The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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foul emanation

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The best thing about Manhattan is seeing it from somewhere else.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of Saturdays ago, one found himself at Hunters Point in anticipation of the so called “Manhattanhenge” event. Largely rained out and occluded by stormy weather on the actual date of the astronomical curiousity, it nevertheless provided me with the excuse to tote the tripod and camera down to the east river and do some long exposure shots of the shining city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I was actually a day early for the “full monty” of Manhattanhenge, but that didn’t really bother me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rest of Memorial Day weekend was filled in with social obligation, and this was my only opportunity to hang around the water for a spell. Back tomorrow with something a bit more substantial than some pretty pictures.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

June 6, 2016 at 11:00 am

gleaming vividly over

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Damnation isn’t a mass market kind of product, it’s personalized and tailored to fit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It has long been my assertion, when discussing subjects involving the occult and or supranatural, that there is no “one size fits all” sort of thing to describe hell. Demons are geniuses, in the Greek sense of the word, and hell doesn’t have specific zip codes for specific sins. For one such as myself, the legendary torments of Gehenna would take the form of either a never ending subway trip or waiting for train to arrive whilst needing to urinate. If you’ve been at the 34th street IND station during the summer months while needing to piss, I’m sure you’ll agree with me.

It is my firm belief, in fact, that many of the characters you meet down in the transit labyrinth are in fact damned souls – which would actually explain a lot of things – the running water, that weird smell, why it’s so warm down there. Aquinas and Origen both described hell as the absence and tacit abandonment of God itself, and if there’s any place that you can be assured that God has abandoned you – it’s the 42nd street subway complex.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The guy selling candy bars and magazines who spends his days and nights in a concrete box on the NQR platform? I’ll allow you to speculate what he did while alive to deserve this afterlife.

I get in trouble with some of you occasionally for referring to “God” as an “it.” I’m all for anthromorphising non human extra-dimensional intelligences and all, but should this entity actually exist – it’s an “it” and not a he or a she. Agnosticism has always served me best, and there are philosophical currents in Buddhism which advise that spending too much of your life pondering spiritual matters is not what the universe – or “it” – intended when they incarnated you into the meatspace which back me up on this idea. If there is an afterlife, I’ll have to pay my check when I leave the table, but in the meantime I intend to continue eating and drinking heartily until the bad news comes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in a prior post, for some reason I’ve begun to mentally refer to Manhattan as “Manchuquo” which is coincidentally similar to the name which the Japanese Empire assigned to its holdings in Manchuria during the 1930’s and 40’s. At any rate, while standing on a platform in what I believe to be the first circle of hell – The NYC Subway system – in Manchuquo, it occurred to me that’s it’s been a while since I read Aquinas, or Marcus Aurelius. Have to find and download some audiobooks for those two – simply for the reason that I can win rhetorical arguments with the NYC EDC by quoting them.

Hell, I need to listen to something intelligent while wandering around the City of Greater New York… Do you suppose that if the Subway is – as asserted – the first circle of hell, that Manhattan might just be purgatory?

It certainly does feel like it.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Saturday, May 21st at 3:30 p.m. –
A Return to The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek,
with Atlas Obscura, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Click here for more details.

Thursday, May 26th at 6 p.m. –
Brooklyn Waterfront: Past & Present Boat Tour,
with Working Harbor Committee. Click here for more details.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

May 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

pedantic overexposure

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Manhattan is an “only when necessary” destination.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the little diatribes I’m known for concerns Manhattan, specifically the section of it found below 96th street and above the Battery. Once, this was an interesting place. There is still some interesting architecture to observe, of course, but the chances of encountering anything that isn’t crass and or exploitative are pretty much nil these days. Seven bucks for a hot dog? Really?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The only reason a humble narrator ever goes there anymore involves where my physicians have set up their offices, the catching of a ferry to Staten Island, or attending some harbor related function.

It’s sanitized, Manhattan is, and having had all of its edges sanded down has resulted in it becoming quite bland. Rich people and tourists are, by definition, not terribly interesting. Most of what you’ll find at the street level – shop wise, has become banal. The entire island was once brightly colored, but there has been so much bleach applied to it over the years…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A recent appointment with my team of Doctors required me to visit the island, and I took the opportunity to perambulate from 59th street to Union Square – roughly two miles. Two miles in North Brooklyn or Western Queens would have seen me return to HQ with literally hundreds of shots of interesting things I’d encountered. The Manhattan walk resulted in about 15 shots.

Above, a film crew at work nearby Union Square Park, is included simply because it’s part of a larger series of “Photographing Photographers while they’re Photographing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thankfully, after a clean bill of health was pronounced by the professional staff at my Doctor’s office, a chariot back to the bountiful vistas of Queens arrived at the Subway station just as I did. The best part of visiting Manhattan is leaving it behind.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm

deserved imprisonment

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A few shots from the Shining City, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While on the way to Old St. Pat’s for the Irish language mass a week or two ago, a bit of my spare Manhattan time was filled by wandering about. Over in the East Village, one of my favorite bits of historical neon – the Block Drugs sign – was observed and recorded.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One had taken the 7 from Queens to Manhattan, which deposited me in midtown. I had elected to walk down Park Avenue for one reason or another. One of the reasons was that since Park is a bit wider than most of Manhattan’s north south streets – there would be available light rather than perpetual shadow.

Don’t worry, the Mayor’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing rules and zoning changes will soon eliminate any shard of pesky sunlight which might strike the ground.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Always on the lookout for something “iconic,” this early morning lineup of taxis at Grand Central Terminal caught my eye as I scuttled forth from the 7 train’s exit.

Have a good Friday, all. 

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 25, 2016 at 11:20 am

squamous litanies

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It’s a real migraine out there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Let’s face it, what we New Yorkers actually do is raise a hell of a ruckus wherever we are, but especially so when we’re at home. Personal experience of visiting relatively rural and quiet areas, like Vermont, reveals the effect on my hearing that living in this constant din has wrought. For 24-48 hours after leaving the City, there’s a high pitched phantom tone constantly present. I’ve always thought that the “wheeeeeee” sound, in addition to having a medical definition and name, is my brains attempt to filter out the constant rumble and thunder of city life – cerebral noise cancelling if you will.

All the engines, and generators, exhaust fans, jets, car tires on asphalt, buzzing things on utility poles, everybody talking, the subways, the chattering of millions of birds – the air is polluted not just with toxic gases and sewage bacteria rising on the breeze from out of the harbor – but with noise.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s only during power outages and blizzards that you get to hear the City hush up for a while. I’d settle for regular powers like being able to effectively climb a ladder or balance my check book, but a humble narrator has often fantasized about possessing some sort of super power. My first choice would be invulnerability, of course, but a lot of the really interesting choices involve sight and perception. X-Ray vision? I’d worry about giving people cancer just by looking at them. Being able to fly without the invulnerability would actually be kind of dangerous.

What if you could visualize sound? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I know, that’s the sort of thing somebody would ask in a dorm room shortly after passing the bong, but still.

The BQE would probably look like something from Van Gogh, with crashing scalars creating fractal wavefronts which bounce and dance along the road itself and all the brick walls of the buildings which the highway weaves through. The East River would likely be a majestic sight, and would exhibit something akin to a sonic Jackson Pollack painting.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

lured and

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Adventure and pedantic excitement, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavors found me at what I’m fairly sure is the western boundary of the former garden of Eden, the modern day Times Square. Often have I advanced the theory that Eden was not only in North America, but in Manhattan, and that the Tree of Knowledge was found in the dead bang center of 42nd street between 7th Avenue and Broadway opposite the Subway entrance on the south, and the news ticker on the north. Furthermore, it is my belief that Times Square is actually the geographic center – or Omphalos – of the universe itself, but esotericism and magick seldom apply to cartography.

I am sure that Adam and Eve would have headed in the direction of modern day Port Authority after eating the forbidden fruit, as original sin and mortal damnation are inextricably linked to that hellish terminal building and all the lost souls who dwell therein.

Somewhere deep below Port Authority is a forgotten and unmapped subway platform servicing the H, E, and LL lines, with transfers available only from the S, I, and N lines. One needs to ride the latter in the correct order, in order to arrive at the entrance leading to the former.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the E, and hellish subterranean complexes filled with ironic punishments, here’s one entering Queens Plaza. MTA played one of its little jokes on me last week, when I found out that they had instituted a “you can’t get there, from here” rule for the local R train on a Saturday afternoon.

Putting the signage up on the platform, rather than at the turnstile? Well played, MTA, well played.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The melting snow last week saw Steinway Street here in Astoria offering water curtains slipping off of construction sheds, which was actually kind of magical when the sun was out. I say it all the time – “NYC never looks so good as it does when it’s wet.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, and this happens every year, some escaped toy had frozen to death and its corpse emerged as the snow pack dissolved. Why people who own toys don’t install screens on their windows, I cannot fathom. Personally, I won’t let any of my toys out of the house without a leash, and they’re all “chipped.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Whilst waiting for the bagel shepherds to accomplish the fashioning of breakfast one day, I was fascinated by the forensics offered by a tree pit on Astoria’s Broadway. Notice the normal sized human boot print and the gargantuan one superimposed at the top of the shot.

I can confirm that there very well might be a Sasquatch family living here in Astoria, which would make sense as every other tribe of the hominids maintains a residence hereabouts, but that their big feet are clad in galoshes. Vibrant Diversity includes cryptids, you know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, I met a Mariachi one night.

He seemed nice. He was certainly vibrant, I believe he said his name was Luis, but I can’t say a thing about whether he was diverse or not. We have a LOT of guys who work as Mariachi musicians hereabouts, and I know more than just one Luis who lives in Western Queens. 

We discussed Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi movies” and the gentleman affirmed that his guitar case held a musical instrument rather than a series of automatic weapons by producing the thing and strumming out a tune.

Luis (?) The Mariachi told me that he was a classically trained guitarist who loved Bach, but paid his rent working as an entertainer at restauarants and parties. I commented that I’m a fan of the Moorish influenced 12 string Spanish Guitar genre, whereupon he informed me that there is no such thing as Spanish guitar – it’s “Mexican Guitar” – that’s all there is. After parting company, I immediately regretted not mentioning Bix Beiderbecke, given where our encounter took place on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside. 

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

unsupervised circuit

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Life long relationships, ending, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in the late 1980’s, my first job in advertising involved making photostat enlargements and reductions for the senior designers, art directors, and production artists at an agency which specialized in “B2B” marketing involving food service. My job title was “stat boy” and my function, beyond shooting “stats” in a darkroom, was to support whatever the more senior people needed. I worked directly for the “Studio Manager,” who was a friend from College that had graduated a couple of years ahead of me and offered me my first “leg up” into the business. He would often remind me that “shit rolls down hill” and accordingly I would end up performing menial tasks that he was too busy for – ensuring that our supply closet was stocked with pads of paper or paste up supplies, running job bags around the agency for sign off’s and approvals from the various powers that be, that sort of stuff. Think Jimmy Olsen at the Daily Planet, that was me back then. Overall, the job was worth doing, and it taught me a lot about how to survive as an artist in NYC.

One day, the Studio Manager sat me down in front of a brand new Macintosh computer, handed off a pile of floppy disks, and the task was to install a suite of software on the new Mac – which was the very first one that the agency had purchased. That was the first time that I ever opened a new program called “Photoshop” and it was also the first step towards what I ended up doing for a living as a digital production artist and photo retoucher. I’ve seen the entire conversion of the industry from “paste up and mechanicals” to full digital and web production over the intervening decades.

I’ve spent most of my professional life in front of an Apple computer – this post is being written on an iPad, for instance, and every photo you’ve ever seen from me was edited and processed on a desktop Mac tower.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

For a while there, things weren’t going so good for Apple. A lot of bad decisions, coupled with horrendous customer relations, had almost put the computer manufacturer out of business.

Steve Jobs returned to the company, and brought it back from the brink. The phones came along, and Apple suddenly became a mainstream company, and flush with cash. Jobs died, and a new management team took over at Apple, who have unfortunately returned the company to the bad old days. Form has taken primacy over function with this new team, and the entire concept of producing something which could be termed a “professional workstation” began to suffer. Every refinement of the core operating system released over the last decade has been crafted with the idea that its only function is to “monetize” the device, as related to selling me commercial entertainment media, and they have specifically removed capabilities from the device which were and are “mission critical” to my professional life.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent encounters with the company – one where they informed me that a three year old workstation was “obsolete” and that even a simple component replacement would be impossible by the end of this year, another where a two and half year old iPhone with a defective battery (factory issues at the time of manufacture) was also obsolete – have soured me on the whole idea of Apple. The applications which I use in my daily round, the so called “Adobe Suite,” have become platform independent in the decades since a humble narrator was commanded to install them at that B2B agency off of floppy disks, and I’m not at all sure that I want to continue paying premium prices for a device which is considered obsolete by its manufacturer less than 36 months after opening the box.

Why buy a Ducati when a Buick will do?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These shots, of midtown Manhattan, were gathered while killing time and ruminating on my relationship with Apple at the end of December.

I was waiting out a battery replacement for the aforementioned iPhone, which – it should be mentioned – was performed flawlessly and took exactly one hour, but cost approximately one seventh of what I originally paid for the device. I pushed the folks at the Apple Store for a replacement device, but was told that this would be impossible, but that I could trade my old phone in for a couple of hundred bucks which could be applied towards the purchase of a new one (which would leave a $500 differential). Alternatively, they offered me entry into a contractual program, which would entail me giving the company $30 a month forever afterwards, that would ensure that whenever they released a new model I would receive one. That would mean a $360 per annum payment to Apple, forever and ever.

That’s a corporate tax, and the last straw, frankly.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is less than sanguine about being overly exploited by a corporation, but if the service is desirable or needed… I have no problem paying my accountant, nor doctors, nor my local bartender, baker, or butcher what they’re due. Should my bakery suddenly announce that they will require me to pay them a monthly stipend for the privilege of returning moldy bread, however, I will find a new place to shop for my cookies and pie.

Sometimes, one must address the costs of things costing too much, and remember that the costs of customer retention are not too much for a large company. There are other options, always. I’ll miss Apple.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

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