The Newtown Pentacle

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no worse

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The world is not as it should be, rather it is as it is and always has been.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When a humble narrator was a boy, there were quite a few “doomsday scenarios” in play. Existential threats included the probable outbreak of a global thermonuclear war fought between the United States and the Soviet Union and the so called “population bomb” which was meant to cause mass starvation (predictions included the deaths of over 60 million Americans due to food shortages – a third of the population at the time). There was also an ozone hole which was meant to BBQ farm and city alike, an atmospheric phenomena whose formation was blamed on the presence of certain chemicals in aerosol hair spray cans. Additionally, an ice age was thought to be just around the corner, one which would depopulate the northern hemisphere and force humanity to cluster about Earth’s equator.

Slightly lower on the scale – but still terrifying – were threats posed by the rise of violent crime, disestablishmentarianism, and the rise of narcoterrorism. The world was ending, so say your prayers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a whole set of existential worries afoot these days – sea level rise, global warming, the rise of religion based terrorism, etc. Since these terrors are routinely explored in mainstream media, there’s no reason to repeat them as I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the various story lines. There’s a lot of drums that get beat upon by the “usual suspects.”

For those on the so called “left” – any factory or mill is by definition “satanic.”

For those on the so called “right” – the natural world is merely a collection of unharnessed natural resources.

The lefties want to see strict regulatory controls enacted on business, capital, and seek to curtail personal liberties in the name of protecting populations whom they have decided are vulnerable. The righties wish for an unfettered business environment, cessation of tax and regulation, and to curtail personal liberties in the name of protecting themselves. Both poles see society as teetering on the brink of destruction. Some predict a second American Civil War as being just around the corner.

Both sides populated by absolutists, who are dwellers in ivory towers. One set of towers is found in academia, the others on Wall Street. Both forget about the rest of us.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are no Mongol armies about to ride over the hill and force our village to submit to their yoke. If there were, these Mongols would meet the United States Marines, or the Russian Spetsnaz, or the British SAS and there would soon be no more Mongols. It’s no secret that the biggest problem encountered by the United States military in its recent wars was how to fight a war in which you don’t exterminate the entire population of any given country and instead just target the bad guys.

Superman would have to consciously pull his punches when apprehending bank robbers. One good punch from the big guy could reduce a human’s head to a spray of red mist, and his gaze could easily immolate. Criminals in Metropolis would seldom need to be reminded of what they’re dealing with. Neither would the ones in Gotham City.

The lefties would want Superman or Batman jailed for vigilante activity, and the righties would want them to go overseas and slaughter some Mongols.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I find both arguments pedantic. There are so many things commonly agreed upon, that are actionable, which get lost in this ideological tug of war that it actually depresses me. Don’t throw litter and garbage into the street? Be nice to each other and don’t call people ugly names? Don’t feign political naïveté? Don’t call yourself a “progressive” when you don’t understand what that means?

Maybe I’m just getting old. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe everybody else is right, and the Mongols are in fact coming to get us – or we should celebrate their vibrant diversity. The division between the two points of view is exactly the sort of thing which wily old Chingis Khan would have expolited. The Khans viewed themselves as appointed by God itself to rule mankind, and Chingis often referred to himself as “God’s curse.” The Mongol term for submission and peace used the same word.

The Khans would send a rider to the village gates before an attack, who would pronounce the following (the actual quotation is lifted from a letter sent to Pope Innocent IV, in 1246, by Chingis Khan’s grandson Güyük):

“You must say with a sincere heart: “We will be your subjects; we will give you our strength”. You must in person come with your kings, all together, without exception, to render us service and pay us homage. Only then will we acknowledge your submission. And if you do not follow the order of God, and go against our orders, we will know you as our enemy.”

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

August 2nd, 2015
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek – Bushwick & Mapeth Walking Tour
with Newtown Creek Alliance, click here for details and tickets.

August 8th, 2015
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills – LIC Walking Tour
with Atlas Obscura, click here for details and tickets

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 30, 2015 at 10:37 am

grown stern

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Getting meaner and meaner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday’s little post about Earth Day seems to have struck a sour note with some. Apparently your humble narrator was a bit too much of curmudgeon on this topic for some. Well, there you go. One has run into this sort of thing over and over during the last few years, folks who cry “Heresy” if everything they believe in isn’t part of your personal credo. Personally, I’m not the sort who buys the entire restaurant’s menu when sitting down to dinner. I say it all the time to the Newtown Creek people, whenever a disagreement erupts amongst us – There’s more that we agree on than what we disagree on, so let’s focus on that.

Unfortunately, academics and activists are often rather “catholic” in their viewpoints and want you to just sign on to anything they tell you with little critical analysis. You can’t “pick and choose” they’ll tell you. If you persist in pursuing or debating with them, you’re branded with analogies or aspersions of your resemblance to unloved or reviled historical characters that range from Adolph Eichmann to Dick Cheney or Sean Hannity (or other members of the Fox News staff) – a juvenile response which is akin to a drunken adolescent calling a uniformed Police Officer a fascist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Orthodoxy has never sat well with me, whether it be in politics or religion. A closed mind is a closed mind, after all. If you think you’ve got the world all figured out, you’re wrong. Nothing is simple, every action and stance has a consequence and an unimagined result. Robert Moses once suggested that Lucifer himself would be lauded by the Press if he was advocating for Parks. Question everything, I say. Take nothing at face value. Everybody does this thing or that for a reason, nothing is random, and there is not one person in public life who isn’t beating some sort of drum. Unfortunately, we are trapped in a paradigm of political life which has been frozen since the 1960’s. There are no liberals, or conservatives, or progressives, anymore. Those labels no longer apply, and haven’t since the 1990’s. “Conservative George W. Bush” was actually a radical, and “Liberal” Barack Obama is actually a conservative – using the actual meaning of what those terms once meant 50 years ago.

Can’t tell you how many of the urbanists and City Planning types that I’ve met over the years only live in NYC part time, and who actually hate the City lifestyle, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, what sort of drum am I beating?

Famously, I have no agenda. My role in all of this nonsense that I’m involved in is simply to record the tumultuous era we are experiencing – the Superfund period on Newtown Creek, the vast redevelopment of the two East River communities surrounding it in Hunters Point and Greenpoint. I strive to leave behind a photographic record of what was here when I arrived, documenting the last traces of what was, and showing the origins of what will be. The last time that these sort of paradigm shifts happened in Queens, there were a few photographers working on it, but they were in the employ of government or corporate interests. My archive isn’t.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Tours –

May 3, 2015 –
DUBPO, Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp
with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, a free tour offered as part of Janeswalk 2015, click here for tickets.

May 16, 2015 –
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura

with Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for details and tickets.

May 31, 2015 –
Newtown Creek Boat Tour
with Working Harbor Committee and Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman, click here for tickets.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

little, indeed

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Just a short one today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This kitten was observed living in the rip rap shoreline of Staten Island a while back. Other members of the family were present, and based on the threatening “ruhhhrrrrrrrr” sound emanating from a hidden spot in the rock pile, one of them was its mom.

A humble narrator is hurting for content at the moment, and will be out wandering all afternoon seeking pleasurable scenes and interesting things to photograph. Wish me luck.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 10, 2015 at 11:36 am

recalled bondage

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The Empty Corridor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

DULIE, or Down Under the Long Island Expressway in Long Island City, is actually quite a busy place during the work week. On the weekends, however, the nickname I’ve assigned the area is “The Empty Corridor.” Last Saturday I found myself wandering about LIC, which was on my way to Greenpoint via the Pulaski Bridge. The light was pretty good on Saturday, and the weather tolerable to one such as myself.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been stuck in the house for so long that I recently found myself chiding Our Lady of the Pentacle for her arrangement of cutlery in the drying rack found alongside the sink (forks down, spoons up), and realized that hell or high water – I had to get out and take a long walk to regain some perspective. Viking Hell be damned. I’m happy to report that the cat colony alongside the UPS facility on 51st avenue seems to be in fine fettle despite the vagaries of winter.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In actuality, I’ve been making good use of any interval wherein polar temperatures and ice falling from the sky were not experienced. The shot above is actually from Sunnyside, sometime last week. As mentioned in prior posts, I’ve been studying up on both Sunnyside and the rail yards which figure massively in the current Mayor’s plans for so called “affordable housing.” More on that later in the week.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

half impassable

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I’d say I was getting old, as if I wasn’t already there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few archive shots in today’s post, as your humble narrator is busy licking his wounds. A tear to the skinvelope on my left foot, a minor injury, has been causing me to walk “funny,” or at least funnier than usual. The changes in my normal gait have, over the course of the last few days, created a few sore muscles in the lower back. This, in turn, has transmitted along the entire spine. Accordingly, today, I’m a hunched over malcontent given to emanating odd sighs and groans whenever a transition from sitting to standing is required.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The foot injury itself is decidedly superficial, a few irritated and or raw spots on the top layer of skin that don’t “hurt” but which are uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the affected area is found deep within my shoe, and walking mile after mile has caused further irritation on the tender spot. I’m a bit like a tropical flower, it would seem – delicate. I can tell you that twenty years ago, I could have laughed off a bleeding hole the size of a ping pong ball, whereas today an overly large pimple is capable of reducing me to bed rest. Summon the clergy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I have a long list of pedantic tasks to accomplish before the computer and a longer list of books that require reading. Unfortunately, infirmity means I won’t be walking that much for the next couple of days in the hope that my skinvelope will regenerate enough tissue to protect the underlying firmament of tendon and muscle. The back thing has to sort itself out, as usual.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tours-

Saturday, September 27th, 13 Steps Around Dutch Kills
Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, September 28th, The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek
Walking Tour with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for tickets and more info.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 15, 2014 at 10:20 am

inspired dreamer

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124 years ago today, an outsider was thrust roughly into the world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If the squamous gods of our own world do not care about you, what causes you to believe that those whose realm is cosmic would even take notice of an unimportant mortal speck living on a muddy world which – from their unknowable and unguessable point of view – has only recently coalesced from star stuff and debris? Were you to find yourself lying prone, naked, and cowering before some galactic, universal, or pan dimensional deity whose regency includes whole galaxies – realizing the true horror of the universe in that moment, and the inconsequential role which terrestrial life plays in it – would you go mad with the realization of the futility of life itself or would a blood vessel burst in your brain? Would you rise to your knees, begging to join some hidden cult which worships the titan, or stare unblinkingly at its manifest radiance until your eyes boiled away? One is incapable of anticipating what ones reaction to a pulsing nucleonic horror found at the center of our universe that is called Azathoth would be, nor what beholding the so called “goat with a thousand young” which is both the gate and the key called Yog Sothoth might do to you, but one would certainly be forever altered and held under their sway afterwards. We are but men, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These star born – or Elder Gods – whose machinations stretch back billions of years and into other dimensions and realities where our paltry notion of the constancy of physics and the true nature of the universe are revealed as childish fantasy – enjoy the devotion of uncountable servitors. Their servants, who are the true rulers of the earth, are in the air and the water and burrow into the ground unmatched and unheralded. None inquire as to their purpose, for none have realized that theirs is a plan which has survived more than one extinction event. The cities of the Old Ones, at the so called Mountains of Madness in fabled Antarctica, and those of the ruggose cone shaped Elder Race (which drifted into their current position as the continents formed) in the deserts of Arabia and Australia demonstrate that at the end of all things – only the Conqueror Worm claims victory. The so called insects have a plan, and they created this biosphere of ours only to increase their food supply, as a stock yard. Deep below the Pacific Ocean, their paymaster lies not dead but dreaming instead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One hundred and twenty four years ago, a set of ideas was born at 194 Angell Street in Providence, Rhode Island. The product of Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft and Winfield Scott Lovecraft, the child grew into a strange and lonely but quite erudite man who always considered himself an outsider in the world to which he was born. His name was Howard. His pen name was H.P. Lovecraft, and today (all this week, actually) we celebrate the day of his birth at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

hastily blocked

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As Johnny Cash said “I been everywhere, man.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the last few weeks, your humble narrator has found himself wandering through every borough, except the Bronx, and many marvels have been witnessed. Let’s face it, if your eyes are open, NYC is in fact a place of wonders. Just have to learn how to see, and remember not to get jaded by it all. An annoying trait shared by all members of the human infestation hereabouts is to render the familiar as ordinary, and to accept the built environment as pedestrian or ordinary.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is Hamilton Avenue, down by the Gowanus, which is one of the many spots in NYC which strike one such as myself dumb. The aggregate hours of human activity required to create a spot like this, just producing the steel and concrete which form the high flying Gowanus Expressway above or the draw bridge below, leaves me aghast.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My beloved Newtown Creek, seen at night from the Pulaski Bridge, reveals trillions of hours of planning and work. The shield wall of Manhattan notwithstanding, this tableau visualizes the complete reshaping of a waterway to suit the needs of men, and for one such as myself – the absence of historic bridges and the unseen presence of an entire subway line are keenly felt. Wow.

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 1, 2014 at 2:17 pm

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