The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for January 2014

strenuous activity

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Liberté.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just a short one today depicting the giant pile of copper and copper and steel which has been arranged, in NY Harbor, into a 111 feet and six inches tall simulacra of a french woman. Her nose is 4.5 feet long, and she has a 35 foot waistline, just in case you were wondering.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 31, 2014 at 11:27 am

not utter

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Curious marking, everywhere.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While wandering through the megalopolis, one is exposed to a constant barrage of information. Bill board, signage, even the streets have instructions and a complex code of symbols that instruct and inform. It is impossible, for the literate, to not translate these graphical representations of words directly into thought. You can’t “not” read something, if you can – in fact – read. It would be like ignoring a smell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing is though, and I’ve mentioned environmental adaptation before (in reference to the fact that I don’t really smell Newtown Creek or the sewer plant in Greenpoint anymore), unless something painted or posted to the wall is truly extraordinary, I can’t distinguish it out from the rest of the visual clutter. The way I see it is that even if only a letter or two of a word triggers recognition (that’s an “A” and that’s a “B”) in me, the graffiti person has won. Same thing goes for advertising, I guess. Either way, I don’t like being forced into thinking. That’s the direction in which trouble lies, when one begins to think.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is currently occupying a sidewalk here in Astoria, and a Brazilian fellow walking a strange dog told me that the word is Portuguese and translates as “corruption”. It really stands out, as no one else has written anything on any nearby sidewalks, or in front of other houses. My Brazilian friend shrugged his shoulders, and sauntered off with his odd pet. Also, I must compliment the handwriting on this graffito, and would love to own a font which follows its esthetic.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 30, 2014 at 7:30 am

only memories

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“Remember me when I’m gone” is what everyone is really asking the rest of us to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mt. Zion Cemetery over in ancient Maspeth has been discussed at some length at this blog, nearly 5 years ago – and yes, Newtown Pentacle has been in existence for nearly 5 years now.

Check out Mt. Zion 1 – imps of the perverse“, “Mt Zion 2- Palaces of Light“, “Mt Zion 3- threading precipitous lanes“, “Mt Zion 4- A Lurid Shimmering of Pale Light“, “Mt Zion 5- Sunken Houses of Sleep“, and “Mt Zion 6- Crystal Oblivion” for nearly everything I’d been able to scry about the place back in 2009. 2012’s “traitorous somnolence” explores the evidence left behind by certain peasant magicians at the polyandrion’s fence lines, which is worth a look.

Further research on the place – and the enigmatic Rudari tribe that once occupied the land here – however, has birthed a postulate in my mind that the so called Maspeth Gypsies are a lost civilization.

from wikipedia

Tambora is a lost village and culture on Sumbawa Island buried by ash and pyroclastic flows from the massive 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora. The village had about 10,000 residents. Scientists unearthing the site have discovered ceramic pots, bronze bowls, glass bottles, and homes and villagers buried by ash in a manner similar to that of Pompeii. Scientists believe the customs and language of the culture were wiped out. The culture was visited by western explorers shortly before its demise. They are believed to have traded with Indochina, as their pottery resembles that found in Vietnam.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are several small communities with decidedly non mainstream cultures, ones which set out into the wooded interior of North America in the decades prior to the Civil War, that have either disappeared from the map or been absorbed into the national culture. Appalachian Hillbillies, the Shakers, the Maspeth Gypsies – all have become “civilized” and subsumed into the larger body politic. Rumor and half truths abound – suggesting that there were many, many more lost tribes of man on this continent than are commonly accepted, when the European Rationalists began to colonize the place.

from csicop.org

In one subset of the lost-civilization genre of pseudohistory, the lost civilization is not a previously unknown group of people residing in the clichéd “dim mists of time” but instead an otherwise well-known ancient society that is remarkable primarily as a result of its geography, not for its precocious level of technological sophistication. Even restricting ourselves to just North America, the list of such claims is long—though evidence is short—and includes: Celtic kingdoms in the northeastern United States thousands of years ago (Fell 1976); Coptic Christian settlements in ancient Michigan (based on the so-called Michigan Relics) (Halsey 2009); Roman Jews in Arizona (the Tucson Artifacts) (Burgess 2009); the Lost Tribes of Israel in Ohio (the Newark Holy Stones) (Lepper and Gill 2000); and strange mixtures of various ancient Old World peoples secreted in hideouts in the Grand Canyon in Arizona (“Explorations in Grand Canyon” 1909) and in a cave in southeastern Illinois (Burrows Cave) (Joltes 2003). These claims are predicated essentially on the same notion: ancient Europeans, Africans, or Asians came to the Americas long before Columbus and long—perhaps thousands of years—before the Norse; they settled here and had a huge impact on the native people but then somehow became lost, both to history and to historians.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Permanence is something which nearly every band of humans strives to achieve, and even those who are philosophically opposed to the concept – like Buddhists – nevertheless built colossal statuary and temples of stone to mark their tenancy in Asia and around the Pacific rim. The New York City way of commemorating a location is to stick a highly impermanent signboard at a noteworthy spot, but that’s mainly for Manhattan and areas which suffer a lot of pedestrian traffic. Since Mt. Zion is theoretically going to be here as long as NYC exists, how about we stick up a sign of some kind acknowledging the former presence of this tribe of wandering coppersmiths and circus animal trainers who were called the Rudari?

from wikipedia

The Boyash are a branch/caste of the Romani people who were held as slaves in Wallachia and Moldavia together with other Romani castes, up until the latter half of the 19th century; such slavery was abolished in Romanian states in 1864.

In particular, the Boyash were forced to settle in the 14th century and work in mining (a regionalism for mine in Romanian: “baie,” from Middle Age Slavonic.). Due to their close proximity with Romanian-speaking people, they lost the use of the Romani language. Some groups relearned Romani when they came in contact with other Romani-speaking Romanis, after they emigrated from Romania (for example, in Ecuador).

Another name for the Boyash, Rudari, comes from the Slavic ruda (“metal”, “ore”). However, a few centuries later, the mines became inefficient and the Boyash people were forced to readjust by earning their living making wood utensils (Lingurari means “spoon-makers” in Romanian; also cf. Serbian ruda, Hungarian rúd, Romanian rudă meaning “staff, rod, pole, stick”). The nickname Kashtale (“wood-workers”) was also given to them by the Romani-speaking Romanis and it has remained in Romani as a more general word for a Romani person who does not speak Romani.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 29, 2014 at 11:09 am

delvings into

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Adjusting to the frozen realities of our time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a housebound invalid, which is what these frigid temperatures reduce one such as myself to, it has been a bit of trial accepting the simple fact that the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself will never again shine down upon and warm the good land of Queens. One can really get a sense of why the events which would signal the oncoming Viking apocalypse (Ragnarok) were called the “Fimbulvetr” – which translates as “awful, great winter” – after the last couple of weeks. Eschatology notwithstanding, a humble narrator wishes that something – anything – would happen, even an oncoming storm of vengeful Valkyrie, just to break the monotony of the “Frozone.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At this stage, it seems that I’ve watched everything which Netflix offers. I can recommend “Lilyhammer” without reservation, and I’ve finally caught up on “Sherlock” and can understand what everyone has been going on about. I’m rereading David McCollugh’s “The Great Bridge” and endeavoring to finally slog through the final chapters of “Gotham” by Mike Wallace and Edwin G. Burrows. Also, planning for this years series of walking tours is underway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ll be doing an event at Brooklyn Brainery in February, which will be discussed in a post later this week, and preparation for this will occupy a bit of my time, but like my little dog Zuzu – I’m bouncing off the four walls right now. I should have become a slave to Opium at some point in the past, so as to pass through intervals in the frozone in a cloud of nepenthe.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 28, 2014 at 9:04 am

leading corridor

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What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in posts last week, a couple of trips to coastal Brooklyn popped onto my schedule. In the case of today’s post, I was in South Brooklyn at the angle found twixt Red Hook and Cobble Hill, and crossing the street beneath the extremely drippy Gowanus Expressway.

from wikipedia

After the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, I-278 continues into Brooklyn on the Gowanus Expressway. Immediately after the bridge, the freeway comes to an eastbound exit and westbound entrance for the Belt Parkway. After this, a full interchange serves 92nd Street at which point I-278 becomes a single-level six-lane freeway. Along this road, one of the eastbound lanes serves as a high-occupancy vehicle lane. The Gowanus Expressway continues northeast into urban residential neighborhoods and reaches an eastbound interchange at Fort Hamilton Parkway and a westbound interchange at 86th Street. Turning more to the north, I-278 comes to a partial interchange at 65th Street, with an exit eastbound and entrance westbound. The road curves northwest at this point and comes to a directional interchange providing access to 3rd Avenue and the Belt Parkway.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A confession, seldom do I actually pay attention to the minute details when photographing an area with which I’m not overly familiar. Instead, I go for the big shot, and use my lens at its widest angles. In the street, I have a lot to worry about – traffic, criminal underclasses and malign manifestations of the street culture, and so on. Often, when I’m at my desk and examining the shot qualitatively (focus and exposure rather than composition and esthetics etc.), something will jump out at me. Notice the blue van, which I didn’t until I was back at HQ.

from nyc.gov

…standing on a street, walkway of a bridge, sidewalk, or other pedestrian passageway while using a handheld device and not otherwise asserting exclusive use by any means, including physical or verbal, is not activity that requires a permit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, there I stood, dirty black raincoat flapping about in the slipstream of truck and traffic and waving the camera about during a red light interval. Obviously, this registered in the mind of the driver of the blue van as suspicious activity, and he began to photograph me right back. The panopticon at work, lords and ladies, he saw something. Wonder if he said something?

from securetransit.org

Whether you’re following your regular commute route or on your way to a movie or meet up with friends, public transit is a key part of your day. You know public transit, and no one can spot something suspicious or out of place better than you.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 1984 scenario offered by Orwell has only come partially true in 2014. The State is indeed watching, and listening. Unfortunately, its usually “Little Brother” (as Cory Doctorow coined it) who is watching. This is all good though, as what is good for the goose is literally good for the gander, and the Brooklyn way is to keep an eye on the neighborhood. On this day, under the Gowanus Expressway, there were at least two surveillance devices active and pointing at each other. Mine and his. Mine was bigger.

from wikipedia

Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence – where the ruling Party wields total power for its own sake over the inhabitants.

In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you”, which is the core “truth” of the propaganda system in this state.

Since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the term “Big Brother” has entered the lexicon as a synonym for abuse of government power, particularly in respect to civil liberties, often specifically related to mass surveillance.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 27, 2014 at 8:36 am

constantly feeling

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A walkabout in Red Hook, by the Gowanus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An assignment carried me out to the ancient harbor of South Brooklyn, Red Hook. After my business was concluded, a walkabout was conducted. Nothing “formal,” as I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just poking around a bit while walking back to the train. Can’t have my beloved Creek think I’m cheating on her, especially not with her sister of the superfund.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Gowanus Canal, of which I know little. That’s something I say all the time, and I’m being a bit disingenuous. By the standards of the average person, I know a lot about Gowanus, but not enough to satisfactorily describe it. Recently, I attended a lecture by Joseph Alexiou, and that young man knows about the Gowanus.

The structure pictured above was formerly a grain terminal, by the way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, much of the story here at Gowanus is the same as it is on Newtown Creek. Oil companies and chemical factories and manufactured gas plants and centuries of industrial activity, coupled with the City running open sewers directly into the water. Abandon all hope, ye huddled masses.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 23, 2014 at 7:30 am

minute glimpses

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One last stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, this time with FDNY.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over the years, there have been plenty of shots offered at this – your Newtown Pentacle – of the Marine 1 unit (and their boats) here at the Navy Yard, but all of those photos have been shot from the deck of a boat. For today’s post, here’s what you can see from the landward side.

from marine1fdny.com

Marine 1 was the first Marine Company formed in the City of New York. We have moved several times over the years (find out more on our history page). We are on call and respond to 560 miles of waterfront surrounding the City of New York. These waterways are among the busiest in the world, used for both shipping and enjoyment. Along with the other two fireboats and a total of four small rapid response boats, we protect the people of New York as well as those visitors who are just passing through.

Marine 1 is manned by a crew of seven; an officer, a pilot, two engineers, and two firefighters.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Like all boat yards, the winter is a great time to see what their “rolling stock” looks like, as a significant number of their boats are up on blocks awaiting the attention and repairs of ship wrights and mechanics. The large steel structure at the right of the shot is a boat crane, used for lifting vessels in and out of the water. Notice the fact that it’s in Fire Department red, and you’ll know who owns the thing.

from wikipedia

On the eve of World War II, the yard contained more than five miles (8 km) of paved streets, four drydocks ranging in length from 326 to 700 feet (99 to 213 meters), two steel shipways, and six pontoons and cylindrical floats for salvage work, barracks for marines, a power plant, a large radio station, and a railroad spur, as well as the expected foundries, machine shops, and warehouses. In 1937 the battleship North Carolina was laid down. In 1938, the yard employed about ten thousand men, of whom one-third were Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers. The battleship Iowa was completed in 1942 followed by the Missouri which became the site of the Surrender of Japan 2 September 1945. On 12 January 1953, test operations began on Antietam, which emerged in December 1952 from the yard as America’s first angled-deck aircraft carrier.

The US Navy took possession of PT 109 on 10 July 1942, and the boat was delivered to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for fitting.

This boat was sunk in the Pacific in August 1943 and became famous years later when its young commander, Lt. John F. Kennedy, entered politics.

At its peak, during World War II, the yard employed 70,000 people, 24 hours a day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was more than one SAFE boat on display at the pier, and these are vessels that I am just fascinated by. Every one of the “services” (Coast Guard, NYPD, even Park Police) has a version of this boat. It adheres to the modern procurement system followed by Federal authorities which describes individual vehicles as all purpose “weapons platforms” that can modified or customized, on a task specific basis, for a particular agency or entity. The Coast Guard has an M60 machine gun mount on theirs, NYPD has a towing system, the FDNY a water monitor (a fire hose).

from uscg.mil

Developed in a direct response to the need for additional Homeland Security assets in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Defender Class boats were procured under an emergency acquisition authority. With a contract for up to 700 standard response boats, the Defender Class acquisition is one of the largest boat buys of its type in the world. The 100 boat Defender A Class (RB-HS) fleet began arriving at units in MAY 2002 and continued through AUG 2003. After several configuration changes, most notably a longer cabin and shock mitigating rear seats, the Defender B Class (RB-S) boats were born. This fleet was first delivered to the field in OCT 2003, and there are currently 357 RB-S boats in operation.

The 457 Defender Class boats currently in operation are assigned to the Coast Guards Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST), Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), Marine Safety Units (MSU), and Small Boat Stations throughout the Coast Guard. With an overall length of 25 feet, two 225 horsepower outboard engines, unique turning radius, and gun mounts boat forward and aft, the Defender Class boats are the ultimate waterborne assets for conducting fast and high speed maneuvering tactics in a small deployable package. This is evidenced in the fact that several Defender Class boats are already in operation by other Homeland Security Department agencies as well as foreign military services for their homeland security missions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies are offered for the late posting today, for it seems that the heavy snowfall has affected the Time Warner Cable infrastructure which allows them to deliver Internet access to Newtown Pentacle HQ. The signal has been fading in and out for the last twelve hours or so, which I guess is kind of understandable given conditions here in the frozen zone.

Tomorrow, we go to the edge of the known world, see you then.

from wikipedia

The Yard has three piers and a total of 10 berths ranging from 350 to 890 feet (270 m) long, with ten-foot deck height and 25 to 40 feet (7 to 12 meters) of depth alongside. The drydocks are now operated by GMD Shipyard Corp. A federal project maintains a channel depth of 35 feet (10 m) from Throggs Neck to the yard, about two miles (3 km) from the western entrance, and thence 40 feet (12 m) of depth to the deep water in the Upper Bay. Currents in the East River can be strong, and congestion heavy. Access to the piers requires passage under the Manhattan Bridge (a suspension span with a clearance of 134 feet (41 m) and the Brooklyn Bridge (a suspension span with a clearance of 127 feet (39 m).

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 22, 2014 at 12:16 pm

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