Last week, I prom- ised to explain the strange phenomenon of the Russian IT sector and tambourines.
Lurkmore, the frequently ominous underbelly of the Russian internet and actually a fairly brilliant parody of Wikipedia, connects the use of tambourine jokes, as well as actual tambourines, with shamanism. As Lurkmore’s pretty high-brow article explains that the work of system administrators, or sysadmins, is often so mysterious that it is likened to the work of a shaman.
And the tambourine (which some people STILL give as gifts on Sysadmin Day - and yes, Sysadmin Day is a thing in Russia. And it’s celebrated on the last Friday of every July worldwide.) is but the most extreme example of irrational, and yet oddly helpful ways, in which people can interact with problem technology, especially computers.
Lurkmore mentions a variety of tactics, from unplugging something and plugging it back in (actually not irrational at all, when you consider that it’s especially useful with wonky wireless routers) or removing a CPU, blowing air on it at a certain angle, and putting it back in (a practice that most likely stems from how the older generation of video game consoles used to operate).
Even as technology continues to evolve, we attempt to use “magic” to interact with it - sort of like athletes who won’t wash their socks during a winning streak. Why? Besides the comparative mystery of a sysadmin’s job, the truth is - we humans like to be in control. Faced with a situation in which we’re definitely not in control, we invent a practice that allows us the illusion of being in charge.
Anyone remember “Armageddon?” You know, that Michael Bay movie that had Liv Tyler instead of Megan Fox? (And I feel it’s only appropriate to mention this movie in the context of July 4th.)
“Components. American components, Russian Components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!” The deranged, caricaturish cosmonaut yells when told that he can’t fix an American spaceship, which needs to leave the Asteroid of Doom right now (yeah, the plot is uncomplicated), lest everyone aboard is incinerated when the asteroid is blown up. “This is how we fix problems in the Russian space station!”
He hits a panel with a tool. The spaceship powers up. Some sad stuff happens, Bruce Willis dies, but humanity is saved and an Aerosmith song blares in the background. So, you know, shamanism. It works sometimes - and in Michael Bay movies, it works all the time.
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