The Newtown Pentacle

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mongrel riff-raff

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It’s National Caramel Popcorn Day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One possesses more than a single camera, and a couple of the older models are really starting to show their age, just like me. The Canon G10 is an old friend, but it’s outer shell is being held on and together by gaff tape these days and it doesn’t get to leave the house anymore. The actual functioning of the thing is still fine, including the superb (for a point and shoot) macro feature of its lens. I’ve got the thing more or less permanently affixed to a magnetic tripod dealie which allows for a firm footing on any thing ferrous, like my stainless steel kitchen countertop. I’ve been working on these tabletop macro shots off and on whenever I’m stuck at home due to weather, and just the other day realized that I hadn’t copied any of the photos off the G10’s memory card since about January.

Thus… a few random shots that I popped off while hanging around at home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The G10 isn’t just a macro camera, of course, and that magical magnetic tripod mentioned above is perfect for clamping down to a fence or sill. One night, a DSNY street sweeper decided to take a break on my corner in Astoria, and since the G10 was handy… the shot above resulted.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The problem with using multiple rigs is that unless it’s the day to day work camera – in my case a DSLR – you tend to forget about non deadline oriented shots like the one of this tomato above. I’ve evolved the little kit utilized for doing this as well, and will talk about that the next time I present a big pile of macro shots to you.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

accomplished whatever

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whatever, dude.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you might discern from the shot above, Our Lady of the Pentacle has a lovely set of tomatoes. She’s been busy growing stuff all summer, here at HQ in Astoria. Today’s post is a rather light one, and it’s being published late to boot, which long time readers of this – your Newtown Pentacle – will tell you is indicative of an enormous amount of new photos and posts being in production at the moment.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily did I observe a flurry of published articles over the last week, proclaiming the Bronx as the new frontier for the Real Estate Industrial Complex. Hopefully, the ruination of Brooklyn and Queens will ebb a bit, as the REBNY shit flies find themselves attracted to those greener pastures and lower property evaluations that are found to the north.

Robert Moses did his level best to annihilate the Bronx decades ago, just as he did to Queens back in the 1930’s and 40’s. Perhaps the REBNY people can finish the job, and finish twisting City Hall’s knife into the “final frontier” by eliminating actual affordable housing in the name of building “affordable housing.” Carrion eaters follow the fecund scent of decaying meat after all, and despite their best efforts they haven’t managed to totally annihilate Brooklyn or Queens yet – they’ve just driven property prices so high that no one can afford to build anything here anymore. Bronx people, if you need to talk, ring us up.

The shit flies will be promising you new schools, community spaces, and waterfront parks – make sure you get them first, before they start to build the condos.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

How green does your garden grow? Whatever, dude, whatever.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Sunday, August 14th, 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 8, 2016 at 2:30 pm

conducive circumstance

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Macro shots, berries, and my life’s savings – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On Monday of this week, a series of table shots were offered, depicting various food stuffs and comestibles which were photographed under a “macro” table shot setup. This sort of setup is kind of technical, involves all sorts of measurements and secondary equipment like lights and flashes. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice to say it allows a somewhat magnified version of reality to be captured. It should be mentioned that my macro setup is by no means a professional one, rather it’s cobbled together from various bits of kit I already own. A proper macro lens is a wonderful bit of optical engineering, and expensive.

On my kitchen counter, there’s a bag of garlic which has been there since the first week of January, and some of the cloves have sprouted – as you’ll notice in the shot above. Garlic is native to Central Asia, is officially known as Allium sativum, and is a species of the onion genus – Allium. It’s one of mankind’s oldest cultivars, and is evidenced as far back as 7,000 years in the historic record. Most of the world’s garlic is produced in China, which is probably why you don’t hear many vampire stories with a Han twist.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A taproot, the Carrot is another ancient vegetable, especially so for the one pictured above which withered away in the back of my refrigerator. The word “Carrot” suddenly manifested in the English language around 1530, orignating from the Middle French “carotte,” which comes from the Late Latin carōta, which borrowed the word from the Greek καρωτόν or “karōton.” Daucas Carota is the scientific name for the wild Carrot, and there are many, many variants of it found throughout Iran. Wild Carrot variants were grown in Europe as early as 2,000 BCE, but most modern folks wouldn’t recognize those purple colored vegetables as carrots. The modern yellow and orange cultivar “Daucas Carota Sativum” comes from Afghanistan, and found its way into Europe via the Moors back in the 8th century CE.

Suffice to say, the specimen above found its way into the compost bucket shortly after the shot above was captured.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

All citrus trees belong to a single genus – Citrus – and are almost entirely interfertile, with farmers reproducing them via grafting. A single superspecies – grapefruits, lemons, limes, oranges, and various other types and hybrids are all one “thing.” The fruit of a citrus tree is a hesperidium, which is modified berry and is covered by a rind which is actually a rugged and thickened ovary wall. According to various sources – the word “orange” comes from the Sanskrit word for “orange tree” (नारङ्ग nāraṅga). The Sanskrit word reached European languages through Persian نارنگ (nārang) and its Arabic derivative نارنج (nāranj). The first recorded use of the word Orange in English was in 1512.

The Navel Orange, as pictured above, is a mutant variant which emerged in Brazil sometime between 1810 and 1820. The navel part is actually a conjoined twin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Lemons are thought to have originated in either Northern India, Burma, or Southern China. The plant made its way to Europe and the Romans in the 1st century CE, but it was the Arabs who embraced them in cuisine and widely planted them. Columbus brought lemon seeds along with him to the Americas back in 1493, but it wasn’t until 1747 that Lemons began to be widely planted and cultivated by Europeans – due to a Scot Doctor named James Lind – who discovered that lemon juice could help sailors in the British Royal Navy avoid coming down with Scurvy.

The word “lemon” is thought to be of Arabic origin – “laymūn or līmūn” – which came to the European tongues via the Old French “limon,” and then the Italian “limone.” An older Persian term for it is “līmūn,” which is a generic term for citrus fruit, and there’s also the Sanskrit root word “nimbū.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Limes are actually prehistoric cultivars, and were widely grown by the Persians and Baylonians. There are multiple fruits (actually berries) called “limes,” but not all of them are actually Citrus. The Royal Navy switched over from Lemons to Limes around the time of the American Civil War, which was a HUGE military secret in the middle of the 19th century, given that the latter contained more Scurvy fighting vitamin C than the former. Also, they go better with Gin.

This is where the term “Limey,” as used to refer to a British person, began.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Botanists will tell you that the Banana is also a berry, just like the various iterations of the Citrus family.

Wild Bananas are chock full of seeds. Seedless bananas are all cultivated from two wild variants known as Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Native to Austrailia and the Indo-Malayan archipelagos of the southern Pacific, Banana is believed to have first been actively cultivated in New Guinea, of all places, in impossibly ancient times – 5,000 – 8,000 BCE. The word “Banana” is believed to West African in derivation, and transmitted to European tongues via Spanish and Portuguese trade ships.

There’s ultimately two families of banana you’re likely to encounter in the Americas – the sort you eat raw which are called Cavendish, and the kind you cook – which are commonly referred to as Plantains – and are called Saba. In Asia and Africa, you’ve got a pretty big group of variants for this sort of big yellow berry. The Portuguese brought the banana to the Americas in the 16th century.

The banana trade, incidentally, is one of the most evil endeavors which British and American Capitalism has ever engaged in. Subjugation and enslavement of native peoples, importation of African and Asian slaves to work the plantations; interference with, corruption of, and the overthrow of foreign governments – were and are a part of doing business right up to today. NAFTA only made things worse, and there’s a reason for the negative connotations of the term “Banana Republic.” The same people who won’t buy a “conflict diamond” or eat a veal chop will happily cut up a banana for their bowl of Cheerios. I know I will, and politics be damned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are few things which are fun to say out loud as the phrase “Deadly Nightshade,” and the Tomato or Solanum lycopersicum is a member of the family. It’s regarded as a fruit, but in reality it’s another berry. The Conquistadors counted the Tomato as one of their many captured treasures after the conquest of the Mexica or Aztec Capital City of Tenochtitlan in 1521. The English word tomato hails from the Spanish word “tomate” which was lifted from the Nahuatl (the mesoamerican language) word tomatl. The Spaniards carried the plant around their empire, distributing it globally. It ended up all over the Mediterranean, and again it was the Arabs who first embraced the crop. Europeans were always uneasy about the deadly nightshade thing.

The Medici’s were growing tomatoes in 1548, over in Florence, Italy. For the fancy types, tomatoes were ornamental props and not for consumption as they grew too low to the ground. For the peasants – then as now, you eat what you can afford to eat. Mangiare.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Just about everything you’ve seen in Monday’s, and today’s, posts were basically harvested from the food stuffs which Our Lady of the Pentacle and I normally keep on hand here at HQ. There were a few other options, incidentally – potatoes come to mind, but I was particularly keen on the sliced fruit (or berries) stuff, given their complex internal structures.

As mentioned earlier these shots were produced using a complicated setup on my countertop – a stage if you will, which was also harvested from stuff I had laying around. The transluscent stand was a plastic container with a slot cut into it for the strobe, and there’s also a flashlight or two gaff taped to table top tripods and a basic photographic “umbrella” light involved as well. The camera is wearing a flashgun as well, set to its lowest setting for some fill light, but its main job was to actuate the slave strobe that’s stuck under the subject to provide back light. So, there you are.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Finally, a shot of my life savings.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

February 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

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