Page 1


VOL. 53 NO. 4

December 21, 2017


Investigative Report: School Internet By Shiantel Chiang, Rishi Chillara, Julia Park & Maggie Zhao Staff Writers


THE ISSUE Slow and spotty Wi-Fi has been a source of frustration for many at MSJ. The Smoke Signal investigated the cause of these issues and the steps being taken to resolve them. This investigative report explains the technical details of MSJ’s current Wi-Fi network system and how other schools manage their Wi-Fi and network update projects. It also recaps recent changes and future plans for MSJ’s network system.

“My main issue is not being able to reliably use the chromebooks in the class and the iPads because that many students on the internet overwhelms the Wi-Fi in the room.”— Anatomy Teacher Lauren Ware-Hartbeck (M-Wing)


To support an increasing number of device connections, FUSD installed 19 new access points. During Phase 1, they purchased WAPs that will be placed in every classroom to accommodate 35 to 50 devices at a time once the new network is installed. Other WAPs will be placed outside classrooms to help prevent Wi-Fi usage overload. FUSD Chief Technology Officer Joseph Siam said, “The new [WAPs] are able to support the new wireless speed standard, and they’re able to handle more simultaneous connections.” In addition, FUSD purchased fiber optic cables to replace the outdated volunteer-installed cabling from 1995’s NetDay. The new cables are intended to increase the capacity of the LAN and WAN networks from one to 10 gigabits. In Phase 2, all new WAPs and cables were installed, along with new network switches with uninterrupted battery supply. Both the new WAPs and network switches are from Cisco Systems, which, Siam says, “... will be more reliable as the equipment is designed to work together. The [existing] Ruckus and Hewlett-Packard equipment are not necessarily designed to work together.”

What do you do if you have trouble connecting to the Wi-Fi? (Choosing all that apply) 59%

54% 44%


In response to MSJ teachers’ concerns about the Wi-Fi network speed and reliability, AP Physics Teacher Peter Geschke, an alternate representative for Fremont Unified District Teacher Association (FUDTA), an organization that represents the interests of Fremont teachers, created and released a survey on October 26 asking for teachers’ feedback on their experiences with the Wi-Fi network. The optional survey received 41 responses. Following the survey, the nine MSJ FUDTA representatives requested a liaison meeting to discuss the survey and its impacts, which was held on November 27 with MSJ administration representatives, the full liaison committee, and two invited guests from the FUSD Information Technology (IT) Department. During this meeting, the survey’s results were presented, highlighting staff concerns to the district’s IT team, who subsequently explained MSJ’s current network infrastructure and how network issues are to be resolved with a new network system.

*The results from the graphs below are gathered from the teacher survey conducted by AP Physics Teacher Peter Geschke (see TEACHER SURVEY). The form was released on October 26, and collected a total of 41 responses.

7% 10% 17% 19%


Other FUSD schools are undergoing their own Wi-Fi Upgrade Projects. Similar to MSJ, Irvington High School temporarily increased the number of access points on their campus last spring to support more devices at school before the new network is in place. Once network equipment is installed, the access points’ bandwidth will increase from 300 megabits (Mb) to around 3800 Mb. In addition, new fiber optic cables, replacing the older copper cables, were pulled from their school site to the district over the summer in preparation for installing the new network and equipment. Other schools, such as Robertson and John F. Kennedy High School, have already completed their Wi-Fi upgrades. Similar Wi-Fi upgrades are being planned at all school levels.

Which of your work tasks are always, frequently, or sometimes negatively impacted by your lack of a connection to the Wi-Fi? 85%

Entering grades


Sending emails Connect via Ethernet Connect via hotspot Complete work off site Other


Taking attendance 20%





56% Utilizing devices for student use Saving documents




FUSD Wi-Fi Upgrade Project Phase 1: ● FUSD purchases fiber optic cabling and WAPs Phase 2: ● FUSD Information Technology (IT) Support Install network switches and all network equipment purchased in Phase 1 Phase 3: ● FUSD IT Support and contractors transfer all existing devices to the new network

In the current system, Wi-Fi signals from one of six networks are sent to the nearest Wireless Access Points (WAP) that connect to a local area network (LAN), which is then connected to the FUSD wide area network (WAN). The WAN connects to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) provided by Alameda County Office of Education. Prior to May 2017, there were only 65 WAPs, supplied by According to the Sept. 22, Ruckus Wireless Incorporation, for more than 2017 edition of the Smoke 100 classrooms. The newer series of WAPs are Signal, the Measure E accompanied by two older series of Ruckus Bond approved in 2014 alWAPs, first installed in around 2007, although located $2,143,260 for MSJ the majority of the WAPs were installed later technology infrastructure than that. Classes such as B36 and Bπ are upgrades. Because FUSD already taking full advantage of the existing system by incorporating technology into their completed the WAN Update Project during May curriculum but have run into trouble from 2017, increasing bandwidth and speeding up the limited bandwidth of the access points. network access, MSJ was able to install new ethernet cabling for faster speeds and less network How often do you encounter difoverload. FUSD is currently working on the ficulty accessing the MSJ wireless Wi-Fi Upgrade Project, which will replace MSJ’s internet during school hours? network infrastructure with a new one. Phase 1 1-3 periods per week of the project has been completed within the 1-3 periods per day past two years. Phase 2 was recently completed More than 3 periods per week in mid-December, and Phase 3 is drafted to be More than 3 periods per day done by January 2018. The three phases include Never have trouble the replacement of all old network equipment, Only connect via a wired (eththe installation of new equipment in each wing’s ernet) connnection Intermediate Distribution Frame, and the transfer of all campus devices onto the new network.


FUTURE PLANS During Phase 3, IT will remove old cabling and connect all devices to the new network. Cables specifically for the WAPs will be able to transfer a larger amount of data at a higher speed than the standard cables to prepare for future increases in network speed requirement. Phase 3 will also include the deployment of a new server with more storage capacity than the existing one. When the new system is in place, MSJ will reduce the number of Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, certain logins, such as a district login, will have priority for faster network speeds. There will still be a guest network for students with their own specific login. FUSD will also include upgradable components in the new cables and WAPs to avoid having to upgrade the entire system in the near future. Siam said, “We don’t anticipate to do this same project again for at least a decade-and-a-half to two decades. But in that time period, we do anticipate to be able to increase the network speed.”

“Ethernet (hard wiring) in [the] AWing is actually very good. Wireless goes down much more frequently though!”— AP Statistics Teacher Jan Frydendahl (A-Wing)

“My connection is frequently very slow, particularly with Illuminate, even when it ultimately connects. It is a great nuisance to try and take attendance on so unuseful and recalcitrant a system.” — English Teacher Cherylle Lindsey (P-Wing)


Wi-Fi connection issues may not solely be a network problem — student usage also impacts network connection. When students connect to a specific access point in one area, such as the P-Wing, they may still be connected to the same access point as they walk toward a different area, such as the N-Wing, which will result in weaker connection. MSJ IT Support Specialist Bryan Moremen said, “You’re not even using the resource, but you’re making it so that the person in that room doesn’t have that resource.” To prevent this from happening, students should disconnect their Wi-Fi when they are not using it.




Eminem, one of the biggest titans in the rap industry, comes back with his latest solo offering, Revival. Check out the Smoke Signal’s review online!

The Smoke Signal will be sending photographers to Magic at Midnight — MSJHS Winter Ball 2017! The photos will post over the weekend. Go online to see if you were featured!



2 News


The Smoke Signal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

MSJ holds first “Team Building Through Time and Space” World History teachers coordinate week-long project for student collaboration. By Evie Sun & Tylor Wu Staff Writers

By presenting to one another, groups were able to learn perspectives about not only their topic but also subjects chosen by other students. All of the students had different skills and interest levels, and each group learned to effectively divide the workload among the members. They also had the opportunity to explore topics of their own choosing. “What I enjoyed most about the event was probably the creativity and freedom. The teachers gave us a large variety of topics, and within each topic, there’s many approaches or focuses,” said Sophomore Amber Jiang. The event achieved its goal of bringing students together to work and investigate a topic. “They developed that ability to research, work with others and present, and that’s all I could ask of them,” said Vierk. The idea originated in Professional Learning Community meetings, and planning for the event began in early September. The four

The students of World History Teachers Jason Cain, Tanya Salazar, Karl Hui, and Geography Teacher Matthew Vierk organized a collaborative social studies project called “Team Building Through Time and Space” on November 30. Students completed a project on a topic of their interest during the week and presented their project in the Flex Room. The event was the first of its kind to be hosted at MSJ. Students worked on a large variety of projects based on their interests. Project topics ranged from daily necessities such as food and medicine to historical perspectives on topics such as women’s beauty standards and women’s rights. Students from each class formed groups and presented their projects to one another on Thursday after three consecutive days of work.

Students create a poster comparing the differences and goals between the ancient and modern Olympics.

Students work on the project in their groups in the Flex Room.

teachers met every other week to map out their ideas, eventually creating the event that became “Team Building Through Time and Space.” When organizing this event, the teachers kept several goals in mind. “We wanted to give students a chance to look beyond what the standard history textbook would have or standard curriculum and work with people they don’t normally work with, practice collaboration and be able to dig into a topic that they found interesting to them,” said Salazar. In addition, the teachers aimed to teach their students how to conduct research and present their findings in front of their peers. The sheer number of students and class-

es involved made it difficult to coordinate. It was especially challenging to find a space that could accommodate 33 separate groups of students and to figure out where to place various supplies, such as computers and art supplies, that would allow students to work most efficiently. The teachers believe that the event also could have been more coordinated and organized, and they hope to alter the logistics for future events. The teachers hope to organize another event next year, tweaking the plan to encompass more students and teachers. “We want to continue to try to bring more classes together, more classes [to be able to] work together,” said Cain. ▪ PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITERS EVIE SUN & TYLOR WU

Diversity issues explored at cultural awareness forum Students discuss diversity questions posed by Junior Emily Zhang. By Arpita Gaggar & Ian Hsu Staff Writers Students met to discuss diversity, racial identity, and cultural awareness during advisory on November 30 in the Flex Room. The forum was open to all students who wished to talk about their experiences and opinions on these issues. Junior Emily Zhang worked with Assistant Principal Jeana Nightengale to organize the event, which was part of a series of identical forums held at all schools across the school

district. Student-run forums to be held at all FUSD schools by November 30 came as a part of a list of action items ordered to FUSD by the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Questions posed to students at all FUSD schools were written by FUSD Educational Equity Coordinator DiShawn Givens, who was present to observe the forum. Twelve students across all four grade levels attended the forum, and Counselors Ivy Lee and Lindsay Rotter were also present to address any concerns stu-

Geometry and Algebra 2/Trig

Students discuss Zhang’s questions in groups of four in the Flex Room.


dents had for the administrative staff. Students discussed each of the questions proposed by Zhang in groups of approximately four students before volunteering to share their opinions on each question. Zhang opened the forum with a quick introduction and a question on cultural diversity within the student body. Subsequently, Zhang asked, “Have you ever seen acts of discrimination based on racial or cultural differences at school?” After discussing the topic at length for several minutes, students in one of the groups said that at a school like MSJ, most students who would be considered a minority elsewhere are a majority, so they do not face much discrimination. “People typically don’t do things that are racist. But they say racial remarks, typically behind others’ backs. Asians make up the majority at Mission and majorities are typically the ones that make the racist remarks about minorities. That doesn’t mean everyone does; only some,” said Senior Joshua Kingsley. Additionally, most students felt that race-specific jokes are made lightheartedly by people of their own race to other students of the same race, in order to form a common bond within a culture. However, the

students did mention that they had witnessed some minor occurrences of prejudice. The forum’s attendees were further encouraged to consider what happens when race or culture does form a divide. In a follow-up question, Zhang asked, “What would you do if you or a classmate was being treated differently because of their race?” The students admitted that these instances could lead to bullying if the situation escalated. They agreed that the ideal response would be to act as an upstander and directly interfere in the situation to condemn the bully’s actions and protect the victim. However, in many cases, this course of action would become difficult due to peer pressure and societal expectations, so few individuals choose to do so. The students in the forum agreed that even just going to the victim after the incident had occurred and comforting or supporting them would be better than doing nothing. The forum was planned as a one-time event, but more forums may be planned if further interest is shown by the student body. Zhang said, “Hopefully, students took away the idea that diversity should be celebrated and if problems arise, we can work together to solve them.” ▪


for the Nov. 17, 2017 issue News Pg. 3: UC Davis Society should be UC Davis Center. Kennedy High School should be John F. Kennedy High School. Julia Park’s name is misspelled. Opinion Pg. 4: Sue Montgomery’s name is misspelled. Centerspread Pg. 10: Office of Civil Rights should be Office for Civil Rights. A&E Pg. 13: “Move” should be “Move You”. “Kiss Fight” is misspelled. Sports Pg. 19: Tulsi Patel’s name is misspelled. Five MSJ fall sports teams qualified for NCS.



Compiled by Toshali Goel, Sahana Sridhar & Jennifer Xiang Staff Writers

DAILYNEWS.COM A motorist on Highway 101 watches flames from the Thomas Fire leap above the roadway north of Ventura, CA.

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM The land of the Bears Ears (above) and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments may be reduced.

NBCNEWS.COM Syrians make their way through debris following a reported air strike in the rebel-held town of Beit Sawa.

Explosive fires rage across Southern California Brush fires erupted in Southern CA on December 5, quickly spreading throughout the area and growing to raging wildfires. Collectively, the six infernos have scorched an area larger than New York City and Boston combined. President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in CA, and Governor Jerry Brown declared one in Santa Barbara County. The Thomas Fire has burned more than 259,000 acres, and collectively the fires have burned down more than 1,000 structures.

Patagonia sues after national monument land reduction announcement Outdoor clothing and gear retailer Patagonia has joined a lawsuit to sue President Donald Trump after his administration announced a reduction to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, both in Utah. The former monument’s land may be reduced from around 1,300,000 acres to 200,000 acres; the latter, from 1,800,000 acres to 1,000,000 acres. Proponents of the change argue that the land could be used for oil drilling and other purposes. Patagonia has since added to their main website background an article titled “The President stole your land.”

UN order mandatory medical care of more than 130 Syrian children The United Nations (UN) children’s agency ordered the mandatory immediate evacuation of 137 children aged seven months to 17 years from a Syrian city near the capital on December 15. Due to Syria’s declining political state, limited health care accessibility contributed to at least 202 deaths, including those of 47 children, since early November. As a result, the UN rushed the children, who suffer from a variety of conditions from kidney failure to conflict wounds, to urgent care.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Smoke Signal

The Smoke Signal Mission San Jose High School Est. 1964 Vol. 53, No. 4 | Dec. 21, 2017

amy's approach

Age isn’t maturity



The joys of using your brain By Vicki Xu Opinion Editor

By Amy Chen Opinion Editor

41717 Palm Ave. Fremont, CA 94539 510-657-3600, ext. 37088 MISSION STATEMENT The Smoke Signal’s mission is to represent the voices of the MSJ community and serve the public by providing accurate, meaningful, and engaging information presented through print and digital mediums.

SCHOOL POPULATION 2016 students EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Carolyn Ge, Mallika Gupta NEWS Gloria Chang, Andrew Kan OPINION Amy Chen, Vicki Xu FEATURE Heather Gan, Helen Wang CENTERSPREAD Zen Thumparkkul, Richard Chenyu Zhou A&E Stephanie Dutra, Hana Sheikh SPORTS Hannah Chou, Cindy Yuan GRAPHICS Evangeline Chang, Victor Zhou WEB Ishika Chawla, Jonathan Ko TECH Julia Park, Michael Ren BUSINESS Ian Hsu CIRCULATION Anagha Mandayam ADVERTISING Shivani Avasarala, Katherine Guo EVENTS Evie Sun, Maggie Zhao SPECIAL PROJECTS Joelle Chuang WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS Shiantel Chiang, Rishi Chillara, Riya Chopra, Christine Dong, Arpita Gaggar, Toshali Goel, Kikue Higuchi, Samir Jain, Anisa Kundu, Karen Li, Lucia Li, Ashni Mathuria, Praveen Nair, Sahana Sridhar, Shreya Sridhar, Shreya Srinivasan, Shray Vaidya, Tylor Wu, Jennifer Xiang, Kelly Yang ADVISER Sandra Cohen Send letters to the editor to 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. To advertise in the Smoke Signal, email ads@ Advertising that is included on the pages of, or carried within, the Smoke Signal, is paid advertising, and as such is independent of the news and feature content. The Smoke Signal’s right to freedom of speech and press is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. All policies on distribution, corrections, and bylines can be found at

When we turn 18, we finally have the legal rights to vote, smoke, and buy lottery tickets. Just two years ago, we couldn’t drive without a parent in the passenger seat, and now we’re now legally responsible for contracts we sign and can even go to jail. We’re expected to know how to handle these responsibilities and privileges as soon as we reach adulthood, but this isn’t always the case. The expectation makes logical sense. Adults have years more experience than children in the world. Consequently, they are more comfortable and familiar with society and the world around us. With all of this in mind, it’s easy to assume adulthood is synonymous with maturity and knowledge. When I was young, I expected my parents, teachers, and elders to be perfect and always know what to do. Thus, I was shocked when I witnessed my mom cry for the first time. Up until then, my mom had managed to conceal any negative emotions from me, maintaining a firm yet cheerful disposition around me and my sister. But her sudden breakdown startled me and shattered her image as a stable all-knowing parent. Back then, I couldn’t fathom that parents, too, had feelings and struggles. The concept was so foreign to me that I even Google searched “Are parents allowed to cry in front of their children?” Learning that the woman I had looked up to my entire life had her own web of problems was traumatizing for seven-year-old Amy, but it helped me understand that adults, even parents, are constantly learning, growing, and struggling along with

the rest of us. Just as giving birth won’t instantly make you a great parent, turning a year older isn’t a magical event that instantly transforms you into a mature adult. In fact, any concept of being a perfectly confident, stable, and mature person at any age is inherently flawed. When I was in elementary school, I dreamed of one day being a teenager, ready to take on the world and finally being independent from my parents. Now that I’m in high school, I’m realizing that most of my peers are still lost and looking to the future. Many of us view college as the entrance to the adult world and a doorway to freedom from our parents. But even in college, we won’t be anywhere close to perfect adults. We’ll be learning and preparing for the workforce, and after that, parenthood, or whatever other paths we end up taking. Failing to recognize this is dangerous. By equating age with ability, adults can overestimate their own maturity by relying too heavily on the belief that older means wiser. It’s easy to identify as a mistake-free adult, but in doing so, we may miss out on the opportunity to continually learn and grow. True wisdom comes from making mistakes and learning from them, which many neglect on account of their own “adulthood.” To avoid this, we always must keep in mind that no matter our age, all of us are constantly vulnerable to uncertainty, change, and imperfection. By doing so, we can become more empathetic to the people around us and ensure that we become the best versions of ourselves. ▪

The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board

Beyond the surface: consider the context One fateful afternoon, English author Douglas Adams settled down at a table with a newspaper, a cup of coffee, and a pack of cookies. An ordinary-looking businessman sitting across from him suddenly reached across the table, opened Adams’s pack of cookies, and began eating from it. This continued for some time; Adams was irritated by the businessman’s brazen actions. After the man had left, Adams folded up his newspaper to find his pack of cookies, still unopened on the table. The poor businessman had simply been eating his own cookies, and Adams had completely misread the situation. As a school, we are just like Adams. We jump to conclusions in much the same way that mice get caught in traps: quickly and without much thought. We automatically assume people are “toxic,” “fake,” or attempting to get ahead at every turn, but we need to consider that people’s actions and their problems do not exist in a vacuum. Unfortunately, simply complaining that the community perpetuates this stereotype of jumping to conclusions and spreading toxicity does nothing to solve the problem at hand. In fact, there’s often little difference between a genuinely toxic person and someone who labels them as toxic. For example, we may condemn others for bragging about not getting enough rest, but when it is our turn, we don’t hesitate to boast about our lack of sleep. When someone doesn’t score well on a test, we judge them for not being “smart enough,” but when we face a setback, we can come up with endless reasons and outside factors for our own subpar performance. The situation is a perpetual cycle of positive feedback, where members of the community end up embodying precisely the same issues they critique. Instead of solely denouncing the obvious issues with our school, we should seek to control the only part of the community we can — ourselves. It is easy but ultimately ineffective to scrutinize others; we are better off striving to become more understanding of their rea-

Opinion 3

Use your brain: the phrase has been repeated so often it’s nearly lost meaning. Of course, logically evaluating actions should be common sense. The problem is that we don’t always “use our brains,” even when we think we are. Instead, knee-jerk emotional reactions influence us more often than we realize. I found myself in this position a few weeks ago while reading a biography of author Laura Ingalls Wilder. The biography included snippets of Wilder’s daughter’s personal and political life. Before I even finished the section about her daughter’s extreme adoration of states’ rights, I went “ew, I don’t like her,” then caught myself after realizing how unfair it was to make snap judgments about a person’s character based on one-sided beliefs. But before I even realized, I already acted on emotion and preconceived notions. In one study by Yale Professor of Law and Psychology Dan M. Kahan, participants viewed footage of demonstrators protesting the Westboro Baptist Church. One group was told that the protestors were campaigning against abortion in front of an abortion clinic, while the other was told that the protestors were campaigning in front of a recruitment building against the military’s anti-LGBTQ+ policy. Kahan discovered that participants’ political orientation affected what they remembered seeing. We act on our immediate impressions, tailoring perceptions to what we already see. The subconscious biases we gain from this process factor into our judgment and shape our worldviews. The fact is, even if our views aren’t logically sound, we believe they are rational and correct. After all, that’s why we hold those views.

Ideally we’d weigh each side before acting, but all too often emotion and knee-jerk reactions cloud our thoughts before we have time to organize them. As a result, our decisions are questionable: We yell at customer-service employees even though they didn’t make the day’s Wi-Fi slow. We rail against teachers and curricula for our unsatisfactory grades before doing any introspection. We label Muslims, women, the LGBTQ+ community, Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans, and just about anyone or anything else based on the actions of a few. Part of this is human biology. University of Southern CA Neuroscience and Philosophy Professor Antonio Damasio studied patients with forebrain lesions, which impair the ability to process emotion. He discovered that the subjects were capable of logical thought but were unable to make simple decisions. Even when we think we’re making decisions totally separate from our emotions, we likely still are; we simply aren’t aware. Completely stopping such behavior is impossible, since we’re biologically inclined to emotionally-charged decisions. Preconceived notions will always influence the way we think. However, we should still strive to be as openminded as we can, just because society should tend toward constant improvement. We need to consciously avoid value judgments until we analyze situations as completely as possible. We must try to view the world as rationally and thoughtfully as possible. Only by doing this can we hold additional sensible conversations with one another without jumping the gun on judgment. A more measured, rational approach to things will perhaps ease some of the tensions we experience daily. ▪

By Karen Li & Lucia Li Staff Writers

soning and attitudes. It is only by empathizing and seeking to understand our peers that our community can be improved. In particular, we need to consider that people’s actions are a result of a bigger context than what we see on the surface. There are a million factors that affect our lives as we grow to become young adults. Some students face turbulent relationships with their parents. Others are working through personal struggles with mental health. On top of all that, we all face our own issues in the rigorous MSJ curriculum.

It is only by empathizing and seeking to understand our peers that our community can be improved. So when someone in your class starts crying after a test, hold back your judgment and realize that there’s a bigger picture. Before you criticize someone for not deserving a certain grade, consider the work they toiled through behind the scenes. When your friend doesn’t respond to your messages, understand that perhaps they have a more imminent issue at hand. Behind all of these calls to action exists a simple truth of life. People love Adams’s story at the train station because it reminds us that even when we think we are absolutely right, we can still be miles away from the truth. By putting ourselves in others’ shoes before judging them, we can shape MSJ's culture so that future generations of students can see it for what it really is: a vibrant, colorful community of people lucky enough to grow up together. ▪



4 Opinion


The Smoke Signal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Substantive activism, not performative activism By Christine Dong Staff Writer With social media’s staggering popularity, diverse user base, and interactive format, it’s no surprise that people come together on online platforms to discuss and advocate for different causes. Because of this, different movements and the ideologies behind them have spread widely and gained numerous supporters. With services like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, supporters can easily demonstrate their backing of various social justice movements through tweets, hashtags, profile picture badges, and filters. However, just as it is easy to lie about name or age over the internet, it’s also easy for online politics to contradict offline action. This discrepancy between what a person claims to support and their actual behavior is a form of performative activism. Performative activism, also known as performative allyship, is the act of stating opposition against a form of injustice while still enabling such injustice and refusing to acknowledge one’s own harmful behavior. Performative activism can occur, for example, when someone who identifies as a feminist makes sexist comments. For example, in early November, when actress Aurora Perrineau accused scriptwriter of HBO’s TV series, Girls, Murray Miller of raping her when she was 17, Miller’s friend, the showrunner and creator of Girls and self-proclaimed feminist Lena Dunham defended Miller. In a statement issued with fellow Girls showrunner, Jenni Konner, the two said, “our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year. It is a true shame to add to that num-

ber, as outside of Hollywood women still struggle to be believed. We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.” Dunham and Konner’s stance disappointed many who consider believing and supporting rape survivors are important aspects of feminism, especially since to many, it appears as if they only opposed the allegations because they were directed against a friend and coworker. Similar contradictory situations are also present when people discuss mental health, especially at MSJ; students flippantly joke about mental illness, comparing disorders like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or bipolar disorder to something as banal as shifts in the weather before turning around and complaining about MSJ’s toxic environment and mentality in regards to mental health. Performative activism is an issue because of its insincere and hypocritical nature. When the behavior of performative activists disrespects the groups of people they

Performative activism ... is the act of stating opposition against a form of injustice while still enabling such injustice and refusing to acknowledge one's own harmful behavior. supposedly support, they don’t often take any criticism of their behavior to heart and instead tend to laugh it off as a joke, saying that the other person is just too sensitive. They try to minimize the impact of their problematic behavior, refusing to acknowledge the contribution they make to the growing problem. In other cases, people treat callouts as an opportunity to talk about their good intentions and hurt feelings rather than using it to

apologize for their actions. For instance, in early 2017, model and television personality Kendall Jenner was criticized for appearing in a Pepsi commercial in which she joined a riot, handed a can of soda to a police officer, and ended the conflict. The ad co-opted imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement and trivialized the danger of riots and the bravery of real life protesters. In regard to the criticism, Jenner said, “The fact that I would offend other people or hurt other people was definitely not my intent and that's what got me the most, is that I would ever make anyone else upset.” Instead of apologizing for her actions and making amends, she focused on her own guilt about the commercial’s negative reception, directing attention away from the real issue: the distasteful advertisement. By turning the attention towards her own feelings rather than considering the feelings of those she offended, Jenner demonstrated the selfishness inherent in performative activism. Performative activism arises from weak principles coupled with a desire for praise, or simply a lack of knowledge. Performative activists have the opportunity to praise themselves for their activism and, due to the often public nature of it, they are praised by others as well. Another reason why people resort to it is because it’s the easiest way to show support. They may not even be aware of the problems with this form of activism simply due to its widespread popularity. It’s undeniably easier for people to just be a performative ally when being a genuine one is much more complicated than liking pictures and wearing the occasional catchy slogan. True allyship is a continual process that involves learning about the movement

they support and actively trying to recognize and change harmful behavior. Comparing the two makes performative activism’s shallow and insubstantial nature clear. Although performative activism is heavily flawed, it has also helped to further the goals of some causes. Showing support for an issue, especially publicly, translates roughly to sharing posts or using hashtags nowadays. Those are all actions that raise

Performative activism arises from weak principles coupled with a desire for praise, or simply a lack of knowledge. awareness and visibility for activist movements. Increased awareness wins more supporters, both performative and genuine, and it’s with those supporters that such causes can gain more traction and make more of an impact on the injustices they mean to oppose. However, just because it helps to raise visibility for social change doesn’t mean that being a performative activist is enough to make a substantial difference and doesn't equate to being a genuine ally. Social activism exists to improve society; it’s not there for people who support it just to feel good about themselves. If people want to call themselves an ally, then it’s important for them to evaluate just what that word means. It’s important for them to consider their own behavior and support, evaluate it for hypocrisy and insincerity, and change themselves. Being an ally is more than just stating support for a cause; it’s taking that stated support and following through with tangible action both internally and externally. ▪

Gap years aid personal development By Shiantel Chiang & Toshali Goel Staff Writers It’s no secret that MSJ students feel constrained to a single path when preparing for a future after graduation. We rush to apply to countless colleges immediately following our high school careers because contrary to reality, we often think these are the only options available. Alternate pathways, such as taking a break period between high school and college, are rarely discussed. Although straying from the traditional academic track is uncommon, taking a gap year can allow students to deepen professional and personal awareness. However, a gap year is generally viewed as a backup plan to the traditional pathway. They are dismissed as a waste of time, and students’ perceptions of gap years, especially in highly competitive environments like MSJ, can be negatively influenced by their peers. Taking a long break period may be perceived as an excuse for being rejected from top colleges or for lacking distinct career plans.

social and professional relationships with people from vastly different backgrounds. Students can interact with people in parts of the world they might only temporarily visit otherwise and develop a deeper understanding for foreign cultures and customs. Less-expensive options for gap years exist as well. For instance, internships in real-world settings or programs tailored to individual interests give students a chance to independently explore and build interest for what they want to do. Programs such as

renewed passion for their future, motivating them in their academic pursuits upon returning from gap years. In fact, according to The Leap, a gap year company in the United Kingdom, 60 percent of students took their academic work more seriously after having a gap year. For students uncertain about future career choices, gap years give them time to discover more about their passions after four years of the rigid academic structure in high

Although straying from the traditional academic track is uncommon, taking a gap year can allow students STAFF WRITER KELLY YANG to deepen professional and personal awareness. for what they want to do. Programs such as school. A 2015 survey conducted by the San These negative notions, however, misjudge the impact of gap years on student life. Gap years can consist of a wide variety of options personalized to the experiences a student wants to gain. For example, traveling abroad and exploring different cultures can push students outside of their comfort zones and teach them skills they wouldn’t gain at school. Experiences in different parts of the world can help students develop

the National Outdoor Leadership School, specializing in environmental ethics, outdoor skills, and wilderness medicine, offer unique experiences that are difficult to gain by sitting in a classroom. These can greatly enhance gappers’ college applications or resumes, providing them with something meaningful to write about and a way to discover or confirm their fields of interest. Additionally, taking a step away from the academic track can provide them with

Francisco-based non-profit organization YouthTruth found that only 45 percent of students felt positive about their college and career readiness, and only 46 percent said their high schools have helped them figure out which careers match their interests and abilities. Gap years immerse students in a productive break before their next major academic step, allowing them to feel better prepared when they transition to post-graduation plans. In the 2015 American Gap As-

sociation (AGA) survey, 60 percent of students reported that their gap years set them on their current career path or confirmed

Gap years give [students] time to discover more about their passions after four years of rigid academic structure in high school. their choice of academic major. Furthermore, gap years shape students’ characters and are valuable to students discovering their passions. Based on an independent study by Karl Haigler and Rae Nelson, authors of The Gap-Year Advantage: Helping Your Child Benefit from Time Off Before Or During College, the burnout from competitive pressure in high school and a desire to find out more about themselves were the top reasons for taking a gap year. Moreover, participating in various leadership programs or taking a job are experiences that build maturity and confidence, attributes that prove invaluable in the workforce and college. After all, according to the AGA, 98 percent of gappers said that their gap years helped them develop as a person and allowed time for personal reflection. The lack of substantial perspective on gap years fails to acknowledge the positive influences gap years can have on students transitioning out of high school. Taking a gap year holds the same value as attending college right after high school and should not be understated. Aside from parents, counselors and college advisers should firmly encourage gap years as an alternative option as opposed to strictly presenting traditional pathways. The vast array of personalized gap years available to students offer unique pathways to independently explore themselves and their futures. ▪

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Opinion 5

Digging below the surface of LGBTQ+ “acceptance” By Ashni Mathuria Staff Writer

For the most part, MSJ appears to be an accepting and progressive school, at least on the surface. After all, students call themselves inclusive, celebrate National Pride Month, and use Facebook’s pride react on posts to show solidarity. However, these actions are superficial at best because they require little effort from students to integrate the historically excluded queer community into the mainstream. When the issue of LGBTQ+ acceptance is brought up, students often claim to be accepting. “I have a friend who is gay, so I don’t mind,” they might say. They “like” LGBTQ+ pages on Facebook and commend others who stand up for LGBTQ+ rights. But their actions and discourse reveal their presumptions about gender and sexuality. Rather than taking steps to cohesively include the queer community — for example, not perpetuating heteronormativity or assuming that all people are gender conforming — students merely tolerate their existence.

This significant difference reveals the true nature of MSJ's populace: accepting, but only on the surface. Students rarely disparage the queer community outright. Violence and overt insults are uncommon, and because there is a GayStraight Alliance club and few public instances of LGBTQ+-related bullying, students may claim that MSJ is an accepting school. At the same time, however, mindless, derogatory jokes and comments such as “gay” or “no homo” commonly float about in hallways and locker rooms. Because these comments are fleeting, students typify them as “just jokes” or “harmless.” In addition, since the comments are so ubiquitous, students perceive them as part of teenagers’ natural discourse instead of insults. However, using identifying words as insults diminishes the perceived worth of LGBTQ+ students. Indeed, any concerns expressed about the remarks are shot down as “too sensitive.” Similarly, discussion about sexuality and gender identity is frequently redirected due to misplaced fears of accidentally offending peers or

personal discomfort with LGBTQ+ topics. These students might call themselves accepting, yet their aversion to speaking about sexuality and gender identity reinforces the idea that queer people are abnormal. Additionally, it gives them the impression that discussing their problems with acceptance would make their friends uncomfortable. These factors create a negative environment in which closeted queer students find expressing their identities a daunting task. In a survey conducted by the Smoke Signal, students showed similar opinions: when asked to rate how accepting they believed MSJ was of LGBTQ+ students, the mean rating out of 5 was a 4. However, when asked to rate how comfortable they thought LGBTQ+ students would be expressing their identities, the average was a 2. This significant difference reveals the true nature of MSJ’s populace: accepting, but only on the surface. Many of the students reasoned that the closeted queer community would fear the reactions of their peers, who might judge them or treat them differently. This is why so many students turn to anonymous online platforms to express their sexual orientation and gender identity, rather than coming out in person. LGBTQ+ students should not have to suppress their identities to avoid judgment; they should have the same freedom to express themselves that straight and cisgender students have. In order to address this issue, students need to recognize how their discourse and actions treat the queer community as abnormal. In casual conversation, students must challenge assumptions that all relationships are heterosexual and all people are cisgender. Differing sexual and gender orientations exist, and when students automatically default to what they consider “normal,” they exclude the LGBTQ+ community. Students must learn to identify discriminatory jokes and explain to their peers how such comments exclude others. Instead of changing the subject when LGBTQ+ topics are mentioned, students need to start more conversations about gender and sexuality. Only by making an active effort to include the queer community can MSJ step past simple tolerance and reach acceptance. ▪

We collected the following data about the campus community through anonymous in-person campus surveys conducted between Tuesday, November 28 and Friday, December 1. 63 responses were obtained. On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being least accepting and 5 being most accepting, how accepting do you think the MSJ community is of LGBTQ+ students or faculty?

(34.92%) 3

2 (4.76%) 1 (1.59%) 5 (7.94%)

(50.79%) 4

On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being least comfortable and 5 being most comfortable, how comfortable do you think members of the LGBTQ+ community would feel outwardly expressing their identities at MSJ? 2 (38.71%)

1 (3.23%) 5 (3.23%)

(35.48%) 3 4 (19.35%)

Increased LGBTQ+ visibility in history By Julia Park & Jennifer Xiang Staff Writers

CA approved 10 new LGBTQ+ inclusive history textbooks for K-8 students on November 10. In accordance with the 2011 FAIR Education Act, the district also rejected two additional textbooks for not using LGBTQ+ labels for specific historical figures. The decision sparked a debate on representation and anachronism — the use of current ideas, culture, and terms to describe historical periods to which they do not belong. Although an accurate description of romantic leanings and gender presentation without the use of LGBTQ+ terms is ideal, the use of anachronistic labels can be beneficial for LGBTQ+ students. The FAIR Education Act requires “Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful” representations of LGBTQ+ and disabled people in history curricula. The CA Education Code already mandates history instruction to fairly cover a variety of demographics including race, gender, religion, and ethnicity; the FAIR Act adds sexuality and disability to the list. While local districts are free to choose high school instructional materials that follow the framework of the FAIR bill, the State Board of Education approves the K-8 textbooks. Most of the textbooks submitted to CA State Board of Education were approved, but two by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) were not. They were rejected partly because

of the lack of LGBTQ+ examples in the textbook, but the final report also cites the refusal to label specific historical figures gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender as grounds for rejection. HMH refused to make the latter change because they felt that they are “contemporary terms that may not map well on past lives and experiences.” However, HMH recognized the importance of historical contributions by people who likely would have identified as LGBTQ+ in the present day. Same-sex attraction and fluid gender identities throughout history are well-documented and relevant to general history. Homoerotic attractions (and the resulting backlash

Same-sex attraction and fluid gender identities throughout history are well documented and relevant to general history. and rejection) often influenced Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, and Hans Christian Andersen's literary work. Friedrich von Steuben left Prussia for America because of rumors of his homosexual affairs. Frederick the Great’s father pushed his son away from “effeminate” activities to the military by executing his male lover. Apart from the romantic leanings of a few historical greats, the Native American “two-spirit” gender, “Boston marriages” forged by likely-romantic femalefemale relationships in the 19th century, the

ancient Greek tradition of pederasty, and other customs are cultural details that provide important historical context. The existence of same-sex relations and nonbinary genders is not trivial speculation but a fact pertinent to historical interpretation.

The existence of same-sex relations and nonbinary genders is not trivial speculation but a fact pertinent to historical interpretation. Sexual and gender identities, however, did not exist as they do today until relatively recently. While people have always been aware of same-sex attraction and gender nonconformity, the terms ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ were coined by writer Karl-Maria Kertbeny in 1869, and the terms ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ in 1991 and 1965, respectively. Beyond the creation of terminology, the idea of gender and sexuality as identities rather than acts likely became prevalent around the mid19th century. There is, however, a way to avoid these anachronisms while highlighting people’s sexualities and gender presentation. For example, while comedian Ellen DeGeneres does identify as a lesbian, Educational Publisher McGraw-Hill chose to use words like “her wife” rather than explicitly state that DeGeneres is a lesbian. This method could be extended to other historical figures.

Although McGraw-Hill’s solution is best, the outrage over labeling anachronisms is unjustified. Aside from LGBTQ+ labels, K-8 history curricula already rely on numerous simplifications. It is impossible to explain all the nuances of political party names or a cultural attitude, so K-8 textbooks often resort to modern-day terminology to help students understand and relate to history. Using current LGBTQ+ terminology is no different. Moreover, the benefits of students’ early exposure to LGBTQ+ representation outweigh the harms of an anachronistic term. LGBTQ+ children are among the only minorities who often grow up doubtful that their experiences are valid, so it is important that they learn about LGBTQ+ historical figures. Failure to do so reinforces the notion that LGBTQ+ issues are an adult-only topic instead of affirming its normalcy to the students who need it most. The state commission and FAIR bill are taking a step in the right direction for LGBTQ+ students and for education as a whole. It is both appropriate and necessary to have LGBTQ+ representation in K-8 textbooks, anachronisms and all, so that students can find much-needed role models and be proud of their identities. They will learn that people like themselves can make history. ▪

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The Smoke Signal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Smoke Signal



DIEHARD TRYHARDS try Holiday Thrifting MAGGIE My Google search history is littered with search terms like “how to thrift” and “thrifting for beginners.” I have four different wikiHow tabs open about thrifting. I think I’ve done enough thorough research — now it comes down to being able to utilize these tips and tricks while actually shopping. There’s nothing I love more than a bargain, but I can only hope I have the vision needed to put together an entire holiday outfit with only $20. As someone who usually wears black and grey, I anticipate the holiday aspect to be the most challenging part. Regardless, I’m sure I have this in the bag.

Walking into the store, I realized that many of the tips and tricks I had gleaned from my 20 minutes of research on Google were inapplicable for this particular store. As a first-time thrifter, I decided to just wander around and see what I could find. What I found was that I had underestimated the challenge, as I quickly realized that my tendency to gravitate towards dark or neutral clothes severely hindered my ability to curate the festive vibes this challenge required. I decided to make things simple and went for a red and green outfit.


Feature 7

With the holiday season finally upon us, the Smoke Signal took on a thrifting challenge with a festive twist. The Diehard Tryhards visited Goodwill at 4025 Mowry Ave. Fremont, CA 94538 in search of the cutest holiday outfit with only $20 to spend, a test of who has the most zeal for holiday steals. By Riya Chopra, Shreya Sridhar, Evie Sun & Maggie Zhao Staff Writers



I am confident that I will have no problem putting together the most spirited and inexpensive outfit. From years of searching for promotion codes and combing through the clearance racks in stores, I know how to spot a deal. I have a decent amount of knowledge on thrift stores from organizing a clothing drive at Goodwill two years ago. I am also an absolute Christmas fanatic. My storage closet is filled with snowman stockings, life-size candy canes, candles with Santa’s face, and snow globe ornaments. I have the inspiration. I have the experience. Now I just need the win.

Although, admittedly, I have never shopped inside of a thrift store, make no mistake! I know how to spot a good deal when I see one. After years of Black Friday shopping and mall runs, I am a seasoned veteran in cutting coupons and finding that “50 percent off ” sign buried beneath a mountain of clothes. The holidays are a particularly great time to shop because of the discounts on Christmas attire and decorations. I have my fair share of ugly sweaters and Yankee candles, and am ready to add a new outfit to my collection of all things Christmas. I am sure that with my ample knowledge of shopping and keen holiday spirit, my opponents won’t stand a chance.

Entering the store was like walking into a dark hole of countless items, from kitchen supplies to formal blazers. I had to scrutinize each clothing rack before finding an outfit I was happy with. Unfortunately, as I tried on a classy red and white dress, I couldn’t get it to fit. After some more rummaging, I went for a radiant red sweater, but this time, it was too big. Once again, after more scouring and combing through numerous shoes, sweaters, bags, and dresses, I finally found a decorative, winter-themed blue sweater to go with a simple Santa hat and red handbag, all under my $20 budget.

At first, I was flabbergasted by the sheer number of items in the store. Unlike my competitors, I did not immediately start scouring the aisles because, frankly, I hadn’t the slightest idea of where to start. As I wandered, I found the jackpot: a rack of ugly Christmas sweaters. After I picked one up, I started to have an idea of what kind of outfit I envisioned. I headed over to the shoe section and was instantaneously drawn to a pair of crimson heels. I became accustomed to the layout of the store and chose a hat and decorative tea cup to complete the outfit.

Given the amount of sizing mishaps I had and the intense scavenging I had to do, I am pretty content with the results. I feel that I could have done better if I paid more attention to sizing and pricing details, but I stand proud at second place. I now realize that the secret to thrifting is patience. You must be prepared to spend a lot of time combing through items before finding something you like. Overall, trying on the spirited holiday outfits combined with bonding with my fellow thrifters made this a very enjoyable experience. It definitely reminded me of the laughter and spirit the holiday season is all about.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit shocked by the results. After all, I did start off shopping with a bumpy start, not having a clue as to what to buy. However, I feel like my shopping instincts kicked in as I perused the aisles of Goodwill. I remember feeling a sense of confidence as I put the finishing touches on my outfit, and I am very pleased with the turnout. More than the actual shopping aspect, I enjoyed chatting with my fellow thrifters, and I believe that the true holiday spirit is more about having fun with friends and family rather than looking for good deals.

I’ll be the first to admit — I’m not the best at shopping. Most of my prior shopping experiences have ended with my parent falling asleep on the benches outside the store as I frantically hunt through racks of clothing in vain. Thankfully, I have some thrifting experience under my belt: I spent half of the summer before my sophomore year volunteering at the Tri-City Thrift Store, so I’m fairly confident in my abilities to put together a holiday outfit with only $20. Coupled with my enthusiastic holiday spirit, I’m convinced that I’ll be a worthy opponent.


When I first stepped foot into the store, I admittedly didn’t know what to look for. As I scanned around for potential pieces to create my holiday outfit, my eyes were immediately drawn to a row of cheery Christmas sweaters. I beelined towards the rack and rummaged through the clothes, most of which were much too big for me. However, my heart lifted as I came across the perfect ugly sweater, adorned with loose tinsel on the shoulders, and felt Santas attached on both the front and the back. Finally, I picked out a glittery Santa hat to perfectly top off my outfit.


Unfortunately, it seems that just dressing in red and green didn’t quite cut it for this holiday-themed challenge. Still, I ended up finding some pretty good deals, which made this shopping trip a success overall. In addition, I got to get out of my comfort zone and into the holiday spirit. Despite the dismal results of the rankings, I don’t think I could have asked for a better group of people to go thrifting with the first time. Maybe I’ll just put “better thrifting skills” on my Christmas wish list.


While my fellow thrifters aimed for a cute holiday look, I went straight for the tackiest sweater that I could find. Unfortunately, I did not realize that we were supposed to be creating a cute holiday outfit, not a wacky one. Oops. In addition, I do admit that I relied a little too heavily on my snazzy sweater to carry me through the competition. Regardless of the results, however, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to get to better know my fellow thrifters while having a great time shopping together this holiday season.





8 Feature


The Smoke Signal

Dear Diary: 2018 Expectations By Kikue Higuchi Staff Writer

Nov. 29, 2017 Dear Diary, Today was our first late start Wednesday after coming back from Thanksgiving Break. Since it was late start, I stayed up late last night and I was so tired that I fell asleep in Chemistry. My first period! My teacher called on me and I didn’t wake up, so she tapped me on the shoulder. It was so embarrassing I almost exploded. I’ll use Winter Break to catch up on my sleep, so next year I won’t sleep in class at all! But until then, I think I’ll sleep in my fourth period instead. Dec. 3, 2017 Dear Diary, Yesterday my friends and I went shopping for our Winter Ball dresses. I got a pale blue dress that really made me look like Cinderella, which was perfect because of this year’s theme Magic at Midnight. This morning I woke up to find my dress absolutely destroyed. I guess my dog thought the dress was the biggest squeaky toy on planet Earth. He ripped it to shreds, but that’s not all. He peed on it too! I have no idea how I’m going to find another dress. I think I’m going to cry. I never thought my dog, my best friend, my truest companion, could ever betray me like this. My dress and my heart have been destroyed.

think 2017 might be the worst year to date. I had hoped that things would turn around in 2018, but I’m not so sure anymore. I think the best thing for me to do is bingewatch the new Stranger Things season, again. Dec. 20, 2017 Dear Diary, Today I have achieved victory against all odds, and it was glorious. Despite the biting cold and swampy track sucking my feet down into its muddy depths, I ran my fastest mile. 25 minutes and 12 seconds. That’s a whole two minutes faster than my last time! My classmates cheered me on zealously as I passed Mr. Marden, wheezing and sweating for the last time in 2017. I have triumphed over all the evils that have been thrown at me the last few weeks. Sleepless nights, double-crossing dogs, and bad grades can’t catch me now! I’m sprinting into Winter Break and into the New Year with gusto. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and soon I’ll escape the claws of this dismal year. Dec. 22, 2017 Dear Diary, Winter Ball was incredible mostly be-

cause of my amazing friends. We reminisced over all the fun times we’ve had in the past year and I’ve realized something. 2017 wasn’t all that bad other than the last few weeks. Sleep schedules can be fixed, my dog is still the cutest thing in the world, and I have all of next year to pull my grades up from the abyss. We spent the rest of the night dancing together and taking pictures. I am filled with hope for 2018 and so are my friends. This year is over, but life is not. Dec. 28, 2017 Dear Diary I came up with a few New Year’s resolutions and I’m going to stick to them. Maybe. Anyway, I’ve decided that in 2018 I’m going to: go to Starbucks at least once a week for a major study session, start using my planner so all those little red zeros on School Loop disappear from my life forever, use my free time to hang out with friends instead of watching Netflix, and buy my dog a new toy every week. In addition to those resolutions, I’m going to join a gym. I need to keep up my successes and cut more minutes off my mile time because 2018 is going to be a whole year of me being the best I can be. Or maybe just the best. ▪

Dec. 8, 2017 Dear Diary, Today my English teacher gave us our most recent vocab quiz grade. This is my eighth C in a row. My parents are going to chew me out like they’re eating an overcooked steak. I thought I did really well on this one too. Sophomore year is so much harder than freshman year; I have no idea how I’m going to handle this. My homework pile has doubled in size and so has the number of zeros on School Loop. My grades are in free fall and I have another round of tests next week. I

Thursday, December 21, 2017

SRO ROBINSON REPORTS by Officer Kelly Robinson HOLIDAY SAFETY TIPS Winter Break is upon us! Here are some Holiday Safety Tips from your fellow School Resource Officer, to ensure you and your family have a safe winter! • Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. Auto burglaries increase dramatically during the holidays. • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, "con artists" may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings. • When leaving home for an extended time, have a neighbor or family member watch your house and pick up your newspapers and mail. • Leave a radio or TV on so the house looks and sounds occupied. Burglaries increase during the holidays; however, they are far less likely to occur if they believe someone is home. • Be sure to lock doors and windows when you leave the house, even for a few minutes. • Avoid riding in a vehicle with an intoxicated driver. Also beware of intoxicated drivers on the road. And last but not least, have a great Winter Break! Enjoy the holidays. See you all next year! ▪


Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Feature 9

Alumni Spotlight: Brianna Lei

By Michael Ren Staff Writer

Alumna Brianna Lei graduated in the Class of 2012. From there, she attended the University of Southern CA (USC) for four years, during which she made two games that have since been featured and played by many popular YouTubers, including PewDiePie, iHasCupquake, and shane. At MSJ, Lei participated in a number of clubs, such as MSJ Green Club and Food For Thought. She also felt that high school prepared her particularly well for her academic experience at USC. “I was so used to studying for difficult courses here

Class of 2012 Alumna Brianna Lei

that when I got to USC, most of the classes felt really easy,” said Lei. Lei entered USC looking to pursue a career that was both creative and practical. She had initially applied to major in architecture because it fit her criteria the best, but once at USC, she realized that the college also offered a game design program that suited her better. Lei also found life at USC to be very different from MSJ; she particularly enjoyed the amount of freedom the school offered to students as well as the diversity of classes. Once she transferred her major to game design in her freshman year, Lei designed and released two games, Pom Gets Wi-Fi and Butterfly Soup. Both games are single player role-playing games. In Pom Gets Wi-Fi, the player controls a savvy Pomeranian dog who, after being caught off-guard by a fire due to her getting hung up on checking social media, finds herself in dog heaven where she realizes she cannot connect to Wi-Fi anymore. The objective of the game is to find Wi-Fi by passing various minigames and cooperating with other dogs in dog heaven. Butterfly Soup is a coming-of-age story of growing up as an Asian-American in the Bay Area and dealing with the challenges that come with it. The player plays as four separate very stressed out high school students, with each of them struggling with their own difficulties due to the environment they live in. Lei spent a significant amount of time on planning each of her games. “My games are very

DIY Gifts For the hipster: Aesthetic camera box with pictures Materials: • Scissors, hot glue or regular glue, sharpies, colored pencils • Cardboard box • Colored paper • Small pictures Instructions: • Decide how big you want the camera box to be, and cut pieces of the appropriate dimensions out of cardboard. You can also use a regular cardboard box. • To create the drawer that will hold the pictures, cut out another open-top box from cardboard pieces. Glue the pieces together so that this box does not have a top cover. The dimensions should be 2 or 3 centimeters less than the original camera box, so that it can fit within the outer box. • Cut out a small rectangle from colored paper. Glue the edges to the outside of the drawer so that the middle pops out like a handle. • For the front of the camera, cut out a small circle from cardboard to glue it to the front as the camera lens, and design the camera however you like. • Put the pictures in the drawer (open-top box) and insert it into the camera box.

Lei's first role-playing game, Pom Gets Wi-Fi.

story-heavy, so it’s necessary to pin down what themes and messages I want to convey first before diving into designing the game and writing the script around them,” said Lei. In addition, working with playtesters and hearing their criticism was an extremely important part of the process. To anyone also looking to enter the field of game design, Lei’s advice is to keep the first game short. Once the first game is finished, expanding after that will be easier. In the future, Lei hopes to continue her career in game design. Among many other ideas, she also has a sequel for Butterfly Soup planned. “Games are a super young medium compared to other forms of art like film and literature, so there’s a lot of exciting unexplored potential in the field,” said Lei. ▪ PHOTOS BY YOUTUBE.COM, COURTESY BRIANNA LEI

By Arpita Gaggar, Karen Li & Anagha Mandayam Staff Writers

It’s the holiday season, which means gift-giving time is here! Small, homemade presents can often speak louder than expensive ones, so the Smoke Signal has compiled several options for last-minute, yet thoughtful DIY gifts.

For the foodie:

For the nature lover:

Vanilla Cinnamon Spice Mug Cake Jars

Homemade Scented Potpourri

Materials and Ingredients: • Three small Mason jars • Ribbons and packaging decorations • 6 tablespoons Angel food cake mix • 1 ½ tablespoons Instant Vanilla pudding mix • 3 tablespoons cinnamon chips • 3 tablespoons baking powder • Gift tag Instructions: • Add 1 tablespoon of Angel food cake mix to each jar. • Add ½ tablespoon of instant pudding mix to each jar. • Add 1 tablespoon of cinnamon chips to each jar. • Add 1 tablespoon of baking powder to each jar. • Package the jars with decorative gift tags, and make sure to add microwave instructions for the mug cakes: “Add 3 tablespoons of water and microwave for 1-2 minutes when ready to eat.”

Materials: • Your choice of flowers • Sheet pan • Parchment paper • Scissors • Essential oils • Spray bottle • Citrus fruits, herbs, whole spices (Optional) Instructions • Take the flowers and take off the individual petals. You can remove just the flower stems and keep the heads as well. • Lay a piece of parchment paper on the sheet pan and place the flower petals on top • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. • Sprinkle the optional herbs and spices on top of the flower petals/heads. If you choose to use the citrus fruits, make sure to cut them in thin slices and place them on the tray. • Add 10 to 15 drops of the essential oil of your choice. • Spray some water over all the tray ingredients using the spray bottle. • Pop the tray in the oven for around 2 hours. • Once out of the oven, add a few more drops of the essential oil. • Place the potpourri in a bowl or cloth satchel.



The Smoke Signal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

By Samir Jain, Lucia Li, Praveen Nair & Michael Ren Staff Writers

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The Bay Area has a 75 percent chance of experiencing a potentially deadly earthquake in the next 30 years. There is at least a 72 percent chance of there being an earthquake with at least a magnitude of 6.7 on the Richter Scale, and a 50 percent chance of there being a 7.0 magnitude or higher earthquake in the vicinity. Fremont has a relatively high chance of taking the brunt of a potential geological cataclysm. The Hayward Fault, estimated by scientists to be the most primed to break in the Bay Area, goes right through the center of Fremont. Other nearby faults include the Calaveras Fault, which caused the 6.2 Morgan Hill earthquake in 1984, and the Greenville Fault, which caused the historic 1980 Livermore earthquake, rated a 5.8 on the Richter Scale.


Yes (10.8%)

The Bay Area is one of the world s hotspots for earthquakes, and many scientists believe the area is due for the next Big One in coming years. There are many ways that MSJ students can prepare for a natural disaster of this scale. The Smoke Signal compiled information on the Bay Area's risk and history of earthquakes and surveyed 93 students from all grade levels about their opinions on earthquake preparedness.

On a scale from 1 to 5, how well do you believe that school earthquake drills adequately prepare you for a real earthquake?

If the school were hit by a major earthquake, On a scale from 1 to 10, how prepared do you think the school would be?

Have you been in a major earthquake before?


5 (3.3%) 4 (28.0%)

local faults

1 (29.0%)

Do you feel like you have received proper earthquake safety information and instruction at school?

Yes (54.3%) No (45.7%)


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HISTORY OF EARTHQUAKES IN THE BAY AREA The largest earthquake in recent Bay Area history was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a magnitude 7.8 tremor on the San Andreas fault line. The tremor leveled 80 percent of the city and killed at least 3,000 people. The earthquake set off a series of fires lasting three days. From 1911 to 1979, the Bay Area faced a 68-year period without any 5.5+ magnitude earthquakes, although this lull was broken by the 1979 Coyote Lake earthquake on the Calaveras fault. In 1989, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake near Loma Prieta Peak shook the Santa Cruz mountains, causing 67 deaths, almost 4,000 injuries, and $5 billion in damage. The quake famously interrupted Game 3 of the Giants-Athletics World Series and collapsed a section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. According to US Geological Survey Scientist David Schwartz, The Bay Area has the highest density of faults per square mile in any urban center. He predicts the next Bay Area earthquake to be more devastating than the Loma Prieta quake due to the population density over the San Andreas and Hayward faults.





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how to be better prepared • Discuss with your household members what to do in case of an earthquake. • Make sure to learn what the earthquake procedures are at any place you frequent • Identify where the safe places are in your home, such as what furniture you can duck under. Also identify where the dangerous places are in your home, such as bookcases, and bolt them to walls whenever possible. • Practice dropping and covering under each safe place. • Make sure you have access to NOAA Weather Radio. The government-run radio station posts valuable information about hazards and updates during earthquakes. • Keep flashlights around the house, and make sure you know where they are. • Try to secure any objects that could fall in your house, or keep them closer to the ground.

GEneral general evacuation procedure According to FUSD policy, standard procedure for students and faculty inside buildings in the event of an earthquake is to drop, cover, and hold on as rehearsed in drills. Students and faculty who are outside during an earthquake should look for open areas away from buildings and power lines. Once shaking stops, evacuations should occur when directed over the loudspeaker by the principal or other administrator. Evacuation routes should avoid hazardous areas with trees, building overhangs, or electrical wiring.



72% no

2 (18.3%)

nd rea


Have you and your family/guardians ever drafted or discussed a plan of what to do in the case of an earthquake?

3 (21.5%)

Sa na

Do you know where class emergency supplies are located in case of an Earthquake?


No (89.2%)

very well

Centerspread 11

) .2% 45 s( Ye

earthquake awareness


The Smoke Signal

No ( 54 .8%

10 Centerspread

According to MSJ Student Safety Committee Head Jeana Nightengale, in addition to the FUSD required supplies stocked in the storage containers on the field, more supplies are also stocked in the emergency backpacks in each classroom. Supplies consist of basic necessities such as a flashlight as well as rations. In addition, MSJ has a number of Community Emergency Response Team certified teachers, who have received extra training in dealing with emergency situations such as earthquakes. More than half of all teachers are also trained in CPR, according to Nightengale.

school resources

the great california shakeout Every year, MSJ participates in a statewide scheduled earthquake safety drill called the Great California Shakeout. It is a program intended to help schools and communities in earthquake-prone CA practice how to Drop, Cover, and Hold On in statewide scheduled earthquake safety drills. The program currently has more than 10.5 million participants across CA, including MSJ and the rest of FUSD schools. The Great California Shakeout was established in 2008, and soon became a part of a larger Shakeout program that runs worldwide, operating with more than 57.5 million participants since 2017. A database of earthquake safety resources, procedures, as well as scheduled dates and informational materials on how to participate or prepare for drills is available at, the official website for the program.


12 Arts & Entertainment


By Joelle Chuang, Katherine Guo & Evie Sun Staff Writers

2017 brought plenty of new, record-breaking music and artists into the spotlight. The Smoke Signal highlighted noteworthy albums from a wide variety of genres that stole the show this year.

What was your favorite album released in 2017 and why? “Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All was my favorite album released in 2017 because the amount of emotion he puts in all of his songs gives me the feels whenever I listen to it. It also has been too long since he last released a new album and it is by far my favorite!” — Shirley Wong, 12

The Smoke Signal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

American Teen Released when he was only 19 years old, Khalid’s debut studio album opened at number nine on the Billboard Top 200 Albums, Released selling 12,000 copies. In October 2017, the album was certified PlatMarch 3 inum by the Recording Industry Association of America for collectDAMN. ing more than one million dollars in combined sales and albumReleased equivalent units. Khalid’s warm vocals vibrate with a mix April 14 of pop and soul in the album’s lead single, “LocaCtrl tion.” Themes of youth and friendship are Released Kendrick Lamar’s woven in throughout the album. highly anticipated album, DAMN., June 9 debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 Albums, featuring music from a variety of producers, including Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith SZA’s debut studio and DJ Dahi. Each song, with bold titles such as “HUMBLE.” album Ctrl debuted and “FEAR.,” tells a complex, emotionally-charged story at number three on the dealing with Lamar’s personal views of humanity and Billboard Top 200 Albums himself. DAMN. won Album of the Year at the chart, and in October 2017, 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards and was nomithe album was certified Gold nated for the Album Of The Year which by the Recording Industry will take place at the Grammy Association of America for acAwards in January 2018. cumulating more than $500,000 in album-equivalent units and sales. SZA’s sultry, raw vocals reflect on love’s fragilities and modern romance. Tracks such as “Doves In the Wind” (ft. Kendrick Lamar) and “The Weekend” reflect a R&B style with indie rock influences.

“My favorite album is Tell Me You Love Me by Demi Lovato because I think this is one of the albums where an artist expresses most of themselves though. She expresses so much of herself through this album. “Tell Me You Love Me” is one of the songs, and she also has “Sorry Not Sorry” where she brings out her fears, it’s such a good song and so much vocal ability is in there — it’s great.” — Bruce Bai, 10

“My favorite album is Evolve by Imagine Dragons. I got a hand-signed lithograph of it. I love Imagine Dragons because of a lot of their mainstream songs, but I also think the songs on this album, “Thunder” and “Believer,” are new anthems that they have put out this year and this might put them back on the board.” — Shayan Panjwani, 11

“My favorite album is the Stargazing EP by Kygo. I think a lot of the songs in this album are very emotional and they make me sad and nostalgic, which I really enjoy. [The songs] really make you appreciate the people in your life: the people who you love. I just really like that about the songs — it makes me emotional.” — Justin Leung, 12

“I really liked ÷ by Ed Sheeran because a lot of the album’s songs had deep meanings and lyrics about being happy, which really related to me and pushed me forward in my life.” — Maggie Hsu, 9

Warmer in the Winter Released October 20

Violinist and composer Lindsey Stirling spreads holiday cheer with a combination of flowing violin instrumentals and pop voices in her first holiday album, Warmer in the Winter. The album opened at number 23 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, selling 15,000 copies. It consists of 10 cheerful holiday classics, inLove Yourself ‘Her’ cluding “All I Want for Christmas” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” The album also Released September 18 features four original songs from artists such as Becky G, Trombone Shorty, Sabrina Carpenter, and Opening at seventh place on the Billboard Alex Gaskarth. Top 200 Albums, Love Yourself ‘Her’ is the highest ranked Korean pop album ever on the record chart, making BTS the first Asian band in seven years to debut in the top ten of the chart. Showcasing a mix of electro-pop and hip-hop, this album features songs about youth hopelessness with lyrics that use gender-neutral pronouns. The Chainsmokers collaborated with BTS for the song “Best Of Me,” which is BTS’s very first collaboration with an American artist for an album. BTS became the first Korean pop group to perform at the American Music Awards on reputation November 19 with their Melodrama Released November 10 title track “DNA.” Released June 16 reputation, Taylor Swift’s first album in three years, sold two million copies in its first week, beLorde’s second full-length album topped coming not only her fastest-selling album to date but also not only the Billboard Top 200 Albums, but the fastest selling album of 2017. It topped the Billboard Top was also number one in New Zealand, Aus200 Albums chart for more than five weeks. Swift’s tralia, and Canada. Melodrama is an album newest album is a darker departure from her highlighting Lorde’s journey into adultTexoma Shore earlier albums and is often seen as a challenge hood, showcasing her musical talents Released November 3 to her media portrayal. The first single rewith soothing harmonies and falsettos leased on the track, “Look What You Made Blake Shelton’s newest album, Texoto compliment her bittersweet lyrics. Me Do,” makes direct references to ma Shore, which debuted at fourth on the It won the New Zealand Music Awards the media fallout with Kim KarBillboard Top 200 Albums, is reminiscent of the Album of the Year, and it received an dashian and Kanye West, an country star’s earlier albums. The album’s first track, Album of the Year nomination for act seen as controversial. “I’ll Name the Dogs,” landed first on the Billboard Canada’s the Grammy Awards, which could make the 20-year-old singer the second youngest winner for the Album of the Year.

Country chart and was the second best-selling single the week it was released. The album is named after Lake Texoma, near Shelton’s hometown of Ada, Oklahoma. Texoma Shore offers a playlist that pays homage to country and pop music, and Shelton’s own life events can be clearly identified throughout the tracks, with references to girlfriend Gwen Stefani in multiple songs.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Smoke Signal

Arts & Entertainment 13


C R I T I C S’ C O R N E R MusiC: melina duterte, miguel | Film: wonder, coco

Under the radar

Music review

a wonder o n th e b ig s c r e e n


MELINA DUTERTE By Jennifer Xiang Staff Writer Melina Duterte, also known as Jay Som, is a 22 year-old critically-acclaimed artist hailing from Oakland. Her music is indie rock mixed with bedroom pop and other lo-fi influences. Duterte released her first album Turn Into in late 2016 with the indie label Polyvinyl. The album is a randomly-selected collection of songs that she had been working on for the past few years, and had received a rave review by Pitchfork. Duterte plays guitar, bass, drums, and the accordion on records, and produces her dreamy indie rock songs. The album followed her nationwide summer 2016 tour with Mitski and Japanese Breakfast, two other artists who also make music inspired by their identities as Asian-American women, which broke ground in the white, male-dominated indie rock scene. The tour attracted the attention of fans of those two artists and led to Duterte touring with indie pop mainstays Peter Bjorn and John. In early 2017, Duterte released her sophomore album, Everybody Works, which achieved an 82 on Metacritic, a score that signals “universal acclaim” according to the site. The album was also given the accolade of Best New Music by Pitchfork. Influences for the album range far, from pop (Carly Rae Jepsen and Tegan and Sara) to R&B (Earth, Wind & Fire, and Michael Jackson) and rock (Steely Dan). The album was highlighted by its single “The Bus Song,” the music video of which was directed by tour-mate Japanese Breakfast. The two will reunite in 2018 for a west coast tour and will play at Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco in February. ▪


By Sahana Sridhar Staff Writer Directed by Stephen Chbosky, the movie Wonder does a remarkable job of breathing life into the story of August “Auggie” Pullman’s (Jacob Tremblay) experience with Treacher Collins syndrome. Based on The New York Times Best-Seller Wonder by R.J. Palacio, the movie not only engages but informs the audience of the isolation and consequent bullying that children with disabilities are subject to. Due to the surgeries and facial deformities that result from Treacher Collins, Auggie was homeschooled his entire life. His facial deformities act as a barrier between himself and potential friendships; he hides behind a toy astronaut helmet in public to escape open mouths and long stares. Auggie’s close relationships with his mother Isabel (Julia Roberts), father Nate (Owen Wilson), and sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) are the only real and honest connections he has ever known. The relationship Auggie shares with his family is one of the most touching aspects and greatest strengths of the movie’s plot. As he enters fifth grade, Auggie quickly

befriends his classmate Jack Will (Noah Jupe), but he also encounters a group of tormentors, lead by school bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar). Despite constant belittlement and betrayal, Auggie’s admirable resilience and his moving friendship with Jack contribute greatly to the movie’s heartwarming nature. Chbosky manages to capture the seriousness of bullying in schools with scenes of Julian and his friends harassing Auggie, while using scenes of Auggie and Jack’s lively friendship to integrate the purity of childlike spirit into the movie. The young actors’ obvious talent and emotional investment in their characters enhance Wonder’s impact. Although the movie’s focus is predominantly on Auggie’s public school experience, endearing but unnecessary subplots unwind alongside it. For example, Via’s budding romance with a classmate and crumbling relationship with her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) amount to nothing more than mild distractions; these subplots simply add to the movie’s length. One of Wonder’s most significant strengths is its cinematography and soundtrack. The bird’s-eye view shots of New York, where the

movie takes place, furthers a sense of growth in the story; the world evolves and changes around Auggie, and he with it. The shots that focus on Auggie as he navigates middle school emphasize his isolation, multiplying the audience’s empathy. The powerful cinematography aids in establishing a personal connection between the characters and viewers; the on-screen laughter ignites a sense of childlike joy, and the tears result in sniffles and crinkled Kleenexes. The soundtrack consists of primarily upbeat tracks like “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant and “brand new eyes” by Bea Miller. These songs reinforce themes of kindness and optimism. Wonder was consistently outstanding throughout its 113-minute run time, but its greatest asset was its central message: “What we do is what matters the most.” Watching Auggie shape the world around him with his humor and resilience makes up for the movie’s longwinded scenes. Whether for exposure, education, or sheer entertainment, Wonder is definitely a movie worth watching on the big screen. ▪ Rating: A-

COCO makes music pixar’s forte

Book Bites By Anagha Mandayam Staff Writer

Student Recommendation

Title: The Ghostfaces Author: John Flanagan Rating: Medium Genre: Fiction The sixth book in the Brotherband Chronicles follows the journey of a group of friends in a fantasy land. In The Ghostfaces, the brotherband are thrown off path and come into contact with a local tribe and an evil tribe. They are forced to fight to save the local people in this new land. “This book is interesting because it details how a more advanced civilization comes into contact with a less advanced civilization, and somehow, the more advanced civilization is able to not leave a negative mark on the less advanced one ... unlike [how] colonization in our world often did.” — Junior Zubayr Mohammad

Teacher Recommendation

Title: The Happiness Equation Author: Neil Pasricha Rating: Medium Genre: Nonfiction Based on experiences from the author’s own life, this book explores the factors necessary in one’s life to attain happiness. Pasricha also explores the common misconceptions revolving around happiness and success, referring to anecdotes in his own life as well. “This book will change your life. It has many simple and doable action items that help make life happier and more satisfying. Most of the action items are things we already know, but this book is a nice reminder.” — AP World History Teacher Nancy Benton

By Tylor Wu Staff Writer Pixar’s latest original film shows a successful return to classic Pixar themes with a musical twist. Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, packs a colorful, musical, and heart-warming story about family and individuality. Coco tells the story of a young boy named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a budding musician from a household that forbids music. He is cursed to live in the land of the dead after stealing the guitar of the late famous musician, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), on the Day of the Dead. He must receive a blessing from a deceased family member in order to return to the land of the living. On his journey to return from the dead, he struggles to balance the wishes of his family with being true to himself and his music. The few musical numbers within the movie are upbeat and catchy. They are used to great effect to both develop themes and remind the viewer of events from earlier in the film. For example, the song


“Remember Me” is sung time and time again in different arrangements to push the theme of remembering family. Despite the common use of music, the film is nothing like a Disney musical such as Frozen. Pixar focuses on a few unique songs rather than telling the story through song. The rest of the soundtrack combines Latin American instruments with Hollywood composition to create a very unique and enjoyable atmosphere for the movie. Coco departs from typical Pixar style through the use of musical numbers, but it also represents a return to old Pixar themes. The movie focuses on the importance of family, and although vocal music makes its debut, it still functions similarly to soundtracks in their other films by weaving themes throughout the film. For fans of Inside Out and Finding Nemo, Coco will seem very much like a return to story form for the animation studio. However, this means the plot can be predictable since many Pixar family films have the same general storyline. The animation style of the movie

is cartoonish and colorful. Animating little decorations for the Day of the Dead celebration as an expository device helps tie together the story with the visuals and keeps the audience engaged. Characters are animated in a style reminiscent of Frozen, and intense attention to detail is paid to the skeletons in the land of the dead. The dead who are more remembered have bright white skeletons while the forgotten have yellowing skeletons. Grand sweeping scenes of the land of the dead blow the viewer away with how large the world is, dazzling audiences with color and light during these breathtakingly gorgeous shots. Overall, Coco very successfully integrates vocal music to tell a story about family, and questions the importance of individuality compared to family. Although Coco may be Pixar’s first foray into musical numbers within its films, it certainly should not be its last. ▪

By Shivani Avasarala Staff Writer Miguel’s vibrant new album, War & Leisure, marks his bold return to the music scene after a two-year solo hiatus, during which he ventured into acting and performed as the opening act for pop artist Sia’s Nostalgic for the Present Tour. Beginning his musical journey at the age of 13, Miguel has cultivated an understanding of music on a deeper level, personally describing his own style as “shocking and edgy.” Widely known for his songs “Sure Thing,” “Quickie,” and “Adorn,” Miguel is a prominent figure in the modern wave of R&B artists. He expresses an evolution in his versatile style through War & Leisure, a combination of tracks that pull from funk, R&B, contemporary, mellow rock, and hip hop. Similar to the juxtaposition of ideas in War & Leisure, Miguel creates unusual and refreshing connections between the different genres he explores. The album dawns with an unusually slow pace but soon sinks in with the introduction of Miguel’s R&B style through the chill track “Skywalker” featuring Travis Scott, classified most clearly by the catchy hook “I’m Luke Skywalkin’ on these haters.” The song brings a similar vibe to generic R&B and hip-hop tracks by incorporating witty lyrics with simple beats, using the authentic snare and bass. The melancholy tone of the album takes a sharp turn with the funky “Banana Clip,” a laidback and carefree song comparing the artist’s love to the force of a banana clip. The lyrics “I guess I’m trigger happy” cleverly connect love and war, diverging from the comparatively superficial messages of the preceding tracks. With regards to vocals and instrumentation, the album is a gem among modern mainstream releases. Miguel definitely doesn’t fail to showcase his soulful and passionate voice through each track, weaving in effortless runs and adlibs over soothing background vocals. The layering of quirky instruments with the slight distortion and filtering of sounds contribute to the album’s retro vibe; for example, “Told You So” uses a far-out, wacky synth instrument as the song’s foundation to present a piece perfect for 80s disco. Tracks such as “City of Angels” and “Harem” take advantage of a computer-generated static effect to produce a nostalgic and edgy sound. The album goes out on a limb by experimenting with different languages, featuring an interesting mix of English and Spanish on the sensual track “Caramelo Duro,” in which Miguel wistfully sings about an extended metaphor on candy as a symbol of love. War & Leisure concludes on a rather peaceful note with “Now,” by exploring electronic and dance tunes and ethereal undertones. With his fourth studio album, Miguel gives listeners a glimpse into his expertise in several distinct genres. Despite the slightly dragged start, War & Leisure compiles impactful pieces that tell their own holistic stories; the album is a clear example of Miguel’s nonconformity to any one musical category, establishing his unique identity as an artist. ▪ Rating: A


14 Arts & Entertainment


The Smoke Signal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

aladdin brings magic to the stage By Toshali Goel Staff Writer

The beloved Disney musical Aladdin is brought to life in the latest Broadway rendition of the story. It follows the titular character Aladdin (Adam Jacobs), a Bay Area native, as he weaves his way through a complicated path of love, power, lies, and heartbreak. The theatrical performance features upbeat dance numbers, energetic choreography, and dazzling production design, simultaneously making it an accurate reenactment of the original Disney film and a new experience for all to enjoy. The musical remained true to the original tale in many respects, following the same order of events and even containing some quoted lines from the film’s script, while still providing modern references to add a unique comedic experience. Director Casey Nicholaw also features content that was cut from the original Disney film, including the third track “Proud of Your Boy,” and replaced the lovable monkey Abu with Aladdin’s friends Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Philippe Arroyo), and Kassim (Mike Longo). Several loopholes in the original plot were tackled in the Broadway performance, resulting in a clear storyline that was lacking in the film. The play was accompanied by a brilliant orchestra, directed by Brent-Alan Huffman. The seamless transitions between dialogue and song sequences added to the effortless and graceful vibe of the play. The plot is easy to follow, with the musical numbers adding context and keeping the acts lively. Although there are some periods of uneventful filler, the dynamic performances more than make up for them. The singing is one of the most appealing aspects of the musical, with each of the actors bringing a unique new element to the original characters while still recalling the original cast. Genie (Understudy Ellis C.

Cast members dance during the opening scene “Arabian Nights.”

Dawson III) is introduced first and remains the most engaging character until the end of the play, adding witticisms and comedic relief with impeccable timing and skill. Apart from Genie, however, Aladdin fails to bring much depth to any character. Aladdin and Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla) remain one-dimensional, cookie-cutter interpretations of characters who were much more deeply explored in the film. The actors are dressed in elaborate costumes inspired by Middle Eastern garb and reminiscent of those from the original film, adding to the glamorous feel of the city of Agrabah. The extravagant stage production and timed lighting cues create a visually stunning production, the absolute highlight of the experience. Lighting and backdrop changes

reflect the mood of the scene and personality of its main character, turning serpentine green when villain Jafar (Jonathan Weir) takes center stage and mellow yellow when Aladdin roams the marketplace. Enthusiastic dance choreography accompanies breathtaking visual props and pyrotechnics, even shooting streamers out at the audience members during the outstanding rendition of “Friend Like Me.” The standout number of the play, however, is unquestionably “A Whole New World,” featuring twinkling lights to emulate the night sky as well as a genuine flying carpet, brought to life by theatrical illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer. The scene is enhanced by the illusion of clouds underneath Aladdin and Jasmine, creating a spectacular, ethereal feel and truly making

magic. Aladdin is a production for everyone, featuring quirky humor for younger audiences as well as stunning visuals, captivating plot and impressive scale for fans of the original film. Its greatest accomplishment is the seamless merging of these aspects, creating new and creative content to produce an original performance while remaining true to the message of the film. ▪ Rating: B+

The Smoke Signal features the winning review from a competition among all first-year journalists. PHOTOS COURTESY DEEN VAN MEER, GRAPHICS BY ES.DISNEY.WIKIA.COM

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Arts & Entertainment 15

Drawing the line between art and vandalism By Lucia Li & Shreya Srinivasan Staff Writers

At Seminole Heights, an intersection in Tampa, Florida, a 28-foot diameter mural was mistaken for graffiti and concealed with asphalt. The mural, commissioned by the city and surrounding neighborhood, depicted a mandala, a symbol of religious significance to Hindus and Buddhists. The mural was the first of Tampa’s street murals and the Seminole Heights community was devastated to see a piece of their home and history dismissed as graffiti. While the director and workers who covered the mural apologized, the mistake highlights the common issue in differentiating between art and vandalism. The difference between graffiti and street art may seem subtle but is utterly crucial. Graffiti is a term that most are familiar with, defined in the CA Government Code as “any unauthorized inscription, word, figure, mark, or design that is written, marked, etched, scratched, drawn, or painted on any real or personal property.” Graffiti is typically word-based, and perpetrators often take to tagging, the writing of a personal signature. This type of vandalism is illegal and can be found scrawled on walls of various infrastructure around cities. It is publicly viewed as crass and displeasing. This predisposition gives all art on public display a negative connotation.

Eduardo Kobra’s mural for the Olympics.

While graffiti ... certainly warrants a negative response, art with meaning that provides both artists and the public with a representation of their views should not be perceived in the same manner. Graffiti’s unpopular reputation wrongfully impacts street art. The distinction is in the intention of the artist. Most cases of graffiti are difficult to connect to a message. However, the work of street artists evokes response from the public by encouraging the development of emotional connections with or thoughts on its message. Artists use this medium to express themselves and their opinions effectively. Eduardo Kobra, a street artist who was hired to paint a mural for the 2016 Olympics, produced an image of five enlarged faces of people of color. The mural was inspired by the Olympic rings, a fitting message of unity for an event where athletes around the world gather to compete together.

Taking away a form of free expression limits public discussion about social and political opinions. Additionally, street art is typically imagebased, and often involves sprawling pieces of art displayed in public areas. This can come in the form of city-commissioned murals or, sometimes, illegal pieces of artwork. On the illegal side of the coin, the anonymous English artist Banksy is well-known for the strong messages in his murals, which follow themes of anarchism, nihilism, and existentialism, and provide insightful social commentary. While Banksy has garnered

Mural for the City of Hayward painted by contracted artist Josh Powell.

much support for his messages and art, he has also been the target of disrespect and anger because of the illegality of his work. This is where the lines blur, as although Banksy is creating thought-provoking works of art, he is doing so without the city’s permission. Other local artists who categorize themselves as street artists have gained permission from or partnered with cities. The City of Hayward has contracted with several artists to paint murals around the city and eliminate tagging and other vandalism in what they call the Hayward City Mural Project. The project focuses on a proactive and positive image of legal art on the street.

The City of Hayward has contracted with several artists to paint murals around the city and eliminate tagging and other vandalism in what they call the Hayward City Mural Project. Besides the commissioned artists, there have been hundreds of volunteers that support and contribute to the covering of de-

structive graffiti with murals. The sheer volume of public help and care demonstrates their views on street art. Locals feel a sense of pride at the beautiful murals they helped create, and the city displays meaningful messages instead of distasteful graffiti. Additionally, the creation of art in public places lends a new form of accessibility to the medium. Art was traditionally viewed as an extravagant luxury reserved for the upper class. However, with the display of this medium in public places, art and its meanings have been made available to all, promoting unity within communities. While graffiti, a form of vandalism, certainly warrants a negative response, art with meaning that provides both artists and the public with a representation of their views should not be perceived in the same manner. Taking away a form of free expression limits public discussion about social and political opinions. Understanding the difference in the portrayal and intent of street art is a key first step to appreciating and educating others in an effort to preserve a representation of the people’s voice. ▪ PHOTOS BY EDUARDOKOBRA.COM, JOSHPOWELLSTUDIO.COM

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The Smoke Signal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Sports 17

Athlete Spotlight: Minh Thai and Audrey Yung on the world stage By Anisa Kundu & Shreya Sridhar Staff Writers Two MSJ students, Senior Minh Thai and Freshman Audrey Yung, competed in the seventh Kungfu World Championships, which took place on November 7 to 11 in Emeishan, China. Hosted by the Chinese Wushu Association (CWA) twice a year, this competition allows athletes with a spot on a traditional Wushu team to compete. The Championships host both seminars and competitions, and people of all different nationalities attend this event. The CWA accepts thousands of competitors across the globe with varying skill levels and ages. Yung and Thai both put in many hours of practice before competing in the Golden State Competition earlier this year to qualify for the CWA’s Kungfu World Championships. Since this was Yung’s first time participating in an international competition, she was overwhelmed and amazed by the sheer amount of people at the competition. Yung has been

practicing Kungfu for about nine years, starting in preschool. At the World Championships, Yung received two bronze medals. Training for the competition required hours of dedication, but Yung is used to managing her time between Kungfu and her academics. “My academy’s competition team holds practices at night, so a lot of times, I finish all my homework or at least a portion of it before I go to practice,” Yung said. She typically practices at Legend Kungfu in Newark from 8-9:30 p.m. Before this competition, she trained four to six hours every week, but after qualifying for the World Championships, she increased her practicing time to up to eight hours every week. Watching the Disney movie Mulan sparked Yung’s interest in the martial arts, and the stunning tricks and performances made her want to pursue Kungfu. “For people trying to pick up a new sport, definitely give Kungfu a shot.

Senior Minh Thai performs in the Men’s Traditional Double Weapon event.

I personally think that it looks really cool, and you have all these cool flip and jumps. You also have weapons that you can use including broadswords, spears, and whip chains,” Yung said. Thai started training at age four. Like Yung, he attends Legend Kungfu, where he has trained for more than 10 years under the guidance of his teacher Sifu Li. Thai came back with a bronze and a silver medal in two categories, beating out 18 to 22 people in each. During his first time in Asia, Thai enjoyed making new friends from a variety of countries as well as photographing the event. He especially enjoyed capturing photos of Russian competitors and learning from their strategies because the Russian team contained some of the toughest prac- Freshman Audrey Yung performs in the Chen Style Tai chi Fan event. titioners worldwide. Thai first joined Kungfu more than half a year. Thai has made plans to learn self-defense, but as he advanced in the to continue improving in Kungfu, especially sport, he became more motivated to compete after this competition. Thai said, “The meanand to teach others in his academy the art of ing of Kungfu is just mastery of something… Kungfu. Describing his experience as a Kungfu after having practiced Kungfu, I kind of depractitioner, Thai said, “I first started Kungfu veloped this way of thinking that I want to be in order to learn self-defense… But eventu- better every single day and this helps you in ally I did grow an affinity towards Kungfu be- your mindset in every aspect of your life.” ▪ cause it’s kind of like a lifestyle you develop.” Both practitioners will continue martial arts in the future. Yung has transferred from Kungfu to Tai chi, making the switch because she felt that it would be a better fit for her. She has been practicing Tai chi for a little PHOTOS COURTESY NIGEL ARMES, YUTING HO

Boys’ Soccer kicks off their season with a tie

Junior Drake Lin prepares to play defense.

By Shray Vaidya Staff Writer Boys’ Varsity Soccer faced off against Moreau Catholic High School in their first game of the season on Friday, December 15 at Tak Fudenna Stadium. Both teams had multiple instances of close goals that had the audience on the edge of their seats, and their hard work ultimately resulted in a tie game, with a score of 0-0. Much of the beginning of the first half of the game was played near MSJ’s goal, immediately leading to rising tension in the crowd. Soon, however, MSJ gained their footing, and the two teams began to trade off the ball, with both sides taking shots to score goals but missing by just a small margin. Defensive players Sophomore Jackie Xie and CoCaptain Senior Shrey Vasavada helped save multiple goals and assisted in kicking the ball back towards Moreau’s goal. Towards the end, Striker Sophomore

Justin Kim took a hit to the back from the ball and fell down, but encouragement from the team and audience had him back on his feet in a few minutes. During the second half, neither team was prepared to back down, and if anything, their desire for victory only heightened their determination. Their enthusiasm was transferred to the audience, who happily cheered when their team got the ball or voiced their disapproval when they thought the referees had made a bad call. Highlights included when CoCaptain Striker Senior Jonathan Nguyen quickly responded to a pass from Left Back Junior Drake Lin from across the field to take a fast shot at Moreau’s goal. Nearing the end, both teams stepped up their game, making for a much more fast-paced series of shots and trades. Nguyen believed that there were a number of technical moves the team skillfully executed in the game. “I think we were able to get plays, passes, a lot better passing, and we were able to get balls through to our strikers.” Vasavada also agreed that teamwork was an important key to success. “I think it’s still coming together right now. Like, today, we had some really good opportunities and chances, and it reflected where we are right now. It’s going to get better, I can tell.” The team believes that there are still many aspects to work on, including tactics such as field formation and passing. With the goal of making it to the North Coast Section Champion Tournament, they practice daily during the school week and focus both on conditioning and technical skills. As far as targets for the rest of the season go, Nguyen said “We’ve got a young team, so we hope to grow and develop everyone, and then hopefully we can get our chemistry up and play well together.” ▪

Senior Ansh Vidyarthi fights for possession of the ball.


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The Smoke Signal

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Sports 19

Guide to Local Gyms in Fremont Fremont has a variety of fitness centers that offer different facilities, equipment, and pricing plans that cater to different customers. Certain gyms may fit the needs for different MSJ students. Some are looking to build their endurance for a marathon on a treadmill, while others simply want to do casual laps in a pool to work off holiday weight. The Smoke Signal assembled a list of local gyms based on location, level of involvement, and available equipment.

Mission Hills Athletic Club

By Toshali Goel, Kikue Higuchi, Samir Jain & Karen Li Staff Writers

ETA from MSJ: 5 minutes

The 12.8 acres owned by Mission Hills Athletic Club on 10 E Las Palmas Avenue in Fremont not only has a gym but also 13 tennis courts. It is less popular than other bigger gyms, so visitors do not have to worry about the lack of available equipment. The club is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Friday, closing one hour earlier on weekends. The gym is relatively small, but offers an ample number of machines. Full membership is $49.95 per month with a $39.95 registration fee, including access to all equipment and tennis courts. Fitness-only membership allows visitors unlimited use of only the gym, at $24.95 per month with a $39.95 one-time fee.

24 Hour Fitness ETA from MSJ: 10 minutes

Snap Fitness ETA from MSJ: 4 minutes

Snap Fitness is a small gym with less variety of equipment, but the location is convenient for students who prefer a shorter commute. Snap Fitness is open 24 hours everyday and is within walking distance of MSJ, located at 43480 Mission Blvd, Suite #160. Students can work out whenever it’s convenient for them. Memberships require a one-time, $39 program fee and a $25 access card fee, which gives access to all Snap Fitness locations, in addition to the $50 per month fee. However, the gym offers a 7-day free trial, in case clients want to try it out first.

As the name suggests, the club 24 Hour Fitness grants 24/7 access for its members and is perfect for those who are unsure when they will have time to work out. The super-sport gym, located at 4500 Auto Mall Parkway, offers various facilities, ranging from cardio equipment, weights, and cycling equipment to an indoor pool and basketball courts. There is a $100-150 fee for the initial membership followed by $50 each month after. This price guarantees access to all 24 Hour Fitness clubs. If members are only interested in access to one particular club, a “1 Year Limited Term” fee of $539.99 applies.

ClubSport ETA from MSJ: 13 minutes

Planet Fitness ETA from MSJ: 17 minutes

Students who are not sure if they want to make a commitment to a gym should consider Planet Fitness. Planet Fitness boasts a “Judgement Free Zone” and there are no additional fees for cancelling a membership. The gym is quite large with lots of cardio equipment. The basic membership is $10 per month while the Black Card membership, which offers tanning, massages, and 20 percent off Reebok products, is $21.99 per month. The gym is open 24 hours on Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. However, Planet Fitness is the farthest of all these gyms, located at 39161 Farwell Drive.

ClubSport, which is located at 46650 Landing Parkway, offers many leisure and recreational opportunities, with its $99 initiation fee and $280 monthly fee for a standard family plan attracting higherend clientele. It is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and offers a wide accommodation of facilities, including five indoor and three outdoor tennis courts, a full squash court, table tennis, an outdoor swimming pool, a complete weight room with a variety of equipment, treadmills, and yoga rooms. Aside from fitness and athletics, visitors can also enjoy massage tables and leisure facilities such as a lounge and bar.


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The Smoke Signal


Friday, December 22, 2017

ng i & Kelly Ya By Karen L Staff Writers

exchanges st mean gift ju ’t n es o d n ct time to seaso it is the perfe s; The holiday er n in d ily t of the upant fam have. In ligh and extravag e w g in h yt mosphere r ever g the war m at n give thanks fo ci ra b em d ed students ities an nal interview coming festiv ig S e ok m S e ay spirit. ays, th d special holid an of the holid s n io it ad tr nique about their u

What does giving mean to you? “Gift-giving means more than just giving your friends gifts. Obviously there are still fun things we do, like Secret Santa, but I think it’s more than that. I think the thought that goes behind buying that gift for them, just making them feel appreciated during the holiday season, is what giving is about. There’s also donating; we had that canned food drive to help out the less fortunate, which I think is also a part of giving during the holiday season.”

ananya verma, 11

What part of the holidays do you love the most and why? “What I love most about the holidays is the opportunity to spend my time doing something that makes me genuinely happy. I like school, but true happiness comes in the morning of Christmas, drinking hot cocoa in fuzzy pajamas and opening presents.”

ayushi srivastava, 10 What are you especially grateful for this holiday season? “I’m especially thankful to be able to go to this school and just being here in general because for most of the people here, their families are immigrants. If my family didn’t come to America, then we would probably be living in a horrible country with violence. I’m thankful for being able to go to MSJ and being in a community where I feel comfortable and safe.”

setara nusratty, 10

What part of the holidays do you love the most and why? “Everyone’s happy. It’s a season of giving and being thankful for family and friends, which is really refreshing considering how much stress we get from school or work. People take the time to actually reflect on their lives and take time to relax and have fun.”

anna wu, 11 Do you have any unique holiday traditions?

Scan the QR code for more Holiday Humans of MSJ voices or visit our website at

“Every year, my family and I go to Lake Tahoe to go skiing, and I really enjoy it because I like going to the hotel and playing arcade games, and I really like skiing. It brings our family together because my parents have work most of the time, so I don’t see them the whole day.”

sarah sun, 9


Volume LIII, No. 4  
Volume LIII, No. 4