Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

210122019
0804Hours EST

The King of My Own Land

I am pleased to announce the release of Mount Sutro 6.0, the result of my redevelopment of this website's code and also featuring a rewrite of sutrotower.org. Although the driving force of this long overdue project was to modernize operations and bring to an end my growing aggravation with my home on the internet, it also provided an opportunity to make other changes. This new version features many enhancements and modernizations, the most significant of which are summarized below.

sutrotower.org

  • All but completely rewritten and restructured to make it easier to read

  • Updated with new facts and corrected information to provide a more comprehensive and detailed account

  • Added current information (2011–2015) researched or queued for inclusion along with more photographs

  • Created new download areas for groups of documents, such as annual inspections and antenna diagrams

  • Included more personal and human interest stories based on email correspondence and interviews

  • Inserted quotations of interest from those party to the history of Sutro Tower

  • Checked every hyperlink and removed broken links or replaced them with local copies or Internet Archive snapshots

mountsutro.org

  • Site code rewritten from the ground up in valid HTML5 and CSS3

  • Optimized existing PHP functions and wrote new ones to replace outdated and inefficient queries

  • Stylesheet rewritten to meet my current needs, but with some backward compatibility (a few more fixes are still needed)

  • Replaced or refreshed site icons and graphics, including the Windows interface

  • Increased the site's width to 1280 pixels, expanding the main content area to a width of 850 pixels

  • Added a custom headline font and set all text sizes to scale proportionally

  • Classified all pre-2015 articles as "archive" to demarcate the theme upgrade (old articles may have formatting issues)

This project has been on my list — I just checked and cannot believe it — for about a decade. The original version of Mount Sutro in 2001 was a static website with interactivity added via custom modules. On Thursday, 03 February 2005, I launched an updated version running on WordPress but the custom theme I created was a kludge of the old version into the basic framework of a theme. I did not know any better at the time and did what I could to make it work. However, when things that annoy you on other websites can be found on your own, it is time for a change.

Ever since I developed proper HTML5 and CSS3 WordPress themes from scratch for the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program (October 2011) and Joe's B.S. (May 2013), my irritation with and embarrassment by my own website grew exponentially. For example, I had been dreading the thought of someone looking at the source code or trying to validate it. Although it once worked at serving a specific purpose — rendering the same on all browsers and platforms back when that was quite an accomplishment — the legacy code was now hindering forward progress, delaying new content and stalling updates.

The impetus for finally getting started in early February 2015 was my inability to proceed with another project. I had been planning a series of articles about my Wonder Boys filming locations photo trip in June 2014. Presented in film order, the articles would have been published in real time over the three days depicted in the film: 26–28 February.

Unfortunately, this fun plan was soon derailed when I discovered that my computer's optical drive no longer read DVDs. Without frames from the film to include, the articles would not work. Instead of just getting steamed and producing nothing, I decided to redirect my creative energy into something that had no dependencies and Mount Sutro was it.

There are bound to be a few things that I missed along the way, so please send along any reports of unusual or unexpected behavior. Otherwise you are invited to look around, visit the new sutrotower.org and let me know what you think. Thank you!

The Will of Parliament and the Nation

Photo Credit: David July — Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) circling in the skies above Pebble Lake from the overlook pavilion near the picnic area at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, Keystone Heights, Florida: 18 January 2015

Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) circling in the skies above Pebble Lake from the overlook pavilion near the picnic area at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park.

Near 6239 State Road 21, Keystone Heights, Florida: 18 January 2015

part of the Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park album


In the three years leading up to their 1939 declaration of war on Germany, the government of the United Kingdom secretly planned and developed the Ministry of Information. A centralized agency from which national propaganda and news releases could be crafted and distributed, a Ministry of Information was first briefly established in 1918 near the end of the Great War.

Correctly predicting the difficult times ahead, one of the earliest tasks assigned to the Ministry of Information by government leaders was to create a series of morale boosting posters that could be displayed in public across Britain. Simple, bold and featuring a graphic of the Tudor Crown[1], three posters were initially designed and produced between 27 June and 06 July 1939.

Art of the three 1939 posters
keepcalmandcarryon.com

Displaying the slogans "Freedom Is In Peril / Defend It With All Your Might" and "Your Courage / Your Cheerfulness / Your Resolution / Will Bring Us Victory", the first two posters were distributed within twenty-four hours of the war declaration and posted on public transport, notice boards and in shop windows nationwide.

After "reports on civilian morale pointed to boredom rather than dislocation" and unease with the phrase, it was decided to hold back a third poster bearing "Keep Calm and Carry On" from the public. About 2.5 million copies of "Keep Calm" had been printed and shipped to distribution centers, but not displayed.

Attacked by parliamentarians for "failing to understand publicity" and by the press for wasting money[2] and paper, the entire campaign was terminated after four weeks. The unused "Keep Calm" posters were later destroyed in 1940 as part of the country's Paper Salvage program (1939–1950).

Fast forward sixty years to Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland owned by Stuart and Mary Manley. One day while going through a box of old books purchased at auction, Stuart discovered an original copy of "Keep Calm" folded up at the bottom. Liking the poster but not realizing its historical significance, Stuart and Mary framed and hung it in their shop. It was so popular with their customers that they started selling reproductions in 2001.

Framed poster at Barter Books
Barter Books

For whatever reason, the poster struck a chord with the modern world and soon other reproductions, parodies and homages were everywhere. As of February 2009, the Manleys had sold "more than 40,000 copies, as well as mugs, T-shirts, mouse mats, tea towels and postcards." It was thought that the only other original lithographs were at the Imperial War Museum, holding several copies in two sizes: PST 14847 at 751×501 mm and PST 14842 at 378×251 mm.

Like the Manleys, Moragh Turnbull of Cupar, Fife did not think much about the "Keep Calm" poster or appreciate its significance until she brought one to a recording of Antiques Roadshow at St. Andrews University in February 2012.

Turnbull explained that she had about fifteen "Keep Calm" posters which were passed down from her father William, who had been given them while serving in the Royal Observer Corps. Antiques expert Paul Atterbury explicated the history and informed Turnbull, much to her surprise, of the unique nature of her collection — the largest surviving cache known to exist.

Photo Credit: David July — Several turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) circling in the skies above Lake Johnson at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park, Keystone Heights, Florida: 17 January 2015

Beyond those in the Imperial War Museum collection and held by the Manleys and Turnbull, there are no other known original copies of the "Keep Calm" poster. Almost certainly there are a few others out there boxed in attics, just waiting to be discovered. In the meantime, the phrase and poster carry on in mainstream popular culture in Britain and worldwide.

Always a fan of paronomasia, I jokingly said the phrase "Keep Calm and Carrion" to my mother after spotting turkey vultures during an October 2014 camping trip. I also made an offhand remark about making a poster of it. While not an original idea, I decided to go ahead and make good on that remark.

It took some searching, but I recently found a free vector image of a vulture in flight that resembled the one in my mind. With that and the excellent "Keep Calm" font by Keith Bates in hand, I was able to make a mock-up in Photoshop followed by a vector drawing in Illustrator.

Keep Calm and Carrion

Keep Calm and Carrion
by David July
Vulture by Vector Portal
Typeface by Keith Bates

 
 
Download Artwork Package
Download PNGs Only

 
 
1.09 MB
248 KB

The artwork package contains the Illustrator AI vector original, formatted for print and ready for custom-sized export, along with six sizes of PNG.

◼  200×259
◼  474×613
◼  1024×1325
◼  1920×2485
◼  2550×3300 8.5×11″
◼  5100×6600 17×22″

If you print a copy of the poster or use it online, I would love to hear from you.


[1] Some refer to this incorrectly as Saint Edward's Crown. King Edward VII requested the standardization of the Tudor Crown image, the result of which was the Crown of King George VI design used in official emblems and "representing the sovereign source of governmental authority" from 1902 to 1953. Upon her accession in 1952, Elizabeth II requested a design change to the current version modeled after Saint Edward's Crown. Comparing the two and considering the timeline, the poster's Tudor Crown is clearly the low arched George VI version.

[2] At least £45,000 GBP was spent on the posters, a value today of £2,056,474. At current exchange rates, £0.655 equals $1.00 USD. In contrast, the UK Bomber Command likely spent around £8,900,000 on aluminum to build new aircraft from 1938 to 1945. The poster cost is 23% of that amount.


Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: keepcalmandcarryon.com
Photo Credit: Barter Books
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July

The Sweet Memory

Photo Credit: David July — Sun starburst in the mature hardwood hammock canopy along the campground nature trail near a marsh overlook at Faver-Dykes State Park, St. Augustine, Florida: 26 May 2013

Sun starburst in the mature hardwood hammock canopy along the campground nature trail near a marsh overlook at Faver-Dykes State Park.

Near 1000 Faver-Dykes Road, St. Augustine, Florida: 26 May 2013

part of the Faver-Dykes State Park album


A little over a year after getting the Canon EOS 550D/Rebel T2i, my building curiosity about its ability to film high definition video led to an experiment. Taking far fewer photos than usual, I instead used my time camping at Faver-Dykes State Park to shoot 114 video clips on Sunday, 26 May 2013.

Using the strap, I figured out a way to hold the camera somewhat steady but it was still difficult. Despite some footage coming out with a nice Steadicam-esque look, it was too easy to knock the camera and produce a jarring bounce.

On the audio side, the built-in microphone is remarkably good at capturing the soundscape. Unfortunately but not terribly surprisingly, noises such as focusing the lens and adjusting my grip are extremely loud and distracting on playback.

Photo Credit: David July — Atlantic marsh fiddler crab (Uca pugnax) at its burrow in the sands near the Pellicer Creek boat launch in Faver-Dykes State Park, St. Augustine, Florida: 26 May 2013

Nevertheless, I wanted to do something with the thirty-three minutes of footage from Faver-Dykes. Although the clips were shot as randomly as I would take pictures, I somehow managed to arrange a visual narrative of sorts and set it all to music by Blow Up Hollywood, naturally.

One of the more eclectic Blow Up Hollywood albums, Collections (2011) ends with one of my favorites, a reserved yet emotional song called "Sweet Memory". The selection of this song helped guide the video editing process and the atmosphere it provided was the perfect accompaniment to the visual style.

A work in progress since August 2013, I recently taught myself to process the video as I would stills for things like color and contrast. Finishing on Saturday, 31 January 2015, I rendered a final cut and then watched it on my television.

Sweet Memory
Blow Up Hollywood
Collections (2011)
Film by David July

 
Download MP4
Download WebM
Download 1080p MP4

 
23.2 MB
41.6 MB
327.1 MB

Considering that there was no planning beforehand, no shot list and it was my first attempt at such a venture, I am actually quite pleased with the result.

The above embed uses HTML5 to stream a 474×268 copy in either MP4 or WebM format to your browser. You can also download one of these smaller files directly if the embed does not work.

These options are faster to download, should suit a casual visitor and help me from burning through my monthly data transfer allocation. That notwithstanding, the full HD 1920×1080p MP4 (327.1 MB) is also available to download and watch.

Enjoy the film and if you like the song, please purchase yourself a copy.

Blow Up Hollywood CD Baby Amazon iTunes

Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Video Credit: David July/Blow Up Hollywood

The Goodbye to Lonely Nights

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Harvey Jones and Thad Debrock performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Harvey Jones and Thad Debrock performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour.

185 Orchard Street, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

part of the Blow Up Hollywood album


The sun dipping below the horizon, Saturday is quickly morphing into night in the Big Apple. The street lamps' orangish glow illuminates downward, shining through and emphasizing the flakes of snow now gently but increasingly falling.

Stopped on the sidewalk on West 34th Street not far from the Skylight Diner and 9th Avenue, I am holding a Gibson guitar in its case. Beside me sits a medium wheeled suitcase filled with albums and a few T-shirts.

I am on my way to see my favorite band in concert at a venue in the Lower East Side. Looking down 34th at the lighting and snow, I think to myself how cinematic the scene looks and feels. The temperature may only be nineteen degrees, but it is worth it. Finally, a vacant taxi turns toward and pulls over to pick us up.

My travel companion this evening is none other than Steve Messina — vocalist, lyricist, acoustic guitarist and co-founder of Blow Up Hollywood. Having left the pre-show rehearsal at another band member's home, Steve and I are making our way south for a snack, beverage and the show.

Taking place in the intimate downstairs venue at Rockwood Music Hall called Stage 3, Blow Up Hollywood will be performing the first of several gigs in support of their latest album, Blue Sky Blond, and I will have a front row seat.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Harvey Jones and Thad Debrock performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Comprised of an eclectic and talented group of musicians, Blow Up Hollywood has been producing a unique, emotional and musically inspiring type of music since 2001 that refuses to pander to the mainstream.

The paradigm of a truly independent music group, Blow Up Hollywood is the best band that you may have never heard. Founded by Steve Messina and Nik Chinboukas and with a roster changing over time, Blow Up Hollywood is as much a collective of friends and collaborators as it is a band.

Their eight thoughtful and creative albums span through genres and each stand alone as unique experiences, while somehow maintaining a signature sound. Ambient, atmospheric, post-rock, progressive rock, folk, experimental, existential… there really is no one descriptor that best describes the Blow Up Hollywood catalogue except for independent.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

I first discovered Blow Up Hollywood sometime around 15 September 2004 thanks to episode 0437C of Echoes with John Diliberto. The episode featured a live "Living Room Concert" set with five tracks that captured my attention.

After an email I sent about possible 2005 shows resulted in a reply from Steve Messina himself, the two of us have since maintained a casual email friendship. Sometimes they were just short notes and other times more in depth conversations, but it was great to discuss music with and ask questions of an admired artist of mine.

It was during an email exchange in early December 2013 that I floated the idea of coming to New York City before my planned January birthday holiday in Alexandria, Virginia. As luck would have it, the Blue Sky Blond album kick-off show was scheduled for Saturday, 25 January 2014, just days before my Washington, D.C. itinerary started with friends Erik and Lauren.

I booked a flight from KTLH to KLGA, an Amtrak train from NYP to ALX and finally a flight from KDCA back to KTLH. Having been to New York City on at least three prior occasions, it was no trouble for me to find things to visit and photograph. You know, non-Blow Up Hollywood related things.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Steve Messina and I first met in person the day before the concert at Prohibition in the Upper West Side. A bar and restaurant known for featuring live music nightly, Prohibition was ironically a place where Steve's earlier band MJ12 performed many years earlier.

My initial nervousness over having dinner with the man responsible for some of my favorite music was quickly tempered by a combination of Steve's easygoing nature, our hitting it off well and whisky. Referencing his instinctive and roguish nature, the Long Island Pulse said that Steve "realizes he can come across as difficult." That may be true in the context of the music industry and popular culture, but I would see that it is not generally so.

It was great fun to talk with and get to know Steve better over the course of two days. The rehearsal and concert were, of course, a special experience for me as well. Playing around eight tracks from across their twelve-year discography, Steve was joined by band mates Harvey Jones on piano and synthesizer; Thad Debrock on electric and pedal steel guitar; and later by vocalist Nadia Ackerman.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

The set list was already in development when I arrived at the rehearsal hours earlier, but I have to braggingly report that I had a hand in shaping its final form in that a few tracks were present for my benefit. It was something else to then hear this performance in a room filled with seventy people, although at the time everyone else off stage seemed to fade away.

As you can see and probably imagine for yourself substituting your favorite musician, actor, writer or other artist, these two days in New York's exceptional cold of late January 2014 were an amazing experience for me. I have tried to capture some of that magic in my photographs and in this article, though I have left much of the detailed narrative out. Sorry, you had to be there.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Harvey Jones and Thad Debrock performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

It is difficult for me to believe that the roughly twenty-four hour period of this story took place one year ago. I do not know when I will next visit Steve or see Blow Up Hollywood live in concert, but I am looking forward to both. In the meantime, our electronic chats continue and I await future news about the next album. Each one has delighted and surprised me thus far, so I can only imagine what may be in the works.

Following the show and celebration at Rockwood's Orchard Street bar above Stage 3, I was back in the cold of the night. Standing on the sidewalk between the doors for Rockwood and Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, a random passerby stops to ask me something. I reply "no" and they move on. I barely register the interaction whilst off in my own world however, preoccupied with my recent experiences.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Heading uptown in a taxi, I stare out the windows and watch as bodegas, local stores and street lamps go past. Except for the sounds of the engine and road, it is quiet in the cab. As the orangish glow of the street lamps fades in and out on my face, I cannot help but think about how perfectly everything worked out.

The couple mile ride to 31st Street and Lexington is uneventful. I return to my eighth floor room at the Hotel 31 and quickly realize that attempts to go to sleep now will be hopelessly futile. I leave my camera behind and walk next door to Vezzo Thin Crust Pizza, a place I frequented due to its convenience.

I sit down at the small bar in the front room and am immediately greeted by the friendly waitress who has served me the past few nights. She prepares my usual glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and then takes my order for a personal pizza on nine-grain organic crust.

I take a sip of my wine, put the glass down and stare ahead at nothing… a strange little smile on my face.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Related Mount Sutro Articles

You can learn more about Blow Up Hollywood, listen to samples and purchase their albums on CD and electronically at blowuphollywood.com, as well as iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and other retailers of independent music.

Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: Blow Up Hollywood