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VOL. 49, NO. 6


February 21, 2014


MSJ DECA shines at State Conference Page 1: • At the Deca state conference, msj students qualify to move on to the international Competition • this year, ap tests will only be offered for courses taught on campus • student actors place third at norcal theatre festival Page 2: • interact builds solar ovens to donate to refugees in afghanistan

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AP testing policy changes By Nithya Rajeev & Vivian Liu Staff Writers Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, MSJ will no longer be offering Advanced Placement (AP) exams for courses not taught on campus, with the exception of AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics. Previously, MSJ students could take any AP exam offered by College Board on campus. In light of recent changes, however, MSJ will now no longer be offering AP exams in Comparative Government, Italian Language and Culture, and Art History, German Language, Spanish Language (which will alternate with Spanish Literature every year), US Government, European History, and Latin. AP Coordinator and English Teacher Kathy Mattingly said of these changes, “There is not a need to give you a test for something that we don’t teach on campus.” Furthermore, due to the fact that AP exams are administered during school hours, students miss anywhere from two to 10 days of school. Mattingly said, “We are trying to keep students happy and healthy on this campus by eliminating some of the potential ‘stressors’ that come, not only with preparing for the AP tests, but [with] keeping up with your regular class work at the same time.” According to Principal Zack Larsen, another key cause behind this decision had to do with the cost of administering AP exams. Everything from the rental of tables and chairs to the payment of proctors has to be taken into consideration for each exam. Last year, MSJ spent a total of nearly $9000 just on equipment rentals, and every proctor was paid nearly $200 a day to oversee students and su-

See AP NEWS Page 2

photos courtesy amy huang

(From left to right) Seniors Andrea Brandle, Dora Li, and Amy Huang won first place for their Financial Literacy Promo- Junior Dustin Chiang was re-elected as DECA State President, beginning his second year in the position. tion Project at DECA SCDC.

By Abigail Wong Staff Writer MSJ’s Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) club members recently attended the 2014 DECA State Career Development Conference (SCDC) from February 6 to February 9 in Anaheim, CA. DECA is an international student business organization that facilitates clubs in high schools such as MSJ. Through chapter projects and competitive events, DECA strives to give members “a ‘career success kit’ to carry into their professional and personal lives after graduation,” as their mission statement says. This year, about 2,000 members from all over California participated in the 2014 DECA

State Conference. Over 100 MSJ students demonstrated knowledge of business and showcased skills in vocational careers such as marketing, finance, and entrepreneurship. One of the ways DECA members established their expertise in business was through a written event in which students developed business plans or chapter projects. At MSJ, several DECA members have been working on chapter projects since September. Three of those DECA students are Juniors Aarti Panda, Ashna Guliani, and Aarthi Madadi. The team’s concept is a community service project in conjunction with two charities, Project Night Night and Ruby’s Place. They raised money for these charities through several fundraising events such as care package drive and created a

30-page report about their efforts for the SCDC conference. Sophomores Anaha Raghunathan and Alice Cheng also developed their own DECA project, focused on entrepreneurship promotion. According to Raghunathan, the pair has been implementing their project around the community by inviting successful entrepreneurs as speakers to discuss their experiences, writing a Tri-City Voice article on business start-up tips, and giving a presentation at the Fremont Main Library. SCDC presents a chance for the pair to demonstrate their knowledge and efforts, as Raghunathan states, “Personally, for the upcoming

See DECA, NEWS Page 2

Award-winning performance at Theatre Festival

staff writer grace dong

(From left to right) Freshmen Victoria Schmit and Albert DangVu and Sophomores Meher Badia, Vanessa Morales, and Allama Pattanashetty performed a scene from Alice in Wonderland. They placed third in the Production Scenes category of the NorCal Theatre Festival at San Jose State University on February 8.

By Grace Dong Staff Writer The fifth annual California Educational Theatre Association (CETA) NorCal High School Theater Festival took place in the Hugh Gillis Hall of San Jose State University on February 8. Drama Teacher Tanya Roundy and a group of her students attended the event which consisted of a competition portion and a workshop portion. The Theatre Festival was a chance for high school theatre students to receive high quality instruction in workshops, positive feedback from the adjudicators, and the opportunity to grow as performers. Three acts from MSJ competed at the festival. Juniors Michelle Chen and Gelsey Plaza competed in the Musical Theatre solo category, with

Chen singing “Think of Me” from the Phantom of the Opera and Plaza singing “Into the Woods” from the musical, Into the Woods. Sophomores Allama Pattanashetty, Vanessa Morales, and Meher Badia, and Freshmen Victoria Schmit and Albert DangVu performed a scene from the Universal Performers’ fall play, Alice in Wonderland, in the Production Scenes category. Other categories in the competition included Monologues, Duets, Musical Theatre groups, and Production Scene solos. Out of the many acts in their respective categories, the Alice in Wonderland team was among the top three that advanced to finals, which took place in the Hugh Gillis Hall Theatre in front of a live audience. Even as the youngest competitors at the competition, the group placed third in all of NorCal. When not competing, the attendees mingled

with other theatre students and participated in workshops. Sophomore Vanessa Morales said, “It was great to meet people who were interested in the things I am interested in. It’s just amazing to be around that vibe with people who are passionate about what you’re passionate about, acting.” The workshops included stand-up comedy, improvisation, design, and musical theatre and were conducted by working professional actors and directors. The students tailored their own schedules for the day, attending workshops that interested them personally. Freshman Albert DangVu said, “This is the first time I ever did a stand-up comedy workshop. There is an actual comedian teaching, and I learned a lot. When I performed I was really nervous, but people actually laughed and it built my confidence. It was a great experience.” While the students were competing or attending workshops, Roundy was at a Round-Table Discussion for Theatre Teachers, a new addition to the program. Theatre teachers gathered to discuss current topics affecting theatre educators, specifically the implications of Common Core standards in the Theatre classroom. After the event, Roundy said in an e-mail, “The arts in general, are not as well supported or promoted as athletics or academics in particular at this school. With Common Core and the ideas that kids need to read more various types of ‘texts’ and critically think, it would be nice if everyone


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The Smoke Signal

Interact makes global impact with solar ovens By Rebecca Wu Staff Writer Interact District 5170’s Area 5 worked with non-profit organization Trust in Education to host its “The Answer is the Sun” Building Workshop on February 8 at Centerville Community Center as part of the club’s 2013-14 annual international project. The goal of the event was to build 5,170 solar “CooKit” ovens—each one stamped with the District 5170 and Trust in Education logo—to send to refugee families in Afghanistan. Each solar CooKit is distributed with a water pasteurization indicator (WAPI), which melts at pasteurization temperature to show when water is safe to drink. A pair of CooKits and WAPIs costs $15 to make and send, creating a total cost of $77,550 for the project. For every $15 that is raised, however, about 40 cents is saved for the families in Afghanistan who normally try to get by on $1 per day. Every year, Interact focuses on one international project in which the club partners with an organization and raises money for different causes. This year, the club is cooperating with the Trust in Education organization, located in Lafayette, CA, on its Solar CooKit program, which has been going on since 2012. The 2013-14 “The Answer is the Sun” international project focuses on providing solar technologies to people living in thirdworld countries so that they can avoid

THEATRE| Festival continued from page 1

realized that the arts do all of this on a daily basis, and the experience of learning them will make them [the students] better thinkers and better well rounded individuals in society.” The Theatre Festival also boasted a Keynote Speaker and a Special Matinee Performance of Tartuffe, a coproduction between the Shady Shakespeare Company and San Jose State University. The attending MSJ students received a chance to listen to actor James Carpenter, named Best Bay Area Theatre Actor in 2009, speak of his experience in the acting industry, having performed with the San Jose Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, California Shakespeare Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and in many films and TV shows. The special performance of Tartuffe took place in the Hal Todd Theatre for the Festival attendees and competitors. The matinee was especially scheduled for the festival participants, as the perfect

ending for a long day of workshops and performances. The CETA NorCal High School Theatre Festival was a great experience for the MSJ representatives who attended. In the future, Universal Performers plans to attend more events such as the Ohlone Drama Festival on March 21 to March 22. About festivals like this, Roundy said, “I’m glad the students have an opportunity to go and meet other actors, see what other people are doing and network, as well as take advantage of the workshops and new information they can gather.” ▪

staff writer grace dong

Freshman Albert DangVu (center) and Sophomore Allama Pattanashetty (left), mingle with actors from other schools at the festival.

AP| Tests

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DECA conference we honestly just hope to do our best, and to follow through with the enormous amount of hard work and dedication we have put into this project.” DECA also provides a basis for students to learn about organizations and plan events to earn money for a chosen establishment. Sophomores Sara Panjwani and Madhura Naidu chose GLIDE, a San Francisco nonprofit foundation. The pair organized a DECA’s first ever Laser Light dance as their fundraising event. Action steps included hiring a DJ and creating a marketing strategy for advertising. For the team, SCDC is an opportunity to showcase the team’s efforts, as Panjwani says, “I personally would really love to show everyone the hard work it takes to plan and event and fundraise because many people don’t understand the time and effort people put in when organizing such events.” In order to qualify for the state conference, DECA projects had to be

ranked in the top eight at the regional conference. The judges, business professionals that work and judge in specific sections, decided the rankings and the winners. This selective process set a high caliber for the state qualifying projects as well as elevated expectations for the state conference from MSJ’s DECA club co-president, Senior Amy Huang. “The goal is for MSJ to get as many members to qualify for the DECA’s International Career Development Conference,” stated Huang before the convention. In summary of the 2014 DECA State Career Development Conference results, 32 MSJ DECA members qualified for the international conference by placing top four in their events and more will have a chance to compete as well. Junior Dustin Chiang, who was re-elected for DECA State President at the conference, reflects upon MSJ’s current standings and future prospects, stating, “MSJ performed exceptionally at SCDC this year. Every single member truly did a fantastic job, and our competitive success continues to grow each year.” ▪

pervise exams. For the AP Chinese and AP Japanese exams, MSJ also had to rent the facilities of the Fremont Adult School. These expenses threaten to make students pay more in order to take each exam, and the fee has climbed up to $95 per exam this year, with the exception of fees for the AP Chinese and AP Japanese exams. Regarding the costs, Principal Zack Larsen said, “The numbers of students who took exams for courses we do not offer was very small. This is precisely why we could not afford to keep offering them. While we wish we could offer every AP test possible, simple math dictates that we would run a deficit, and put the AP program at risk if we continued down this path.” For students who desire to take the AP exams now discontinued at MSJ, they can make arrangements by contacting the AP coordinators of other high schools across the Bay Area. Depending on the AP exam, this change could prove to be only a minor inconvenience, as many FUSD high schools are able to provide for the AP exams MSJ cannot. For example, according to Mattingly, Irvington High School is one of the high schools aware of the changes MSJ has made and has agreed to accommodate students if there is room in their testing halls. Regarding the impact of these recent changes, MSJ students were divided in their opinions. For some, the changes were irrelevant and would not affect them. To Sophomore Aimee Xu, the changes will not be a huge inconvenience. She said, “I’ve had plans to self-study several AP courses and I’ll most likely still be doing so. I think the main effect this will have on students is that we will have to find other schools to take these exams at, which is slightly less convenient.” Others said they would have to reconsider taking AP exams no longer offered at MSJ. Junior Vivek Calambur described the negative effect it would have on his four-year plan by saying, “I was planning on self-studying AP US Government, but now I’ll have to take it at another school.” Some students consider the changes beneficial; Junior Kelvin Lu said, “I think it’s a good way to stop students from needlessly taking AP tests that probably won’t count for much later on. Taking more than what’s going to be offered is overkill for most students. I feel that the current selection of AP courses at Mission is already diverse and adequate.” ▪ Northern California will see a $1 increase in the price per box for Girl Scout Cookies. The creator of the app Flappy Bird removed the game from app stores. Representatives from Taiwan and China met for the first time since 1949.

Volunteers assemble solar-powered CooKit ovens to donate to refugee families in Afghanistan.

fossil fuel usage and limit pollution and global warming. The club raised enough money to host its own event this year, making it the first time club members were able to participate in a hands-on building workshop to create the actual ovens. At the event, volunteers were separated into three groups, creating an assembly line of tracing and cutting out sheets of foil, stapling the foil to the cardboard, and constructing the final product. Each assembled Cookit converts sunlight into thermal energy by reflecting sunlight from the folded structure of cardboard and foil onto a cooking pot in the middle. The cooking pot is surrounded by a heat resistant bag, which uses the greenhouse effect to allow sunlight to hit the pot and prevents heat from escaping. The heat resistant bags used were mylar bags, usually used to package coffee beans and thrown away afterward, donated by Peet’s Coffee & Tea. Using just a few hours of sunshine, the CooKits can cook a family-sized meal, and

act members, Rotarians, parents, and members of the organization. Trust in Education volunteer John Pomidor said, “It’s really inspiring for old fogeys like us to see the kids really pitching in to make a difference in the world. It really rejuvenates us.” President and Founder of Trust in Education, Budd Mackenzie said, “It’s phenomenal that these students have weighed in to assist in making these cookers that end up helping refugee families in Afghanistan. Smoke inhalation kills about two million people per year. But with these CooKits, we will be able to eliminate smoke, pasteurize water, and eliminate the use of firewood, which is prohibitively expensive. A single CooKit can feed a group of 10, so the commitment to make 5,000 CooKits will benefit 50,000 people.” As of January 2014, Interact District 5170 has raised 56 percent of its total goal of $77,550. For more information on the Solar CooKit program, please go online to www.trustineducation. org or visit ▪

Friday, February 21, 2014

the no-cost availability of the reflective material further emphasizes the affordability and sustainability of the solar CooKit ovens. Interact District 5170’s International Coordinator, Mariko Stenstedt said, “Afghanistan is sunny 300 days a year, making the implementation of solar technology like the WAPI and CooKit very ideal. Along with partnering up with the Trust in Education organization, we are also trying to integrate the school Interact clubs into supporting their local Peet’s Coffee & Tea.” About 70 people showed up to the event to work, along with Inter-

Each CooKit oven uses mylar bags, donated by Peet’s Coffee & Tea, to collect sunlight.

DECA| States continued from page 1

photos by staff writer rebecca wu

for the jan. 31, 2014 issue

News page 2: Three percent of students bike to school. News page 2: The battery drive was from February 3 to February 12. Centerspread page 10: The height of the belltower is estimated to be greater than 50 feet. Sports page 19: The photo is of the softball field.

Compiled by Staff Writers Katrina Cherk, Anand Balaji, and Megan Ren

Girl Scout Cookies start with $5 price. Prices for this year’s Girl Scout cookie sales have increased from $4 to $5 this year in the Northern California (NorCal) chapter. According to NorCal Girl Scout Chapter Executive Director Marina Park, the change will help pay for facilities, invest in new resources, and reach out to girls in under-served communities. Every box sold contributes about $1 to the cost of cookies, $1 to troops, and about $3 goes toward council services, such as maintaining camps the chapter offers.

Flappy Bird removed from app stores. Dong Nguyen, creator of the app Flappy Bird, recently removed the game from iOS and Android app stores. The game has already been downloaded over 50 million times and reportedly made $50,000 per day. Nguyen felt uncomfortable with Flappy Bird’s success because it had become addictive to a point where it was a problem. However, he is not giving up game development and says he now has more confidence and freedom to experiment with other possible games.

Taiwan and China Hold First Talks Since 1949. In a symbolic gesture of the easing hostility between the two nations, representative Wang Yu-chi of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and Zhang Zhijun of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office met on February 11. This is the first time the nations had an official meeting since the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The focus of the discussion was improving communications between the two nations and Taiwan’s inclusion in regional economic agreements.

Friday, February 21, 2014


The Smoke Signal

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Editors-in-Chief Jin Peng, Grace Wu News Nina Krishnan, Kerrie Wu Opinion Sanjay Sreekumar, Catherine

By Sanjay Sreekumar & Catherine Wang Opinion Editors


Writers & Photographers Anand Balaji, Jacinta Chang, Kevin Chen, Alice Cheng, Katrina Cherk, Grace Dong, Purvi Goel, Michael Hsiu, Vivian Liu, Arti Patankar, Melissa Peng, Iyesha Puri, Tanvi Raja, Apoorva Rajanala, Nithya Rajeev, Megan Ren, Hannah Shih, Katie Sun, Andrea Tam, Hanson Wang, Rebecca Wu, Lillian Zhao, Madeline Zheng

Advisor Sandra Cohen Send letters to the editor to opinion@the 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, e-mail 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.

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For the Love of the Grade Part I

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Sanjay Says It’sThe Cat’s Meow

Mission San Jose High School Est. 1964 Vol. 49, No. 6 | February 21, 2014

Feature Vivian Jair, Anjali Kanthilal Centerspread Tingting Bi, Lindy Zeng A&E Tammy Tseng, Peter Xu Sports Leah Feuerman, Ishan Goyal Graphics Shirby Wang, Anna Zeng Web Laura Chen, Supriya Yelimeli

The following piece is intended to be a satire of an issue that we believe is plaguing MSJ. Catherine: Yo Sanjay, I am currently floundering through a dismal abyss. My grade in Introduction to Ethics is 89.49%. I’m terrified about the next test! Sanjay: Oh, really...I happen to have an A+ in that class. Catherine: Wait what? How is that even possible?! You’re always playing Flappy Bird underneath the desk. You probably don’t even know the definition of ethics. Sanjay: You couldn’t possibly be farther from the truth. I am the epitome of ethical behavior. Catherine: That fact doesn’t help me; the test is in a couple of days, and I crave nothing more than a fraction of a percentage point. My livelihood hangs in the balance! Sanjay: There, there...because I’m a kind, gentle-hearted senior, I’ll let you in on some of MSJ’s deepest, darkest secrets. As the only student at this school who maintains a spotless report card, a flourishing social life, and hours of beauty sleep to boot, I – Catherine: Shut up, and get to the point! What are your methods? I need some answers here. Sanjay: Fine then. First, what are your studying methods? Do you get any outside help?

Catherine: Nope! I figure I can just use my time to stay at home and work on my self-study skills, which involve taking meticulous notes, making towering stacks of flash cards, and drinking an immeasurable amount of caffeine. Sanjay: Psh-h, none of that helps you get to the real “deets”, and it looks like you have way too much on your plate. Almost everyone works hard, but you’ve got to work smart. You know how to get ahead? Start looking up answers online. The interwebz is full of information for the watchful eye. Catherine: This actually sounds like a brilliant idea. Maybe that way I can lower the time I spend on “busy work” and get straight to the answers. I’ve never resorted to Sparknotes before, but I’ll do anything to reach that optimum numerical value that will somehow determine my lifelong potential! Sanjay: That’s the extrinsically motivated spirit we’re looking for! Finally, if an upcoming test sounds too hard, make sure you conceive a welltimed fever or flu. Be sure to tell your parents that you need to miss school that day or you’ll never get into college; they’ll say yes then. Catherine: No wonder you’re doing so well in school. It must take a brilliant mind to think of “study” methods like these. Sanjay: Trust me, as a freshman I never could have come up with these kinds of tricks. But I’m a lot smarter now, and anyway, everyone does it. Catherine: Wow, these are some life-changing tips. But I really need to guarantee that A. You know what, can you sit next to me during the next test? Sanjay: WHAT!!! That’s cheating, Catherine.

I can’t believe I’m friends with someone like you. You’re trying to cheat in an Introduction to Ethics class? How could you? Catherine: Well, is that really any worse than digging up answers beforehand, going on some shady site, or even ditching school? Sanjay: [gestures as if to bat away fly] I would have thought you’d know the difference between getting ahead and actually cheating. As his number one student, there’s no way I can ignore this. I’m going to report you to Mr. Scanchwon. Catherine: You wouldn’t! Sanjay: Who is he going to believe, his all-star pupil or some low life non-valedictorian? Catherine: I refuse to submit to such an antagonistic grade bully! Therefore, I’ll not rest until I ace this test fully. Meanwhile, we may ponder what is and isn’t moral, I assure you, this is hardly the end of our quarrel. [Exeunt.] ▪ Send letters to the editors to

EDITORIAL: “America the Beautiful” Shouldn’t Discriminate The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board Arguably as famous as the football game itself, Superbowl ads have become a significant cultural symbol. Amid this year’s array of creative advertisements, Coca Cola’s multilingual ad, titled “It’s Beautiful,” sparked controversy. The ad, which showcases Americans of differing backgrounds, sexual orientations, lifestyles, ages, and ethnicities, features “America the Beautiful” sung in seven different languages, outraging people who believe the patriotic song should only be sung in English. This public reaction serves only to highlight the struggles of accepting diversity in America, and the barriers that continue to impede our progress towards a better society. After the ad aired, thousands took to social media sites to condemn it for being “unAmerican.” This begs the question: what is American? Cultural diversity and the freedom to accept our individuality have always been distinctive American qualities. It has always been hard to define American culture because it was built by so many disparate customs. A phrase on the Seal of the United States says, “E pluribus unum,” meaning “Out of many, one,” which Coca Cola used in an extended version of the ad airing during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. Through the mesh of cultural confluence, we create a society that embodies the talents of the world. Take MSJ as an example. Most of us are at least bilingual. At school, we speak English, and at home, many of us also speak Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, French, and numerous other languages. Every year our calendars are

marked full of celebrations for Christmas, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, and Diwali. From the food we eat to the holidays we celebrate, this blending of cultural and racial diversity is exactly what gives MSJ, an American school, its identity. MSJ isn’t unique – walk onto a busy street intersection of New York City, a city embodying the “heart” of America, and listen. There we will find the melody of English, Chinese, Arabic, Italian, and Hindi, flowing together to create America’s true anthem – multilingual. American society calls for diversity. We say we strive to explore and understand different cultures; we pride ourselves in having open minds. Forty million people in the US were foreign-born in 2010, comprising about 13 percent of the total population. Yet, when we begin to take steps towards expanding our culture, such as last year’s crowning of the first Indian-American Miss America, criticism and opposition arise. “It’s Beautiful” is a brilliantly crafted reflection of America’s modern identity as a crossroads for cultural exchange. Yet, the backlash surrounding Coca Cola’s advertisement shined a light on the racial and cultural prejudices still very much alive in our country. Let’s not just talk of a more diverse, welcoming society but actually do our parts individually to create the acceptance we aim for. ▪

staff writer katie sun

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More Realistic LGBTQ TV Characters It’s not exactly a secret that a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) population exists. Nearly four percent of Americans identify themselves as LGBTQ, including the famous talk-show host Ellen Degeneres, Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, and the ridiculously charming How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris. Considering this, it’s surprising how many parents would prefer a watereddown Family Life-esque style to exposing children to homosexuality, à la age restrictions, stereotypes, and an opt-out permission slip. The issue of LGBTQ portrayal in the media for younger audiences has lurked under the media’s eye for the past several years. However, with an episode of Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie including lesbian mothers that aired on January 26, the debate has sparked a fervor. While more liberal parents are lauding the show’s ac-

ceptance and exposure, conservative viewers believe that children aren’t ready for it, claiming that the program is no longer “family friendly.” In response to the episode, fundamentalist Christian group One Million Moms wrote, “Just because something may be legal or because some are choosing a lifestyle doesn’t make it morally correct. Disney should stick to entertaining instead of pushing an agenda…Conservative families need to urge Disney to exclude confusing topics that children are far too young to comprehend.” This begs the questions: How should LGBTQ characters be portrayed in the media? Are children too young to learn about homosexuality? The media should be moving in a direction in which gender and sexuality of a character are incidental and not a defining characteristic. Too often are viewers confronted with the “gay stereotype” of a flamboyant, feminine young man intended to be mere

comic relief. Far from being representative, this stereotype reduces LGBTQ youth to the brunt of jokes and laughter. Rather than urging tolerance, this stereotype encourages inequality and bullying – as if there’s not enough of that already. Instead of sectioning off portions of the population as “gay” or “bisexual”, we should recognize that LGBTQ characters are not defined by their sexuality but by their personality and characteristics – the very stuff that brings them to life. It shouldn’t matter how they identify themselves, who they’re attracted to, or whether they call themselves “gay” or “straight”. These labels don’t reflect how nuanced our personality or preferences can be. Disney Channel’s introduction of its first ever LGBTQ couple is a step in the right direction. The couple’s sexuality was incidental: they were two parents bringing their daughter to a playdate, not people de-

Opinion 5

By Purvi Goel & Genevieve Huang Staff Writers

fined by their biological gender. Though the characters were only briefly on air for one episode, the introduction of a lesbian couple to a younger demographic was breaking new ground on TV, bypassing the idea that sexual orientation is too difficult of a topic for younger children to comprehend. Children are not too young to be exposed to the diverse spectrum of sexual orientations: obstructing it from the media would be denying a truth that exists. Growing up, children and young adolescents will likely be exposed to the LGBTQ population without help from the media, whether it’s a friend who has samesex parents or a neighbor who’s questioning his or her sexuality. There won’t be a clichéd “the time is right” moment for parents to say, “Now you’re finally ready to learn about the LGBTQ population.” Seeing realistic depictions of diverse families and choices early in life lays a better foundation for tolerance and understanding in the future. ▪,,,,,, layout by opinion editors sanjay sreekumar & catherine wang

Grade “Etiquette”

If you had the time and space in your schedule, what’s a course at MSJ you would take for fun? “I would take contemporary dance, because it seems like a very fun way to spend time at school and a great way to wind down and release stress.” Sara Panjwani, 10

“Peer Resource visited us once in Health, and they seemed really upbeat and happy, like they also wanted others to be happy, and it just seems like a fun class!” Kelly Yu, 9

“Principles of Engineering. I feel like that course is a great introduction to a field of study that I am interested in and is a class that is heavily focused on hands-on activities and application rather than theory.”

“What did you get?” “Did your grade go up?” “Let’s compare scores!” It’s the same routine after every single test we take: we are plagued by an incessant stream of questions from our nosy peers. Or perhaps we’re the ones asking the questions. Either way, we recognize these questions as inevitable and as absolutely natural. But if we think about it – if we really put our situation into perspective – we begin to doubt whether it really is acceptable to demand to know our classmates’ grades. In adult society, most professionals would certainly be as happy as clams if they were interrogated regularly about their salaries – right? Maybe not. The general trend in the professional world has always been to politely refrain from probing for sensitive information such as salary figures. What distinguishes asking for salaries from asking for grades? School and work might be separate entities, but social etiquette is a universal standard that is well overdue in the grade arena. Undoubtedly, it is understandable that everybody feels a lingering sense of curiosity on the subject of others’ grades, a sentiment often generously fueled by fiery competitiveness. At MSJ especially, where students place an unusually high emphasis on core academics, competitiveness threatens to overwhelm curiosity as the most potent motivation for nosing into our classmates’ private scores. Most of the time, the grade-related demands that we make are benign and merely born out of

By Madeline Zheng Staff Writer

friendly rivalry. However, in an environment in which grades are taken incredibly seriously, there inescapably lies the potential for real injury when it comes to being nosy. Peer pressure influences students to reveal their test scores, and inevitably, students settle into different parts of the grade spectrum. For the high scorers, grade sharing creates a false sense of entitlement and superiority. Meanwhile, for students who fall onto the lower end of the spectrum, levels of self-esteem slightly crumble with the heavy knowledge that their achievements don’t measure up to their classmates’. More often than not, recovery from a blow to that wall of confidence is steady, but consistently lower grades might ominously endanger a student’s sense of self-esteem. Across the board, the struggle to win the battle for the best grades induces tremendous volumes of stress. And school, which should be an environment burgeoning with positivity and ambition, is absolutely no place for that sort of slump in morale or crushing burden. The bottom line is that it’s high time we learned to exercise some self-restraint at MSJ, keeping our noses pointed resolutely toward our own scores to foster an environment of courtesy and respect for privacy. There is no need to breathe down our peers’ necks like we are the National Security Agency on the hunt for comprehensive knowledge of everybody else’s scores. Let’s focus on ourselves for once – we’ll wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to giving everything our best efforts, and then simply forget about how we compare to others. ▪

Eric Deng, 12

“Ethnic studies probably, because it sounds interesting to learn about people from different parts of the world, and it provides a broader perspective of the world.” Katherine Tian, 11

graphic by opinion editor catherine wang

6 Opinion


The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014

Gun violence in America has skyrocketed. From Newtown’s Sandy Hook to Aurora’s movie theater, shootings have first horrified, then confused, and now desensitized Americans, to the point where reading about a new school or mall shooting barely evokes any emotional response. Gun control has been fiercely debated as a result of these shootings, but has devolved into a jumble of pointed fingers and fallen on the deaf ears of a numb American public. Many have tried, oftentimes in vain, to reach a compromise between education, legislation, and convention. We are a nation in shock, but it’s time we snap out of it. The Smoke Signal has broken down the pros and cons of multiple solutions to the recent spike in gun violence. Should teachers carry firearms? Is full-on gun control really feasible? Read on to learn more, and armed with this newfound knowledge, where do you By Alice Cheng, Peter stand on the solution to gun Qiu, & Melissa Peng violence? Staff Writers

Reform Mental Health Care System:

There are shooters, killers, and would-be murderers. Choose from schizophrenia, bipolar, and personality disorders. Mix and match, and the result will always be an unpredictable, constantly ticking time-bomb. Though the causes for shootings range far and wide, mental illness has been consistently connected with nearly every single shooting case. Untreated mental illness can give way to mood swings, an altered perception of the world, and a steadily increasing chance of lashing out. Those affected with severe mental illnesses may resort to violence as a means of solving their problems; if there is no intervention, no treatment, no effort for rehabilitation before a person becomes bent on killing, or if treatment only worsens the problem, then this signals an extremely urgent need to reform our mental health care system. Take Adam Lanza as an example, who suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and was described as “emotionally paralyzed.” Though his mother sought professional help, Lanza remained isolated, received no medication, and obsessed over blood, war, and murder, eventually leading to the slaughter of 20 children on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook. Similar patterns occurred with James Holmes and Aaron Alexis, shooters at Aurora, Colorado and Washington Yard, respectively. Our mental institutions are severely lacking and are unable to provide proper treatment. How many more lives must be lost before reform finally goes through? Gun control legislation should be applied to protect ordinary citizens from life-threatening situations. Legislation that ensures background checks should be implemented in order to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of criminals. In fact, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation found that 104 people with criminal records tried to buy guns but failed background checks during private transactions since the new requirements took effect July 1, 2013. Another bill limited the size of ammunition magazines to just 15 rounds. These reasonable, straightforward ideas ultimately promote the safety of lawabiding citizens. Gun control legislation isn’t intended to limit a law-abiding citizen’s self-defense. However, installing simple measures such as background checks will prevent criminals from obtaining weapons. Though there may be loopholes in the system, implementing legislation serves as a hindrance to the criminals’ actions.

Legislation that ensures background checks should be implemented in order to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of criminals. Vice Principal Joel Myrick of Pearl High in Pearl, Mississippi always kept a gun in the trunk of his car in case of emergency. In 1997, high school student Luke Woodham confirmed the validity of Myrick’s suspicions when he opened fire at school. As soon as he heard the first gunshots, Myrick rushed to and from his truck, curbing further casualties when he pointed the automatic pistol to Woodham’s head. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people have proposed arming schoolteachers. The principal argument for supplying teachers with guns is the very reason why many other civilians own firearms: when seconds matter, the police are minutes away. Had Myrick been without a gun when Woodham brought a hunting rifle to school, the casualty rate would very likely have climbed as the police made their way to the school. It may not even come to armed confrontation. With guns, teachers can protect their students without firing a single shot. Knowing that equipped personnel are near would make would-be gunmen’s decision much more difficult. In their current state, however, many of our schools have almost no protection against such tragedies. Arming teachers is by no means the one solution to end violence in school, but it can lower the incidence of such events. With strict regulations and rigorous training, teachers carrying firearms could help reduce the vulnerabilities of our schools.

The principal argument for supplying teachers with guns is the very reason why many other civilians own firearms: when seconds matter, the police are minutes away.

How Should We Prevent Gun Violence? CON

Attitude is one of the largest barriers towards mental health care, with many belittling those who seek mental health care as a sign of weakness or emotional ineptness. A combination of issues, including drug cost, drug side effects, and social stigma, will prevent reform from ever getting off the ground. The current system performs so poorly that devoting legislation towards gun control or stricter punishments would be a better use of resources to curb America’s recent increase in violence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report in 2010, almost one-third of Americans live in Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas, but people who don’t still prefer not to seek a professional due to social stigma. Attitude is one of the largest barriers towards mental health care, with many belittling those who seek mental health care as a sign of weakness or emotional ineptness. The few who do are prescribed a cocktail of drugs almost as harmful as they are expensive. A typical prescription could run at hundreds of dollars a month, and most drugs are not well studied in minors, with unknown side effects and potential long term complications. The passing of the Mental Health Parity Law has alleviated issues of access to care, and this year, mental health care coverage will be mandatory as part of an essential benefits package. However, despite these successes, cuts to Medicaid’s budget, which provides most of the money for mental health care, would still prevent many of the gaps in mental health care services from closing. Mental health care reform is a wrong first step, and moving forward, it’s best to focus on issues that are more readily solved.

Pass Gun Control Legislation:

During the time of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, criminals obtained their guns illegally while law-abiding citizens waited until the ban was over in order to obtain their guns. This greatly decreased the safety and quality of life of ordinary citizens. If a criminal is truly determined in his or her cause, he or she will find a way to obtain a weapon. If he or she is breaking the law anyway, a piece of legislation won’t stop the criminal. Thus, law-abiding citizens must find a way to defend themselves. In fact, according to Cato Institute, states that allow citizens to carry concealed guns have a 24 percent lower violent crime rate and a 19 percent lower murder rate. Guns are used in self-defense about two million times a year, which is about five times the number of times they are used for murder. Previous attempts at gun control legislation have not been very successful. After the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was repealed in 2004, there was little to no effect on sales of assault weapons, nor was there any significant increase in crime.

Arm Schoolteachers: In the rare event that there is a shooting, few would object to teachers that double as guards. For the remaining overwhelming majority of possible scenarios, the presence of firearms would poison the learning environment. Accidents are bound to result from keeping firearms at school and may even end up claiming more lives than the guns could protect. Regulation, no matter how demanding, can’t eliminate the possibility of unintentionally hurting students. Even trained handlers have inadvertent mishaps. During a district-sponsored gun safety training session at a Texas public school, a school employee was accidentally shot.

The more effective teachers’ firearms are, ironically, the greater the threat they pose to the school population. There’s also the very real possibility that students could obtain their teachers’ guns, and the subsequent consequences could be dire. The risk is especially high after considering that the guns must be accessible enough for the designated teachers to respond rapidly. The more effective teachers’ firearms are, ironically, the greater the threat they pose to the school population. We also can’t assume that all teachers are fit for the job. Guns are, after all, deadly weapons and bestow their wielders with immense power. As highlighted by the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case, when this power falls into the wrong hands, even hands that are technically trained, tragedy and disaster ensue., layout by opinion editors sanjay sreekumar & catherine wang

Friday, February 21, 2014 The Smoke Signal

Karen Yeung, Youtube Vlogger By Hairol Ma Staff Writer The older sister of Senior Rachel Yeung, Karen Yeung, better known as IAMKARENO, is one of the many emerging fashion gurus expressing unique style and taste through a common outlet: Youtube. Yeung creates her own personal runway through vlogging, offering “How To Style” tutorials with unique pieces such as creepers, as well as lookbooks for each season. The Smoke Signal gets an inside look at IAMKARENO and what inspired her career.

Smoke Signal: What inspired you to start vlogging? When did you start and how? Karen Yeung: I watched a lot of Bubzbeauty and Jenn Im from Clothesencounters prior to starting my own channel and seeing them in a career that’s also their hobby inspired me to pursue my own dreams. If you want to hear my story on how I followed my dreams, watch this: & SS: How long do you spend vlogging daily? KY: It highly depends on my mood. Some days, I vlog more because my life is more interesting, and there are times where I don’t touch my camera for up to 4 days. But whenever I do film my lookbook videos, it usually takes about 2 hours per session. SS: How do you balance vlogging and college? KY: It’s all about time management! The great thing with colleges is that you can choose your classes and maneuver your filming times ac-

cording to whenever you’re free. Tip for those entering college: get a planner. This will make your life 100x easier.

SS: Who would you say is your greatest fashion inspiration? KY: My fashion inspiration comes from everywhere and I don’t have a particular person I look up to. But to name a couple websites and magazines I devour, there’s Nylon Mag, Vivi (Japanese Magazine), StyleNanda (a Korean online store), and Zipper Mag. SS: Describe your fashion in five words. KY: Weird, grunge, comfy, chunky, tomboy! SS: What kind of videos do you usually put on your channel? categories? KY: I usually do fashion lookbooks for students because I remember being a frazzled student myself and wishing that I could get fashion ideas when I leave the house in the morning. I try to upload the night before all my viewers wake up so if they’re on YouTube that morning, I’ve put together some looks! To switch things up a bit, I also have “How To Style” lookbooks and I usually feature unique articles of clothing that are difficult to style... such as creepers, lazy sweats or even Heisenberg’s Pork Pie hat from Breaking Bad! SS: What’s the biggest reward you’ve got from vlogging? KY: I’ve finally found a creative outlet! Also, I’ve met some really awesome, driven and creative people with similar taste and style as me. I’m really thankful YouTube has brought us together. And of course… my viewers. Their unrelenting support and love keeps me going. Keep your eyes peeled because IAMKARENO will soon infiltrate your feed with dope content. (A girl can dream big right?) ■ You can follow IAMKARENO on Instagram (@ iamkareno), or like her page on Facebook (also iamkareno).

pay it forward

By Iyesha Puri Staff Writer A random act of kindness fever is spreading across America and even to the MSJ community. In 2000, an American drama film, Pay it Forward, by Mimi Leder was released. When eleven-year-old Trevor McKinney, played by Haley Joel Osment, begins seventh grade, his history teacher gives his class an assignment to create a plan that will change the world for the better. Trevor devises a plan, “Pay it Forward,” in which the recipient of a favor does a favor to pay it back. This eventually turned into a philosophy and became known as an expression to describe a good deed that repays someone.

Photo by Staff Writer Iyesha Puri

Peer Resource’s Strips of Kindness (SOKs)

Acts of kindness can be spread through the most common substance one needs to live: food. Customers at drive-thru windows of fast food restaurants pay for the purchases made by the car right behind them to perform an act of kindness. In December 2012, at Tim Horton’s donut shop in Minnesota, 228 consecutive customers paid for each other. A similar phenomenon known as “suspended coffees” began to spread in Naples and across the world; customers paid in advance for other’s coffee orders. The Epoch Times witnessed an act of kindness made towards a beggar at Tim Horton’s coffee shop who was able to get a coffee for free, and as “he sat down and took a sip, a smile ran through his face.” The Pay it Forward initiative extends to the MSJ population as well. Multiple alumni have been posting codes on Instagram with prepaid money to Starbucks. After the card ran out, multiple students reciprocated by add-

ing money to the codes to help more students. In addition, many MSJ students have started posting statuses where the first five people to comment on the status will receive an act of kindness at some point during the year. The individual must then post his or her own status with the same conditions to continue the chain and spread simple but effective acts of kindness. Peer Resource is extremely active in its attempts to spread kindness throughout MSJ. It does various activities such as “Happy Days” where its students play music and hand out food before school. Other activities include passing on roses throughout the day to make students feel special and surprising different departments by leaving them with food and supplies as appreciation. Each student in the class strives to do kind things for others throughout the week and turns in a “strip of kindness” at the end of the week. These “strips of kindness” are put in chains and are hung throughout the room to represent a chain of kindness. There are countless ways to spread acts of kindness, and sometimes, one act is all it takes to brighten someone’s day. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or extraordinary but just something thoughtful, kind, and meaningful. ■

MSJ Peer Resource Class of 2014 has donated $50 for a Pay it Forward Act of Kindness. Go to the Smoke Signal Facebook Page, there will be a $50 Starbucks Giftcard for all MSJ students to “Pay it Forward”. The Smoke Signal Facebook page has more information. Thank You Peer Resource for your generosity!

photos courtesy karen yeung

Dear Diary: Backpack Edition By Ishan Goyal Sports Editor

Wednesday, September 2, 2010 Dear Diary, I can’t believe that I’m finally going to high school. This is such an exciting new experience. My spine still hurts from carrying all those textbooks Hopkins gave me last year, but on the bright side, Tommy just oiled my wheels and made my handle extra shiny. He also equipped me with six binders, one for each period (including PE), filled with paper, post-it notes, and pencils. I can’t wait to roll through the N-Wing and glide to all my classes. Monday, November 15, 2011 Dear Diary, After stepping up my game to sophomore status, I was upgraded to a stylish JanSport because that’s what all the rage is these days. While I don’t have to carry around that ridiculously thick biology textbook anymore, Oedipus Rex is starting to make me sick inside. My chemistry textbook is helping me stick through these tough times and has really helped me bond with Tommy since I ride on his back now. Tuesday, October 25, 2012 Dear Diary, Junior year has hit full swing and I don’t think I can take it anymore. When I thought APUSH was enough with the 500 pages of notes, Tommy crammed in 10 Elite practice tests and his two AP science textbooks. Al-

though my bottoms feel worse than after I eat Mexican cuisine, it feels great to be used and cherished so much. Wednesday, December 19, 2013 Dear Diary, Senior year has been interesting. Although I feel like Tommy barely uses me, he snuggles with me at least three times a day when he is trying to take a nap in class. Unfortunately, he procrastinated a bit too much on college applications so now I have to lug around a laptop everyday. Lastly, I don’t know if I should be excited or worried about second semester senior life with Tommy, but lets hope for the best. Friday, April 13, 2014 Dear Diary, It’s already 9:00am and Tommy is still asleep. I don’t think he is going to school today, and that sandwich from last week is still stuck between my pockets. I just wish he would love me like he did freshmen year. Sometimes I feel forgotten and unused. Will he even take me to UCLA? These are sad times for a senior backpack. Monday, June 2, 2014 Dear Diary, Tommy just left me at home again. Please call for help as there is mold growing in my insides and I don’t think I’ve seen daylight in weeks. ■ graphics by staff writer grace dong

Feature 7


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The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014 The Smoke Signal

Survival Guide: L adies O btaining a Date:

For the next few months, walking around school will be like being on a hunting trip. Too tall, too young, too skinny - the pros and cons of each prospective specimen must be fiercely negotiated before each hunter selects her own target. Once you’ve locked onto your target, you must utilize the networks of mutual friends and gossip. Bring up your target in conversation or entrust friends to hint around about your interest. Nothing draws the prey so much as this. If you have skillfully done so, your prey will believe he chose you all by himself. Once your target has been secured, send along prom ask preferences, again through the mutual grapevine, and your Prince Charming will be procured.

Getting a Dress and Shoes

Now, the most panic inducing part of prom: finding your dress. In the dire quest to find the perfect dress, prom-zilla females spend countless hours doing finger sit-ups on online dress websites. Although any other instance of matching would warrant an Instagram #twins photo, prom is the one chance you have to show off the fairytale princess you truly are, and you don’t want to be caught dead wearing the same dress as someone else. To avoid any fashion faux-pas and/or impending fight to the death, make sure to check the Facebook class prom dress group first to ensure you aren’t getting the same dress as someone else.

Dresses come in a rainbow of sizes and colors. A good strategy is to go to a real store first to figure out your size. Then, you can do the actual dress hunting online. With this method, you get the perks of a cheaper price and a wider array of styles to choose from. For those who find the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a one-time usage item too impractical to bear, another option is to just rent a dress from one of the websites that allow you to rent dresses and accessories for a short time at a discounted price. The variety of shoes you can pick is almost endless, and it really depends on what you think best completes your look. If heels and height are an issue, you can always give your prom date shoe insoles to give them a height boost. If possible, try to bring an extra pair of more comfortable shoes. At the end of the night, your aching feet will thank you when you change out of your pumps to go to the after-prom gathering.

W hat To

Do at Prom:

The photos have been taken, the ride in the limo to the venue completed, and now you are finally at prom. All the stress about dates, what to wear, even transportation itself melts away. You are here! Except, now you have to talk to your date for the whole night. Hopefully you know him, somewhat. If he is someone you are entirely comfortable with, feel free to eat copious amounts of food, dance the night away, and live out your personal Disney fairytale, without the malevolent stepmother and small glass slipper. If not, smile at your date and mingle with mutual friends to keep things comfortable. Walk around the venue, stop by the photo booths, share food at dinner, and waltz the night away. Remember that everyone else at prom, including your date, wants just as badly as you to have a great time; and that everyone is counting on having a magical night. Fill the night with laughter, slow dances, and romance, and make memories that will last.

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n o i t i d E m o r P

By Hannah Shih, Rebecca Wu, & Peter Xu Staff Writers and A&E Editor

Gentlemen Obtaining a Date

For the past month or two, you’ve been building up the courage to ask that special someone to the prom. Before, the mere thought of asking made your knees weak and your arms heavy; your sweater was about to get some of mom’s spaghetti. But now that your nerves are steeled and your palms aren’t sweaty, it’s time for the perfect ask—so get ready. It is a well-known fact that the ask is the prom equivalent of the Superbowl half-time show. You will be judged by your peers on how memorable, how charming, and how well executed your ask is. It’s time to assert your dominance as the “King of Cool” and claim your rightful place among the cats. Cast aside thoughts of passing-period asks with a butcher-paper poster and a dozen grocery store roses. That’s child’s play and you know it; time to step into the big leagues, big boy. The perfect ask is tailored around her. Perhaps she likes a show; call in the philharmonic orchestra and bring the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It’ll be an ask worthy of the big screen. But maybe she’s a bookworm; plant clever puzzles with fun references to her favorite novels in her classes throughout the day, leaving clues leading her to you, her missing puzzle piece, the happy ending to her fairytale.

Getting a tux

Let’s be honest, clothes are the last thing on your mind when it comes to prom. Unlike the fairer sex, you aren’t preoccupied about ensuring your best friend isn’t wearing the same thing. Tuxes come in all sorts of colors and styles: all of the many hues from black to black. On the big day, you’ll spend all of twenty minutes getting ready. Ez, ez. However, what is important is to match with your date. On P-Day, she’ll be the center of attention and like an accessory, it’s vital that you match. Wear a tie the same color as her dress and you’re done.


After you’ve got the date and you’ve got the threads, it’s time for you to get some treads. All the effort you’ve made so far will be for naught should you drive up to the venue in a minivan. The Law of Style states that stylish people must travel in stylish ways, so only a limo will have you rolling as you should. Nothing speaks class like a sleek black limo, chauffeur and all. Understandably, a carriage of such pomp and circumstance may put you in the red, but this is a problem easily resolved. A limo’s spacious interior just calls for friends, so get a group together and share the cost. Now you get to keep your bills, and have a fine set of wheels.

What to do at prom

You’ve made it; you’re finally at prom. There’s nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. You look at your date. She looks at you. You smile. She smiles back. Awkward silence ensues. You’re not out of the woods just yet, buddy. Prom is a social event and that implies some socializing. That doesn’t mean chat it up with your male compatriots; you didn’t bring a date so you could talk to your chums about the latest game. So please, do not abandon your date in the middle of prom.

Dancing is a big part of prom, so brush up on your moves. Now you’re wishing you had paid attention to the dance unit in P.E. But worry not; the internet has countless instructional videos on the waltz waiting for you to practice.

Now you know all the proper prom etiquette, but do not let it overwhelm you. Prom is a party, not a test. So relax, be yourself, and have fun. High School Musical 3 said it best: “It’s gonna be a night to remember.”

graphics by staff writers vivian liu & madeline zheng,,, layout by feature editors vivian jair & anjali kanthilal

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The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Smoke Signal

Feature 11

Online Educational Supersites Have you ever found yourself confronted with mounds of homework and a killer migraine? If so, do not fear, for the Smoke Signal is here with a few free websites which may help to lighten your load. These websites will encourage you to work smarter, and not harder, so click away!

Scenario: There you are again, sitting at your desk with your forehead in your hands, pondering the difficulty of your classes. You just can't seem to get a grasp on certain topics, and reading your textbook isn't helping at all. Every concept seems so complex, and what you need is a hero to break down the concepts to make them understandable. Who? Khan. Khan's the mahn. What it is: The Khan Academy website features

3400 instructional videos that explain topics ranging from trigonometry to photosynthesis to the electoral college. Each concept is explained step-by-step, and the lecturer often utilizes an electronic whiteboard displayed in the video to illustrate explanations. As this teaching method deeply engages the inexperienced learner of that subject, the site is best used specifically as an educational supplement that helps students with understanding difficult concepts. However, those looking for a quick review or basic explanations of simpler ideas will most likely be more productive consulting their textbooks.

Scenario: Some people like working out at

the gym, strengthening their bodies. Others love working out their minds, strengthening their intellect. If you fall into the latter category, this is the site for you.

What it is: Brain Metrix is a website which of-

fers online brain training through the usage of many games. Each game is specifically designed to help a certain aspect of the brain, and to increase certain skills and functions. Users can select from a wide variety of exercises to pinpoint certain weaknesses they would like to improve on.

By Jacinta Chang, Alice Cheng & Aamir Rasheed Staff Writers

Scenario: You're tired of searching up questions

and problems on Google, only to find a) fifteen wrong answers on Yahoo answers, or b) a list of even more links to click on. Isn't there any website that can give you a direct, well-explained, unbiased answer? Well, here's one: Wolfram Alpha!

What it is: Wolfram Alpha is an answer engine

created by Stephen Wolfram which derives answers from curated data. The engine is different from typical search engines that it does not link you to a website that has your information, but actually computes a multifaceted answer derived from multiple sources. For example, type in "Current angle of the sun," and you'll get the degrees the sun is above the horizon from your location, the value converted into six additional angle units, the angle the sun makes with the tilt axis of the earth, and the next sunrise and sunset time. For students, Wolfram Alpha functions well as a highly sophisticated calculator or trivia machine.

Khan Academy -

Brain Metrix -

Wolfram Alpha -

Scenario: We've all been through that slump of laziness. Those hours or days where we feel like doing absolutely nothing. Medical experts say this happens from sleep deprivation or being a perfectionist. Whatever the cause, inspiration is the medicine.

Scenario: Ugh, you have that poster due for

history class tomorrow, but you have no idea how to draw George Washington's hat. I mean, who knew how hard it could be to draw one of those old triangular-looking hats. Well, it's alright because Drawspace is here to help you out.

Scenario: You're eyes are glued to the computer screen. All you see is a blinking cursor as you scan your writing for anything to fix. Is the story that you were supposed to write for English class just not flowing properly? How do you make everything more organized? Well, Inklewriter is here.

What it is: Drawspace offers diverse download-

What it is: Inklewriter is a free tool by Inkle, designed

What it is: Technology, Entertainment, Design

(TED) is a nonprofit organization that brings together hundreds of fascinating thinkers and doers to give inspiring talks at various TED conventions, which are recorded for the world to see on the the TED website.. Topics range from the inane ("How to tie your shoe") to the internationally problematic ("How schools kill creativity"), to the technologically fascinating ("The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense"), to even the motivational ("How great leaders inspire action"), but they all share one thing in common - inspiration. By the end of any talk, the viewer cannot help but appreciate the positive change the speakers are bringing to the world.


Scenario: It's so easy to lose motivation to study

these days, especially when you are faced with stacks of SAT vocabulary flashcards. However, little do many know that there is a way to not only help your knowledge, but also help the hungry. Freerice is a great way to feed the hungry, while feeding your knowledge!

What it is: Freerice is a non-profit website, sup-

ported by the United Nations World Food Programme, that hopes to provide a free education to everyone and help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people. Freerice features subjects ranging from the humanities to chemistry and allows students to adjust the level of difficulty for the subjects they are studying.

Free Rice -

able and printable tutorial drawing lessons. The layout of the site accommodates artists of any level - from beginner to advanced. There is a vast variety of items you can choose to draw, and when you're looking for an inspiration for a piece of art, check out their Gallery. Drawspace even provides private, interactive classrooms with professional help and feedback on your assignments.

to allow anyone to write their own interactive stories. It allows writers to interact and rearrange parts of their story as they write. Writers have the freedom to experiment with the organization of their writing as they split the story into portions that are easier to manage. Inklewriter uses interactivity to analyze well-known novels by splitting up parts of the text and allowing readers to explore different facets of each part.

Drawspace -

Inklewriter -

Scenario: You're tired of staring at boring old text and letters, words on paper, and anything that resembles the plain black-and-white print that you read every day. You need something visual, but you don't believe it exists. However, Information is Beautiful can help to solve your visual needs, all while showing you how information really can be beautiful.

Scenario: Have you ever found yourself struggling to finish your reading comprehension test on time? Have you ever taken hours and hours to read several pages of a novel, and ended up not finishing at all? Well, Spreeder just might be the website to help with your need for speed!

What it is: Simply put, Information is Beautiful

presents scattered facts, data, statistics, issues, questions, and subjects in minimalistic infographics. One example is a chart depicting the future timeline of of humanity and the universe. David McCandless, a London-based author, created this site as a way to compile the data he collected. The site's infographics are helpful in determining statistics about the human condition, organizing certain information, and sometimes just providing interesting tidbits.

Information is Beautiful -

What it is: Spreeder is a free service that is pro-

vided by 7-Speed Reading. Using Spreeder is simple. You bookmark the site, copy and paste the text you want to speed read, and then click "spreed!" You can then adjust the words per minute, window size, chunk size, font size, font color, background color, and alignment to suit your abilities. Spreeder is meant to help students get their reading done faster and more effectively.

Spreeder -,,,,,,,,, layout by feature editors vivian jair & anjali kanthilal

12 Centerspread

The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014

what is cheating?

Although students have their own beliefs, it’s more reliable to look at the facts. According to the MSJ website, the MSJ Academic Honesty policy defines cheating as “taking (or lending) at inappropriate times a person’s work, information, ideas, research, or documentation, without properly identifying the originator. It includes using unauthorized materials when testing or other acts specified in advance by the teacher.” The website also states that teachers will determine with their professional judgment whether cheating has occurred. Additionally, students should not give instructors grounds for any suspicions of cheating. While most high school students know not to let someone see their papers during an examination or talk to others during the test, there are some violations that may not be common knowledge, but nonetheless are stated explicitly in the school policy. For example, according to the MSJ Academic Honesty policy,

The Gray Zone

“‘Group work’ is defined as a project where people collaborate to complete, but the conclusions can be finished separately. Even if it is group work, ‘checking the answer’ is unnecessary. I believe that cheating occurs when information is taken from a source with or without the source’s knowledge.” - Freshman



Scenario 2

“So??? I don’t know the line is pretty wobbly. I mean group work?” - Senior

Scenario 3


share several classes with Macy and have noticed that she has been sick on a lot of test days, or has stayed home for half-days. Her absences come up in discussion, and you find that she, in fact, fakes sickness, asking her parents to call in for her. She stays home with extra time to study and hears about the test. Is feigning sickness on a test day just an oldschool trick or an unfair advantage? What if individuals who miss school overhear conversations about the test from students who have already taken it?

“I believe the line between collaboration and cheating is very clear: in collaboration, you contribute to ideas as well as take the ideas of others, but with cheating you only take. To me, cheating is when you present yourself and your work in a dishonest way in order to gain an advantage you don’t deserve.” - Sophomore

“I think saying whether the test was easy or hard is fine because the difficulty of the test may vary from person to person depending on the amount they studied but I wouldn’t point out the important things they should study, since that’s like giving them test questions, which is cheating.” - Junior “I don’t believe that telling someone else what was on the test is necessarily cheating. By my standards, telling them what should reasonably be expected to be on the test based on past experience and/or teacher’s words would not be cheating. However, sharing more specific things that aren’t normally blatantly obvious such as a specific problem would definitely be considered cheating. In general, I would define cheating as anything that puts one at an unfair advantage that is not representative of said person’s abilities.” - Junior

“I think [calling in sick and hearing about the test beforehand] is definitely cheating. It gives the student an unfair advantage over everyone else. They get better results than others even though they spend less effort, and that’s what I think cheating is. Anything that gives you an unfair advantage over other students or undermines the teacher’s original intent for the examination is cheating.” - Senior “It’s an unfair advantage because then you know what’s on the test before the test. It’s as bad as cheating.” - Sophomore “It’s not cheating because almost everyone at MSJ has done it once. If it really was cheating, then [the administrators] would have to suspend the whole school for three days.” - Junior “No, it’s not cheating because if I really need to pass a test, then I’ll stay home and take the extra day to study for the test. Moreover, if I don’t hear anything about the test, then it’s definitely not cheating.” - Senior

Cheating has always been a critical matter in today’s modern educational system, especially in the academically challenging environment that MSJ is well known for. In part one of a two part series, the Smoke Signal examines the issue from many angles. Every day, students are expected to complete their work honestly and fairly and teachers face the task of regulating dishonest behavior to the best of their abilities. However, nothing is ever just black and white; regarding cheating, there’s a lot of gray. What is defined as cheating?


student opinions

One of your close friends begs you to give them a few pointers on the test you just took. You know it’s wrong to tell them exactly what was on it, but you want to help them out somehow. Should you say if it was easy or hard? Can you point out the important things they should study? Or is every word you speak an act of cheating?

Scenario 1

Disclaimer: The scenarios are fictional and any resemblance to real life events is purely coincidental. Teachers were told that their quotes would be published along with their identities. Students from various grade levels were interviewed and their names will be kept anonymous.



or closely paraphrasing sentences, phrases, or passages from an uncited source while writing a paper or doing research, giving test information to oth er students in other periods of the same teacher/same course, submitting individual projects not wholly one’s own, fabricating or altering laboratory data, copying work assigned to be done independently, allowing someone else to copy one’s own or another’s work, including computer generated information and programs”

are all forms of cheating. The FUSD district policy addresses discipline and testing protocol that teachers are expected to follow in their classrooms. Most of the policy stipulates common knowledge; that teachers should monitor during tests, remind students of appropriate test-taking behavior, and clarify that no cheating is tolerated and consequences will follow. However, there are several lesser known points: ȘȘ

“Due process will be afforded in all incidents.” Due process is a guarantee that students will be given notice of proceedings, which will be fair, and that the students will be heard. Students have the right to grief [complain] and to file an appeal.


The Smoke Signal


By Kevin Chen, Hansen Wang, & Lillian Zhao Staff Writers

Imagine walking into your English class one day, ready to enjoy all the fruits of the world of literature. But just as you’re about to sit down, you see Robert copying down his friend’s homework. You’re about to say something, but you realize that Mary, who’s sitting right next to you, is telling her friend what was on the math quiz. Before you know it, you find yourself surrounded in a sea of academic dishonesty. What do you do in this situation? What happens when you encounter gray situations, such as catching a student with a friend’s paper even though the assignment was group work? What draws the line between collaboration and cheating?

Friday, February 21, 2014

“Teachers should discourage plagiarism by keeping a file of term papers for up to five (5) years and by asking students to submit outlines before their papers are due.”

School policy also stipulates rules for dead week, the week before finals week, in order to alleviate some of the stress students accumulate before finals. The policy states, “Teachers should adhere to the policies regarding departmental test days and quizzes,” and continues with: ȘȘ Major projects should not be due during finals. ȘȘ There should be at least two days set aside for review for finals, and no major tests at least two days before finals begin.

ȘȘWhen students have questions or need assistance during a test, they should raise their hands instead of walking up to the teacher. ȘȘIn addition, FUSD policy dictates that “Teachers shall instruct students in research and study skills appropriate to each subject so that all students may feel confident that if they prepare, they can succeed without cheating.”

Consequences In terms of discipline, consequences increase in severity based on prior offenses of cheating. According to the MSJ Academic Honesty policy, first time offenders receive a zero on the assignment or assessment, have their parents and the administration notified, and receive a Saturday School. A second offense in any class results in the same consequences as before, but with the addition of receiving an F for the grading period. A third offense can result in possible Student Study Team (SST) placement; according to the FUSD website, parents, teachers, counselors, and the student will work together to “provide assistance to teachers in the areas of instruction and behavior management.”

Teacher Views

Centerspread 13

situations where you are prone to cheating. Parent’s responsibilities [are] to check in and monitor their kids, and [be] supportive at home,” she said.


cheating] is a shared

responsibility.” -kim mathis, world history teacher

Math Teacher Freddy Saldana considers cheating from a different viewpoint, looking ahead to what lies after high school. “It varies from institution to institution, but we should focus on institutions that students are going to. We should use the Stanford, MIT, or UC definition of cheating. This school has a loose interpretation. My interpretation doesn’t matter, the school’s interpretation does,” he said. Math Teacher Iulia Rusu said, “Simply put, having any info r m a tion on

the test by whatever means is cheating.”

The MSJ Academic Honesty policy also states that “Students have a moral responsiteachers are responsible for letting students know bility to take ownership for their what their policies and philosophies are for their learning.” class. This responsibility can be seen in full effect with - Sai Kumar, Chemistry Teacher different teachers holding varying opinions when it comes to academic dishonesty. AP Chemistry Teacher Sai Kumar views cheating a broader perspective, saying, “The concept “you can’t monitor every single from of cheating is not new; it exists in sports, entertainstudent every single moment of their ment, academics, and business world. In our context, life.” academic dishonesty of any magnitude and type, be - Robin vandeusen, chemistry it fabrication, plagiarism, is wrong. Students have a moral responsibility to take ownership for their learnteacher ing. Cheating may be prevalent in many schools and MSJ is not unique. The core issue for [the teachers] is Chemistry Teacher Robin VanDeusen believes that to ensure that motivation to achieve [the students’] cheating is a choice that students make, and that goals is devoid of cheating and resorting to short they are primarily responsible for preventing themcuts.” selves from engaging in dishonest behavior. “Cheating to me is having an unfair advantage over other We welcome letters and comments sent to students or not doing the right thing when it comes to academic performance. It’s hard for a teacher to regulate [cheating] because you’ve got 160 students, and you can’t monitor every single student every single moment of their life. They have to learn to monitor themselves,” he said. World History Teacher Kim Mathis believes regulation of cheating is a responsibility of teachers, parents, and students. “[Cheating is] taking work that someone else has done and pretending it’s your own. I think [preventing cheating] is a shared responsibility. As a teacher, you should be creating a culture in your classroom that doesn’t allow cheating, and [ensure] that your students know your expectations. As a student, you should be trying to do your personal best and be okay with that and not put yourself in layout by centerspread editors tingting bi & lindy zeng

14 Feature

The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014

photos by staff writers katrina cherk, peter chew, & tiffany huang, courtesy smoke signal & yearbook archives, graphics by news editor kerrie wu & graphics editor anna zeng,, layout by feature editors vivian jair & anjali kanthilal

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Smoke Signal

Hello Dolly! Well Hello, Dolly

MSJ’s Drama Department will be kicking off this spring with their musical production of Hello Dolly!, a play set during the 1800s that follows the mishaps and adventures of Dolly Levi, a widow with a knack for matchmaking. Chock-full of humor, refreshing musical numbers, and lively dancing, the play is sure to be a hit for students, teachers, and family members alike. The musical will take place in Mission San Jose’s Little Theatre, running from March 6 to March 15, complete with a special opening VIP night for the faculty. Incorporating Shakespeare-reminiscent twists and turns dealing with unexpected romantic complications, Hello Dolly! begins as self-proclaimed “meddling-matchmaker” Dolly travels to Yonkers, New York in search of a spouse for grumpy half-millionaire Horace Vandergelder. However, as the play continues, it becomes clear that Dolly intends to marry Horace herself. Involving an intricate romance web between Horace, his two clerks, Dolly’s assistant, and a milliner, Hello Dolly! makes for a hilariously entertaining story of manipulation, romance, and matchmaking gone awry. Hello Dolly! is loosely based upon the play The Matchmaker, which was later made into a musical during the 1940s. In the 1960s, the musical was adapted into a movie-musical starring Barbra Streisand, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards. Today, it is regarded

300: Rise of an Empire

R 3/7/14 Watch ancient history come to life again in 300: Rise of an Empire, Noam Murro’s action-packed, fantasy sequel to 300.

By Katrina Cherk Staff Writer

as one of the most enduring musical theatre hits, and MSJ’s production promises to take a unique, fresh perspective on the musical while staying true to certain old-fashioned elements of the play. “The vision for this is to create a classic feel and to educate others on how [it] still connects to us today. We can still relate to the stories, to the ideas, to the characters and have fun with playing with an old style while making it new at the same time,” said Drama Teacher Tanya Roundy. Preparation for this production began during the 2012-2013 school year, when applications and information for the production team were released last May. Over the sum-

mer, the production team worked tirelessly to develop and plan specific aspects of the play, including sound as well as historically accurate designs and costumes pertaining to the 1890s era. The team also met to discuss various ideas and concepts they wanted to see in the spring production. Auditions and casting took place before Winter Break. As the event draws closer, the cast and crew continue to work diligently on the set and have started to meet after school for dress rehearsals. “I guess I would say that the best thing about being in a musical is that you have a huge family to randomly burst out into song with. Something about being complete dorks with


San Francisco Ballet 3/11/14 Relive a fairy tale with the San Francisco Ballet’s adaptation of Cinderella beginning March 11 at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.

Arts & Entertainment 15

one another renders more trust and love… laughing with them and being nervous for [a] performance, and celebrating and succeeding with them makes it that much more incredible,” said Sophomore Kadie Yazd, an actress in the musical. The Drama Department will be hosting a free preview performance to honor MSJ staff. Roundy hopes that the opening VIP night will be a great chance for the staff to enjoy the show with their families, adding that there will be treats and a special reception to recognize their dedication to the school. Treat yourself to a delightful evening with MSJ’s Drama Department as they capture the historical essence of Hello Dolly! while simultaneously putting a modern spin on the musical. “It will be a fun evening; a classic with great music, dance, and storytelling,” said Roundy. ▪

Showtimes and Ticket Prices: March 6-7, 7pm* March 8, 3pm Matinee March 13-15, 7pm @Little Theatre

$15 for adults and general admission $10 for students w/ Universal Performer membership and children under 12 Go to or see Ms. Roundy for tickets. *There will be an American Sign Language Interpretation on March 6.


A&E UPDATES BOX By Vivian Liu Staff Writer

NR 3/21/14 Explore what it truly means to fit in with Divergent, a dystopian science-fiction picture premiering on March 21 with Shailene Woodley as lead heroine Beatris “Tris” Prior.


Shakira 3/25/14 Expect an album of infectious dance music and diverse influences on March 25, when Shakira drops her eighth album Shakira.

photos by staff writer katrina cherk,

Oscar Predictions: Smokie Edition

Best Animated Feature: Frozen

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

This movie has truly taken the world by storm. It has the endearing qualities of a classic Disney movie, which made the audience O-laugh during the comical parts and cry during the more heart-warming (or heart-freezing) ones. Therefore, it will be s’no’w surprise if Frozen wins this award “Hans” down.

Out of all the famous films nominated for this year’s award, 12 Years a Slave is arguably the most unique. It stars a talented but lesser-known cast with up-and-coming actors and actresses. The movie showcases a liberating and invigorating story which definitely possesses the potential to win the award for Best Picture.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Gravity has blown the audience away with its stellar technical execution. Cuarón shaped and guided Gravity through its effects and magnificent performances, making it an astronomically successful film overall. Cuarón directed, co-wrote, co-produced, and co-edited this film, which is likely to win him Best Director.

Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

In this role, Leto portrays Rayon, a transgender woman with HIV. Movie viewers consider his performance to be impressive and genuine. Leto brings to life the strong, humorous, and courageous woman and the challenges she faces in a candid and passionate performance.

McConaughey’s depiction of an arrogant and opinionated man shows the evolution that Ron Woodrof – a recently diagnosed AIDS patient – undergoes. His touching portrayal of Woodrof displays the effects that a man’s circumstances can have on his moral identity.

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

In Blue Jasmine, Blanchett plays the role of a once successful woman now faced with the challenges of change when she loses her wealth and status. Blanchett brings complexity and depth to her character as she struggles to navigate through this difficult phase of her existence.

Best Original Song: “Let It Go” from Frozen

Best Visual Effects: Gravity

Since its release, Gravity has received acclaim for its stellar visual effects. The sheer gravity of the technological prowess exhibited by its special effects is huge; these effects transported the audience out of this world and will lead Gravity to a sure vector-y.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

This song has received a flurry of praise among younger audiences throughout the world. It has (literally) chilling and meaningful lyrics paired with a catchy and melodious tune. Hopefully “Let it Go” wins this award, or “Els-a” Frozen fans might be disappointed.

By Arti Patankar Staff Writer

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave

Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years a Slave has brought her widespread recognition among the audience of modern cinema. With her dramatic and chilling portrayal of abused slave Patsey, Nyong’o has emerged as a talented actress who might just run away with an Oscar.

Best Costume Design: American Hustle

The wardrobe of American Hustle’s characters evokes an authentic 1970s atmosphere. The costumes bring to life the lavish world of the main characters, a world of deceit and luxury. The movie would not be what it is without the ornate dresses and colored suits that capture the essence of 1970s culture.

How the Oscars are Chosen

The Academy consists of nearly 6,000 voting members, who are various people involved in the movie industry. Nomination ballots are sent to these members in December and must be sent back in about a month. Each member can choose up to five nominees in their respective field, which means actors select actors, directors select directors, etc. Screening committees are responsible for nominating animated feature films and foreign-language films. Each voting member can select 10 best picture nominees. The results of the nomination process are revealed in mid-January at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Voting members receive the final ballots in late-January and must return the ballots about a week before Oscar Sunday. The members may select winners in all the categories except for best picture. For this category, members rank their selections. In tabulation, each movie has its own stack. If any movie has the majority of the first-place votes, it becomes the winner. If not, the movie with the least first-place votes is taken out of consideration and its ballots are redistributed to the other stacks based on the second place votes. If any movie has the majority of votes after this round, it becomes the winner. If not, the process repeats. Ultimately, the tabulations are thus completed and only two members of the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm – which tabulates the ballots – will know the winners until the much-anticipated Oscar Sunday on March 2.,,,,,,,,, layout by a&e editors tammy tseng & peter xu

16 Arts & Entertainment

‘Salute’ to Little Mix

The Smoke Signal

Glitch Mob Glitches

Legos Make ‘A’ Comeback

By Andrea Tam Staff Writer

Lauded as one of the X Factor’s most successful winners, Little Mix has begun to make a name for itself in the music industry. The British girl group’s debut album DNA made a considerable splash on the charts; however, its second album Salute represents a more polished and mature group that has realized its identity in the pop music industry and taken full advantage of its four versatile vocalists: Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and Jade Thirwall. Having discarded all traces of bubble-gum pop left over from DNA, Salute experiments with hip-hop, R&B, and 90’s music influences, delivering a fresh and explosive statement album. Title track “Salute” resonates with the album’s theme of feminine strength and resilience. Jam-packed with sirens, bugles, drumbeats, and resounding chants of “Attention! Salute!”, the fierce and empowering opener effectively fires off the album. A classic Little Mix track follows: “Move,” flavored with 90’s vibes and R&B influences reminiscent of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies.” Loaded with sass, attitude, and plenty of finger-snapping, the spirited song keeps the album’s explosive streak going. The two highlights of the album are “These Four Walls” and “Good Enough,” arguably the four singers’ best vocal performances on record. Offset by barebones instrumentals of a quiet piano and delicate strings, each of the band members takes a turn at a stanza, demonstrating exquisite range and control. Little Mix proves that it doesn’t depend on a crutch of snazzy song lyrics and excessive effects to stay entertaining. Not only can each of them deliver a dazzling solo, they can combine the four powerful vocals into intricate spine-tingling harmonies that contribute to the group’s distinctive sound. “A Different Beat” closes the album, echoing the same military theme dominating the first track. Edwards, Nelson, Pinnock, and Thirwall belt out, “Say it loud and clear/For the whole wide world to hear/Yeah, we must have different shoes on/We’re marching to a different beat.” And indeed, Little Mix is vastly changed from the glitzy sophomoric band it was a year ago. Salute is a testament to how much the group has evolved and developed over the course of just one year, a true force to be reckoned with that is definitely marching in the right direction. ▪ Rating: A

Friday, February 21, 2014

By Apoorva Rajanala Staff Writer

By Irisa Lee Staff Writer

At first glance, The Lego Movie may seem like an hour and half of awkward jokes targeted towards Lego aficionados. However, the trailers and advertising for this movie don’t reveal how ingenious the film actually is. The story focuses on an average construction worker named Emmet (Chris Pratt) who follows a life led by instructions and orders. But that is interrupted when he meets a girl named Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and discovers a strange object from an old prophecy. Wyldstyle takes him into other Lego realms, where he meets the “Master Builders” who can build anything without needing instruction books. He learns from Wyldstyle and the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) that the object he found can be used to stop the

powerful President Business (Will Ferrell) and his ultimate weapon, the “Kragle.” Despite the prophecy, Emmet struggles to believe he could be a hero at all. What really makes this movie great is its cleverly layered storyline. While the characters follow a funny and action-filled plot, the writers also add motifs of creativity, confidence, and individualism without coming off as corny. There is also an insightful parallel between the storyline of the movie and the actual reality of playing with Lego’s that anyone who has ever played with the toys will understand. This parallel becomes surprisingly more poignant to the audience as the movie progresses towards the climax. The animation of this movie is also incredible. Everything is made out of Lego’s and no detail is over-

looked in the film’s Lego Realms. The sea made out of Legos, for example, was especially impressive. The Lego Movie had a full cast of unique characters who definitely came to life. However, Wyldstyle wasn’t given as much background or development as she could have had, especially as one of the main characters. And for a movie that escaped most of kids’ movies’ formulaic clichés, Wyldstyle’s romances were uncomfortably predictable and awkward to watch. But the awkward romance is okay, because ultimately this film shines most as a kids’ movie, even to those of us who aren’t kids anymore. Much like the Toy Story series, The Lego Movie reminds us of what we loved so much about toys and imagination. ▪ Rating: A

Monumental “Mishaps”

By Michael Hsiu Staff Writer

Director George Clooney takes a step backwards in time with the release of his new film, The Monuments Men, a historical work documenting a group of soldiers entrusted with protecting art from the Nazis during the course of World War II. Based on the book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and on real events from World War II, the film seeks to illuminate the lesser-known side of the world conflict; yet, bland scripting and a lack of substantial action make Clooney’s attempt just another old history lesson. The film begins with a presentation from Lieutenant. Frank Stokes (George Clooney), who, through a flashback, recounts the creation of the Monuments Men. The Men are gathered by Stokes, who enlists them

in the army; together, they travel to Germany, and there explore the country for traces of lost artwork while also evading a continuous Nazi threat. As World War II nears its end, the quest to find the art becomes ever more frantic as the Nazis begin destroying any remaining articles of culture and heritage that they can find. As they confront the full fury of Hitler’s troops, the Monuments Men are forced to use all of their skills and expertise to find the lost artwork and return it to its rightful owners in the race to preserve history. With a well-picked cast and a fitting soundtrack, The Monuments Men presents a pleasant viewing experience in a time out of the present. However, even the value of the film’s cinematography is unable to offset its lackluster script and narration, effectively weakening what would otherwise be a stellar plot. While the performance of the actors is admira-

ble, there is little personal growth to be seen in many of the main characters in the movie, especially among those Monuments Men besides Lt. Frank Stokes (George Clooney) and Lt. James Granger (Matt Damon). Though Clooney is able to describe his own character with great detail, the other Monuments Men are underrepresented, and are not memorable figures in terms of their narration or actions. As a result, the film quickly becomes predictable, promising little variety as it slowly drags on. The Monuments Men is a film that attempts to tell an untold story—this is where it is unable to succeed. Fans will admire the historical context behind the film, but will be confused by its warped plotline and undeveloped characters. Clooney’s film is as untold as the story it is based on, for its appeal is ultimately just a matter of history. ▪ Rating: C-

Although the idea of the band was uniquely conceived, Glitch Mob’s newest album, Love Death Immortality, doesn’t quite live up to a fan’s expectations. With many “glitches” in at least half of the songs, a listener is unable to completely enjoy the music without being distracted. However, the highly anticipated album was well received through its well-teased singles, like “Can’t Kill Us.” The electronic band defies any categorization, rejecting traditional instrumentation and relying on robotic beeps and mechanical clicks. The five members work together to create ‘the future of music.’ They released their first album, Drink the Sea, in 2010 and have continued dropping singles the last few years. Each song in the new eccentric album has its perfection and flaws. For example, their second track, “Our Demons,” featuring Aja Volkman, sounds great with an electrically modified voice coming through. However, instead of keeping the female voice as the main part, Volkman was kept as a supporting piece with the song’s main chord progression taking the lead role. “Skullclub” will most likely become their most likely played song because of its rocking beat, forcing listeners to rock their bodies back and forth with the beat. The chords in “Becoming Harmonious” match the name, perfectly balanced by the sharp vocals that pierce through some of the other pieces. “Can’t Kill Us” pops up in the middle of the album, just before Volkman’s return in the appealing “I Need My Memory Back.” “Skytoucher” is filled with danceable beats, even more than the other pieces in the rest of the album. The next song, “Fly By Night,” is accompanied by another female vocalist, Yaarrohs. To close the album, Glitch Mob created the heavier “Carry the Sun” and the more melodic “Beauty of the Unhidden Heart.” This band grew from 2006 through playing live using minimalistic programs and equipment. They eventually grew to performing all along the West Coast and are now spread across the nation as well as internationally. Although the group’s second album, Love Death Immortality, didn’t quite reach the high standards set by fans, they definitely impressed listeners with their variety and experimentation of modern musical technologies. ▪ Rating: B+

Friday, February 21, 2014

e Th

The Smoke Signal

Arts & Entertainment 17

F a i r y t al

But as your honeymoon stage peaks and leaves, soon you’re going to find that he’s just another picture to burn. He should’ve said no and he should’ve gone home, but he didn’t and now you’ve seen his true colors. It’s time for him and that other girl to stand in the corner and think about what they did. Little does anyone know, there is nothing you do better than revenge.


And right when you begin to wonder if you actually do stand a chance with your prince, you meet him on the outskirts of town, and he asks you to be his! You are perfect together. He puts his arm around you for the first time, and you are sure that he is the best thing that’s ever been of yours. It’s a love story, and baby, he said yes! You are living the fairytale you’ve always dreamed of!


age But life shows you all too well that you’re just better off alone. As he ditches your date for the fourth time you slowly realize: this guy clearly isn’t worth your time. And as you stand in your party dress in red lipstick with no one to T he impress, your love story seems Do like a tragedy wn a lotnow. h

i ll

e ag St


ylor-ed Relationship a T y l t c e f r e P A

You knew he was trouble since he walked in, but avoided your conscience at first. Now you finally realize who he is, and how blind you’ve been all along.You are completely done with this entire situation, and him. This is the last straw. So he calls you up and he’s like, “I still love you,” and you’re like, “We are never getting back together.” Because you aren’t. Like ever.

Through years of albums, music videos, and hit singles, the world has learned quite a bit about relationships from America’s sweetheart, Taylor Swift. In her honor, The Smoke Signal has created a guide to help you figure out what’s really happening in your relationship.


e chantment S t a g

The P a rt y St age





in The P

Start ng

Just when you thought life was at its dullest, across the room a silhouette starts to make its way to you. You are enchanted to meet a new guy, and you wonder if this is the Prince Charming you’ve been searching for. You can’t help but think on end. You just want of him for hours to know him better, and ever since you met him, it’s evident that everything has changed.


tage The Trouble S

By Jacinta Chang & Tanvi Raja Staff Writers

But when do things ever go perfectly in a TSwift-esque world such as yours? He likes someone else! Of course she’s beautiful, that girl he talks about, but you can’t help but dream about the day when he wakes up and finds that what he’s looking for was right in front of him. You’re strong-willed and confident that you can wipe away the competition.

e Cheater

Congrats! No drama, lies, and scandals. And no boys! ...For now. But you like to live in the present, and honestly, it just seems like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters and make fun of your exes.


graphics by staff writer hairol ma,,,,, layout by a&e editors tammy tseng & peter xu

MSJ’s Beat Boxing Club Perfect Noise Returns By Anand Balaji Staff Writer

Perfect Noise club officers beat box.

Five students recently brought back MSJ’s beat boxing club, Perfect Noise. Originally formed in 2009, the club died out after all the officers graduated and remained that way for three full years. Avid beat boxers have been meeting unofficially to improve their skills but made several attempts to get Perfect Noise reinstated as a club. Since 2012, three unsuccessful attempts have been made to restart the club and on the fourth attempt, Junior Steven Yung (the current president) was able to get Perfect Noise reapproved in 2014. The club made a huge splash during the end of January when they uploaded a promotional video onto the MSJHS 2013-2014 Facebook page. The video featured impressive beat boxing demonstrations by club officers Yung, Junior Sagar Samantarai, Sophomore Liang Kuang Lee, Senior Aaron Ching, and Senior Kody Cheung. The video generated a lot of buzz on campus and garnered an impressive 250 likes. The club has their meetings every Thursday

behind the Little Theatre and started meeting on Thursday, January 30. The club currently has about 25 members and anticipates more arrivals in the upcoming weeks. The club officers have a planned beat boxing curriculum that involves teaching students a new sound every week and showing the students prominent beat boxing artists and the techniques they employ. There will also be open mic sessions towards the end of every meeting where club members can go in front of the group and demonstrate a skill they have been practicing. Yung expressed that his long-term mission for the club is to “spread awareness about beat boxing, as well as encourage teaching and performing.” He says that he hopes to have the club perform at upcoming events so they can demonstrate their talent. They are considering performing in Multicultural Week (the unofficial club put on a performance last year) and also events like charity fashion shows and other benefit events. A lot of students can be intimidated by the

level of skill and natural talent that seems to be required to be a good beat boxer, however, Vice President Sagar Samantarai would like to let those students know that “anyone who tries can beat box well, all it takes is a little bit of practice in the shower every day and you can get it down to a science.” Yung also encourages students to give beat boxing a try regardless of initial skill saying, “I’ve been beat boxing for three years now, but for the rest of the officers, they only started last year when the club was still unofficial…it’s not necessarily hard to learn, you just need to be dedicated as there will be a lot of trial and error.” The MSJ Perfect Noise Facebook group is another big part of the club where members can discuss questions and ideas they have when it comes to beat boxing. Several students post videos of their favorite beat boxing artists and have comment discussions about the beat boxing styles and tricks the artist used. The club is

planning on bringing in some guest artists to demonstrate their abilities in front of the club and discuss strategies for improvement with the members. Alumni Kyle Liam and Ryan Yung (who were part of the unofficial Perfect Noise until they graduated) have also worked closely with the current officers to help create a sound curriculum and will be coming to a few meetings to assist with the lessons. It’s not too late to join the club. Perfect Noise is always open to new members. They are hoping to expand the membership to about 30 to 40 students in the upcoming weeks and are kicking up their advertising to raise awareness about the club. Stop by the Little Theatre on Thursdays or join their open Facebook group if you are interested in learning more about the art of beat boxing. ▪

Perfect Noise members at a lunch meeting. photos by staff writer anand balaji,

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The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Smoke Signal

Sports 19

By Leah Feuerman & Ishan Goyal Sports Editors

Focus on the game, not the drama When Nate Silver, a statistician and sports analyst, appeared on the Colbert Report several days before the Super Bowl (and ended up correctly predicting the Seahawks victory over the Broncos), he described America’s cultural attitude towards football as taking a fun subject and being overly serious about it. “It’s like reality TV for men, basically,” he said with a laugh. In a way, it’s a fair comparison. The hallmark of reality television is the drama and sometimes outlandish behavior captured in real life and put on screen for others to needlessly over-analyze and make judgments on. It is all about the individual people: their attitude, looks, and their rivalries with the other people in the show. Sound familiar? It is what we do with sports all the time. A matchup between the Heat and Lakers is often advertised as a continuation of the ongoing rivalry between Lebron James and Kobe Bryant. Fans love to see superstars matched up against each other: whole fan sites, fantasy leagues, and YouTube videos are dedicated to the concept. Many obsess over the statistics, trash-talking, and drama before a big game, the way any reality television viewer would obsess over gossip and conflict between characters. But this leaves one lingering question to be answered. Has it gone so far as to actually detract from the games? Take the Super Bowl for instance. Most members of the sports world are well aware that Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman experienced a whirlwind of media attention after trash-talking Forty Niners receiver Michael Crabtree in a post-game interview. The clips were replayed on news stations

and talk shows, and there was even a multitude of interviews held with Sherman later that week. While fans took all sides on the issues, they were divided not by a love of their team but by the antics of a single player. Sherman was talked about not for his ability, but for the amount of controversy he could put in front of a camera. People focused on the drama aspect between two players, and conversation of

Nate Silver on the set of the Colbert Report.

the actual game between Seattle and San Francisco (which was a considerably exciting one) was left in the back corner. But the Seahawks did not win the Super Bowl because Sherman talked big, any more than it was won purely through the efforts of one person. It was the whole defensive effort by the Seattle Seahawks and even the effective offense they put forward as well. It is hardly fair for fans and networks to allow one individual’s actions to overshadow the rest of the game, because it leaves the other players who worked just as hard and contributed just as much, in the dark. That is not to say it isn’t fun sometimes to go a little crazy with the smaller things in the sports world. After all, there are only so many times you can watch a ball go through a hoop or into a net before you have to add a little of

Game Coverage: Girls’ Basketball

your own excitement to the game. Half of the fun of March Madness is not so much the games, but coming up with your own brackets and seeing how close you can get to the actual results. Warren Buffett certainly seems to agree. To make things more interesting for the year of 2014, he decided to offer a prize of $1 billion to anyone who can come up with the perfect bracket: a correct prediction for all 64 games. Don’t get too excited though, as the odds for correctly predicting the results of every game are one in 4,294,967,296. Many other sites will hold their own competitions for easier predictions, such as who will be in the final four or who will win the entire tournament. However, too much of the focus in sports is often away from the substance of the game and on the pageantry. This is especially a problem in professional sports, where a lot of decisions are made based on profits and viewership. The NBA has designed a lot of rules around making higher scoring games, such as a shorter shot clock, with the intention of drawing in a larger audience. Athletic leagues brand their best players and focus media attention and interviews on their personal lives. We start to care too much about statistics and predictions, and too much about the individuals and their own personal drama. Distracted by stars, we sometimes forget the team effort; how it takes a group force to pull out a win. As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said, “One man can be a crucial ingredient to a team, but one man cannot make up a team.” The point is, while it is okay to have some fun, the focus of team sports should still be just that: the team. It is exciting to predict brackets, compare players, and follow rivalries, but at some point we start to deviate from the heart of the game and into the tricky realms of reality television. ▪, layout by sports editor leah feuerman

boys' soccer headed to ncs

By Abigail Wong Staff Writer MSJ’s girl’s basketball played Irvington High School on February 14th at Irvington, beating the Vikings 47 to 35. Straight from the tip off, the game was a tense battle, each team scrounging for every possession to gain an early advantage over its opponent. Although Irvington took the first possession of the game, MSJ bounced back quickly, drawing two fouls before the first point of the game. Sophomore Chelsy Simran was both a prominent offensive and defensive threat in the first quarter, sinking the first free throw of the game and playing stellar defense that led to fluid transition plays for MSJ. Amidst the Lady Warrior’s success, the Vikings kept the game close throughout the first quarter. Irvington closed the quarter ahead by 2, the score 8 -10. Starting the second quarter, MSJ opened with a fiery attitude, attempting to secure a lead with gusto. Junior Katherine Wu started the quarter off with an athletic drive and jump shot in the middle of the key. Then came an assist from Wu to Senior Leah Feuerman for a layup, and a crucial three-point shot by Junior Denise Chan to widen the lead to 21-13. Closing the monumental second for MSJ, Senior Ivonne Kwan surged towards the basket in a transition attempt and earned the Warriors another two points to add to its twelve-point lead. The second quarter proved to be MSJ’s breakaway quarter – MSJ finishing the half, 2915. Solid defense and quick transition play in the frontcourt were the keys to the Lady Warrior’s rapid succession of offensive strides. To start the third quarter, the Vikings added a full court press. MSJ, unfazed by the challenge, threaded through the press like knitting needles through a scarf, one succinct pass following another. Nonetheless, Irvington was relentless. The Vikings clinched down on their defense and kept the score difference even,

ending the quarter 35-21. To begin the fourth, MSJ took possession, but lost the initial scoring opportunity, allowing the Vikings to hit the first point of the quarter. MSJ, neither faltering nor comfortable with its lead, came back with another three-point play on the other end. The final minutes proved to be a resurgence of Viking spirit on their home court and a test of the Lady Warrior’s stability. Irvington began to revamp their offensive energy, causing MSJ to match their intensity with a more powerful, pressing defense. The Vikings then hit two three-point shots to narrow the margin to a seven-point difference. In the end, the Lady Warriors came home with the win, the final score 47-35. The Lady Warriors played their final home game on Tuesday, February 18th and will proceed to compete in NCS. ▪

staff writer abigail wong

Junior Denise Chan (left) shoots a three-pointer over an Irvington defender.

By Aamir Rasheed Staff Writer The ball is knocked away from a Kennedy forward and Senior captain Sahil Bansal recovers it, dribbling the ball up through midfield. Like clockwork, forwards ahead of him converge towards the penalty box. Bansal sees an opportunity and slices the ball into open space, just out of reach of Kennedy defenders, and with a powerful kick, the ball rockets towards the goalie – deflected! But with the second wave of attack, the midfielders follow up, and Junior Andrew Chang finishes the ball into the back of the net. It’s like watching a football play: each individual action and movement builds upon another until it ultimately results in success. It’s been six years since MSJ’s boys’ soccer team, Ubuntu, last qualified for North Coast Sectionals (NCS), the next step above Mission Valley Athletic League (MVALs). They’ve had their good years and bad years, but have never placed above 3rd in MVALs where 2nd or higher is required to qualify for NCS. But this year, after a 3-0 win against Kennedy in early February, they’ve been seeded 10th in NCS. Both the coaches and players agree their success is a result of four years of year-round training, on and off the field, that has brought the team together to become the powerhouse they are today. “We’ve played club together, we’ve played

other leagues together, we practice off-season together,” said Senior captain Guhan Sundar. “The bonding off the field has really carried over onto field too.” Seniors Sid Ambulkar, Bansal, Kha Lu, Khiem Lu, and Sundar – five of the six seniors on the team – have been playing together on varsity ever since their freshman year. With each year, their chemistry and understanding for each other’s playstyles has only grown, resulting in this year’s new synergy. However, although their lineup weighed heavily in their favor, the season got off to a slow start. Ubuntu lost or tied many of their games during the preseason as they still had difficulty conglomerating as a unit. “Especially for me, I like to dribble a lot,” said Sundar. “But as the season progressed, trust developed between all of the players and we pass a lot more now.” Sundar currently has the most combined goals and assists in the league. “There were also a lot of doubters, but they were our biggest motivation to get better.” said Bansal. After losing to Newark in the first game of the season, Ubuntu has dramatically improved. Their current record stands at 8-1-2. “Above all, we emphasize working to make the players believe in themselves and in the team,” said Head Coach Al Garcia. “It’s embodied in our motto: ‘One team, one Mission.’” ▪

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The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Smoke Signal

Often seen carrying his yo-yo around school, Junior Raghav Chari is a competitive yo-yoer whose skill is renowned through his videos on Facebook and YouTube. The Smoke Signal recently had the chance to sit down with Chari and talk about his involvement in yoyoing. Smoke Signal: What motivated you to first get involved with yo-yoing and how did you learn? Raghav Chari: I started yo-yoing in the summer of seventh grade. I was really bored one day when I was in India doing nothing, and there was this show called Blazing Teens on yo-yoing. Inspired, I looked online for more yo-yo stuff and I stumbled across yoyoexpert. com, a site that has been my best friend pretty much ever since. The website has a shop and a learning resource, so I used it, and have developed as a yo-yoer ever since. SS: What sort of competitions have you competed in and how have you done? RC: I competed in local contests in 2013 and in 2014. In the 2013 California State Yo-Yo Championship, I won the novice division. I competed as a novice instead of a pro because it was my first competition. In the Bay Area Talent Show, I came in fourth. I’m attempting to go to both regional and national yo-yo contests now. SS: What does a yo-yo performance consist of ? RC: You get three minutes to play music of your choice and do as many of your tricks as you can. The judges’ score is based upon the number of string hits, number of losses of control, and number of yo-yo changes. There are also style points judging how your tricks are timed with the music you choose. People get a score as a result of all of these points, and the

Sports 21

College sports Union

Competitive Yo-yoer Raghav Chari By Rebecca Wu Staff Writer

person with the highest point total wins. SS: What do you find most rewarding about yo-yoing? RC: I find the most rewarding aspect of yoyoing is landing a trick after trying for a long time. Many tricks require a different yo-yoing style and smoothness and getting it down is an amazing feeling. SS: What is the hardest part? RC: The hardest part of yo-yoing is the strings whip and slack style tricks. Pinching the string in different places allows for the intricate string movements. However, sometimes you have this idea that you just can’t get the string to do what you want and it’s so frustrating. SS: What advice do you have for anyone else wanting to pursue this hobby? RC: For anyone else getting into the hobby, use the learning resource, use YouTube, and most of all, use creativity. These three things will, by themselves, make any person a good yo-yoer. Also, even if you are not competing, go to contests to talk to the pros and the competitors to learn. And as always, the most important thing of all is to have fun. ▪

staff writer rebecca wu

By Megan Ren Staff Writer Most people nowadays take for granted their eight-hour workdays, medical insurance, minimum wage, and other employee benefits. What many forget is that these changes were brought about by hundreds of labor unions in the late nineteenth century, who petitioned for improvements to working conditions that seem like no more than basic amenities in our modern day society. History is now repeating itself with the recent controversy over college sports players’ rights. When Northwestern University football player Theodis Kain Colter started a petition to form a labor union for college athletes, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) chief legal officer Donald Remy issued an official response saying that college athletes’ work cannot be considered labor without defeating “the purpose of college: an education.” However, it should be noted that Colter’s motivations for forming a union did not stem from a desire to get paid, but to give college athletes a voice in the NCAA. This petition is way overdue and the changes that players are requesting should have been implemented long ago. At a news conference in Chicago, Colter said, “the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union.” The union, named the National College Players Association (NCPA), has 11 goals that predominantly focus on player safety and education. Some demands regarding safety include minimizing the risk of concussion, establishing uniform safety guidelines, and requiring schools to pay for sports-related medical expenses. According to, 62% of sports-related injuries happen during practices. Athletes should be able to pursue their passions without such a high risk of injury and without the stress of having to pay medical expenses on top of college tuition out of their own savings. In a world where profes-

sional coaches have been known to ask their players to deliberately injure players of the opposing team, these requests are very modest. The NCPA also asks colleges to provide full scholarships to athletes and to help increase athletes’ graduation rates. As listed on their website, the current graduation rate for Division I football players and men’s basketball players stands at approximately 50%. NCAA’s current limit for practice time is set at four hours. If obtaining a college degree without any outside activities is already difficult, how can athletes be expected to perform well academically while spending four hours a day, six days a week on a playing field? In its argument, the NCAA has repeatedly stressed that education should still be a college athlete’s top priority, but the current regulations make it difficult for athletes to even juggle their classes. In many ways, college athletes’ jobs are harder than those of professional athletes because of their double standard. They have to go through the same workouts and training schedules while still attending regular classes and keeping their grades up, all for no stipend. Their dedication comes solely from their love for the sport, and the least that the NCAA can do is respect that by granting athletes the basic rights outlined by their union. ▪

Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter speaks at a press conference.

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The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014



Friday, February 21, 2014

The Smoke Signal

Sports 23

By Grace Dong, Arti Patankar, Nithya Rajeev, & Katie Sun Staff Writers

The 2014 Winter Olympics began February 7 in Sochi, Russia. This is the first Olympic games hosted by the Russian Federation since the USSR dissolved in 1991. The budget was originally set for $12 billion; however, it has now far surpassed that, inflating to more than $51 billion as the most expensive Olympics in history. The 2014 Winter Olympics marked the start of 12 new events, modernizations of Sochi, and several major controversies that made this Olympics one to remember.

The opening ceremony took place on February 7. It started with a trip through Russia’s Cyrillic Alphabet and featured a display of Russian history towards the end. The traditional national anthem was performed by the 600-year-old Sretensky Monastery Choir. The event was viewed by over three billion people worldwide, and had about 40,000 spectators in the stands. Even with striking visuals that celebrated Russia’s history and culture, all the buzz was over the failure of the fifth ring to unfold from it’s original snowflake form. The Sochi Opening Ceremony featured athletes entering through the middle of the stadium floor, emerging from a night-sky map of the world. Other highlights of the event included a performance of “Get Lucky” by the Russian Police Choir, floating worlds that represented Russia’s geography, greetings by giant animatronic animals, and a recreation of St. Basil’s Cathedral in a ‘snowglobe’. As per tradition, the final part of the ceremony was the lighting of the Olympic torch, which will continue to burn for the duration of the Games. An impressive display of fireworks followed, ending the night on a high (and explosive) note.

Athletes Our Age

America sent an astounding number of teenage athletes to the Winter Olympics this year. The youngPolina Edmunds competes in est member, Maggie Voisin, a freestyle skier, turned figure skating for the U.S. 15 in December of last year. The freestyle team also included three other high school age athletes: Julia Krass, age 16, and Torin Yater-Wallace and Mac Bohonnon both of whom are 18. Two thirds of the women’s figure skating team are teens as well, Gracie Gold, age 18, and Polina Edmunds, age 15. Edmunds hails from Santa Clara, CA and is a sophomore at Archbishop Mitty High School. She has been training since age two, and after winning the silver medal at the 2014 U.S. National, Edmunds qualified for the Winter Olympics. Emery Lehman, age 17, competed in the speedskating event, while Arielle Gold, age 17, and Ty Walker, age 16, hope to medal in singles skating and the snowboarding event respectively. The American teenager going in with the highest expectations, however, is 18-year-old slalom skier Mikaela Shiffrin. As one of the top young skiers competing for the US, Shiffrin headed into the Olympics with six titles under her belt, including a gold medal at the 2013 World Championships and a 2013 World Cup title.

Controversies A cloud of controversy hovered over the Winter Olympics ever since it was first announced it would take place in Sochi, Russia. The city is a landmark for major battles fought towards the end of the Russian-Caucasus War in the mid-1800s, and is a reminder to the Circassian people of the genocide they suffered at the hands of the Russians. There has also been much discussion surrounding a potential “information war”, which would involve all evidence and traces of the war and genocide being washed away. An ongoing movement has the Circassian people demanding that the Russian government acknowledge the genocide. The expenses behind the event have also raised many eyebrows. Investigators alleged that building contractors had inflated costs by submitting unjustified project estimates, leading to the high final costs. However, in an interview on January 20, Russian president Vladimir Putin denied that there was any evidence of corruption. The controversial topic that has garnered the most attention regards Putin’s decision to make all acts of “non-traditional sexual arrangements” against the law, meaning public acts of LGBTQ are now considered illegal. This action has infuriated numerous world leaders, resulting in the US sending a delegation of openly gay past Olympic Champions to send a message in Sochi.

Safety Issues Terrorist groups threatened to attack Sochi and the games. Investigators searched for “black widows,” or female terrorists who have lost their husbands and are supposedly training to be suicide bombers on-site. To lower the chances, officials took effective measures to ensure the safety of the athletes and spectators. These measures included screening checks at the airport and security checks in the Olympic village and venues as well as the use of metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, and body pat-downs to detect any potential threats. Additionally, about 100,000 officers and security guards were stationed in the “ring of steel,” which is the area of Sochi containing the Olympic venues. While some spectators remained reluctant to visit Sochi due to the terrorist threats, others remained confident that security would deter any potential risks.

New Events

There are 12 new events across eight winter sport disciplines debuting in Sochi. The International Olympic Committee (IOC)  added the events to provide a newer, fresher and youthful flare to the games. The new events are: . ipe lfp ha s ’ n me wo

1. Biathlon mixed relay – Mixed Teams comprise of two men and two women. Women open in the relay, completing the first two 6km legs. The men then comtes pe m o plete the next two 7.5km legs. c a hin fC 2. Figure skating team event – Mixed o g an hu Featuring teams made up of six skaters – one male, one female, one pair S Li and one ice dance couple. Points are awarded for each routine and the team with the highest number of aggregate points will win gold. 3. Luge team relay – Mixed Each nation fields a men’s singles sled, a doubles sled and a women’s singles sled. All three slide down the track, one after another, with the clock stopping only after the third sled has crossed the finish line. 4. Ski halfpipe – Men’s and Women’s Each athlete performs an array of big airs and other tricks in the halfpipe before being judged on technical execution, amplitude, variety, difficulty, and use of pipe. 5. Ski slopestyle – Men’s and Women’s Skiers combine airs and tricks on a 565m course featuring rails and a variety of jumps before being scored on execution, style, difficulty, variety, and progression. 6. Snowboard slopestyle – Men’s and Women’s Athletes are scored after descending a 655m course consisting of rails and a variety of jumps as they incorporate big airs and technical tricks into the run. 7. Snowboard parallel slalom – Men’s and Women’s Riders race two at a time down the same slope on parallel courses, outlined with gates and triangular flags. 8. Women’s ski jumping – Women’s The women’s normal hill event marks the first time in history where women can compete in ski jumping at the Winter Games.,, & layout by sports editors leah feuerman & ishan goyal

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The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 21, 2014


Volume XLIX, No. 6  

February 21, 2014

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