The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for May 2019

when shouldst

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So what’s with all the weird stuff this last week?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ten years ago this week, a humble narrator was pooping his pants out of nervousness and anticipation, as the Queensboro Bridge Centennial event was about to play out and I was transitioning from being a passive participant to becoming one of the people at the front of the line talking to the crowd. My pal Bernie Ente has dragged me, kicking and screaming, into the spotlight for this event. He asked me, roughly a decade ago today, what website I intended to tell “the audience” to visit. On May 29 of 2009, a purely text post was offered titled “what is the Newtown Pentacle,” which was followed by a couple of staccato postings. I like to think that I’ve stayed true to the outline in that post, despite being carried far afield by opportunity. Everywhere I go is someplace that the Newtown Creek has led me to.

What I consider to be the actual “first” post at Newtown Pentacle was offered on June 3rd of 2009. That was 2, 275 posts ago.

I began hanging around with the Working Harbor Committee, and with Newtown Creek Alliance. The first time Captain John Doswell handed me the Circle Line microphone on a boat tour I stuttered and sputtered, but the Captain had faith in me and with some coaching I developed into a fairly decent narrator.

NCA believed in me too, and we began doing walking tours around the Creek. Atlas Obscura started up in Greenpoint about that time, and soon I found myself working with them as a paid guide and event host. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve brought to Newtown Creek, or out on a boat tour of NY Harbor at this point. There’s been literally tens of thousands; including college students, professional urban planners, activist organizations, environmental officialdom, and most importantly – ordinary New Yorkers. There’s also been dozens of classroom lectures, but that’s a different banana. I’ve published two paper books – “Newtown Creek, for the vulgarly curious” and a recent photo book “In the shadows at Newtown Creek.”

Ten years later, I’m a steering committee member at Working Harbor and I just joined the board of the Newtown Creek Alliance. I was also invited to join Astoria’s Community Board 1 quite recently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Pentacle has been visited more than half million times in the last decade, and my Flickr account has seen nearly six million views. I’ve been profiled in dozens of news reports in the last decade, most notably in a NY Times piece back in 2012. When I say “google me,” I’m not kidding or being vainglorious. I’ve made some great friends who are engaged in similar pursuits to mine, like Kevin Walsh from Forgotten-NY, Nate Kensinger from Curbed, Joseph Alexiou from the Gowanus community. I’ve lost some great friends too; Bernie Ente, John Doswell, John Skelson. Our Lady of the Pentacle (my wife Cat), and my buddy Mai Armstrong, have been with me every step of the way and none of what’s happened to me over the last decade would have gone as well as it did without their counsel and help. I also have to tip my hat to some of my NCA peeps who have always been in my corner – Mike Heimbinder, Katie Schmidt, Kate Zidar, Will Elkins, and Lisa Bloodgood. Another person of note is WHC’s Meg Black, who has handed me the mike more times than I can count on boat tours of Port Newark and Kill Van Kull. Oddly enough, some of the other friends I’ve made are in elected office here in LIC, notably Cathy Nolan and Jimmy Van Bramer. It’s an honor to know and interact with all of you fine folks, and thank you for tolerating the presence of this bellicose kid from Brooklyn in your lives.

I’ve made some great enemies as well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, why all the reflection and the bizarre POV stuff that’s been presented this last week? Short answer is that I’ve been holding that stuff back, editorially, for a while and just wanted to give myself a little freedom this week – get it off my chest, as it were.

What’s next? Good question, that.

There’s going to be a few changes coming, notably I’m going to be figuring out how to excise all those annoying ads which WordPress has been inserting into my posts of late. I’m also going to be opening up a few new channels as we move through the summer and into the fall, evolving things as it were. Ultimately, I’m going to continue trying to answer the one great question, which is the only question which matters.

Who can guess, all there is, that might be buried down there?


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 31, 2019 at 1:30 pm

why tryeth

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As stated, God hates me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One mentioned this on Monday – the last two to three weeks of my life, during which the weather was conducive to photographic pursuit, my attention and time were consumed by “have to” meetings or events which saw me sitting inside of buildings rather than roaming about outside of them – would be followed by this, a fairly light week wherein I’d get to do whatever the hell I want to, would be an interval of bad weather and storms. God hates me, but I really can’t blame it. That’s right, “it.”

If there is a God, it ain’t a “him” or a “her.” I stand on this statement, as an all powerful extra dimensional and omniscient intelligence with an army of fire sword carrying winged avengers can only be described as being an “it.” Often, I wonder if “it” is just the “lord of the local vicinity” or if there’s a race of these all powerful things experimenting on different solar systems all over this universe of ours. If “it” is the sole autarch of our particular universe, what about all the other universes? There’s got to be a bigger story at work. Presuming each universe has its own “it,” do you suppose they’d compare notes occasionally?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Imagine the various “its” communicating with each other, their divine voices a combination of thunder and volcano sounds, chatting about their individual projects in the white hot particle foam and void soup which the different universes are thought to float about in? “Check this out,” our “it” might say – “My apes just figured out how to split the atom,” with some pride. Another “it” would chime in with “big whup, my lizards have just learned to harvest water from asteroids.” A third comes in with “yeah, my bugs did both of those things but then I threw an asteroid at them, just to see how they react” “can’t wait to see how they react to having to start over from scratch.”

Of course, the basic rules and physics of our world would likely be different in the various bubble universes, as any “universal constant” would be strictly contained to its own realm. Anything is possible, really, when we’re discussing magick and god kings, who live in the sky, and sit on thrones. What if it’s all true, and after death you make it to some heavenly choir where you’re going to sing to “it” for all eternity. What if you don’t like the music? Do you ever get a year end review where you get to say “So, what’s the point of giving kids cancer, oh “it”? Also, “as a disembodied extradimensional intelligence, why do you have so many hang ups about monkey sex” and “seriously, why do you hit us with a Ghengis Khan or Hitler every now and then?”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long ago, and that’s where this entire narrative offered today drops from, I had a conversation with somebody of formidable intelligence who was a member of what I refer to as the “god squad.” By that, I mean, he was a church guy that saw everything through a literalist New Testament filter. When chatting about Science Fiction, he rejected the idea of life on other worlds since it’s not mentioned by a group of peasants and tradesmen who died two thousand years ago, and left behind detailed notes about their experiences with spiritual matters in Roman occupied Judea in the only book you’re supposed to take seriously. My buddy said that if there was life on other worlds, it would be a mirror of our own, and since mankind was made in “its'” image, so too would any intelligent species look just like us when encountered. “Just like us,” of course, meant people of European and North African descent.

Just saying – terrestrial body plans, with four limbs and a head held aloft on a muscular stalk… that’s just a quirky form of inheritance that sort of jibes with the local environment. A rock falls to the left instead of the right a few hundred million years and we could all be cyclopses or octoclopses instead of biclopses.

As a note, these are the exact kind of questions, musings, and observations which got me kicked out of Hebrew School when I was a kid.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 30, 2019 at 1:00 pm

where goeth

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Prognostication is a specialty.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One considers himself able to not just look backward into history, but forward as well. I can make a reasonably good bet about a few subjects I know a bit about, and that have some historical context which instructs and informs. As an example of my thought process in this dimension, when I board a train or a plane I tend not to check the time too often while onboard. “Are we there yet” indicates that you didn’t think your journey through. You’ll know when you’re there, since the thing you’re riding in will stop and it’s operators will tell you to leave. Intervals are absolute, it seems, and you’re often disappointed if you don’t acknowledge that some things take time.

There are few, if any, moving sidewalks. No personal jet packs, or highways weaving around skyscrapers twenty stories up, and there is not a geodesic dome covering NYC. This is the 21st century, and none of that stuff exists in our daily lives, despite the promises of futurists from times gone by. We do possess computers, in our phones, that we can talk to, however. That’s pretty cool, but this ain’t the future we were supposed to get. Instead it’s kind of a pedantic and boring one, but, there you are. As the aphorism offers – wherever you go, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Self driving vehicles got you worried? The futurists and engineers haven’t really figured that out for trains that operate on tracks yet, or for cargo ships guided by actual satellites, so my guess is that whereas the driverless car is certainly a fascinating experiment – it ain’t happening quite yet. As soon as it does, though, porn will be shot in them while the car is driving down highways and the AI is pretending it doesn’t know what’s happening inside the passenger cabin. That’s two prognostications for the price of one, right there.

Additionally, even if some form of ultra clean “Star Trek” style energy production technology were to emerge tomorrow, we’d still be using petroleum for fuel for at least another century. I know this because we’re still using coal and gas, which are centuries old technologies. There’s a technological concept called “installed base,” which governs such matters. In layman terms, you ain’t changing the furnace in your basement out until you have to, and the old Buick still runs pretty good. Saying that, I’m all for lurching blindly forward and declaring one of our futile and very American “wars” on Climate Change. The one on drugs worked out great, right? What could go wrong?

I’d recommend creating a non variable zoning regulation instead, demanding all new construction include a green roof, for our cities. Activation of the 4H club and the various Scouting organizations in pursuance of tree planting along highways in rural areas would also be a plus. Reforestation seems to part of the answer, but it’s probably best to ask the farmers what they’d do. The religious zealots? Tell ’em that God wants ‘Murica to recreate Eden, and they’ll burn litterers on the stake.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Warfare is the cheap harlot of history, with its pageant and tragedy. It’s also the substance of what most of “the powers that be” would want you to build the shelves of your mental bookcase with. Even the Real Estate guys use it, selling “pre war” apartments at significant markups. “Pre War”? Which war? Are we never not at war in the United States? There’s a cognitive dissidence often encountered which somehow equates the far more important cultural, economic, and industrial history of the nation state as being encapsulated by “eras” defined either by conflict or the coarse and often bellicose personalities of various politicians and their regimes. It wasn’t the “Reagan era,” or the “Vietnam era” that you should be building those shelves out of.

Can you imagine what the historians of the future will call our time? They’ll focus in on foreign war and bombastic politics (both of which provide an excess of documentation, making the job of piecing together a narrative easy) but I think they’ll miss the particular mood of our time. That weird “us” versus “them” mentality which needs to be torn out of the body politic root and stem. As mentioned at the start, one often looks backwards to understand the tyranny of the now.

Americans aren’t much different from the Ancient Egyptians, or more recently the citizenry of the late Roman Republic. Like the Egyptians, we’re obsessed with death and honor, deeply superstitious, and willing to tolerate a lot of nonsense in the name of not offending the gods, and we also have a well founded belief that we can beat the snot out of anyone who messes with us. The Egyptians weren’t all that different from the late in the game Republic of Rome, but the Romans are a bit more familiar in outlook. They saw warfare as a business opportunity, just like us. I read about Rome a lot. There’s a lot to read.

The “blues and the greens” of Constantinople come to mind, but that’s really just a political analogy that sits nicely into our left/right narrative. Instead, I’m thinking about Caesar, and how the Liberators had absolutely no plan whatsoever in place to rule after those twenty seven stabbings in the Senate House happened. If you’re going to kill Caesar, you should have a really good plan for a post Caesar future. If you don’t, the Republic you were trying to save from a tyrant just might collapse, and give rise to a penultimate tyrant.

Interpret that last prognostication as you may. A smart auger leaves things a bit vague.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 29, 2019 at 11:00 am

what matter

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Megalomaniacal ambition, it affects us all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you saw an older fellow lying prone on the turf at Astoria Park recently, with a laptop that had two speaker wires leading from its usb port down into an ant hill, yeah that was me. I’m trying to hack into both ant and termite mounds, in pursuance of recruiting some of the most numerous and industrious species to be found upon the land to do my bidding. My disastrous 2008 experiments with primates, which were first called “Operation Tarzan” and then later “Operation Damn Dirty Ape,” taught me many lessons. That’s why, while performing field work on “Operation Formicidae” (as I’ve styled it) I leave the bag of sugar cubes at home rather than having them on site. That shipping container from Chiquita was just too much temptation for my nascent ape army to resist. I know better now.

Someday, instead of a Queen, the ants will have a King. He will be as terrible as the oncoming storm, and in his name will vast armies skitter forth from their holes. Together, we will form a construction company, and grow rich in both fungus garden and bank account. My company will be called Myrmidon, LLC., and despite having billions of employees, I won’t have to pay them in anything but empty beer bottles and leaf cuttings. This is Capitalism at its purest, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another one of my projects involves an adaptation of the biological sixth sense enjoyed by sharks, made possible by the “ampullae of Lorenzini,” which allows these cosmopolitan predators the ability to detect the electromagnetic fields produced by the movement of muscle tissue in living organisms. The Great White Shark, for instance, can detect field variances of half a billionth of a volt, allowing it to home in on a beating heart at close range. I’m not sure what my “shark skin suit” will be used for, but it will likely come in handy for a variety of tasks.

I mean, look at all those wires here in Astoria… can you imagine?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My landlord, and Municipal regulators, insist on a strict “Mad Science” policy of “zero tolerance” here in Astoria. That “Astoria Borealis” thing… it wasn’t me, I swear. The official story explaining it away sounds reasonable… no? It’s not like someone was working on reanimating a corpse and accidentally opened a dimensional portal, that’s crazy. The fact that the corpse disappeared during the light show… what does that mean? Nothing, I tell you, nothing. Also, that “Beast of Berrian Bay” thing that the construction guys go on about at the bar is just a story.

Also, as a note, the teams of scientists studying the Great White Shark population around South Africa’s Seal Island have observed Great White’s operating cooperatively in a clan system not unlike that of a wolf pack. There’s a social hierarchy, and an “alpha,” and there seems to be some kind of behavioral custom they follow when encountering other “clans.” Sharks that cooperate with each other… Maybe I should be trying to hack the sharks, instead of the ants.

That’s some mad science, kid. It’s also kind of the scariest thing I’ve ever heard.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 28, 2019 at 11:00 am

who wouldst

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Happy Memorial Day, y’all.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted these stout iron doors and old timey giant padlock here in Astoria one recent evening on my way home from a thing. The thing in question was a Community Board meeting revolving around noise and “quality of life” complaints leveled against a couple of bars on my side of the neighborhood so although I’m not officially a member of that particular committee I showed up to see what’s what and learn how that particular process works. Turns out that like everything else governmental, it’s fairly pedantic and there’s a well worn procedural pathway from “A” to “B.”

Another well worn pathway, one that I scuttle along, is where I encountered this lock and iron door combo, which seemed newly installed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another night, another meeting, this time in Greenpoint for some Newtown Creek business. My path home found me dragging the carcass down Norman Avenue, where this grocery store’s outdoor shelving caught my eye.

The meeting in question offered an analysis of all the sites along the Queens side of the Newtown Creek (and a few in Brooklyn) that are currently under the administration of the NYS DEC. Luckily, my calendar for the coming week is fairly open for serendipity and doing things that I actually want to do. What that means is that the weather will likely be unpredictable, since God hates me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Yet another occasion which I was obliged to attend recently found one marching through the still industrial side of Long Island City, and along the bulkheads of the Dutch Kills tributary of the fabulous Newtown Creek – where this shot was recorded.

Back tomorrow with more things I’ve seen in places I’ve gone.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 27, 2019 at 11:30 am

ahead indefinitely

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Which seat should I take? It’s Friday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, finally broke the long streak I’ve been on for a couple of years without missing a post due to Flickr upgrading their systems. Had no access whatsoever to my big library of photos for over 48 hours during their planned “12 hours” of downtime. Additionally, I can’t seem to log in to my account anymore from my desktop, which is where I upload the new photos from… I’m a big fan of software and site upgrades as you can tell. Every time some software developer joker gets the bright idea to “fix” something, I end up losing time and effort to developing workarounds. All this makes me feel special and loved, so I thought I’d share.

We’ll always have the NYC sunsets, lords and ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My very busy two weeks are finally at an end, wherein every single day of them has seen me attending a meeting of one kind or another. By last night’s Community Board meeting here in Astoria, I had grown as honery as Moe Howard, desiring to “knock ’em one” in the coconut. To be fair, that’s in my familial tradition though, as I’m distantly related to three of the four main Stooges (I consider the two other Curly’s less than). Curly, Shemp, and Moe were brothers – the Horvitz’s, and although I never met any of them – third or fourth cousins on my Mom’s side. For many of you reading this who know me in real life, does it not explain everything? Nuk, nuk, nuk.

Saying all that… whoof… lots and lots of meetings and goings on.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Today’s the day that the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, as a note.

I’m likely going to be forced into doing some single shot posts at the start of next week, due to the rolling out annoyance at flickr, but it’s Memorial Day week anyway. I’m going to be figuring out the tour schedule for this summer and announcing it directly, but hold Saturday, June 15th – in the morning – for something special I’m going to be doing on a boat. Have a nice weekend Lords and Ladies, it looks like it’s going to be a nice warm holiday weekend for the City that never sleeps (but appreciates a nap, now and then).


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 24, 2019 at 11:30 am

insidious outrages

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Wednesday’s are seldom fun.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks for a humble narrator, which has seen me visiting several spots scattered around the Newtown Creek. Last week, Newtown Creek Alliance offered a lecture by NYS DEC’s Randy Austin titled “Oil Spills 101” to the public at our 520 Kingsland Avenue HQ. Well attended, the lecture is nevertheless something which I’ve experienced multiple times, so after helping out with setup and introductions, I went upstairs to the Kingsland Green Roof and set up the camera for landscape action. Unlike the failed attempt at such an endeavor described last week, this time I remembered to click all the right buttons and followed my checklist exactly.

See? I’m smart, not dumb, smart. Not like people say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The shot above, which presents here at Newtown Pentacle as a rather small image in the vertical sense, is actually a MASSIVE panorama image whose resolution would easily accommodate the pixel count needed for a five foot long print. Click through to flickr and check out the “all sizes” tab if you’re interested. I’d mention that you’d likely not want to do that if you’re on your phone right now. It’s a GIANT image.

Of late, the camera technique I’m using for panorama shots involves turning the tripod mounted camera on its side, in “portrait mode,” and then rotating the leveled tripod head around about five degrees for every exposure. The one above is composited from around thirteen individual shots stitched together. The reason for this, and why I’ve started doing pano shots this way, is that any lens distortion is usually more pronounced at the edges of the frame, and the “squarest” section of any lens is at center. I was using an ND ten stop filter on my lens as well, which means that the shot above represents about five minutes of actual elapsed time, since the ND filter allows me to do longish exposures in full daylight.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A more conventional shot is above, looking over the DEP’s Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment plant property towards Greenpoint’s St. Anthony’s and the lower Manhattan skyline beyond.

Also, regarding the ludicrous plethora of ads which WordPress has been inserting into the blog – and of late into the body copy – is a state of affairs which is currently out of my control to stop. In June, I’m going to start making a few changes once the site officially turns ten years old, and one of them will involve eradicating as much of that junk as possible.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

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