Coffee and Markets Podcast with Brad Jackson
October 29th, 2014

Had a long, occasionally schmaltzy, conversation about The Seven Deadly Virtues with my buddy Brad Jackson on the Coffee and Markets podcast this morning. You can listen (or download) it here.

The ‘7DeadlyV’ FAQ
October 27th, 2014

Everything you ever wanted to know about The Seven Deadly Virtues.

The “S”-word
October 26th, 2014

In his column yesterday about Francis and the synod, Ross Douthat goes as close as I’ve ever seen him to taking the gloves off:

Yes, Francis has taken no formal position on the issues currently in play. But all his moves point in a pro-change direction — and it simply defies belief that men appointed by the pope would have proposed departures on controversial issues without a sense that Francis would approve.

If this is so, the synod has to be interpreted as a rebuke of the implied papal position. The pope wishes to take these steps, the synod managers suggested. Given what the church has always taught, many of the synod’s participants replied, he and we cannot.

Over all, that conservative reply has the better of the argument. Not necessarily on every issue: The church’s attitude toward gay Catholics, for instance, has often been far more punitive and hostile than the pastoral approach to heterosexuals living in what the church considers sinful situations, and there are clearly ways that the church can be more understanding of the cross carried by gay Christians.

But going beyond such a welcome to a kind of celebration of the virtues of nonmarital relationships generally, as the synod document seemed to do, might open a divide between formal teaching and real-world practice that’s too wide to be sustained. And on communion for the remarried, the stakes are not debatable at all. The Catholic Church was willing to lose the kingdom of England, and by extension the entire English-speaking world, over the principle that when a first marriage is valid a second is adulterous, a position rooted in the specific words of Jesus of Nazareth. To change on that issue, no matter how it was couched, would not be development; it would be contradiction and reversal.

SUCH a reversal would put the church on the brink of a precipice. Of course it would be welcomed by some progressive Catholics and hailed by the secular press. But it would leave many of the church’s bishops and theologians in an untenable position, and it would sow confusion among the church’s orthodox adherents — encouraging doubt and defections, apocalypticism and paranoia (remember there is another pope still living!) and eventually even a real schism.

I have yet to be persuaded that what Douthat is describing here is wrong. The only thing the schismatics would need is a legitimate pontiff to rally behind in order to claim that they were the real universal OHAI THERE PAPA BENE!

Then we’re just a Dan Brown novel away from Benedict and Francis facing off in front of the head of the Swiss Guards, both demanding that the other be locked in the scavi. Kind of like that epic scene in Crimson Tide:

Anyway, out of fantasy land and back to Douthat, who ends with something like a gentlemanly call to arms for Catholics:

Francis is charismatic, popular, widely beloved. He has, until this point, faced strong criticism only from the church’s traditionalist fringe, and managed to unite most Catholics in admiration for his ministry. There are ways that he can shape the church without calling doctrine into question, and avenues he can explore (annulment reform, in particular) that would bring more people back to the sacraments without a crisis. He can be, as he clearly wishes to be, a progressive pope, a pope of social justice — and he does not have to break the church to do it.

But if he seems to be choosing the more dangerous path — if he moves to reassign potential critics in the hierarchy, if he seems to be stacking the next synod’s ranks with supporters of a sweeping change — then conservative Catholics will need a cleareyed understanding of the situation.

They can certainly persist in the belief that God protects the church from self-contradiction. But they might want to consider the possibility that they have a role to play, and that this pope may be preserved from error only if the church itself resists him.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer
October 23rd, 2014

No strings on me, boss.

I am unbelievably excited for this, for several reasons:

* Everything in this trailer is gold. Even the Hulkbuster Iron Man armor, which I’m inclined to dislike. I always thought that gimmicked armor for Iron Man and Spidey cheapened the on-screen value of their opponents. If you can just armor up to defeat [Hulk, Thor, Electro, Rhino] then it makes the villain that mush less heavy.

* I understand that this isn’t based, completely, on Age of Ultron. Yet there are clearly some echos and Age of Ultron is the only Marvel event mini-series of the last 10 years that was any good. And it’s not just any good, it’s really good.

* Whedon is bringing two of my favorite characters, Scarlet Witch and Quiksilver, into play. Which opens up all sorts of narrative avenues. Such as . . .

* I take it you’ve read the House of M mini-series? Now that would be a sensational movie, but the problem is that it requires putting both Avengers and X-Men charaters on the screen together. Which Marvel can’t do. Yet. And it’s all motivated by Wanda Maximoff going crazy and altering reality on a global scale.

* By the by, I’d bet that , for a hot five minutes, Whedon seriously toyed with using the Ultimate universe versions of Wanda and Pietro–which had them as (vaguely?) incestuous siblings who were on the verge of getting it on in just about every panel, creeping out all the characters around them. And I’d bet that it kind of killed Whedon to realize that this just couldn’t be done in the big-screen version.

* On the question of Marvel re-unification, I’d argue that it’s inevitable. Like the division of Berlin, it’s an abomination, and nature abhores it. Eventually, the X-Men and Spidey *must* be pushed back into the Marvel cinematic universe.

That said, sometimes inevitability takes a really long time and I see no obvious pathway except for one: Marvel basically bribes Fox and Sony, simultaneously, by accepting all of the upfront costs of developing the properties while guaranteeing some large share of the profits. Basically turning Fox and Sony into rentiers. I’m sure that would *kill* Disney to do this. But Sony and Fox would be crazy to sell the rights back permanently without getting participation. These properties are almost beyond value–to Marvel.

* Interesting that Ultron seems to be neither Hank Pym’s creation, nor Jarvis–but a second Stark creation. I like that.

* I don’t believe that Whedon is omnipotent and I’d argue that he has some weaknesses as a writer, which are pretty obvious. But my confidence in his ability to have total command of this kind of material is basically 100 percent. He gets this stuff on such a deep level that I have zero concern about him getting caught in a let-down spot after The Avengers.

* How much is the IMAX / 3D ticket? $22? Here, Marvel. Have my money now. I was only keeping it warm for you, anyway.
October 22nd, 2014 is live now.

There won’t be much original content over there, but there are some excerpts from the book and the full roster of contributors.

Little nuggets are being tweeted out by @TheDeadlyVirtue, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Sonny Bunch: Patriot
October 21st, 2014

I always knew Santino was a great American.

JVL Elsewhere
October 17th, 2014

I’ve got two pieces in the new Standard. The first is a review of Mitch Pearlstein’s excellent new book, Broken Bonds. If you’re a layman interested in the sociology of family fragmentation, but don’t want to get into the data too heavily, this is the book for you. Pearlstein has interviewed 40 very smart people–like Kay Hymowitz, Heather Mac Donald, and Isabel Sawhill–and turned the transcripts of those conversations into a coherent and vibrant book. As I say in the review “the overall effect being that the reader feels as though he’s sitting in a coffee shop eavesdropping on a particularly stimulating and elevated discussion.”

The other piece is the Buzzfeedingly-titled “Six Reasons to Panic.” It’s about Ebola.

Coming Soon: ‘The Seven Deadly Virtues’ LIVE!
October 16th, 2014

I got a copy of The Seven Deadly Virtues from the publisher yesterday and I’m really excited by it. Everything about it, from the embossing on the dust jacket to the textured endsheets, is just beautiful. It’s the kind of lovely physical artifact that you’ll want to own, I think.

If you’re in D.C., we’re having a little event for the book at AEI on Tuesday, October 28. It’s not a party, but there will be copious amounts of alcohol, followed by a little debate between Jonah Goldberg, P. J. O’Rourke, Rob Long, Christine Rosen, and James Lileks. It’ll be kind of like a King of the Ring tournament for the virtues. Or maybe a Survivor Series for the virtues. I haven’t figured out all the details yet.

But if you’re around, you should come. It’s free, it’ll be fun, and it’ll give you the chance to get your copy of 7DeadlyV signed by almost all of the authors.

You can register here.

Hope to see you there.