The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘queens

stricken flesh

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My foot hurts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lately, it feels like I’ve been exposed to ionizing radiation at some point in the recent past, as everything hurts. Part of getting older, I suppose. I’d worry more about it if the various aches and pains were more chronic and didn’t move around. One day it’s the knee, the next it’s a foot on the other leg, another it’s a weird knot in my neck which came out of nowhere. I’ve come to refer to this phenomena as my “pain squirrel” since everyday it seems to take up residence on a different branch of my personal Yggdrasil or world tree. Regular talking folk would just say “body,” but I ain’t regular.

What can I tell you, I spent most of my life burning the candle at both ends. If a situation required it, I’d use my body as a wrecking ball. It’s taken a toll, and the bill is coming due these days. All this recent rain has made me suspect that arthritis might be the culprit behind some of the various aches and pains, but it wouldn’t surprise if I woke up one morning and found that some part of me had turned to a form of goo under the blanket.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Ideally, I’d like to house my brain, after the bodily gooification is complete, in some sort of robotic housing. On envisions a robust fluid filled jar for the brain, with electrical connections allowing me to control a mobile chassis. Said apparatus would have modular attachment sites for devices to interact with the world outside the jar. Given that I view the human body as little more than a chassis for carrying around the brain as it is, this scenario would be a bit less nightmarish for me than it would be for others. What I’d miss would be the feeling of sunlight on my face, as I wouldn’t have a face. A software algorithm could simulate any of life’s pleasures by pumping the appropriate dopamine solution into the jar anyway.

Yes, I sometimes fantasize about becoming a cyborg. Sue me.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If my mobile brain chassis was constructed properly, I’d be able to crawl up walls, or even activate an amphibious modality and become a boat. I’ve never understood the science fictional trope of the robot man trying to return to being human. People already react to me like I’m some sort of monster, and I’m barely transhuman as it is. The camera is always hanging off of me, but that doesn’t count. I’m talking brain in jar, mounted in a poly alloy battle chassis powered by the particle decay of some sort of radioactive isotope, not rapidly aging idiot wandering around Queens. I look forward to the day when my biggest problem would be a patina of oxidation. Come to think of it, my biggest problem would actually be torch bearing mobs of peasants chasing me around since they’d perceive me as a monster, but that’s the sort of thing that already happens to me occasionally. Ask me about the time that a group of old Greek ladies saw me taking a pic of St. Irene’s here in Astoria when you see me.

In the meantime, the pain squirrel is lodged squarely in my left foot today, but I’ve got to walk over to a Greenpoint tonight for a Superfund meeting so it’s best to just suck it up and take a tylenol. That’s the burning the candle at both ends thing again, I guess.


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chorused anguish

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All the familiar places…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s really best for me to be by myself as much of the time as I can manage it, these days. I like to swipe the “do not disturb” or sometimes even the “airplane mode” button on my phone and drop off the digital planet for awhile. It gives me private time to ponder about what really might be running around in the woods surrounding the Chernobyl plant over in Ukraine, worry about Fukushima’s radiotropic fungi, and think about whether or not we’re accidentally terraforming the planet into the ideal environment for some race of sleeping elder gods who last saw the sun before the oceans had formed. Along my notifications free path, I take photos.

That’s the Sunnyside Yards in Queens pictured above, specifically a section of the facility which the Long Island Railroad is currently rebuilding. I think it’s connected to “East Side Access,” this construction, and they’re building a series of tracks for rolling stock to “dwell” in between rush hours.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Quixotic, that’s how I describe the current obsession which the City and its Economic Development Corporation has with building a deck over the yards to house a multitude. According to officialdom, their negotiations with Trump’s AMTRAK are continuing apace. They’ve hired an architect to oversee the planning over this largely Federally owned railyard, one who has worked with the Kushner Companies on several projects so he’s got a relationship, and besides he’s got this whole Ayn Rand mentality so he’s fits right in with EDC. They haven’t talked about who the money to build the thing will be borrowed from yet. The Hudson Yards project was supposedly financed via the Israeli Bond Market, which is a great place for shady international financiers to cleanse their money and hide it from the prying eyes of both the global public and their own respective governments. If you’re a Chinese Army General shaving a few bucks off the budget, or involved with risky trade in South American powders, and you need a place to hide the cash…

But I digress. What do I know about such matters, I’m just some schmuck with a camera.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the particular afternoon these shots were gathered, one of the few in recent weeks where drenching rain hasn’t been falling from the sky, a humble narrator’s phone was in “do not disturb” mode and absolutely zero “LOL’s” or notifications of unimportant facts were coming my way. I did have my headphones in, and was re listening to Mike Duncan’s “History of Rome” podcast. Duncan offers an overview of Roman History, and resists the urge to get overly granular about this and that, which is a feather in his cap. For granularity, I prefer Dan Carlin’s massive “Hardcore History” undertakings.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 14, 2019 at 1:00 pm

hopeless howl

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The whole “human interaction” thing isn’t going well.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Behavioral quirks and noisome habits notwithstanding, one doesn’t consider himself to be too much of a chore to be around. Much like Billy Joel’s eponymous Piano Man, I’ll gladly tell you a joke or light up your smoke, but there’s someplace I’d rather be. Saying that, one is continually puzzled by the humans. Just this weekend, I had to stand between two friends who were about to come to blows over literally nothing, and encourage the angrier of the two to remember that he – as the managing partner of a multi million dollar corporation here in NYC – would be badly serving himself by getting into a bar fight. The following day, an encounter I had with an acquaintance here in the neighborhood went sour, but I refused to be goaded into “taking the bait.”

Embrace your inner sociopath, I say. Everybody is just ready to fly off the handle about every little thing these days. I’m sick of it, but getting angry isn’t the answer to all of life’s problems. Just add that person to “your list” and when the time is right, that’s when you deny them something they want. That’s the American way.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Speaking of the “American Way,” Thursday last found a humble narrator at the local pub sitting at a sidewalk table and enjoying a frosty pint of beer when the late model Chevy pictured above rolled by. Can’t tell you what it was, as I didn’t get a good enough look at its grill to identify it via the usual means, but I can tell you that the driver was a Billy Joel fan as “We didn’t start the fire” was blaring from within. Personally, I think Mr. Joel’s “Glass Houses” is a near perfect album, but I appreciate a good pop standard as much as the next guy.

In tune with the current era, one of you is now meant to leave a comment on this post telling me that I’m a fool for my stated opinion, or describe in exacting detail how that opinion indicates that I’ve been unconsciously co-opted into stating it by some shadowy cabal. One of my favorite songs, ever, is the theme song from an old 1970’s kid’s show – The Banana Splits. Great song. Here’s a link to a cover of it by 80’s band “The Dickies.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, you may of may not like the Dickies, or the Banana Splits theme song, or dispute my opinions on which Billy Joel album is best. It doesn’t mean that I think you’re an asshole for not being one hundred percent in tune with me, and I won’t write you off to the dustbin of history over it. It means we disagree about something. Civility surrounding disagreement is the actual American Way, which is that thing which Superman and Captain America were always rattling on about in the comics. The villains in comic books, on the other hand, were always seeking unity of thought – Darkseid and the Anti Life equation, or Doctor Doom’s various schemes.

Don’t be like Doctor Doom, aspire instead to be Superman.

Of course, Superman is a sociopath. He lies to all his friends, pretends to be someone he’s not, and can burn you to a cinder with one withering glance. The lesson in that is “be nice” to people you don’t know much about, because they very well might be an alien overlord with laser eyes and freeze breath who is invulnerable to whatever petty bullshit you decide to send their way. Being Clark Kent isn’t Superman’s critique of humanity, instead it’s his testing environment. It’s easy to be nice to the cape persona, and easier still to shit all over the nerdy reporter. He wants to know how the apes he lives amongst really treat each other, and we constantly disappoint him.

Thing is, Superman isn’t like that, he just wants to help people despite being a sociopathic liar.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 13, 2019 at 11:30 am

seemed baffling

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Astoria scenes, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m always impressed by the daily dedication of the local “canners,” which is what we call the folks that walk about with shopping carts searching for redeemable deposit cans and bottles, towards making a buck. For some of these canners, this is an existential practice, and how they earn the money to keep their apartments or eat regularly. For others, it’s a “side hustle” and they’ll express their amazement at the American habit of “throwing money out with the trash.”

The more you have, the less you care about it, I guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Over on Steinway Street at 34th Avenue, it seems that the corner furniture store is either giving up the ghost or just changing out their awning. In the meantime, an old timey bit of signage has been revealed.

“Auto Parts Place” is from before my time in the neighborhood. Any of you life long Queensicans who are reading this remember it?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If memory serves, we had to start dialing area codes back in the early 1980’s, so the lack of a “718” on the sign indicates that the advertised phone number dates back to at least the first or second Koch administration.

Personally, I live in what used to the second floor office of an appliances store a few blocks away, and my porch used to be the roof of a barber shop. The Barber Shop is now a studio apartment, and the office is now Newtown Pentacle HQ.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The population of drunkards along Astoria’s Broadway in the ’40’s has become quite attenuated in recent years. There used to be, just 5 years back, between 30 and 50 of these guys hanging around in various states of inebriation.

Somebody who shall remain nameless… ahem… pretty much embarrassed the local precinct into practicing the sort of subtle Policing which NYPD is famous for, and the cops made it uncomfortable for these fellows to be seen hanging around all day. Many of these guys have drank or drugged themselves into an early grave, and others have moved on to plague other neighborhoods, but we’ve still got a small core group of them hanging around all day and getting pass out drunk.

This poor guy passed out on the sidewalk and fell asleep with his back against the wall of a shop. The shop was closing up and when the steel gate came down it cracked him one on the gulliver and trapped his shoulder under it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s not the first time I’ve seen this particular scenario play out, and the inebriate tried to salvage his pride by demanding that the shop owner give him a few bucks to not make a big deal of things. A word of advice I’d offer is to not try a “slip and fall” grift or attempt to con a Greek owned business in Astoria.

The remaining Hellenes don’t play.

The shop owner simply grabbed the guy by his collar and pulled him forward, signaled to his worker to finish lowering the steel gate, and then left the fellow sitting there with his back against the gate with an electronic keyboard (which had apparently been harvested from some trash pile) in his lap.

The scene will repeat itself again and again. Just watch.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every day in Astoria can be a bit operatic. I like to sit and observe the neighbors. Just the other night, three spanish speaking gentlemen got into an argument in front of my door at about two in the morning, an altercation which resulted in fisticuffs and harsh talk. It was all very exciting.

These humans, here in Astoria, are endlessly fascinating.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

later searches

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Feeling minimalist today.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Every so often, one likes to try and reduce a bit. Get minimalist with what’s in frame, and control my urge to blather verbally. Today’s one of those days.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has a tendency to want to share everything contained between the ears and behind the eyes, but there’s also a need to just shut up and listen occasionally.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back tomorrow with the usual blather and visual overkill. Shhh.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 6, 2019 at 1:30 pm

bearded stranger

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Long shadows.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found one sheltering from a passing band of precipitation over on the normally sunnier side of the neighborhood, and once the atmospheric wave had passed through a humble narrator began kicking his heels around in pursuance of returning to HQ. My northward path was a familiar one, as was the pensive and self reflective mood I was in. The odor of a not unpleasant smelling strain of marijuana which those two teenagers crossing the street above were smoking mingled with the musty smells of a wet and cold evening. The trees and gardens of Sunnyside Gardens added to the bouquet, as did the wet but creosoted wood of the railroad tracks and the oily street. I can capture audio and images, but I’ve got no methodology for transmitting the experience or quality of “smell,” other than describing it with words.

Is smell the new technological frontier, I wonder? Just imagine if I could deliver the smell of Newtown Creek or its tributaries, after a thunderstorm, to your inbox.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The forgotten sense, smell is. Humans are essentially audio visual beasts, I suppose, which is why there’s so much technology available out there that allows us to transmit what we see and hear. Personally, when the olfactory region isn’t too clogged up by seasonal allergies, I like to take a ripping “shnort” of the ambient. There’s a whole memory center associated with smell that’s almost never accessed. I can imagine something I’ve seen in the past, conjure up a sound or series of sounds, but can’t seem to tell my brain that I’d like to imagine the smell of toast or whatever.

Funny that, ain’t it? Life’s rich pageant and all this.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The scene above was encountered nearby Northern Blvd., and I can offer two possible explanations for it. One is that somebody was making a meal of a watermelon and drinking water from a red plastic cup when they were raptured.

The other is that the foul serial killer whom I have named as the “Queens Cobbler” has returned to the neighborhood and is leaving behind their gruesome trophies as a taunt to community and the Gendarmes alike.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

locked attic

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A few odds and ends.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A late model and quite adorable pickup spotted at Willets Point is pictured above. One continues to suffer from a lack of fresh content for this – your Newtown Pentacle – due to the abundance of atmospheric precipitation and a rather full schedule of other tasks. I’ve got a pile of shots on the computer which have been gathered in my comings and goings around Queens which I hope to have the developing process finished on shortly.

A few of you have asked about the enigmatic “developing process” statement in the past, so here’s a brief description…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I have my camera set to generate “RAW” format images rather than jpegs. When the camera card is offloaded (I generally download shots off of the thing as soon as I return to HQ from an adventure or whatever, same day as capture) onto my desktop, they are first converted over from Canon’s .cr2 format over to Adobe DNG. The DNG files, which are easier (and quite malleable) to edit, are then loaded into Adobe’s Bridge. Bridge is where I hit them with certain presets – I have one or two for normal daylight shots, a couple of different setups for high iso night or subway shots, and so on. This is hardly an automatic process, rather the settings assign correct color temperatures, sharpness and saturation settings, and a few other technical corrections are introduced into the images. This isn’t the final step by any measure, rather it creates a starting point for the next step. Setting up these settings, or loops, has been a trial and error evolutionary process which I’m always tweaking.

Next up is a review of the entire catalogue of shots, during which I’m ensuring that focus is where I wanted it to be, and I’m looking for images that carry a general esthetic sense. Ideally, at least half to two thirds of what landed in the folder are tossed, leaving behind a set of shots I can hang my hat on. Those shots are then cropped, keyworded, and have their horizon lines straightened or “dutched” depending on what I’m going for with the image.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The final step, and I leave it for last as the prior phases can often be boring and technical exercises during which my head feels like it might slide off the back of my neck during, is the development one. That’s where I noodle brightness, contrast, and so on to find some accommodation between what my perception of the scene was while shooting it and the technical shortcomings of the captured image. Once I’m happy with what I’ve got, and at this point it’s something like 15 or 20% of what originally came off the camera, I make my selects that I want to present. Maybe 10% of the original number of photos captured in the field make it through to that final cut. Sometimes, you need to “get it in one,” especially when it’s an assignment, but personal work involves a different thought process.

I’ve got a couple of “secret sauce” tricks that I picked up over the years working as a Madison Avenue retoucher, but one thing I never do with the shots you see here is “photoshop” them and alter the capture by removing or adding elements. It’s just color and brightness, contrast and so on that I hit them with. I aspire to maintain some measure of journalistic integrity in these images.

Everything gets rendered out as jpegs for web delivery at Flickr, ultimately.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

May 2, 2019 at 1:30 pm

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