The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘NY 11103

Project Firebox 60

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Perennial shadow is what it has dwelt in, surrounded on three sides by mammoth Astorian apartment blocks on 34th avenue at 45th street, for more than a half century. Regardless of the darkness, it stands eternal vigil, connecting a vulnerable corner to the grid via a tenuous sarabande of copper wire. Shine on, noble firebox, shine on.

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 23, 2013 at 12:37 am

perfect service

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- 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

dream existence

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Isolated from anything that truly matters, and vastly unprepared for that inevitable day when the lights go out and civilization collapses, your humble narrator nevertheless finds himself ruinously ill informed about things both ubiquitous and consequential.

Wandering about in a snow storm, wonderings about something as simple as road salt began to fill my mind as I watched it being flung around as a prophylactic against ice.

from wikipedia

Halite occurs in vast beds of sedimentary evaporite minerals that result from the drying up of enclosed lakes, playas, and seas. Salt beds may be hundreds of meters thick and underlie broad areas. In the United States and Canada extensive underground beds extend from the Appalachian basin of western New York through parts of Ontario and under much of the Michigan Basin. Other deposits are in Ohio, Kansas, New Mexico, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. The Khewra salt mine is a massive deposit of halite near Islamabad, Pakistan. In the United Kingdom there are three mines; the largest of these is at Winsford in Cheshire producing half a million tonnes on average in six months.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The side of me which hangs around Newtown Creek and the environmental crowd focuses on the effect that the saline rich waste water will have as it discharges from Combined Sewer Outfalls along the harbor into the already brackish waters of NY Harbor. Melt water, on a citywide basis, provides billions of gallons of wastewater which carry the tonnage of salt into the water- producing what is known as “salt shock.”

How many tons of dissolved salt does this water carry, and how does that affect both the physical geology of the harbor and the estuarine life contained within?

from saltinstitute.org

Will we run out of salt?

Never. Salt is the most common and readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world; it is so abundant, accurate estimates of salt reserves are unavailable. In the United States there are an estimated 55 trillion metric tons. Since the world uses 240 million tons of salt a year, U.S. reserves alone could sustain our needs for 100,000 years. And some of that usage is naturally recycled after use. The enormity of the Earth’s underground salt deposits, combined with the saline vastness of the Earth’s oceans makes the supply of salt inexhaustible.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the titan Atlantic Salt facility in Staten Island, one of many such bulk storage depots which stockpile the stuff for weather emergencies. Realization that I have no real idea what salt is (other than its purely chemical makeup), how it might be quarried, and what the difference is between table and road salt forced me to begin reading up on the subject.

A similar intellectual journey involving honey grasped me several years ago, it should be mentioned.

from wikipedia

Refined salt, which is most widely used presently, is mainly sodium chloride. Food grade salt accounts for only a small part of salt production in industrialized countries (3 percent in Europe) although worldwide, food uses account for 17.5 percent of salt production. The majority is sold for industrial use. Salt has great commercial value because it is a necessary ingredient in many manufacturing processes. A few common examples include: the production of pulp and paper, setting dyes in textiles and fabrics, and the making of soaps and detergents.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The question, for me, isn’t “how do you acquire salt?”.

It’s how do you acquire salt in industrial quantities? The honey question led me down a rabbit hole which exposed a complicated story of international trade, prehistoric industrial development, and the realities of how fragile the agricultural system actually is. Salt is another ancient industry, and was a substance worth more than its weight in gold during Roman times.

According to Roman Historian Pliny the Elder, the soldiers of the Republic were originally paid in salt, which is where the term “Salary” was coined (or Coine’d).

from wikipedia

Prior to the advent of the internal combustion engine and earth moving equipment, mining salt was one of the most expensive and dangerous of operations. While salt is now plentiful, before the Industrial Revolution salt was difficult to come by, and salt mining was often done by slave or prison labor. In ancient Rome, salt on the table was a mark of a rich patron (and those who sat nearer the host were above the salt, and those less favored were “below the salt”). Roman prisoners were given the task of salt mining, and life expectancy among those so sentenced was low. 

Also:

Remember that event in the fall which got cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy?

The “Up the Creek” Magic Lantern Show- presented by the Obscura Society NYC- is back on at Observatory, on February the 15th- ThisFriday.

Click here or the image below for more information and tickets.

lantern_bucket

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 12, 2013 at 12:15 am

cursed season

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

During the snow storm on Friday, Our Lady of the Pentacle indicated that she had become a bit peckish and desired a meal. Unfortunately for us, many of the restaurants here in Astoria had wisely shuttered their doors early.

Accordingly, we set off across the frozen waste to find acceptable comestibles. Naturally, one brought a camera along with him.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This will be a week of darkness explored, here at your Newtown Pentacle.

As mentioned in an earlier post, an effort to betray normal sensibility and habit is underway, one of which is to shoot during the optimal hours of diurnal light. Nocturnal Astoria was fairly deserted, at least by Astoria standards, and an eerie pall of quiet hung about the place- punctuated only by the sound of plows and salt spreaders and the occasional exhalations of Spaniard revelry.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Small groups picked their way through the snow, as an obscuring miasma of wind blown ice particles occluded vision. It was not particularly cold, oddly enough, just windy. Road salt lent an oddly oceanic scent to the air, which mingled with those foul humours rising up from the subterranean sewage tunnels underlying the street.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A fine icy powder as it fell, the snow hardly interfered with my lens, as it did not cling to the glass. In the end, it was the always reliable Politos Pizza on Broadway just off Steinway which satisfied the gastronomic urges of Our Lady and myself. An alcoholic drink was procured next door at the venerable Cronin and Phelan pub for dessert.

At only ten at night, the barkeep announced last call, an indication that the storm was growing worse- for if a NYC Irish bar is closing up early…

Also:

Remember that event in the fall which got cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy?

The “Up the Creek” Magic Lantern Show- presented by the Obscura Society NYC- is back on at Observatory, on February the 15th- This Friday.

Click here or the image below for more information and tickets.

lantern_bucket

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 11, 2013 at 12:15 am

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