Weekend Metal (Beneath the Wheel)

Thrash Zone: Detail of cover art by Sam Leyja for D.R.I., 1989

Yeah, it’s just one of those songs. Absolutely … perfect.

Beneath the wheel! Go! Don’t be late! First one out of the starting gate! Run! Be on time! First one to cross the finish line! Swim ahead of the school; if you have to, cheat! If you never slow down you’ll never be beat! If you lose in life it’s because you lagged! Keep up with the traffic or you’ll get dragged down beneath the wheel! Go! Don’t be tardy! Fell asleep last night at a party! Run! Make the grade! School’s a job! You don’t get paid! Run at the head of the pack, be the leader in this race! Stay up front Just in case! If you lose in life it’s because you lagged! Keep up with the traffic or you’ll get dragged down beneath the wheel! Don’t play child’s games, they’re just a waste of mind! Study every night or you might fall behind! Dragged down beneath the wheel! Stop! You can’t win! But you can always catch up in the end!

D.R.I., “Beneath the Wheel” (1989)


Required Nightmare

Detail of image from Still Drinking.

And then there is this:

Imagine joining an engineering team. You’re excited and full of ideas, probably just out of school and a world of clean, beautiful designs, awe-inspiring in their aesthetic unity of purpose, economy, and strength. You start by meeting Mary, project leader for a bridge in a major metropolitan area. Mary introduces you to Fred, after you get through the fifteen security checks installed by Dave because Dave had his sweater stolen off his desk once and Never Again. Fred only works with wood, so you ask why he’s involved because this bridge is supposed to allow rush-hour traffic full of cars full of mortal humans to cross a 200-foot drop over rapids. Don’t worry, says Mary, Fred’s going to handle the walkways. What walkways? Well Fred made a good case for walkways and they’re going to add to the bridge’s appeal. Of course, they’ll have to be built without railings, because there’s a strict no railings rule enforced by Phil, who’s not an engineer. Nobody’s sure what Phil does, but it’s definitely full of synergy and has to do with upper management, whom none of the engineers want to deal with so they just let Phil do what he wants. Sara, meanwhile, has found several hemorrhaging-edge paving techniques, and worked them all into the bridge design, so you’ll have to build around each one as the bridge progresses, since each one means different underlying support and safety concerns. Tom and Harry have been working together for years, but have an ongoing feud over whether to use metric or imperial measurements, and it’s become a case of “whoever got to that part of the design first.” This has been such a headache for the people actually screwing things together, they’ve given up and just forced, hammered, or welded their way through the day with whatever parts were handy. Also, the bridge was designed as a suspension bridge, but nobody actually knew how to build a suspension bridge, so they got halfway through it and then just added extra support columns to keep the thing standing, but they left the suspension cables because they’re still sort of holding up parts of the bridge. Nobody knows which parts, but everybody’s pretty sure they’re important parts. After the introductions are made, you are invited to come up with some new ideas, but you don’t have any because you’re a propulsion engineer and don’t know anything about bridges.

Would you drive across this bridge? No. If it somehow got built, everybody involved would be executed. Yet some version of this dynamic wrote every single program you have ever used, banking software, websites, and a ubiquitously used program that was supposed to protect information on the internet but didn’t.

(Hunt Welch)

Click. Read. You know the drill.


Image Note: Detail of image from Still Drinking, presumably ©2014 Peter Hunt Welch, but we can’t promise that.

Hunt Welch, Peter. “Programming Sucks”. Still Drinking. 27 April 2014.