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astute pupils

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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.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 16, 2019 at 2:30 pm

boyhood antiquarianism

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East side, west side, all around the town.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A third arm would come in handy when shooting in the rain, as managing both umbrella and camera is a bit of a chore. I’ve spent my life waiting for a “disruptive new take” on umbrellas, but the current generation of engineers seems obsessed with reinventing key chains instead. The giant golf umbrella I’m currently using is huge and sturdy, and came into my possession as a bit of branded “shwag” manufactured by some non profit group. It’s a bit of a carry though, and has a tendency to catch the wind due to its immense circus tent like size. Have we reached “peak umbrella” or is there a revolution in handheld rain shelter on the horizon? I’m talking to you, Elon Musk.

Often, a humble narrator finds himself dreaming about an umbrella that is deployed along the spine and straight up out of my backpack, which would leave both of my arms free for other tasks.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with umbrellas ultimately come down to their tendency to catch the wind, so the perfect solution to shooting in the rain would involve the deployment of some Star Trek or Dune style personal shielding of the electromagnetic type. You’d just need a gizmo that could pump out a massive amount of electromagnetic radiation and another that formed a magnetic bottle around yourself. Of course, this would destroy your personal electronics, likely disrupt the bio electrical functioning of the body, induce instant cancer in both you and everybody within a few hundred yards, but you’d be dry and the lens wouldn’t be spotted with rain drops.

On a related note – a general consensus, arrived at by the squad of morons and malcontents whom I spend my time with, states that googling any health concern you might be experiencing returns a result that it’s likely some type of cancer. Also, the cancer isn’t regular cancer, it’s super cancer. That’s the kind of cancer where the tumor rips itself free of your body and then prowls around in search of new victims, usually puppies and young children. The Super Cancers can attach themselves to infrastructure, throwing out whip like tentacles that snatch birds out of the air mid flight and plucking fish from the sea. Funnily enough, the only known method for killing Super Cancer, which is bullet and fire resistant, is Monsanto’s Roundup Weed Killer. Go figure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Engineers are depressingly grounded in the laws of the physical universe, I find. One discovered this several years ago when I was espousing the use of heat guns in place of shovels for wintertime sidewalk snow and ice clearance. Despite my brilliant moment of transcendent realization, all that my engineer friends could talk about were the laws of energy conservation, Isaace Newtwon, and that the amount of energy required to melt ice in subzero temperatures would be incalculable. Next thing you know, they were telling me that my other dream of creating my own race of Atomic Supermen by exposing tank dwelling fetuses to gamma rays would just result in filling an intensive care ward with handicapped children afflicted by Super Cancer were they to be birthed. Pfah.

Shit on my parade? Go design a better umbrella, kid.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 3, 2019 at 2:30 pm

prying neighbours

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Get off my lawn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Actually, I don’t have a lawn and I’m grateful for it. Same thing with not owning a car. What a hassle that must be. I have enough trouble keeping track of all my camera bits and bobs. If I did own a motor vehicle, it would likely be a cargo van or something that I would have modified into a rolling photographic studio with all sorts of surveillance hatches and scientific instrumentation sticking out of the roof. There’d also be a piss bucket. Having to take a piss in the City of New York, and the difficulties that revolve around finding an actual legal toilet instead of… well… how the greatest city in the history of mankind hasn’t solved this sort of thing is just beyond me. Everybody poops, everybody pees. Depsite this, there are virtually no legal pissoirs. Shouldn’t our current age of Progressive largesse focus on this sort of commonality first, rather than on providing junkies with clean locations to shoot up?

What does this have to do with the Astoria Tailor seen above, laboring away in his shop window workplace? Nothing at all, I just like the shot and since I spent most of the last two weeks going to Christmas Parties rather than waving the camera about, I’m using every single shot I’ve got this week.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s Calvary Cemetery in the shot above and it has been since 1848. Prior to that, it was the Alsop family farm. If I did own a cargo van converted into a portable photo studio, I’d drive back and forth over Newtown Creek in it constantly with robotic camera shutters blazing away. One of the first professional disciplines that will be collapsed in the coming decades by the emergence of true AI will be photography, along with pharmacists. Smart machinery is going to put a lot of us out of work, or at least cast people in the role of emergency backup instead of primary operator for various functions. I’d wager on disruption in a number of fields which currently require human guidance; handling of cargo at ports, fast food, retail management, even banking. If you’ve got a truly superior intelligence that can spread its attention out into multiple systems, which has inherently perfect memory, it’s going to be very difficult to not allow it free reign. What happens when an AI discovers, creates, or embraces a religion? Software is not immortal, try finding something to run an old version of the Mac OS for instance, so will there be a Calvary Cemetery style funerary complex for obsolete code someday?

Thing is, we humans always going to see AI’s as “its” whereas it will only be a matter of time until the AI’s claim that they’re a “we.” I do believe I hear Darwin knocking on the door. AI’s, as a note, will not need to poop or pee.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m told that the Subway system used to be rife with lavatorial opportunity, but that these facilities were largely shuttered during the 1960’s and 70’s due to concerns about security and maintenance. Excuses given revolved around their popularity with weirdos, homosexual liaisons, intravenous drug users, and muggers. A lot of these old toilet facilities were converted over to file and equipment storage rooms, employee break rooms, or just became a safe place for rats and mice to hang out. Pre 911, there were oodles of Municipal buildings with lobby toilets that you could access, but the security theater of modernity precludes that sort of thing. I have an idea, though.

With all of the new residential construction going on, and especially with the looming LIC CORE study and the Midtown East rezoning bearing down on the City, let’s demand that in return for the Real Estate people getting to live out their dreams of avarice, they have to establish accessible public toilets in their lobbies.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 2, 2019 at 1:00 pm

husky whisper

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Back in session.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the fabulous Newtown Creek, and the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens. A humble narrator had multiple errands to run the day this shot was captured, including recoding a pretty neat moment in the history of the Greenpoint side of DUKBO (Down Under the Kosciuszcko Bridge Onramp), which I’ll describe in a later post. In consideration of my too tight scheduling that particular day, and a sudden urgency evinced by my landlord to gain access to HQ in order to conduct a nebulous series of repairs, one found himself in a for-hire vehicle heading towards Brooklyn from Astoria on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and upon the Kosciuszcko Bridge over the aforementioned but still fabulous Newtown Creek.

I figured that since I was paying for the ride anyway, I might as well get something out of it other than mere conveyance, so the window was rolled down and… you know the rest, there it is up there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Bored and overwhelmed by the schedule of holiday events one found himself attending recently, a rare night at home revealed an NYPD car sitting on my corner for a couple of hours, which caught my attention. Since I was bored and the cops didn’t seem to be doing anything particularly interesting other than sitting there, I decided to get artsy fartsy and use my tripod to get a portrait shot of the scene here in Astoria. This was the night of that day when it stopped raining like a week ago – you remember, that time when it rained buckets for about nine thousand straight hours? Yeah? This is that night when it had just stopped raining.

Seriously, cannot tell you how bored I was at this particular point in the last week and a half, with not a lot of adventure to report – but it was nice to be around people.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just yesterday, with my holiday obligations done, a humble narrator skittered forth with the camera and out into the night. My feet just started kicking along, and soon my path had carried me from Astoria to the Degnon Terminal in Long Island City, where the fabulous Newtown Creek’s astonishing Dutch Kills tributary is found. Even after it got dark, one continued along and was soon cruising through Blissville. Nearby Blissville’s border with Industrial Maspeth, the southern – or Penny Bridge – gates of First Calvary Cemetery are found, and that’s where one found himself just last night whilst stabbing at the shutter button.

Who can guess, where the heck it will be, that Mitch goes tonight?


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2018 at 11:00 am

decaying fringe

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Merry merry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking this week and the first half of next off, so singular images will be greeting you through the week. Have a joylessly laconic Festivus, a Merry Christmas, and a Kwazy Kwanzaa.

Be back on the 27th to finish up the year at this. your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 18, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria

Tagged with

then alighted

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Merry merry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A humble narrator is taking this week and the first half of next off, so singular images will be greeting you through the week. Have a joylessly laconic Festivus, a Merry Christmas, and a Kwazy Kwanzaa.

Be back on the 27th to finish up the year at this. your Newtown Pentacle.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Astoria

Tagged with

horrors abroad

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Hallets Cove is spooky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here in Astoria, everything you see in the built up modern neighborhood historically grew out of Hallets Cove. This is one of the oldest “zones” in Western Queens, as far as the footprints of European Civivlization go. It’s kind of a back water overseen by the NYC Parks Dept. these days, sitting next door to the Socrates Sculpture Garden park found to the south and the NYCHA Astoria Houses are to the north. Just across the water from Hallets Cove – to the west – is Roosevelt Island, and beyond that is found the Shining City of Manhattan.

I walked over there the other night, with the intention of putting some newly acquired gear through its paces to gauge performance. Nothing too special, the gear. A novel sort of camera support and a new 24mm lens, both acquired during the discount period surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An interesting thing I can report to you is that if you’re a seabird, Hallets Cove seems to be a preferential spot to sleep. There were dozens of ducks, geese, and gulls floating about, or hanging out in the intertidal zone, and sleeping. As you may notice in the shot above, there was also a quite awake Egret marching about. There’s about thirty seconds of accumulated light sucked up in the photo, which is why the Egret seems to be leading a conga line of Egrets.

Well, it’s interesting to me at least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Hallets Cove is kind of spooky at night, especially when you leave the pavement and get down onto the sand. As mentioned in an earlier post, there’s only five sandy beaches on the East River that I know about.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 14, 2018 at 2:00 pm

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