The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for May 22nd, 2012

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recoiling from recent company and time spent amongst the Manhattan elites, your humble narrator retreats into one of his little hobbies, locating and attempting identification of the various hatches observed to be adorning the pavement while aimlessly wandering through the megalopolis.

Contact with the landed gentry and officialdom of that tarted up island on the Hudson often reminds one of the jiggling jowls, legendary flatuence, and debased self obsession of those outrageous and decadent baronial lords found in eighteenth century Germany- resulting in and causing class rage to bubble up within this kid from working class Brooklyn.


The Manhole Cover Lady maintains an air of mystery. She lives alone in a studio apartment, where her files and photographs — “highly organized,” she says — leave no room for pets. She declines to reveal her age, which is about 50, because she sees herself as “ageless.” She also does not want her borough of origin made public. “Just say I’m a native New Yorker,” she says.

But she makes no secret of her crusade to save the ancient manhole covers, coal-chute covers and vault covers that dapple the city surface by the hundreds of thousands, some of them still-active portals to the netherworld. She estimates that a good 10 percent of the 400 covers featured in her book — “Designs Underfoot: The Art of Manhole Covers in New York City” — have already been paved over or tossed away since its publication in April.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thin skinned, opinionated, and -by all accounts- at least half mad, I often react to stimuli in uncommon ways.

For example: having dinner at an otherwise elegant and top notch U.S. Parks lodge restaurant on the rim of the Grand Canyon with the long suffering “Our Lady of the Pentacle” a few years ago, the evenings entertainment drove me into similar turf. A quartet of Native American dancers were presented, including two children. Now, this was obviously a “show biz” family which was likely earning good coin for the gig, but I found the scenario of having these Indian kids dancing for a roomful of pale faced conquerors uncomfortable at best.

Frankly, the analogy that came to mind was that this was a minstrel show, or a bunch of Jewish kids dancing merrily to entertain the Nazis. As mentioned, my world is strangely colored, and filtered through a strange and often disturbingly dark glass.

from wikipedia

Hasty generalization is a logical fallacy of faulty generalization by reaching an inductive generalization based on insufficient evidence — essentially making a hasty conclusion without considering all of the variables. In statistics, it may involve basing broad conclusions regarding the statistics of a survey from a small sample group that fails to sufficiently represent an entire population. Its opposite fallacy is called slothful induction, or denying the logical conclusion of an inductive argument (e.g. “it was just a coincidence”).

Context is also relevant; in mathematics, the Pólya conjecture is true for numbers less than 906,150,257, but fails for this number. Assuming something to be true for all numbers when it has been shown for over 906 million cases would not generally be considered hasty, but in mathematics a statement remains a conjecture until it is shown to be universally true.

Hasty generalization can also be a basis for racist beliefs and prejudices, in which inferences regarding a large group is based upon knowledge of only a small sample size of that group.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, or logically, every inhabitant of the corridors of power wants to tell me what Newtown Creek is like- followed by their grandiose plans for it. They throw around buzzwords like sustainable, or “green”, peppering their conversation with dire prognostications about climate change and rising sea levels. Cocktail party environmentalists all, few of them have ever visited the watershed and would rather die than visit Queens, let alone Brooklyn.

To the elites of Manhattan, the population and geographic centers of New York City matter little, as long as whatever they flush or throw away disappears reliably down the drain.

from wikipedia

A cognitive bias describes a replicable pattern in perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality. They are the result of distortions in the human mind that always lead to the same pattern of poor judgment, often triggered by a particular situation. Identifying “poor judgment,” or more precisely, a “deviation in judgment,” requires a standard for comparison, i.e. “good judgment”. In scientific investigations of cognitive bias, the source of “good judgment” is that of people outside the situation hypothesized to cause the poor judgment, or, if possible, a set of independently verifiable facts. The existence of most of the particular cognitive biases listed below has been verified empirically in psychology experiments.

Cognitive biases are influenced by evolution and natural selection pressure. Some are presumably adaptive and beneficial, for example, because they lead to more effective actions in given contexts or enable faster decisions, when faster decisions are of greater value for reproductive success and survival. Others presumably result from a lack of appropriate mental mechanisms, i.e. a general fault in human brain structure, from the misapplication of a mechanism that is adaptive (beneficial) under different circumstances, or simply from noisy mental processes.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 22, 2012 at 12:15 am

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