Aight, I’d just like to start by saying that I’m writing this in the middle of an f-ing TORNADO WARNING. In an RV, no less, a lot like waiting in a giant sardine can full of people (and a dog) for Zeus to come and juggle your ass through the air. But hey, f-ing history man! So, let’s do some scene setting here, it’s early 1800’s, gilded age New York, and it was the best of times, and the worst of times- so some people were yukking it up in the streets with their team of prize horses and hot powder-wig wearing concubines, while others were eating maggoty bread (for reals, real maggots), and suffering from some sort of deadly butt disease. The official city of New York technically didn’t exist at that time, divided into Manhattan and Brooklyn, but not really by choice, you see, because Manhattan was seriously overpopulated, and even though they were really urban and awesome, immigrants kept coming by the boatload daily, making rural Brooklyn, with its ass-ton of space, like the hot chick Manhattan wanted to get with before the end of senior year. Sadly, Manhattan was getting cock-blocked by the giant f-ing river right in-between them, which only could have been worse if it was actually just a giant wall of middle fingers (seriously nature, it’s ‘cus of shit like this we hate you), and since the city was already dealing with it’s multitude of other problems, somebody had to take the problems into their own hands. That man was wire-rope company owner, and all around bridge-building-genius, John Roebling, who, after getting tired of dicking around with unreliable shit like the Atlantic-Fulton street Ferry, went back to his secret bat-cave, where he drew up every detail of the bridge, and after finishing, proceeded to say it was so good that it should be, “ranked as a national monument… a great work of art.” But hey, I’m sure when you’ve just crapped out architectural genius all over a sheet of paper, modesty doesn’t exactly come easy to you, especially when a bridge this awesome is technically only one of many, Roebling having also designed a number of other bridges, one of which is so mind-numbingly resilient, it is apparently the oldest suspension bridge in America, and still survives today.
Sadly, having to deal with other peoples problems at the time, the gov’ts of Brooklyn and New York were somehow able to look at the design of the bridge and keep themselves from jizzing all over the page at it’s utter brilliance, leaving Roebling to enlist the help of his Brooklyn business friend William C. Kingsley, who in turn enlisted the help of his senator friend (and former mayor) Henry Murphy, who in turn helped to pass a bill that would let a private company build a bridge over the East River, prompting a whole bunch of leaders in New York to create the New York Bridge Company in 1867. Though after hearing about how the company constructing the bridge could charge a toll to cross, some civilians looked at the bridge construction a little less favorably, to which Roebling responded by telling them that the cities of New York and Brooklyn, in their mind-fucking awesomeness, were predicted to grow so much that not only would they need to construct this bridge, they would need to construct even more just to keep up (and wassup he was right, check the Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges). Sadly, June of 1869 decided to dick around with the Roeblings, because while it was the end of a TWO YEAR wait for the New York City Council and the Army Corps of Engineers to approve Roebling’s bridge design, it was also when Roebling suffered a tragic accident that resulted in his death. Apparently, while planning out a spot for one of the bridge’s towers from a pier, a rogue ferry came out of fucking NOWHERE, and smashed right into his foot, the injuries of which caused a strain of tetanus to infect the man, and lead to his eventual death. The fact that his life’s masterpiece was based completely off of making ferries in New York obsolete not only makes this death ironic, it makes it an insult from the universe itself, like if the caveman who found fire accidently drowned (instead of, y’know, being eaten by a T-rex or some shit). But New Yorkers, never being ones to take a hint, simply brushed it off and promoted John’s son Washington Roebling to chief engineer, hopefully making sure this time that he never ventured too far unprotected into the nautical territory of the ferry mob. After breaking ground on January 3, 1870, it soon became apparent that unusual building methods would be necessary to construct the bridge, unusual meaning f-ing dynamite (!), which helped lower the time it took to lay the foundations down to a measly three years. Sadly, the workers, the guys who were not only risking their lives fucking around in at least 40 foot deep tunnels with explosive dynamite, but getting paid at best $2.25 a day for it, suffered A LOT of casualties, and the 1800s, in their jovial racism, just kind of brushed it off on account of the fact that most of the workers were either Germans or Irish. Now while the Irish were already pissed, having been forced out of their country ‘cus their main dish, potatoes, had basically turned into poop that grew from the ground, and found the country they’d come to not only hated them, but was working on outlawing booze, the Germans hadn’t even fucked the Jews over yet, they were just being screwed! Which made the next tragedy to strike the Roebling’s, while equally as ironic as last time, a little more justified, when Washington Roebling was paralyzed from a mixture of all the nitrogen and garbage in the air that, formed into an infection that had killed at least 20 other men in the area of the construction site. Still, Washington was a Roebling, and if he wasn’t dead, then he sure as hell wasn’t going to stop, so, with the help of wife Emily, he worked on directing the construction of the bridge from his home in Brooklyn. And proving that even just being married to a Roebling made you awesome; Emily studied all about construction, including higher mathematics and bridge engineering, eventually making daily visits to the construction site to oversee the workers progress. With hard (and seriously unappreciated) work, between 1873 and 1877, the towers of the bridge began to rise. And in case you hadn’t already guessed, yes, the very towers of the bridge were cooler than the Fonze pre-jumping-the-shark. See because the bridge’s suspension style was meant for cities based off of cliffs, and high elevations, like on the Hudson River, a place you incidentally will not find the city of New York. In fact, the area around the east river was rather flat; spare a few hills and bumps here and there, nowhere near high enough for the suspension wires to be able to support the bridge. But the very idea of a bridge was a giant middle finger to nature, as the senior Roebling obviously realized when he was constructing it, so why not just go above and beyond in screwing nature right? That’s right; the towers were designed to act as virtual cliffs, in size and strength, just to make sure that everybody knew, that’s right, humans can not only tear down mountains, they can build their own. Connected to each of the massive towers was a complicated webbing of suspension wires, and either because Roebling hated the idea of being in anyway similar to anybody else, or because he just f-ing wanted to, he decide the wires were to be made out of steel, the metal mostly used to support railroads. Effectively, this was like someone saying today that he wanted to use asphalt as wires to support a bridge, except, y’know, the whole steel wire idea was actually possible, it just hadn’t been done before. Defending his idea in The American Railroad Journal (yea, choo-choos were REALLY popular back then), Roebling basically insulted iron wiring, probably melting a pile of it as he ‘discussed’ about how much weaker and vulnerable it was, bragging about steel, which he affectionately called, ‘the metal of the future’. It was like if ‘Revenge of the Nerds,’ had ended the right way, with the nerds being thoroughly thrashed and mocked by the jocks and their coach. Awesome 80’s movies aside, the steel cable was proven strong in August 1876 after a wire cable was connected between the two towers, and the master mechanic f-ing rode across it in a boatswain chair, disregarding life and limb for ‘a jolly lark.’ Why, you might ask? Because back in the 1870s they didn’t have TV, so they couldn’t just turn to FX when they wanted entertainment, they had to do some pretty stupid things, that didn’t involve drinking or sex. Mostly dancing strangely, or boxing marsupials.
Anyway, by October 1878, all the steel strands had been spun, each containing about 5.435 steel wires, and were strung up to the anchorages of each tower, meaning that work could finally begin on the ‘The Great Avenue’. That’s right, because Roebling didn’t just want this to be some dumb ‘ol bridge used JUST for getting across, this was an f-ing masterpiece! This was his Mona Lisa! And his Mona Lisa needed to have shops, viewing points, and two railroad tracks before he was satisfied. Sure, he had to design some special steel trusses to support the heavy trains of the time, the construction of which took FOUR MORE YEARS, but Roebling sure wasn’t German or Irish, so who gave flying hoot, right? The bridge ended up with a 1,595-foot main span (the longest of any suspension bridge in the world), and was able to hold 18,700 tons, and architectural miracle for the time (which proved unnecessary later on when the automobile was invented, and horse drawn carriages went out the equally unnecessarily large window, but what the hell, this is AMUHRICA). So, in the beginning of 1883, the bridge was basically finished, all that needed to be done was add the cherry on top. Two terminal buildings were placed on either end of the bridge, with seventy-two blue-white electric street lamps placed along the promenade, which Roebling gave extra-attention to, because hey, what’s the point of a bridge if nobody can it? Oh, that’s, right, for traversing across. But it sure does look purty don’t it? Still, despite the horrid working conditions rivaled only by the construction of the Pyramids, the bridge really was an amazing historical feat, and truly became a monument to both American and human ingenuity, helping to ring a new age with style. It cost more than double it original construction price of $7 million, ending up at $15.1 million, and was officially opened on May 23rd 1883, where 14000 were invited to watch Emily Roebling ride across it with a rooster in her lap (the rooster… was a symbol of victory. Just… just let it go). After that, anyone with a penny could cross, that anyone not including many Irish and German workers who weren’t invited, and boycotted the use of the bridge, which not a lot of people cared about, unsurprisingly. Which reminds me, thanks again for building our country guys! Sorry about the fact that most of you died in your own filth of neglect and poverty. Which is why I’m gonna end this little tale with one final ironic tragedy, that almost closed down the bridge, when on Memorial day 1883, some woman tripped, and her friend totally let out some kind of hysterical yell or some shit, that scared everybody into thinking that the bridge that had been so carefully constructed by the immigrant workers, and meticulously planned by a genius was, for some reason or another, crashing, which caused everybody to go nuts trying to escape, killing about 35 people, and injuring 12 more. Suck it richies. The Brooklyn Bridge still stands today, and is considered a national monument by many, a testament to how hard humanity kicks natures greeny little ass.
|Even in formal wear he looks like he could kick your ass.|
|Suck it nature.|
Open scene: Two clearly bored children, staring out the window of their middle upper class suburban home at the heavy rain pattering across the panes of glass, almost mocking them, like a cruel prison guard rattling the bars of a prisoner’s cage in the most frustrating manner. An old man quickly rolls into the scene, and upon spying the two children, lets loose a painfully cheerful grin that would repulse even the happiest of clowns into a frown of distaste and disgust. The children can’t help but see him as he walks over to where they sit, and before they can make the dash up to their respective rooms, he has them in a chokehold, cleverly disguised as a caring hug, his beefy arms wrapped around both of their necks. He obnoxiously bellows, “CHILDREN! How can you simply sit here and do nothing on such a wonderful day?!” One of the children thinks of making a sarcastic comment on the rain outside, but thinks better of it. The other child doesn’t. “True. But in case you hadn’t noticed we were just counting how many drops of water we saw, so we could maybe write them down for later-”The old man quickly bellows out a laugh and cuts her off, bringing up a completely different subject, eliciting looks of silent groans from the children. “HA! I remember learning about another man who loved to count such little, and seemingly unimportant things! He even made a chart for them! The periodic table! Yes! Revolutionized the scientific world! Let me explain…” A terrified look comes into each of the children’s eyes, but they, enveloped into the man’s disgustingly beefy arms, are unable to make their escape. He begins the story that they know with any luck will end when their parents finally return.
Before the periodic table, research on the elements looked a lot like the cavemen banging on rocks to make fire. The concept was there, but everyone was too professional and self-important too just start rubbing some sticks together. Because of this, real advancement in the world of elements only occurred when somebody who everybody knew was very smart and wise and probably someone who knows what they’re talking about actually started getting into the subject. The Greeks, who had a whole bunch of smart people (Socrates, Plato, etc.) started the whole thing, bringing up the idea that all matter was composed of elements. Sadly, the Greeks were the kind of people who had a fresh water source, but only bathed once a year, and knew it was nasty to just go running around town naked, but decided a thin, revealing towel hung haphazardly around most of the body was the best solution. So when they thought up elements, they believed there were only four, earth, wind, water, and fire. Now we today know this is garbage, but back then, saying that was like saying ‘the sky is blue’. Still, for 400 B.C., pretty impressive. For 2000 years after that though, people just seemed to be caught in this limbo between progressive and stone-age when it came to the elements. They used alchemy, which, while it did use science, and the careful application of elements, was explained by literally the worst word in the world of science, the f-word for all men and women who study the way the world works, the end-all-be-all of rational thought: magic. So when alchemists discovered stuff, using this with this makes this, instead of trying to figure out why, they just brought it up to the king to get their pat on the back, and went back to figuring out how to turn lead into gold or some other nonsense, So in 400 years, humans had finally figured out elements, and come up with four that weren’t even real elements. Another 2000 years, and we had discovered like three, and figured out how to make acids. Yipee. Now, not all of the alchemists were COMPLETE quacks, some were actual scientists. They cared about what they were doing, and really wanted to learn, they just had no idea what any of this meant. Thankfully, this smart guy named Robert Boyle showed up around the 1600’s, and changed everything. You see, while all those alchemists and scientists were like the frustrated five year old who can’t figure out how to turn on the TV with the remote, Boyle was like the kind adult who gently took the remote out of their hands, turned it the other way around, so the little red light was facing the screen, and gave it back to them, chuckling in a friendly manner. Plus he was Irish. Basically, he told all those guys trying to work out the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, how about we just admit the only time we make any progress in all this is when we experiment, y’know, not just say that since ice freezes water, it must also freeze fire, without actually double checking to see if what we’re saying is for real. And unlike the other poser scientists of his age, Boyle never tried to limit the number of elements out there in the universe, the fact of the matter was, he didn’t even use the traditional definition for an element, he created a completely different (and way more spot on) definition based off of, that’s right, experiments. He was one of the world’s nerdiest rebels, in an age-old war against the empire of wannabe-know-it-all-hipster scientists a.k.a. alchemists. His first assault? Telling people to stop calling air an element, because it could be broken down into many pure substances, and calling it an element is like saying a chocolate chip cookie is a proper ingredient in cooking. And, lo and behold, after people started taking his advice, a whole schmorgusboerg (if that’s how you spell it) of elements started showing up, and the whole Greek ‘four elements’ idea went back to the stone age where it belonged (Not putting down the Greeks of course, they were brilliant, but maybe they should’ve just stuck to math and philosophy). Still, it WAS the early days of chemistry, so for some reason, Boyle went against his own ideas, and still supported the garbage theory that eventually people would figure out how to turn one metal into a different one, but hey, at least he didn’t think that it would be because of magic. Which, when you think about it, is either a good thing or a bad thing… Anyway, fast forward about 200 years to 1869, Boyle’s finally got science on track, Dalton’s figured out about atoms, Greek science has been thrashed like the Bad News Bears pre-Casey, and the hero of this little tale’s about to step in and save the day, so to speak. So far, people have been going at it trying to figure out a way to order the elements, guys like Antoine Lavoisier, who published a list of 33 chemical elements, Johan Wolfgang Dobereiner, who discovered the law of Triads, Julius Lothar Meyer, who tried arranging a table of 49 elements arranged by valence, and so on and so forth. Progress, while it did beat the old ‘breakthrough-every-five-hundred-years-or-so’ method, was still pretty slow on account of the fact that the rich kid hipster nerd scientists kept browbeating and outright SCOFFING at these guys for ordering the elements like the musical octaves scale, and other crazy, groundbreaking, tomorrow-is-today stuff of that nature (only to realize, “Wait a sec, they’re on to something here!” after actually taking a look at what was going on). Finally, through thousands of years of “Almost… aaaalmost…!” The time had finally come. For the Russian.
|Photo courtesy of Lord Buham, in all his excellency|
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev (sweet name), a Russian born scientist showed up on the scene, and told everybody, hey, stop watching the black and white film, because I just invented this new thing called Fios HiDef. Figuratively speaking. You see, while everybody else had been working on making chemical tables only using the elements they had found at the time, Mendeleev, using columns and rows to order the elements according to their atomic number/weight, was able to PREDICT THE FUTURE, and leave spaces open for future elements that had yet to be discovered. And this was all in a time when, if he done this in a different place, he would have been burned alive for witchcraft by crazy peasants. Instead, he beat out some other almost as brilliant guy named Julius Lothar Meyer, who used a similar rows and columns method to order the elements, but didn’t share the same space/time dimension tearing powers to see days yet to come that really seemed to intrigue the younger crowd into reading Mendeleev. His table basically became the nitrous to human element discovery, and thanks to him, we are basically three elements away from figuring out how to rule the universe. Not really. But we make our forefathers from 100 years ago look like cavemen, so… win.
The old man looks off into the distance, reminiscing what was clearly one of the worst renditions of human history in existence. The children, who have been suffering the same hellish trials as those young miscreants from ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (It’s a wonder they’ve managed to sit there listening to Bob Saget for a whole six seasons), finally managed to squeeze themselves out of the mans beefy grips using a rudimentary pulley/level system straight outta 127 hours made of shoelaces and… whatever that plastic thing at the end of shoelaces are called. All in all, everybody came out learning something in the end. Right?