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"Gambiarra refers to an unlikely mend, an unthinkable coupling, a solution so raw and transparent that it illustrates the problem at hand instead of eliminating it."
July 17, 2011 9:25 AM   Subscribe

In Brazil, "gambiarra" is the art of improvising makeshift repairs - spontaneously solving the problem at hand with whatever is in hand. Wikipedia Brazil has a bit more on the topic and how it extends to architecture and programming. Gambilogia is an arts group exploring this DIY aesthetic. Interestingly, there's lots of discussion around gambiarra. Personally, I find the original quick fixes more compelling (examples at bottom of the article).
posted by fake (39 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
original quick fixes

I am in awe of whoever thought up some of these amazing hacks. What kind of MacGyver of the art world comes up with crazy, genius ideas like putting a cooler in a wheelbarrow, hanging a bucket from a long S-hook, or duct-taping a non-broken mirror in place of a broken one?
posted by dersins at 9:43 AM on July 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


[Edited at OP's request. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 9:48 AM on July 17, 2011


this is the original meaning of "to hack"
posted by LogicalDash at 10:00 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite example of this kind of thing is the lights shown here.
I think there was a MetaFilter post on this, but I can't find it at the moment.
posted by -jf- at 10:05 AM on July 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


It seems like every culture has a version of this sort of thing. When German soldiers strapped parts of destroyed vehicles onto existing ones to fortify them in WWII, the Americans referred to it as "Jerry rigging," in the South, this sort of thing was often referred to (and probably still is, by some) as "n****r rigging." Whenever my dad came up with one of these ridiculous hacks, he would always show it to me and rather proudly say, "Mira, mijo: Mexican engineering."
posted by Gilbert at 10:12 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like every culture has a version of this sort of thing.

See also "kluge".
posted by cortex at 10:17 AM on July 17, 2011


I alway say, I can't fix it, but I can make it work.
posted by fuq at 10:39 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


There was a great blog by some American engineering society or another that showed pictures of dangerous kludges, but I can't find it now.
posted by empath at 10:45 AM on July 17, 2011


One of my favorite brazilian phases: "If you don't have a dog hunt with your cat"
posted by LouieLoco at 10:48 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


am trying to figure out the etymology of the word. looks italian, not portuguese.
brb searching
posted by liza at 10:57 AM on July 17, 2011


Empath: are you thinking of there, I fixed it, or maybe this old house home inspection nightmares?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:01 AM on July 17, 2011


I've got to ask: Why did they hang the thing of ice? To keep the warm ground from melting it? To keep bugs away from the beer?
posted by Canageek at 11:06 AM on July 17, 2011


in the South, this sort of thing was often referred to (and probably still is, by some) as "n****r rigging."

Interestingly enough, I heard this term entirely too often while growing up in New York City, but never once that I can recall in the 15+ years I've lived in Georgia.

Oh, and you haven't really lived until you've driven a car with a rusted out exhaust pipe that's been 'fixed' with a cut-up beer can and a couple of pipe clamps.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:07 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


You've probably already seen the American version.
the "redneck repairs" line is kind of weird and unnecessary but some of the pictures are pretty funny
posted by en forme de poire at 11:32 AM on July 17, 2011


thank you fake.
posted by infini at 11:45 AM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It happens to the best of us.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:46 AM on July 17, 2011


We call it Aggie engineering in Texas.
posted by tamitang at 11:58 AM on July 17, 2011


Among Libya's rebels: "On homemade rocket launchers, instead of military-standard igniters, household doorbell buttons will do."
posted by homunculus at 12:21 PM on July 17, 2011


So in other words, a nation-wide version of thereifixedit.com
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:23 PM on July 17, 2011


"taping a non-broken mirror in place of a broken one?"

I had a co-worker who taped a purple hand mirror (handle and all) over the broken driver's side mirror on his van. That made me smile every time I saw it.
posted by MikeMc at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2011


So in other words, a nation-wide version of thereifixedit.com

Oh my god it's a whole site full of my Uncle Skeeter.
posted by winna at 1:09 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


infini, that is some heavy-duty repurposing. thanks for the link!
posted by fake at 1:31 PM on July 17, 2011


This ice transport system from infini's link may explain the cooler transport that dersins found mockworthy.
posted by fake at 1:36 PM on July 17, 2011


fake (and others) if you like that kind of stuff (and like writing about it) please memail me - one of the contributors, Steve Daniels, is launching a notforprofit magazine on hacker culture/DIY etc and the first issue covers this area (lower income/developing markets) specifically and he needs another article to round out the coverage.

btw, previously and previously and previously ;p
posted by infini at 1:54 PM on July 17, 2011


fake, your own misadventures with Gambiarra lately had me looking into the very interesting history of the P-38.
posted by carsonb at 2:12 PM on July 17, 2011


Hey, I know that guy! Ganso (Goose) lives in my wife's home town, Belo Horizonte. He makes some pretty cool furniture out of random junk. His workshop is quite the cabinet of wonders.
posted by otherthings_ at 2:38 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a great blog by some American engineering society or another that showed pictures of dangerous kludges, but I can't find it now.

After a quick search I can't seem to bring up pictures of the fixes for the Seattle Alaskan Way Viaduct (SR99) after our last earthquake, but let me assure you after a short walk, and a couple of looks at the underside, you will avoid driving on it if you can.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:43 PM on July 17, 2011


In Mexico we call the act fixing something a la Mexicana, and the result is called a Mexicanada.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 3:59 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In India this is "jugaar"
posted by the mad poster! at 4:55 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Mexico we call the act fixing something a la Mexicana, and the result is called a Mexicanada.

That made me laugh...in Puerto Rico we call it a boricuada!
posted by DrGirlfriend at 5:34 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


"jugaar",
"mexicanada"
posted by fake at 5:49 PM on July 17, 2011


"Bush mechanic" is the Australian term for someone who does this kind of thing.
posted by Ritchie at 6:46 PM on July 17, 2011


When German soldiers strapped parts of destroyed vehicles onto existing ones to fortify them in WWII, the Americans referred to it as "Jerry rigging,"

That's a famous bit of false etymology - 'jury-rigging' is a centuries-old nautical term.
posted by jack_mo at 7:18 PM on July 17, 2011


And in some places this is called "Yankee ingenuity".

I think it's interesting that seemingly every culture has a name for this— not that every culture has this practice, but that it's so often named after the local people. I suppose it is in the nature of hacks that they are a personal, homegrown achievement.
posted by hattifattener at 8:13 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chindogu
AfricaGadget
Street Use
Prisoner's inventions
I think that these have all been discussed here before, plus something else called umdenken, but all the links were broken.

I'm sure we've also seen posts about this phenomenon in Cuba, specifically about cars but also more generally. I'm turning up a lot dead links here, too. I think they call it "inventando", which also apparently means simply "to invent". As a non-Spanish speaker, I'm having a hard time finding good links. Some short videos of jerry-rigged Cuban devices. Mostly, stuff just spinning - probably much more impressive if there were some explanation of how they were assembled.
posted by stuart_s at 8:23 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fake,

I have a bunch of friends writing games in Canada, they call they quick and dirty bugfixes "Los Mexicánadas haciendo Mexicanadas". The distionction is in the accent, which googles ignores.

From that result page, this image.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 9:03 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


jack_mo, I was aware of 'jury rigging,' but could it be the case that the G.I.'s were simply making a play on words? I'm fairly confident that the German troops were referred to as Jerrys at the time. It is a false etymology, true, but both usages seem to be common.
posted by Gilbert at 9:10 PM on July 17, 2011


As already noted, in India there is jugaad (or jugaar). The name originated from a patchwork vehicle, and has since taken on the "hack" meaning in mainstream.

It has been widely covered (note the backup power for server room!).

However, not everyone is happy about it, and some warn that "Innovating for bottom of the pyramid should not degenerate into a paternalistic condescension of creating low-quality products that have poor usability".
posted by vidur at 9:34 PM on July 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My dad once used my mom's panty hose to replace our RV's broken fan belt on a summer vacation roadtrip.

By "our" I mean borrowed, and "RV" I mean a converted school bus.
posted by LordSludge at 9:43 PM on July 17, 2011


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