parked – photo by Mitch Waxman

At 46th avenue, the brick horizon opens, and a glimpse of the shining city is offered. Soon, this viewpoint and vantage will be occluded by yet another high rise spire, a warehouse offered to white collar laborers. Where will the unwashed who cook- and clean- and build- live and work when this 3rd world is gone- ground beneath the jeweled heel of progress?

The children of these new residents- where will they play and go to school? What will happen to the fragile infrastructure of 19th century streets, where wounds to the modern asphalt reveal victorian cobblestones? Why is the municipality not requiring the construction of new subway stations and schools, or at least sewers, from these Oligarchs for the rapacious profits they will garner from these grand projects?

Soil remediation tent – photo by Mitch Waxman

All the poisons in the mud will leach out, in the end.

The parable is exemplified at Anable Basin, at 5th street, where a second attempt at remediating the industrial history and unmentioned past of Ravenswood and Hunters Point is underway. This extant of the QueensWest development, whose previous metastasizes eradicated the historic district between the LIRR powerhouse and the LIRR Gantry docks, is troubled by environmental concerns that have postponed the plans of the masters.

Lessons learned there have been incorporated by the municipal chamberlins and chancellors, to avoid such expensive delays in a newer and larger project called Queens South just beginning at Hunters Point.

Megalopolis and Brownfield – photo by Mitch Waxman

Home sweet hell, New York City, the vast human hive.

The cement goddess is mother and home, school and prison, always a battleground- it produces children who are survivalist predators. When we walk the earth, New Yorkers are tigers amongst simpler peoples who didn’t have to endure living with… other New Yorkers.

There is a mind set amongst the rich in New York, and there always has been, that the poor can be saved by example- by having the poor live “as we do”. All of the afflictions of poverty can be alleviated- if not cured. Progressive Reformer or New Law Tenement or Urban Renewal or Gentrification or Upzoning, call it what you want- but Caesar is building the new Roman slums in an entirely inorganic fashion. This neighborhood used to be an industrial center, and then a junkyard, and that’s the reason why the ground is poison.

The industrial revolution happened. Here.

Testing Wells- May 30, 2009 – photo by Mitch Waxman

I am not a fan of vertical tower dwellings whose price of entry is designed to bring a non homologous population into an existing ethnic neighborhood as I can predict what will happen a generation or two from now, but I don’t own the land.

True ownership allows untrammeled discretion- if I own a car, I can set it on fire if I wanted to. If I own a house, I can knock out all the walls if I wanted to. If I could erect a forty story statue of my little dog Zuzu directly across the river from the United Nations building- that would robotically defend the city against giant Cat or Squirrel attack of course- it would be my business- because its my property. Why, though, would the City of New York instead encourage me to build an apartment house on a contaminated site instead of accepting the nature of the place and dedicating it to some acceptable usage? Could it just be the installation of a certain demographic and tax bracket into an overwhelmingly low and middle income neighborhood would benefit the status quo over in Manhattan?

Again, I’m just some guy, who doesn’t own anything. They’re rich guys, and in modern America, rich means you’re right- so what does it matter what I think?

Waste Barrels- June 29, 2009 – photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been haunting this place for a while.

Fascinating little project they have going on, which has actually activated some community activism amongst the new residents of Long Island City- the Tower People. Not bad folks these Tower People, on the whole, despite being a denigrated group referred to with smirks and winks by long time LIC’ers. Degreed and lettered professionals on the whole, they are a legion of bankers and lawyers who exist in the warren shadows of Manhattan’s financial district and turbulent midtown by day, but they turn Long Island City from a neighborhood into a dormitory.

A narrow enough lensing of the past can create causality from coincidence, but if you think that Battery Park City or Jersey City is city planning at its best, you’re going to love the new Long Island City.

Brownfield Work Site – photo by Mitch Waxman

The only buy-in for the community at large to enjoy are the production of riverfront parklands, which are remarkable, from which you may admire Manhattan while ignoring Queens stretching out behind you.

A recent article found at Queenscrap describes the cost of maintaining NYC parks at an astounding $10,000 per acre. Using this metric, Calvary Cemetery would need to raise $720,000 per year for groundskeeping, the average suburban golf course would have yearly expenditures measured in the millions, and a midwestern farm would incur costs in the tens of millions to maintain their lands let alone harvest them. I do believe that the journalists out there should take a close look at the Parks Dept. if this number is accurate. Just to be clear, as acreage is an old fashioned measurement not used commonly in the urban setting, that’s a square which is 208 feet and 8 inches on a side. The riverfront parks associated with Queens West will cost as much as $100,000 per acre.

Brownfield Work Site – photo by Mitch Waxman

9.5 acres, and owned by Rockrose Development (which has recently transformed itself into another corporate entity), this is the future home of four residential towers. As of April 2008, some 80,000 tons of contaminants had been removed from the site at a cost of $31 million. Standard Oil sited an oil refinery here in the 1860’s, and the soil is contaminated with Benzene, Petroleum Distillates, and volatile organic chemicals whose detected presence – in trace amounts- would cause the regular NYFD to evacuate and call in their HAZMAT teams.

Additionally, generations of untreated sewage and industrial pollution swirl and mix with the water table of the East River in the deeply cold gravels and blackened mud beneath the place. Sources also reveal that the “clean fill” being used to replace the contaminated substrates that were removed in the remediation process emanates from the tunnel being bored out from under the East River by the “East Side Access” project.

Who can guess, what it is, that still may lie hidden down there?

Brownfield Work Site – photo by Mitch Waxman

All the poisons in the mud will leach out, in the end.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 30, 2009 at 2:56 am

In the cold waste 1

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from Vernon Blvd., Queensbridge Park – photo by Mitch Waxman

Fearful that I’ve drifted too far into the prurient and macabre aspects of the Newtown Pentacle, haunted by notions that infected me at Calvary and Zion, my wanderings of late have been familiar and “safe” ones along well traveled streets. Of course, with the arrival of winter, I have been burdened by the many layers of insulation my frail physique commands.

Simple coastal walks, through the soot choked brutalities of northwestern Queens, along the East River. Above, Queensboro thunders away , thrumming out ultrasonic scalar waves in the manner of some vast steel cello, with its eternal vehicle and subway traffic a bow etching against concretized fret boards.

from Vernon Blvd., Queensbridge Park – photo by Mitch Waxman

Through the mist appears the shield wall of Manhattan. Everything in Queens looks toward Manhattan.

Ravenswood, as it was and is known, once was home to mansions and in the early 19th century- luxury yachts docked at its private piers. The noveau riche who lived here were captains of local industry in Long Island City (which at the time was a series of individual villages) whose bellies had become swollen by the profits found in exploiting a thriving, natural, and wholesome body of water called the Newtown Creek.

from Vernon Blvd., Terracotta House and Queensboro Bridge – photo by Mitch Waxman

Further south, beyond the cacophony of Queensboro and its harmonic influences, the last remnant of Ravenswood’s second incarnation as manufacturing center lies in ruin.

After the millionaires, and after a period of their former estates being used as asylums and charity hospitals, came the factories. Unclean, 19th century industry’s only regulation and obligation was to profit. Municipal corruption and indifference to the environment allowed this second iteration of Ravenswood to pollute unbound by sense or statute.

When the 2nd Ravenswood went the way of all flesh, in the early-mid 20th century, the politicians and the banks were waiting.

from 43rd road – photo by Mitch Waxman

The city planners and their cabal of banking interests grabbed what they could by eminent domain and by condemning entire neighborhoods in the name of “urban renewal“, creating “the welfare state” and the Queensbridge Houses, along with thousands of similar “complexes” of public housing which rewrote the map of entire boroughs and even distant satellite cities. The blighting effect of siting these massive silos of poverty on the surrounding communities- however-  manifesting the radical crypto fascist architectural theories of LeCorbusier- was an unintended consequence. The third incarnation of Ravenswood.

Megalith from 9th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

When the Megalith was erected, a watchtower for some unholy thing that neither breathes nor lives yet hungers, it signaled the beginning of the Fourth World of Ravenswood. Manufacturing, which somehow survived the 20th century in Long Island City, does not fit the residential and financial business model of this 4th world. Ravenswood will be a gallery of towers, splendid and shining, facing toward the center- toward Manhattan. This corporate version of Ravenswood, the ultimate dream of LeCorbusier.

Queensboro from 9th street – photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing though, concerning this 4th world, which that thing in the Megalith and all the others like it, have not calculated is -

All the poisons in the mud are sure to leach out…

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 28, 2009 at 4:44 am

Posted in newtown creek

Like a great hand

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Came across this dire tableau the other night (December 16th to be exact) here in the oft perplexing grid of Astoria’s streets. At the corner of 44th and Broadway, it seemed that some great hand had reached down and jerked a car skyward, violently.

from wikipedia

Astoria is a neighborhood in the northwestern corner of the borough of Queens in New York City. Located in Community Board 1, Astoria is bounded by the East River and is adjacent to three other Queens neighborhoods: Long Island City, Sunnyside (bordering at Northern Boulevard), and Woodside (bordering at 50th Street). Astoria Heights, more commonly referred to as “Upper Ditmars,” borders Astoria on the northeast, at Hazen Street.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The eternal entrepreneur who owns the bodega establishment on the corner informs me- as his fruitstand and delicatessen has a full video surveillance coverage of the corner- that a “black car” or “car service” driver was parked in the spot when a delivery truck rounded the corner at many times the speed limit.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2009 at 3:34 am

Posted in Astoria

Tagged with , , ,

ChristmAstoria 3

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

All right, I’ll admit it- the last couple of posts about ChristmAstoria have painted the seasonal holiday in a somewhat sarcastic veneer. I grew up Jewish and have always been a little jealous of a holiday with such a rich mythology. Channukah, like Christmas, is all about celebrating “having survived the Romans”, but the Christmas iconography is just so much more compelling. There are also NO Rankin-Bass stop motion Channukah cartoons, and Heat Miser would have to be rethought entirely. The Winter Warlock, however, ports directly over – from an interfaith perspective.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator and the extensive staff here at Newtown Pentacle HQ (its a bit like TMZ around here- swimming pools and movie stars) just wanted to say thanks for following us around and checking in at the blog periodically, as well as wishing you all a healthy and happy holiday. The plan around here is to have one last feast day (or two) and get back to work. I’ll be wandering around the empty streets this weekend whenever I get a break- weather and feast wise. Look for a crazy looking old man in a filthy black raincoat taking pictures of dead rats- that’ll be me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My little dog, Zuzu (left), has extensive obligations all weekend as well, I am told.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll be taking a day or two off, but will most likely get rolling again on Saturday. Have a merry christmas, or at least a couple of days you don’t have to go to work.

(Don’t worry if anything good happens, I’ll post it. Why not subscribe to the RSS feed- found in the column to the right, and updates will just pop up in the gadget or browser of your choice?)

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 24, 2009 at 3:23 am

ChristmAstoria 2

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Let me preface today’s post by mentioning that the anagrammatic transposition of Santa and Satan is no accident.

Given the macabre sense of humor that the most high god itself is suggested to have by scripture- making its arch enemy transmogrify into a nice old man who gives presents to children- on its birthday- is exactly the sort of thing one would expect from the sun god of a desert people.

If you think about it, Santa is principally red in color and flies about with a wild hunt of magickal herd animals. He is also invulnerable to chimney fires and possessed of a menacing laugh. Ergo- Santa Claus (saint nick) might actually be Satan (old nick). This link will be handy on Christmas eve, as the Strategic Air Command’s NORAD will be tracking the demon as it makes its way south from the polar wastelands toward the Newtown Pentacle.

from wikipedia

Numerous parallels have been drawn between Santa Claus and the figure of Odin, a major god amongst the Germanic peoples prior to their Christianization. Since many of these elements are unrelated to Christianity, there are theories regarding the pagan origins of various customs of the holiday stemming from areas where the Germanic peoples were Christianized and retained elements of their indigenous traditions, surviving in various forms into modern depictions of Santa Claus.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the early days of the American Colonies, which modern politics and propaganda instruct its citizenry to believe was a time of “freedom and liberty”, personal or non standard expressions of religion were frowned upon. Of course, that was up north in New England. New York City and its citizens are actually the authors of the modern Christmas.

Thomas Nast created the visuals in 1863 for “Harper’s Weekly”, Washington Irving turned Sinterklaas into Santa Claus in 1809’s “A History of New York”  and also inserted the reindeer and sleigh, Clement Clarke Moore (whose family got their start in colonial Newtown) is said to have written “Twas the night before Christmas” in 1823, and the NY Sun published the famous “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” in 1897.

from wikipedia

Christmas celebrations in Puritan New England (1620-1850?) were culturally and legally suppressed and thus, virtually non-existent. The Puritan community found no Scriptural justification for celebrating Christmas, and associated such celebrations with paganism and idolatry. The earliest years of the Plymouth colony were troubled with non-Puritans attempting to make merry, and Governor William Bradford was forced to reprimand offenders. English laws suppressing the holiday were enacted in the Interregnum, but repealed late in the 17th century. However, the Puritan view of Christmas and its celebration had gained cultural ascendancy in New England, and Christmas celebrations continued to be discouraged despite being legal. When Christmas became a Federal holiday in 1870, the Puritan view was relaxed and late nineteenth century Americans fashioned the day into the Christmas of commercialism, liberal spirituality, and nostalgia that most Americans recognize today.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In modern times, the garish lighting adorning Astoria is also equipped with tiny electronic speakers which blare endless loops of the first movement of “Jingle Bells”. Were one prone to paranoid and conspiratorial thinking, it would seem that some vast cabal of industrial and economic powers have convinced the citizenry of these United States to consume electricity unabashedly. Such thinking is faulty, however, as the tradition of christmas lights is far older than the nation- isn’t it?

from wikipedia

The first known electrically illuminated Christmas tree was the creation of Edward H. Johnson, an associate of inventor Thomas Edison. While he was vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company, a predecessor of today’s Con Edison electric utility, he had Christmas tree light bulbs especially made for him. He proudly displayed his Christmas tree, which was hand-wired with 80 red, white and blue electric incandescent light bulbs the size of walnuts, on December 22, 1882 at his home on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Local newspapers ignored the story, seeing it as a publicity stunt. However, it was published by a Detroit newspaper reporter, and Johnson has become widely regarded as the Father of Electric Christmas Tree Lights. By 1900, businesses started stringing up Christmas lights behind their windows. Christmas lights were too expensive for the average person; as such, electric Christmas lights did not become the majority replacement for candles until 1930.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Just to ensure that the Newtown Pentacle doesn’t accidentally cause a remonstrance to spring up, we need to give equal time to all faiths in these ChristmAstoria posts- thus- December 23 is the date on which a surprisingly large number of Americans will celebrate Festivus. Watch out for feats of strength being performed, and gather round the Aluminum pole, its time for the airing of grievances.

from wikipedia

The practice of putting up special decorations at Christmas has a long history. From pre-Christian times, people in the Roman Empire brought branches from evergreen plants indoors in the winter. Christian people incorporated such customs in their developing practices. In the fifteenth century, it was recorded that in London, it was the custom at Christmas for every house and all the parish churches to be “decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green”. The heart-shaped leaves of ivy were said to symbolise the coming to earth of Jesus, while holly was seen as protection against pagans and witches, its thorns and red berries held to represent the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus at the crucifixion and the blood he shed.

and just as a note- this is the Anniversary of Vincent van Gogh cutting off his ear lobe in 1888

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 23, 2009 at 3:48 am

Posted in Astoria

Tagged with , , , ,

ChristmAstoria 1

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

ChristmAstoria 2009…

The annual occurrence of Christmas adorns the tired streets of ice struck Astoria with electrical garlands of questionable taste, speakers blare seasonally appropriate melodies from their lamp post perches, and vast hordes of shoppers seek to acquire, transport, and then dispense a bounty of trade goods. Such peculiar behavior garners no small amount of comment from the large middle eastern and southeast Asian communities within the ancient village, who are not willing to miss out on what seems to be a lot of fun, and they eventually join in and play along with the odd custom.

from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol“, original text from wikisource.org

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say with gladsome looks “My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?”. No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the tangled thickets of cable TV, telephone, and emergency power supply cables (still in place some 3 1/2 years after the Great Astoria Blackout), one might observe the extensive holiday decorations installed by the local Business Improvement District Council and Municipal authorities. On Steinway Street, in particular, an oppressive bleating of holiday music is inescapable, and endless loops of holiday songs considered to be inoffensive and nonsectarian drone cheerily on. They do not play “Onward, Christian Soldiers” for instance.

from wikipedia

Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted, tight fisted and greedy man, who despises Christmas and all things which engender happiness. A quote from the book reads “The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and he spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice …” His last name has come into the English language as a byword for miserliness and misanthropy, traits displayed by Scrooge in the exaggerated manner for which Dickens is well-known. The tale of his redemption by the three Ghosts of Christmas (Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) has become a defining tale of the Christmas holiday. Scrooge’s catchphrase, “Bah, humbug!” is often used to express disgust with many of the modern Christmas traditions.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To appreciate ChristmAstoria, however, one must visit its fertile climes at night.

Ever conscious of social status and standing, given to vulgar displays of tasteless consumption and wild imaginings on the subject of real estate development, the population of Astoria does not disappoint when competing with neighbors for the attentions of holiday tourists. Even the police cameras and red light robotics clustered around the corner of Broadway and Steinway Street look positively resplendent when illuminated by such redolent regalia.

from nallon.com

The prevailing economic theory of the early nineteenth century was the acceptance of the unrestrained free market. It is a theory that still has its supporters today. Just before Christmas in 1983, Ed Meese, then the Presidential counsellor to US President Ronald Reagan and later Reagan’s Attorney General, made a speech to the National Press Club. He said, “Ebenezer Scrooge suffered from bad press in his time. If you really look at the facts, he didn’t exploit Bob Cratchit.” Meese went on to explain that “Bob Cratchit was paid 10 shillings a week, which was a very good wage at the time… Bob, in fact, had good cause to be happy with his situation. He lived in a house not a tenement. His wife didn’t have to work… He was able to afford the traditional Christmas dinner of roast goose and plum pudding…

So let’s be fair to Scrooge. He had his faults, but he wasn’t unfair to anyone. The free market wouldn’t allow Scrooge to exploit poor Bob… The fact that Bob Cratchit could read and write made him a very valuable clerk and as a result of that he was paid 10 shillings a week.” Factually Bob’s wage according to Dickens was fifteen shillings a week not ten shillings ( Bob had but fifteen bob a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house ) but the thrust of Meese’s argument was that the ‘free market’, better known to economic theorists as laissez-faire , served Bob well and had provided him with a living wage to feed his family. Ed Meese omitted to say that the free market economy in England in the 1840’s, a period that became known as the ‘Hungry Forties’, was in deep depression and an excess of labour was keeping wages low. Cratchit could hardly ask for more when there were many willing to take his place and for probably for much less.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Such public exertions have always fascinated your humble narrator, who would never be caught up in such wild fancy. A deadly seriousness and focused purpose should be the hallmark of a day well and profitably spent, without all of this pageantry and jumping about. Get back to work, all of you… bah…

from wikipedia

John Elwes [née Meggot or Meggott] (a.k.a. “Elwes the Miser”), MP, Esquire, (7 April 1714 – 26 November 1789) was a Member of Parliament (MP) in Great Britain for Berkshire (1772 – 1784) and a noted eccentric and miser, believed to be the inspiration for the character of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…

…He went to bed when darkness fell so as to save on candles. He began wearing only ragged clothes, including a beggar’s cast-off wig he found in a hedge and wore for two weeks. His clothes were so dilapidated that many mistook him for a common street beggar, and would put a penny into his hand as they passed. To avoid paying for a coach he would walk in the rain, and then sit in wet clothes to save the cost of a fire to dry them. His house was full of expensive furniture but also molding food. He would eat putrefied game before allowing new food to be bought. On one occasion it was said that he ate a moorhen that a rat had pulled from a river. Rather than spend the money for repairs he allowed his spacious country mansion to become uninhabitable. A near relative once stayed at his home in the country, but the bedroom was in a poor state. So much so, that the relative was awakened in the night by rain pouring on him from the roof. After searching in vain for a bell, the relative was forced to move his bed several times, until he found a place where he could remain dry. On remarking the circumstance to Elwes in the morning, the latter said: “Ay! I don’t mind it myself… that is a nice corner in the rain!”

Incidentally, this link came up while searching around for Dickens- Funniest thing I’ve seen since “Rap Chop“. “A Christmas Carol” A Gateway to Communism and the Occult! – from parody site Landover Baptist

also, just as a note: This is the anniversary of the Lincoln Tunnel opening for business in 1937.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 22, 2009 at 6:37 am

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