Monthly Archives: January 2014

To Kill A Mockingbird

Genre: Fiction

I know it’s crazy, but somehow I made it all the way through high school and college without ever reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. As someone who teaches English (writing), I felt it was my responsibility to have read this book, so I have spent the last two weeks doing so. Two weeks is a long time for a book of this length, I know, but with the new school semester starting, it was the best I could do.

To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of a small Alabama town in the 1930s. The story is told through the eyes of an 8-year-old girl (Scout) whose father (Atticus Finch) was asked to defend a man in a rape trial. This trial was of great significance because the case involved a white girl accusing a black man of assaulting her. In the 1930s in Alabama, this was a dangerous place for a black man to find himself, and the whole situation causes a rift through the town that our young narrator just can’t understand.

This story gives a great snapshot of the time period in which it takes place. Growing up, in school, we hear all kinds of stories about the prejudices that existed during this period of our country’s history. The quality Lee adds to these stories, a human quality, makes the tragedy more real, causing readers to sympathize with the characters going through these hardships. Like Scout, we approach the situation from an angle where all men are supposed to be treated equally, regardless of their upbringing or skin color. Therefore, it is difficult for us to comprehend the uproar caused by Atticus choosing to defend his client, like a lawyer should.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a great literary piece for showing the audience the way things were and why it is good that times have changed. In my opinion, the book is a bit slow to get started, and some sections of the story seem to wander a bit. That being said, I understand why this book has been such a big deal since it was originally published.


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Seeking Salvation

Marcus leaned casually against the doorframe as he waited just inside the back door of the church, jingling the coins in his pocket, doing his best to appear cool and disinterested. At least, as cool and disinterested as a twelve-year-old could manage. Jimmy was late as usual. It wasn’t really his fault though. Mr. Floyd had never been great about being on time going anywhere. Marcus wasn’t worried. He’d show up soon enough. He always did.

Marcus rubbed the coins in his pocket together between his thumb and forefinger. His father had given him fifty cents that morning before dropping him off at the door. Marcus figured it would be just enough for…

His thoughts were interrupted by the pounding of footsteps down the hall. Two sets: one pounding with a steady, heavy thud; the other scurrying lightly ahead. Marcus craned his neck slightly to see Jimmy and his father coming his direction.

“That money’s for the offering box, Jimmy,” Mr. Floyd was yelling after his son. “I find out anything else happened to it and I’m gonna beat your ass. You hear me? That goes for you too, Marone.” Mr. Floyd pointed an accusatory finger in Marcus’ direction with his final statement.

“Ah, come on, Mr. Floyd,” Marcus said, putting on his best airs of I don’t know what you’re talking about. “What do you take me for? What kind of boy would I have to be to steal from the church?”

“You two may have your mothers fooled, but don’t think your pop and I don’t know what’s going on. Don’t think neither of us have noticed those absences on your grade cards from Catechism class. Now get yourselves to class!”

“Yes, sir,” the boys responded. Marcus grabbed Jimmy around the upper arm and nearly had to drag him through the set of double doors leading into the classrooms that occupied the back side of the church. But Marcus didn’t take more than two steps inside the door before stopping and checking that the coast was clear. Mr. Floyd may have been right about his pop knowing what was going on – it was true his pop wasn’t half as easy to fool about missing attendances on his Sunday school glade card as his mom was, his pop didn’t trust him like his mom did – but as long as he still hadn’t been caught, he was sticking to his plan.

“Aw, come on, Marcus,” Jimmy pleaded when he saw Marcus scouting the area. “One day of Sunday school ain’t gonna kill us. Maybe we should just go to class for a while ‘til my pop calms down. I think he’s serious about beating me, ya know. He and my mom decided to quiz me the other day, just to make sure I wasn’t gonna embarrass them or nothing during the Confirmation ceremony, and I screwed up real bad.”

Marcus just snorted offhandedly at Jimmy’s concern. “They probably just asked you some impossible question to make their point. They’re trying to scare you into being good. What’d they ask you anyway?”

Jimmy lowered his head, his cheeks turning red before he even spoke. “They asked me to name the Trinity,” he said, shame coloring his voice. “I didn’t know what the answer was and I just got to stuttering and nothing else would come out.”

Marcus stared at his friend in disbelief. “Damn, Jimmy! How stupid can you be?

Jimmy cringed at Marcus’ reply. “I just got nervous, that’s all,” he said in his own defense. “Besides, you shouldn’t be swearing in the church. You’re gonna go to Hell or something.”

Marcus rolled his eyes. It was going to take a lot more to get him into Hell than just swearing. But he didn’t feel like talking about that with Jimmy. “How much did they give ya?” he asked instead, changing the subject.

“Fifty cents,” Jimmy said. “But it’s supposed to go to the offering, Marcus. My pop told me—“

Marcus cut him off, throwing his arm around Jimmy’s shoulder as he spoke. “Are you really that afraid of your old man?” he challenged. “They don’t know what we’re up to. They’re just trying to scare us. Trust me. They ain’t got a clue. If they did, they wouldn’t have left us alone down here in the first place. You and me are getting out of this scot free, you just watch.”

Marcus let go of Jimmy and gently pushed the door that led back into the hallway open just enough to peek through. Mr. Floyd was no longer out there. The coast was clear. Perfect.

The boys had discovered a brief pocket in the time that it too for their pops to get to the adult Bible study and the start of their own Sunday school class. It didn’t always work out, but when it did, the boys had just enough time to slip out the back door of the church without having to worry about being noticed.

Marcus turned back to Jimmy.

“If we’re gonna do this, we got to go now. If we don’t leave before Father Walters shows up, you know we’re done for. Now, come on.”  He grabbed Jimmy’s arm and pulled him out of the building into the half full parking lot.

“I guess you’re right,” Jimmy said, shaking free of his friend. “Who needs Sunday school anyways. I don’t remember Jesus saying nothing about it. So where we headed?”

Marcus couldn’t help but think maybe Jimmy should be going to class after all. Did he not listen to anything each week during mass? But he decided not to say anything. He didn’t want Jimmy’s ignorance to ruin the morning he had planned. “I was thinking we should go pay Mr. Potter a visit down at the bakery. I figure fifty cents each is enough to get us both a jelly doughnut and a cup of coffee. We could have ourselves a snack and be back to the church before our pops show up to take us back home. It’ll be good.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Jimmy said. So the two of them set off in the direction of Potter’s Bakery.

Marcus and Jimmy had discovered during the last year that skipping Sunday school was a lot easier than it should have been, and there were so many things around town that they could do during the hour they were supposed to be in class. Two weeks ago they had gone down to the high school football field and practiced for their upcoming Pop Warner game (which they won). One time last month they had ventured all the way down to the river and looked out at the city skyline rising up toward the sky on the opposite side. As they sat there, Marcus couldn’t help but feel he was going to be somebody important one day and have a fancy job in a building just like those.

Even with all the fun they had, Jimmy still needed to be coaxed week after week to continue skipping. The first couple of times it had been new and exciting. Both of the boys had jumped at the opportunity for just an hour of freedom with no one telling them what to do. But now that newness was starting to wear off and Jimmy was starting to wimp out as the possibility of getting caught was becoming more likely. Marcus felt it was his duty to remind Jimmy every week that the neighborhood was much more interesting than the possibility of getting caught was likely. There was no way for their pops to really figure out what they were doing. Sunday school was at the same time as the men’s Bible study group that their mothers insisted their fathers attend. Every Sunday after mass, the men and boys went to Sunday school while the mothers and sisters went home to cook Sunday dinner. For some reason the women felt the men needed to be asking for a lot more forgiveness than they did.

It took the boys ten minutes to reach the bakery. The bakery was just a few blocks from the church, but the boys took their time getting there, walking at a leisurely pace, soaking in the crisp autumn air. Once they reached their destination, they pushed the door open, a bell announcing their arrival to Mr. Potter. He turned to face them as they approached the counter.

Marcus strutted up to the counter, exuding his best airs of importance. “I’ll take a strawberry filled jelly doughnut and a cup of coffee, black,” Marcus said as he put his coins down on the counter. “And my friend here will have the same.”

“Well if it ain’t Marone and Floyd,” Mr. Potter said, shaking his head. “I know you’re not supposed to be here this time of day on a Sunday. Your pops are gonna beat you if they find you in here.”

“Ain’t gonna happen, Mr. Potter,” Marcus said. “See, my pop sent me down here this morning ‘cause my mom didn’t have time to make me breakfast. She’s too busy cooking for all the family coming over for dinner today.”

“You’re lying through your teeth, boy,” Mr. Potter said with a chuckle. “You boys go sit down. I’ll get you your coffee and jelly doughnuts.”

Marcus and Jimmy sat down at a booth far from the window. They decided that even though they weren’t at any risk of getting caught, it would be best not to advertise their presence by sitting next to the window. Just in case.

“What if he turns us in?” Jimmy asked Marcus in a nervous whisper after they had been given their coffee and doughnuts.

“Don’t worry about it,” Marcus informed him. “Mr. Potter’s a good man. He won’t turn us in. Besides,” he added with an air of smugness, “he owes me a favor.”

Though Marcus knew Jimmy wouldn’t believe he actually had a deal with the baker, he saw his friend relax a bit all the same. For the first time that morning, they were able to start enjoying themselves.

As they continued to make their way through their doughnuts and coffee, the boys grew louder and more outspoken with their surroundings. In here, for the time being, they didn’t have to be boys, they could be men. They puffed out their chests and sat tall in their seats, working to disguise their preadolescence while only accentuating it. Here they could curse if they wanted to and not get in trouble. They could whistle at the women who came through the bakery getting bread at cakes for their families in a way they thought was charming, not harassing. They continued to sip their coffee in the way grown-ups did, as if they didn’t even notice the bitter taste, unmuted by cream or sugar.

Lost in their game of playing adults, the boys had no reason to be alerted by the bell that announced the arrival of two new customers. It was another thirty seconds before Jimmy looked up to see the backs of two broad figures sit down at the counter. He froze mid-whistle.

Marcus watched the color drain from Jimmy’s face. “What the hell’s the matter with you? You look like you seen a ghost.”

“P-p-p-p-p” was all that Jimmy could manage to stutter as he pointed past Marcus toward the figures at the counter.

Marcus turned in his seat to see what had gotten Jimmy all tongue-tied. When his eyes fell on the two men, it only took seconds for his face to turn as white as Jimmy’s. He sunk low into his seat, hoping to avoid being spotted. But it was too late. Jimmy’s sputtering had already attracted the men’s attention.

Mr. Floyd and Mr. Marone stood up from the counter and walked over to the booth where their sons were cowering against their seats. Marcus caught a glimpse of the expression on his pop’s face and found himself wondering if that was what Hell might look like.

“Jimmy,” Mr. Floyd said.

Jimmy stuttered in response, unable to form real words.

“Marcus,” Mr. Marone said.

Marcus tried to be strong, tried to stand up for himself. He didn’t like getting pushed around. He was going to face his pop man to man.

“Hey, Pop,” he squeaked in a voice that suddenly sounded very much like a little boy’s.

All manner of civility dissipated as Mr. Floyd’s rage surfaced. He grabbed Jimmy by the back of his collar and dragged him outside, turned the corner, and headed in the direction of the church. Marcus had no time to feel sorry for his friend because his pop’s hand was wrapped around his ear before he had time to process what had happened to Jimmy. Marcus screamed as he was pulled through the bakery and into his pop’s car which was waiting for them on the side of the street. As he was pulled out the door, he saw Mr. Potter laugh at the scene that was taking place in his shop.

Bastard, Marcus thought as he watched the man’s amusement at his suffering. This would be the last time he ever trusted Potter.

After throwing Marcus into the passenger seat of the car and slamming the door shut behind him, Mr. Marone got behind the wheel and started the engine. Marcus’ father didn’t say a word as he pulled out onto the street. He didn’t even look at Marcus; his eyes were focused past the windshield with a look Marcus recognized all too well. It was the look that meant is pop was pissed. The look that meant he wasn’t looking at him because he couldn’t because if he did, he just might kill him. Any eye contact at this point would be a death sentence, so Marcus kept his head down, staring at the floorboards as he and his pop rode in silence. Once or twice, Marcus risked looking over at Mr. Marone, trying to get some read off of him to gauge just how much trouble he was in, but his pop was staring straight at the road, his face set in a deep, unchanging frown. Marcus could tell he was concentrating hard on whatever it was that was going through his mind, but Marcus was too afraid to ask what it might be. Therefore, the silence was left unbroken and Marcus’ mind was left to wonder about the many punishments his pop might be coming up with to be carried out once they arrived home.

It seemed like ages before they pulled into the drive. Mr. Marone turned off the engine but didn’t move to get out of the car. He just sat there, his eyes staying fixed on the windshield. Marcus kept his head down, unsure what was going to happen next. He could feel the tension between him and his pop so thick he could hardly swallow. The silence, now magnified by the stillness of the car motor, pressed down on Marcus for a few moments longer before it was finally broken by Mr. Marone.

Without taking his eyes from the windshield, Mr. Marone said, “This is the way it’s gonna be. As long as you keep quiet about what happened today, I will save your mom the embarrassment of know what you did. Capice?

Marcus raised his gaze to stare at the side of his pop’s face, a look of confusion spread over his face. Really? That was it? No death sentence? No punishment at all? Was he really going to get off that easy? This had to be a trick.

It wasn’t until Marcus’ mom stepped out onto the stoop to shout at them, “Tommy, Marcus, what are you doing back so early? Did your classes get cut short” that Marcus realized what had actually happened that day. His pop never should have been able to catch him at Potter’s Bakery because while he was skipping Sunday school Mr. Marone was supposed to have been in the men’s Bible study class. Which could only mean Mr. Marone had been caught skipping church too. But as long as he was willing and able to keep his mouth shut, Marcus and his pop would both be able to walk away from this situation scot free.

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The Fault in Our Stars

Genre: Fiction

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green was given to me this Christmas. I had seen the book in the store, but I hadn’t heard anything about it. I sat down to read not knowing what I was getting myself into, which, I feel, is sometimes the best way to start a book. I liked this book, though to get through it, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to find yourself upset with how unfair life can be sometimes.

This story is narrated by 16-year-old Hazel Lancaster, a girl who has already outlived her life expectancy with terminal cancer. During a support group session for teens with cancer, she meets Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old boy who Hazel just can’t resist. See yet how it’s going to have you upset? But despite their situation, or maybe because of it, Hazel and Augustus form a bond that only they could.

Things I like about this book: The romance, Hazel’s very teenagery tone of narration, the sense of reality that exists throughout it. Things almost never turn out the way we want them to. This is something we all have to learn to live with, whether we like it or not.

The things I disliked were mostly picky things. At times, our narrator sounds like a boy instead of a girl, probably due to the fact that she was created by a man. The pacing of the relationship seems a bit off, though since this isn’t the main point of the book, I understand that the development of the relationship isn’t what’s focused on.

The Fault in Our Stars is scheduled to be released as a film in June 2014. I will be interested to see this adaptation. As for the novel, I would recommend it, but I would warn readers not to focus too much on the details; being too picky and hyper aware of things can make the whole novel seem a bit off. The overall image the book leaves you with, though, is worth the quick read.

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96X Winter Meltdown

The 96x Winter Meltdown is one of those shows that some years sounds really fun and other years sounds really boring. Luckily, this year was one of the fun ones. The line up this year included MS MR, The 1975, New Politics, The Neighbourhood, Capital Cities, and (the main reason I went to the show) Fall Out Boy. Unfortunately, The 1975 got snowed in and couldn’t make it to the show. Instead, their time slot was filled by a Chesapeake-based band called The Last Bison. In all, I had a great time at the show. It was high energy and had the crowd on their feet singing along. Some bands were better than others, which is to be expected. Some completely rocked out, while others I just had to suffer through to get to the good parts.

MS MR 12-12-13

MS MR 12-12-13

MS MR was the first band to take the stage. In all honesty, their current single, Hurricane, has never been a favorite of mine. They are a relatively new band, and it kind of shows in their performance. They were exciting to watch for about the first song. After that, I lost interest. But again, They’ve never been a favorite of mine.

The Last Bison
The Last Bison was the step-in-at-the-last-minute band. It was awesome of them to be willing to fill in when The 1975 couldn’t get to town. As a local band, they had a huge fan base in the crowd, which made their performance a bit special; there’s nothing quite like performing for the home crowd.

The Last Bison 12-12-13

The Last Bison 12-12-13

They are a band that, on the radio, are okay to listen to. I think my main problem with this band is the fact that they have one song, Switzerlandthat 96x plays over and over again. As a result, it’s grown a bit old. However, I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed listening to the other music they played. I enjoyed it so much, that I didn’t even mind when Switzerland came up on their set. In fact, I even sang along. My overall opinion of The Last Bison: they put on a great show and were really fun to watch.

New Politics
After The Last Bison finished their set, New Politics took the stage. New Politics

New Politics 12-12-13

New Politics 12-12-13

New Politicsdefinitely knows how to put on a high energy show. The band was great at getting the audience involved and actually performing for the crowd. Their lead singer even took a break from singing to put on a break dancing routine (oh the core muscles that man must have!). Needless to say, I was impressed. My liking their performance was probably in part influenced by the fact that I’m kind of in love with their current single, Harlem. As someone who grew up on pop-punk music, this song has just enough of that punk feel in a time when punk is slowly fading, that I can’t help but love it because it reminds me of the good old days.

The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood 12-12-13

The Neighbourhood 12-12-13

I was so pumped after New Politics left the stage, and then came the buzz kill. The Neighbourhood is one of my least favorite bands out at the moment. Their song Sweater Weather was easy enough to ignore at first, but after it was played on the radio 15,000 times a day, I got to the point I change the station every time it comes on. I also thought they were the worst performers of the night. It might have been poor sound management. The bass was turned up so loud it was all I could hear. I spent their entire 45 minute set with my fingers in my ears, trying to keep them from bleeding. However, I will say that others seemed to enjoy the performance much more than I did. When the band first took the stage, the girls around me started swooning, calling out, “Jesse!” in hopes that the lead singer would notice them. It’d been a long time since I was around such a large crowd of fangirls (probably since I went to a concert on the Backstreet Boys Millennium tour). All I could do was shrug my shoulders and think, “Who knew?”

Capital Cities
Once The Neighbourhood’s set finally ended, Capital Cities took to the stage. If you’ve never heard their song Safe and Sound, I suggest you do so. This band is high energy, fun, and great at putting on a show. One thing I really enjoyed about their performance was that they were really good at getting the audience involved. The final 10 minutes of their 45 minute set pretty much turned into a giant dance party. It was great. Capital Cities came in number two for my favorite performances for the night.

Capital Cities 12-12-13

Capital Cities 12-12-13

Fall Out Boy
Nothing against the other bands, but as the main even for the night, and by far my favorite, Fall Out Boy was absolutely amazing! This was the band I went to this concert to see. At the moment, I’m a bit obsessed with their new album Save Rock and Roll. But I’ve been a fan of Fall Out Boy since Take This to Your Grave. Now it was my turn to freak out like a little fangirl. This was the first time I had ever seen Fall Out Boy perform, and they did not disappoint. And the best part… I was in the very front. Which is important for someone who’s only 5 feet tall and usually can’t see over everybody else. And though I had already been standing in a hot and sweaty crowd for 5 hours by time they took the stage, I had no problem getting into the mood of the music. It’s funny that you can always tell the veteran bands at a live show. They’re the ones who have got all the kinks out, everything runs smoothly and sounds excellent, and they’re the ones who really know how to perform.

FOB JoeFOB PatrickWP_000903


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