The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘night

heard messages

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It’s dark and cold, and I can’t feel my feet any more.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Another Newtown Creek meeting drew me in recently, this time it was the Newtown Creek CAG. CAG stands for Community Advisory Group, and its role is mandated as part of the Superfund process. The EPA was there to discuss and disseminate some early data, which they stressed as being raw and entirely uninterpreted. This is an important distinction for we non scientists to understand, as they distributed disc copies of these early findings to several of us that asked, since a lot of the terms and subjects discussed by these documents can be a little off putting. The presence of arsenic in 100% of sampled sediment may not be something to worry about, after all, as arsenic is actually in 100% of the apples you’ve eaten over the course of your lifetime- its naturally occurring, just like in roses (my analogy, not EPA’s). It’s the “levels of” and “concentrations of” you need to worry about.

from wikipedia

The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements. Cognitive dissonance is the distressing mental state that people feel when they “find themselves doing things that don’t fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.” A key assumption is that people want their expectations to meet reality, creating a sense of control. Likewise, another assumption is that a person will avoid situations or information sources that give rise to feelings of uneasiness, or dissonance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The EPA data reports are highly technical, and richly illustrated with thousands of photos describing the process of sediment, atmospheric, and water sampling. Materials collected from Newtown Creek are sent to the laboratories of Federal contractors and other specialists, whereupon arcane tests, dilutions, and dissections are performed upon it. The raw data, which was collected during the last couple of years, presents the need for further investigations (which EPA indicates will be commencing in the coming year). The data is housed on 5 DVD’s and as mentioned- is completely uninterpreted. Your humble narrator has just begun to scratch through it, but so far nothing has jumped out at me, other than a vague sort of dread. You really wouldn’t want to swim in English or Dutch Kills, it would seem, and an amazing variety of worms were found living in the sediment layers- some of whom are not native to NY waters and hail from the overseas.

from wikipedia

Affective forecasting can be divided into four components: predictions about emotional valence (i.e. positive or negative), the specific emotions experienced, their duration, and their intensity. While errors may occur in all four components, research overwhelmingly indicates that the two areas most prone to bias, usually in the form of overestimation, are duration and intensity. Immune neglect is a form of impact bias in response to negative events whereby people fail to predict how much their psychological immune system will hasten their recovery. On average, people are fairly accurate about predicting which emotions they will feel in response to future events. However, some studies indicate that predicting specific emotions in response to more complex social events leads to greater inaccuracy. For example, one study found that while many women who imagine encountering gender harassment predict feelings of anger, in reality, a much higher proportion report feelings of fear. Other research suggests that accuracy in affective forecasting is greater for positive affect than negative affect, suggesting an overall tendency to overreact to perceived negative events.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The CAG is a good group, a sort of congress for those of us whom the Newtown Creek has claimed. The Newtown Creek Alliance is well represented, as is Riverkeeper, NCMC, the local elected officials, corporate and Business Improvement District associations, and the so called “Responsible Parties.”

These “Responsible Parties” are those corporate entities who have entered into an agreement with EPA which names them as culpable for the environmental issues that drew the Federal agency’s notice in the first place, and which binds the various corporations named so into financially and materially supporting the clean up process and its monumental cost. EPA acts independently, but the CAG exists to alert EPA to the unexpected or tangential results of the Superfund process and creates a point of access to its managers. It’s as complicated a set of relationships as you can get, I suppose, the sort of thing a person like me avoids like the plague- but at least I get to be around people.

The meetings are public, you know!

from wikipedia

The term fallacy is often used generally to mean an argument that is problematic for any reason, whether it is formal or informal.

The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument’s premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument, but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Interesting things reveal themselves occasionally. Something which came up last year at a CAG meeting, for instance, was that business owners around the Maspeth Creek area were having a difficult time securing long term credit due to trepeditious inclinations displayed by the banking community toward lending to clients with unknown environmental liabilities. Another was that there’s a strata of discarded metro cards lodged in the sediment. When I get through the stack of discs, I’ll let y’all know what I think I see, but we will all have to wait for the interpretation which will be offered by someone else who is smart enough to actually understand it. Addled, my aging mind can barely comprehend the meaning of these dancing columns of numbers, nor the multitudinously cryptic scatter graphs, and photos of those dark things which slither and flop through the Black Mayonnaise.

from wikipedia

In science, cognition is a group of mental processes that includes the attention of working memory, producing and comprehending language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Various disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy and linguistics all study cognition. However, the term’s usage varies across disciplines; for example, in psychology and cognitive science, “cognition” usually refers to an information processing view of an individual’s psychological functions. It is also used in a branch of social psychology called social cognition to explain attitudes, attribution, and groups dynamics. In cognitive psychology and cognitive engineering, cognition is typically assumed to be information processing in a participant’s or operator’s mind or brain.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

shadowy colloquy

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Sometimes I fear that I will fail to feel Atychiphobic.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Failure is indeed something to fear, despite the platitudes offered by scout masters, clerics, and well meaning friends. There is nothing an American hates more than not succeeding. Winning is the name of our game, with contest winners and touchdown champions awarded the greatest of mass accolades. Think of poor old Mitt Romney, and I’ll bet it’s the first time you’ve thought of that loser since November of 2012. The only thing I’m more afraid of than failing, I think, is the idea of actually succeeding at something.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Should signs of success appear on the horizon, it is part of my nature to undermine and thwart its happy arrival. Perhaps it’s actually a fear of success which holds me back from living a life of deep meaning leading to a realization of some mythical “potential” that some have prophesied for me. It isn’t heredity, genetics, brain chemistry, or life experience that cordoned off the winners circle for me, though- instead it’s fate. Losing is a comfortable and well known experience, and I’m all about embracing the “known” rather than the undiscovered. Show me my foot, and I shall shoot it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Amongst the multitudinous things I fail to fear while submerged in my fits of Atychiphobia are a failure to anticipate, the failure to perceive, and inability to carry out a task properly and within specifications. I’m terrified of being considered generally undesirable or professionally unsuccessful, even though Murphy’s Law is the only jurisprudence which one such as myself can acknowledge or reminisce about. Cursed, I tell you, this humble narrator was born under the influence of a ill omen, which is probably all I deserve anyway, for if tales of reincarnation are true – one shudders to think what this soul did in its last mortal guise. Into the darkness, like a leaf blown upon indifferent winds, and always an Outsider – go I.

Upcoming Tours

Saturday – October 19, 2013
The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek with Atlas Obscura- tickets on sale now.

Sunday- October 20th, 2013
The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek with Brooklyn Brainery- tickets on sale now.

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tunnel under

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Today’s post depicts twilit scenery in Western Queens.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my winter projects continues, which is called by the ineluctably unimaginative name “operation: night shooting.” The goal of this exercise is to practice low light photography techniques which forbids the usage of camera stabilization equipment such as tripods or clamps. The obvious instructions to increase ISO sensitivity and aperture are just the start of the operation, which has necessitated a change in both shooting posture and approach to handling the camera as compared to normal daylight conditions.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The shots are pretty noisy for my taste, but color contrast and a decent tonal range are present, so I think that the right track has been found. Not bad for something hand held, however. Ultimately, the shot above isn’t something I could have pulled off a year ago, so some small victory is apparent.

Yay for me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It isn’t necessarily the “capture” that plagues me, of course, that’s just the small details and formulae of the dross settings on a dslr. Instead, it’s the time spent with the “raw file(aka “digital negative”) in front of my monitor back at HQ that matters most.

“Operation: night shooting” continues apace, I’ll let you know what I get in the future.

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Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

ecstasies and horrors

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Peculiar shapes framing the opalescent moon- no doubt due to a dynamic weather system, rather than some external force, intelligence, or madness inducing entity of supra normal scope which can exist only in the imaginings of a madman- caught my attention while returning to Astoria from the hoary lanes of Greenpoint. It seems sometimes that one spends most of his time occupied in perambulating between the two communities and those happy neighborhoods which adjoin the two.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Trying to ignore the shining parallelogram of clouds which lent our world’s largest satellite a menacing cast, your humble narrator elected to continue working on the whole “night photography” thing, and began fumbling about with camera settings and nervously whispering to myself. Skillman Avenue, normally a well traveled and busy thoroughfare in Western Queens which adjoins the Sunnyside Rail Yard, is a ghost town at night, although there is a feeling of being watched.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I was not being paranoid either, as dozens of security cameras actually were watching me. Whether someone is ultimately watching the camera feed is another matter, of course, but the machines notice all things. They especially notice a weirdo in a black raincoat waving a camera around in near total darkness. Such thinking kept my mind off the menace of the lunar threat, and the curious way that the parallelogram in the sky unsettled me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One supposes that he is just too fragile for this world, a stunted flower straining out from the cracks which mar a post industrial field of pavement. Perhaps it is fated that I follow my ancestors into convalescence and begin the search for an institution of charitable design which might house and insulate me from the terrible possibilities which lurk at the edge of sanity- for if one finds himself a selenophobic, may he not be accused of being a lunatic?

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 6, 2013 at 12:15 am

perfect service

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent malfunction in one of the many Con Ed street pits here in blessed Astoria drew the somewhat swift response of service crews. It was only three days before they arrived at the spot where vaporous exhalations from the street had spewed, and they quickly set up for their task. Before long, a series of intense blue white flashes and a sound best described as “popping” sent them back into their service vehicle. They were summoning additional help.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A truck arrived, which had some sort of suction hose on it. The truck was very noisy, reminding one of the sound which might be made by a congress of baboons all vacuuming at the same time. The Con Ed employee was not actually a speedster whose movements were reminiscent of the Flash character of DC Comics fame, instead these are timed exposures which allowed the shutter to stay open for some 15 seconds. I know its difficult to accept that these guys actually move this much in 15 seconds, given the reputation of Union Labor in quasi municipal employ, but there you go.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One prefers instead to believe that the Flash, and other meta human beings, would find easy employment in the municipal services which keep New York City’s fuse from burning away. In my estimate, the City at any given moment in only half an hour from total collapse. We live amongst a series of highly volatile dominoes kept from detonation only by the constant maintenance and tinkering of an army of labor. Somewhere in the Bronx just now, a Union guy casually tightened a screw whose failure would have otherwise unleashed the beast of Armageddon, while in Staten Island- a frayed strand of wire threatens the entire municipality with unthinkably dire and entirely existential implications.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 20, 2013 at 12:15 am

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