Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

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The Big Block of Cheese

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
Photo Credit: David July — Sixty-Five Foot Lookout Tower, Key West Shipwreck Historeum Museum, 1 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida, 25 November 2007

After I graduated high school in 1999, I was still on campus doing technical and administrative work as an OPS employee for Seminole County Public Schools. During the course of my normal duties one day, I happened upon stacks and stacks of old textbooks destined for the great book in the sky.

When I spotted copies of my American History textbook used by teacher and friend William Dempsey, I asked permission to take one. My request was denied because each book is returned to the publisher for credit, but I was allowed to tear out one page.

When Erik and I discovered in class the graphic and caption about President Andrew Jackson's big block of cheese, we were highly amused. It quickly became a matter of reference in conversation with our friends. When I found the books, I could think of no better high school memento than this graphic and quickly scanned the souvenir once home.

Thanks to two episodes of The West Wing—season one's "The Crackpots and These Women" and season two's "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail"—Jackson's cheese gained popular notoriety.

Original Art Credit: Benjamin Perley Poore — "Jackson's Great Cheese Levee" (1886) Scanned by David July, 1999
"Jackson's Great Cheese Levee" by Benjamin Perley Poore, 1886

(Click to Enlarge)   President Andrew Jackson thought of himself as the "Tribune of the People," and symbolized this by throwing a White House party that anyone could attend. Hundreds of people showed up and ate or carried away most of a 1,400-pound block of cheese.

In the context of The West Wing, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry semi-regularly instructs members of his staff to take meetings with special interest groups and individuals who would not normally receive personal attention from the White House, like the Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality who discuss the Gall-Peters projection map. Each Big Block of Cheese Day as it is known usually starts with an introduction by McGarry.

"President Andrew Jackson in the main foyer of his White House had a big block of cheese. The block of cheese was huge—over two tons—and it was there for any and all who might be hungry. Jackson wanted the White House to belong to the people, so from time to time, he opened his doors to those who wished an audience. It is in the spirit of Andrew Jackson that I, from time to time, ask senior staff to have face-to-face meetings with those people representing organizations who have a difficult time getting our attention. I know the more jaded among you see this as something rather beneath you. But I assure you that listening to the voices of passionate Americans is beneath no one, and surely not the people's servants."

I am pleased and entertained so many people are interested in this small fact from our nation's history and hope this fictional idealism has a place in our government.

Photo Credit: David July
Original Art Credit: Benjamin Perley Poore

The New Domain

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
Sutro Tower fans are invited to visit, the new gateway to my comprehensive feature article on all things Sutro. In addition to updating the information and links, I have reorganized and rewritten much of the text. Check it out and while you are there, feel free to share your Sutro Tower news, blogs and photographs. In other news, things are back to normal after the web server suffered a hard drive failure on 01 February 2008. You may have noticed some downtime that day and night as the server was rebuilt. In an unrelated problem, I have disabled the search term highlighter because it was coloring text without a search performed. A fix for that and other issues are on hold for now, as planning for my vacation in March takes precedence. That's a full lid.
Photo Credit: Troy McClure SF

The Sunday Night Lights

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help
It is no secret I am not the biggest sports fan in the world. In fact, I could really care less. Nevertheless, this fact does not preclude me from enjoying certain sporting events from time to time. I remember with fondness attending a 1988 home game of the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, New York. It was a cold, snowy day at Rich Stadium, but the energy created by the fans radiated throughout. Of the nine home games played that year, the Bills won all of them including the divisional title. Looking back now, it was a transformative time for my hometown franchise. The year saw Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Cornelius Bennett, Bruce Smith and Scott Norwood under the direction of head coach Marv Levy complete a 12 and 4 season. It was this team that would go on to a lackluster 1989 season followed by four consecutive, albeit unsuccessful trips to the Super Bowl. I also remember my pizza arriving at the end of the first half during Super Bowl XXXVIII on 01 February 2004. I was busy setting the table and readying to eat so I did not change the channel when the half time show started. Seemingly insignificant then, I am now glad to have been witness to the flashpoint of the FCC controversy sparked by a certain wardrobe malfunction. When it came to this year's Super Bowl, I was interested only in the outcome. Like many others, I wondered if the undefeated New England Patriots—who lost to the 1988 Bills by three—could pull off a perfect season. As you probably know, they failed to do so, losing by three to the New York Giants. Not interested enough to seek out a place to watch the game on television, I instead went to and launched NFL GameCast. This nifty web-based application provides live graphical and textual data about the plays and the people making them. As I watched the icons and lines appear on the graphic of the field, the accompanying text updated to indicate the progress of play. It would have been a rather sterile experience were it not for the nearby clapping and cheering of neighbors, obviously rooting for the underdog. With just more than thirty seconds on the clock remaining in the fourth quarter, I heard the loudest cheering yet. One or two seconds later, the cause appeared on my screen—Eli Manning completed a successful pass to Plaxico Burress giving the Giants the winning lead. I can partly sympathize with those New England fans now well on their way to drinking the pain away, for it was the New York Giants who went on to win by one point during the Bills' first championship outing, the closest margin of victory ever in a Super Bowl. NFL GameCast of Super Bowl XLII

Postscript: Although no longer used publicly, each article written here is tagged with one or more categories. When preparing this work for publication, I discovered no such category existed for sports-related topics, lending further credibility to my "not the biggest fan" observation. As a result, the category Sports and Recreation has been added.
Photo Credit: David July