I Hear Bagpipes!

“I hear bagpipes!”  Those three words are guaranteed to convulse my friends and me with laughter.

Yes, there’s a rational explanation. (Or at least as rational as I ever get.) It’s a reference to a little-known Canadian movie, “Men With Brooms”, starring and directed by Canadian actor Paul Gross, and I was reminded of it when I got a bagpipe-related joke in my email this week.

The movie is spiced with oddball glimpses of waddling beavers, and a lone bagpiper is frequently seen and heard for no apparent reason.  It also contains one of my favourite lines of dialog ever:  “How could you forget about three hundred pounds of defecating menace?!?”  The whole movie is like that:  Funny, irreverent, and well to the left of weird.  It never fails to make me laugh.

I was a child when I heard bagpipes for the first time. We were attending a funeral in our little country church, and the bereaved family had engaged two pipers who marched down the aisle in full cry.  (Or should that be ‘full tortured-cat-screaming hell-shriek’?)

Good Lord. If anybody didn’t have religion before the pipers started, they’d have been praying by the time they were done.  Bagpipes should be deployed from a safe distance, not used as a close-quarters weapons.  The sound was so deafening in the small space, I thought my poor pulverized brain was going to leak out my ears.

But ever since “Men With Brooms”, whenever one of our group hears bagpipes, we take it as a sign that it’s time to get together and watch the movie again.  Sadly, we’re now spread across four provinces so the get-together is out; but one of these days I’ll pour myself a nice cold quintessentially-Canadian beer, dust off the DVD, and laugh over some bagpipes and beavers.

To quote another line from the show, “We’re talkin’ the kind with teeth, right?”


Book 16 update:  I took a much-needed two-week vacation after Book 15 was released, but now Book 16 is knocking at my mental doors.  Plotting begins this week!

Missed It By That Much!


Usually I begin a post with a topic in mind and end up digressing all over the place, but today I thought I’d try something different:  I’m going to begin with the digression and (hopefully) end up on topic.

…So the other day I stumbled across a movie recommendation for Cloudburst, starring Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker. I rarely watch TV or movies, but the trailer looked good and I was in the mood for a movie. Better yet, it was available on Netflix.

And I loved it! The plot was a little thin and parts of it were preposterously unrealistic, but I didn’t care. The characters were irresistible, the acting was brilliant, and the dialogue left me rolling on the floor.

(Warning: Cloudburst contains geriatric lesbian kisses, lots of coarse language, and full-frontal male nudity.)

(P.S. to the warning: Naked men look funny when they run: flap-flap-flap-flap-flap-flap-flap…)

Sorry, where was I?

Oh, right; Netflix. I’ll get to the point now.

A few days later I got an ad for the upcoming Broadway shows here in Calgary. I enjoy the live shows, but they’re really expensive and it’s always a pain in the ass to get there, get parked, and then escape the madness of the parking lot after the show.

So, emboldened by my Netflix success, I decided to check for movie versions of the shows that were being offered. The first show was Kinky Boots (I admit I searched the title with trepidation – there are so many ways that could go wrong). But Netflix returned this:

Is there anything in these results that remotely resembles my search terms?

Is there anything in these results that remotely resembles my search terms?

Disappointed, I searched for Newsies:

Okay, is the Netflix search utility just a random result generator?

Okay, is the Netflix search utility just a random result generator?

The search results were so far off-base I couldn’t even figure out what tenuous connection Netflix thought they’d found. The only commonality I could spot was one vowel and one consonant.

The whole experience reminded me of how most automated systems totally miss the mark. The worst culprits are phone menu systems. For a while, our local phone provider’s system was so utterly useless that I was usually swearing a blue streak before I even made it to the third menu level. I dream of the day when computer systems develop the ability to identify what I’m saying even if it’s not one of the preset menu items:

“You said, ‘Fuck you, you pissant inanimate piece of ratshit’. I think you’re trying to select the ‘Fuck you’ menu item. Please choose from the following options: ‘In the kitchen with a candlestick’, ‘In the ballroom with a lead pipe’, ‘In the lounge with a pipe wrench’…”

Automated support systems aren’t much better. A while ago I was having email problems so I went to my web host’s page and started a service ticket with the subject line ‘Cannot send or receive email’. I jumped through all the usual flaming hoops and filled in every irrelevant blank they required including my shoe size and the date of my last mammogram, then optimistically clicked ‘Submit’.

Moments later, the following message appeared on the screen: “Thank you for submitting your support ticket. You will receive a response from our team via email.”

In the immortal words of Maxwell Smart: “Missed it by that much!