The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

astute pupils

with one comment

into the cold waste…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Multiple layers of insulating clothing were draped off of the slowly rotting corpse which houses a humble narrator, just the other night, and out into the freezing temperatures did I go. As mentioned countless times in the past, one has a particular vulnerability to cold weather, which is at odds with and forms a comorbidity revolving about my aversion to boredom. Accordingly, my plan was to avoid the waterfront this particular evening and spend my time inhabiting the steel shadowed corridor of Roosevelt Avenue and limit my evening constitutional to just over two hours spent in the cold.

Strategically speaking, one needed to acquire imagery for this and other posts, and my tactics involved the usage of the NYCTA system to put myself in a fairly interesting place and then walk back to HQ the “long way round.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ever a stickler for grammatically annoying others, the different meanings of a strategy versus a tactic is something which drives me mad. While browsing a military surplus website, one came upon an offering for two items – a tactical briefcase and a tactical pen. The briefcase was merely a fairly ugly bag constructed from the sort of fabrics commonly found in military items like rucksacks, and the pen was designed and constructed in a manner where it could double as a stabbing weapon. What sort of tactic either of these items represented is beyond me.

A strategy is an overarching plan formulated to achieve a goal – “I shall conquer France, using my portfolio of mad scientist inventions, along multiple fronts in pursuance of causing their Government to collapse while stretching the capabilities of their military out.” A tactic is – “The race of Atomic Supermen I’ve been breeding in the jungles of the Amazon will invade from the Atlantic seaboard,” or “while my volcano cannons bombard their Mediterranean coast, freezes rays will shine on Paris and bury it in ice.” Actions committed are tactical, the overall plan is the strategy, and neither briefcases nor pens could be considered as being strategic nor tactical. Your goal in a game of Chess is to capture the opponent’s King, the strategy involves how you plan to do it, and each piece you move is tactic.

As a note, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about conquering France using science fiction weapons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m also obsessed with the word “Carpenter” at the moment. A carpenter doesn’t “carpent” at work, yet the job indicates that they do. The word entered the English language via Old French (which in turn got it from Roman Latin) around the time that the Normans took over in England. It replaced the Germanic sounding “wright” for the trade, although there are a bunch of distinctions in the carpentry world describing what you would do at work (joiner, cooper, finisher etc.) that also indicate skill levels. An interesting bit of linguistics that I recently got turned on to involves the Normans, actually, and how when they set themselves up as the Old French speaking Lords of the Manor in England the English language began to change. Common people ate mutton (Germanic English) whereas the Normans ate lamb (Old French) for example. In essence, if you’re saying a word in English and the tongue is lifting and hitting the frontal roof of the mouth (lightning, for example) it comes from Old French, and if the tongue is on the bottom of the mouth and bunched up at the back (woodworker) its from the Germanic influenced pre conquest language. I can’t speak too intelligently about this subject, as I’ve just encountered the topic, but it’s a pretty interesting one.

These are the sort of things one ponders (tactic) as I’m trying to stay warm (strategy) whilst wandering the streets of Queens in the January dark.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 16, 2019 at 2:30 pm

One Response

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  1. Hi Mitch – just discovered your site and really enjoying it. I live in Sunnyside and have long been fascinated with out-of-the-way spots in Queens and Brooklyn. As a terminal language geek I need to point out one minor thing in this post – the mutton/lamb thing is the other way round. “Lamb” comes from Old English and before that from Proto-Germanic (~ 2000 years ago). “Mutton” comes from Old French “mouton” – according to Wiktionary it comes from ‘Vulgar Latin moltō, from Gaulish *multon-, from Proto-Celtic *moltos (“ram, wether”)’


    July 15, 2019 at 2:14 pm

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