The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Long Island Expressway

always susceptible

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In today’s post, a familiar path.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The triple lobed eye of that thing which cannot possibly exist at the cupola of the sapphire tower, a structure in Long Island City’s Court Square area often referred to as “The Megalith” at this – your Newtown Pentacle – must enjoy one heck of a view. Norse God Odin is meant to have sat upon a “hildskalf” or high seat from which he could see the entire world, he also had two ravens which were sort of like unmanned drones that he sent off on espionage missions.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I may have read too much popular literature of the Science Fiction genre, probably, but the notion of armed robots flying, swimming, and tunneling around the world makes me a bit more nervous than two magical ravens serving a one eyed god. Saying that, I for one welcome our new robot (or raven) overlords, and look forward to the glorious efficiencies they will bring. Also- just in case- Hail Ming. Pictured above, the gates of Calvary in late afternoon sun.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One feels as if he is in a bit of a rut at the moment, overly familiar with certain corridors connecting familiar destinations. Wanderlust is at the forefront of my ambitions, and I wonder what new frontier there might be out there which I’m not learning about. If you’re not actively learning something new, you’re actively dying inside. Unfortunately for me, I’ve been dead inside for a long time… can’t you smell it?

Upcoming Tours

Saturday- September 21, 2013
13 Steps Around Dutch Kills Walking Tour with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Saturday- September 28, 2013
Newtown Creek Boat Tour with the Working Harbor Committee- tickets on sale now.

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troubled jottings

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The scenes depicted in today’s shots actually didn’t actually look very much like these presented photo. In general, I screw around with every shot a little bit- push or pull the exposure and midpoints of dark and light, alter the color temperature to neutralize and compensate for sodium or fluorescent lights, drop an exposure gradient into a sky or on the water to compensate for glare. I’ll do the occasional tilt shift here and there, but largely strive for the ability to do it “in camera” more than anything else. Nothing major is altered, by “retoucher” standards, who would define such adjustments as merely “helping” the photo.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These photos, however, have had a whole bag of hammers thrown at them. One of the things I’m trying to eliminate from my mind these days is any fealty to the metaphor of film in creating a digital photograph. Even the term “photograph” is somewhat disingenuous as what these images actually “are” is a 23 megabyte computer file compiling the data captured by a sophisticated sensor. There is more information in the original file than is needed for reproduction, and the process of outputting the final image always involves a bit of photoshop editing work- deciding what to throw away, and that’s where the artsy fartsy stuff happens.

Losing this metaphor, the film one, leads one down the odd path of the so called “Uncanny Valley.” This term refers to a human perception bias which can instantaneously determine if something is artificially contrived, using CGI techniques to simulate a human face for instance. What I was “going for” in developing the shots as they are was a sort of old timey hand colored thing accomplished by a severely limited but quite saturated color range and an extremely high contrast regarding the black and white ratio. It’s a “formula” or “look” I’ve been asked to apply to other people’s files in my advertising life, by the way, usually for sports marketing stuff.

It beggars a certain question though- If it’s not a faithful rendition of the scene, a photograph by definition, what is it?

Also: Upcoming Tours!

Glittering Realms- Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

perils exhorted

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

It has been discussed so often here that it is depressing to actually bring it up again, but your humble narrator absolutely detests this time of the year. Miserable vulnerabilities to cold wreak havoc upon an already weakened constitution, and the diminished availability of light emanating from the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself during these months cause me nothing but misery and consternation. In short, I hate the winter, and it sort of figures that the world will cease to be on precisely the date when the winter solstice occurs and the days begin to grow longer.

Mayan Apocalypse Countdown: just 10 days left until the 13th b’ak’tun ends, initiating the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st. Tick, tock.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering about in the wastelands surrounding the Newtown Creek and its tributaries normally bring me a sort of solace, but of late, not so much. It is painful to know so much about a subject that you actually have no one to chat with about it. More and more, I think about my friend Bernie Ente, and his loss grows ever more profound. He is dearly missed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The good news is that the excess time I am cursed with is being put to some use. A schedule of 2013 tours and events is being hammered out and negotiated as you read this, and there are quite a few interesting things on the horizon. There will be two completely new Newtown Creek walking tours, as well as an updated “Magic Lantern” lecture and slideshow. Additionally, discussions about new opportunities out on the harbor are starting as well. Just have to make it through to the spring in one piece…

mold stained facades

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Only 14 days left until the 13th b’ak’tun ends, initiating the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st. Seeking to visit those places special to me- one last time- before the sun blinks, the heavens crash, and the earth splits- your humble narrator journeyed to the Empty Corridor in Long Island City. Empty Corridor, incidentally, is a term of my own invention- the rest of you know it as 50th avenue.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The feature rich terrain which surrounds the Newtown Creek and its industrial districts is often difficult to categorize without some sort of assigned nomenclature. The Creek itself…long time readers of this, your Newtown Pentacle, have grown accustomed to the appellations DUKBO (Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp), DUPBO (Pulaski), DUGABO (Greenpoint Avenue), even DUMABO (Metropolitan Avenue) to describe various sections using bridge crossings for reference. I’ve called a certain route through Greenpoint “The Poison Cauldron” and another that leads from Bushwick to Maspeth “The Insalubrious Valley”. There is a reason for this, beyond my personal amusement.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Simply put, the historic place names for these spots have fallen out of common memory. If I said, meet me in Arnheim or at Whites Dock near the Plank Road, how many would be able to reach these spots? In my educated estimation, knowing the various players and personalities of the local historical enthusiasts and area wags, approximately eleven people would have any idea what I was taking about. For a time, the nickname of DULIE (Down Under the Long Island Expressway) was considered for this spot, but that fits the eastward section of Borden Avenue a bit better, so “Empty Corridor” was assigned to it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There used to be lots of interesting things here, before Robert Moses rammed the steel viaduct and the midtown tunnel which feeds it through in 1939. There were warehouses that were fed by the freight lines of the Long Island Railroad, as well as a thriving manufacturing community. Nowadays, there are nothing but truck based businesses- UPS is the biggest of them. And cats. Lots of cats.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing you will notice as universal in these industrial backwaters is that ferals are everywhere. Cats, that is. These days, you don’t see packs of dogs roaming about. When your humble narrator was a boy, living in the hinterlands of flatlands and canarsie, it was not uncommon to see 10-20 dogs of dissimilar breeds roaming around. Some were escaped or abandoned pets, but most were the product of miscegenation and rough in appearance and demeanor. These days, Cats seem to be the dominant feral animal.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Another thing you’ll notice is that laborers in the neighborhood look after these creatures, creating shelters out of plastic crates and depositing large quantities of food. This, of course, provides fuel to the fire, and an unsustainable birth rate. There are only so many birds and rats that can be caught under normal circumstances, and without their tenders, life can get pretty grim for these kitties here in the Empty Corridor.

twisting willows

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- photo by Mitch Waxman, 2012

During this infirmity which has struck me down, a twisting gimlet of overstressed tissue in my lower back (for those of you who haven’t read my endless complaints about it in the last week), an amazing amount of time has been spent combing the vast Internet in search of amusement and diversion. While doing so, a few images at the New York City Municipal Archives provided me with some intellectual whimsy. The shot above is quite modern, captured a few days after Hurricane Sandy. It depicts the “Queens Midtown Highway” section of the Long Island Expressway.

- photo by nycma.lunaimaging.com, May 13, 1941

The historic shot from May 1941, above, is shot from a few hundred feet south of my vantage point. Unfortunately, the spot where that photographer stood is now obscured by both a chain link fence and a highway sign which blocks the historic view. Of particular note in the 1941 shot are the presence of private homes, rather than industrial buildings, along the northern side of the highway. Also, the blanket of vaporous exhaust visible in the air of Long Island City is of some interest.

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