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The Smoke Signal

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Smoke Signal

Mission San Jose High School Est. 1964 Vol. 45, No. 2 | October 30, 2009

Just

The Importance of Being Scary

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41717 Palm Ave. Fremont, CA 94539 (510) 657-3600 Editors-in-Chief Hannah Scobel, Jerry Ting

News Megan Bernstein, Sargunjot Kaur Opinion Rebecca Gao, Jane Wang Feature Alissa Gwynn, Sonya John Centerspread Karen Lin, Tina Tseng A&E Niku Jafarnia, Cynthia Kang Sports Joseph Teng, Anthony Wu Graphics Elisa Ting, Albert Yuan Web Christine Cheng, Tanu Patel Tech Roger Chen, Raymond Zhong Ads Gurleen Chadha, Jamie Lin Business Henna Jethani Circulation Anastassia Tselikova Events Michelle Chu, Hannie Dong with Michael Feuerman

Writers & Photographers Rishi Das,

Chelsea Dass, Sonia Dhawan, Rebecca Dutta, Matthew Farberov, Amisha Gandhi, Matthew Gosen, Sloka Gundala, Grace Han, Arthur Jeng, Ravneet Kaur, Mary Lan, Sarah Li, Aileen Lu, Megan McLaughlin, Mekala Neelakantan, Amit Patankar, Diya Roy, Justin Sha, Ginger Werner, Audrey Wu, Joy Xu, Vishal Yadav, Stephenie Yuan, Cassie Zhang

Adviser Sandra Cohen Send letters to the editor to opinion@the smokesignal.org. Letters under 300 words may be considered for publication and must include a full name and school affiliation. The Smoke Signal reserves the right to edit for clarity and length.

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Beccause

By Rebecca Gao Opinion Edtor

These days, it’s not enough just to be earnest; we have to be mildly frightening as well. An odd thought, considering our upbringing. Since kindergarten, playing “nice” has been etched and ingrained into our mindsets and, fortunately or not, remains somewhat immutable. But, as we learn a bit more about reality along the way, we realize that situations are almost never black and white. For example, intimidation can be seen as a means to an end, although I am not referring to intimidation in the connotation of terrifying someone senseless for their lunch money - of course not. Instead, the new perception of “scary” is as a way of inducing awe and amazement, perhaps even a mild version of respect. Consider someone who is “scary smart,” setting the curves on all the chemistry tests; “scary fast,” running under a five-minute mile; or “scary good” at a given activity. Admittedly, we could dismiss someone as “scary ugly” or similar as well, but, in general, “scary” has metamorphosed into a reference to the bizarre or preternatural rather than the truly horrific. They might enjoy a unique flair for a trait or quality we aspire to possess, and we are intimidated by their ability, both breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Having spent hours cramming for a calculus test, we observe the genius waltzing in the day of and acing it, which naturally inspires a venerating wonderment. And a bit of fear and self-loathing. But respect does partially stem from fear. Throughout history,

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Opinion 5

InJanenious Hours, anyone?

By Jane Wang those powerful enough to influence and astonish others are afforded the admiration we define as respect. The list ranges from Charlemagne to Simon Cowell – think of the grudging respect Simon garners despite the thousands of trembling, knockkneed contestants he’s scorched. On an interesting note, ever notice that the person normally the nicest, quietest, and most disarmingly cheerful is also the scariest when genuinely angry? Following the shocked aftermath of when he or she finally erupts in a Vesuvianworthy outburst, note how others suddenly behave differently around said person. Intriguing, no? As this anecdote demonstrates, when the occasion calls, we do have to take the initiative and the reigns. Even “faultless” Obama has been rebuked for shying away from a “watch it, buster” attitude in Congress, leading to this befuddled mess of a healthcare plan and relative inaction of his administration. While his courteous diplomacy is a much needed reprieve following the Bush-era’s gung-ho posturing, Obama needs to make lobbyists wary of the consequences of crossing the line. Sometimes, standing up for ourselves requires a personal lesson on our own dignity. So, tomorrow, remember to don a ghastly, terrifyingly macabre costume. Scaring our friends may not earn us respect (to the contrary really), but it certainly allows us an equally alluring prospect: for just one night, we’re no longer the ones afraid. ▪ Send letters to the editor to opinion@thesmokesignal.org

RECOMMENDATIONS Overload continued from page 1 crete out of the whole process: the chance of acceptance. What do our beloved teachers who put in just as many, if not more, hours than us get? Nothing really, except maybe personal satisfaction for having helped a student in yet another way. It is also important to note another chief reason why students should not be applying to so many private schools. MSJ counselors have emphasized that most colleges under the Common Application have the ability to access information about where else a student is applying to. According to CollegeBoard, upon seeing a massive list of other schools, the student’s chances of getting into any one of those schools automatically decreases. This is because schools gain prestige and rise in ranking by rejecting more applicants, and they realize that if they were to accept a student who applied to fifteen other colleges, the chances of that kid picking their college is very low. By limiting the number of letters of recommendation that can be requested, teachers and counselors are also

encouraging students to begin making decisions about where they could see themselves next year. This way, they will have to look deeper into a college instead of simply applying to it because it would make them look smart should they get in. As application season wanes and decision season blows through, all of the colleges send out their acceptance and rejection letters and many students are faced with a choice of over ten schools. If limiting the number of letters of recommendation that a student can have causes this applicant to research schools more closely and begin making tough decisions beforehand, then all of the stress of doing this won’t be pushed to the last minute. While application season occurs only a few times in a

Staff Writer Mary Lan

student’s life, as we sit back and let out a sigh of relief once our letters are all sent away, our teachers remain buried in work. The same ones who have already done so much for us, anticipating the numbing chill of yet another application season in just a few short months. ▪

Opinion Editor

Ask any 10 students on campus whether they’d like to volunteer at the homeless shelter this weekend. Now repeat the procedure, but throw in the words “service hours” (and perhaps “college” for good effect). Both you and I would be fooling ourselves if we believed for a second that more heads would swivel in the first sampling. In MSJ’s fiercely academic climate, the majority of us fall easy prey to the very phenomenon that we’ve come to define as success - that is, college admittance - so much so that our love of outreach and community falls really flat alongside our massive worship of colleges and universities. Though MSJ requires every student to complete 40 hours of community service upon graduation, even the greenest freshman makes himself acutely aware that many of his peers have gone far and above the posted requirement, trekking great distances to feed orphans in Tibet, clothe homeless in India, build houses in Guatemala, oftentimes with the not-so magnanimous thought of college hovering above their heads. Let’s now take a moment to let the irony of such a concept whip around and boomerang us in the back. By capitalizing on the spirit of charity to serve our own purposes, we have completely undermined the ideology behind service, which is, as many seem to have forgotten, to offer our own time and talents for the good of others. How interesting that MSJ tends

to contribute least to the annual district canned food drive. Last year, canned food donations only increased after ASB threatened a $25 fine on each club that failed to donate five cans. We might feel a little taken aback and quite disheartened to consider that the wealthiest school in the FUSD manages to retract its hands every time the offering plate comes around. Some would argue that perhaps the ends justify the means. Volunteerism is volunteerism, and regardless of whether an individual harbors true altruistic intent, someone somewhere benefits from the “goodwill” of another. By this logic, however, we would be rearing a generation, which, as part of a publicity campaign, might journey 10,000 miles to pay homage to malnourished orphans in Africa and yet can’t see fit to help their blind neighbor next door cross the street. Sincerity matters, and as we ourselves like to say, “It’s the thought that counts.” Granted, not every MSJ student merits the accusation of disingenuity. There will always be those selfless individuals who offer their generosity and leave with nothing but a sense of fulfillment, but theirs is a swiftly dying species. The next time you’re shelving books at the library, discharging a patient at Washington Hospital, or looking over the blueprints of that house in Guatemala, take care to remember what you are, or rather, aren’t doing it for. ▪ Send letters to the editor to opinion@thesmokesignal.org


Opinion 6

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Get Shot - Live Longer By Megan McLaughlin Staff Writer

Swine flu, or H1N1, has been infecting people since last spring, so it’s no longer “hot news.” We all know about quarantine dormitories at colleges and schools closing for a week or more after a student contracted the flu. Maybe you even wished MSJ would close for decontamination—I know I did. But our school stayed open and mostly flu-free, and swine flu vaccinations were scheduled to begin next month, with support from major government organizations. The White House has actually made a very smart decision with the push for vaccinations. However, like most things our government is involved in, the vaccine is the subject of countless rumors. Don’t worry though, the ingredients don’t include diseased monkey flesh, and neither is swine flu a government conspiracy. Even though the FDA did expedite approval of the vaccine, it is safe. They use the

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same accelerated process for seasonal flu vaccines, which do not protect against H1N1. Likewise, an H1N1 vaccine won’t help against the seasonal flu. The biggest issue here isn’t when the vaccine will be available, or even how many doses will be available, but how many people will get off the couch and get the vaccine. The number of vaccinations distributed will impact communities across the country, in-

Dear Editor, Two summers ago, thanks to my students, I “discovered” YouTube. I found all kinds of cool stuff I planned to show in class - famous and not so famous speeches, short documentaries, snippets from movies and television, inspirational music and creative student-made videos. But when I tried to show them in school, I couldn’t. The Fremont Unified School District blocks YouTube access – even to teachers. Surely, I thought, there has to be a way around this! For over two years, there wasn’t. Frustrated, last May I went to the school board and whined. When I didn’t get much action, I went to the September 30th Board meeting and griped some more. Now, thanks to the support of Mr. Boegman, Maile Ferreira (our new librarian), and a bunch of frustrated teachers and loyal students, it looks like the School Board will vote to allow teachers to have YouTube access. Those of us who want it will be given a password. The fight wasn’t just about YouTube, though. We were fighting for respect and trust. We were fighting against unreasonable policy and unwarranted censorship. And we were fighting the perception that a bad rule can’t be changed. You can do that, too. - Jaime Richards, Social Science Teacher Dear Editor, In a letter of recommendation for a student last year, I was happy to compliment her by describing how she had been strong

cluding our own. This vaccine will be the shot—or nasal spray—felt ‘round the world. We are all uncomfortably familiar with the chorus of sniffles during class. By midwinter, most teachers are out of tissue boxes. Colds spread through the MSJ population faster than rumors. If the common cold interrupts your SAT preparation and fogs your memory for that big test, think what the swine flu would do. Assistant Principal Diane Brumbaugh said, “If a student is reported diagnosed with [H1N1] they cannot return to school until 24 hours after they do not have a fever.” No one can afford such a long break from school, but no one can risk going to school with swine flu, either. That doesn’t just affect the sick student; it affects the 3,000 or so people he or she comes in contact with. For some people, coming to school sick might seem better than staying at home. But going to school sick is the best way to spread swine flu. Want to avoid the school or home question? Get the vaccine as soon as possible. Only one complete dose is needed, but both the seasonal and swine flu vaccines are highly recommended, to cover all the possibilities. Brumbaugh doesn’t want students to be afraid to stay home sick. She said, “We have to put health above everything else.” There are some legitimate concerns about the vaccinations. Many people are worried about the chemicals used in the vaccines. Some vaccines do include the preservative thimerosal, an organic compound containing mercury; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the single-dose units of vaccine and the nasal spray do not contain thimerosal. The CDC also stated that autism is not linked to a single exposure of thimerosal, so the vaccine should not cause autism. Let’s have a nice, disease-free year, so plan to get the vaccine not only to help yourself, but to help everyone around you. Remember, we don’t want to share our colds, and we definitely don’t want communal MSJ swine flu. So please, get vaccinated. ▪

enough to speak truth to power. She had confidently told me when I was unrealistically expecting too much from my students, and she had expressed herself respectfully with articulate points. I have alway tried to listen when students have approached me about the homework I assign. At times I have granted extensions or changed my plans. At other times I have told students that they have procrastinated and that they must reap what they have sown, but I have always welcomed students to talk to me if they are having trouble in my class. This explains why some students avoid teachers if there’s a problem and go directly to the administration or even the district office before talking to us. Who can blame them? Not many people can directly address a complaint with someone in a position of authority. This takes objectivity, maturity, responsibility, confidence, and the ability to dispassionately employ good communication skills dispassionately under stressful conditions. If you plan on including many of those qualities on applications to Harvard, Princeton, Stanford or Yale, shouldn’t you try to demonstrate them? If you do, we will hear you, and we will listen. Sometimes we’ll agree; sometimes we won’t. But we’re the ones you should talk to when you have problems. Make an appointment to come see us. Please. - John Boegman, English Teacher Send letters to the editor to opinion@thesmokesignal.org

The Smoke Signal Friday, October 30, 2009

EDITORIAL: COUNCIL AND ASB CHANGES BENEFICIAL

The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board In the short span of time since school started, MSJ’s Associated Student Body leaders have made a number of positive changes to improve the school’s weekly student Council meetings. Club representatives have been required to follow assigned seating arrangements, and, several weeks ago, a new set of club guidelines was proposed and agreed upon. Clubs are now obligated to hold a meeting at least once a month, present meeting minutes for auditing at any given time, and follow new recording practices implemented to ensure Council attendance. These new procedures bring an increased sense of responsibility to a once-lax system of school club regulations by holding clubs to their formal duties, as well as attempting to draw greater involvement from the student body. Club attendance in Council plays an extremely important role. Club representatives comprise 50 percent of Council, and when students accept club officer positions of any school organization, they commit themselves to school-wide contributions because every campus association, by definition, finds its basis in MSJ. With power comes responsibility. As ASB Vice Presi-

dent Aatash Parikh emphasized, “You are representing the school. This is your way of showing that you’re part of ASB. If you’re not here, you have no right to complain about what goes on.” Inactivity has been another another issue that many clubs struggle with. Too often do clubs neglect to conduct meetings or organize events, so random minutes auditing might actually force clubs to legitimize their activities. Some members of Council may also protest that the seating assignments prevent them from sitting with their friends, but, more importantly, the arrangement guarantees that students remain alert and attentive throughout the meeting’s duration - qualities which may have been lacking in the past. Council was never designed as a time to hang out with friends or catch up on calculus homework. Students are also less likely to be influenced by the opinions of their friends and neighbors and are thereby forced to form their own, independent judgments. The few Council proceedings that have taken place thus far show signs of positive change. We no longer hear the unsolicited interjections of catcalls or whooping, nor the obvious murmurs and buzzing of side conversations. The open forums following club presentations and ASB regulation changes have generated lively, substantive discussions. We believe that this form of open, dual interchange is what Council was originally intended to be. ▪

Digital Monsters 2.0 By Rebecca Gao Opinion Editor

In response to California’s gaping deficit concerns, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed an ambitious, state-wide plan to launch K-12 classrooms into the 21st century. His California Digital Textbook Initiative is the first-ever formal proposal of its kind and has naturally elicited the outright skepticism it deserves. Secretary of Education Glen Thomas reviewed science and math textbooks already available online for free to see if they meet state standards. The list of state-approved curriculum, supposedly the first step in reducing California’s $350 million annual expenditure on education materials. Revolutionizing schools and teaching is perhaps a minor byproduct of the operation. And therein lies the potential for a nightmarish failure of logistics. The flippancy and moonstruck idealism associated with such a colossal technology overhaul foretells a sloppy result. At MSJ alone, where even Youtube access is denied and chancy server crashes can thwart basic attendance-taking efforts, the notion of digitized textbooks is rather amusing. As students, we are not indifferent to the technological difficulties that even simple powerpoint presentations and videos manage to summon. Paper textbooks can admittedly be a pain to carry around all day, though; just look at those poor freshmen. On the other hand, reading on computer screens has never been a comfortable experience, and our eyes can typically handle only about half an hour of the abuse at a time. It’s no wonder that 75 percent of students prefer printed to digital, given the same cost. But the true cost is actually rather tricky to determine. Online stores such as CourseSmart and iChapters do offer over 5,000 digital textbooks at only half the price of paper ones, and some professors have even

posted their textbooks online with free access. Despite the relative savings, digital textbooks still average a costly $70 each - plus a hidden expense. For Schwarzenegger’s ultimate goal to come into fruition, every K-12 student in the entire state logically must be provided with an e-reader or a laptop. Considering that a decent laptop costs around $500 and a Kindle $300, plus the expenses of acquiring the digital textbook, we will likely be paying far more on initial infrastructure than saving, with no guarantee we’ll save at all. (And who trusts kindergarteners with laptops anyway?) Digital teaching materials’ main selling point is its ability to instantly connect us with a stunning amount of multimedia learning aids. From podcasts to interactive games and simulations, access to real-time data and videos can be extremely appealing. However, the internet has already filled this niche for students, rendering concerns that the seven-year textbook adoption cycle will leave out critical new developments neglible. Ultimately, almost completely digitized education might very well be the future of education. But we’re not ready yet, not now nor anytime soon. California lacks the resources, the funds, and a viable approach to accomplish such a monumental task. Paper textbooks will remain for quite a while yet. ▪

Staff Writer Michael Feuerman


Friday, October 30, 2009 The Smoke Signal

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Opinion 7

Extending the School Year Revamp U.S. Education vs. Quality Over Quantity By Ginger Werner Staff Writer

President Barack Obama’s first major speech on education unveiled his ambitious education plan, which includes a proposal for schools to shorten summer vacation and/or lengthen school days. These changes might be difficult to adjust to, but, in time, parents, teachers, students, and administrators will learn to accomodate them. Surely our president is on to something here. Students in Singapore and other Asian countries significantly outperform American students, “despite [American] resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world,” states Obama. More instructional time means higher test scores. Charter schools are notorious for having longer school days, weeks, or years. Their state test scores exceed their school or district averages significantly. During the school year, a great deal of information must be processed. Almost every student at MSJ will admit to studying material enough to be able to regurgitate it for an exam the following day. With a longer school year, the need to rush through school curriculum could be eliminated, and teachers would actually be able to focus on teaching the material thoroughly. Students forget what they’ve learned over summer break, unless they attend summer school or receive other forms of academic reinforcement. Not going to school for three months can have a negative effect on students later, forcing the beginning of the school year to become a review of previously learned topics. With the shortening of summer break, students are more likely to retain what they learn for longer periods of time because it will be fortified every day in classes. Students at MSJ currently take one semester of a computer course combined with geography. It takes more than textbook knowledge to survive in modern-day soci-

ety. These days, almost everyone needs to be computer and math literate, and there is not enough time to teach these skills in the current time allotted for attending school. Not every student is a fast learner, and students who have learning disabilities or who simply need more time will get the attention they need to learn new material with these modifications of the school year. If teachers have more time to focus on an individual student’s progress in learning, every student benefits. Ultimately, these are radical but necessary ideas. Increasing the number of school days per year could eliminate the need to rush through curriculum, allow teachers to focus more on the individual student, improve test scores, and prepare students for the future. These changes will certainly not be cheap, but the end results will compensate for the relative rise in spending for the good of American children’s education. The challenges of the world today demand more time in the classroom. As President Obama said, “It’s time to prepare every child, everywhere in America, to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world.” ▪

“I think it’s a good idea because this way we’ll learn more, and the information actually stays put. Over the summer, I forget everything. Even though the school year is longer, we could have more breaks to make up for it.” - Malinda Cheung, 10

By Sargun Kaur News Editor

MSJ students, savor the memories of the summer you enjoyed just a month ago, and relish the weekends and breaks you have now, because if President Obama gets his way, our vacations days may be numbered. Obama has the notion that we spend too little time in school and too much time out, and thus suggests that we extend the number of school days and hours. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. The idea of raising well-rounded kids who partake in a variety of afterschool activities has been flushed down the drain. Obama’s proposal is plainly ridiculous. With kids spending more time inside the classroom, laboring away on desks, there is less time for students to thrive outside. This would be a hard hit for MSJ students especially, who are often overscheduled with clubs, sports, band practice, and many other activities. We are Hermione Grangers, not Ron Weasleys. Furthermore, Obama’s entire proposal is based on the numbers of other countries, not on the quality. If Obama wants to use

Graphic Opinion

“I think Obama should increase the number of days we have school, but he shouldn’t add on more hours to a school day. Most students have many extracurricular activities, and they need the time after school to participate in those activities....We could stand to lose a bit of summer, but having school until dinnertime is a bit ridiculous.” - Jaynelle Gao, 9

Graphics Editor Elisa Ting

numbers, then he should not neglect the statistics. According to the Associated Press, American kids spend more instructional hours in school - 1,146 hours per year - than do students in Asian countries who repeatedly outscore the U.S. on core subjects of math and science. By the numbers, Taiwan: 1,050; Japan: 1,005; Hong Kong: 1,013. The American educational system is lacking quality, not quantity. American students spend more time in classrooms than their foreign counterparts, but our problem is that the California state government has restricted teachers’ abilities to effectively teach and impact students. Students are being taught to take a test or meet a standard, and this flawed educational dogma is crippling the students’ abilities to get a high-quality education. Math Standard 1.2.1 does not mean a thing to me, nor does English Standard 3.4.6. Until the State Department of Education understands that as long as teachers are being forced to prep strictly for the low STAR testing standards, nothing is going to work. The educational system itself is the problem. Last but not least, extra time in school requires extra money. Education has a price and it’s not cheap. Obama and his associates may feel that American students are “underworked,” but there’s no debating that American teachers are most certainly not, especially for what they are paid. So will the salaries and extended class time be funded by a bulky stimulus- or should the American public expect a tax increase? Obviously it’s going to cost. Isn’t finding invisible sums of money to fund other proposals enough for Obama’s plate already? Or maybe Mount Rushmore really does have a hidden stash beneath it. Government officials think that more time, more bureaucracy, and more tax-payer money will solve the educational crisis. It won’t. ▪

Staff Writer Aileen Lu

“Obama’s plan is fundamentally flawed. We do not need more hours; we need more focus at school. Longer hours lead to more dissent from students, a decrease in efficiency, and waste of money. The primary things that should be done are to improve [teaching]...through peer and student surveys, rehaul organization in the district, and rekindle student interest in school. - Youngjun Na, 12 “...in other countries, schools require students to have a study time, an allotted time just for doing schoolwork after school actually ends. Therefore, when students go home, most of their homework is done....Anyway, if you really think about it, how much do you think students will learn from my lectures if they were two hours long? You guys can’t even focus for a regular length period!” -Jack Fendell, Chemistry Teacher

Staff Writer Michael Feuerman


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fall into fall fun Friday Activities

a. Senior Allison Lin, Junior Elisa Ting, Sophomore Ilene Tsao, and Freshman Clarissa Nguyen give it their all in the game of tug-of-war. b. Senior Matt Gosen and Freshman Nihar Parikh attempt to pop a balloon in between them. c. Juniors Dillon Chang and Ramsey Fisher team up in capturing the title of Mission Man. d. Freshman Grace Lee shows off her dancing skills.

Homecoming Football Assembly

a. Senior Alvin Cheng weaves through markers quickly in order to win a pair of dance tickets. b. Sophomore Evelina Chiang spices up Senior Hans Strobl’s outfit.

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Homecoming Kickoff Assembly

a. Senior Susan Kang delights the school with the National Anthem b. Junior Eric Yai rides a broomstick to chase away the Kennedy Titans. c. Cheer performs at the homecoming kickoff assembly.

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: Staff Writers Cassie Zhang, Jordan Zhang, Grace Han, Megan McLaughlin, Ginger Werner, Amit Patahkar & Editor-in-Chief Jerry Ting & Graphics Editor Elisa Ting


Friday, October 30, 2009

The Smoke Signal

“Compared to other Freshman skits, their performance was very high quality.” - Allen Xiao, 12

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Centerspread 11

Charity: 4th School Service: 4th Decorations: 4th Skit: 4th Airbands: 4th Overall: 4th

By Christine Cheng & Gurleen Chadha Web Editor and Staff Writer The Class of 2013 kicked off Homecoming Week with unexpected spirit, widespread decorations across the MSJ campus and a commendable skit despite their inexperience. In contrast to previous years, MSJ in its entirety, not just the N-wing, was covered with blue streamers, balloons, plates, and posters boasting a variety of spirited slogans. Unfortunately, due to the rain, some decoration schemes fell flat: many bushes looked as “I think we though they had been TP’ed, and during the lunchtime skit, the paper decorations adorning the amphitheatre did awesome, walls fell off one by one until only the main backdrop and I’m darn was left standing. Overall, though, the freshmen’s proud... We decorations exceeded expectations by far. The skit could have benefited from some practiced every improvements, but the performance clearly single day in reflected the hard work and strenuous efforts of the N-wing for the freshmen. The plot was clear and concise, the past month.” staying true to the storyline of A Bug’s Life. It was disappointing, however, to see the sophomore, - Michelle Lee, 9 junior, and senior bugs lumped together as stereotypical, malicious bullies. The main freshman himself had little character development, remaining the entire time as the poor, pitiable underclassman and the butt of numerous jokes. Their attempt at school unity seemed haphazard and insincere, since the upperclassmen didn’t seem the least bit apologetic at the end, having mercilessly taunted the freshman from the start. As a result, the happily-everafter ending of the unification of the four classes seemed much less believable. Thankfully, the freshmen wisely chose to spread

“Their actors were cute and the class overall had a lot of respect for higher classes. They didn’t bash at all.” - Chavy Chiang, 11

out their airbands evenly, switching to dance numbers during natural breaks in the plot. The airbands ranged in quality; many of them had good choreography but lacked synchronization. Some people even had to watch their fellow dancers while on stage to figure out their proper places and dance moves. Fortunately, the airbands improved throughout the performance. The boys’ booty dance was well-executed and highly amusing; in particular, their tribute to “Gee” by Girls Generation, a Korean pop girl group, was priceless. The girls that followed in the next airband showed amazing grace and skill, splicing contemporary dance with hip-hop style. However, one of the best airbands was the final hiphop group that displayed 2013’s crisp, sharp moves and great choreography. The ending sequence, with Matthew Dynin leading all the participants of the skit and airbands in a simple dance to the tune of “The Time of Your Life,” was a creative addition and highly reminiscent of the end credits of a movie. In general, the freshmen had plenty of spirit, although they did not always know when to project it. They cheered at every mention of their class, including insults. In spite of this, they had far more spirit than past freshmen classes had, and their great enthusiasm actually outweighed some of the other classes that day. All in all, the freshmen pulled in a great harvest, setting a new precedent for future freshmen classes. Good job, Class of 2013.

PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITERS ROGER CHEN & JORDAN ZHANG


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The Smoke Signal

“The sophomores showed loads of improvement since their freshman year. The covering of the grass was clever, and I found their skit easy to follow and relatively amusing.” - Jessica Wan, 12

Friday, October 30, 2009

Charity: 2nd School Service: 3rd Decorations: 3rd Skit: 2nd Airbands: 3rd Overall: 2nd

“Usually homecoming skits aren’t very good, but theirs was unique and clear.” - Jessica Selleck, 11

By Sarah Li & Jerry Ting Staff Writer & Editor-in-Chief On Tuesday morning, MSJ students walked into a different realm, and it didn’t take two Toto’s to realize it wasn’t Kansas. Caution tape, as well as posters and plates sporting “flying monkeys” and other Wizard of Oz characters, marked the school. The yellow brick road paving the trans-MSJ route from the B-wing into the N-wing was especially notable, though it did not last long before the scuffling feet of MSJ students tore it up. Across the muddy amphitheatre field, the sophomores spread out strips of yellow tarp on which the audience members sat upon during the lunchtime performance. However, compared to the highly-concentrated yellow decorations in the amphitheatre area, the density in areas further into the campus dissipated, with only a few posters and strips of caution tape hanging around the quad. That being said, the sophomores’ overall decorations this year were a vast improvement from that of their freshman year. The highlight of the sophomore show was definitely the skit, surprising audience members with its creativity and cohesiveness. It was, by far, one of the better sophomore skits seen in recent years. The plot was well thought out and left few loose ends. The polished and enthusiastic actors were able to captivate the audience with their theatrics and distinctive voiceovers. The skit featured the sophomore Dorothy, who falls asleep during Spanish class to be transported to Oz. There she meets the resplendent Glinda the Good who tells her that in order to return to MSJ, she must find the Wizard of Oz. On the way, Dorothy meets the brainless junior scarecrow, the heartless senior tin man and the courage-less freshman

lion. Together, the four of them traverse through the respective theme-related realms of the other classes to ask for the Wizard’s help. What was impressive was that the skit didn’t need to rely on poking fun at other classes to achieve its many laughs; it was sufficiently humorous all on its own. Despite its strengths, the skit notably lacked in school unity. Dorothy was portrayed as the sole leader whom the other classes depended on. Without brains, heart or courage, the others contributed little to achieve the gang’s goal. However, once they uncovered their hidden strengths, they came together to end the skit on a unifying and positive note. Regrettably, the transitions from skit to airbands felt somewhat strained. On a number of occasions, awkward silences ensued, leaving the audience wondering what was happening backstage and if there was more to come. Also, the combination of the sophomores’ two boys’ booty dances garnered disapproval from some audience members due to the boys’ excessive grinds and pelvic thrusts. On the other hand, the airbands did show a great deal of variety. The sophomores spiced things up with Tahitian, ballroom, salsa and breakdancing. The sophomores certainly have stepped up their efforts since their Freshman year. We look forward to seeing where the creative efforts of the Class of 2012 will take them next year.

“The skit had a good storyline and incorporated the different classes’ themes, and the singing duet because no one usually does that.” - Nithya Thangara, 10 PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITERS CASSIE HUANG & VISHAL YADAV


Friday, October 30, 2009

The Smoke Signal

“I thought it was creative how they did Davy Jones’ Lockers... I could tell a lot of hard work was put in it.” -Kelsey Paulling, 12

www.thesmokesignal.org

Centerspread 13

“Junior decorations were phenomenal, and all the airbands were awesome.” - Tom Lee, 12

Charity: 3rd School Service: 2nd Decorations: 2nd Skit: 3rd Airbands: 2nd Overall: 3rd

By Tanu Patel & Albert Yuan Web Editor and Graphics Editor The Black Pearl sailed into MSJ’s harbor on Wednesday morning, shrouding parts of the school in black. While the decorations were unevenly distributed, those that did cover the school kept to the Pirates of the Caribbean theme and were intricately designed. For example, there were almost no decorations between the P-wing and the gym quad, but the trashcan barrels and plantation leaves on poles in the horseshoe showcased the juniors’ ingenuity in integrating their theme. The quality of the decorations foreshadowed the level of support the juniors in the audience showed their performers. They consistently outperformed the other classes in their cheering and screaming. And quite a significant number of juniors took part in dressing up, sporting creative and theme-appropriate pirate costumes. The start of the skit regrettably did not generate as much excitement as it deserved. Many students did not realize that the recording in the beginning was actually Johnny Depp’s voice and not simply that of a junior impersonating the

famous actor. In terms of sound, the quality from backstage throughout the performance was lackluster, and many cheers cut off relatively quiet voiceovers. Unfortunately, this caused what might have been an exciting skit to become confusing for students. Case in point: students were left wondering what connection the bell had with the journey, though the narrator had explained its significance from the beginning. The juniors’ commitment to sticking to the plot of Pirates of the Caribbean while also integrating Mission-related plot elements, though admirable, also added to the confusion. However, talented acting from the part of the main character made up for this setback through entertaining antics. The skit itself excelled at integrating the four different classes and giving each class a chance to cheer. The journey through “A Bug’s Life”, “Emerald City” and “Sin City” were welcome homages to the other classes. The juniors’ wittiness was evident in lines such as “Who do you think you are, Sorah’s sister?” By not limiting the actors to the stage, the juniors added innovative excitement to the skit. The audience was pleasantly surprised to see the junior character

pop up unharmed near the library after being captured by the Titans. These aspects gave refreshing breaks to the performance. While most classes used their own class members in airbands, the Class of 2011 was able to give everyone a reason to cheer. The traditional Tahitian airband featured both seniors and sophomores, and one of the many hip hop styled dances also featured a senior. Other notable performances include the colorguard and wushu airbands, both of which were unique and thrilling to watch. One of the few setbacks of the day was pushing all of the airbands to after the skit culminated. There was at least 20 minutes of airband performances after the skit ended. This did not become monotonous, however, since the airbands themselves were well coordinated and successful in pumping up the crowd. It’s clear that the juniors have improved substantially from their past two years. The phenomenal performance they pulled together made it a good year to be a pirate.

PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITER MATT FARBEROV & CENTERSPREAD EDITOR KAREN LIN


14 Centerspread

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Charity: 1st School Service: 1st Decorations: 1st Skit: 1st Airbands: 1st Overall: 1st

The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 30, 2009

“I really liked the seniors’ skit, and the car was really cool...” – Scott Havard, 9

By Tina Tseng & Vishal Yadav Centerspread Editor and Staff Writer “One thing we forgot about our past is that we have to work together in the end,” said Senior Trey Howell, as he encouraged the school to cheer as one during the skit. This message of unity, although somewhat contradictory to the seniors’ behavior, was a main feature in the Class of 2010’s performance. The senior class went all out for their last Homecoming with amazing decorations, breath-taking airbands and a solidly-performed skit. The myriad of red decorations around the school was staggering. From dices atop the bushes to paper plastered over all the classroom doors, the seniors did not squander their last chance to represent their class. Intricate ornaments in the quad emphasized the seniors’ attention to detail and their successful pursuit of both quantity and quality. The backdrop was arguably the best of the week, with its vivid and colorful depiction of Sin City merged with MSJ. However, some decorations were unnecessarily mean-spirited. A few posters proclaimed messages such as “Dorothy, make me a sandwich,” or “One one, you’re done.” While the Class of 2010 has the right to be proud of its seniority, it should have expressed its pride in a more positive way. The performance began with an original rap mixed with the theme song of Sin City, which hyped up the crowd despite the poor sound quality from the speakers. The skit brought back elements from the Class of 2010’s previous Homecoming themes and was undoubtedly nostalgic for the seniors. However, the other classes were barely represented in the skit. The focus was almost always on the seniors; thus, the rest of the classes had little personality. Some portrayals were disparaging: the freshmen were mostly presented as spineless and the sophomores as brainless.

Overall, the skit was well-performed but not amazingly so. The seniors also had to cope with unfortunate instances of bad luck. The beginning of the skit was marred by the poor quality of the speakers, which caused the sound to be grating and incoherent. During two airband performances, the sound was dropped completely for several seconds. Nevertheless, 2010’s performers faced their misfortune with admirable perseverance. One interrupted airband of jazz-dancing girls continued its dance as though unfazed. The crowd also kept cheering throughout these pauses to show support for the performers. In addition to their dedication and persistence, the seniors’ airbands also showed off their creative prowess. For example, one airband featured dancers clapping large wooden sticks together and beating on an overturned washtub. Another performance harkened to the dances of past years by bringing back memorable costumes such as the sumo suit, the banana costumes, and the crazy hat people. Two of the best airbands came at the end; both displayed impressive synchronization and techniques like tutting, popping, and locking. The boys’ booty dances were humorous despite their impropriety, but some parts were messily executed, and considering they had three of them, the moves quickly became redundant. Though seniors in the audience were generally spirited, the red crowd was regrettably not as loud as their amazing airbands, unparalleled decorations, and seniority warranted. Despite this, undoubtedly, the senior class made their final day memorable. From Freaky Freshmen to That 70’s Sophomores to Jedi Juniors, the Sin City Seniors have transformed remarkably throughout the years, and now they’re taking home the jackpot.

“The airbands were awesome! Seeing some skin once in a while never hurt anybody.” – Grant Huang, 11 PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITERS CASSIE HUANG, RAVNEET KAUR & SONIA DHAWAN


Friday, October 30, 2009

1c 1B 2a 1C 3a

The Smoke Signal

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1b

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Photopage

Homecoming Game

a. Senior Linda Xu gets the royal treatment from her father as she exits the carriage. b. Former Homecoming Queen Claudia Chee assists in crowning Senior Teddy Fong as the new Homecoming King. c. Spirited MSJ students try their best to pump up the crowd to support the football team. d. Senior Jen Young cheers loudly for the football team.

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Unity Airbands

a. G.B.A.G.S. (Good looking Boys And Girls) “look for love� in their high energized airband. b. Freshmen unity airband performs in front of a packed crowd. c. Senior Unity airband steals the show with a synchronized dance move.

Homecoming Dance

a. Students mingle during the Homecoming dance. b. Seniors cheer after winning every category of homecoming.

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: Staff Writers Cassie Zhang, Roger Chen, Grace Han, Web Editor Tanu Patel, Editor-in-Chief Jerry Ting & Graphics Editor Elisa Ting


20 Arts & Entertainment

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The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 30, 2009

Getting Down with All Time Low By Ginger Werner

even though in a way it is flattering. We sometimes have to run away… and hide.

Staff Writer

All Time Low has emerged as one of the most popular pop-punk bands of our generation. Signed with a record company before they were out of high school, their energy and enthusiasm has attracted young adults all over the world. Lead singer/guitarist Alex Gaskarth took some time to talk to the Smoke Signal about the band and their latest hit album, Nothing Personal. Smoke Signal: Why are you called All Time Low? Alex Gaskarth: The name is actually based on the Newfound Glory song, “Head On Collision.” They were a big influence on us when we were starting out. SS: Who writes your songs? What are the main topics? Do you think these topics will change over time? AG: I write the lyrics but it’s a collaborative effort for the music. As for the content, it is generally what is on a 19-20 year olds mind; about experiencing things for the first time. And yes, as we grow up the topics will change. I try to write from an autobiographical standpoint, so I think the songs will grow with us. SS: How would you compare your first touring experiences when you were in high school to now? AG: (Laughs) When we were first touring, we were all 16 or 17; most of us didn’t even have our driver’s licenses. We always had to tour with a parent, and they would follow us to certain cities because we were too young to even book hotels for ourselves. Not exactly the glamorous rock and roll experience.

SS: Are there any pre-show rituals the band has before performing? AG: We like to cover each other in grease and slide down the slides. (Laughs) No, we actually don’t have any weird pre show rituals. We might put on some tunes, dance around a little, get pumped up, and then go on stage.

we want to be. We’ve basically found our niche, and it stays true to our roots. It means we are one step to accomplishing everything we have ever wanted to achieve. SS: How did it feel that Nothing Personal debuted at Number 4 on the Billboard 200? AG: Man, it meant a lot. It means a lot about our fans and how great they are! They didn’t steal it or download it illegally; they went out and actually bought it and it makes me happy to know we have that much support. SS: What is the most awkward

situation you have ever been in while on tour? AG: (Laughs) I have seen Gabe Saporta (lead singer of Cobra Starship) naked more times that I would like to admit. SS: What would you say the band struggles with most and how are you guys working on it? AG: Homesickness! You are constantly away from home, and coping with not being able to be with friends and family is a constant struggle. SS: What has been your biggest mishap on stage?

media.decider.com, flickr.com

Found: Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ Staff Writer

Forget the seatbelts; Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol isn’t a thrill ride. Once again, we meet up with our celebrity professor Robert Langdon, who finds himself on a plane to Washington, D.C. to deliver a lecture on behalf of his friend and mentor Peter Solomon. Upon his arrival, he finds Solomon’s severed hand lying in the middle of the Capitol, pointing upwards: to nobody’s surprise, it’s a symbol, and who better to take it on than Langdon. In many aspects, The Lost Symbol fails to impress. Brown clearly follows a formula in his writing to the point where every plot twist is annoyingly predictable. Although Brown claims that the organizations, rituals, science, artwork, and monuments are real (and probably are), the influx of coincidences is not subtle at all, bringing the plot close to the chasm of ridicule. In addition, I have yet to find a page where nothing is written in italics, as all the characters seem to do nothing

SS: What has been the craziest thing a fan has ever done? AG: Shown up at my house. That was kind of creepy. It gets overwhelming when people are screaming and crying in your face,

SS: Would you ever do a collaboration with someone outside your genre? AG: We actually have already, our song “Too Much” was written and recorded with Tricky and The Dream and they predominantly work on R&B and hip-hop songs. (Rihanna’s “Umbrella”, Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”, and “Cookie Jar” by Gym Class Heroes.) We both had to really step out of our genre and it was such a good experience. SS: Is there a song not by the band that you wish you could have written? AG: “Futures” by Jimmy Eat World. It’s one of my favorite songs. It makes the hairs stick up on the back of my neck.

SS: What does this album signify to you and how would you describe it? AG: I would have to say it is our most mature and thought out album. We have figured out where

By Roger Chen

punkwave.it, mtvu.com

AG: (Laughs) One of my biggest mistakes that I make onstage all the time is that I blank on the lyrics, which is a problem because I sing for the band. I will be halfway through a chorus or a verse, completely blank on what to sing next, and then I have to try and find someone in the crowd who is singing the song and try to read their lips. I tend to fall over a lot too.

SS: I saw you guys at Warped Tour in 2008. What do you like about performing at Warped Tour? AG: Warped Tour is honestly one of our favorite tours; we have been doing it for 4 years in a row now. There are lots of familiar faces and it is a really pleasant environment to spend your summer in. It’s really fun.

but think in their heads all the time. And of course, we can’t forget the fact that nowhere at Harvard (or at any other university, for that matter) is there a department of symbology, a fact that is apparently lost on Brown as we go on another Langdon joy ride. Brown is by no accounts the best of writers; his sentences are at times very rough and he treats all his readers like juveniles. But what he lacks in writing skill he makes up in storytelling skill and his inherent ability to connect dots in such a way that meaning emerges from chaos. Despite the flaws in The Lost Symbol, it serves to bring blogs.telegraph.co.uk out interest in the darker parts of Washington, D.C., doing for D.C. what Borat did for Kazakhstan. By bringing mysterious symbols to familiar scenes, Brown piques the curiosity of readers in such a way that they will never see D.C. the same way again. There is just some perverse attraction to alleged Gothic symbology hidden in some of the most familiar structures in the world that brings D.C. up to par with Paris and Rome. Suddenly, the familiar is mystical again. ▪

SS: If the world were ending how would you spend your last day? AG: Celebrating, not because the world was ending but because I got to have a good time up until that day. I’d just have a huge party in my front yard and invite the whole neighborhood over. Lady Gaga would be played for sure. ▪

ODst gunned down By Jordan Zhang

Staff Writer

Two years after Bungie Studios released Halo 3, which was supposed to “finish the fight”, they are still trying to milk the Halo franchise for all it’s worth. However, Bungie failed to make Halo 3 ODST meet the high expectations set by previous Halo games. ODST revolves around Rookie, an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) sent in with his squadron to assault a Covenant ship positioned over the city of New Mombasa in 26th century Africa. During the drop, Rookie’s pod collides with another pod. Rookie wakes up six hours later in the dark city, and must find out what happened to his squad mates. ODST lacks the much touted stealth aspect. ODSTs are not surgically augmented like Master Chief, protagonist of previous Halo games, but they run almost as fast and hit just as hard as Master Chief, so there isn’t a significant difference in handling. Stealth only becomes exciting and worthwhile on legendary difficulty, where confrontations with patrolling groups can actually be deadly. ODSTs are also equipped with a nifty night vision visor that color codes enemies, allies, terrain, and equipment. Also new to the franchise is Firefight, in which players fight off waves of randomly generated Covenant forces. While normal multiplayer maps are unique,

Firefight maps are carbon copies of campaign maps and the randomization makes it seem like the designers were too lazy to create challenging combinations themselves. The only additional complication in Firefight is that after every round, random effects will be activated that make enemies throw more grenades or dodge shots more effectively. These skulls are also selected randomly and are pulled straight from the Halo 3 campaign. It would have been nice if players could play as ODSTs on Xbox Live, but unfortunately, Matchmaking has not changed at all. Bungie simply gave customers a separate disc with Halo 3’s multiplayer on it, along with a

few new maps, one of which is a recycled map from Halo 2. ODST was originally priced at $59.99, the standard price of an Xbox game. However, Amazon soon realized nobody wanted to buy a three hour single player campaign with almost no new multiplayer experience for that price and lowered the price to $49.99 within two weeks of the release. Although it still retains the epic proportions of past Halo games, ODST leaves players saying “been there, done that”. Rent it or buy a used copy later because, despite the ten dollar price cut, it still isn’t worth the cost. ▪

virginmedia.com


Friday, October 30, 2009

The Smoke Signal

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21 Sports

Two Different Backgrounds, Two Great Tennis Players By Grace Han & Joy Xu Staff Writers

Recent Argus Athlete of the Week Junior Natsuko Takayanagi is in her first year on the MSJ Girls’ Tennis Team. She was introduced to the sport by her parents at the age of seven and gradually improved through daily hitting sessions with her dad. Since then, Takayanagi has blossomed into a formidable force, currently ranked about 340th nationally in the United State’s Tennis Association’s (USTA) under-18 division and 29th in Nor Cal. Takayanagi grew up in Fukui City, Japan, participating in local leagues to gain more experience. In 2008, her family moved to America, where she joined the USTA and competes in various tournaments each year.

During the off-season, Takayanagi trains with Coach Richard Tompkins while working to model her game after favorite player Kim Clijsters. She hopes to be able to play in college one day, either in the US, or back in Japan. As expected, Takayanagi has set some lofty yet acheivable goals for herself this season. Besides helping MSJ make NCS as a team, she wants to compete in doubles (partnering with Senior Stephanie Quan). Takayanagi also hinted she would love the opportunity to battle two-time NCS singles champion Jamie Pawid of Castro Valley. However, her main focus this year will be to attain a spot in USTA’s Junior Orange Bowl, an international tennis championship that is held in Florida, and consists of the world’s

top players. This tournament has previously attracted players such as Juan Martin Del Potro, the current Men’s US Open Champion. In her career, Takayanagi has experienced many noteworthy moments, but none more memorable than at a tournament in Fresno last year. Her match was scheduled to start at 2:30, but due to difficulty locating the tennis courts, Takayanagi didn’t arrive until 3:00. To compensate, her opponent was given a 3-0 game lead to start the match. But of course, nothing could stop Takayanagi as she stormed back to win the set 7-5, and eventually win the match. As the season continues, Takayanagi looks forward to helping MSJ reach and do well in the NCS tournament. ▪

To further her education, she switched to a tennis academy in Sacramento. By then, she was a sponsored top 10 player in North California’s 16-year-old age group. Not too long afterwards, she decided to step outside of her comfort zone even more; she took an ambitious step in her career by choosing to attend a Tennis Academy in Valencia, Spain. Many professional players have trained at that very same school; Marat Safin and Dinara Safina, the well-known brother and sister duo who were both number one in the world, attended the academy. Sher boarded with a Spanish family for two years, training vigorously for up to six hours a day. She quickly became a superb player, playing professional matches in the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) and the ITF. Unfortunately, she suffered a thumb injury and decided to return to the US. Sher’s attitude includes an impressive training ethic of dedication and hard work. When asked about her favorite playing field, she said that she preferred clay., even though

the ball is very slow on a clay field, leading to more running and fatigue. She continued to say that “playing and training on clay is like playing tennis on a whole different level – you have to train harder and there’s no room for laziness. On hard courts, many players can get away with lack of endurance, but on clay you really have to run and hit.” When talking about her experience at MSJ, she was optimistic and said that it was a “great change of scenery for once. All the girls on the team are really supportive and nice; they helped being at Mission a lot easier.” As for future goals, she hopes to attend UC Berkeley and to continue playing tennis actively. “What are the team goals?” She laughed as she answered, “The team goals are to win every game, and be 7-0, and to kick some butt at NCS.” The team has not disappointed so far, having won every single match this season. Next time there is a Girls’ Tennis match, take a few minutes to check them out, because this year’s line-up and team chemis-

try are extremely strong. It’s hard to predict the future, but with such an excellent team, the other teams at NCS had better watch out, because the MSJ Girls’ Tennis team is coming ready to play hard and win. ▪

Natsuko Takayanagi

staff writer raymond zhong

Namrata Sher For some people tennis may be just a game, but for Senior Namrata Sher, it is a way of life. She has been homeschooled throughout her teen years, choosing to attend selective tennis academies instead of leading a normal teenage life. This year is actually her first year at a high school. She’s currently number one on the Girls’ Tennis team and is ranked in the top thousand of the ITF (International Tennis Federation) for juniors. Ironically, when Sher first joined the sport, she didn’t want to play. However, after about a year of training she fell in love with the sport and began training more intensely. Her first step was to attend a group tennis community in Oakland. The head coach had both diabetes and cancer yet devoted all his time and money to training players, paying for many underprivileged students out of his own pocket. Sher attended daily and quickly became an excellent player.

staff writer jordan zhang


22 Sports

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Team Spotlight: Girls’ Volleyball By Justin Sha Staff Writer

With a 9-2 MVAL record and an overall record of 25-5, the Girls’ Volleyball team is midway through an exciting 2009 fall season, and is currently in second place. Hoping to exceed last year’s success at California’s North Coast Section, more commonly referred to as NCS, the team began conditioning the day after tryouts in early August. The first Girls Varsity Volleyball team to reach the second round of NCS since 1995, this year’s squad consists of an all-returning lineup – nine seniors and three juniors. Coach Donny Hui returned to coach Girls’ Volleyball this year. “And with all 12 players back from last year’s [MVAL champion-winning] team, prospects seem… bright,” said Senior Captain Keila Mah. “So far, the highlights of our season most definitely have to be our two back-to-back championships wins in the Wolf Pack Classic Volleyball Invitational in Tracy and the Husky Tournament,” Senior Captain Allison Day added.

staff writer arthur jeng Top Row: Seniors Allison Day, Cassandra Ang, and Sarah Dressler Middle Row: Juniors Madhu Joshi and Vivian Zhang, Seniors Nicole Yen and Stephanie Hur, and Junior Elisa Ting Bottom Row: Juniors Maggie Chang and Ashlyn Iwatani, Seniors Vicki Kao and Diana Yan, Junior Tiffany Hyunh, and Senior Keila Mah

Due to tri-weekly practices ranging from conditioning to drills, the team quickly rose to the top at both tournaments. In early September at the Wolf Pack Invitational, they edged out powerhouse West High’s squad in a tight 2-1 match, where a score of 15-12 decided the final set. Similarly in

the Husky Tournament, the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team defeated Washington High School in a close 2-1 match, taking the first place trophy with a final score of 15-8. However, a little after the Husky Tournament, a sole detriment seemed to halt the team’s winning streak in its tracks. Players de-

veloped coughs, which transformed into flulike symptoms. Out of the eight that became sick, one team member tested positive for the H1N1 virus, swine flu. “This greatly affected the team, leading to the outcome of losing our match with Irvington. With the absence of four strong players, experiencing our first loss was tough,” said Junior Ashlyn Iwatani. However, the recovering team came back blazing and full of energy. On Oct. 17, they participated in the Dougherty Valley Tournament, competing and placing second overall out of 16 teams. These days, the team is completely healthy and much more optimistic. With a league title to defend, the Girls Volleyball team continues to strive toward another NCS appearance through hard work and dedication. “Win or lose, our goal is to play our hardest and put up our very best fight,” stated Mah. The Girls’ Volleyball team’s last game was on Thursday, Oct. 29 at home versus James Logan High School. Next up is the MVAL championship tournament; don’t hesitate to come out and support the Lady Warriors. ▪

MSJ Warriors outrun washington huskies By Jerry Ting

Editor-in-Chief On Wed. Oct. 7, the MSJ Cross Country team ran what may have been the biggest race this season against their rival, Washington High School. Easily defeating the competition, the Warriors completed the meet with convincing victories for both the boys’ side and the girls’ side. Comprised mostly of juniors and seniors, the Varsity team on the boys’ side has been progressively getting better since losing multiple key seniors in the 2006 season. The girls have also improved after acquiring multiple young runners with incredible potential. Heading into the race, the team looked tireddue to the coaching staff constantly pushing the runners.Athletes were in top shape after enduring a strenuous new workout schedule, that eliminated recovery days after long runs. “We knew we were in shape, all the miles we’ve put in, all the calluses and

the hard work. We felt pretty confident,” said Senior Estefanie Del Cid. The Lady Warriors had a close race in the beginning. However, as the race progressed, it became obvious that MSJ was far better-trained than their opponents. With Sophomore Madison Hirsch in the lead, Sophomore Erika Cherk and Junior Siwen Dickstein finished close together with the Huskies eating their dust. Boasting an average pace of 6:02 per mile, Hirsch authoritatively captured first with Cherk and Dickstein taking second and third respectively. The boys, led by Junior Joey Uken, ran an exceptional race. The Warriors easily captured second through 10th place, losing only to Washington High School’s state-ranked Senior Ben Rich. Uken, who placed second, ran his personal best with a time of 16:11 for three miles. Junior Evan Dankiewicz and Senior Arjun Bains captured third and fourth place, respectively.

With a stellar performance in their most taxing race, the Warriors look forward to continuing their success and finishing off their season strongly by capturing the MVAL

Cross Country title for the first time since 2000. “I’m excited for the rest of the season, and I think we can do well even in NCS if we keep working hard,” said Dankiewicz. ▪

The Lady Warriors explode ahead with energy, leaving the Huskies behind in the dust.

staff writer jamie lin


Friday, October 30, 2009

The Smoke Signal

Coaches’ Corner: Girls’ Golf By Sloka Gundala

Staff Writer Coach William Kriskovich, an eighth grade improve, regardless of their level. If someP.E teacher, is coach of the Girls’ Golf team. one is novice, I want them to be average. He has spent countless hours helping the girls When they are average, I want them to be improve and nurturing their love for golf. The good. And when they are good, I want them Smoke Signal sat down with Coach Kriskov- to be great. I am happy when I see someich and asked him to share his experiences. one putting in hard work and improving. SS: How long have you been coaching? WK: Nine years; can’t believe it’s been that long. SS: What inspired you to start coaching? WK: A friend of mine coached before. He no longer wanted to do it, so he asked me. I agreed. At first the team was just a club. In my third year of coaching, we started competing in a varsity league as a school team. SS: How difficult was it to bring the organization up from just a club to an official team? WK: The hardest part was getting more girls to join. In the beginning we had just six girls, only one was experienced.The others were new; several didn’t have their own set of clubs. But once that was taken care of, the rest was easy. SS: What is your favorite part of coaching? WK: I get satisfaction from seeing an athlete

SS: What is your least favorite part? WK: My least favorite part is when I see someone who has potential leave. While I respect their decisions and know that their lives are busy, it is sad to see them go. SS: How is the team performing this year? WK: The team is doing well. Everyone has been improving and scoring lower. In the San Leandro Pirate Classic, one of the biggest tournaments in Northern California, we placed seventh out of 21 teams. When I first started coaching, the best finish our team got in that tournament was 17th or 18th. But for the past five years, we have been finishing in the top ten. SS: What are your goals for this year? WK: I always tell the girls that my goals for them are to improve and have fun. ▪

Lady Warriors Flip to Victory By Grace Han

Staff Writer A week after enduring their first loss in five years to Irvington, the MSJ Gymnastics team looked sharp and determined in their league meet against Washington on Oct. 14. Led by Senior Captains Kimberlee Hu and Kylan Nieh and Junior Captain Trina Duarte, the gymnasts displayed a myriad of difficult moves and put on quite a performance. Throughout the meet, coaches Laurel Masatsugu and Valerie Saito provided continuous encouragement and critiques as they performed. Against the Huskies, several team members awed the crowd with outstanding routines. On the uneven bars, Junior Rachel McMullen and Freshman Melina Robinson executed kips for the first time, a move where the gymnast first swings their legs forward before raising them to the bar, and lifting their body up. Duarte, who is also the choreographer, comstaff writer grace han pleted a high tempo floor routine, receiving Junior Trina Duarte leaps gracefully through the air in her the top score of 9.4 out of 10 from the judges balance beam routine. for her effort. But the most impressive per- cartwheel to the edge of the beam before flipformance of the night came from Freshman ping backwards for a full rotation to dismount. Ariel Cheng on the balance beam, where she Individually for Varsity Elite, Cheng completed several moves including, a cart- also placed first on bars (9.050) and vault wheel back tuck dismount that earned her (8.550) on her way to an all around victory, a mark of 9.5. This requires the gymnast to with a total score of 36.4. Duarte and Hu

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WU-TENG’S GREATEST HITS feat. Masta A & Docta J Track 2: “Take It Back”

Masta’s Analysis Let’s be honest; we’ve all seen H8N1 rear its ugly head at our school. It’s usually in the form of one of our friends saying something like, “There’s no point in showing up at the game because we’re definitely going to lose,” or the common statement, “The only reason people go to the football games is because of the extra credit.” Some of us even have teachers who sneak in a few discouraging sentences, despite the fact that they are not supposed to. One of my past teachers often mentioned that rule and then proceeded to make a sarcastic comment; I think it was just a lame attempt to be funny. The point is that we as a school should not be so down on our football team. At other schools, football is revered. Why should it be the opposite here? Yes, our team does not get as many wins as we’d like it to, but it puts in just as much practice and hard work as any other squad. Quoting the video played at

the kickoff assembly two weeks ago, football practice starts in November, the day after the previous season ends. It is a demanding commitment, consisting of year-round weight training, two weeks of spring football, and five grueling weeks of summer football. Practices take place even if rain is pouring from the sky or the temperature is in the 100s; weather is not a factor. There is also so much conditioning that the players might as well be on the cross country or track teams. Exerting massive amounts of physical effort is not the only thing that these athletes do. Football has one of the most complicated systems in sports, and therefore requires a lot of thought and awareness. When not out on the field, the team goes over plays and studies game footage. Such preparations help the team master maneuvers, spot mistakes, and recognize strengths. So before you criticize the football team, first acknowledge all of the work that the team puts in and then see if you can still say anything negative. Hard to do, isn’t it? Success should be measured by dedication and perseverance, not by number of wins. Most players skip vacations and activities in order to attend practice. But when it all comes down to it, MSJ just does not have the levels of talent and athleticism that are available at other schools. This is just a fact and nothing to be embarrassed about. However, don’t get me the wrong way; this is not a request for babying or sympathy. Instead, it is a call for more respect and to give credit where credit is due. I admit that even I’m not the greatest of optimists when it comes to Warriors football. But I’ll be working to fix that, and so should everyone else. We know what it’s like to rally behind our football team; we did it at this year’s awesome Homecoming Game, and it felt great. So our goal should be to always support the players and coaches. Hopefully, the most popular sports-related sentence on campus during the fall season will eventually be, “We need to go to the football game because we might win, and it’d be a shame if we missed it.” ▪

also had impressive performances, placing second and fourth respectively. On the Varsity side, Freshman Nona Mahmoudi received first with a score of 29.8. “Our team performed really well today,” said Hu. “We were definitely more relaxed and prepared than last week, and able to hit most of our tricks.” In the end, MSJ came out on top, defeating Washington 136.1 – 114.15.

After a successful meet, the gymnastics team plans strive to continue their impressive legacy by winning yet another MVAL championship this season. Last years loss of six seniors will make this goal difficult to attain, but the gymnasts are definitely up for the challenge. That said, make sure to come out and cheer on the MSJ Gymnastics team at MVALs next week. ▪

By Joseph Teng & Anthony Wu Sports Editors

Here’s a shout-out from Wu-Teng to all those in MSJ’s Hater Nation. The Issue Football players hustle on and off the field, Warriors armed with their spear and shield. Got something to say? Step up to the line. We’ll laugh as your face gets redesigned. First we told all you haterz, next we’ll show all you haterz. Gonna make you take it back with all our MSJ football players. Surrender to your fate, Heads up, don’t cower, walk straight. We’ll pardon you, might cut you some slack As long as you take your trash-talk back. Docta’s Diagnosis People often talk down on MSJ football just because it doesn’t win as much as other programs. These critics have caught the disease H8N1, aka “Hatin’ to the First Degree.”

SS: You participated recently in grappling tournaments. How did they go? BZ: I participated in the NorCal Grappling 2009 and the Grappling X tournaments. Both of them were in San Jose, which is the home to huge gyms and fighters such as Shamrock and Cung Le. I took first place in both of those competitions, winning medals, some Tapout and OTM (a big company that produces fight gear) stickers, and a very sick OTM logo that I can stitch on my backpack.

Benson Zhang, the Beast of the East By Joseph Teng Sports Editor

Not many people are as skilled or as talented as Senior Benson Zhang when it comes to taking down and subduing opponents with submission moves. Zhang is his name, and grappling is his game. SS: When and how did you get interested in the sport of grappling? BZ: I met a friend, Tuong, at Ohlone, and I learned that he trained in something weird called Jiu-Jitsu. So I started training with him, learning basic moves and positions. I really got interested in grappling and subsequently joined the MSJ wrestling team and also learned takedowns and submissions from Tuong. SS: What exactly is grappling all about? BZ: Grappling is wrestling with submissions and without pins. There is one long five minute round instead of shorter and smaller rounds; because if you end the round due to a time limit, you lose your position and your momentum, thus causing you to lose your advantage.

23 Sports

courtesy of benson zhang

Senior Benson Zhang proudly displays his gold medal with mentor Tuong standing to his immediate left, teammate Richard Waters to his far left, and teammate Junior Mason Yang to his right.

SS: Describe a normal workout at the gym. BZ: First, we start with freeze tag to warm up. If you’re tagged and frozen, you do pushups until the round is over. After a few minutes, we stretch. Then the coach asks us if we want to review the moves that we learned from the last session – if not, we learn new moves and practice them for an hour. While we’re learning, the coach goes around to correct our technique. When our technique is improved, we participate in about half an hour of situational wrestling, where we are placed in certain situations and drill them. Following this, we finish with about an hour of live rolling, which is grappling at full intensity in five minute rounds.

SS: How do you condition for grappling? BZ: Wrestling hard for hours is conditioning in itself. But when we have conditioning sessions, we have circuit training. Basically, we have rounds of sprints, plyometrics, medicine ball squats and presses, and burpees. Burpees consist of one squat and one push-up. Plyometrics involve a lot of jumping and explosive movements, including frog, squat, box, and depth jumps. The toughest part is when you have to hold a 20lb medicine ball above your head, lock your arms, and then proceed to do squats. We usually spend one minute on each exercise, and the drills are continuous until all of the exercises are done. I also lift weights three times a week.

SS: What was the highlight of the tournament, other than your wins? BZ: Meeting Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez, two famous fighters, was definitely legit. They saw me grapple and said, “You’re impressive dude. Keep it up and you’ll be incredibly good one day.” Then I got them to sign the OTM logo. Melendez wasn’t that tall, but he was built. Shields looks skinny, but his forearms were massive. It was cool that they complimented me because Shields and Melendez are some of the best submission fighters at 170lbs in Strike Force USA, a fighting league second only to UFC. SS: What’s your next goal? BZ: Hopefully, I’m going to keep grappling and keep competing throughout high school and college. When I get into college, I’ll look into boxing and try to pick up Muay Thai, a form of martial arts popular in Thailand. ▪


The Smoke Signal Vol. XLV No. 2  

The Smoke Signal issue November 2009

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