Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Express Purpose of Interfering

I just finished reading The Peril at End House, a Hercule Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie. It's very very good, but I was especially struck by a bit of theology that Poirot brings up.

There's a minor spoiler in this, so if the book is on your reading list and you want to remain totally surprised, you'll want to skip this whole thing.

Some set up: Poirot and his buddy Hastings suspect that someone is trying to murder a young woman named Nick. It's an unusual case, because they're trying to prevent a murder instead of solve one. That's one of the things I love about the book. 

But here's the spoiler: Nick's cousin Maggie is dressed similarly to Nick at one point and is killed instead. Shortly after, Poirot and Hastings talk about what happened. Hastings is narrating and begins:
"It's really amazing the way Nick has escaped. It seems almost incredible." 

And suddenly I remembered the tone in Frederica’s voice as she had said: "Nick bears a charmed life." 

I shivered a little. 

"Yes," said Poirot, thoughtfully. "And I can take no credit to myself. Which is humiliating."

"Providence," I murmured. 

"Ah, mon ami, I would not put on the shoulders of the good God the burden of men’s wrongdoing. You say that in your Sunday morning voice of thankfulness — without reflecting that what you are really saying is that le bon Dieu has killed Miss Maggie Buckley." 

"Really, Poirot!" 

"Really, my friend! But I will not sit back and say 'le bon Dieu has arranged everything, I will not interfere.' Because I am convinced that le bon Dieu created Hercule Poirot for the express purpose of interfering."

It's a profound, important idea that Poirot expresses. Hastings offers a quick, simple platitude about the Providence of God being responsible for saving Nick, but he hasn't thought through the implications. Hastings is never the deepest thinker, but someone a little more thoughtful would realize what Poirot points out: that God can't just get credit for saving Nick. If Hastings is right, then God must also taking the blame for murdering Maggie.

Poirot goes even deeper though and dismisses the idea that God had a direct hand in the affair at all. In Poirot's view, God has placed his people on the Earth to act on God's behalf. We don't get to sit back and wait for God to fix the world. We have to understand that it's our job to fix it as God's agents. That the way he fixes it is through us. 

It's a terrifying responsibility that more of God's people need to take seriously, but I think Poirot is absolutely right.

Saturday, April 06, 2024



For a long time, Twitter has been my preferred social media platform, but like a lot of people, my relationship with the site became complicated once Elon Musk took over. Not only do I not much like the guy; he also tinkered with (or threatened to tinker with) the site until I started thinking seriously about moving to a different platform. A tried a few and the one that stuck the most was Bluesky.

I've talked about this quite a bit on After Lunch, but I've never been able to fully migrate to Bluesky. It doesn't yet have all the features that I need so that I can customize and curate my experience. For all of Twitter's flaws, it allows me to sort my favorite accounts into lists so that I only see what I want from people I trust.

Using both sites, I knew that I didn't want to just cross-post the same stuff on each. I don't want to identify myself as a 'content creator.' Down that road (at least for me) lies an emphasis on statistics and analysis that I'm not interested in. The beautiful thing about being an amateur in all of my creative endeavors is that I get to make or share whatever interests me without having to worry about an audience. I don't use both Twitter and Bluesky to increase my reach. I use them both because they each have advantages that the other doesn't. 

So I've been in the same kind of dilemma on those sites that I've been in with this blog. What do I post where? And why? The answers to those questions have changed constantly since I started using Bluesky, but I think I'm close to figuring it out.

I don't remember how, but I was recently reminded of the term 'microblogging' in relation to platforms like Twitter and Bluesky. That helped me understand how I want to think about those places. Rather than a marketing tool or even just a place to chat with my friends, they're also a form of blogging. My homepage on both sites is a kind of blog where I can express thoughts, but also collect art that I like or post links to stories that I think are interesting. I just have to do it really briefly, because that's how those sites work.

Currently, I'm more interested in microblogging on Twitter than on Bluesky. Like I said, Twitter has a lot more function to it at the moment. Bluesky's main advantage is that some of my friends only use that platform, so I have to at least check in there if I want to stay in touch with them. But interacting with them doesn't mean that I also have to blog there.

The pleasant irony is that figuring that out has also clarified what to do with this site. Since it's all blogging (which is essentially digital scrapbooking), all I have to do when I want to talk about something is decide how much space I need to do that. Most of the time, a quick post or link on Twitter will be fine. But occasionally, like with this post, I'll need more space to think and unpack. And that's what this place is for.

This seems like a 'no duh' revelation now that I've arrived at it, but that's often how my brain works. The answer is right there, but I'm so caught in a different way of thinking that I can't see it until I trip on it. In this case, I've long thought of this blog as a marketing tool or a place for content creation. I got tired of doing that a long time ago, so I started using it only to advertise my podcasts. Then I got tired of even that and stopped using it altogether. 

Seeing it as a place to collect random thoughts that won't fit on Twitter (even just seeing it as connected in function to Twitter) is a purpose that I can clearly envision and make use of.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Religion and Politics

So, nope. I'm not going to talk about God. At least not in a lot of specific detail.

I wrote a long post with some personal history that set the table for future posts about the evolution of my theology. But then I realized that I couldn't post it. It indirectly referred to people whom I'm still close to, but disagree fundamentally with on some things. And while it's highly unlikely any of them would read this, it's also possible that they could.

I tend to agree with the wisdom of not talking about religion and politics with just anyone. There are times when I'm comfortable expressing my opinions about those things to strangers, mostly when those opinions are about basic principles like "love your neighbor, including your enemies." But digging into the details of what that looks like on a practical level... that needs a lot of nuance and grace. Things that talking on the Internet isn't designed for.

So I'm still thinking about what I might do with this place. 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Dusting Off the Furniture

I'm struggling to figure out what to do with this space. 

I mean, I'm not really. It's pretty easy to just ignore it. But then I remember that I have it and I feel like I should be using it. Unlike social media, it's a place that's wholly mine. And in a social media landscape that's down to just Twitter and Bluesky for me, it's nice to have a quiet place to record thoughts. But what thoughts to record?

Hmm. Actually, social media isn't down to just Twitter and Bluesky. Those are where I do most of my actual interacting, but Letterboxd and Tumblr are more actually useful to me. Letterboxd for logging movies of course. And Tumblr for just looking at and sharing inspirational art. I don't use either of them for actually talking about anything. I'm not having conversations there. That's what podcasting is for.

So anyway, back to what is this place for? 

I don't want it to take up too much time or feel like an obligation. I'm trying to get back into fiction writing, so I don't want to pour my writing energy into blog projects like I've done before. Unless the muse really hits me, but it hasn't in a long time and I'm okay with that. I tend to talk about projects like that on After Lunch, so that itch is scratched anyway.

Which leaves shorter thoughts. Maybe a way to process things that I've been thinking about. Maybe trying to consciously get away from labored, thoughtful writing and doing more stream-of-consciousness stuff. Just getting back into the habit of writing again, but in a way that's more natural and free-form.

Honestly, a lot of what's on my mind lately is about God. Maybe I'll talk about him for a while.

Anyway, this is me just dusting off the furniture to see if I can make this place usable again.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Thinking About Blogging (About Thinking)

I want to get back to doing some actual blogging rather than using this space to promote podcast episodes. I feel like by now everyone knows where to find my podcasts if they're interested. And for those who don't, the individual websites for each one are in the sidebar. 

I don't have a specific blogging plan other than to ease into it. I'm not gonna set any huge projects for myself right away. I need this to be spontaneous and fun. This is just a note to express my intention. Less podcast promo, more actual thoughts about things.

Monday, August 14, 2023

After Lunch | Planet of the Apes (1968)

Rob, Pax, and I visit the Planet of the Apes! Kicking off a bunch of discussions about the simian series, we start with a quick conversation about Pierre Boulle's novel before exploring the 1968 movie that started a phenomenon. 

Monday, August 07, 2023

After Lunch | Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

On the 200th episode of After Lunch, Rob, Karen Flieger, and I close out the Sean Connery era of the Bond films with Diamonds Are Forever. We talk about the return of Connery, whether it's a worthy follow-up to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and the wisdom of hiring a jazz musician and Crispin Glover's dad to play assassins. The movie's directed by Goldfinger's Guy Hamilton and also stars Jill St John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, and Jimmy Dean.

Friday, August 04, 2023

Hellbent for Letterbox | The Walking Hills (1949)

I accidentally pulled a fast one and made Pax watch a non-historical Western, John Sturges' The Walking Hills. It stars Randolph Scott and Ella Raines as two members of a party that enters the desert dunes looking for a lost wagon train and (according to legend) the gold that it was carrying.

But even though the movie takes place in the 1940s, the comic Pax read does not: the Sixth Gun mini-series Shadow Roads.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

After Lunch | Introducing: After Midnight

We're soon going to start a new horror-focused series of episodes called After Lunch After Midnight featuring Michael and his pal Jessica Hickman. It's sort of a spin-off of another podcast called Filthy Horrors that they did together with their mutual pal Darla Ecklund. So to introduce After Midnight, we thought it might be good to rerun the first episode of Filthy Horrors in which Jess, Darla, and Michael talk about their history with horror, the kinds of horror they like, and lots of examples of favorite horror movies, TV shows, books, and comics.

Monday, July 31, 2023

After Lunch | Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning, Part One (2023)

Rob and I wrap our Mission: Impossible movies watch-through (for now) with the new entry in the series: Dead Reckoning, Part One. We talk about all the spoilers and whether second viewings changed our perspective on anything. Well, one thing in particular, but sure, everything else, too.

Friday, July 28, 2023

After Lunch | After Dinner Lounge – A Mission: Impossible Level Puzzle

Rob, Pax, and I finish this month's Lounge with discussion about our personal movie rating systems, Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series, Daniel Pemberton movie scores, The Haunting of Bly Manor, the second season of Schmigadoon!, more about Ted Lasso, Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship, Nimona, modern Luddites, The Flash, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Alamo Drafthouse, our top three favorite comic book artists, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, maybe a little bit about the new Mission: Impossible movie, and much much more.


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