Bodges. Skips. Faffing around.
Updated: Aug 5, 2021
For some reason, I’ve built up a bit of a following in the UK. Maybe it’s the Monty Python reference in the Kingdom of Failure logo.
I get a lot of notes from people over there and it’s super fucking cool. But sometimes I feel like the Dennis Farina character in Snatch when he says, “I thought this country spawned the fucking language, and so far nobody seems to speak it.”
I have to Google things all the time to find out what they fucking mean. Yesterday I learned that a skip was what we, in America, would most commonly refer to as a dumpster. Thank you, kind British people.
But long before any Brits were reading my stuff, I was reading theirs. I’ve always thought Dave Trott was brilliant and I was reading one of his pieces the other day where he was talking about hacks. Or rather, he was talking about what we refer to as hacks. Which he argues should instead be referred to as a bodge. Which I had to look up because I’m not fucking British and I’ve never heard anyone say bodge before. Basically, a bodge is a quick fix. A temporary repair. We might even call it MacGyvering something.
He uses an interesting example. NASA.
“In 1969, Apollo 11 couldn’t have lifted off from the moon without Buzz Aldrin using a non-conductive, plastic pen to hack (bodge) the circuit-breaker. In 1970, Apollo 13 needed a hack (bodge) requiring duct-tape and a sock, to make enough air so that three men could breathe instead of just two. In 1985, the space shuttle Discovery hacked (bodged) plastic bags and a metal pole together, with duct-tape, to release the stuck aerials on a satellite. In 1997, Russian astronaut Vasili Tsilliyer used a dinner knife to hack (bodge) an air leak aboard the Soyuz.”
I am not an expert on the space program. All that I know about NASA has pretty much come from watching The Right Stuff, Apollo 13 and Armageddon. But I know that primarily, NASA hires a lot of scientists, engineers and astronauts. People who know their way around physics, computers, mechanical and electrical engineering—stuff like that.
Engineers and scientists, to my knowledge, aren’t trained in the use of socks and duct-tape; and astronauts don’t practice fixing things using dinner knives and plastic pens. But as they say in the astronaut business, “Shit happens.” And unlike in other professions, when the shit happens to astronauts it tends to occur in places like outer space or while sitting atop a giant firecracker loaded with highly flammable rocket fuel.
In these types of situations, engineers, scientists and astronauts have to be able to draw on their experience and an understanding of the fundamental principles that are so deeply ingrained in their thinking that they are easily able to replace, substitute or mimic the missing factor in almost any equation.
Dave Trott goes on to point out the parallels in advertising—emphasizing the need for expertise in order to come up with the best bodges.
But I’ll take it a step further. Because I’ve been feeling the weight of the world lately. And it is a heavy, heavy burden these days. We are in need of so many bodges that it bodgles the mind.
And I don’t think that the ideas aren’t there. There are people out there right now hacking, bodging and MacGyvering problems but no one wants to (or has the guts) to execute them. No one wants to give anything the greenlight. It just gets bandied about by the politicians and the media and then all of us go about choosing our sides and thumbing our noses at one another for either believing that it will work or insisting it’s idiotic.
Who gave the greenlight on Apollo 13 to use the sock and the duct tape? Who told Buzz Aldrin to go ahead and give that plastic pen a try on the sticky circuit breaker attached to a metal tube filled with highly explosive fucking rocket fuel? Why do those bodges get the go ahead and we just stumble and bumble along our own paths to disaster with the watered down “solutions” we’re given?
It would seem that it’s only when there are a couple of guys stuck in space, sitting in a tin can dying, that we really put on our thinking caps and pull out all the stops to get them home.
In 1973, a study was commissioned at MIT to measure global sustainability—taking into account things like pollution, population growth and the supply and demand of natural resources. It predicted that the industrial economy—in other words, civilization as we know it, would end in 2040. It’s close to 50 years later and the consensus is that the data was pretty fucking spot on.
So, what we do with that? Debate it? Sign an accord? Do an ad campaign extolling the virtues of civilization?
Here’s another fun prediction. As resources grow scarcer and scarcer, the sovereign power of nation states falls apart. In the absence of traditional government, you know who takes over? The corporations. Let that sink in. You want your client running the world? Mine can barely run their brand. Welcome to Bezosville.
I know I probably sound like a nutjob on this stuff and the last thing I want to do on here is get political or argue the merits of various conspiracy theories. But like I say, I’ve been feeling the weight of the world lately and I’m just starting to think that we’re all stuck in space, sitting in a tin can and dying. We need a bodge. We need it now. And we need to greenlight the son of a bitch and all hop on board.
Perhaps my new British friends will let me know if I got this right when I say, “We really need to bloody stop faffing around.”