Report from Louisiana: Bye Bye Mask!

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – We went to church Sunday; it is the first Sunday since March 2020 that the congregation could attend unmasked and with social distancing thrown to the wind. It is amazing how refreshing that was.

It seems as if this long pandemic nightmare is finally ending, and people are resuming their lives. Whether you are in the “Covid is a hoax” camp or the “Covid is going to kill us all” camp, the restrictions imposed on us all have affected us all in some way or another.

With excessive government handouts, many people have found it more profitable (and more fun) to stay at home, drawing that unemployment and other benefits. A lot of restaurants and other businesses are having trouble filling jobs. There have been product shortages all across the country as production has slowed. Even if the only way you’ve been affected is that you were required to wear a mask somewhere, we have all been affected by these mandates.

But now, this is changing! Even some school districts across the country have lifted mask mandates.

What is so interesting to me, however, is to note the effect these restored liberties have on people; the atmosphere at church was pure giddiness.  I heard more than one person say, “Oh it’s so nice to see people’s faces again!”  One woman noted that she actually wore makeup today for the first time since this started. Smiles were everywhere. People lingered longer after the service to visit with each other.

It’s obvious, isn’t it? I mean, who wouldn’t be happier without the yoke of government restrictions on them?

And now, you can actually see when someone smiles! Facial expressions are back!

There were more people in attendance at church this week, too. I have noticed since Easter that people are coming back. It has been good to see. Our priest is retiring next month, and we are able to have a retirement gathering for him in a local restaurant! Six months ago, that would not have been allowed. Too large of a group.

I wore my mask where I was supposed to, but honestly, once I had Covid antibodies after I got through the virus, and later, once I was vaccinated, I didn’t see much point in the mask. I got a lot less compliant about wearing it.

I think there are some things we may not see for a while, if ever, though. Salad bars, for one. I’m not a fan of a buffet, but we probably won’t see much of that either. I expect travel and large-crowd events will require proof of vaccination. I’m not sure how all that will work.

For now, I’m just glad I can see the smile on someone’s face.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Chicago aldermen making a wrong turn on proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive

Lake Shore Drive is between the skyscrapers and the lake

By John Ruberry

“And it starts up north from Hollywood, water on the driving side
Concrete mountains rearing up, throwing shadows just about five
Sometimes you can smell the green if your mind is feeling fine
There ain’t no finer place to be, than running Lake Shore Drive
And there’s no peace of mind, or place you see, than riding on Lake Shore Drive.”
Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah, “Lake Shore Drive.”

As I’ve stated many times before Chicago is a city in decline. Decades of rampant corruption and fiscal malfeasance, particularly with woefully unfunded public worker pension plans in regards to the latter, have placed Chicago in a bankrupty-in-name only status. The bleak future is now. Chicago can’t keep kicking the can down the road, whether that road is Michigan Avenue or Lake Shore Drive. 

Chicago’s woke mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who is halfway into her first term, has made Chicago’s situation worse with her overreaching lockdown response to COVID-19 and her feeble response to two rounds of summer rioting in 2020. The city’s murder rate is high. The quality of education provided by Chicago Public Schools is low and has gotten worse because the Chicago Teachers Union keeps pushing more convenient, for the teachers of course, remote learning lessons.

Politicians, particularly liberals, are adept at adopting symbols, as author Tom Clancy pointed out to Bill O’Reilly in an interview shortly after the 9/11 attacks. “The general difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals like pretty pictures and conservatives like to build bridges that people can drive across,” Clancy said to O’Reilly. “And conservatives are indeed conservative because if the bridge falls down then people die, whereas the liberals figure, we can always build a nice memorial and make people forget it ever happened and was our fault. They’re very good at making people forget it was their fault.”

Okay, no bridges have collapsed in decline-and-fall Chicago. But some City Council members are lining up behind a proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive for Chicago’s first non-indigenous resident, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. He opened a trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan around 1790.

About the Chicago City Council: Since 1973 over thirty-five of its members have been sentenced to federal prison.

Little is known about DuSable although it’s believed he was born in Haiti around 1750. In 1800 he sold his home and the land around it; the property ended up in the hands of John Kinzie, the first recorded European-American to live in what is now America’s third-largest city. One of Chicago’s first streets was named for him, but DuSable was forgotten, wrongly in my opinion, for many years. But his legacy caught up and surpassed Kinzie’s. There is the DuSable Museum of African American History on the city’s South Side, DuSable High School, a DuSable Park near the site of his former home, and a bust of DuSable on Michigan Avenue, even though because there are no known contemporary renderings of DuSable–no one knows what he looked like. Oh yeah, we were talking about bridges. The Michigan Avenue Bridge downtown was renamed for DuSable in 2010.

There are some urban streets that are iconic. Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, Fifth Avenue in New York, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. And Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. 

Lake Shore Drive–it has had that name since 1946–is a fantastic driving road. Fifth Avenue, for instance, is a better walking street. Chicago’s early leaders, post-Kinzie, made the wise decision to keep the Lake Michigan waterfront open, and most of it is park land–with Lake Shore Drive. When I have out-of-town guests I always make a point of taking them on a trip up and down Lake Shore Drive. The response I usually receive is from them, “I had no idea Chicago was so beautiful!”

Of course if the road is renamed for DuSable, the views will be just as pretty and Lake Michigan will be equally blue. But Lake Shore Drive is in essence a brand name. An iconic one. Why mess with that?

The Chicago Tribune editorial board has suggested a sound alternative–renaming Millennium Park, which abuts Lake Shore Drive, for DuSable and merging it with DuSable Park. Mayor Lightfoot has a good idea too, renaming the Chicago Riverwalk, which arguably has no name, for DuSable. But Lightfoot has gained, many say earned, a lot of enemies in her short time as mayor. They oppose the Lightfoot’s proposal because of their dislike for her. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, the only reason in my opinion to subscribe to that paper, offers a superb knockdown of the Lake Shore Drive renaming proposal, which brings up many of the same points I have mentioned. Also, Kass, as I have done, has excoriated Lightfoot’s woke Chicago Monuments Project, which has placed, among other items, five Abraham Lincoln statues “under review.” Yep, right here in the Land of Lincoln.

Destroying symbols is important to liberals too.

Those against the renaming Lake Shore Drive find themselves in a trap. In this cancel culture environment opponents of DuSable Drive will be called racist by the virtue signalers–even though they are not. Sears Tower, when it opened four decades ago, was the tallest building in the world. The naming rights of it were purchased by a British firm and it’s official name is now the Willis Tower

No one I know–and I have a large circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances–calls this iconic structure anything but the Sears Tower. No one. A DuSable Drive faces the same fate. Except nobody has ever called a Willis Tower-denier a racist. 

I’m with the Tribune and Lightfoot on this controversy. Rename Millennium Park, which has only been open since 2004–because of delays and cost overruns it opened well after the millennium began–for DuSable. And rename the Riverwalk too for DuSable. It’s another relatively new city attraction, it opened in stages beginning in 2001.

And I have my own idea. The former Meigs Field, a small lakefront airport abruptly closed by the midwife of Chicago’s pension crisis, Richard M. Daley, is now known as Northerly Island Park. I suspect that Daley wanted that space named for him. If Millenium Park keeps its moniker–then rename Northerly Island Park for DuSable. Call it DuSable South–a twin of the other park.

Don’t mess with success Chicago. But the city, like the state of Illinois, has a habit of making bad decisions. Call it tradition.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Lack of resistance to Coronavirus lockdowns and mask mandates is the price we are now paying for decades of liberal indoctrination

I am completely astounded that these Coronavirus lockdowns and mask mandates lasted more than one month, yet alone over a year.  I expected mass resistance by people of all but the bluest states to have put an end to these liberty and economy destroying restrictions way back before last summer. 

Yep it is obvious to everyone reading this that I miscalculated rather badly.  My defense is that I have studied non-revisionist American history in great detail.  I was raised on concepts such as Patrick Henry’s famous quote “Give me Liberty or Death.”  I don’t know about you but I think he would be outraged that in just 246 years almost the entire nation has surrendered their liberty because they are afraid of a disease with a 99.8 percent survival rate.

 Here is another quote, this one by Benjamin Franklin, which has been so ignored by our abysmal educational system that the concept is completely alien to almost anyone over the age of 30:

Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Liberty was a concept that was universally cherished and understood by all of the citizens of the United States from before the Revolution until the end of the 1960s.  Liberty is a concept that is not valued at all by the leftists that took over colleges and universities.  They actually despise liberty because it is the exact opposite of the collectivism that they cherish.

The definition of liberty espoused by the Founding Fathers of this nation states that liberty is the freedom of individual to do as they wish as long as they do not hurt others or interfere with the rights of others. Liberty is a concept that is deeply grounded in individualism.  There is no such thing as collective liberty.  Collectivism is the enslavement of individuals to the needs and whims a collective group such as a nation, a race, or a class.

Liberty is deeply rooted in freedom.  It is freedom coupled with the responsibility to do no harm to any other individuals.  It has not been proved scientifically that going maskless and ignoring lockdowns actually harms individuals. Forcing individuals to wear masks and locking down a society are violations of the liberty of those living in the society. 

If the original understanding of liberty was still taught in schools instead of collectivism these liberty destroying restrictions would have ended by the people soon after they were instituted.

For the past several decades school children and college students have been brainwashed into believing that the earth is in eminent danger from the mythical beast known as man caused global warming.  They have been brainwashed into believing the most absurd junk science ever.  They have been brainwashed into believing that no one can ever question anything that is labeled science by a leftist expert.  Decades of climate change indoctrination has left a large majority of the inhabitants of the US unusually susceptible to all of the junk science behind mask mandates and lockdowns.

If we do not come up with a serious plan to tackle the rampant indoctrination that has infected all levels of our educational system these types of liberty and economy destroying restrictions will become the new normal.

Report from Louisiana: Year Round School?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Year-round school.  A lot of districts do it, but I am not a fan.

Louisiana’s (new) Superintendent of Education is proposing year-round school in our state. I know that there are a couple of schools in our local district that are already doing this, elementary schools mostly, but as a teacher, I must tell you, I don’t think I’d like this.

Here’s the thing. I need that summer to recharge. While most people are under the impression that teachers get “three months off” or “all summer off,” of course that is not the case. I am about to retire after twenty-five years in the classroom, and I can assure you that I’ve never ever had three months off, and I’ve never had a summer where I wasn’t required to do some sort of professional development.

Every five years or so we have some sort of curriculum change that requires professional development…training…inservice; new technology, new gradebook software, new this, new that…all of it requires PD. Time taken out of your “summer.” 

As rewarding as it is, teaching is exhausting work. And really, this isn’t the post where I want to defend the position that teachers are underpaid for what they do, and that yes, we knew what we got paid when we went into the profession. That is for another day.

But year-round school? Nope. Glad I won’t be there for that.

Kids need the break too, you see. Yes, indeed, some of them need school all the time; their life at home might be terrible and maybe they aren’t getting meals and maybe they don’t get enough supervision and sometimes the electricity and water aren’t even turned on.

Schools have become the place to catch all of these issues that are neglected at home. We feed our students breakfast and lunch, teach them sex education, breast cancer awareness and self-examination; we do vision and hearing checks, we help seniors sign up for Financial Aid. We provide jackets and clothing for kids in need and sometimes we pay an electric bill. Schools are now social support service providers and while I love kids and will help any child in need every single time, we have to wonder if this is the job of the school.

Are we losing sight of education?

Most opponents of year-round school suggest that kids need time to be with their families, to go on vacation, Disneyland! Most of the kids I teach can’t even dream of going to Disneyland and have never been on a family vacation; some are homeless and live in hotels. Most of my high school aged students work and they work hard, long hours.

When we shut down for Covid, our kids were working. They didn’t log onto Google classroom every day to do math problems and watch YouTube documentaries; they took advantage of the time to work, make money, pay bills.

Not all of them, obviously, but a lot of them. I know this for a fact.

And so as I consider the proposal of year round school, I am conflicted. I think about these kids; they need some down time, too. They are working, they are trying to survive, they are trying to finish school. Where’s the downtime? Teachers need to recharge, too, and a lot of teachers depend on summer jobs to supplement their salaries.

Schools can provide everything else. Can’t we provide a few weeks with no school?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Obama and Pritzker exposed as frauds on gerrymandering in Illinois

By John Ruberry

Last year former president Barack Obama called partisan gerrymandering “a sneaky way for politicians to consolidate as much power as they can. In the end, gerrymandering means that citizens’ voices are being diminished.” 

A year earlier the governor of Obama’s home state of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, had this to say after the US Supreme Court decided not to get involved in partistan remaps. “As I’ve said since I was a candidate, I will veto any map that is unfair,” Pritzker said. “It’s the right thing to do. We’re going to have to make sure that here in Illinois we’re not gerrymandering, that we’re drawing maps that are fair and competitive. That’s what’s best for the voters of the state, that they have choices when they go to the ballot.” 

Obama and Pritzker are of course both Democrats. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, state Senate minority leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods), pointed out that Obama, while at Illinois’ state capital late in his presidential term, denounced gerrymandering and called for reform. “And this needs to be done across the nation,” the 44th president said, “not just in a select few states. It should be done everywhere.”

Apparently not in Illinois becauses Obama has been silent about stacking the decks in favor of Democrats. The 2010 remap of Illinois congressional and state legislative districts was a travesty of democracy, as was the one after the 2000 Census, both of which were the work of longtime Illinois House speaker and Democratic party chairman Boss Michael Madigan, who was forced into retirement this year as scandals engulfed his inner circle. The state legislature, as mandated by the Illinois constitution, draws new General Assembly and US congressional district maps.

Late last month Pritzker appeared to be backtracking from his stance against gerrymandering.

The most blatant gerrymandering from the most recent remap is Illinois’ 4th congressional district, nicknamed “the earmuffs,” which is pictured above. 

But a quick look at maps won’t tell the whole story. Illinois three largest cities outside of Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, and Springfield, the aforementioned state capital, are each split between two congressional districts. This is not a case of these cities being too large for one district, the average size of a US congressional district is over 700,000, the largest of these municipalities is Rockford, with just under 150,000 residents. 

The current Illinois congressional delegation consists of thirteen Democrats and five Republicans. Mission accomplished, Democrats. That number will change because Illinois, again, will lose a congressional seat. As I’ve remarked before, Illinoisans are voting with their feet by moving out. They are fed up with rampant corruption, high taxes, and an unfunded public worker pension debt crisis that can be solved only by default or hyperinflation. Between the 2010 and 2020 Census counts Illinois lost population–the first time that has ever happened to the Prairie State.

The electoral results are predictable when politicians choose their constituents. Last year 52 of the 118 races for seats in the Illinois House had only one candidate. In the state Senate it was worse–10 of the 20 races had only one person running. The Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. 

Twice in the prior decade Republicans led efforts to allow voters to decide to amend the state constitution by having a non-partisan committee draw maps instead of the legislature. Both times what was called the Fair Map Amendment was ruled unconstitutional in a party-line state Supreme Court decision. The lead attorney in the lawsuit to block the amendment had ties to Boss Madigan.

Back to the US Congress. Illinois’ Democratic delegation is lockstep behind House Bill 1, which if made into law, in the process of nationalizing local elections, will mandate independent committees, not state legislators, to take charge of the decennial remaps in all 50 states. But why aren’t Illinois 13 Democratic members of Congress decrying the current remap process here? Because they are phonies, that’s why. Just like Pritzker and Obama. 

The current remapping in Illinois is being performed behind closed doors by Democratic members of the General Assembly using preliminary Census data. Hey Pritzker! Are you aware of this news?

Yeah, I know, in 1990 Republicans drew gerrymandered districts. It was wrong then too.

On Fox Chicago’s Flannery Fired Up this weekend, state Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon) told the host, “We should draw fair, straightforward maps that use official [Census] data and give the people of Illinois a real choice in their elections so people are picking their elected officials and not the other way around.”

Tellingly, because Flannery strives to be fair, he had two Republicans on the gerrymandering segment of his program, but no Dems. I’m very confident that Flannery invited a Democrat to appear but they are either too ashamed to defend their non-transparent remapping–or they know it’s indefensible.

One more time for emphasis.

Six days before his election as governor a St. Louis NPR reporter, Jason Rosenbaum, asked Pritzker, “If you’re governor and they send you a map that is obvioulsy gerrymandered against Republicans would you veto it and why?”

Candidate Pritzker’s response? “I will not sign a bill that is gerrymandered,” adding, “I have been for independent maps for a long time.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs from Illinois at Marathon Pundit.

CDC now stands for Corrupt Democrat Cesspool

Since its founding the Centers for Disease Control was something extremely rare.  It was a government agency that actually functioned reasonably well.  Sadly that is no longer the case.  It is now a corrupt agency that cares more for being politically correct and spouting progressive ideology than science and medicine.  I am not exactly sure when the CDC began its decent but it most likely took place during the Obama Administration.  During that dark period the CIA, FBI, and NASA all became mobs of liberal political hacks.

It quickly became evident as the Coronavirus pandemic unfolded just how little the CDC now cares about medicine and science. The CDC has gone out of its way to embarrass itself with statements that contradict basic tenants of science and medicine.  I know I’m not the only one who noticed.  Check out this statement by Senator Tom Cotton:

The CDC is a thoroughly politicized agency. Most Americans disregard their advice on things like steaks and hamburgers and beers. Increasingly, they should disregard their advice when it comes to school reopenings. Schools need to be open. Schools have been open in Arkansas five days a week, in-person since last August, and it’s been largely fine. That’s been the case all across the country as well. We shouldn’t have a politicized public health bureaucracy like the CDC answering at the beck and call of the teachers’ unions. We need kids back in school, and back in real school, not sitting in a classroom doing a Zoom session with teachers who are not in the classroom. We need kids in schools with their teachers now

This New York Post article highlights one specific issue where the CDC really demonstrated how political it has become.

The American Federation of Teachers lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on, and even suggested language for, the federal agency’s school-reopening guidance released in February.

The powerful teachers union’s full-court press preceded the federal agency putting the brakes on a full re-opening of in-person classrooms, emails between top CDC, AFT and White House officials show.

The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust and provided to The Post.

The documents show a flurry of activity between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisors and union officials — with Biden brass being looped in at the White House — in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines.

Mask mandates are another issue that has demonstrated just how much the CDC has abandoned science in favor of the panic pushed by progressives.  Check out the National Review article CDC’s New Outdoor Mask Guidance Is a Joke

To be clear, the science was overwhelming last year that the risk of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 was low to non-existent. Anybody following the science should have never felt compelled to wear a mask outdoors during the pandemic.

Furthermore, somebody who is fully vaccinated is at minimal risk of catching COVID-19 indoors or outdoors. Earlier this month, the CDC itself reported that out of a universe of 66 million individuals who were vaccinated at the time, just 5,800 got the virus. That’s less than 1-in-10,000.

The idea that the CDC, even in loosening outdoor mask guidance, is still insisting that vaccinated people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings is completely unmoored from science or reason. This is a bungling agency that has made one mistake after another throughout the pandemic.

This Statement by Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota is almost the sort of statement the CDC should have issued if it still believed in science.

On Monday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “11th Hour,” Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and former adviser to President Biden’s transition team Dr. Michael Osterholm stated that if you’re fully vaccinated, “you can basically protect yourself and have all the kind of socialization that you want to do.”

[I]f you’re among vaccinated people, party hard, party hard. Invite people over to your house, do family-related things. But get vaccinated. If there was ever a time to want to incentivize people to get vaccinated, it’s now. Because if you do, you can basically protect yourself and have all the kind of socialization that you want to do.

We should be very afraid of the panic porn being pushed by the CDC.  It sets a dangerous precedence.  This article is a stark warning: Totalitarian Elites Want To Extend COVID-19 Lockdowns Forever For ‘Climate Change’

It’s financially unsustainable and morally untenable to involuntarily confine anybody — let alone healthy people — to their homes, and deprive them of opportunities to interact or earn a living. However, when halting what Greta Thunberg called “the fairy-tale of eternal economic growth” is the goal, lockdowns become an enticing tool for ending both capitalism and climate emissions

Report from Louisiana: Office Space

By: Pat Austin

I have been thinking a lot lately about workspaces. As I transition into retirement, leaving my classroom of twenty-five years, I have been moving some things home and setting up a new workspace in my house.

When I wrote my first book, I did it on my laptop sitting at an antique oak desk in front of a big picture window in my living room where I can look out at the neighborhood, watch the rain, and cars speeding down my residential street.  The desk belonged to my grandfather in a railroad office and the top is scarred and marked with various scratches, dents, and ink spills. I have never had the least interest in refinishing it; I love its character.

Working on my second book now, I feel like I want to do this one in a different space. I know, that makes no sense whatsoever, but the opportunity has just sort of developed organically. I’ve inherited a powerful desktop computer from my gamer-son, so I bought a nice, new monitor and have set up a new space.  This time my “desk” is a marble topped wrought iron table that used to be my breakfast table. My chair is an old classroom teacher chair that I brought home and covered in pages from To Kill a Mockingbird, slathered with ModPodge, and finished with several coats of polyurethane. The result is pretty cool.

Speaking of cool office spaces, there is a guy I follow on Instagram only for his beautiful shots of his writing space. I don’t know him, never met him, but I feel like we would be friends based on his workspace.  The sepia tints, the browns and earth tones create a casual, moody vibe. Most of his photographs have a cup of coffee in them; that’s his schtick, I guess. The pictures are cropped in a minimalist fashion, drawing your focus to one specific item in the picture. The focus might be his turntable with an album cover of a cool jazz recording sitting on top or a neat stack of music biographies. It just looks cool, and I enjoy checking out his feed each day.

I like my space where I write to be clear of clutter, except of course for my research. While writing Cane River Bohemia, I had stacks of books piled on the floor, piles of primary source material, letters, photocopies, my index card file, and a stack of USB drives, but it was all put away and organized at the end of the day.  But with my desk in the front, main room of the house, it was extremely difficult to concentrate. My family, as much as I love them, always walked by with a question about dinner, someone expressing their own boredom, my husband’s frequent “aww look at the cat!” statements, and the incessant television carrying on. I feel the need for a quieter space this time. In fact, I wrote all of Cane River Bohemia with headphones and my Writing playlist now that I think about it.

My new workspace isn’t perfect, and it isn’t complete. All I really want is a quiet space that is mine, and that is relatively free from clutter.  Will it help my writing? Probably not, but I’m having fun creating it, and isn’t that the point? It’s the journey, not the destination.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Review: Season 1 of Shadow and Bone

By John Ruberry

Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s there was the hope, egged on by the music media, that soon “the next Beatles” would arrive. The Bee Gees, Badfinger, and the Knack were among those acts who failed to match the hype. And no band could match the Beatles’ level because even when they were together they were already legends. 

In that same time period there were even more “next Bob Dylans” heralded.

No one can supercede a legend.

Late last month the first season of Shadow and Bone began streaming on Netflix. 

And many are wondering if Shadow and Bone is the next Game of Thrones

Short answer? No. Longer answer? Not even close. And as HBO’s Game of Thrones has entered the world of legend, Shadow and Bone doesn’t have a chance. 

Call me sadistic, but I knew in the first episode of GoT, “Winter Is Coming,” that here was a series that broke the mold when Jamie Lannister pushed young Bran Stark from a high window ledge so to hide his sexual relationship with his sister, Cersei.

With Shadow and Bone you are exposed to an eight-episode muddled mess. 

The show is based on a trilogy of high fantasy books by Leigh Bardugo, and there are elements from two of her other works thrown in too. To understand what is going on you it seems you have to read all of these books first. And I’ve read none of them.

“Students,” I can see a teacher announcing, “your assigment is to read five books and then, only then, watch Shadow and Bone.” Uh, no.

The alternate world of Shadow and Bone is largely based on Russia of the late 19th century. The costume designers make the most of it and they deserve an Emmy nomination for their efforts. Soldiers wear fur ushankas and papakhas. Women don ornate dresses, the heads of civilian males are often topped with bowlers. While GoT and Lord of the Rings is rooted in the Middle Ages of western Europe, viewers here find themselves in the Russia of the Industrial Revolution. There are guns and a train. But no sword battles.

Ravka (Russia) is in the center of the continent and it’s separated by the Fold, a thick cloud wall inhabited by human-eating volcra, who are a cross between griffins and pterodactyls. Spoiler alert: there are no dragons. The Fold was created years earlier by an evil grisha, that is, a magic maker of Ravka. Maybe I’m a dope but it wasn’t until the third episode that I ascertained that the grisha were magicians. They are particularly adept at fire-starting. The grishas make up one of two armies of Ravka.

The central character of Shadow and Bone is Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a woman in her late teens and a grisha who is half-Shu Han. The Shu Han nation, which we don’t encounter here, is the show’s version of China and they are enemies of Ravka. To the north is Fjerda, a stand-in for Scandinavia. We see the Fjerdans when they fight the Ravkans.

An orphan–just like Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins–Alina encounters racism because of her foreign looks. She has a puppy love relationship with a fellow orphan, military tracker Malyen “Mal” Oretsev (Archie Renaux), they’ve known each other since childhood. Alina is a mapmaker for the First Army, the non-magical one–and man oh man, could viewers use a decent map here to get a grip on the geography of Shadow and Bone. Only one is briefly shown. More time is devoted to Alina burning maps.

We quickly learn that Alina, like Harry Potter, is a Chosen One. The revelation brings her to a grisha leader, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), and the capital city of Ravka, where she meets the king, who looks a lot like Czar Alexander III. Alina is declared a Sun Summoner, that’s a really big deal you see, and then begins her training to fully utilize her powers.

Word spreads about Alina–all the way to the island nation of Kerch–which is Shadow and Bone’s version of the Netherlands, complete with its largest city, hedonistic Ketterdam, which parallels another city. Do I really need to spell out which one? We meet three underworld characters there, Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) who leave Ketterdam to kidnap Alina for a one-million kruge reward. The three criminals have an intriguing dynamic and they are more captivating characters than Alina and Mal. 

If you like elaborate clothes, eye-catching special effects, and being transporated to an alternative yet familiar civilization, then Shadow and Bone could be for you. But if you expect fully-developed characters and a coherent plot line, then stay away. 

If magic and the 19th-century interests you then instead I recommend streaming Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on Amazon. In this series, among other things, the Duke of Wellington is aided by a magician to fight the French during the Napoleonic Wars. 

As for the grisha–if they are so powerful how come they are captured with relative ease?

Shadow and Bone is rated TV-14 for violence, adult situations, and brief nudity.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Texas and Florida are proof that Coronavirus lockdowns and mask mandates are all about forced obedience rather than public health

I so long for a time when I no longer see everyone’s faces shrouded by a hideous mask.  It is so dehumanizing to me.  We were told that mask mandates were absolutely necessary for the safety of everyone.  There are a great many articles published that demonstrate that the science behind masking is nonexistence yet we are forced to wear a face diaper or be slapped with a fine.  Here in Massachusetts we have been forced to wear masks outdoors, at all times if we leave our homes, or face a $300 fine.  Thankfully that silliness ends on April 29th.  We will still be forced to wear masks if we want to enter any public establishment such as a store or restaurant. 

For the second year in a row the Boston Marathon was canceled along with so many other fun events.  Tomorrow restaurants and most other business will be allowed to open at 25 percent capacity instead of just the current 12 percent.  The few that remain will be happy for those few extra crumbs from Governor Charlie Baker.  On August 1st we may finally get our lives back to normal, if Emperor Baker thinks we have behaved ourselves enough.

Data from the few states that have fully relaxed all lockdown and mask restrictions poved that none of these restrictions were helpful in the slightest and should have been done away with a long time ago.  Governor Baker should read this Breitbart article.  If he did he we would see that there is no harm in lifting restrictions immediately.  The people would benefit so greatly economically and mentally because their full freedom would be restored.

According to the CDC’s April 23 data, Michigan reported 449.2 cases of the virus per 100,000, or 44,862 total, in the last seven days. Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) Pennsylvania has reported 239.6 cases per 100,000 in the last seven days, or 30,678 total.

CDC data separates New York City from the rest of the state in its reporting of new virus case data. Even so, New York City alone has reported 208.1 new cases per 100,000 in the last seven days, or 17,475 cases total. The remainder of the state has reported 191.9 cases per 100,000, or 21,213 cases in the last seven days. Together, the state has reported 38,688 new cases in the last seven days.

All three blue states, which have mask mandates in place, are reporting a higher number of new cases per capita than both Texas and Florida, which remain open and have no mask mandates in place.

Texas reported 70.3 cases per 100,000 in the last seven days, or 20,374 total, while Florida has reported 195.5 cases per 100,000, or 41,993 total, in the same time frame.

This Mises Institute article contains very similar data.

Early last month, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced he would end the state’s mask mandate and allow most businesses to function at 100 percent capacity. The response from the corporate media and the Left was predictable. California governor Gavin Newsom declared the move “absolutely reckless.” Beto O’Rourke called the GOP a “cult of death.” Joe Biden called the move “Neanderthal thinking.”

Yet in recent weeks, these predictions about Texas’s fate have proven to be spectacularly wrong. Moreover, many of the states with the worst growth in covid cases—and the worst track records in overall death counts—have been states that have had some of the harshest lockdowns. 

In New Jersey, for example, where lockdowns have been long and harsh, case growth is nearly four times what it is in Texas. And then there are Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maine, and New York, all of which have new case growth rates of more than double what’s going on Texas.

Moreover, Florida’s covid-19 overall outbreak has been far less deadly than those in the states that embraced lockdowns long and hard. New Jersey, for example, has the worst covid death rate in the nation at 2,838 per million as of April 20. Right behind are New York and Massachusetts with total deaths per million at 2,672 and 2,537, respectively.

Florida, on the other hand, is twenty-eighth in the nation in terms of covid deaths, at 1,608. Texas has total deaths per million at 1,721.

This Federalist Article contains a wealth of information about just how unnecessary all of the lockdowns and mask mandates were because the panic over the Coronavirus was so overblown.

These irrational fears are manufactured. They’re instilled by folks like Anthony Fauci, who said just last week that “No, it’s still not OK,” when asked whether vaccinated or unvaccinated Americans should be eating and drinking inside at restaurants and bars. Infection counts are still “disturbingly high,” he said, again fueling the fire of illogical  COVID terror.

“Even after you’re vaccinated, social distancing, wearing masks are going to be essential,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki warned in February. Meanwhile, corporations and the federal government are teaming up to make you prove you’re not unclean with a “vaccine passport” so you don’t pose an existential threat to your fellow citizens, blue-state leaders and bureaucrats are double-masking even after they’re vaccinated and saying “it is possible” we’ll still be wearing face masks in 2022, and Biden’s COVID adviser is saying the pandemic in the United States is still a “Category 5 hurricane” even after millions of Americans have been inoculated

Report from Louisiana: Loose Thoughts

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT:  Random thoughts and observations today.

Help Wanted.  Have you noticed that nobody wants to work anymore? I mean, with this extended unemployment and the stimulus rollouts, the restaurants and shops around here are all begging for help. Almost everywhere you go there are help wanted signs. We went to a Mexican restaurant after church today and the first thing the hostess told us was “we are short of servers today – nobody wants to work…”.  It’s crazy.  I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond later: also help wanted signs. They’re everywhere.  If you want a part-time job, this might be a really good time to find one. I’m thinking about it! I’m retiring from teaching in less than a month; a little side-hustle might not be a bad thing.

What? Retiring?!  Yes, after twenty-five years, I am done. As of May 28, I’ll be officially retired. Mentally, I’m already there. We took our end of course tests last week – six weeks early because the State was concerned about quarantines. So mentally, the students are done, too; they think, why bother? We took the test already.

To be honest, I’d love to have gone five more years and retire at 30 years; it is about a $300 a month pay cut for me to go now (thus, the side-hustle), but I can mentally no longer battle kids with cellphones, TikTok, terrible curriculum, and apathy. I. Just. Can’t. 

My husband has been retired from the police department for several years and he is bored senseless. I don’t think I’ll have that problem: I’m looking forward to time for writing, doing another book, a million and five home projects, working in the yard, and traveling. But, maybe I’ll tire of all that, too. He doesn’t really have many hobbies and I think it is important to keep busy. We will see. 

But, yeah: twenty-four more days of school. Do it.

Seacor Power Tragedy: President Donald Trump has donated 10K to the United Cajun Navy to help search and rescue efforts in the Seacor Power tragedy.

United Cajun Navy founder Todd Terrell confirmed Friday that the former president made a hefty donation toward the rescue efforts of the seven men who are still missing from the Seacor Power crew.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended their search for the missing crew members on Monday at sunset. At that time, officials said they do not expect to find more survivors from the vessel.

Officials spent several days searching for the missing workers from the oil industry lift boat Seacor Power, which capsized on April 13 during a fierce storm in the Gulf of Mexico south of Port Fourchon. Six of the 19 workers on the boat were rescued within hours of the wreck; five more bodies were found in the water.

This has been a terrible tragedy and so devastating to watch and hear from these families. Heartbreaking.

Kudos to President Trump.  Thank you.

Y’all have a good week!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.