The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘night

grotesque night

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Vampires be damned, I’m going out!

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you might recall, last Thursday saw the Newtown Pentacle experiencing a temperature inversion whose unseasonable warmth generated a not insignificant amount of mist and fog. Atmospheric humidity was measured in the high end of the ninetieth percentiles, and the air temperature – even at night – never dipped below seventy degrees on that scale which was offered by and named for German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1724. Accordingly, one decided to stay up and go out into the fuligin.

After preparing and quaffing several decanters of caffeinated beverages, and having slavishly outfitted the camera bag for “night shooting,” I left Astoria at four in the morning, with a certain destination in mind, and my full kit on my back (including tripod). The tripod wasn’t deployed for a while, however, and all of the shots you’ll see over the next couple of days are handheld.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One decided on 48th street as offering my best southern path from “a” to “b,” with “b” in mind as being the lugubrious Newtown Creek. This is essentially one long incline, passing from the former marshlands of Northern Blvd., over the ridge into which Sunnyside Gardens was embedded, and continuing up the crest of Laurel Hill whereupon a gradual descent to the elluvial flood plains of the Newtown Creek and its tributaries once suffused a vast and mosquito breeding wetland environment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The thickening of the atmosphere – due to the high humidity – and combined with ascending the gradual slope, caused a heavy wave of perspiration to start which was soon oozing out of my skinvelope. This occult liquid, thick with secretions, began to soak into my clothing and cause no small amount of discomfort. Of more concern was the effect which the atmospherics might be having on my camera, which – unlike the meaty carriage utilized to carry my brain around – was functionally the same temperature as the surrounding mass of air so accretions of airborne moisture sought to coat it. I had long ago stored away my eye glasses, as their continual fogging made them more trouble than they were worth.

High humidity plus air temperatures in the chillier range, to the glassy parts of a lens, are a terrible combination. Condensation is ruinous. The prophylactic measure is to hold the camera close to my body, which warms it up a bit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Passing over Queens Blvd., and under the elevated concrete viaduct of the high flying IRT subway tracks, one began to feel a bit creeped out. It is an odd sensation moving through a City in the dark, knowing full well that any of the humans encountered will likely be inebriated or possessed of malign intent – or possibly some combination. Sex criminals and burglars are out at 4:30 in the morning – as well as photographers, it would seem.

As always, my headphones were in place, and the playlist of audio books employed for my night time jaunt were exclusively the writings of H.P. Lovecraft – as read in unabridged form by Wayne June.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Maybe it was the Lovecraft, or June’s basso performance of the material, but one found himself looking over his shoulder a lot. In the shadows and mist, unccommented upon men – if men they were – moved about in a manner which suggested that some series of neighborhood bacchanals had been well attended. All around me were cemeteries, ancient burying grounds locked away behind high iron gates. The desire to trespass was cut down by the sure knowledge that there are some things one does not wish to know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the height of Laurel Hill, the darkened streets began to brighten as the phosphorescence and sodium lighting of industrial West Maspeth began to illuminate the fog and mist. A quickness of step began to sharply increase my pace, which unfortunately began to increase the levels of perspiration one was experiencing.

Realization that my hair and clothing were saturated, and that although I was perspiring heavily, there was no way that this amount of liquid could have emerged out of me caused me to wonder – and more than wonder – why I was so moist.

The fact that I was walking through a gaseous vapor, a grounded cloud as it were, occurred when a casual touch revealed that my camera bag had become somewhat moistened as well. The closer I got to Newtown Creek, the more that an obsequious combination of automotive exhaust combining with the fog began to roil the olfactory senses, and my eyes began to sting. Regardless of discomfort, one had come this far, and the creeklands awaited.

Tomorrow – more.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 9, 2015 at 1:00 pm

breathing marble

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Greenwood Cemetery, at night, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last weekend, Atlas Obscura produced the “Into the Veil” event which was hosted at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery. Your humble narrator wormed his way onto the guest list, packed up the whole camera kit in preparation for some night shooting, and headed on over.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ethereal tones were pulsing out of several of the Mausolea, as Atlas Obscura had set up several performance spots. One particular tomb, the Morgan, had a familiar set of sounds pulsing out of it. When I hear musical saws playing, I know that I’ve found my pal and Astoria neighbor Natalia Paruz – the Saw Lady – at work. The shot above is a long exposure, which rendered Natalia in a ghostly blur of musical motion.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of my goals at the event was to “turn night into day.” I won’t bore you with all the technical details and camera settings, but suffice to say that the shots above and below are well beyond the range of human vision and that I was literally shooting blind. It was night time dark, with an overcast sky.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tripods are a must for this sort of thing, as are remote releases for the shutter (have to minimize camera shake, after all). The funny thing is that people were wandering around in the dark, literally moving through the frame as the shot was being captured, but because of the length of time that the exposure required – they are rendered invisible unless they stood still as a statue for 20-30 seconds. Random hotspots and reflections on the monuments, as seen in the shots above, emanate from distant flash lights carried by the crowds.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In situ, all I could see clearly were the monuments in the foreground, and even they were cloaked heavily in shadow. As mentioned, my goal was to “turn night into day” with these photos. The sky and tree line were barely visible to my eye when I set the exposure.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Physically speaking, these kind of shots are fairly arduous to capture, due to “the carry” of the amount of gear required. My normal “walk around” kit weighs about 6-8 pounds (depending on what I’m doing that day), but the full on night rig weighs closer to 20 pounds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but Greenwood is a fairly “physical” environment with lots of steep hills. A light sheen of perspiration, combined with the cool night air, creates another set of circumstances to deal with – ensuring that the moisture on your skin doesn’t migrate to the glass and metal surfaces of the camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Being old, I didn’t stay till the bitter end, but was pretty satisfied with what I captured. Hand held, as is the first shot in this post, one last photo of the gates of Greenwood was captured as I left. Both of the bookend shots are “truer” to the eye, and representative of human perception. Personally, I really dig the “night into day” stuff. How about you, Lords and Ladies?

Note: Saturday will see Halloween occur here in Astoria. A humble narrators plan entails assuming my regular station at the Times Square of Astoria – 42nd and Broadway – at the Doyle’s Corner pub. I will be photographing all costumed comers who agree to pose, masked passerby, and of course – the alcoholic antics of the Burrachos.

My plan is to get there around 2 and stay until the early evening, so if you’re in the neighborhood and costumed, stop on by and get yourself photographed. Unless the weather is ungodly, I’ll be sitting at an outdoor table right by the door. If the shot turns out nice, you might just find yourself published at this – your Newtown Pentacle.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

canopic jars

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A short one today

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned yesterday, I’m a bit buried at the moment in work.

Accordingly, a single image greets you today, depicting my favorite Halal Meats food cart here in almond eyed Astoria. These cats, and their thriving enterprise, are found at 34th avenue and Steinway Street. As you can see, even well into the evening – there’s always a lineup of people waiting for chow. If you’re in the neighborhood – I recommend their two kabab hero sandwich, which is stuffed with eggplant, onions, and drowned in both yogurt and hot sauce.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 2, 2015 at 12:09 pm

splitting and chipping

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The Astoria Tumbleweeds doth roll about.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The little trees which the human infestation tends to adorn their hovels with during the month of December pile up on the sidewalks around these parts during the first weeks of January, waiting for the wind to take them to new and novel locales. Just last week, one of the abandoned tumbleweeds was observed laconically rolling about in the middle of the street, for instance. Everywhere you go, the Astoria Tumbleweeds doth roll.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Occasion carried me over to 36th avenue recently, nearby the Kaufman Astoria movie studio complex. That’s where the garish lighting affixed to the former Famous Players studio building, as seen in the shot above, was observed. One loves LED lighting, as the technology has allowed a new class of compact and inexpensive flashlights that possess incredible powers of illumination to find their way into my hands, but those color changing architectural ones have to go. You’ll notice these installations all over Astoria, and despite the splash of bright color, these LED color changing accent lights are somewhat lowbrow and tasteless, harkening one to remember the neon colors popular during the 1980’s – when it seemed that a box of highlighters had exploded and distributed their day glow inks all over the city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in the past, the DSNY has issued instructions for the proper disposal of the resinous holiday trees, designed to aid the agency in putting this lumber to good use via the process of mulching. Unfortunately, the heavy winds typical of January and the presence of hundreds of illegally converted basement apartments (wherein the residents of said units are instructed by landlords to hide their presence from City officialdom by placing household trash in the street refuse wire collection baskets) result in these discarded bits of holiday cheer rolling about the street. Thusly are the Astoria Tumbleweeds released back into the wild, and freed to roam about the neighborhood.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

conscious or subconscious

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I am the night. You have feasted well…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, while traversing through the so called Court Square area found around Davis and Jackson in LIC, a humble narrator found himself deploying the camera and shooting into the fuligin night. This was a bit of whimsy on my part, as I had just watched the premiere episode of the new television series “Gotham.” It seems that Batman’s home town is actually LIC, as so many of the spots where the shows’ urban dramaturge played out were ultimately familiar to one such as myself.

I figured I’d see if Bats was lurking anywhere nearby, or if I might unintentionally capture a shot of Two-Face or Joker while they skulked in the shadows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

While I was popping off a few exposures, one suddenly experienced a tap on the shoulder. A fellow was standing next to me, just a little too close for comfort, and watching as I played around with camera settings and assumed the series of odd postures which have proven themselves efficacious when attempting to gather low light shots without deploying a tripod. He said “Can I ask you a question?” as he slipped his hand into his knapsack. A child of New York in the 1980’s, and a Batman fan, I immediately began working out defensive solutions in my mind. There were five. Two would just put space between me and him, one would have busted his pelvis, and the other two would have put me in front of a judge for attempted homicide. The sixth solution was to wait, and find out what the question was.

He slowly pulled his hand out of the carry all, and there was something large – and heavy – held in his grasp. “Here we go again” I thought.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As his hand, grasping a large object which was black in coloration and clearly metallic, exited the bag – one was prepared to grab his wrist with my right hand and pull his arm and a probable weapon down toward the sidewalk and away from me. My left arm was primed to deliver a sharp elbow to his throat while I was simultaneously preparing to deliver a hip check that any NHL player would have approved of (this is one of the two solutions in which I end up in front of a judge). That’s when the fellow asked his question – “can you help me learn how to take better shots at night” as his hand finally emerged from the knap sack and produced a consumer level Nikon with an f3.5 zoom lens on it. Thereupon, a short lesson in aperture, ISO, and shutter speed ensued.

Gotham, indeed.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 30, 2014 at 11:00 am

headlong down

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Nowhere to go, no one to talk to, like a falling autumn leaf – me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One actually did have someplace to go last week – as a rare social occasion wherein a group of us who work for the Brownstoner Queens site commiserated over dinner and drinks in the Dutch Kills neighborhood last week. This drew me out just as the rain clouds were blowing out last Thursday night, and the sunset lighting one encountered was absolutely stellar.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This rainbow appeared over what is today the Center Building on Northern Blvd., but what was once a Ford Service Center and later offices for a large pharmaceutical company. The song “Somewhere over the rainbow” apparently refers to Sunnyside, it would seem.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This week I also have someplace to go to – I’ll be attending a meeting of the Newtown Creek CAG (Community Advisory Group), on October 1st. It’s going to be held over in Brooklyn, at the McCarren Play Center Community Room, 776 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn. I’m told that the EPA will be present. Come with?

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Written by Mitch Waxman

September 29, 2014 at 11:00 am

heard messages

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It’s dark and cold, and I can’t feel my feet any more.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another Newtown Creek meeting drew me in recently, this time it was the Newtown Creek CAG. CAG stands for Community Advisory Group, and its role is mandated as part of the Superfund process. The EPA was there to discuss and disseminate some early data, which they stressed as being raw and entirely uninterpreted. This is an important distinction for we non scientists to understand, as they distributed disc copies of these early findings to several of us that asked, since a lot of the terms and subjects discussed by these documents can be a little off putting. The presence of arsenic in 100% of sampled sediment may not be something to worry about, after all, as arsenic is actually in 100% of the apples you’ve eaten over the course of your lifetime- its naturally occurring, just like in roses (my analogy, not EPA’s). It’s the “levels of” and “concentrations of” you need to worry about.

from wikipedia

The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements. Cognitive dissonance is the distressing mental state that people feel when they “find themselves doing things that don’t fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.” A key assumption is that people want their expectations to meet reality, creating a sense of control. Likewise, another assumption is that a person will avoid situations or information sources that give rise to feelings of uneasiness, or dissonance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The EPA data reports are highly technical, and richly illustrated with thousands of photos describing the process of sediment, atmospheric, and water sampling. Materials collected from Newtown Creek are sent to the laboratories of Federal contractors and other specialists, whereupon arcane tests, dilutions, and dissections are performed upon it. The raw data, which was collected during the last couple of years, presents the need for further investigations (which EPA indicates will be commencing in the coming year). The data is housed on 5 DVD’s and as mentioned- is completely uninterpreted. Your humble narrator has just begun to scratch through it, but so far nothing has jumped out at me, other than a vague sort of dread. You really wouldn’t want to swim in English or Dutch Kills, it would seem, and an amazing variety of worms were found living in the sediment layers- some of whom are not native to NY waters and hail from the overseas.

from wikipedia

Affective forecasting can be divided into four components: predictions about emotional valence (i.e. positive or negative), the specific emotions experienced, their duration, and their intensity. While errors may occur in all four components, research overwhelmingly indicates that the two areas most prone to bias, usually in the form of overestimation, are duration and intensity. Immune neglect is a form of impact bias in response to negative events whereby people fail to predict how much their psychological immune system will hasten their recovery. On average, people are fairly accurate about predicting which emotions they will feel in response to future events. However, some studies indicate that predicting specific emotions in response to more complex social events leads to greater inaccuracy. For example, one study found that while many women who imagine encountering gender harassment predict feelings of anger, in reality, a much higher proportion report feelings of fear. Other research suggests that accuracy in affective forecasting is greater for positive affect than negative affect, suggesting an overall tendency to overreact to perceived negative events.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The CAG is a good group, a sort of congress for those of us whom the Newtown Creek has claimed. The Newtown Creek Alliance is well represented, as is Riverkeeper, NCMC, the local elected officials, corporate and Business Improvement District associations, and the so called “Responsible Parties.”

These “Responsible Parties” are those corporate entities who have entered into an agreement with EPA which names them as culpable for the environmental issues that drew the Federal agency’s notice in the first place, and which binds the various corporations named so into financially and materially supporting the clean up process and its monumental cost. EPA acts independently, but the CAG exists to alert EPA to the unexpected or tangential results of the Superfund process and creates a point of access to its managers. It’s as complicated a set of relationships as you can get, I suppose, the sort of thing a person like me avoids like the plague- but at least I get to be around people.

The meetings are public, you know!

from wikipedia

The term fallacy is often used generally to mean an argument that is problematic for any reason, whether it is formal or informal.

The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument’s premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument, but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Interesting things reveal themselves occasionally. Something which came up last year at a CAG meeting, for instance, was that business owners around the Maspeth Creek area were having a difficult time securing long term credit due to trepeditious inclinations displayed by the banking community toward lending to clients with unknown environmental liabilities. Another was that there’s a strata of discarded metro cards lodged in the sediment. When I get through the stack of discs, I’ll let y’all know what I think I see, but we will all have to wait for the interpretation which will be offered by someone else who is smart enough to actually understand it. Addled, my aging mind can barely comprehend the meaning of these dancing columns of numbers, nor the multitudinously cryptic scatter graphs, and photos of those dark things which slither and flop through the Black Mayonnaise.

from wikipedia

In science, cognition is a group of mental processes that includes the attention of working memory, producing and comprehending language, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. Various disciplines, such as psychology, philosophy and linguistics all study cognition. However, the term’s usage varies across disciplines; for example, in psychology and cognitive science, “cognition” usually refers to an information processing view of an individual’s psychological functions. It is also used in a branch of social psychology called social cognition to explain attitudes, attribution, and groups dynamics. In cognitive psychology and cognitive engineering, cognition is typically assumed to be information processing in a participant’s or operator’s mind or brain.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

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