The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan

inscribed thereon

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A visit with the god of America.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Brazen and gilt, this representation of the American Augustus is appropriately found at the N.Y. Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons on 23rd street in Mahattan. It adorns a library room, and honors a significant member of that centuried secret society.

The founder of our nation, as General Washington is known, enjoyed a lifestyle that could only be maintained by a subjugate army of slaves. I’d like to believe that he would be resistant to having his birthday celebrated with a crass and consumerist bacchanal, as he’d be embarrassed by it – but as I’m a non-slaver, it’s difficult for me to imagine the mindset of the “founding fathers” and walk a mile in their proverbial moccasins.

from wikipedia

Titled Washington’s Birthday, the federal holiday was originally implemented by the United States Congress in 1880 for government offices in the District of Columbia (20 Stat. 277) and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices (23 Stat. 516). As the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, the holiday was celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. On 1 January 1971, the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This date places it between February 15 and 21, which makes the name “Washington’s Birthday” a misnomer, since it never lands on Washington’s actual birthday, February 22. A draft of the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968 would have renamed the holiday to Presidents’ Day to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln, but this proposal failed in committee and the bill as voted on and signed into law on 28 June 1968, kept the name Washington’s Birthday.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The General died badly, but everybody does that, and one such as myself doesn’t shed tears for a dead slave master even if they did accomplish a lot at their day jobs. Unfortunately, for a fellow so immersed in the “Enlightenment” and who was very much a rationalist and a logician – he thought the answer to illness was exsanguination (which was how his slaves were “cured” of ailments as well). His doctors bled him to death, but the holiday today is about his birth, not his death. This compound holiday (Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays are celebrated coterminously) was offered to the nation, as of 1968, as it was determined that there were too many Monday holidays in February and it was getting in the way of business. I’ve often thought we should celebrate a Monday holiday which specifically mentions the subjugation and forced generational labor of millions, but there you go.

from wikipedia

On Thursday, December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his plantation on horseback, in snow, hail, and freezing rain—later that evening eating his supper without changing from his wet clothes.

That Friday he awoke with a severe sore throat and became increasingly hoarse as the day progressed, yet still rode out in the heavy snow, marking trees on the estate that he wanted cut. Sometime around 3 a.m. that Saturday, he suddenly awoke with severe difficulty breathing and almost completely unable to speak or swallow. A firm believer in bloodletting, a standard medical practice of that era which he had used to treat various ailments of enslaved Africans on his plantation, he ordered estate overseer Albin Rawlins to remove half a pint of his blood.

A total of three physicians were sent for, including Washington’s personal physician Dr. James Craik along with Dr. Gustavus Brown and Dr. Elisha Dick. Craik and Brown thought that Washington had what they diagnosed as “quinsey” or “quincy”, while Dick, the younger man, thought the condition was more serious or a “violent inflammation of the throat”. By the time the three physicians had finished their treatments and bloodletting of the President, there had been a massive volume of blood loss—half or more of his total blood content being removed over the course of just a few hours.

Recognizing that the bloodletting and other treatments were failing, Dr. Dick proposed performing an emergency tracheotomy, a procedure that few American physicians were familiar with at the time, as a last-ditch effort to save Washington’s life; but the other two doctors rejected this proposal.

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my little fantasies is the one where I magically pluck General Washington from the back of his horse and draw him into our future to witness that which has been wrought in his name. He gets introduced to the imperial majesty of present day America in this fugue of mine, and witnesses not just the modern military might but the relative luxury (compared to his era) and civil treatment that even the basest members of our society can and do expect. I suspect that the General would be shocked at the size and reach of a standing military which operates out of 900 military bases in 150 countries. I don’t think he’d be surprised that the slaves had been freed and offered citizenship, nor the lousy treatment they’d received. More shocking to him would be the relative importance and status of France and almighty England, which were the Americas of their time.

Of course, that was before an American God came along who did the work of the Great Architect of the Universe.

from wikipedia

Washington was initiated into Freemasonry in 1752. He had a high regard for the Masonic Order and often praised it, but he seldom attended lodge meetings. He was attracted by the movement’s dedication to the Enlightenment principles of rationality, reason and fraternalism; the American lodges did not share the anti-clerical perspective that made the European lodges so controversial. In 1777, a convention of Virginia lodges recommended Washington to be the Grand Master of the newly established Grand Lodge of Virginia; however, Washington declined, due to his necessity to lead the Continental Army at a critical stage, and because he had never been installed as Master or Warden of a lodge, he did not consider it Masonically legal to serve as Grand Master. In 1788, Washington, with his personal consent, was named Master in the Virginia charter of Alexandria Lodge No. 22.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 17, 2014 at 11:15 am

alluded to

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All text today from H.P. Lovecraft’s “Azathoth,” courtesy wikisource

– photo by Mitch Waxman

When age fell upon the world, and wonder went out of the minds of men; when grey cities reared to smoky skies tall towers grim and ugly, in whose shadow none might dream of the sun or of Spring’s flowering meads; when learning stripped the Earth of her mantle of beauty and poets sang no more save of twisted phantoms seen with bleared and inward looking eyes; when these things had come to pass, and childish hopes had gone forever, there was a man who traveled out of life on a quest into spaces whither the world’s dreams had fled.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of the name and abode of this man little is written, for they were of the waking world only; yet it is said that both were obscure. It is enough to say that he dwelt in a city of high walls where sterile twilight reigned, that he toiled all day among shadow and turmoil, coming home at evening to a room whose one window opened not to open fields and groves but on to a dim court where other windows stared in dull despair. From that casement one might see only walls and windows, except sometimes when one leaned so far out and peered at the small stars that passed. And because mere walls and windows must soon drive a man to madness who dreams and reads much, the dweller in that room used night after night to lean out and peer aloft to glimpse some fragment of things beyond the waking world and the tall cities. After years he began to call the slow sailing stars by name, and to follow them in fancy when they glided regretfully out of sight; till at length his vision opened to many secret vistas whose existance no common eye suspected. And one night a mighty gulf was bridged, and the dream haunted skies swelled down to the lonely watcher’s window to merge with the close air of his room and to make him a part of their fabulous wonder.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There came to that room wild streams of violet midnight glittering with dust of gold, vortices of dust and fire, swirling out of the ultimate spaces and heavy perfumes from beyond the worlds. Opiate oceans poured there, litten by suns that the eye may never behold and having in their whirlpools strange dolphins and sea-nymphs of unrememberable depths. Noiseless infinity eddied around the dreamer and wafted him away without touching the body that leaned stiffly from the lonely window; and for days not counted in men’s calendars the tides of far spheres that bore him gently to join the course of other cycles that tenderly left him sleeping on a green sunrise shore, a green shore fragrant with lotus blossoms and starred by red camalates…

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 13, 2014 at 10:43 am

marching things

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Infrastructure geekery today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The center of the Williamsburg Bridge span offers a clearance to river going vessels of about 135 feet.

A building story is conventionally calculated as being around 10-12 feet, so that makes the Williamsburg Bridge tall enough to fit a roughly 11-12 story building under the apogee of its arc, water towers notwithstanding. That gives us a bit of an idea about the sort and size of maritime vessels which used the mercantile river during the late 19th and early 20th century. Remember that engineers always work around restrictions, and inadvertently create standards when they do.

from wikipedia

Construction on the bridge, the second to cross this river, began in 1896, with Leffert L. Buck as chief engineer, Henry Hornbostel as architect and Holton D. Robinson as assistant engineer, and the bridge opened on December 19, 1903 at a cost of $24,200,000

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A 75,000 ton pile of steel, we call it Queensboro, and this deck is around 130 feet over the water. When it went up in 1909, there were still concerns about navigability for warships and other large ocean going vessels moving between the Navy Yard in Williamsburg and Long Island Sound (via Hells Gate). This has never been the front door for NY Harbor though, most mariners prefer the shallow but safer route which carries them through Gerritsen Bay and the Narrows, which we call the Ambrose Channel, to Jamaica Bay and the open ocean.

from wikipedia

Serious proposals for a bridge linking Manhattan to Long Island City were first made as early as 1838 and attempts to finance such a bridge were made by a private company beginning in 1867. Its efforts never came to fruition and the company went bankrupt in the 1890s. Successful plans finally came about in 1903 under the city’s new Department of Bridges, led by Gustav Lindenthal (who was appointed to the new position of Commissioner of Bridges in 1902), in collaboration with Leffert L. Buck and Henry Hornbostel, designers of the Williamsburg Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

149 feet over the water, Manhattan Bridge offers a significant amount of clearance to shipping, nearly 20 feet more than its northern brethren. Admittedly, this has always been a busier part of the river than that spanned by Queensboro and Williamsburg, but I’ve always wondered why East River Bridge 2 (MB) was built higher than 3 (WB) and 4 (QB). I’m sure the answer is pedantic, and will likely be depressing.

from wikipedia

The bridge was opened to traffic on December 31, 1909 and was designed by Leon Moisseiff, who later designed the infamous original Tacoma Narrows Bridge that opened and collapsed in 1940. It has four vehicle lanes on the upper level (split between two roadways). The lower level has three lanes, four subway tracks, a walkway and a bikeway. The upper level, originally used for streetcars, has two lanes in each direction, and the lower level is one-way and has three lanes in peak direction. It once carried New York State Route 27 and later was planned to carry Interstate 478. No tolls are charged for motor vehicles to use the Manhattan Bridge.

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not utter

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Curious marking, everywhere.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While wandering through the megalopolis, one is exposed to a constant barrage of information. Bill board, signage, even the streets have instructions and a complex code of symbols that instruct and inform. It is impossible, for the literate, to not translate these graphical representations of words directly into thought. You can’t “not” read something, if you can – in fact – read. It would be like ignoring a smell.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thing is though, and I’ve mentioned environmental adaptation before (in reference to the fact that I don’t really smell Newtown Creek or the sewer plant in Greenpoint anymore), unless something painted or posted to the wall is truly extraordinary, I can’t distinguish it out from the rest of the visual clutter. The way I see it is that even if only a letter or two of a word triggers recognition (that’s an “A” and that’s a “B”) in me, the graffiti person has won. Same thing goes for advertising, I guess. Either way, I don’t like being forced into thinking. That’s the direction in which trouble lies, when one begins to think.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is currently occupying a sidewalk here in Astoria, and a Brazilian fellow walking a strange dog told me that the word is Portuguese and translates as “corruption”. It really stands out, as no one else has written anything on any nearby sidewalks, or in front of other houses. My Brazilian friend shrugged his shoulders, and sauntered off with his odd pet. Also, I must compliment the handwriting on this graffito, and would love to own a font which follows its esthetic.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 30, 2014 at 7:30 am

regarding life

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Color please, bright and saturated, tall glass with lots of ice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This interminably frigid period has brought an abundance of dark gray into the sky, or so I am told. An unavoidable consequence of such atmospheric phenomena, one such as myself is possessed of the need to witness and be exposed to color. Bright, saturated, vibrant color. Accordingly, I’ve reached into the archives for today’s post. What’s more colorful or cheery than Mt. Zion Cemetery, after all?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another shot in Queens, this time of the estimable Kosciuszko Bridge immersed in the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself in the westerly sky. Spanning the antiloquacious depths of the Newtown Creek, the great steel monster will meet its end at the hands of state officials and municipal contractors quite soon, or so they tell me. One grows older by the minute, as does this bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always loved this lucky shot. Right place at the right time, a passing squall of thunderstorms had produced a phenomena known as Mammacular Clouds. I happened to be in town for a friends birthday and spotted the otherworldly lighting at work around the Chrysler Building. This is what it really looked like. Could use some of that kind of light in January.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2014 at 7:30 am

frescoed halls

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Another one from the archives.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A couple of friends of mine were getting married, and threw some big fancy “do” at a hotel over on Park Avenue. As always I had a camera with me. A clear night, the venerable Empire State Building was lit up all pretty, and the rest is pixels on a page. My friends still seem quite taken with each other, by the way.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 27, 2013 at 7:30 am

snorted heavily

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Mr. Waxman’s break continues.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Some kind of amphibious dog or bear, this critter finds itself imprisoned in Manhattan for the amusement of the children of that Shining City’s elites in Central Park at the zoo. As to the reasons for this presentation of archive material at this, your Newtown Pentacle, suffice to say that one such as myself is barely able to get the laundry done.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 26, 2013 at 7:30 am

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