The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is one of Amtrak’s Acela trains in its maintenance facility at the gargantuan Sunnyside Yards, which a humble narrator was crossing on a north to south vector not too many weeks ago. As a note, while I was taking my sanity break last week, WordPress (the platform which Newtown Pentacle operates through) decided to do the most annoying thing that tech companies do – i.e. fix things which weren’t broken – and have thereby introduced a lot of “random” and “hope this still works” into my work flow with a new upgrade to their software. What I always hope for during a system upgrade is to have the system demand my attention and take me away from writing or whatever I’m doing regularly. If the operating system or software environment doesn’t pop up with a chorus of dancers and announce itself every five minutes, it just ain’t modern design. Hopefully they’ve inserted a really proactive but fairly illiterate version of spellcheck, the sort of thing that Facebook currently uses, which alters entire sentences into gibberish after you type a period.

Invasive update cues annoy me, especially when they’re covert marketing ploys from hardware manufacturers letting you know it’s been a while since you gave them your money. Looking directly at you, Apple. In WordPress’s case, they’ve just introduced a learning curve into something I’ve been “workflowing” for more than a decade, so thanks for the extra work.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m a “production guy” in the advertising world, meaning that I polish and deliver final product to publications and clients. You can measure how productive your production is by counting “clicks.” True productivity comes from knowing the key combo commands rather than hunting through tool palettes and menus. Software design in the last five years or so has retarded productivity through its inefficient habit of adding “clicks.” The Adobe Creative suite, in particular, no longer uses common key commands internally – Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom, which are all essentially the same thing, use different key combos to do identical tasks. I don’t refer to anything complicated, either. Adding a 1 Star or 2 star rating to an in progress image is accomplished 3 different ways just within photoshop. That’s stupid, wasteful, and bad user interface design.

When you spend all day working in a software environment, this sort of thing just eats away at your time, and patience. Good software is invisible, you focus on the creative product which you’re working on, rather than the tool you’re using. Bad software takes you out of the creative flow, in the manner which this new WordPress “upgrade” does. While writing this, I’ve had to stop and fix something stupid it’s done on its default settings about twenty times. Imagine a screwdriver suggesting you try the new Phillips Head tooling, then suddenly retiring flat head screw functionality. Surprise!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Until I get a handle on what’s going on with this new software I’m apparently stuck with using, it would be appreciated if y’all cut me a break. Should some weird turn of phrase or out of context word seem to signal offensive intent or mental incapacity, realize it’s likely a software rule inserting itself which I missed fixing. The fragility of opinion and unyielding moral high ground in our modern times is terrifying. Say the wrong thing, they’ll shut your ass up quick. Imagine if a badly functioning spellcheck suite effectively cancels you?

This is literally 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 for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 3, 2021 at 11:00 am

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