The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

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various inhabitants

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Hooray, it’s Monday!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few odds and ends in today’s post, as a humble narrator is fairly hurting for new stuff to show you. The weather and a few  “have to’s” had forced my butt to remain static at HQ last week, and the camera has received little to no exercise outside of the normal rounds here in Astoria. Additionally, something went awry with my left leg in the ankle zone so I spent half of last week with a disturbing bit of “owie” going on. Often I’ll describe my physical woes as being due to the presence of the “pain squirrel” which alights on different branches of my body randomly, in much the same way as the Norse myths describe the squirrel Ratatoskr running about on the world tree Yggdrasil. Ratatoskr would chew on various branches of Yggdrasil, which caused earthquakes and volcanic activity to manifest. The pain squirrel, instead, causes one to merely exclaim “what the hell did I do to myself now?”

The older you get, the more hypochondriacal you get. Eventually, you get to the point where the impact of sunlight on your skin is felt, and hurts. Pictured above is a gas station on Northern Blvd. in LIC. Have you noticed that the real estate people have been devouring gas stations recently, along with supermarkets? Anything with a big enough footprint, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One is in the process of becoming diurnal again, after long months of activity in the dark of night. Transitioning between the two results in a feeling akin to jet lag, with drowsy intervals occurring in the afternoon. Given that one has more or less been surrendering to the embrace of Morpheus just before sunrise for a few months, this rather jarring process will likely take all week. I’m not abandoning the night shooting, not by a long shot, but a biological need to experience the rise and fall of the burning thermonuclear eye of God itself in the wan winter sky is upon me.

Don’t want to start growing a patch of mushrooms on my back.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Additionally, I haven’t caused any real trouble for a bit, and there’s probably battles I should be fighting.

It’s also marginally warmer during the days, I seem to recall.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 11, 2019 at 11:30 am

nothing unprecedented

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Just another day in paradise, yo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The sculptor who designed the plastic pink lawn flamingo was Donald Featherstone, a task he accomplished in 1957 for a company he ended up running until his retirement in 2000 A.D., called Union Products Inc. I had a dream once where Featherstone’s Flamingoes were chasing me and fell out of bed. Sleepwalking, or somnambulism, is quite rare and only regularly affects about 4% of adult humans. Sleepwalking episodes typically last anywhere from thirty seconds to thirty minutes, and there are sleepwalkers who have actually left their homes for a sleep drive in their cars while dreaming. There are sleep eaters, and sleep “shtuppers” who engage in sexual coitus (sexsomnia) while totally asleep. There are several legal proceedings in which a sleepwalker has actually murdered someone, wherein the somnambulist was pronounced not guilty. That’s a slippery slope.

As a child, I became convinced that quicksand, which is a fascinating soil condition caused by a particular ratio of sand and water that forms a “shear thinning non Newtownian fluid” was something you needed to be prepared for as an adult. Stress the sand/water mix – say by stepping on it – and the sand and liquid will seperate and you’ll sink right in. The physics of it all are fascinating, and removing yourself from the quicksand is difficult and complicated. Trying to just pull yourself straight out would require titanic amounts of force. Your best bet, I’m told, is to slowly work your self into a position where you’re facing the sky and your limbs are spread out as far as you can manage (which is the same advice offered for those caught in avalanches of snow). Then you sort of wiggle and wriggle your body towards the solid ground direction that you came from. Contrary to popular belief, due to the relative material density of the quicksand and of your body, you likely won’t sink in past your waste even if you do panic and struggle. Those who die in quicksand do so due to hypothermia and or the arrival of carnivores. I don’t know if Flamingoes qualify as carnivores, and don’t want to find out.

As a note, quicksand has not turned out to be the ubiquitous problem when “adulting” that I thought it would be.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s likely that you’ve experienced, when laying down to sleep, feeling your arms or legs suddenly twitch or jerk for no reason. That’s called a hypnic or “myoclonic jerk” by sleep specialists. It’s pretty normal, but the league of doctors aren’t of a single mind as to causation for the phenomena. On the other side of things, that period of 15-30 minutes when you first wake up and are experiencing both cognitive difficulty and motor skill impairment is called “Sleep Inertia.” Part of ir is caused by the presence of a certain chemical, and you’ve got a series of receptor cells in your brain for this chemical  called “Adenosine,” which is abundant in the noodle when you’re sleep deprived – which most of us are. Caffeine is a blocker for these Adenosine receptors, and that’s why if you haven’t had enough sleep a “cuppa Joe” will help snap you out of the sleep inertia. Saying that, it’s still pretty normal to be a bit groggy when you wake up, since your body has been in an anabolic state and busy cleaning up the mess you made of it the day before. The natural process of waking up involves a spike in cortisol levels in your blood, wherein the adrenal glands can manufacture an average of more than fifty percent more cortisol than when asleep. Ultimately, Cortisol levels are the difference between “morning people” and “evening people,” which is thought to be related to individual “cortisol awakening response.”

A humble narrator has always been the latter, a “night owl” as it’s called. I’ve never been a Flamingo.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The section of the East River pictured above varies in depth from about twenty five to fifty one feet, which you can visualize by thinking about submerging a series of buildings which range from two to five stories. If the Empire State Building ever found itself sitting in the middle of the East River, and hey… climate change, amiright?… it would still rise some ninety seven to one hundred stories into the sky. A couple of years ago, somebody asked me to do a boat tour of shipwrecks in New York Harbor, but it seems that wrecks are cleared out in an expeditious fashion as they’d otherwise be a hazard to navigation and commerce. So, I believe, are flamingoes.

Hope you enjoyed today’s completely random trivia, back on Monday with something completely different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 8, 2019 at 11:00 am

averring that

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Lurking, in fear.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, I was a bit restless and in need of some exercise, so a short scuttle ensued. As I was making my way, a group of adolescents was noticed walking on the other side of the street which induced a state of panic in me. Was this a wolf pack? Juvenile delinquents? An amoral band of street gypsies, or urban privateers? Junior stick up men? Cowering behind a cast off cardboard box, I noticed that a few new holes had appeared in the fencelines at the Sunnyside Yards and one decided to pass the behind the box time spent hiding from the teenagers by sticking my lens through these new chain link apertures.

Teenagers are scary. I was cold, and I think there might have been wolves – or ghost wolves – following me. Ghost wolves are scarier than either teenagers or regular wolves because… y’know… ghosts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Looking eastwards from the 39th street or Harold Avenue viaduct, towards the balloon track at Sunnyside Yards. No ghosts are apparent in this shot, but that’s no guarantee that there wasn’t some spectral tomb legion staring back up at me from the oily mud below. I’ve repeatedly asked my landlord if anybody has ever died in my apartment, but he’s always pretended that he didn’t hear the query. It would explain some of the hot water issues enjoyed at HQ in Astoria, were there a few extra invisible people showering at inconvenient times in the other units, but I really have no way of knowing.

Supposedly, there’s about seven million people in NYC these days. Historically speaking, there’s got to be at least a quarter billion ghosts roaming around the five boroughs, maybe even half a billion. That’s a lot of ghosts. I wonder how many of the living seven million are teenagers, though, as that’s the population I really worry about. Ghosts have impulse control, teenagers don’t. Teenagers are the absolute worst.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ghost wolves are scary to contemplate, but what about ghost teenagers? I knew a few people who died in High School and college through a variety of mishaps – mainly car accidents or drug overdoses, or some combination thereof. How many people have checked out at the corner of Northern Blvd. and Steinway over the centuries? Ok, it’s only been Northern Blvd. for about eighty years and Steinway for just over a hundred and change, yes, so let’s just call it the intersection of Jackson and Harold Avenues? Ok?

Ghosts.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2019 at 1:00 pm

deeply worried

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Scuttling, always scuttling.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Don’t worry, a humble narrator won’t be waxing all philosophic or talking about camera settings in today’s post. Instead, a few odds and ends collected or encountered when wandering home from industrial Mapseth last weekend at night are on offer. If you’re wondering, yes I was wearing my reflective construction vest over the filthy black raincoat. As is my habit, main streets are avoided, as I prefer to wander along the fencelines of cemeteries and abandoned factories. These lanes less travelled, however, are often badly lit and act as high speed byways for errant vehicles. Best to stay visible.

Also, for some reason, when I’m wearing the vest, nobody asks me why – or of what – I’m taking pictures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Carridor, or Northern Blvd. if you must, hosts a large number of used car dealerships. You often get to see a semi truck tagged with southern state plates hauling a delivery of cars here at night, and witness the frenetic unloading of vehicles which will be marked up and put on sale at the lots.

By me, it always makes for interesting photos, filed under “you don’t see that every day.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I suppose this scene is technically found in Woodside, although ai normally associate this zone with Maspeth. It’s actually Borden Avenue down below the elevated Long Island Expressway, which runs between Second and Third Calvary Cemeteries.

A visually interesting and lonely spot, and another one of the dimly lit corridors found in the Newtown Pentacle.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 25, 2018 at 11:00 am

every evidence

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Children don’t seem to sing rhyming songs about lethal infectious diseases anymore.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Colloquially speaking, the whole “Ring-a-round the rosies, a pocket full of posies” rhyming nursery school standard is commonly thought to refer to the onset of Bubonic Plague, but scholarly experts in the field of folklore deny such interpretation claiming that such ideations first appeared in the post modernist plagued 20th century. There’s evidentiary usage of the rhyming song from early in the 19th century, with regional and linguistic variations, contained in journalism and travelogue writings. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle documented Brooklyn street urchins singing a version of “Ring A Rosie” in 1846, for instance, and there’s written accounts of variants from Britain and Germany in about the same period. The German version sounds terrifying of course, which confirms something I’ve been chatting about with one of my Astoria buddies who originally hails from Cologne about.

“Nice” things, when spoken in German, sound terrifying whereas terrifying things sound like desserts. As an example – “newborn baby” is “Neugeborenes,” which sounds like some sort of a bone cancer. “Death by fire” is “Tod durch Feuer,” which my first instinct would presume is a fried fruit and chocolate cake concoction served on a wad of whipped cream.

It’s odd that, almost as odd as the design of that Amtrak engine unit 651 pictured above. This model of train engine seems to have an angry face, complete with glowing red eyes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There was quite a hubbub here in the neighborhood last weekend, as the MTA was busy working in Queens Plaza on the N/W elevated tracks and had closed several arterial streets leading to and from the Queensboro Bridge. There were all sorts of diversions and reroutings, with all sorts of lovely gasoline powered signs flashing important messages at passerby. This was actually a difficult shot to acquire, as the “Expect Delays” sign was of the LED type.

The reason that LED lights use so much less energy than incandescent or flourescent ones revolves around the fact that they’re actually flashing on and off rather staying steadily on. To the human eye, something that’s flashing on and off a hundred times in a second appears steadily illuminated, in the same way that we perceive the 30 frames per second of cinema or tv images as moving images. One wonders about the subliminal effects of LED lighting, and whether or not they could be used to alter human perception via changes in frequency, perhaps inducing mood changes in a madding crowd environmentally. Visual morse code? Maybe. Try going out with and without the tinfoil hat and see if you think different things between the two experiences. Be empirical, I say.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A significant percentage of MTA’s rolling stock down in the sweating concrete bunkers has seen their “badge” indications converted over to LED lighting, which causes me no end of trouble when engaging in my habit of photographing trains entering and leaving the station. I’ve settled on a minimum shutter speed of 1/160th of a second for such matters, although 1/100th seems to be the actual frequency of the badge’s lighting cycle. The latter speed is too slow for the approaching locomotive, as the image of the thing gets “smeared” with motion blur. Even at 1/160th, however, as in the shot seen above, there is a discernibly lit and unlit portion of both the badge circle and the line designator.

Also, before anyone becomes fixated on the purplish lens flare visible, I cannot tell you why it’s purple. There’s a lot of light kicking around when a train enters a station, dust and crap in the air, and the headlights are pointing right into the lens which has an anti glare coating on it as well. It’s all part of the environmental effect.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

August 16, 2018 at 11:15 am

learned abroad

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Is it “Hell in a hand basket,” or are our hand baskets sending us to hell? 

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the very few places where my personal ideology aligns with that of the Dope from Park Slope – aka the current Mayor of the City of Greater New York – concerns discouraging the continued usage of those plastic shopping bags that every shop in NYC jams their goods into. I’m old enough to remember when the then ubiquitous brown paper bag was phased out in favor of these things. The excuse at the time was that “it saved trees” not using paper.

Of course, in the current era of ubiquitous municipal recyling programs, those paper bags would be worth a small fortune on the “pulp” market. The plastic ones, well, they ain’t exactly saving any trees here in Queens.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This unfortunate example of the urban arbor is found on 43rd street, just off Northern Blvd. It serves the community as a rake set high into the air column, gathering unto itself wind blown trash. Given that the common plastic grocery sack couldn’t be better designed, as far as parasailing, the air is sometimes thick around Western Queens with these things. Ask my colleague Will Elkins (at Newtown Creek Alliance) about how many of these things he scoops out of the water every year.

Plastic, ultimately, is a waste product of the oil refining process, just like asphalt. That means that the manufacture of new plastic items, in particular poly vinyl chloride based ones, uses a super cheap “feed stock” and are massively profitable to produce and sell accordingly. If some science fiction like limitless and clean energy source was discovered today, we’d still be using petroleum a century from now, so this is a problem that isn’t going away.

People from industrialized countries might say “oil? if we went all “sci fi power source,” it would disappear.” Remember that right now and today in 2018, at least 50% of all living humans use wood fires to heat their homes and cook their food. Coal is still used in massive quantities all over the world, and the underlying technology behind even a nuclear power plant is ultimately a steam driven engine. “Installed base” is the conversation, not fuel source. Just saying.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the things which right wingers opine about environmentalists is that they often have no idea what they’re doing and have just jumped onto an issue because it’s fashionable. They will point out misreadings of climatological data which predicted a new ice age starting in the 1990’s, or mock the banning of CFC accelerants and the so called “Ozone Hole” during the late 1980’s. They will declare many, many things which paint a picture of vainglorious hippies tilting at imaginary windmills that just get in the way of National Business, and which put “hard working Americans” out of work. The more extreme amongst them will say that this all part of God’s plan for us, and not to worry about the natural environment. Faith sustains, not nature. 

I submit the photos in today’s post, and ask “did the trees in Eden look like this”? 


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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

defeated aspirations

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It’s National Roast Suckling Pig Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The other night, I mentioned to a friend that I had no reason to get up in the morning, and he inquired as to whether or not I was depressed. My statement had nothing to do with mood or mental state, instead it was factual – my daytime calendar is fairly empty between the first week of December and middle January. Part of this is my peculiar vulnerability to cold weather which necessitates a certain amount of hermitage, another part of it is that this is the time of the year when I’m hitting the books and doing research into this or that, and working on presentation materials (working on the 2018 photo portfolio, me). This has really hampered photo gathering – as a note – which is a negative, but I’ve got to get my house of cards together for the new year. You’re only as good as the last provable shutter flop.

Since I don’t have to necessarily be “somewhere” at 8 in the morning most days, what’s the point of maintaining a farcical kabuki and simulating adherence to the “ole nine to five”? I’m often up at the hour of the wolf this time of the year. If you’re sacking out at four or five in the morning, you ain’t getting up at seven, if you know what I’m saying.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One thing that’s emerged in my searching through multiple archives of photos, which number in the tens of thousands at this point, is that I seem to have fallen into a bit of a rut over the last year and a half. The other is that a bunch of my friends have died along the way. There’s a few long term projects which will be reaching fruition in the next twenty four months, and the stuff generated by this “rut” has become noticeably more refined, but it seems I need to get out more. That’s my New Years resolution, by the way.

“I been everywhere, man” is a bit of generalization and I certainly haven’t been “everywhere.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is my annual habit, I plan to wallow in laziness and turpitude for another couple of weeks and get it out of my system. By the new year, boredom and self hatred will have expanded sufficiently to force me into action. Some pedantic and utterly banal explosion of activity inspired by Marcus Aurelius will form up and despite my ennui – me and the camera are going to be “out there” every single day.

For now, though, I still don’t have much of a reason to wake up in the mornings.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 18, 2017 at 2:15 pm

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