The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan

worried faces

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Would it kill you to smile?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

While riding the Subway in New York City, observation of the interesting social behaviors exhibited by the citizenry entertains. There are those who present the “pfft, ain’t no thing” and those who present the “what the hell are you looking at” and also present are the “please, for gods sake, do not notice me” lean. Others pretend to sleep, or stare blankly at the floor (that’s the one which I favor), while a small group of extroverts feel the need to shout and otherwise draw attention unto themselves. Then there’s the buskers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There are Mariachi’s, young couples who perpetrate the “gypsy baby” scam, those three kids who dance and perform acrobatics. Worst of all are the religious zealots, whose clumsy attempts at evangelism are enough to drive one into the arms of Satan itself. Skillfully ignoring these buskers and con artists, or not, is what separates the true New Yorker from the tourist. The tourists are the worst, of course, breaking all of the unspoken rules of subway etiquette which “regular” riders subconsciously obey and enforce. Nobody smiles, the MTA has a rule against that.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My camera is always at the ready whenever entering these concrete bunkers with their pungent atmospheres, and one of the odd things I’ve noticed in recent years is the reaction some have upon seeing the device. Lens cap on and power switch off, they will stare at the camera in the manner one would watch the countdown clock on a bomb. I don’t understand this. Humans, they’re weird, and need to smile more often.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

soared lonely

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Deep thought in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is being written while waiting for representatives of America’s very worst corporation, Time Warner Cable, to show up. This particular drama, one which has been intermittently causing late or missed postings at this and other blogs throughout 2014 and part of 2013, crystallizes the horrors of allowing a services company de facto monopoly status with zero municipal oversight. If ever there was a company’s which needed “looking into” by regulatory agencies, Time Warner Cable is it.

from wikipedia

Self-ownership (or sovereignty of the individual, individual sovereignty or individual autonomy) is the concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity, and be the exclusive controller of his own body and life. According to G. A. Cohen, the concept of self-ownership is that “each person enjoys, over himself and his powers, full and exclusive rights of control and use, and therefore owes no service or product to anyone else that he has not contracted to supply.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Under the rule of the Little Big Mayor, companies such as this were allowed a somewhat free hand in their operations with little municipal oversight. Remember the Astoria black out of 2006, when ConEd was allowed a pass for not getting the lights back on for an entire week by the former Mayor? That was standard operating procedure for better than a decade, hopefully under the new Big Little Mayor, things will be different – but I’m not that hopeful about it. This is about Internet service, by the way, not TV.

from wikipedia

Existentialism is a term applied to the work of certain late 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude”, or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Many existentialists have also regarded traditional systematic or academic philosophies, in both style and content, as too abstract and remote from concrete human experience.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Intermittent is how you’d describe the problems affecting my service. It’s what I told them on the phone. They sent a guy out to replace the cable modem. Problem continues. They send out a higher level tech, who says that the problem isn’t with the box. They send out a line guy. The line guy tells me that the problem isn’t on the pole, rather its the wires itself that are faulty. Today, as this is being written, I’m waiting for the wire guy.

Comcast, do you understand what kind of a turd you’ve bought?

from wikipedia

In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between (a) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (b) the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean “logically impossible”, but rather “humanly impossible”. The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously. Absurdism, therefore, is a philosophical school of thought stating that the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning will ultimately fail (and hence are absurd) because the sheer amount of information as well as the vast realm of the unknown make certainty impossible. And yet, some absurdists state that one should embrace the absurd condition of humankind while conversely continuing to explore and search for meaning.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm

wildest speculations

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In today’s post – it’s the Goyem.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Last year, I got to photograph the Irish Language Mass at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral on Mulberry street in Manhattan, as described in this post from march of 2013.

Opportunity to capture this year’s event presented itself, so I got on the train from raven tressed Astoria to the Shining City and headed over to the House of Dagger John.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This time around, your humble narrator decided to move the camera about a bit more, while still attempting to document the mass itself. As mentioned in the past, one is captivated by the pageantry of the Roman Catholic practice, despite having been raised in the Jewish tradition.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A bit of attention was paid to swapping around my lenses this time around, which runs counter to my normal practice of choosing an “omnivore” lens with which I handle an entire event. Normally, these days, I’m using my Sigma 18-35 or Canon 24-105 for most everything. I’ve got a Canon 70-300 which is somewhat unreliable, but it found its way onto the camera as well during this event.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The issue with the 70-300, a “consumer” level zoom lens, is that I find it to be a bit soft and prone to “back focusing” in the focus department. Its an intermittent thing, mind you. I’ll pop out three exposures and the one in the middle is sharp while the two surrounding it are soft. This sort of unreliability causes me to use it less and less, as photography is all about freezing a moment and there are no “do overs.” I’ve got my eye on a lens I want, but it’s going to take a LOT of summer walking tour revenue to pay for it.

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frigid and impersonal

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Gotham City, or Metropolis?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

First, Happy Regifugium.

NYC – barely recognize the place these days, although I’ve watched it all happening, the Shining City has started looking like Metropolis of late – but we ain’t got no Superman. Accordingly, one would presume to be the first person, perhaps in decades, to offer and advance a suggestion that we just get it over with and build a dome over the city. We all know that this will happen eventually. We’ve always known, deep inside.

Imagine, that we are destined to gambol and labor within a vast and transparent geodesic dome spanning all five boroughs (and the Hudson riverfront of New Jersey). We could build very tall around the center, and project ads on it at night. It would pretty much let us laugh at floods from within the fishbowl, and everybody’s friends at the NYC DEP could be responsible for air freshness and circulation (and billing). That would be swell.

Also, if we used to be Gotham, then where’s the other guy?

from wikipedia

In ancient Roman religion, Regifugium or Fugalia (“King’s Flight”) was an annual observance that took place every February 24. The Romans themselves offer varying views on the meaning of the day. According to Varro and Ovid, the festival commemorated the flight of the last king of Rome, Tarquinius Superbus, in 510 BC. Plutarch, however, explains it as the symbolic departure of the priest with the title rex sacrorum.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Secondly, Happy Dragobete.

Of course, rain and weather issues would be a thing of the past under the dome, but sky graffiti would likely become a huge issue. The sunset would likely illuminate a “REVS” tag before long. One surmises that poorer sections of the City would receive fair shares of air circulation and as clean a patch of dome as Manhattan’s Financial District or Central Park would get but we all know how things really work in this town, with or without a theoretical yet definitively hemispherical enclosure. If there’s a dome over new York City, Far Rockaway’s section of the Euclidean shield will have a crack in it.

The scorched reality found, as the path of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself tracks across the sky in seasonally appropriate positions and passes over the curved reflective surface of the dome – any damage which might be visited upon neighboring counties by the intense heat and radiance could be considered an unfortunate consequence suffered by an outside few for for the greater good of the many inside. Just like the way that the water system was built.

Also, terrorism.

from wikipedia

Dragobete is a traditional Romanian holiday originating from Dacian times and celebrated on February, the 24th. Specifically, Dragobete was the son of Baba Dochia, which stands for the main character in the pagan myth related to spring arrival and the end of the harsh winter.

The day is particularly known as “the day when the birds are betrothed”. It is around this time that the birds begin to build their nests and mate. On this day, considered locally the first day of spring, boys and girls gather vernal flowers and sing together. Maidens used to collect the snow that still lies on the ground in many villages and then melt it, using the water in magic potions throughout the rest of the year. Those who take part in Dragobete customs are supposed to be protected from illness, especially fevers, for the rest of the year. If the weather allows, girls and boys pick snowdrops or other early spring plants for the person they are courting. In Romania, Dragobete is known as a day for lovers, rather like Valentine’s Day.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Political or business insiders would achieve a new cache from the descriptor in this dream of a humble narrator. As a child, comic books coupled with speculative fiction stories filled his mind with images of domed cities and other marvels of the world that was to come. These domed cities were populated by a group of athletic people who wore stretchy superhero style clothes and used handheld computers. They ate artificial food, had remote control robot armies fight for them, and they lived in cities which had both movable sidewalks AND jet packs for longer distance travel. We’ve got all of that already except for the Dome and the Jet packs… I think Metropolis has Jet Packs, in Gotham you swing from a rope.

Also, it’s August Derleth’s birthday.

from wikipedia

August William Derleth (February 24, 1909 – July 4, 1971) was an American writer and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first publisher of the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos genre of horror, as well as his founding of the publisher Arkham House (which did much to bring supernatural fiction into print in hardcover in the US that had only been readily available in the UK), Derleth was a leading American regional writer of his day, as well as prolific in several other genres, including historical fiction, poetry, detective fiction, science fiction, and biography.

A 1938 Guggenheim Fellow, Derleth considered his most serious work to be the ambitious Sac Prairie Saga, a series of fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction naturalist works designed to memorialize life in the Wisconsin he knew. Derleth can also be considered a pioneering naturalist and conservationist in his writing.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 24, 2014 at 9:30 am

inscribed thereon

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A visit with the god of America.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Brazen and gilt, this representation of the American Augustus is appropriately found at the N.Y. Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons on 23rd street in Mahattan. It adorns a library room, and honors a significant member of that centuried secret society.

The founder of our nation, as General Washington is known, enjoyed a lifestyle that could only be maintained by a subjugate army of slaves. I’d like to believe that he would be resistant to having his birthday celebrated with a crass and consumerist bacchanal, as he’d be embarrassed by it – but as I’m a non-slaver, it’s difficult for me to imagine the mindset of the “founding fathers” and walk a mile in their proverbial moccasins.

from wikipedia

Titled Washington’s Birthday, the federal holiday was originally implemented by the United States Congress in 1880 for government offices in the District of Columbia (20 Stat. 277) and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices (23 Stat. 516). As the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, the holiday was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. On 1 January 1971, the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This date places it between February 15 and 21, which makes the name “Washington’s Birthday” a misnomer, since it never lands on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. A draft of the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968 would have renamed the holiday to Presidents’ Day to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln, but this proposal failed in committee and the bill as voted on and signed into law on 28 June 1968, kept the name Washington’s Birthday.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The General died badly, but everybody does that, and one such as myself doesn’t shed tears for a dead slave master even if they did accomplish a lot at their day jobs. Unfortunately, for a fellow so immersed in the “Enlightenment” and who was very much a rationalist and a logician – he thought the answer to illness was exsanguination (which was how his slaves were “cured” of ailments as well). His doctors bled him to death, but the holiday today is about his birth, not his death. This compound holiday (Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays are celebrated coterminously) was offered to the nation, as of 1968, as it was determined that there were too many Monday holidays in February and it was getting in the way of business. I’ve often thought we should celebrate a Monday holiday which specifically mentions the subjugation and forced generational labor of millions, but there you go.

from wikipedia

On Thursday, December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his plantation on horseback, in snow, hail, and freezing rain—later that evening eating his supper without changing from his wet clothes.

That Friday he awoke with a severe sore throat and became increasingly hoarse as the day progressed, yet still rode out in the heavy snow, marking trees on the estate that he wanted cut. Sometime around 3 a.m. that Saturday, he suddenly awoke with severe difficulty breathing and almost completely unable to speak or swallow. A firm believer in bloodletting, a standard medical practice of that era which he had used to treat various ailments of enslaved Africans on his plantation, he ordered estate overseer Albin Rawlins to remove half a pint of his blood.

A total of three physicians were sent for, including Washington’s personal physician Dr. James Craik along with Dr. Gustavus Brown and Dr. Elisha Dick. Craik and Brown thought that Washington had what they diagnosed as “quinsey” or “quincy”, while Dick, the younger man, thought the condition was more serious or a “violent inflammation of the throat”. By the time the three physicians had finished their treatments and bloodletting of the President, there had been a massive volume of blood loss—half or more of his total blood content being removed over the course of just a few hours.

Recognizing that the bloodletting and other treatments were failing, Dr. Dick proposed performing an emergency tracheotomy, a procedure that few American physicians were familiar with at the time, as a last-ditch effort to save Washington’s life; but the other two doctors rejected this proposal.

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my little fantasies is the one where I magically pluck General Washington from the back of his horse and draw him into our future to witness that which has been wrought in his name. He gets introduced to the imperial majesty of present day America in this fugue of mine, and witnesses not just the modern military might but the relative luxury (compared to his era) and civil treatment that even the basest members of our society can and do expect. I suspect that the General would be shocked at the size and reach of a standing military which operates out of 900 military bases in 150 countries. I don’t think he’d be surprised that the slaves had been freed and offered citizenship, nor the lousy treatment they’d received. More shocking to him would be the relative importance and status of France and almighty England, which were the Americas of their time.

Of course, that was before an American God came along who did the work of the Great Architect of the Universe.

from wikipedia

Washington was initiated into Freemasonry in 1752. He had a high regard for the Masonic Order and often praised it, but he seldom attended lodge meetings. He was attracted by the movement’s dedication to the Enlightenment principles of rationality, reason and fraternalism; the American lodges did not share the anti-clerical perspective that made the European lodges so controversial. In 1777, a convention of Virginia lodges recommended Washington to be the Grand Master of the newly established Grand Lodge of Virginia; however, Washington declined, due to his necessity to lead the Continental Army at a critical stage, and because he had never been installed as Master or Warden of a lodge, he did not consider it Masonically legal to serve as Grand Master. In 1788, Washington, with his personal consent, was named Master in the Virginia charter of Alexandria Lodge No. 22.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2014 at 11:15 am

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