The Newtown Pentacle

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thinking thus

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Something a little different, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor, committed in the dark of night, has seen a humble narrator hunched over the kitchen counter with an array of tripods, flashes, and lights. This week’s “project” has involved me using an older camera, which has a fairly decent macro lens function, to get up close and personal with a variety of foodstuffs. The joke I’ve shared with Our Lady of the Pentacle is that I’m trying to produce a series of images you might encounter framed on the wall of a juice bar.

It’s all terribly complicated – this sort of thing – and requires a bit of prep. The red onion pictured above had a pretty powerful flash gun firing at full power under a transluscent “stage” in a darkened room, with my goal being the visualization of the internal structure of the vegetable.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I actually like Broccoli, if it’s prepared and cooked correctly, but I realize that this sub genus of the cabbage family is not to everyone’s taste. Raw Broccoli is nasty, but it photographs nicely from a few centimeters away. This one didn’t involve any fancy technique, just a bit of lighting. The hard part about photographing something like this is that fresh Broccoli is purple and green at the same time, and subtly iridescent.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A navel orange, cut into a quarter inch thick slice, deployed on the aforementioned transluscent stage with the flash gun beneath it and the lens placed about a centimeter from the focal plane. Again, the internal structure of the thing was what I was going for.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hunting around in the refrigerator, I grabbed a jar of Smuckers Strawberry Jam and carefully threaded the lens into the neck of the jar, after placing it on the aforementioned setup. The blast of light traveling upwards towards the camera rendered the jam transparent, and you can see all the little shards of fruit in the syrupy goo. The light refracted into the glass of the jar, rendering out a trippy series of visual artifacts which pleased my eye.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back to the Broccoli, this time with an orangish rim light applied. The orange light is something I’ve mentioned in the past, part of my “ghetto lighting” rig. A pill bottle gaff taped to a strong flashlight, it provides a soft warm fill light which contrasts nicely with the purples and greens, IMHO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another slice of that Navel Orange on the stage and “under flash” setup, this one was cut a bit thicker and transected several of the fruit’s internal sections. I also hit this one with a secondary “on camera flash,” set to its lowest power setting, in pursuance of getting just a bit of the surface texture in addition to the internal structure of the multitudinous juice sacks.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria, Photowalk, Pickman

Tagged with , ,

negative impact

with 3 comments

Credos, declarations, statements on the street – in Today’s Post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst wandering about, your humble narrator likes to take note of the various missives and graffitos encountered. Most of the graffiti you see are “tags” left behind by “writers” which indicate mainly that they have been there before you. There’s also the “art” types who do renderings and or complex paintings. You’ve also got the gang stuff, which is meant as either provocation or an announcement of territorial preeminence. My favorites are the credos, seeming attempts to liberate the minds of those who read them. Often, these credos are placed in highly visible locations, what the graffiti community would refer to as “a good wall.”

The shot above is from 48th street in Sunnyside, along the LIRR overhead tracks. This particular writer has been quite busy in the recent past.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A similar typographic style and brand of rhetoric has been appearing all over the study area which I call the Newtown Pentacle in recent months. The messaging above is found in Queens Plaza, and my presumption of its authorship is that it’s the same as the missive in the first shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Probably not the same graffiti enthusiast, but this less than monumental declaration was recently witnessed on Jackson Avenue nearby the Court Square subway station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In Astoria, nearby Steinway Street’s intersection with Broadway, this messaging appeared one morning in the late autumn. Again, I believe, it’s the work of the person(s) featured in shots 1&2.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over at Socrates Sculpture Garden, this polemic was observed on a lamp post during the summer, but you’ll always find a whole lot of “artsy fartsy” graffiti near the institution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Sunnyside, on 48th street near Skillman, a more permanent sort of scrawl was observed which mirrors the sentiment of the block printed missives found along the LIRR tracks, in Astoria, and Queens Plaza.

It’s not quite as eloquent, but there you are.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

wouldn’t stop

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Astoria at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent circumstance compelled one to don the 35 pounds of coat and sweater, tie on the recording devices, and perambulate across the cold wastes of Astoria’s southern edge to a meeting in the Dutch Kills neighborhood. As opportunity to crack out photos is severely constrained due to the cold, one got busy with the camera.

See that little dog? The “pisher” decorating the street lamp? My dog Zuzu unreasonably hates that dog, and will go batshit insane anytime he appears on one of our nightly scratch and sniff sessions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve never shopped at Dave Shoes, but the notion that they advertise for a 6E width shoe is daunting. I checked on what a 6E sized shoe would entail, and from size 6 to 15, it covers a 4 & 1/16 to 5 & 3/16 width foot. I could not find a reference for a size 4 6E, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I could have walked a shorter path, going down Northern Boulevard, but I had a little time to kill and I walk that way literally all the time on my way to LIC, so I went the long way – down Broadway and south on 31st street under the elevated tracks of N and Q subway lines.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Terror has struck in this part of the neighborhood, as the Governor has recently announced that all of the N and Q stops between 30th avenue and Northern Blvd. will be closed for 18 months in the name of rebuilding them. It’s a good thing, ultimately, modernizing track, signal, and station – but man oh man is this going to be a pain in the neck for anyone who lives or works along this stretch. I’m sure there’ll be some sort of shuttle bus, but… wow… is the R station at 36th street about to get busy or what?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sometime in the near future, I’m going to visit all of these stops and get a proper set of shots “for the record” before they’re all closed and rebuilt. Funny thing is, my understanding of things indicates that there’s a bubble of construction activity about to light off in this area with huge apartment buildings and hotels replacing the older housing stock and warehouses currently observed. This might actually be why the Governor seeks to rehabilitate the stations, in order to handle the load.

That’s the 36th avenue stop, incidentally, in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I wouldn’t want to live here, simply because of the presence of the overhead trains. Also, can’t imagine what it’s like to live next door to a poultry warehouse and abattoir. You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your neighbors.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some of that construction is already underway nearby the 39th avenue stop. A former parking lot and taxi depot has been claimed by the Real Estate Industrial Complex for development, between 39th and Northern and 30th and 31st streets. The property is dead bang center of the swamp which Newtown Creek’s Dutch Kills tributary once fed, and those of you familiar with the area will recall the depression in altitude experienced at this side of the neighborhood.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 2, 2016 at 11:00 am

anytime, anywhere

with 7 comments

A few shots from last week’s blizzard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given a humble narrator’s legendary vulnerability to cold, as you might have guessed, I spent most of the blizzard last Saturday firmly ensconced in the steam heated walls of Newtown Pentacle HQ in Astoria. I did venture outside during the afternoon to visit the bodega across the street for breakfast cereals, I like a bowl of Cheerios with a banana cut into it, and to vouchsafe a bar of chocolate for Our Lady of the Pentacle.

When venturing into the cold waste, I discovered that at least one Chinese restaurant was open, and offering delivery services. Early bird gets the worm and all that, but… Jaysis.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were those who had decided to try and motor about, this was before the Mayor banned automotive traffic, but they were soundly rebuffed by road conditions. It was actually kind of difficult just to crack out a couple of exposures due to wind blown snow, which tended to “spot” the lens, let alone cross the street.

Luckily, most of the neighbors didn’t attempt to drive, and the streets were eerily quiet hereabouts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only thing you saw much of were Municipal vehicles like the ambulance pictured above. One neat thing was that everyone in the neighborhood was given the opportunity to recognize the undercover vehicles which the 114th pct utilizes after the Mayor’s ban on travel was enacted.

After 2:30 p.m., anything you saw on Broadway was basically “blue” or “red.” Or Green, Orange, and a White in the case of the sanitation guys.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having purchased my Cheerios and Chocolate, I began to scuttle back towards home, and one of the hundreds of plow trucks operated by DSNY rolled by. The annual Astoria problem has begun again, incidentally. As happened last year, and the year before – recycling pickup was cancelled due to Martin Luther King day. Recycling in my neighborhood is Sunday night’s problem, so it is up to us to store the stuff in anticipation of the following weekend. Now, we’ve got a blizzard’s worth of snow, so recycling pickup is again postponed till next week.

Last year, a series of similar cold weather events and legal holidays pushed the storage of the entire month of January’s recycling trash until well past President’s day in February.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in HQ, and with no intentions of leaving the place, one nevertheless used the fortuitous positioning of the building relative to the prevailing wind in pursuance of a few shots in the evening. As you’ll recall, this is when the storm really got rolling. I set up a tripod and all my night shooting gear, but in the end elected to use low light techniques for the shots.

The long exposure methodology effectively eliminated the falling snow from the shots, and since I wanted to have a “truer” record of the event – I went for high ISO and a faster shutter speed to capture the drifting snowflakes. As is always the case, getting the color temperature of the light was critical, and for the new LED street lights that’s 4300 Kelvin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Got to hand it to the neighbors, they were fighting this storm while it was at full force and attempting to keep their cars from being completely buried in the drifts. The different technologies of street lighting which were discussed a couple of weeks ago – the old school orange yellow sodium lights versus the new school led blue colored lights can be discerned in the shot above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The new school LED’s actually performed quite well during the storm, I would add.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The buildup of a shelf of snow on my window sill while shooting inspired me to shove a couple of flashlights into it and get a macro shot of the translucent accumulation. These lights are part of what I call my “ghetto lighting” rig. Ghetto as in I have zero funds for real lighting and therefore have been forced to jury rig a set, which given my normal shooting habits – needs to easily portable. The warm light and blue light are formed by identical and quite powerful LED flash lights which can pump out an amazing 300 Lumens and are powered by just 3 AAA batteries each. That’s actually kind of amazing, but I’m a flashlight geek, and will jump up and down if you say “Cree.”

The warmer light is created by the flashlight having an old pill bottle gaff taped to its head.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

weak and tender

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One last effort at combatting Cabin Fever, Dry Rot, and your SAD.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This post will be your last dose of seasonal affective disorder medication, so drink in the color. Next week – it’s back to concrete devastations, chemical factories, superfund sites, cemeteries – you know, the usual.

Funny thing about the shot above is that I used to know a girl called Mary Gold. What was funny was that she was named Mary and was from a  Jewish family, but then again Christian Mary was from a Jewish family too, so maybe Mary is as Jewish a name as Abraham, Esther, or Sarah. In my family, there were two Aunt Rose’s, and my mother would call one of them “Rose Waxman” as she had married into the clan, and the other was Aunt Rosie as she had been born into it. There was only one Ida, but if memory serves she never grew any apples but made one heck of an apple cake.

Anyway, that’s my marigold rap.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve never met, nor am I knowingly related to anyone named Albizia Julibrissin. Commonly referred to as the Mimosa, the Persian Silk Tree is actually an invasive species here in North America. It’s native to Japan and Korea, apparently, and was a prized landscaping specie in the recent past. Persian Silk Trees, aka “the bastard tamarind” and or “Pink Siris,” is an allelopathic organism. Allelopathy is a ten dollar word for “secretes chemicals into its environment whose function is to inhibit or eliminate competitors.”

It’s pretty though. I’ve heard many members of the gentry hereabouts in Astoria complain about the so called Mimosa, as when its flowers drop, they create a sticky mess on their sidewalks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m pretty sure that the flower above is an Iris, but what I know about flowers is less than what I know about brands of luggage. I’ve known several Iris’s in my days, including one whose last name was Gold, but was not related to the aforementioned Mary G (who was the “OG” as I had met her first). This was all back in an earlier era, of course, when Brooklyn was a place people didn’t want to live in, Mtv played music, a young Joe Piscopo taught us all how to laugh, and Huey Lewis was the Hootie of his time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, one moist afternoon. It was Autumn, raining, and the light was great. Turning leaves, of course, which violates today’s flowery thema but follows along with the palette of reds and pinks nicely. Red light is carried on a longer wavelength than blue, and is of a higher frequency. The human eye – according to a couple of sources – perceives about 390 to 700 nm wavelengths and frequencies which are (in a banded gradation) in the vicinity of 430–770 THz. There’s all sorts of light invisible to human eyes, but certain critters abandon one end of the spectrum for the other, like the honey bee and the gold fish who can discern the ultra violet but lose the infrared. In return for seeing deep blues and violets, they lose the ability to see any wavelength longer than orange, which is kind of a neat trade off.

Makes me think about the things which might be flopping all around me that I can’t see. Wonder what sort of critters there might be might who have evolved an effective invisibility to Homo Homicidis?  This would be the ultimate defense mechanism against us. Might answer the question about “what is that smell, and where is it coming from”?

The reason why the sky is blue? It boils down to the shorter wavelengths and lower frequencies of the violet and blue range being scattering by the atmosphere, which is also why sunny days on Earth’s surface “look” warmer as the red light with its longer wavelength is able to penetrate down to the ground and is prevalent on deck.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The most amazing skies I’ve ever witnessed were in Crete, over in the Peloponnesus of Greece.

Some awesome flower action is going on over there as well. Given the weather forecast, I sort of wish that that’s where I was right now. This is a back garden at a house which my In-Laws lived in for a number of years in a village called Tsiverus, a settlement which had the most treacherous road system I’ve ever experienced. Considering that this place has been settled by modern humans since the time of the pyramids, however, I’m willing to cut them some slack on the bad layout and placement of roads. I’m sure these paths were a lot easier to navigate with donkeys and slaves and stuff, but why there’s a highway with no guard rail placed on the ridge of a thousand foot gorge… it boggles.

Of course, the same day this was taken, I saw a work crew cutting a trench through the ruins of a Roman settlement to lay a sewage pipe into. Did you know that Greeks don’t call themselves that? They’re Hellenes, Athens and Kriti are in a country which is called the Ellīnikī́ Dīmokratía, and the word Greek comes from “Grik” which is a Roman slur that means “short legged.” Travel broadens you, I’m told, for me – it’s just another set of things to do research on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It is hoped that this week of bright colors has helped alleviate the seasonal affective disorder symptomology which we are all feeling. People always refer to “cabin fever” during this time of the year.

Cabin fever is no joke, it’s an actual “thing.” “Piblokto” or Arctic Hysteria, is a condition that appears in Inughuit (which is how you spell “Inuit” now) societies up in the Arctic Circle, but it’s certainly not confined to the natives as both sailors and soldiers posted to the Arctic experience it as well.

Symptoms of Arctic Hysteria include: social withdrawal, excitement, convulsions with stupor, and recovery – which kind of describes my life in high school, except for the recovery part. The excitement part involves stripping naked and running around in the snow. You might survive Arctic Hysteria, but high school?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

OK, back to January.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

be fair

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I love to photograph, So mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today, it’s all about the yellows. The particular wavelength and angle of light emanating from the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself is ugly at this time of year, and a certain responsibility is felt to attempt to brighten things up. Pictured above is one of the groundling burrowers with the glowing red eyes who inhabit the Roman Catholic polyandrion called Calvary Cemetery, here in LIC.

Word has it that their role is to carry messages between those who exist above and below the till, and that the daily challenge is to try and avoid the multitudes of Hawks, Cats, and other predators who desire the rending of their flesh during the carrying out of their task.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last summer in Astoria, we had what seemed like a record crop of Sunflowers, which led to great rejoicing in the apiaries of Western Queens. I’ve mentioned a certain paranoia – carried over from childhood – regarding sunflowers and the buzzing harvesters which infest them, in the past. Regardless, the stalwart photographer must pursue his craft, and the fancies or terrors of infancy are best left on the back shelf.

Still, sunflowers freak me out.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Dead things abound in Western Queens, and not all of them are found below the soil of the so called cemetery belt. This poor little bastard counted its last minutes on a sidewalk in Queens. Often, one fears that this is the sort of posture one such as myself will be displaying when discovered by passerby.

Life a leaf, you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pineapples, in some abundance, observed at an Astoria fruit stand.

The most amazing part of our culture, in my opinion, is that after reading this post – in the middle of January – you can go out into the cold, and by writhing through the atmosphere for just a few blocks find tropical cultivars on sale. It will not be difficult for you to find mangoes, strawberries, pineapples – in January. That is simply amazing, when you get down to it, and it’s a reminder that despite the climactic challenges you’ll encounter – you live in the financial capital of a nuclear armed superpower which enjoys the actual highest standard of living ever known and that other nations and cultures send us regular tribute.

In many ways, we are living in the modern equivalent of late Republic Rome.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the subject of living in an analog for Rome (prior to the First Triumverate, natch), you can be reasonably assured of the presence of the fire fighters should sudden immolation occur. FDNY’s trade dress, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, always brightens things up. The only times that the phrase “everything is going to be alright” escapes my lips is when FDNY shows up – they’re our army of municipal super heroes, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The darkness of winter gives the Vampire community of Western Queens vast regency. As opined in the past, the army of Strigoi shuns entry into Astoria due to vast numbers of South and Central European ethnicities resident hereabouts. My neighbor Mario prefers to use high visibility paint on his cruciform wards, because “safety first.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s down on the western section of the Sunnyside Yards that you really need to be carrying the garlic in LIC. The area is infested with the Nosferatu in the Hunters Point Avenue section nearby the LIRR. It’s a big part of the reasoning behind the stout fences protecting the 7 train as it rises from the tunneled depths. You probably don’t want to accept the fact, I know, but there you go.

Don’t get me started on the Witch Cult. Vampires are merely rabid dogs inhabiting the shadowed corners of our world, whereas the worshippers of Hecate and the Magna Mater are hidden amongst us and actively working… I’ve probably said too much already.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

local vicinity

with 4 comments

The manhole cover saga of Astoria, and Jimmy Van Bramer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When I’m out and about here in Astoria the neighbors will express their various problems to me and then ask me to call 311 for them, as they don’t want to get involved. It could be a basketball sized wasp’s nest hanging over their driveway, a busted street light, or just a funny smell coming from the sewer. Why the neighbors cannot grasp their tacit ownership of the environs of their own community is something which one such as myself cannot fathom. Admittedly – I’m the one who tears down stickers advertising “cash for junk cars” on Broadway, chases drunks around with a camera, and I’m the one who calls 911 when I find them passed out. Neighborhood crank, that’s me. The weirdo guy with the cute dog named Zuzu who talks to everybody.

It was one fine night in October, while escorting the aforementioned canine on her nightly rounds, that one encountered this defective access cover on the corner of 45th street and Broadway. Just this once, I decided, I wasn’t going to do anything at all and see if either one of the neighbors – or the literally hundreds of City vehicles that cross it daily – would make an attempt at getting it taken care of. This was back in October. The shot above is from December 7th, so as you see – I was let down once again.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One was paralyzed with a sort of fever on this December night. While the dog sniffed about at the base of a tree, I angrily watched city buses driving over the thing, causing it to spin like a dime in the broken rim of the pipe it covered. A motorcycle driver almost rolled into it, and then a FedEx truck making the left off of 45th street plunged a wheel into the hole, causing it to flip.

God damn all of you. 

I called 311, and told my tale to an operator whom I had to convince that Astoria was in Queens and not the Bronx. The operator decided it was a police emergency and forwarded it to the 114th pct (who called me some four and a half hours later, btw). Ultimately, the cops did nothing (and the situation persisted through November).

Fearing someone might actually get hurt waiting for the Gendarmes to arrive, I called my neighbor Mario (a construction guy) to grab a few safety cones from the basement and bring them over to the corner.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Suffice to say that Mario has an abundance of traffic safety devices primed for ready deployment, and he showed up with not just traffic cones but one of those barriers with a blinky thing attached to it. We arranged the safety devices about the broken manhole cover, and again this was the 7th of December. Fervently, one hoped for succor throughout the month, and that a crew from either DOT or DEP would show up and remedy things.

As mentioned in the past, I’m an optimist.

The shot above is from January 2nd of this year. 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the 3rd of January, I was again walking around with Zuzu the dog and noticed that the impromptu safety devices we had arranged about the hazard nearly a full month earlier had begun to scatter. Cursing my neighbors, the City of New York itself, and whatever malign powers there are which have regency over my life – a decision was made that I was going to be forced into exercising the nuclear option.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Elected officials are kind of a dice throw in Queens, where a single political party enjoys landslide elections and office holders are appropriately described as having been appointed rather than having won an election. In my section of Astoria, the dice have fallen propitiously, as our representative in the City Council is Jimmy Van Bramer.

I’m a big fan of Mr. Van Bramer, it should be mentioned, and several times in the past I’ve reached out to his office for assistance involving one quality of life issue or another. I’m also in regular contact with several of the local electeds (Newtown Creek stuff), and overall – Western Queens is ably served by our representatives on the subject of “Quality of Life” issues.

January 3rd was a Sunday, so I pulled the glass cover away from the big red button that must never be pushed on Newtown Pentacle HQ’s control panel, and called Team Van Bramer’s office on the 4th.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just the other day, Monday the 11th actually, while returning from the subway stop at 46th street to Newtown Pentacle HQ, the shot above was taken. A dangerous street condition first noticed in October, which was reported to 311 in December, and which persisted through the holidays to January – was fixed.

It’s for the saga of the Astoria manhole cover and many, many other reasons that Mr. Van Bramer and his team can expect my support, endorsement, and vote in the next election cycle. They can somehow work the levers on the juggernaut mechanism which is the City of Greater New York in expert fashion, and realize that to the citizens of our metropolis – it’s the little things which matter.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

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