The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 25th, 2010

a mediocre fellow

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fragile and mercurial in temperament, your humble narrator has been suffering from stormy weather of late. Sleep has been an elusive and foresworn luxury, and a season of tumult has settled over Newtown Pentacle HQ, here in the silken heart of Astoria. Seismic twistings of my little world are underway, again.

Always, I must remain, an Outsider.

from wikipedia

In Western philosophy, misanthropy is connected to isolation from human society. In Plato’s Phaedo, Socrates defines the misanthrope in relation to his fellow man: “Misanthropy develops when without art one puts complete trust in somebody thinking the man absolutely true and sound and reliable and then a little later discovers him to be bad and unreliable…and when it happens to someone often…he ends up…hating everyone.” Misanthropy, then, is presented as the result of thwarted expectations or even excess optimism, since Socrates argues that “art” would have allowed the potential misanthrope to recognize that the majority of men are to be found in between good and evil. Aristotle follows a more ontological route: the misanthrope, as an essentially solitary man, is not a man at all: he must be a beast or a god, a view reflected in the Renaissance of misanthropy as a “beast-like state.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Always desperate for praise and attention from relative strangers, your humble narrator has found himself walking in august company of late. In the last months, I’ve met (and in some cases actually touched) a Mayor, a Congressman, a Senator, several members of the City Council, 3 Borough Presidents, and a sampling of those third and fourth tier authorities who actually run New York City.

Heady stuff for one such as myself, and such experiences have been forcing me to question exactly which road I’m scuttling down these days. I’m not crowing about this, rather reeling from the experience, as I am neither right nor left- merely lukewarm.

from wikipedia

The industrial revolution produced a parallel revolution in political thought. Urbanization and capitalism greatly reshaped society. During this same period, the socialist movement began to form. In the mid-19th century, Marxism was developed, and socialism in general gained increasing popular support, mostly from the urban working class. Without breaking entirely from the past, Marx established the principles which would be used by the future revolutionaries of the 20th century namely Lenin, Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. Although Hegel’s philosophy of history is similar to Kant’s, and Marx’s theory of revolution towards the common good is partly based on Kant’s view of history, Marx is said to have declared that on the whole, he was just trying to straighten out Hegel who was actually upside down. Unlike Marx who believed in historical materialism, Hegel believed in the Phenomenology of Spirit.[18] Be that as it may, by the late 19th century, socialism and trade unions were established members of the political landscape. In addition, the various branches of anarchism, with thinkers such as Bakunin, Proudhon or Kropotkin, and syndicalism also gained some prominence. In the Anglo-American world, anti-imperialism and pluralism began gaining currency at the turn of the century.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Politics are a nasty business, one I have little interest in other than as a spectator sport.

I find myself pining for the empty streets of Long Island City, the canalized horrors of Newtown Creek, and the mysteries of Calvary. These places, and their stories, have become like old friends to me and I’m missing their company. The other night, engaged in conversation with a known and influential member of the national Republican party, I was told that my politics are far left. Just a week or two ago, the horror and shock exhibited by a group of so called leftists I was sharing a bottle with at a local bar, as I argued against a few meme based theories and “accepted truths”, was followed by accusations of my membership in some mythical Nazi party and fidelity to a debauched national mythology.


What can I say, other than that technology and progress is part of the answer, and not all of the problem.

from wikipedia

The terms “left” and “right” appeared during the French Revolution of 1789 when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. (The seating may have been influenced by the tradition of the English parliament, where the monarch’s ministers sit to the speaker’s right, while the opposition sit to his or her left.) One deputy, the Baron de Gauville explained, “We began to recognize each other: those who were loyal to religion and the king took up positions to the right of the chair so as to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the opposing camp”. However the Right opposed the seating arrangement because they believed that deputies should support private or general interests but should not form factions or political parties. The contemporary press occassionally used the terms “left” and “right” to refer to the opposing sides.

When the National Assembly was replaced in 1791 by a Legislative Assembly composed of entirely new members the divisions continued. “Innovators” sat on the left, “moderates” gathered in the center, while the “conscientous defenders of the constitution” found themselves sitting on the right, where the defenders of the ancien regime had previously gathered. When the succeeding National Convention met in 1792, the seating arrangement continued, but following the coup d’etat of June 2, 1793, and the arrest of the Girondins, the right side of the assembly was deserted, and any remaining members who had sat there moved to the center. However following the Thermidorian Reaction of 1794 the members of the far left were excluded and the method of seating was abolished. The new constitution included rules for the assembly that would “break up the party groups”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s funny the way that the culture has fractured, around outdated 19th century descriptors like republic, capitalism, or socialism, or even the “nation state“. The whole notion of right and left is a relict of earlier times, and the ideation of the New York megalopolis being confined to its legal borders is ridiculous. Our local economy, even in its current state, is greater than that of most countries. Somehow though, everybody seems to be parroting the same lines on the left- and the right has fractured into a million little pieces. Everyone is pissed off, all the time, and ready for battle…

from wikipedia

The economy of New York City is the largest regional economy in the United States and the second largest city economy in the world after Tokyo.  Along with London, New York City is the leading financial center of the world and a premier headquarters location for leading global financial services companies. New York is distinctive for its high concentrations of advanced service sector firms in fields such as law, accountancy, banking and management consultancy.

The financial, insurance, health care, and real estate industries form the basis of New York’s economy. The city is also the most important center for mass media, journalism and publishing in the United States, and is the preeminent arts center in the country. Creative industries such as new media, advertising, fashion, design and architecture account for a growing share of employment, with New York City possessing a strong competitive advantage in these industries. Manufacturing, although declining, remains consequential.

The New York Stock Exchange is by far the largest stock exchange in the world by market capitalization of listed companies. The NASDAQ electronic exchange has the most companies listed and is third largest in the world by market capitalization of listed companies.

The New York metropolitan area had an estimated gross metropolitan product of $1.13 trillion in 2005, the largest regional economy in the United States. The city’s economy accounts for the majority of the economic activity in the states of New York and New Jersey.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Meanwhile, that omniscient thing- which neither sleeps nor breathes nor lives but eternal hungers- looks down from the megalith, amused by the ants.

Musings about the politicians and the philosophies of the bosses stop here, though, on the street…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

…where the wise asses are and the tyranny of “the real” begins. It is going to be a hot summer, I think, the sort of season we haven’t seen since the 1970’s in New York.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 25, 2010 at 10:05 am

Who can guess…

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hatches abound in the Newtown Pentacle, dimly lit tunnels to another world. On the surface- logo, design, manufacturers marks- all indicate the existence of former incarnations of the City. The BSBQ identifier on the one above means that it was installed by the Bureau of Sewers, Borough of Queens, and I saw it in ancient Maspeth.

an incomplete list from wikipedia

This is a list of manhole cover markings found in New York City.

  • Bell System
  • BMT = Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation
  • BRT = Brooklyn Rapid Transit
  • BSBQ = Bureau of Sewers, Borough of Queens
  • CT&ES Co. = Consolidated Telegraph & Electrical Subway Company
  • ConEdison = Consolidated Edison
  • Con Edison Co. = Consolidated Edison
  • ECS Co. LIM = Empire City Subway Company Limited
  • EDISON = Edison
  • GAS = Brooklyn Union Gas
  • IRT = Interborough Rapid Transit
  • LIC = Long Island City
  • NYM = New York Municipal Railway
  • QMT = Queens Midtown Tunnel
  • RTS = Rapid Transit System
  • NY&QEL&PCo = New York & Queens Electric Light & Power Company
  • BPM = Manhattan Borough Monument

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the lid of a coal chute, found on Broadway in Astoria. A near identical model was shot by Kschlot1 at flickr, check it out. This kind of relict is actually the origin of one the mottos here at Newtown Pentacle- Who can guess, what else there may be, that might be buried down there?


The Knickerbocker sewer is a 12-foot wide intestinal tract that runs beneath the streets of Brooklyn. Flashlight beams falter at 50 feet against the tunnel’s swirling vapors. Wading knee-deep through the bacterial wash, it’s difficult not to imagine what, exactly, constitutes the inches of silt between the sole of one’s rubber boot and the sewer floor. It is here, where the city breathes and belches, where Steve feels most at home.

As he wades upstream one winter night, he runs his hand along the sewer’s red masonry walls, a 120-year-old vestige of a time when New York was a city built in brick. Duncan is wearing hip-high rubber boots, a headlamp and a respirator to protect him from the fumes. He also brought his tripod, a camera bag and Shane Perez, a 26-year-old photographer with a mohawk, whose personal interest in urban exploration centers on shooting nude women in abandoned industrial plants.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Commonly referred to as manhole covers by everyday New Yorkers, these iron plates can serve as guideposts to the hidden underworld and occluded past. Often, wonderings of this underground system and all that which might dwell in the sunless depths below our great human hive spark moments of terror in your humble narrator. This one is from Ridgewood, incidentally.


For decades, city workers and contractors who want to make any change to New York’s vast water and sewer networks have had to retrieve browning maps, drawn by draftsmen and stored away in each borough hall and the department offices in Queens. To help them find the sewer and water main maps — some dating back to the Civil War — city clerks have had to consult indexes, created by each borough before the city was unified in 1898. The maps were cataloged on 3-by-5-inch cards.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 25, 2010 at 5:05 am

Posted in Photowalks, Pickman

Tagged with , ,

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