The Paws Report: Sicario

This is was a crazy movie. Very dark, but also really well acted and written.  With Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro, it’s got some very good folks.  Now this movie is not for the faint of heart.  It’s all about drugs, and Mexican drug lords.  And I have the feeling that it’s supposed to have been happening a few years ago.  But it also seems to be based on a very real thing that used to happen (maybe it still does??) with the CIA in cahoots with drug folks in Mexico.  Anyway I liked it – 3 paws.


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Learning Arduino

I  am learning how to program an Arduino – which is a very small computer (very cheap- as low as $3.00) so that I can fulfill an intention that I’ve held for close to 30 years – that is to make clocks that express my view of time.


48912-arduinouno_r3_frontAt first I thought I would just hire a freelancer from but the more I thought about it – the more I realized that I’ve learned all kinds of things in my life and that learning to program was another thing that I’ve thought about but never did – so why not now?

So with that in mind, I went to YouTube, bought  a couple of books, and then I found out about a course on Udemy.  $ 11?  Why not.  But this is where it gets interesting.  I have discovered once again something that I’ve known for years: Most everybody doesn’t know how to teach – or to construct pedagogy.   When this nice teacher was explaining what was in the course – it was ok.  Just saying – you are going to learn about this stuff.  But when it came time to actually teach something, that’s where it falls apart.  The course is constructed on the basis of – “I am the teacher – I am going to pour all this knowledge into your head and then you will know it.”

Of course – this is basically ridiculous!  Unfortunately this is also the way that most courses in most schools are structured: here’s the knowledge – memorize it – move on to the next thing.  Never mind if you don’t understand it, never mind if you can’t actually figure out what you are doing – just absorb it and that’s good enough.

This makes me so angry that I could spit.  If you would like to know how a course is constructed that actually is helpful for letting people learn HOW to do things – understanding the concepts behind the learning, go to Tools for Writing and see how a great course is made.  It uses the concept of constructivist learning – one thing builds on the next and on and on.  It also uses the Natural Human Learning Process, which as the name implies is the way that we all naturally learn.

And finally it uses the process of individual learning – small group learning and full group learning.  I suppose that may be difficult to implement in an on-line course, but who knows?  Has anybody ever really tried it?




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The wrong side of a secretary

I was listening to Garrison Keillor this morning, and he said something that reminded me of my dad, Doc Lee. He was telling a story about a secretary and he said, “Never ever get on the wrong side of a secretary”.

doc-lee-Our-TownOf course this is so true, it doesn’t even really bear repeating, but I suppose that’s true of most everything we say on a regular basis.

My dad would tell me that, and I remembered. He had a great many secretaries over the years, including Charlotte Carver, who went on to become the executive director of the South Dakota Arts Council. A wonderful woman who then returned the favor and gave me a job being an artist-in-the-schools for 3 yrs back when i was making my living singing. The other thing my dad always reminded me of – usually in the spring about the time the legislature was meeting – “Never depend on soft money”. Another truism that bears repeating.

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I enjoyed this movie.  It had some quirkiness going on – not as much as Juno, but it was good.  Sort of a variation on “coming of age” – only this time with a dying girl.  My biggest issue was that there were lots of jokes about the movies that these two high school senior boys make – because they do – you don’t really get why they are doing what they do other than they are not really connected to anybody else, and it’s fun.   But the joke titles that they come up with – Senior Citizen Kane,  My Dinner with Andre (the Giant)  etc.  are a hoot, and my issue was that they went by so fast that you don’t even have time to catch more than about 10%.  I liked the interaction between the main kid and the dying girl. It was well done, and frankly a bunch different than most of these movies – they don’t  become lovers or even boyfriend and girlfriend.  And I’m not giving anything away here.  The guy who voices over the movie tells you this in the first 10 minutes of the film.

The other thing that I didn’t like much was that it was difficult to understand them talking sometimes. But having said all that, I’m still giving it 4 paws.  I hope it gets wide distribution.  The title might make that difficult.  I had that problem when I did a film and made the mistake of calling it “Video Letters from Prison” .  It seems that most PBS stations don’t like the idea of showing films that have the word Prison in the title.  Oh well.

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The Paws Report: Love and Mercy

I really liked this movie.  I can’t say that I loved it because it was too scary for me to love it. It was so hard to watch parts – particularly the stuff in the present – with John Cusack and Paul Giamatti.  Paul Dano as the young Brian Wilson was actually much better as Brian Wilson, but it was the interaction between Giamatti and Cusack that was so scary.  Now that I think about it, the stuff between Brian Wilson and almost everybody was a bit scary.

Having said that, it was so cool to see the musical creation of Pet Songs, and Smile, and Good Vibrations.  I totally recommend this movie – 4 big fluffy paws.

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Merry Christmas! And all that other stuff.

Folks, I know that it’s a little after Christmas, but what the heck?  Stephen Hawking, Einstein, and Shiva all have told us that time doesn’t really exist, so who am I to judge?   Merry Christmas!  I was tied up for the last couple of days working on my breathing, but I’m back home and feeling great.  I’m looking forward to see a bunch of my kids over the next few days, and a few of the grandkids (about 11 I think).


We had an open house here today after I got home.  It was sweet – I made eggnog – the real deal – and Rick and Jim and Becky and Steve came over.  We also had oyster stew, chili and clam dip – what could be better?

While I was laying around I choose to finish a book I had been reading for about a month – Washington Rules by Andrew Bacevich.  Wow!!  What an amazing book!  I repeat – read this book – Washington Rules.

Here’s the thing about this book – it tells the history of America’s military establishment and how we Americans are being lead down a road that doesn’t really help us.  I know that I’m as guilty as the next person of putting stuff on facebook that points out how much I hate war, and the wars that we seem to be constantly fighting, but I rarely try to explain why I know – deep down in my tummy – how bad this is – not just for me but for our country and by extension my family and descendants.  And here’s the reason why: Washington Rules.  It is really complicated – very extensive, and takes a whole book to explain.  This goes back to the first world war and all the Dulles boys, and takes you right through General Petraeus and Barack Obama.  So clearly it’s a bit much to try to explain in a facebook post.  But if you don’t understand what this is all about – and how complicated it is to explain. then you are doomed as I have been doomed to repeat short statements about how awful it is without ever explaining why it’s so awful and more importantly – WHY it has happened.  I need to read this book again.  I’m still not ready to explain the Washington Rules in a short explainable way, but when I am – I will.

Until then  – Have a great New year’s!




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The Paws Report: Exodus – Gods and Kings


What feels like 40 years of wandering in Desert, carrying some really big stone tablets, and all around you – you hear, “Let my people go!” from the rest of the audience? Exodus. Oh wait, that was me – In fact I was the only person there tonight. I suspect IEXODUS know the reason why. It was pretty dull. I mean you are waiting to see Moses part the red sea, and when it comes (spoiler alert) nothing happens – you just see a bunch and by bunch I mean a huge gigantic BUNCH of folks wandering around on a mud flat. Not exactly a sea parting.

Then Moses goes up on a mountain and starts carving some tablets. Carving? Since when? Maybe if Moses was a little more dynamic, maybe if there was more than 5 minutes of plages. 5 MINUTES, and all the plagues were done. Come on folks! Let’s have some crazy action! How about God smiting some folks? How about Moses struggling? I was going to give it 2 paws but the more I think about – I’m thinking 1 paw.

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The Paws Report: The Homesman

I enjoyed this film – both Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones were excellent – as they pretty much always are. And I’m a sucker for westerns so there’s that. And the concept is pretty wild – three women go nuts out on the Nebraska plains (who wouldn’t???) and Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones take them back to Iowa – presumably to get some help.

But it just didn’t really come together. I sort of wanted there to be more of a filling out of the characters. There was a lot of wandering across the empty plains and some very crazy stuff happens, but it wasn’t really a home run. 3 paws.

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The Paws Report: The Theory of Everything

Wow – this was a wonderful film. It’s the story of Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) who falls in love with Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). It’s pretty much their life together that is in this movie – which makes sense since it was based on a autobiography of Jane Wilde. I had watched the documentary of Stephen Hawking earlier (on Netflix of course) and so I wasn’t bothered by the lack of stuff about Professor Hawking’s amazing physics theories. I’ve been told that others haven’t been as sanguine about this but there you are.

What I loved about the movie was the connection and the chemistry between the two leads. I’m not sure if I’ve seen Eddie Redmayne before – I need to check that, but his smile is so engaging. And so is Felicity Jones’. Wow it was just really sweet to watch them together. I say 4 paws and a big fluffy wagging tail.

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The Paws Report: Nightcrawler

Wow – now this is what you should have watched for Halloween. So scary!!jake-gyllenhaall

Not like a horror movie scary but like a business success seminar scary – like watching Werner Ehard, Tony Robbins, and Ted Bundy, all rolled into one, and one local famous person who many of you know. SCARY!!! Having said that – it was really good. An indictment of television news for sure, but also a look inside the mind of a true psychopath. 4 big shaky paws.

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