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.

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October 22, 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 21, 2014

I always knew Santino was a great American.


JVL Elsewhere

October 17, 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.


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.

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Captain Ebs

October 9, 2014

I don’t want to get too tin-foil hat on you. And in my defense, I haven’t ordered my emergency rations bucket from Sam’s Club yet. (True story: Sam’s is better for this sort of thing than Costco. Who knew?) But . . .

This Ebola outbreak scares the bejeezus out of me. A few thoughts, none of which are original:

* With the number of infections already in the thousands, I don’t know that we’re in a place where the virus can be easily contained. Contagions progress in a geometric pattern, which means that the curve for the resources needed to contain them follows a similar curve.

* There is no written-in-stone understanding of Ebola transmission, because viruses mutate in the wild and the more people who are infected, the greater the opportunity for mutation. Think about that for a minute–we really don’t know the exact limits of transmission right now. And what we do know is terrifying. Have you wondered why Ebola protocols call for washing down infected areas with chlorine? Because the virus can survive for up to two weeks on a dry surface.

* We’re rapidly approaching the point where the best case scenario is a horrifying devastation that’s limited to the African continent. The worse case scenarios get nigh unthinkable awfully fast.

* Do you really want to be scared? Whether or not you realize it, Ebola is a weapon of mass destruction. What’s to stop some jihadi from going to Liberia, getting himself infected, and then flying to New York and riding the subway until he keels over? I understand that ISIS doesn’t tend to use suicide bombers as much as other jihadi groups, but this is just the biological warfare version of a suicide bomb. And can you imagine the panic if someone with Ebola vomited in a NYC subway car? Is this scenario highly unlikely? Without question. But we take drastic precautions against unlikely scenarios all the time. Just look at the massive infrastructure we’ve built for airport security based on two highly-unlikely actions.

All of which leads me to a thought about politics, that’s really not about politics:

You might wonder why the Obama administration has been so reflexively resistant to the idea of stopping flights to the U.S. from infected countries. It’s incredibly easy to get here: Just to pick a day at random, Kayak says you can fly from ROB in Monrovia to JFK for $1,459. That’s prohibitively expensive for your average Liberian, but not for everyone. Closing off flights seems like a no-brainer, yet the administration rejects it out of hand. Why? I suspect it’s because they sense how Ebola has the potential to reshuffle the political landscape. Starting with immigration.

If you agree to seal the borders to mitigate the risks from Ebola, then you’re implicitly rejecting the entire ideological framework of the “open borders” mindset and admitting that there are some cases in which the government has a duty to protect citizens from outsiders. I suspect that some folks see that as the thin end of the wedge. Because what happens then if Ebola breaks into Central America? Then you have to worry about masses of uninfected immigrants surging across the border–not to mention carriers of the virus, too. What do you do? If it was okay to cut off flights from Liberia, is it okay to try to seal the Southern border?

These things tend to have a logic of their own. Once you get majority opinion on board with protecting borders from Ebola, you’re that much closer to having them agree to protect the borders from labor market dilution.

But immigration is just one issue. Barack Obama didn’t create the Ebola virus in the basement of his secret Kenyan mosque. (Note: this is a joke, people.) But he came to office promising to unify the nation, slow the rise of the oceans, and heal the planet. Six years later we have a healthcare law everyone hates, a lousy economy, civil war in Syria, Russia annexing its neighbors, a Secret Service that can’t protect the president, an IRS that targets the president’s opponents, ISIS setting off a new 30-years-war in the Middle East, and oh, look at this–an actual plague. Next up: rain of frogs.

Ebola isn’t Obama’s “fault” in that he didn’t precipitate the outbreak. But he was sitting at the Big Desk when it happened and if things get bad then at some point people will start asking why the the president of the United States was fighting the “war on women” and going to fundraisers with Richie Rich Richman instead of getting ahead of the situation with Captain Ebs.

When institutions break down the way they have in America over the last 14 years, you enter into a world of potentialities that’s very unpredictable. The only real analog in American history, I think, is 1978-1979. America got lucky then because we got Ronald Reagan, who turned out to be one of history’s Great Men. But if you look through history, instability doesn’t always turn out so well for societies.

Okay, I’ll take the tinfoil hat off now. Everything’s fine. The professionals are on the case. They’ll deal with Ebola and this pandemic panic will, like SARS and the avian flu and the pig flu, turn out to be less awful than we feared. I’ll leave the hopeful last word to Galley Friend X:

The reason I think Ebola will not become a major world problem? Nigeria seems to have contained it. If it became a problem in Lagos, I’d think we’d have a real global problem on our hands. But they had cases, they dealt with them, and it’s been probably three weeks since there has been any known Ebola there. Think of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole as the bellwether. If the situation there stays as it is now, then this outbreak is just a regional problem, and maybe even a minor one, relatively speaking. If it becomes a real problem there again, we could be fucked.

Let’s hope he’s right.


Nate Silver vs. That Other Guy

October 7, 2014

The kids in Math class have formed a ring and are chanting “Nerd Fight! Nerd Fight! Nerd Fight!” while pushing Nate Silver into the circle to face off against Princeton’s Sam Wang. And Silver, for his part, seems exasperated by the spectacle. Meanwhile, Wang is either the most naive guy in Central Jersey–a real possibility, […]

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Lazarus, Supreme Blue Rose, Women in Comics

October 1, 2014

On my last trip to the comic shop I picked up the last few issues of Hawkeye and Lazarus and the first couple issues of a new Image title, Supreme: Blue Rose. Hawkeye continues to underperform its magical first 12 issues. I suspect that writer Matt Fraction is a victim of his own success here. Hawkeye was so good that its […]

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Romney 2016!

September 25, 2014

Ben Domenech had a great headline in this morning’s Transom: “Romney 2016 is real and it is spectacular.” That’s based off the steady drip-drip-drip of pieces over the last eight weeks or so plus Byron York’s piece today. A few thoughts: * I don’t know whether or not I ever blogged about this (turns out I did, […]

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Keith Olbermann, Reborn

September 24, 2014

Yes, it’s six minutes long. WATCH THE WHOLE THING. Because by the time he gets to Red Ruffing–“You don’t know who Red Ruffing was. Do you?”–it’s already the most epic TV baseball segment, evah. And you’re only half way home. An instant classic that goes right on the top shelf with George F. Will’s Sports Machine. […]

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Don’t Go on ‘The Daily Show’

September 24, 2014

Maybe the smartest thing Megan McArdle has written. Reminder: This is not the first time we’ve seen that The Daily Show acts in bad faith. Also, another reminder: Jon Stewart is kind of a dick.

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Chris & Me

September 19, 2014

I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but over at TWS I’ve got a little essay about comic books, my best friend, parenthood, and mortality.

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