The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

unsupervised circuit

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Life long relationships, ending, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the late 1980’s, my first job in advertising involved making photostat enlargements and reductions for the senior designers, art directors, and production artists at an agency which specialized in “B2B” marketing involving food service. My job title was “stat boy” and my function, beyond shooting “stats” in a darkroom, was to support whatever the more senior people needed. I worked directly for the “Studio Manager,” who was a friend from College that had graduated a couple of years ahead of me and offered me my first “leg up” into the business. He would often remind me that “shit rolls down hill” and accordingly I would end up performing menial tasks that he was too busy for – ensuring that our supply closet was stocked with pads of paper or paste up supplies, running job bags around the agency for sign off’s and approvals from the various powers that be, that sort of stuff. Think Jimmy Olsen at the Daily Planet, that was me back then. Overall, the job was worth doing, and it taught me a lot about how to survive as an artist in NYC.

One day, the Studio Manager sat me down in front of a brand new Macintosh computer, handed off a pile of floppy disks, and the task was to install a suite of software on the new Mac – which was the very first one that the agency had purchased. That was the first time that I ever opened a new program called “Photoshop” and it was also the first step towards what I ended up doing for a living as a digital production artist and photo retoucher. I’ve seen the entire conversion of the industry from “paste up and mechanicals” to full digital and web production over the intervening decades.

I’ve spent most of my professional life in front of an Apple computer – this post is being written on an iPad, for instance, and every photo you’ve ever seen from me was edited and processed on a desktop Mac tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a while there, things weren’t going so good for Apple. A lot of bad decisions, coupled with horrendous customer relations, had almost put the computer manufacturer out of business.

Steve Jobs returned to the company, and brought it back from the brink. The phones came along, and Apple suddenly became a mainstream company, and flush with cash. Jobs died, and a new management team took over at Apple, who have unfortunately returned the company to the bad old days. Form has taken primacy over function with this new team, and the entire concept of producing something which could be termed a “professional workstation” began to suffer. Every refinement of the core operating system released over the last decade has been crafted with the idea that its only function is to “monetize” the device, as related to selling me commercial entertainment media, and they have specifically removed capabilities from the device which were and are “mission critical” to my professional life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent encounters with the company – one where they informed me that a three year old workstation was “obsolete” and that even a simple component replacement would be impossible by the end of this year, another where a two and half year old iPhone with a defective battery (factory issues at the time of manufacture) was also obsolete – have soured me on the whole idea of Apple. The applications which I use in my daily round, the so called “Adobe Suite,” have become platform independent in the decades since a humble narrator was commanded to install them at that B2B agency off of floppy disks, and I’m not at all sure that I want to continue paying premium prices for a device which is considered obsolete by its manufacturer less than 36 months after opening the box.

Why buy a Ducati when a Buick will do?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots, of midtown Manhattan, were gathered while killing time and ruminating on my relationship with Apple at the end of December.

I was waiting out a battery replacement for the aforementioned iPhone, which – it should be mentioned – was performed flawlessly and took exactly one hour, but cost approximately one seventh of what I originally paid for the device. I pushed the folks at the Apple Store for a replacement device, but was told that this would be impossible, but that I could trade my old phone in for a couple of hundred bucks which could be applied towards the purchase of a new one (which would leave a $500 differential). Alternatively, they offered me entry into a contractual program, which would entail me giving the company $30 a month forever afterwards, that would ensure that whenever they released a new model I would receive one. That would mean a $360 per annum payment to Apple, forever and ever.

That’s a corporate tax, and the last straw, frankly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is less than sanguine about being overly exploited by a corporation, but if the service is desirable or needed… I have no problem paying my accountant, nor doctors, nor my local bartender, baker, or butcher what they’re due. Should my bakery suddenly announce that they will require me to pay them a monthly stipend for the privilege of returning moldy bread, however, I will find a new place to shop for my cookies and pie.

Sometimes, one must address the costs of things costing too much, and remember that the costs of customer retention are not too much for a large company. There are other options, always. I’ll miss Apple.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

3 Responses

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  1. Mitch…read with interest your feature on Newtown Creek (NY Times). As a kid in Greenpoint during the 50’s/60’s, many a hangout was done creek-side. Back then there was the Carbona plant, Van Eiderstien’s (whatever they made), Mobile Oil and other assorted establishments that helped kill the world. But as kids we were used to the stink and the ash that settled on everything every morning. We always half expected they would eventually paint a stripe down the middle of the creek and have a traffic artery Robert Moses would be proud of. We also set the damn creek on fire one night while throwing ash-cans and cherry-bombs into it. Of course we ran away. Kids do that.

    Seeing the creek recently I noticed there’s a stepped access structure that actually gets you closer to that water. Wow….I hope the hipsters with the kayaks don’t have any open cuts.

    Anyway, thanks for the blog. Plenty of history in Brooklyn.


    Chris Rhoads

    January 12, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    • Thanks Chris, the stepped structure is actually a public space – the Newtown Creek WWTP Nature walk, at the end of Paidge Avenue. It’s actually a pretty unique public space, a highly recommended visit.

      Mitch Waxman

      January 12, 2016 at 4:00 pm

  2. Welcome home from the dark side. Step into the light, my child.


    January 12, 2016 at 4:49 pm

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