Live Blogging Election Night 2020

I’ve had my head in data most of the day. There are some things I wanted to lead with, but we’re about to hit the big poll closings.

7:00

The first returns are in. Trump wins Indiana. No surprise. Everything else is too early to call. Trump looks like he’s leading in Florida, because of two, R leaning counties. So far he’s short of his 2016 totals, but it’s too early for that to mean anything.

Here’s something to start with. These are the states where the Candidates have an 80% or better chance of winning with the darker colors representing a probability of better than 90%. If Biden can merely hold these states, he wins.

Looking at what’s left here Biden has tons of paths to victory. Trump has but a few. That said, this could be very wrong.

7:18

MSNBC just called Vermont for Biden. No surprise. It looks like Biden is under-performing in Miami-Dade County. That’s not good, but maybe there’s something else that is going on there.

If you’re looking for bellwethers, if Trump wins NC or Maine 2, it’s going to be a long night. If Biden takes Florida or NC or Georgia, he probably has a clear path.

7:30

WV is too early to call. That may be a bad sign for Trump. Biden may be over-performing in a lot of Florida. In fact, (7:33) he just took the lead.

7:47

Florida doesn’t look good. It’s still early but my prediction that there’s a big shift toward Biden may be a bunch of crap.

17 states have poll closings at 8.

NYTimes has Trump with a 95% chance to win Florida.

Trump wins in Kentucky.

The New York Times has great tools and lots more results.

That’s 85 to 55 Biden. Things look surprisingly good in Texas though. Interesting.

McConnell wins in Kentucky. Not surprising, but disappointing.

More NYTimes. This is an awesome graphic.

8:33

Someone who supports QAnon won a House seat in Georgia. Things are going to get weird. These are the unintended consequences of gerrymandering.

8:39

Here’s a look at the Senate.

9:40

It’s going to come down to the same three states. Damn it.

12:52 PM Thursday

Well, that kind of went off the rails there; lots of things kept me from posting, sorry about that. So, where are we? Let’s start by updating the map at the top of the page

We’ve added the states that have been called. The lighter colors are states from our original map where either Trump or Biden had at least an 80% chance of winning in 538’s last projection. Nothing from that original map has changed hands. It’s still the case that if Biden holds these states, he will win the election.

Biden leads in Nevada and Arizona, which would put him at exactly 270. Trump is likely to win in Alaska and North Carolina. Georgia could go either way. Trump has a dwindling lead in Pennsylvania, but the remaining votes are likely to favor Biden.

The president, meanwhile, is doing what he claimed he would do for weeks or months. Declare victory on election night claiming to be ahead, presume that the states that went against him were rigged, and try to manufacture a victory through lawsuits.

You can’t declare victory until the votes have been counted. Part of the delay in getting the results is due to elections officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania being barred from counting early ballots before election day. They asked for relief on this, but they were rebuffed by republican state legislatures. This was part of the plan from the beginning, to give the president the illusion of leading in these states and the ability to create an atmosphere where he could claim that the election was being “stolen.” That isn’t true. What we’re seeing here is the inverse of what we saw on election night. Biden started with unrealistically large leads when the only votes that had been counted were early ones. As election night went on, we got more realistic results as the same-day votes were counted. We’re seeing the same thing in reverse now except that it’s the Biden-leading votes that are being counted last instead of the Trump-leaning ones.

Trump’s strategy here reminds me of G. W. Bush’s playbook from the 2000 recount. Turns out it’s even more offensive as a deliberate strategy than it was as an ad hoc response.

9:27 PM Thursday

The atmosphere is palpably energized. Trump’s lead in Georgia is below 2500 and the gap between the candidates is below 50,000. It seems like we’re on the cusp of Biden pulling ahead in one of these states. Will we get an quick call after that? Don’t know.

Meanwhile, the president seems to be flailing. Claire McCaskill called the president’s speech a low point in American history. A presidential candidate calling an election into question is unprecedented. There’s a lot to unpack there; it was strange and troubling. He clearly thinks Red Ballots Matter More. But that isn’t true. All Ballots Matter.

9:40 pm

Now Georgia is within 2000 votes.

9:49 pm

Here’s another nice graphic from the NYTimes.

10:00 pm

What’s the state of the race? Trump leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia, but those leads are evaporating. Biden leads in Nevada and Arizona. The lead-in Arizona is shrinking, but the Biden campaign is confident it will hold. Trump will almost certainly win Alaska and looks safe in North Carolina.

10:28 pm

The palpable excitement had dissipated.

10:43 pm

The gap in PA is down to 26,000. According to MSNBC, It looks like Biden will overtake Trump at 4 or 5 am. I think earlier.

11:00 pm

I’m holding on for a bit to see if we get an update on Georgia. If Biden wins Georgia, that will put him up to 269 electoral votes, 1 vote away from victory. In the unlikely event that Trump wins everything else, that would be a 269-269 tie.

In that case, after the Electoral College votes, the election is decided by the House of Representatives. The democrats control the house, so you might think that would be good news for Biden. It isn’t. It’s a Trump victory. Why? The representatives don’t vote for President, the states do. Currently, the Republicans control 26 state delegations which would be enough for him to win. That’s unlikely to change after the election.

11:18

That’s enough for tonight. I’ll be back when there’s something to report.

11:22 am Friday

Good Morning! A lot has happened overnight. Biden pulled ahead in Pennsylvania and Georgia of all places. Here’s an appropriate song for this morning! I give you “Better Things” by the Kinks.

This means that Biden is leading in four of the six uncalled states with a total of 306 electoral votes. His lead in Pennsylvania is growing. Meanwhile, the latest results from Maricopa county make it unlikely that the president will be able to pull ahead in Arizona. In Nevada the latest votes being reported had Biden’s lead at about 22,000. At least one outfit has called the election for Biden.

11:00 pm

Back at it again. The last update from Pennsylvania put Biden’s lead at more than 0.5%. That’s out of automatic recount territory. I think that will impel a call for Biden in the Pennsylvania race and then consequently the presidency.

Nothing looks especially different on the teevee at this point.

As an aside, on the news this (Friday) afternoon I saw a group of voters in Maricopa County AZ who were in line at the elections office in order to “cure” their ballots.

What is ballot ‘curing?’

Evidently, in Arizona, if there’s an error on your ballot the Board of Election will contact you and allow you to come in and fix the discrepancy. This startles me and it’s an important statement about the importance of the franchise. Everyone’s vote is important and everyone’s vote should count. That’s a welcome and stark contrast to the politicians who are seeking to prevent votes from being counted, merely because they don’t think they’ll like the outcome.

8:34 am Saturday

I’ve been watching elections coverage for about an hour now. MSNBC seems to think that a call in the election is imminent. More data is on the horizon, probably at 9:00 am.

Joe Scarborough started his show by calling the 1976 Republican nomination for Gerald Ford. There’s a lot reasonable takes on Scarborough, but it seems certain that he should not do comedy.

These folks made an excellent point on the timing of the vote count. We know that the Governors of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania tried to allow their elections officials to start processing the early and mail-in ballots before the elections, but were stopped by the republican state legislatures. That led to a night that looked really good for the president. That was by design. Trump was planning to use the good coverage to try and force an early end to the counting and create an illusion of malfeasance. It’s an amazing disconnect on the order of the notion that we only have cases of coronavirus because we’re testing for it.

To America’s credit, by and large the president’s rhetoric was ignored and we continued to count the votes in a dignified and orderly manner. I’ve seen a number of secretaries of state being interviewed and doing news conferences and that’s dong nothing but increase my confidence in the system.

If these states had counted the mail-in ballots early, the focus on election night, the focus would have been on these states. If would have been clear from the start that Biden had a commending lead in Pennsylvania at least. The character of the coverage would have been fundamentally different and there would have nothing that even seemed suspicious.

9:10 am

From the Biden campaign. “Today seems to be the day.”

11:08 am

Another update from Maricopa County, Arizona. Trump won these votes with about 58%, cutting Biden’s lead to 20,500. If Trump does as well with the rest of the Maricopa County, that will cut Biden’s statewide lead to about 15,000. If I’m not mistaken, everything else in AZ is small.

11:30 am

That’s it! NBC is calling it for Biden!

11:35 am

Almost everyone’s on board pretty quickly. And a little funny.

11:40 am

This is a great moment. Here’s a song for today.

7:23 pm

We might be nearing the end of our Election Night Live Blog, but we’re here until after the President-Elect’s speech tonight.

It’s been genuinely moving to see all the people who are absolutely jubilant about the results of the election. It might be a function of the call being made on a Saturday morning, but I don’t remember ever seeing this kind of reaction to an election with the possible exception of 2008. The sense of relief in the crowds is palpable. The people partying talked about feeling hopeful, safer, and represented in ways that they haven’t for the last four years. In 1920 Warren Harding promised us a return to normalcy and one hundred years later we may actually have one.

And speaking of 100 years ago, it’s been a century since the passing of the 19th Amendment which didn’t give women the vote, but recognized that they should have had the franchise all along. There can be no more fitting commemoration of that anniversary than electing our first female vice-president.

8:28 pm

“The people have chosen empathy.” Nice.

8:58 pm

You can watch the both speeches here.

Great remarks from both Harris and Biden. I liked the homages to both Obama and MLK. This is what a president is supposed to sound like and the commitment to be the President of all America is as welcome as it had been sorely missed. “Now let’s give each other a chance… this is a time to heal.”

Here’s the song (although not the version) that was playing when Biden concluded his remarks.

Projection and Prediction

Hi, folks.

I’ve been publishing projections on Twitter and Facebook for the last few days. This is the final one, using 538’s polling averages.

That looks pretty good for Biden. If you’re curious about the methodology, check out my projections from 2016.

That last one seems pretty far off. I’m grateful to Avery Yeates, who was one of my Summer Research Students this year. We tweaked the Maple program I had been using a bit. We separated out the congressional districts in Maine and Nebraska and we ramped up the variance in the individual state elections. The old variance made sense for a weighted coin toss, where the probability is static. It didn’t reflect the variance we see in election results. We’re estimating the probabilities that a voter will vote for a candidate. These change over time, in fact, the entire point of campaigning is to shift those probabilities. I need to look at correlating the states that move together for 2024.

With that said, here’s my final prediction.

My gut tells me that there will have been a big shift in Biden’s direction over the weekend. It’s looking more and more like he is going to win and people like voting for a winner.

In addition, the news has not been good for President Trump. We’re hitting records for the number of new cases of Coronavirus each day and some of the behavior we’re seeing from a small segment of Trump supporters is downright disturbing. If there are any swing voter’s left, I think that pushes them in Biden’s direction. Of course, I could be completely wrong. I’m least confident that Texas will turn blue. They had a huge number of early voters and so, fewer people to be swayed over the weekend. On the other hand, some of the outrageous behavior seems to be motivated by the belief that Trump could lose.

If you’re curious about my track record, this contains my prediction for 2018.

Live Blogging Election Night 2018

Meanwhile, here’s what I wrote in advance of the 2016 Election, in a lab I did with my Calculus students called “It’s Election Day 2016”

I’m bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t do this lab with my students this year.

Election Day Reruns

“If you haven’t read it, it’s new to you” to paraphrase an old NBC slogan that really seemed to piss people off at the time.

I hope you’re enjoying Election Day, especially geeking out on the politics if that’s your thing.

While I finish up my last projection and final prediction, here are some old election related blog posts you might like. They’re pretty good if I do say so myself. I really wanted to update “Vote Anyway” for 2020 but sadly, time got away from me.

Enjoy!

Two Flags for Election Day

Happy Election Day 2020! I hope every one who hasn’t is planning to vote. More on that later. Here are two flag related things about this year’s elections.

48 Star American Flag 3x5 Feet 1912-1959 Old Glory US USA for sale online |  eBay

We’ve decided to fly a 48-Star American Flag to mark the day of one of our most important patriotic duties. Why the 48-star flag? Well, the 48-star flag had the second-longest tenure as the nation’s official flag, from 1912 to 1959, and not once in that time did we suffer an electoral inversion where the Electoral College failed to elect the winner of the popular vote.

The 48-star flag was also the flag for the 1936 Election which is notable for two reasons. It’s the election where Literary Digest predicted a landslide victory for Republican Alf Landon. Don’t recall President Landon? There’s a good reason for that. The Literary Digest poll is literally a textbook example of how not to predict the winner of an election. Predicting that Landon would win 57% to 43%, they were off by a whopping 19 points! That’s the largest error ever in an important opinion poll. Don’t worry though, we’re a lot better at it now.

File:ElectoralCollege1936.svg

The other reason that the 1936 election is noteworthy is that it holds the record for the largest electoral-vote landslide in American History. President Roosevelt won 527 electoral-votes to Landon’s 8. That, to borrow a joke from Barbara Holland, was the start of that old saying, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.”

There’s one other flag with a connection to Election Day this year because Joanne and I actually cast our ballots on the 24th of October, the first day of early voting. It took us just over an hour standing in line and chatting with some friendly people. Toward the front of the line, in front of the Board of elections, I finally got a good look at a Chemung County flag. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen in the wild and it’s pretty good. It’s got an eagle and a wreath and some stars and it only uses three colors. It ticks off some of the NAVA standards. It could do without all the text and I have no clue about the symbolism but as a municipal flag, it’s above average.

Have a great day and don’t forget to vote!

Stop Top-Two in Florida

I’ve been trying to find time to write about the election, but that seems more impossible by the day. On the other hand, I already have friends and family who are voting in Florida and the top-two primary system is on the ballot there. This one is time-sensitive.

Top-two simply isn’t a good idea. Our country desperately needs voting reform, but top-two isn’t voting reform, it’s doubling down on all the inherent problems of the plurality vote and making them a bit worse. Do you want real voting reform? Look for a group promoting instant run-off voting like they do in Maine, even better IMO, approval voting. The links take you to organizations doing just that.

But first, do no harm. Here’s an opinion piece I wrote ten(!) years ago about the so-called “Jungle Primary.” It ran in the Star-Gazette, our local Elmira paper and the Binghamton paper and possibly one or two others across the state.

Biden v. Trump Round 1

If I don’t force the issue from time to time there will be nothing new on this blog for months at a time. Most of my energy at the moment goes into preparing to teach, teaching, recuperating from teaching, grading and tech support as we adapt again to our new online environment. Now I’m relearning stuff I had figured out back in May.

But I’d set the precedent of live blogging the debates and this one seems important enough that it’s worth a later night than usual. I probably won’t have the chance to make this one look pretty for a few days. So far I know that the debate was going to be at Notre Dame but it isn’t because COVID. Now it’s in Cleveland. Moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.

Leading into the debate, it seems to me that things aren’t going too well for President Trump. The NYT released his taxes over the weekend and it does not look good. That followed revelations about the President making some unfortunate comments about the military and the comments about possibly refusing to respect the results of the election are not a good look.

At this moment, the election looks like it’s Vice President Biden’s to lose. But I think he’s lost a step or two in the last few years. I think he needs to perform the way he did in the debate against Paul Ryan in 2012, but I wonder if he still has that in him. In any event it’s a mistake to underestimate Donald Trump. He did nothing but exceed expectations in the 2016 election.

8:45

Hillary Clinton is on MSNBC giving advice. I’m having second thoughts already.

9:06

We start with SCOTUS, the elephant in the room. This is more reserved than I’m used to. Trump’s arguments here are already disingenuous.

9:08

Biden is sedate this evening, but the argument he’s making about the SCOTUS nomination is the right one.

9:11

This is an interesting exchange.

9:15

Trump is fighting with the moderator which is an interesting strategy. He rails against the individual mandate which is the thing that makes the ACA work.

9:18

Biden calls out Trump’s lies. Good line about getting lucky.

9:20

Trump is repeating things he said in 2016 that never played out. Biden: “Will you shut up man” and “This is so unpresidential.”

9:25

Trump is claiming that he saved thousands lives and is blaming the “Fake News.”

H1N1 was a disaster??

9:33

Trump is claiming that Biden isn’t smart.

9:38

Trump seems to be especially transparent tonight. I think Biden’s hitting the right tone by just laughing at the President.

9:42

“I brought back football.” Hilarious.

9:44

Trump claims he paid millions in taxes in 2016.

Biden: “You’re the worst president this country has ever had.” My money’s still on Bush, but that made me laugh really hard.

9:50

I think the only way we could have a real debate between these two is to put them in separate rooms.

9:55

Decency. Yes. More of that please.

9:57

Right at the racism. Nice. And the puzzled look on Biden’s face is priceless.

10:04

I need to train for these. One hour in and I’m fried.

10:11

“There has never been a president who has done more than I’ve done.” It’s because of the number of Judges? That ignores the obstruction under McConnell.

10:26

“Stand back and stand by” is easily the most chilling moment of this debate.

10:29

Biden’s been good on election security. But “We’ve caught them all?” Trump is incoherent on election security.

10:36

Trump refuses to ask his supporters to stay calm during an extended count. That’s troubling. Biden is strong here again.

Analysis:

I don’t think this will change anyone’s mind. It was a mess. Just watching it was exhausting. At best I think Trump was playing to his base which isn’t going to be enough.

I was going to say that this was a draw, but now I think the more we unpack what Trump said here the better Biden is going to look.

Happy Star Trek Day!

https://treknews.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/star-trek-day-2020-750x480.jpg

On 8 September 1966, after two years in development, Star Trek finally debuted on the teevee. Fans have celebrated this date as “Star Trek Day” unofficially for a while now, but the producers of the show have now gotten on board and today, 2020.09.08 is the first Official Star Trek Day with events like marathons, cast reunions and more. “Encounter at Farpoint” is airing on StarTrek.com as I write this.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1280px-flag_of_the_united_federation_of_planets.svg_.png

In our little corner of the Alpha Quadrant, we’re marking the occasion by flying the flag of the United Federation of Planets. We’ve flown the UFP flag before and you can read my original post about the flag here.

The UFP Flag and Beginning Vexillology

That post contains my thoughts on the flag. For today I thought we’d look at two precursors of the UFP flag and a proposed redesign. The UFP apparently had no flag in the Original Series. The Star Fleet Technical Manual (Joseph, 1975) had a Banner, which can be seen in “And The Children Shall Lead” and it had a seal shown here, possibly designed for the book cover. This seal would make a passable flag itself.

The first place we see an image similar to the “current” UFP flag is on a view screen in Star Trek the Motion Picture when Kirk addresses the crew. This same image is seen as a flag, draped across the Torpedo Tube at Spock’s funeral in The Wrath of Khan.

This clearly looks like a hybrid of the Tech Manual’s seal and the current flag design. There are two advantages over the current design for me. There’s no text and the wreath looks less like something of terrestrial origin.

The last image we’ll look at today is a proposed redesign of the UFP flag that I found on Reddit, created by Doliam13.

This fixes a lot of the issues with the current UFP flag. The text is gone and the star field is more symbolic, looking less like a literal map of our local piece of the Milky Way. This also fixes some of the symbolism in the current design. There are four stars to represent the four founding civilizations of the Federation where the current flag highlights only three. The notion that the three stars represent three of the founding worlds as seen by an observer standing on the fourth is an inane retcon contrivance. Better to just fix the flag and not try to explain it.

A few last things to mark the day. Science Officer Leonard (named for McCoy, Leonard H. Son of David) is properly attired and ready to face the day while I have two different pairs of let’s call them “Spocky socks” that I’ll wear throughout the occasion. The blue, black, and gold pair were made by my lovely wife, Joanne while the pair with the Vulcan salute was a gift from my sisters-in-law.

Also: Tea. Peppermint. Hot.

Votes for Wonder Women

3x5 19th Amendment Victory Flag Women's Suffrage Right to ...

It’s now the 100th Anniversary of the day that Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment, and the United States officially recognized women’s right to vote. We’re once again flying a “19th Amendment Victory Flag” to mark the occasion. I wrote about this flag last year. It’s based on the flag of the National Women’s Party, a gold, white and purple tri-color with 36 stars added for the thirty-six states that approved the amendment. The story about how the amendment passed is great. It’s also amazing that something that seems so unequivocally the right-thing-to-do by modern sensibilities came down to a single vote. You can find that story in last year’s article, 19th Amendment Victory Flag.

A turning point in that story involved a political cartoon where Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was sweeping the letters “RAT” toward the letters “IFICATION,” symbolizing the campaign to support the amendment. When I was thinking about what to write this year, I spent some time looking for that political cartoon. If you’ve read this blog, you know I like to write about comics and I like to write about history and flags. History and flags are part of the “The Universe and Everything” part. Anyway, at some point I put “Carrie Chapman Catt” and “Cartoon” into duckduckgo.com and I stumbled upon something in the nice triple intersection of the Venn diagram that’s implied above. Ha! Math! There’s another thing!

I’ve always considered DC Comics to be the more conservative of the two major comic book companies. They were static for a long time while Marvel was innovating and they were so dedicated their own house style that they had other artists redraw Jack Kirby’s pictures of Superman when he was working on Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. I get that those are small-c conservative, but you have to admit that’s pretty conservative. It’s like putting pants on Michelangelo’s David.

But there were pockets of progressive-ism as pointed out by Tim Hanley on his blog, The 1940s Justice Society Of America Were A Surprisingly Progressive Bunch. That’s well worth a read as is his post on Wonder Woman’s place in the JSA.

So, what was in that intersection mentioned above? “Wonder Women of History” a back-up feature that ran in Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman for twelve years starting with Wonder Woman #1 in 1942. Each issue featured a short biography of 1 to 5 pages, full of cheesiness and hyperbole. These included the stories of figures like Abigail Adams, Joan of Arc, and Marie Curie. Among the women featured were two important leaders of the suffrage movement taking us from the Seneca Falls Convention to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

And in honor of the Centennial that Amendment, here is the biography of Susan B. Anthony from Wonder Woman #5 (June-July 1943).

We also present the reason for the search result; Comic Vine tells me that Carrie Chapman Catt is a comic book character in Wonder Woman #26 (November-December 1947). That has the incongruous title of “Speed Maniacs from Mercury.” Luckily, that’s not the story in which Mrs. Catt appears.

Eventually, Wonder Woman of History was replaced with makeup tips and advice on landing a husband because DC is so progressive. But the Wonder Women of History were fun while it lasted. If you like these, there are a lot more here. It was nice when comics tried to educate as well as entertain.

References:

59 Years of the Fantastic 4

Happy Belated Fantastic Four Day! Fifty-nine years ago this week Fantastic Four #1 hit the stands and to quote Aunt Petunia’s favorite nephew, “Nuthin’ was ever gonna be quite the same again.” The Fantastic Four is one of those things that I’ve liked as long as I remember. As a kid, I knew them first from their 1967 animated series. I don’t remember it that well; (it’s not like we form a lot of detailed memories when we’re three), but I liked it. Here are three personal firsts that are related to the Fantastic Four to mark the anniversary.

My First Fantastic Four Comic

The first Fantastic Four comic I remember buying was Fantastic Four #126 (September 1972). This was about a year before I decided I was “officially” collecting comics; I was getting comics pretty sporadically at the time. But what an amazing place to start! Inside, the title is “The Way It Began!” and the cover is a stunning recreation of Kirby’s cover to FF#1 drawn by the inimitable team of John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. This comic defined my mental picture of the FF for all time.

The story is good as well. Initially, Roy Thomas treats us to the standard flavor of family brouhaha with which Lee and Kirby brilliantly began so many issues. Reed tinkers and then does the absent-minded-professor thing. Ben and Johnny bicker. Sue tries to keep things on track. Also Alicia. Classic. This leads us into a framing sequence where Ben is reminiscing using Reed’s thought-projector helmet which does exactly what one would expect a thought-projector helmet to do.

The thought-projector helmet… erm… projecting thoughts.

Ben then narrates a shortened version of the origin from FF #1, which ends with the iconic image below. I expect that many copies of this issue are missing this page; it’s one of the quintessential team pin-ups.

Short summaries of the team’s first encounter with the Mole Man and the Mole Man story from issues 88-90 follow. In that last story, the Mole Man uses a device that blinds the team and Ben has an epiphany. If the Mole Man’s device can blind and cure the team, maybe he can use it to cure Alicia’s blindness. He storms off intending to help her.

After a year or two, FF #126 was made into one of those Power Records sets with the recorded dialogue. If Johnny’s voice sounds familiar, that’s Peter Fernandez, aka Speed Racer! (The “!” may be obligatory). Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you can experience the entire issue with the dialogue abbreviated somewhat here.

My First Blog Post.

Two years ago Marvel published a facsimile edition of Fantastic Four #1, part of the promotion for the latest series of Fantastic Four that started shortly thereafter. That seemed like a big deal at the time. “The World’s Greatest Comix Magazine” had been off the market since April 2015 because some executive at Marvel was having a pissing match with 21st Century Fox and didn’t want to do anything to promote Fox’s latest FF movie including publishing their own flagship title.

Anyway, I’d wanted to review the Facsimile edition. I’d previously done some short reviews that I posted on Facebook, like this one and this one here, but a Facebook post was utterly unsuitable for what I wanted to do for the Facsimile edition. I wrote All In Color for Forty Dimes and a week or so later I had a blog. This blog.

My First Fan Letter

https://cdn.flickeringmyth.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/694044._SX1280_QL80_TTD_.jpg

The letter itself is pretty self-explanatory. It wasn’t printed because as I now realize it’s much too long. For your edification, an open letter to Dan Slott, referencing Fantastic Four (2018) #2. What do you need to know about the book to appreciate the letter? Not too much. This is the first time we’ve seen Reed, Sue, and the kids since Secret Wars. They, along with Molecule Man and the Future Foundation have been rebuilding the multiverse one universe at a time. Franklin rebuilds the universes and then the group explores them; they’ve been at it for five years or so and time seems to have passed more quickly for them than it has on Earth. Franklin and Valeria are teenagers.

At some point, Franklin loses the ability to create universes. Evidently, all is now right with the multiverse; Franklin is done.

And the “Multiverse” has to fight back as the personification of one of the fundamental forces of nature.

Confrontation commences. It’s not pretty. Then this.

You can read the rest for yourself; here’s my letter.

Dear Dan,

Fantastic Four has been my favorite comic for almost forty years.  I’m thrilled to have Fantastic Four back on the spinner racks; the Marvel Universe doesn’t work correctly without its first family.  When I heard that you’d be helming the book, I was pleased.  You always seemed to have a good understanding of the characters; from their guest appearances in Amazing Spider-Man, to your 8-issues on The Thing and everything in between.

Issue 1 was an unadulterated pleasure.  I also really enjoyed issue 2, but there was one false note I’d like to address.

Reed is a tricky character to write; this was never more evident than in Civil War.  Tony is an engineer who thinks pragmatically.  His position in Civil War made sense.  Reed by contrast thinks like an academic working forward from first principles.  He has strong sense of right and wrong.  He should have been the first person to come over to Cap’s side, rather than the last.  Reed’s characterization in that series is wildly off the mark, it’s almost closer to Victor than it is to Reed.  Civil War 2, incidentally, showed us how necessary the Four are to the Marvel Universe.  In that series, Reed was the person we needed to refute Carol’s arguments, but Reed was unavailable.

So what didn’t ring true in FF #647/2?  That Reed would bypass 208 realities teeming with life to secure a better chance of saving the rest.  Reed decides things based on principles, not pragmatics.  When Galactus lay dying, it was Reed who insisted on saving him despite the risk; Tony, the pragmatist, was overruled.  Reed is confident; he strode into the afterlife without hesitation to save Ben.  We see this confidence after the Future Foundation was routed by the Griever.  It should have been evident before then.  Reed doesn’t make tactical retreats nor does he take the easy way out.  In the Galactus Trilogy, a tactical decision might have been to try to quickly develop a way to preserve some life, while Galactus consumed the Earth’s energy.  Instead Reed confronted Galactus with the Ultimate Nullifier.  A riskier decision, but one that preserved virtually all life on Earth.

I hope this is helpful.  Aside from this, these first two issues were like a trip home.  You have to be careful writing Reed.  When you start pulling parts out of what makes him Mr. Fantastic, you could end up with the Maker and that would be a travesty.

Joseph F. Kolacinski
Horseheads, NY

Reed’s characterization has been hit-or-miss for a while; at least since Civil War. One of those posts that’s been waiting in the wings is called “Writing Reed Right,” but that’s a big undertaking. I don’t even have a guess as to when that might be finished.

Where’s a thought-projection helmet when you need one? I hope you enjoyed my reminiscences. We’re now on a twelve-month countdown to the 60th anniversary. We’ll need something pretty big for that. Any suggestions? Do you remember your first Fantastic Four comic? Let us know in the comments!

Star Trek: Lower Decks – “Second Contact”

https://comicstheuniverseandeverything.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/ceafd-star2btrek2bthe2bnext2bgeneration2bwarped2ban2bengaging2bguide2bto2bthe2bnever-aired2b8th2bseason.jpg

I’ve been looking forward to Star Trek: Lower Decks for a while now. Maybe more than a while. They’ve been talking about a Star Trek series featuring the support crew for a long time. I think that initially morphed into the Next Generation episode that was also called “Lower Decks.” That was a fine, but not a spectacular episode of TNG. The notion surfaced again, sort of, with Star Trek Discovery, the only Trek series where the captain was not the central character. Lots of people seem to like Discovery, but I don’t really care for it. 

It was the show-runner who got my attention. Mike McMahan had a twitter feed, and that twitter feed spawned a book. It’s called Warped, and it’s about a mythical eighth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This season, kept secret, was purposely so bad that it would force Paramount to cancel the series. Warped is pretty good, but not so good that I actually finished it. There are still some good bits like Westley splicing tribble DNA into Data’s cat, Spot, and the final fate of the Vulcan Punk band “Logic Lice!”

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/rick-and-morty-rest-and-ricklaxation.jpg

McMahan was also a writer on Rick and Morty which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it is consistently well written and interesting. It’s also deeper than most people probably think it is. If you want to see a classic trek concept (“The Enemy Within”) spun in an interesting way check out “Rest and Ricklaxation.” McMahan didn’t share a writing credit on that but he was head writer for a while and he did write “Total Rickall“, “The Rickshank Rickdemption,” and “Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat,” all of which are both excellent and hilarious.

That’s a lot of preamble if I’m here to talk about Lower Decks. How was the first episode? I really enjoyed it. More importantly, I laughed. A lot. It’s recognizably Trek. It turns out that what that idea to make a show about, as McMahon puts it, “the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end,” work is animation, comedy and some good writing. The pilot, “Second Contact” is a lot of fun. Mariner and Boimler immediately fall into some familiar patterns and Tendi reminds me of Bashir when he first arrived at Deep Space Nine; full of awe and enthusiasm.

Animation Magazine | The News, Business, Technology, and ...

I liked how a much bigger story involving the senior staff developed behind the more mundane adventures of the ensigns and how these all dovetailed into a satisfying denouement. There are enough references to classic trek to give an old fan like me a warm feeling about the show. That includes the theme music by the way. It’s evocative of Alexander Courage’s original theme but just when you think you know where it’s headed it veers off in a different direction. Paradoxically the theme seems simultaneously very much the same and very different from the original series’ theme.

https://newslagoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/startreklowerdecks04.jpg

“Second Contact” isn’t perfect. Like most pilots, it’s an origin story and like most origin stories the plot takes a bit of a back seat to character introductions. At this stage, most of the characters feel like archetypes, but the broad outlines are solid and I’m looking forward to watching the show fill in those outlines. It’s refreshing to see a lighter take on Star Trek again. Modern trek has taken itself very seriously up til now, but comedy is also part of the franchise’s DNA. I’m looking forward to seeing the spiritual descendants of “Q Who” or “A Piece of the Action” and Lower Decks may be the show to give us those.

I give “Second Contact” four stars.