Bergholt Stuttley Johnson
|"Bloody Stupid" Johnson|
|Name||Bergholt Stuttley Johnson|
|Death||unknown, probably 1960s UC|
|Cameos||mentioned in many of the books, such as: Men at Arms, Interesting Times, Maskerade, Hogfather, Carpe Jugulum, Going Postal, Thud!, Unseen Academicals, Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook|
Real name Bergholt Stuttley Johnson. He probably didn't ask for his nickname, but it was so fitting that people of all classes and from all walks of life – wizards, nobles, ordinary city people – all through history called, and still call him, "Bloody Stupid" Johnson.
Johnson is an historical figure, which is a blessing because the damage would be considerable if he were still active. (There is evidence that he was alive during or just before the time of Light Fantastic, given that he was commissioned by Archchancellor Weatherwax). Supposedly, Johnson claimed that a truly good inventor ought to be able to invent anything. That, using a modern interpretation, may suggest that a truly infinite multiverse ought to contain all kinds of good things, bad things, and plain weird things. A more fair and analytical statement posited that Johnson's inventions might very well be ingenious, but would never turn out to do what they were supposed to do. If something he designed worked well, it was purely by accident. Somebody requiring a surface-to-air missile probably should ask Johnson to design a small fountain.
In addition to inventing machines of all sorts, Johnson also did architectural designs. Some of the things went wrong because of drawing the plan the wrong way around, being careless with unit measures (feet vs. inches) and numbers (1,000 vs. 0.001), and so on, but other strange effects must have taken considerable skills. The only thing(s) he developed that worked well, in the way that they were supposed to, without ever breaking down, were the organs (musical instruments), three of which are still in existence and in good working condition. Each of these great organs is a huge contraption with an amazing, possibly frightening, range of sound effects.
He became so notorious, that it became fashionable for rich people to have been "Johnsoned" (see The Discworld Companion). Sybil Ramkin proudly states that her family's property escaped this fate, as her grandfather saw Johnson walking up the drive one day with a hopeful salesman's smile on his face; Grand-père Ramkin promptly shot him in the leg as a warning.
The date of his death is not available. He worked for Lord Snapcase but not after his term, so it was in the range of thirty years ago. His invention of the Sorting Engine at the Post Office is within living memory of Tolliver Groat. Sybil Ramkin's grandfather shot him in the leg. This could have taken place far earlier while her grandparent was still young and vigorous enough to draw a bow, or it could have been when he was old but still keen-eyed enough to use a crossbow. Conflictingly, the Ankh-Morpork Post Office Handbook 2007 has a reference to his having done a memorably different job for the Post Office in the Common Year of 1815, over a century before the "present". This could be due to his having been very long lived; or else B.S. Johnson is a family name handed down, from father to son, in a dynasty of similarly inclined people; or it could be History Monks - again.
However, lost and forgotten examples of his prolific design come to the light of day all the time. As the railways expand and find new destinations, Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook lists several Johnson designs which have found new purpose - completely unintended by their builder - around the Sto plains. These will be added to the lists below as they emerge.
All in all, his works include:
Architecture large enough to be kept in a small cardboard box in a skinny old man's pocket
- Colossus of Morpork.
- Commemorative arch for Battle of Crumhorn.
- Hanging Gardens of Ankh.
(The skinny old man in question is one Mr Scant, Official Keeper of the Monuments, usually found asleep on a stool [presumably when he's not fallen off the stool] at a road junction somewhere near the Beggars' Guild most weekdays)
Other notable building works
- Quirm Memorial.
- Collapsed Tower of Quirm, for which Johnson specified quicksand as a building material because they wanted it up fast.
- Ornamental cruet set for Lord Snapcase, Ankh-Morpork. The salt and pepper shakers are large enough to house four families and store grain. Another ornamental cruet set found its way, by accident, into the design of the Sto Lat maze.
- Empirical Crescent, Ankh-Morpork. It looks like a normal set of houses, but the dimensions inside it are twisted, as well as of the gardens. Everybody throws out their junk, because it probably doesn't land in their own gardens. Someone might live at number 1, but his bedroom could be at number 3 and his kitchen in number 5. The painter Methodia Rascal lived in this street, which probably didn't do any good to his already unstable mental constitution.
- The Great Maze of Sto Lat - designed by Johnson and made more problematical when the blueprint got, er, interfered with.
- Johnson's Desktop Organiser; now used as a rather large and over-elaborate Tote board at the Shankydoodle race course.
- Great organ, Don'tgonearthe Castle, Überwald. Includes sound effects of thunder, young ladies screaming, wolf howls, floor creaks, and more. Operates on water power of an underground river.
- Organ, the Opera House, Ankh-Morpork.
- Great organ, the Unseen University, Ankh-Morpork. Has three keyboards and a hundred knobs. Includes farmyard noises and the 128' Earthquake-pipe. Requires 8 students or one extremely enthusiastic Librarian to pump up the air reservoir.
- "Archchancellor Weatherwax's Bathroom", or, Patent 'Typhoon' Superior Indoor Ablutorium with Automatic Soap Dish, Unseen University, Ankh-Morpork. Pipes are connected to the Unseen Great Organ (see above). Archchancellor Galder Weatherwax commissioned it, used it and boarded it up. Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully re-opened it, tried it, loved it, met with an accident (fortunately not fatal) and boarded it up. One of the taps is named "Old Faithful", the name of a famous geyser in Yellowstone Park.
There are links here with Daedalus the inventor, who created Minos's bathroom. So far no one has been killed in Weatherwax's Bathroom (as far as we know).
- Mail-sorting engine, the Post Office, Ankh-Morpork. Originally designed as yet another organ (musical instrument). Acquired by Postmaster General Cowerby. In the centre of this machine is one wheel that Johnson, for the sake of tidiness, had designed to have a pi (circumference to diameter ratio) of exactly 3, not 3.14-mumble-mumble-and-a-bit. In order for pi to be exactly 3, the universe has been changed. The machine therefore taps through many layers of the space-time continuum. Mail came out of the sorting machine that wasn't put into it by the human hands of the postal workers. Mail from next week, mail from 50 years in the future, mail that could have been, mail from alternative universes, mail that people swore they posted but really hadn't, mountains of such mail. Finally, Chief Postal Inspector Rumbelow beat up the machine so that it stopped whirring. No longer sorting any mail, the machine still sports an annoying blue glow, and is capable of Considerably Dis-Organizing objects placed above its centre. This makes one of the rooms in the cellars, originally the mail-sorting room, a dangerous place to be. A banshee assassin exploded when he touched the core of the device.
- The Custard-Pie Machine, designed for the Guild of Fools in order to put visitors in the appropriately mirthful frame of mind. Alas, Johnson under-estimated the effects of even quite thin runny custard when propelled at 300mph, and the device is now relegated to the museum of the Guild.
- The Great Daisy: formerly the water-cannon, built in the shape of a giant daisy, that was to have been used to welcome visitors to the Fools' Guild. It is no longer in use and has been relegated to the Guild Museum following the unfortunate drowning incident.
- The Improved Manicure Device: cited by Ridcully in Hogfather as to how not all of Bloody Stupid Johnson's inventions don't work: what about that thing in the kitchen, that they use for peeling potatoes? To which the Dean responds, "Ah, you mean the thing with the brass plate saying Improved Manicure Device, Archchancellor?" Still, at least this blunder of Johnson's has been put to some good use. Explanation: industrial potato peelers, as used in large kitchens and high-volume catering outlets, take the form of a revolving steel drum inside a waterproof housing. The inside of the drum is serrated, like a large and evil cheesegrater, and is filled with up to a hundred large potatoes at a time. When the lid is closed and the drum set to rotate at high speed, the potatoes rumble around inside, their outer skins being shaved away by the serrations; water is passed through to flush the detritus out, and eventually a hundred slightly smaller and impeccably peeled spuds (or carrots, or parsnips, or turnips) are allowed to cascade out. While it could trim your fingernails, it is best not to attempt this as it might be regarded as overkill. In all probability you'd never need a manicure again.
- Clockwork spoon: In Unseen Academicals, Nutt comments as to how the clockwork spoon, designed by Bergholt Stuttley Johnson, would probably be one of the four contenders for his favorite spoon. (He was being interviewed by Bu-Bubble at the time). As the name indicates, it was a spoon, powered by clockwork. not much else. Apparently, though, it worked so well that if you put it into a cup of tea, the cup would fly helicopter-like to the ceiling. Nutt would have loved to be a fly on the wall to observe it in operation- although, not too close, obviously...
- The Pneumatic Transit Tube now used, in a safe form, by department stores such as Crumley's to enable counter-clerks to send cash received to a central accounting office and to receive till floats and change. By inference, Johnson invented this, in his own inimitable way. An early and evidently prototype version was installed in 1815 (according to the Ankh-Morpork Post Office Handbook 2007) to ostensibly make life easier for counter-clerks at the Post Office. However. Johnson's version propelled heavy metal tubes full of money at such a velocity that they could have been employed as artillery. Several holes exist in the walls which have been patched up but are still visible over a century on from 1815, the stated date of installation, and shell-strikes may still be seen on buildings opposite. The then Patrician, after representations from the then Maccalariats of the day, promptly outlawed the device until it could be made safe.
- Artificial hillock, right in front of Quirm Manor. Made of 2,000 tons of earth, because "it would drive me nuts to have to look at a bunch of trees and a lake all day, how about you?".
- The Gardens, Patrician's Palace, Ankh-Morpork, with the following features:
- Beehive. So large that it could accommodate bees 10 feet long. Currently serving as dovecot. There is a suggestion that it has in the past been used to accommodate homing albatrosses, the messenger birds between Ankh-Morpork and the Agatean Empire.
- Chiming sundial. Usually explodes around noon. May also fall over.
- Crazy paving. Has committed suicide.
- Fountain. Currently defunct. Groaned ominously, then fired a small stone cherub 1,000 feet into the air 5 minutes after it was first switched on.
- Garden furniture. Made of cast iron. Known to have melted on three occasions.
- The Hoho. A cunningly designed ditch like a Haha, only the Hoho is 50 feet deep. Has claimed three Palace gardeners. Also once trapped Dr. Cruces, then head of the Assassins' Guild.
- Maze. Too small. People get lost looking for it.
- Ornamental trout lake. 150 yards long, 1 inch wide. Home to one trout, living comfortably provided that it doesn't try to turn around. In fact, the turning around bit involves having a man to do this job on behalf of the fish.
- Wedding cake, the top tier of which was until recently used as a bandstand in the Apothecary Gardens.
- The Great Fruit Pie.
In the spoof rockumentary movie This is Spinal Tap, mention must be made of the B.S. Johnson moment when the band's manager totally fails to communicate with the stage-prop designer. In a truly Discworld moment, the conventional symbols for inches (") and feet (') are confused, and a Stonehenge-sized trilithon meant to be 18' x 12' - isn't. It is, however, 18" x 12". This adds a new poignancy to the lyric See the little people dance, as the expensively-hired dwarf dancers proceed to hide the mighty trilithon with their bodies, and eventually kick it a little way across the stage.
Similarly, American and European agencies completely failed to liaise concerning a joint Mars rocket project. Little things like a standard system of measurement passed them by and while Europe used metric units, the USA thought in terms of feet and inches. Even a few millionths of an inch, or indeed a centimetre, of error when mating critical components was adequate to jointly engineer a very big, very expensive, firework. B.S. Johnson is alive and well and working for NASA. Or the ESA. Or both.
The government of the Republic of Ireland recently announced, proudly, that it had completed the changeover from the ambivalently-named Imperial system (a leftover of having been, largely unwillingly, part of the British Imperial system) to the European-standard Metric system of weights and measures. As one of Ireland's principal exports to the rest of the world is building contractors and labourers, it was immediately pointed out that most builders will still ask for - and be able to buy - a hundred metres of four-by-two, or a gross of 7mm diameter screws, or a box of 3/4 inch nails with 5mm heads. Clearly Irish metrification, with its gloriously Discworld gloss, needs more work.
In 1998, it was reported that the US State of Alabama had passed legislation redefining the value of Pi from 3.14159 to 3, in order to bring it in line with Biblical precepts. This has been proven to be an April Fools gag. That said, the Indiana Pi Bill really was nearly passed, and the details surrounding it are perhaps worthy of a Discworldian plot of their own.
Of his inventions:
- Colossus of Morpork = Colossus of Rhodes (a Wonder of the Ancient World)
- Hanging Gardens of Ankh = Hanging Gardens of Babylon (another Ancient Wonder) [technically in Semiramis, but hey...]
- Collapsed Tower of Quirm = Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Organs: Extra sound effects mirror the strange, unrealistic sounds found on some electric keyboards. Only a few of Roundworld organs have a true 64' register from which the lowest notes produces sound at less than 20 Hz and therefore inaudible to the human ear. An 128' pipe would sound at approx. 8.2 Hz. Sydney Town Hall organ with it's 64' Contra-Trombone in action
Origin of name: Three great gardeners are mentioned when Bloody Stupid Johnson was introduced in Men at Arms as the landscaper responsible for the disastrous Patrician's Garden: Capability Brown, Sagacity Smith, and Intuition De Vere Slade-Gore. Of these, Capability Brown was a renowned landscaper. (As I'm sure Pterry remembered, the "Capability" part of Brown's name didn't refer to his own -- immense -- capability, but to his habit of applying the word to a garden when referring to what today we might instead call its "potential" for improvement.)