The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for February 2016

many went

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My favorite place, when I was a kid.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Facebook the other day, I mentioned to my little collection of friends that I had signed up for one of those NYCID cards in pursuance of all the free stuff you get in return. There’s a collection of institutions which normally cost a larger than you’d expect fee at the front door, and the NYCID card gets you a free membership which negates any sort of payment for 12 months.

One of them is the American Museum of Natural History. You present your NYCID at the front desk, and you get a complimentary year of membership to the institution.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was in the City anyway, and had a couple of hours to kill in between appointments, so I hopped on the B and went over to 81st and Central Park West and did the deed. Having a little time to kill, I strolled around the museum before it got too crowded. By about 12:30 p.m., I had discovered where every tourist visiting NYC with small kids in tow goes in the afternoon and given my lack of patience with crowds – well, it was time to head back to Queens and get back to work at HQ anyway after about an hour and fifteen minutes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I did manage to visit a few exhibits. I’ve always been kind of partial to the ice age mammals, personally, but let’s face it – you don’t go to Natural History to see Mammoth bones. You go for the dinosaurs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned above, when I was a kid this was my favorite place in the world. Last time I spent any length of time at the museum was back in the early 90’s when I lived not too far away at the corner of 100th street and Broadway. I had been hanging around that section of the Upper West Side for awhile, going back to the late 80’s when I worked a college job as a non Union doorman in a building I would later live in.

Mostly boring work, but good for studying, and I had to get physical a few times with crack heads who wanted to use the lobby to smoke up. The neighborhood gentrified quickly, and became both crack head free and banal, back in the late 90’s and by 2003 – Astoria beckoned. I’ve been back to the Natural History museum just once in the interval since then, accompanying a buddy who was drawing a comic for Marvel and needed to do some Pterodactyl and Archaeopteryx research.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYCID thing was actually kind of painless to handle. I made an appointment, at LaGuardia Community College of all places, and showed up with proof of address and a couple of other required documents. The whole thing took about 15 minutes and the card came in the mail about a week later. I’m signed up at Moving Image here in Astoria and at Natural History, so far.

The part I’m excited about is the free zoo membership, of course. Only problem with that is that I have to go to Bronx Zoo to do the signup, which is a great example of the macabre sense of humor which New York City exhibits. Expect many, many, copulating monkeys at this – your Newtown Pentacle – in 2016.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The crowds at American Museum of Natural History really begin to dense up in the early afternoon, and as I was leaving it was noticed that there was a good sized lineup of people out on the steps waiting their turn to stand on the lines inside. Have to say – one of the many things which has changed since a humble narrator was young is that back in the 80’s and 90’s you were pretty much alone in these museums on week days.

There’s no way you could just drop yourself down on the floor and throw open a sketch book with all the tourists clodding about these days. New York really isn’t for New Yorkers anymore, I guess.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

itemized exceptions

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I just can’t stop.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

More of the macro shots with which I’ve been passing the cold weather down time, in today’s post. First up is a bit of Swiss Chard. Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) is actually part of the beetroot subspecies of the Amaranthaceae family. I’m planning on cooking the non photographed portions of it up with garlic, red onion, olive oil, and a bit of a poblano pepper thrown in to make it interesting. That’s likely the first time I’ve ever shared a recipe at this, your Newtown Pentacle, btw.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was a bit challenging to pose this leafy thing, given the manner in which its leaves buckle up and curl. The now standard under flash arrangement was used to reveal some of the internal structures of the thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All sorts of Lovecraftian stuff was flying through my head while I was shooting these, it should be mentioned, but then again – I was standing in a darkened and quite chilly room in which bright lights were flashing every eight to fifteen seconds. The thing about strobes is that even if you close your eyes, the light will penetrate the lids.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I mentioned pareidola in my last post of macro shots, and a humble narrator is experiencing it heavily in the shot above. It’s the nature of the human mind to try and find recognizable faces and other familiar shapes in entirely random patterns, or at least it’s the nature of the slowly rotting ball of snot found between my ears and behind my eyes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is a bit of that plum I was showing you in the last macro shot, with a blast of light traveling up and through the flesh of the fruit. The slice was probably about a quarter inch thick, and I set my flash gun to half power.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The snow pea pod pictured above required full power on the flash gun. The waxy skin of the legume provided a bit of refraction as well, which was unexpected. A legume, the snow pea (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) is also known to the french talkers as a “mangetout.” That means “eat all.” I know it’s supposed to be “two peas in a pod” but three just worked better.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The fuzzy Kiwi fruit, (Actinidia deliciosa aka mangüeyo), is seen in the shot above and is the national fruit of China. Once known as the Chinese Gooseberry, the vine escaped China in 1847 via the actions of British horticulturalists. A girls school principal began planting the vine in New Zealand in the early 20th century, and the fruit soon became synonymous with the country, although it wasn’t called Kiwifruit until 1959.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Oddly enough, the world’s largest producer of Kiwifruit is actually Italy, and the specifics of the most common commercially available variant of this cultivar – called the Hayward – are that the world produces some 1,412,351 tonnes of it annually with Italy and New Zealand leading the pack. It seems that since the two nations are in different hemispheres, they don’t actually compete with each other due to seasonal variability.

Who knew?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

obstinate retort

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random things I’ve seen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pals at the North Brooklyn Boat Club collect bricks and other things they find along the shorelines of the lugubrious Newtown Creek. Historic bricks are a whole topic in themselves, but the ones you find along the creek can be somewhat revelatory, as many of them were used in the furnaces of the industrial revolution. The company which manufactured these so called “refractory” ceramics was founded in 1854, and located on Richards street, between Van Dyke and Beard streets, in Red Hook.

Odds are that it was used for the retort of a manufactured gas plant, based on the sort of discoloring and wear pattern it exhibits. It’s also likely infiltrated with all sorts of heavy metals and arsenic compounds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over in Blissville, along Greenpoint Avenue at the corner of Starr, this (reportedly) 1930 model building hosts a deli at the street level and two apartments above. There’s a basement as well, and I’ve found conflicting accounts regarding the date of construction, with NYC’s Buildings Department displaying a “CofO” listing the place as having been first occupied in 1917. The records regarding Queens at DOB are pretty spotty, if you ask me, and I chalk up their inaccuracies to the chaos of LIC & New York City Consolidation.

According to the DOB, the building Newtown Pentacle HQ occupies in Astoria is actually the parking lot of an Italian restaurant in Rego Park, as an example.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This one is shot from the last car of an N train leaving Queens Plaza, through that trippy lenticular plastic that MTA believes will defeat the armies of chaos. I dream of getting on an N, or Q, with clean windows. It’s part of the reason why I like taking the C, as those older model cars still allow an unimpeded view of the tunnels.

Regardless of optical distortion, I like the shot above for some reason.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Simply put, the shot above describes the proper Brooklyn pronunciation of the word “fifth.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in Queens, which is the only place in NYC where a private property owner can get away with hanging his own sign on the pedestrian sidewalk admonishing passerby to make way for his workers and their heavy equipment. Look out for forklifts indeed.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

tropical marks

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A quick look inside the Circus Warehouse in LIC.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the Newtown Creek side of LIC’s Vernon Blvd., you’ll find the Circus Warehouse. I’ve been desirous of doing a long post on them for a while, but this ain’t that. The organization instructs and trains for the athletic side of the circus world, teaching acrobatics and rope training. Occasion found me sheltering from the cold in there recently, for reasons which I’ll describe in a post next week.

Suffice to say that for the 15 minutes or so that I was in the space, I cracked out a few shots of interesting people doing cool things – what more could the wandering photographer ask for?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a level of physical strength on display in the shot above which astounds. We’re I to attempt something like this, I’d experience a body wide cramp which would collapse into a singularity and a black hole would form.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Circus Warehouse offers all sorts of programs and classes, which the athletic and physically sound types amongst you might consider. They are based in a 1960’s era warehouse that sits on the former Pigeon Street Yard of the LIRR in LIC, at the Vernon Blvd. street end where the Vernon Avenue Bridge once stood.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

occasional indifference

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It’s all so depressing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Not too much to report to you today, Lords and Ladies. The hermitage season has certainly seen me shooting a whole lot of macro shots of foodstuffs, but otherwise a humble narrator has been stuck in the house nursing a wounded shoulder and disabled right arm. Wish I could describe some outré tale about the infirmity, but just chalk it up to age, and the “pain squirrel.” One has hit that section of life wherein something hurts every day, and whichever branch of the bodily tree that the pain squirrel has decided to inhabit that morning is where you’ll find the offending sensation.

Aches and pains are just a part of life, like taxes and a lonely death, after all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shoulder thing has been a “mofo” however. I’m right hand dominant, and unfortunately the limb that hand dangles off of is the affected one. My left arm is used as little more than a paper weight, and the right one has been nigh useless for about a week. If this sort of thing was occurring in my left arm, of course, I’d be in a hospital and under the care of a cardiologist. Saying that, this has little to do with the heart and circulatory system, instead it’s a pinched nerve which is slowly unpinching. Opiate pain medications were required just to accomplish a few hours of sleep when the condition first manifested, and one was forced to fashion himself a sling. Shoulder and tricep were dancing around unbidden within the skinvelope, my bicep muscle felt as if it was being eaten by a horde of beetles, and my elbow was reporting back to the brain that it had become hollow. Additionally, my wrist was of the belief that it had become packed in ice.

The dog was quite concerned, but she made a play to assume the alpha/dominar position in our household pack.  What can I say, she’s a dog, that’s what they do when they sense weakness. In the case of my dog, of course, rebellion took the form of her staring at me while she “woofed.” Her play ended when Our Lady of the Pentacle got home, since we all know who’s really in charge around here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Accordingly, I’ve got zilch as far as new stuff to show you this week. Today, and for the next couple of days, it’s going to be shots from the archives – such as the twilight shot of the Sunnyside Yards above. Pain Squirrel and canid rebellion notwithstanding, the show must go on.

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