Monday, June 02, 2014

This Blog Has Moved!

Please join me on my new website, www.DouglasGroothuis.com, which will be the new site of The Constructive Curmudgeon blog. While I will no longer post here, the old blog will remain as an archive.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

“The book, that stubbornly unelectric artifact of pure typography, possesses resources conducive to the flourishing of the soul. A thoughtful reading of the printed text orients one to a world of order, meaning, and the possibility of knowing truth.” - Douglas Groothuis

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Miles Davis

Miles Dewey Davis was born on this day eighty-eight years ago. This musical genius excellent at playing his trumpet, composing, and leading various bands with members such as John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin, and Wayne Shorter. No one could play the horn with such sweetness--and such fire. Miles's work on mute is without peer as well. He brought out the best in nearly all the musicians in his bands. A book of his paintings was recently released as well.

Sadly, Miles the man was another story. He was famously moody, fathered several children out of wedlock, was foul mouthed, beat at least one of his three wives, and was for long periods addicted to drugs.

I suggest that you listen to some Miles Davis today or tomorrow. The classic is "Kind of Blue," but his early fusion was remarkable as well. Consider "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew."

Davis illustrated the Pascalian principle of "deposed royalty." He was a prince of a musician, but a pauper in his moral life. There is no evidence that he sought the grace of God in Christ for his redemption. Nevertheless, we can receive much of his music as gifts from the Giver of every good and perfect gift. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jazz

Jazz makes up only a small part of the music market; but it makes up a giant part of American history and culture. It is something uniquely American, although it thrives offshore in places like France and Japan.

After attending a jazz performance last night, I realized again the hospitality and conviviality of jazz--the easy enjoyment, fellow-feeling, and buoyancy of the music. Jazz musicians tend to smile at each other during performances--and root each other on--more than any other musical form I have seen. Jazz musicians know the standards--the canon of traditional tune--and can play them without rehearsal. They esteem history and deep feeling.

I love jazz. You should, too.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Word to Teachers and Preachers by Sarah Geis

A word to teachers, pastors, and other public speakers: Don't try to sound like anyone but the best version of yourself. If you sound radically different on stage than you would over a cup of coffee, it is distracting and sounds glaringly inauthentic to those listening. When you develop and strengthen your own voice, you are better able to keep yourself from obscuring your message.--Sarah Geis.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Beyond Crood: A Film Review

The film, "The Croods," is based on the general assumption that humans evolved from sub-human creatures. This is the humorous story of their ascent. While I don't accept this Darwinian explanation of man, the film is worth seeing for several reasons.

First, the computer animation is stunning (at least to me). The characters' expressions and gestures, the landscapes, and the animals (all hybrids of known animals) are so far from the animation that I saw as a child that it seems to come from another civilization. (Maybe it does.)

Second, while the films assumes a naturalist view of the world, it undermines itself wonderfully. The Crood family begin as fear-based pre-humans (or semi-humans) whose only goal is not to die. But their teenage daughter wants more. She wants to live and be curious. By meeting a more evolved character, the Croods begin to think about "tomorrow" and end up "following the light."

It is all delightfully done, mind you--the hyper-slapstick and constant verbal and physical humor can be nearly hysterical. But it does not fit Darwinism, which allows for no transcendence of the material world. The Croods, you, see begin to act beyond instinct and conditioning. They dream; they explore; they hope. They are not merely evolved animals.

Thus, the human essence, made in God's image and likeness, shines through even this supposedly Darwinian tale, which makes it even better. This also chimes in with a New York Times article which recently related that an atheist group was holding "services" and wanted more of a sense of "transcendence."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Almost everything I need to know I learned from my mother (1930-2010):

1. Pray.
2. Say "please" and "thank you."
3. Ladies first. That means opening doors in and out.
4. Write thank you notes.
5. Don't interrupt people.
6. Italian food is the best.
7. Show special concern for older people.
8. Finish what's on your plate. I had an intuitive sense of this.
9. Stay in touch with family and friends.
10. Write letters to the editor.

There is more, but thank you again, Mom.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

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How to be a Bad Teacher

How to be a Bad Teacher

1. Fail to be taught by good teachers.
2. Fail to study the teaching of good teachers.
3. Think that teaching is easy because the best teachers make it look easy.
4. Do not prepare.
5. Forget that God is watching and holding you accountable for every word.
6. Forget that you are informing the eternal destiny of all whom you teach.
7. Model yourself on characters you watch on television.
8. Fail to police your mannerism, speaking voice, and verbal ticks
9. Try to speak in an informal, casual way.
10. Think that the classroom should copy what is going on in the rest of the culture.
11. Enslave your teaching to "learning styles" of students.
12. Be more concerned with "getting through" the outline than in imparting knowledge.
13. View questions from students as interruptions.
14. Use pointless video clips.
15. Abandon lecturing since it is no longer cool.
16. Never improvise because you are not deep enough to do it well.
17. Use a small vocabulary.
18. Teach on line.