Page 1


VOL. 54 NO. 5

February 1, 2019


Stanford lecturer challenges prevalent college admissions mindset Former MSJ teacher Denise Pope addresses healthy parent-student communication

The college admissions talk involved short activities throughout the presentation to faciliate discussion among parents.

By Gokul Ramapriyan & Shreya Sridhar Staff Writers Stanford University Senior Lecturer Denise Pope, Ph.D., gave a talk called “A Well Balanced Approach to College Admissions: What Matters and Why” on January 8 in C-120, aiming to educate students and parents on how college admissions can be addressed in a healthy manner. Her main goal was to teach parents to foster better communication with students.

“We have a lot of parents who are immigrants who did not go to college in this country. And so that whole process is completely mystifying. The stakes have changed, the pressure is higher, and the process is different.”

— Principal Zack Larsen

Pope, a former English teacher at MSJ, founded Stanford University’s Stressed-Out Students (SOS) Project in 2003. She aimed to create a medium in which students could relieve academic stress. SOS has conducted

workshops, panel discussions, and conferences at Stanford University. In 2007, Pope co-founded Challenge Success with educational consultant Jim Lobdell and psychologist Madeline Levine. Challenge Success served as an expansion on SOS that reached broader audiences outside of Stanford University. The program has established many branches, including the Challenge Success club at MSJ. US News & World Report uses limited criteria, such as the amount of alumni donations, rather than a holistic view, to rank colleges. Pope began her talk by asking the audience, “How do you define success, and how does your community define success?” Parents then called out their responses, which included “happiness,” “confidence,” and “doing what you love.” She went on to describe how students in high-pressure environments view success quite differently from parents. She said that students often measure success based on money, grades, and college acceptances, and highlighted how parents

and students must work together to ease this disconnect.

“When I go home, I want to talk to my

kids [and] tell them I love them. In the long run, the most important [thing] is their happiness.”

— Parent Durba Sen

Pope also talked about changing the language that parents use with their children. Instead of immediately questioning them about their grades and tests after school, they should ask them how their day was or how they are feeling. Pope said that by doing so, parents can foster a healthier environment to discuss mental health with their children. Principal Zack Larsen, who coordinated the event, said, “We have a lot of parents who are immigrants who did not go to college in this country. And so that whole process is completely mystifying. The stakes have changed, the pressure is higher, and the process is different.” Pope exposed the flaws in US college rankings. For example, she said that the US News & World Report uses limited criteria, such as

Pope’s goal is to create a medium for students to relieve academic stress.

the amount of alumni donations, rather than a holistic view, to rank colleges. Pope asked parents to raise their hands to suggest other important college-ranking criteria. Many proposed criteria such as a college’s extracurricular opportunities and volunteer programs. She said that students often measure success based on money, grades, and college acceptances, and highlighted how parents and students must work together to ease this disconnect.

Parents actively participated, raising their hands to answer Pope’s question about how they define success. SHREK THE MUSICAL REVIEW

Want to relive the classic tale of your favorite DreamWorks character? Read the Smoke Signal’s review on Starstruck Theatre’s local production of Shrek the Musical.


To conclude Mental Health Week, L2 invited a petting zoo for students to relax and destress. Check out the photo coverage of the petting zoo!

Pope finally discussed healthy habits for students and how they can be more wellrounded. Pope said, “I’m 100 percent convinced that if everyone got eight to ten hours of sleep they would absolutely have a happier lifestyle.” After the talk, Parent Durba Sen said, “When I go home, I want to talk to my kids [and] tell them I love them. In the long run, the most important [thing] is their happiness.” ▪ PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITER GOKUL RAMAPRIYAN



2 News


The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 1, 2019

MSJ DECA racks up 70 top-10 wins at regional conference MSJ DECA excels despite experiencing a number of changes, including a new adviser By Samir Jain & Alisha Chhangani Staff Writers MSJ DECA students competed at the Silicon Valley Career Development Conference (SVCDC) on January 4 to 6 at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront in Burlingame, CA. The conference was primarily an introduction for first-year members to the logistics of the competition and a refresher for senior competitors as the opening conference of the year. It also prepared members for the qualifying State Career Development Conference (SCDC) later this year. MSJ students continued their track record of success at the conference with more than 150 students attending the conference and 70 projects placing in the top 10. On the first day of the conference, com-

petitors took two-hour exams on each of the competitive clusters of marketing, business management and administration, hospitality and tourism, finance, and entrepreneurship. The scores for these exams were one factor in the final placements and results for their corresponding events. The following day contained the bulk of these competitive events, with students participating in roleplays (simulated presentations to a judge where competitors take a specified position in a company to propose their business strategy) and writtens (business reports), which are then presented to judges. The day ended with a chapter meeting and the DECA dance, where students met competitors from other schools in a social setting. January 6 ended with the awards ceremony, after which students returned home. Reflecting on the conference as a

From left to right: Juniors Michelle Ye, Janet Cui, Era Dewan, Sasha Tang, Jessica Wang, Teresa Chen, Jennifer Cheng, and Emily Leung pose with their awards.

Members of MSJ DECA pose for a group photo.

whole, Junior Sasha Tang said, “SVCDC was an amazing experience to develop both personally and professionally, and it was really fun to spend some time exploring the city with friends while gaining the opportunity to learn and improve our writing submissions for states.” The top-10 winning projects included 10 in Operations Research, a written event with a presentation, 14 in Team Decision events, and three in Individual Series roleplay events. MSJ DECA Vice President of Competitions Senior Ethan Wong, who placed first in his event Quick-Serve Restaurant Management, said, “My event involved presenting a plan of action to enhance certain aspects of ... problems related to the hospitality industry. It was really rewarding to win first place, and I’m even more motivated to do well at our upcoming state conference.” As a whole, DECA experienced a number of changes since last year, including requiring 20 instead of 30 pages for written reports and restructuring events such as Sports and Entertainment Promotion Plan and Fashion Merchandising Plan, thus causing MSJ DECA officers to

follow a multi-pronged and concise approach when teaching the content to first-year members. MSJ DECA also received a new adviser, Math Teacher Bellamy Liu. SVCDC was the first conference he attended, and this experience will allow him to help students prepare for future conferences. Liu said, “I think they did super well. For some students, regionals was practice, but we did have many who attended the conference for the very first time and were able to place in the top 10.” MSJ DECA President Senior Abhi Upadhyay said, “This was the first conference that members actually competed in and was their first encounter with DECA as a whole, so it gave them a chance to practice what they will be competing for in states and nationals and allowed them to learn how to present and build their business plans.” MSJ DECA students will compete in SCDC from February 28 to March 3 in Anaheim, CA, which serves as the direct statewide qualifier for the International Career Development Conference in Orlando, FL from April 27 to 30. ▪ PHOTOS COURTESY SASHA TANG & BELLAMY LIU

Speech and Debate wins big at Arizona State University Stellar performance by young Varsity members reflects team’s improvement this past year By Katherine Guo & Meera Sehgal Staff Writers Speech and Debate attended the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication (HDSHC) Invitational at Arizona State University (ASU) from January 4 to 6. MSJ sent eight Varsity competitors in Public Forum (PF) debate as well as 13 in various speech events, mostly in the interpretation category. As a whole, the team gained three bids to the University of Kentucky Tournament of Champions (UKTOC) and five bids to the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions (NIETOC).

“This tournament was a big step because it allows us to participate on the national circuit more, and MSJ has won more elimination rounds — it makes us more of a force to reckon with.”

— Junior Rithvik Koppurapu

MSJ sent four Varsity PF teams from Debate, all of whom achieved high records in their preliminary rounds, allowing them to continue on to elimination rounds. Notably, Junior

Rithvik Koppurapu and Senior Ishan Maunder championed the tournament, taking home a first place title and a bid to the Gold UKTOC. Maunder won the Third Speaker award, and Koppurapu won the Sixth Speaker award. Freshman Tushar Dalmia, Sophomores Serena Mao and Sabrina Cai, and Junior Yash Dalmia cleared to double octofinals and secured the second of their two required bids to the Silver UKTOC. As for Speech, each competitor advanced to elimination rounds, with many of the upperclassmen advancing to the finals round of their respective events. In particular, Sophomore Tavish Mohanti placed second in Humorous Interpretation, Juniors Ayush Agarwal and Kriti Vajjhula placed second in Duo Interpretation, Senior Rahul Iyer placed fourth in Dramatic Interpretation, and Senior Aparajita Pathak placed first in the Poetry division, earning each of them bids to both the NIETOC and UKTOC. Speech and Debate’s younger Varsity members had a stellar performance at this tournament. Yash Dalmia said, “[Our] younger members did exceptionally well, with one freshmen and two sophomores qualifying to the UKTOC.” Notably, Tushar Dalmia is the

first freshman this year to qualify to UKTOC. He said, “This was one of my first Varsity tournaments, but we still did pretty well — we almost got a 6-0 record in preliminaries, [and] we broke and won our first elimination round.” Furthermore, Speech Captain Senior Samir Banerjee said, “Tavish [Mohanti] improved a lot from his previous tournament, where he did not advance to elimination rounds at all, to placing second this time.” This will be Mohanti’s second consecutive year qualifying to the NIETOC in Humorous Interpretation. The team’s strong performance at this tournament has been a marker of their improvement this year. Koppurapu said, “At our first tournament, [Voices Invitational at] Presentation, we broke only two to three teams, and not many of them got past their first elimination round. This tournament was a big step because it allows us to participate on the national circuit more, and MSJ has won more elimination rounds — it makes us more of a force to reckon with.” For both Speech and Debate, HDSHC marks the beginning of the end of the main tournament season, but they look forward to continued growth, both as a team and as a family. Pathak said, “Our team is a big family — we are constantly supporting

each other in every way, and throughout all the chaos and stress a tournament brings, we comfort one another.” ▪


From left to right: Juniors Ayush Agarwal and Kriti Vajjhula, Senior Aparajita Pathak, and Sophomore Tavish Mohanti pose with their awards.


for the Dec. 20, 2018 issue News Page 1: Resource Agency CA Parkways is misspelled. Centerspread Page 10: Ten of the deadlist fires occurred after 2000. Centerspread Page 11: The Witch Fire destroyed nearly 200,000 acres. A&E Page 13: Aquilina’s album is “Isn’t It Strange?” A&E Page 13: Hailee Steinfeld is misspelled. Sports Page 19: Lucile Zhu is misspelled. Sports Page 19: John Hotchkiss is a former Cross Country Coach. Graphics Page 20: Sugar scrub requires 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.



Compiled by Anika Arora, Thomas Chen & Carolyn Qian Staff Writers

cloverleafbowl.com Shooting on January 10 took place in the parking lot of Fremont’s Cloverleaf Family Bowl.

nbcnews.com Protesters rally in support of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for employers to provide contraception coverage.

cnn.com Pro-Brexit supporters hold up placards outside the UK Parliament as members of Parliament debated.

Non-fatal shooting at Cloverleaf Family Bowl A man was injured in a shooting at Cloverleaf Family Bowl on the afternoon of January 10. According to the Fremont Police Department, police received a report of shots fired in the parking lot of Cloverleaf Family Bowl. The injury was non-life-threatening, and the victim’s identity was not released. According to The Mercury News, Cloverleaf Family Bowl coowner Jim Chambers said that the victim was seen sleeping in the Fremont Center parking lot earlier that day.

Judge blocks President Trump’s birth control restrictions A federal judge issued a national order on January 14 preventing President Donald Trump from interfering with women’s access to birth control. The rule would have allowed employers to deny women insurance coverage of contraceptives. This would have gone against President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act which guaranteed coverage for preventive health services and screenings for women, and would have caused 70,500 women to lose coverage. The judge rejected Trump’s new rule one day before it was officially enforced.

United Kingdom Parliament Votes to Reject Prime Minister’s Brexit Plan British lawmakers voted to reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, just 73 days away from its deadline on March 29. Her deal lost 432 to 202, a major defeat that reveals its unpopularity. A day after the defeat, the House of Commons narrowly voted against a motion of no confidence, indicating that May would keep her position. March 29 is still the date for Britain’s departure from the European Union, and with May’s defeated agreement, its future is unclear.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Smoke Signal

toshali's take

The Smoke Signal Mission San Jose High School Est. 1964 Vol. 54, No. 5 | February 1, 2018 www.thesmokesignal.org

Thinking beyond the mythical zero-sum

vic ki’s voice

Fixed and growth mindsets By Vicki Xu Opinion Editor

By Toshali Goel Opinion Editor

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

SCHOOL POPULATION 2043 students EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Amy Chen, Jonathan Ko NEWS Gloria Chang, Joelle Chuang OPINION Toshali Goel, Vicki Xu FEATURE Kikue Higuchi, Maggie Zhao CENTERSPREAD Karen Li, Kelly Yang A&E Stephanie Dutra, Shray Vaidya SPORTS Hannah Chou, Michael Ren GRAPHICS Evangeline Chang, Lucia Li WEB Rishi Chillara, Shiantel Chiang TECH Tylor Wu, Jennifer Xiang BUSINESS Ian Hsu CIRCULATION Jonathan Liu ADVERTISING Katherine Guo, Shreya Sridhar EVENTS Anisa Kundu, Sahana Sridhar SPECIAL PROJECTS Riya Chopra WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS Anika Arora, Sabrina Cai, Thomas Chen, Josephine Chew, Alisha Chhangani, Sreetama Chowdhury, Christine Dong, Kimberly Huang, Samir Jain, Aria Lakhmani, Jonathan Liu, Seong Jin (Ian) Park, Carolyn Qian, Gokul Ramapriyan, Yusuf Rasheed, Monisha Saxena, Meera Sehgal, Shreya Srinivasan, Mingjia Wang, Gregory Wu, Sabrina Wu, Jessica Xu, Selina Yang

ADVISER Sandra Cohen Send letters to the editor to opinion@ thesmokesignal.org. Letters under 300 words may be considered for publication and must include a full name and school affiliation. The Smoke Signal reserves the right to edit for clarity and length. To advertise in the Smoke Signal, email ads@ thesmokesignal.org. Advertising that is included on the pages of, or carried within, the Smoke Signal, is paid advertising, and as such is independent of the news and feature content. The Smoke Signal’s right to freedom of speech and press is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. All policies on distribution, corrections, and bylines can be found at www.thesmokesignal.org/about.

“I got into college!” my friend excitedly told me. I leapt up to give her a hug — and as soon as she left the room, I heard the talk begin. “How’d she get in?” “How come I haven’t heard back from anywhere yet?” It wasn’t the first time. Each time I had witnessed such an event, it was inevitably followed by the snarky questioning of peers, casting negativity on an otherwise entirely positive situation. When the insecurities that come to plague us all over the course of the application process manifest themselves in the belittling of others, they turn especially ugly. We question the accomplishments of others in an attempt to reassure ourselves of our own, a deeply slippery slope. It is human nature to be concerned about ourselves first. Our foremost responsibility is to take care of ourselves, and we must look out for our own safety and security before making any decisions. But care for ourselves can spiral into care for only ourselves, and the desire to further our own goals has almost become synonymous with tearing others down. The hypercompetitive spirit that is born out of an incessant desire to further our goals almost always leads to jealousy, faulting others for succeeding in areas we may have failed in. This toxic attitude rides on faulty assumptions — as though there is some sort of limited progress or success to be had in the world, and one’s success can only mean anoth-

er’s failure. This mentality, often termed “zero-sum thinking” forces people to not only put themselves first, but to view the success of others as a threat to their own ability. The faulty logic can often cloud our judgement, and hinder our ability to look past ourselves. It is crucial to be able to partake in another’s happiness without our own jealousy creeping into the situation, or to congratulate another without comparing their accomplishments to our own. Creating an environment where our sole concerns are purely self-interested will inevitably lead to a stiflingly cold community. The deeper we fall into this faulty, singularly selfish mindset, the further we push each other away. People become increasingly distant, and the ties that keep communities bonded are often severed. Furthermore, the necessary skills of teamwork and companionship that are required for success in college, the workplace, and beyond can be neglected as a result of this distance. Falling prey to these attitudes is all too easy — but it is necessary to break out of this. It is easier said than done to make this shift in attitude, but its importance cannot be overstated; we need to learn to curb competition at times, understand that there is room for everyone to succeed, and acknowledge our peers’ feats without comparing them to our own. ▪

The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board

Fair salary negotiations start with respect With the reinstatement of Work to Rule, teachers are again working only during their required hours. As a result, the absence of letters of recommendation has drawn widespread discussion among both students and parents. While undesirable, these policies are needed for us to be aware of the bigger issue behind all this: insufficient teacher pay. The issues currently plaguing us are not unique to FUSD — they are a consequence of the value we place on education in America. In countries such as China and South Korea, teaching is among the most highly respected professions. Whereas in these countries, students are expected to fully defer to their teachers and rarely question the ideas that they are taught. In contrast, the American education system promotes more questioning of ideas, but this also results in an environment where teachers aren’t seen as knowledgeable as their Eastern counterparts. While both methods have their benefits, a natural consequence of our system is teachers being less respected. Consider teacher salaries: according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 54 percent of educational funds in America are spent on teacher salaries in comparison to the average of 61 percent across the 34 OECD countries across Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Given America’s — and particularly the Bay Area’s — high cost of living, this moreover makes teaching an undesirable job, reducing the quality of teaching as well. America’s problem stems both from its citizens and from lawmakers who, when deciding where to cut budgets, often target education. Teacher perception in America needs to change for the better in order for our teachers to gain the respect and pay which they deserve. Locally, supporting Fremont Unified District Teacher Association (FUDTA) is our best option to support this cause. Currently, the salary negotiations between

Opinion 3


FUSD and FUDTA show a clear lack of respect for teachers. Month after month, teachers participate at FUSD board meetings to fight for fair wages, yet the board continually tables the issue, not even considering these negotiations. Many argue that FUSD simply doesn’t have money for raises since our district is far from wealthy. Much of the confusion surrounding these negotiations could be resolved with greater transparency from FUSD. The board can often be vague regarding the allocation of funds, while teachers host walk-ins and district-wide rallies to broadcast their point-of-view. Simply being transparent about the funds and answering all of the questions that the community has regarding these numbers would demonstrate respect between both parties, potentially mending one of the major issues in the negotiations. With these dire circumstances of impasse in negotiations, the only way teachers can make a point is by protesting with Work to Rule. Although this affects students by withholding letters of recommendation, most teachers do not do this willingly. Our teachers shape our identities, often going beyond their obligations to provide us with additional resources to be successful. Students aren’t appreciative enough of teachers, and sharing how our teachers have helped us is the minimum that we, as students, can do. This protest affects our education so it is imperative that both students and parents communicate this to the board. Whether it’s emailing board members, planning shows of support, or even helping teachers out in the classroom, we must clearly communicate our support in order to end this conflict and prevent future ones. ▪

In junior high, I could hole myself up in my room for hours and play clarinet until my face turned to jelly. I looped band and orchestra pieces while doing my homework. I looked forward to my Thursday clarinet lessons. Upon entering high school, however, this drive faded. What used to be daily practice sessions turned into every-otherday practice sessions, which sometimes became weekly practice sessions. Thursdays began arriving with a good dose of trepidation — I tripped over keys, lost my sense of rhythm, and flubbed my way through delicate passages. Moment of truth, I’d think as I sat down, and promptly proceed to underperform for 60 minutes. I felt bad, of course. But then I tried to justify myself — practicing was time consuming, and well, I wasn’t nearly as good as my youth group peers. It was hard to say whether I would ever be as good. What if my progress was really asymptotic, and I would hit a skill ceiling, and that was where I was to remain my entire life? In that case, maybe it would be better not to try — at least I wouldn’t know that my best just wasn’t good enough. I just was really afraid to fail. People tell you that perfection is unattainable, and it is — it’s insanely subjective and abstract. I knew this. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop me from wishing I were excellent at my endeavors. But then I’d imagine all the steps to take to achieve that kind of mastery — 10,000 hours (Malcolm Gladwell’s metric for the time required to become an expert in a subject) loomed large in my mind — and I’d feel exhausted and decide the mountain of

skill was maybe not worth climbing. Why put in the effort to get stuck halfway, I figured, when I could just stay at the bottom? Funnily enough, I couldn’t have told you what my vision of good enough or really good or really great or excellent even was. A weird paradox accompanied my perfectionism: faced with what I considered near-insurmountable odds to get where I wanted to be, I thought it might just be easier to give up before I started. I found solace in defeatism. This opened its own can of worms — I never considered myself a “quitter” or a “defeatist,” and yet shying away from practice was definitely a form of quitting. Then last year I came across a Scientific American article about learning mindsets that helped me understand my situation a lot better. Much of my slump grew from what psychologists term a fixed mindset, the belief that ability is ultimately fixed, and mistakes point toward a lacking in ability that reflects badly on a person. Compare this with a growth mindset, which proposes that hard work and effort can improve ability far beyond what’s expected; mistakes are simply part of the learning process. According to Stanford psychology professor Carol S. Dweck, people with a growth mindset are more capable of adapting to challenging situations and are generally happier than those with a fixed mindset. Clearly somewhere along the way I firmly situated myself in the fixed mindset, placing more emphasis on results than the process to get there. Switching back to a growth mindset was difficult. But I’m working toward it — these days I’m at least practicing regularly again, and every session I remind myself I just have to get a little bit better than I was yesterday. ▪

By Kimberly Huang & Selina Yang Staff Writers

staff writer kimberly huang

staff writer selina yang

4 Advertisement


The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 1, 2019


Stay Ahead in School with Elite Premier Tutoring & Academics Management

Raise Your SAT Subject Test & AP Exam Scores


510.979.0808 fremont@eliteprep.com /eliteprep


www.eliteprep.com /eliteprepsat


Friday, February 1, 2019

The Smoke Signal


Opinion 5

Death of public figures does not erase their misdeeds By Sreetama Chowdhury & Carolyn Qian Staff Writers With the death of any controversial celebrity comes an inevitable media circus. Sound bites and quotes from devastated fans, friends, and family flood news sites and TV screens, and droves of admirers turn out — both online and in person — to say their farewells. Their grief is milked by the media until enough time has passed that the world’s focus moves on. Yet when criticism is leveled against that same controversial celebrity, there is uproar. Anyone who brings up personal actions that affected large numbers of people is bombarded with wishywashy pleas for respect and sensitivity in the time of mourning, shifting the focus of discussion while very conveniently painting over the celebrity’s misdeeds. Yes, it’s important to allow friends and family time to grieve, but the claim that any negative commentary on the individual is unacceptable is a slippery slope. How soon is too soon to analyze the actions of the dead? If the dogma that the deceased must be spoken of softly goes unchallenged, it will be used as an excuse to sweep all kinds of abuses and misdemeanors under the rug.

ing “honorable, gracious and decent.” It seems that, with his death, the mainstream press has bestowed Bush with a saint-like status, rendering him untouchable in the name of respectful silence. However, to paint President Bush as an honorable old patriot disrespects the millions of people affected by his actions in office. A closer look at his political career reveals everything from an intensely racist presidential campaign ad in 1988 to allegations of sexual harassment towards a minor. A series of war crimes targeting civilians in Iraq, a racially charged escalation of the “war on drugs,” and callous disregard for the millions of LGBTQ+ Americans affected by the AIDS crisis add to his laundry list of missteps. The popular postmortem depiction of Bush as a friendly old man may reflect his personal character, but his actions in office cannot and should not be viewed with the same rose-colored glasses. The misdeeds of public figures do not necessarily invalidate their positive contributions. Those who have benefitted from a public figure’s

actions will naturally wish to celebrate their legacy, and those with personal ties to the deceased will rightfully want to pay their respects. However, it is necessary to consider both the good and the bad of an individual’s effect on the world; only by acknowledging both sides can an objective understanding of a legacy be achieved.

Rather than stamping a neat, conclusive label onto their legacy, we should seek understanding of the multifaceted nature of a human being and the impacts that they have made during their time. The death of rapper XXXTentacion, who had charted on the Billboard Hot 100, sparked great controversy. He was charged with domestic abuse — he repeatedly beat, threatened, and even once kidnapped his pregnant then-girlfriend, injuring her to the extent that she required eye surgery — and displayed violent homophobia, nearly beating a gay juvenile hall cellmate to

If the dogma that the deceased must be spoken of softly goes unchallenged, it will be used as an excuse to sweep all kinds of abuses and misdemeanors under the rug. Take former President George H. W. Bush, who died on Nov. 30, 2018 — coincidentally the day before World AIDS Day. With the grief of millions of Americans came immediate coverage glorifying his political legacy. While he’s faced his fair share of criticism in his time, Bush has often been portrayed as the polite, gentlemanly counterpoint to the more brash President Donald Trump. Numerous eulogies, including former President Bill Clinton’s, praised him for be-

graphics by graphics editor lucia li

what factors do you think contribute to the widespread popularity of these groups?

Ethnic Meme Groups

" With the influx of Asian families immigrating to West- vid Zhu, 12 a ern countries, there are many people that grew up in D different environments from other neighboring, more Western households. Since these people were unable to share these experiences with their Western friends due to cultural differences, they jumped on an opportunity to share their unique experiences with those in the group, and subtle asian traits happened to be the first that focused on this mostly untouched demographic."

how do you believe ethnicity-based meme groups affect racial stereotypes, if at all? Kyle Yu

Dan ie Ap u

bhaka Pra r,

, 1o


Jennif er


Tomm y

"...People find things in their everyday life that they find really annoying; how their parents behave, for example, is a popular one. And they see other people — thousands of people are seeing these posts and reacting to them and maybe even tagging them. And they identify with that; they can see that other people are going through the same thing in the world, and that we're all in this together. And they're able to reconcile these extraordinary events with just normal everyday life."

1 "I think the relatability to the content is obviously number


“For the most part, the groups aren't damaging because the members of the groups are Asians making posts about themselves. They use these groups to find a community of people they identify with, especially if they aren't in a place like Mission, where there are primarily Asians. If they're the only Asian person in their school, the groups give them a sense of community."

11 ie, X l

"The fact that people tag each other [makes these groups popular] because the groups are closed so if your friends aren't in the groups, then they can't see the post. They have to join, and then they tag their friends, and then those friends tag their friends, and that's how it grows and grows."

omayaju as la l a

, 12

Amogh Ay

Ra c

" Since the most active members are of those ethnic groups and the humor is self-aware, I don't think it's reinforcing negative stereotypes of the groups they are about. However, the memes tend to exclude South Asians, who are (at least in the US) somewhat alienated from our idea of 'Asian,' so it does unfortunately reinforce that viewpoint."

“These groups perpetuate the model minority or smart Chinese people stereotype more. It's ... really bad for society. If we never get over our differences, with such of these groups[sic], we'll never break these stereotypes.”

h, 10 Ko


Hsiao, 11



"To me, these ethnicity-based meme groups affect the racial stereotypes of Asian [or] other races. These memes are creating stereotypes that aren't entirely true for every single person of that race, which isn’t right."

l he

death for nothing more than staring at him. A Miami New Times profile written mere weeks before his death detailed the harrowing violence his girlfriend faced at his hands on a regular basis, everything from harsh verbal attacks to holding her head underwater and threatening to drown her. In a secret recording from October 2016, obtained by Pitchfork.com from the Miami-Dade County state attorney's office, the rapper even admitted to repeatedly physically abusing his ex-girlfriend and stabbing eight people. Yet he sought to provide an emotional outlet for millions of troubled fans through his music. His music does not shy away from heavy themes, exploring suicide, depression, isolation, and troubled home lives. In an Instagram live stream two hours before his death, he said, “... I at least want to know that the kids perceived my message, were able to make something of themselves and were able to take my message and use it and turn it into something positive and to at least have a good life.” Indeed, fans dubbed him a “troubled genius” and deeply mourned his passing; even his ex-girlfriend took to social media to condemn those who criticized him for his violent and abusive actions. While XXXTentacion’s music left a lasting impression on the world of hip-hop, his violent actions cannot be ignored. Just as XXXTentacion’s music is complex and brutal, so, too, is his legacy. In the end, the deaths of public figures will lead to controversy and clash between their fans and the people they’ve hurt. However, analyzing a public figure’s legacy does not mean one side must prevail over the other. People are complex, and their lives should be treated as such. Rather than stamping a neat, conclusive label onto their legacy, we should seek understanding of the multifaceted nature of a human being and the impacts that they have made during their time. ▪

one. I literally open Subtle Curry Traits every day and see these scenarios that I didn't actually know were so common. Moreover, I think these are some of the meme pages that are still good. In my life as a memesurfer, I've gone through a good chunk of meme websites, from I Waste So Much Time to 9GAG and iFunny, I sincerely think Subtle Traits are just better." photos by staff writers jonathan liu & gokul ramapriyan

10Advertisement Feature www.thesmokesignal .org 6 www.thesmokesignal .org

The Smoke Smoke Signal Signal The

Friday, May 1, 4, 2019 2018 Friday, February

IvyBoost Education





College planning: courses & rigor choice & standardized test plans, extracurricular activities, summer programs & career plans, financial aid and scholarships

College application and essay editing

Pre-Med, Pre-Stem, Pre-Law, Pre-Business & other programs 90% in 1 of their top 3 choices

70% awarded scholarships


Silicon Valley Center

43301 Mission Blvd

1580 W El Camino Real

Fremont, CA 94539

Mt. View, CA 94040

(510) 656-6800

(650) 282-5588

Professional Affiliations: · WACAC · HECA · IECA · NACAC

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Smoke Signal

Staff Spotlight: Chelbert English Teacher Chelbert Dai has a passion for filmmaking and has made several short films over the years. One of his films, Queen of Earth, played as an “Immediate Family” in the "Shorts" category of The Center for Asian American Media Festival 2017. He began working at MSJ this year and teaches both sophomore honors and college prep English. Although Dai has always enjoyed cinema, he didn’t realize his interest in filmmaking until his college years, partly because of his childhood environment. He said, “I grew up in Irvine and went to high school there. The high school was not unlike Mission academically and because of that I thought I would just go down the path of some sort of STEM, even though that definitely was not a strong suit of mine, which was evident at that stage.” Dai majored in English with a focus on literary criticism and theory at UC Davis before moving on to graduate school at UC Irvine for a master’s degree in teaching. In his junior year at UC Davis, he joined a film club, where he learned about the technical and creative aspects of filmmaking. Dai said, “It was a very hands on [way of] filmmaking, as in all of the members pretty much did everything. And just through that I was able to try out all of [the parts of filmmaking].” The technical

skills he learned from his involvement in the club as well as independently enabled him to record and edit his own films. His passion for cinematography led to the creation of several film projects. He considers his most successful film to be Queen of Earth, which he filmed during college. Queen of Earth, starred his then 10-year-old niece Charlene Dai and was inspired by Terrence Malick’s movie The Tree of Life. The themes featured in Queen of Earth “[were] all about us as human beings versus nature as a whole, and how we fit into a world where nature is dominant,” Dai said. He has also worked on various other short films and in the future plans to finish a feature-length film that was inspired by a personal relationship experience in college. One of Dai’s favorite aspects of filmmaking is creating a new world and story. “You create an entire world by yourself, you create an entire reality that’s restricted to the film, but that doesn’t make it any less valid than our own reality. “There’s nothing more powerful than imagining something and bringing it into reality,” he said. In his films, Dai typically tries to create a subjective story. “I try to focus on one character who’s experiencing something, connecting back to the most powerful novels that I’ve read,” he said.



Additionally, Dai put together a computer by himself in order to better access professional editing programs to work on his films. He said, “The more cores you have, the more multitasking you can do, and editing is pretty much the only program that can benefit from multiple cores.” He had been wanting to build a computer since he was in high school but was intimidated by the task of piecing together all of the components. Howev-

Feature 7

By Christine Dong & Ian Park Staff Writers

er, spurred to further explore his passion for filmmaking, he finally found the time and motivation to do so and found the process to be much easier than expected. At the moment, Dai balances his passion and his job as a teacher with little difficulty. He regrets identifying his interest in the subject so late and intends to genuinely pursue filmmaking in the future. ▪

A poster for a video, "Beautiful Things," Dai directed regarding how past relationships can shape a person's current identity. photo courtesy chelbert dai

dear diary: cuffing season By Selina Yang Staff Writer

December 3rd, 2018 It’s the most annoying time of the year: airheads blocking the hallways while hugging, people showing off their brand new relationships with flashy gifts from “bae.” “Cuffing Season” is so stupid. “Congrats! You guys are so cute together,” is often heard from this one girl in my history class, Margot. She’s obscenely positive about everyone’s relationships, despite the fact that they’ll probably break up in a week over something petty. She even had the nerve to bother me about helping with a surprise gift for her friend’s dating-forthree-months anniversary gift. She’s so in your face, sickeningly sweet — like jeez, I really could care less about their “adorable” first date.

cause of a stupid mistake. I didn't mean to be a jerk, but I ended up lashing out at anyone who bothered me, including Michael’s new girlfriend. But when it came to history class, the annoyingly positive girl noticed I was down and asked me what was wrong. Margot, all smiles and hugs, reminded me that, after all, there’s more to life than grades and stress. December 23st, 2018 After we got assigned to a group project, we exchanged numbers. She checked in to see how I’ve been doing now that break has started, and it turns out that she’s really funny and smart, on top being kind to everyone she talks to. Her positivity is infectious, no matter how obnoxious it can be sometimes. And, it turns out that she can ramble on forever about fountain pens, and I can listen to her for hours. When she texted “lets hang out over break ! :D," I thought she was just being polite, but lo and behold, we met up at the newest boba cafe yesterday. The rain outside hit the pavement like a drum roll, the sky was shadowy, but we were too busy laughing over Cards Against Humanity to notice. She slipped a colorfully wrapped object to me and told me to open it once I got home. Honestly, I was having such a good time, I didn't want to leave.

January 20th, 2018 Why was I so cynical before? To be edgy, to seem too cool for anything, or to mask some insecurity? All of the above. Like, there's nothing wrong with being realistic, but no good came out of bringing everyone around me down along with me. I pushed even my best friend away, without realizing it. Now, taking the time to see things from another perspective, I understand why people want to celebrate their happiness with each other. We’re just teenagers though. College might split us up, or we’ll both get busy; even if the January 8th, 2018 relationship doesn't last, there's nothing December 20th, 2018 January 7th, 2018 Wow, I’m absolutely clueless. I guess wrong with living in the moment! But hey, Today started out awful, but is now ... Is it weird that I taped her small card we’re dating now. we’re only high schoolers once, why not slightly less bad. I bombed my Calc AB to my desktop monitor? I can’t help but make the most of it? ▪ test in first period, and I know it was be- smile every time I look at it. God, that’s December 15th, 2018 Out of the blue, my best friend Michael proudly announced that he was in a relationship with some girl I’ve never even heard of — just in time for “Cuffing Season.” Instead of going out to the movies with me, he opted to have a cozy dinner date with her. I swear he’s never even mentioned her before, and suddenly she’s more important to him than me, his best friend of two years! “Cuffing Season” has clouded his senses. He just wants to join in on the hype of all the new couples.

so stupidly cheesy, did I really just say that? My best friend is, to my surprise, still happily in a relationship. His Instagram is littered with pictures with his girlfriend (and #CuffingSzn) but I’m beginning to see Margot’s perspective on things; they are awfully happy together. He texted me yesterday, asking to hang out, because we haven't in a while. Margot’s coming too; I think she’d get along well with his girlfriend. (who doesn't she get along with?). “so basically a double date LOL :p” he texted back. I don't know how to respond.

graphic courtesy picsart, graphic by selina yang

8 Centerspread


The Smoke Signal


Friday, February 1, 2019

Students across all grade levels at MSJ work diligently behind the scenes to improve our school and community. To spotlight some of these students and their contributions, the Smoke Signal has compiled some examples of student activism.

Friday, February 1, 2019


The Smoke Signal



i n v o lv e m e n t

J CLothing drive

By Sabrina Cai, Josephine Chew, Sahana Sridhar & Tylor Wu Staff Writers


Freshman Kirsten Trinh focuses on creating change within her community at a grassroots level. In class, she tries to promote acceptance of personal identity, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. She is currently working on a TED Talk project in class in order to spread awareness about LGBTQ+ history. Trinh also believes that people can make a difference as activists on even the smallest scale by looking out for issues in their community.

leadership 2 Leadership 2 (L2) organizes an annual canned food drive and blood drive; this year, they collected 1,286 cans of food and drew 63 pints of blood. In response to the recent CA wildfires, L2 students set up donations at school and brought in $2,603 for the victims. Not long after that, L2 publicized the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s letter-writing campaign, gathering 1,369 letters. Each of these events supplies aid to struggling communities and gives students a way to make a positive impact on the world. Activities Coordinator Senior Ananya Verma said, “I’m very thankful for all the students who have helped us in our endeavors because without them, we wouldn’t have been able to create such great changes.”

The primary role of students in the district is on SURFBoardE, which acts as a liaison between students and the district. This organization appoints student representatives to sit on district committees such as the Facilities Advisory Committee. During the 2016-17 school year, student representatives collected data on issues at school, working to improve school lunches and student stress management. Currently, students are working on the Calendar Shift campaign to start and end the school year earlier. Policy changes in FUSD are reviewed and voted on by the school board and must be read out at a public board meeting. The student representative on the board has the ability to make motions and vote on all policies, except on employment-related issues.

work to rule

Sophomore Kushal Chattopadhyay’s boundless passion for activism extends from educating the youth on diversity to providing for the homeless. Last winter, Chattopadhyay organized an independent winter clothing drive, which he publicized on Facebook and at school; he donated the resulting 12 boxes of clothes to The Salvation Army in San Jose. “There are so many people that don’t have a voice. As a comparatively privileged person, … it’s my responsibility to help give them one,” he said. His philosophy is prevalent with his work at E.M. Grimmer Elementary School as well, where he is the president of a diversity club and occasional tutor to Spanish bilingual students. He believes that he has a moral obligation to educate youth who don’t have the means to educate themselves. Currently, Chattopadhyay is working to create a branch of Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN), a nonprofit that advocates for immigrant and refugee rights, at MSJ. In the process, he hopes to inspire empathy and understanding amongst his peers.

— Student Activist Sophomore Monica Manmadkar

... activists in our community

push for social Activists are people who y see injustice. change in areas where the — whether it’s Anyone can be an activist ding demonstrathrough advocating, atten officials, activtions, or writing letters to blic awareness ists strive to heighten pu te for improveof their causes and advoca ey often work ments in those areas. Th s or organizatogether in activist group on cause. tions to promote a comm

believe in your cause wholeheartedly.

Calendar Shift

As a Students United for the Representation to the Fremont Board of Education (SURFBoardE) representative for the past three years, Senior Anuja Konda represents MSJ students and is currently working on the Calendar Shift initiative, which aims to start and end the school year earlier, allowing for finals before Winter Break — according to a 2016-17 survey, nearly 77 percent of high school students in our district would prefer this over the current schedule. To campaign for this change, Konda and other SURFBoardE representatives collected data from the student body and presented at all feeder school staff meetings and to the school board. Konda’s advice to aspiring activists is to “Believe in your cause wholeheartedly. Change begins with you, so lead by example and stick to your cause at all costs.”

think proactively, not reactively.

the district

Centerspread 9

— SURFBoardE Student Representative Senior Anuja Konda

An active advocate for compensation for teachers and mental health, Sophomore Monica Manmadkar began her journey as a student activist her freshman year and recently joined Students Rise, an initiative at MSJ dedicated to working with the Fremont Board of Education to give teachers a raise. Between speaking with teachers and attending board meetings to make her case, Manmadkar hopes to help the Board recognize that our teachers are essential in driving change, education, and curiosity in our community. Her work with MSJ Challenge Success, another movement she takes pride in, began her freshman year as well. She, along with other students and administrators, created a documentary on MSJ’s ideal for success. In the process, she learned that the MSJ community views success as a direct product of high AP scores and test scores, a concept that she hopes to change. As she paves the way to a more happy and aware community, she encourages her peers to not wait until a problem affects them to act on it.

what is a student activist ?

Student voices

“I would define a strong leader or activist as one who has a clear vision in what his or her goal is, understands each side and is able to effectively persuade others [to] support arising challenges, and most importantly listens to all voices in the community with no bias, going forward with ambition and integrity.” — Shyam Sethi, 12 “[Activist leaders are] people who take initiative and aren't afraid to speak up even when other people are telling them the complete opposite — when everyone else says something but they're that one person that's brave enough to speak out and organize stuff." — Vivienne Lin, 11

how large of an impact does student activism have on the msj community ? “Between all the teachers, administrators, and parents are the students, and most of the decisions in the district are spearheaded by students! So if students feel passionate about something they should definitely fight for it and challenge the status quo.” — Ananya Verma, 12

"I think a strong leader/activist ... is willing to stand up for something they believe in and are capable of asserting power. They should be confident and accepting of all kinds of people." — Iha Bharadwaj, 9 “Strong activists are people who are effective in leading others without being overwhelmed by the amount of responsibility and ... are able to persuade others in believing in their cause.” — Monica Manmadkar, 10

“I believe that student activism does not have an extremely large impact on the MSJ community. This is not to say that there are no activists ... However, the vast majority of the student population tends to think within the Mission Bubble. Throughout my experience at MSJ, I have seldom seen students taking a stand toward issues around them and actually convincing many students around them to support the same purpose.” — Patrick Liu, 11

"I think that student activism is really important to the community. I think that students, as a large body, can make a lot of things happen. I've heard that we used to have class ranking. But because of student activism, we don't have that at our school anymore. I feel like that's really important because we as students are affected by everything that happens in our school, so we need to speak up for ourselves." — Tanisha Roy, 11

graphics courtesy fremont.k12.ca.us & facebook.com

10 Advertisement


The Smoke Signal

Friday, February 1, 2019

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Smoke Signal


Feature 11

post finals recovery guide By Riya Chopra, Monisha Saxena & Shreya Srinivasan Staff Writers

Finals week is finally over, but the stress may not be over yet. The Smoke Signal has compiled activities and places to help you destress in this post-finals recovery guide.

gardening: Gardening is a convenient and pleasant method of relieving stress in your own backyard. Simply find plants you like and research their specifications for growing before planting them in your backyard. According to Psychology Professor Agnes E. Van Den Burg of Wageningen University and Research Center, gardening can help decrease levels of cortisol, a stress-causing hormone. Even being outside in the sun actually increases the amount of the serotonin, a mood-regulating horCreating a spa in your own home can mone, in your body. Being in touch with nature be an easy way to relax. Draw a bath, add can also help you detach from the stressful some bath salts or essential oils, and surround screens and impending work. Enjoy and yourself with candles to create a spa-like feel. Use relax while planting what will somean exfoliating scrub on your body to remove the outerday be a beautiful garden. most layer of dead skin cells, which leaves your skin soft and smooth. Easily made with household ingredients, face and hair masks can help brighten and heal Music with a slower tempo can help your face and hair. A spa will help you relax relax and quiet your mind by helping you and keep your mind clear and content while feel less stressed. According to PsychCentaking care of your body. A little pamtral, slow, classical music is especially effective pering goes a long way! in lowering heart rate and blood pressure, along with decreasing levels of stress-hormones like cortisol. Even if classical music is not your cup of tea, calm music of any genre can help you destress. Some music platforms have already curated playlists for this purpose, like Spotify’s “Stress Relief” playlist. The best Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a place to listen to music is where you fodeep relaxation technique used to relieve stress cus and let the music guide you toand insomnia by reducing the tension in your muscles. wards relaxation. PMR can be done anywhere you can lie on your back comfortably without being interrupted. The process is simple: you tense a muscle group, such as the upper thighs, while inhaling for five to ten seconds and then exhale while releasing the tension. Work your way up your body gradually, resting for 10 to 20 seconds between each conAromatherapy uses essential oils from traction. While relaxing, visualize your stress plant extracts to help relax and improve flowing out of your muscles and focus on your mood. The scents can either be inhaled the change you feel when you let the or put on the skin using oil diffusers, candles, or tension leave your body. scented lotions. According to Science Direct, these fragrant stress relievers can cause the hypothalamus to produce serotonin. Different fragrances such as lemon, chamomile, lavender, cedarwood, and bergamot can have individual effects. According to the Cleveland Clinic, citrus scents can uplift your mood, while lavender specifically can lessen anxiety.

it's okay if you got a bee!

at home spa:

make a playlist:

progressive muscle relaxation:


places to visit: rage room 115 N 4th St #125, San Jose, CA 95112

Rage rooms are a recent phenomenon that take a constructive approach to relieving stress and frustration. Participants are provided with hammers and protective eye gear, then proceed to shatter various items while listening to music to recreationally release their tension and anger. Break Stuff is the Bay Area’s only Stress Therapy Demolition Center. The room’s expenses range from $25 to $100, offering a unique method of de-stressing and allowing customers to purchase a variety of packages that range from the length of three songs to 30 minutes.

ardenwood historic farm 34600 Ardenwood Blvd, Fremont, CA 94555

Animals have always facilitated comfort and relaxation. Ardenwood Historic Farm is one of Fremont’s Regional Historic Landmarks since it was first constructed by George Washington Patterson in 1857. The farm allows visitors a hands-on experience with the animals as well as access to well-preserved extravagant Victorian gardens popular for walks. Entry fees vary depending on the season and the day of the week, currently the prices are $2 for children ages 4-17 and $4 for adults 18 and over. Located 20 minutes from MSJ, Ardenwood Historic Farm is a close, easy, and cheap afternoon of relaxation. photos courtesy unsplash.com, graphic by graphics editor lucia li

team of rivals

By Ian Hsu, Jonathan Liu & Jennifer Xiang Staff Writers





Reading is a highly beneficial pastime that can be difficult for today’s students to enjoy, given their ever-busy schedules. Even after finding time, there are often too many books to choose from. With this in mind, the Smoke Signal interviewed MSJ staff members about books they recommend and how students can revitalize their reading habits.


to kill a mockingbird by harper lee


Here lies daniel tate





Team of Rivals by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin is a biography of President Abraham Lincoln that delves into his 1861-65 presidency with political opponents serving in his cabinet. “Doris Kearns Goodwin’s New York Times bestseller helps us appreciate one of our greatest presidents in the time of crisis, and it shows Lincoln’s magnanimity in his ability to have great empathy and his openness to have his political opponents in his cabinet. In a time of crisis like today, it’s useful to help us understand how leaders can work together to find common ground and solutions for very challenging issues.”



Harper Lee’s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a powerful story about a child’s experiences while living in a highly prejudiced southern town. It highlights elements of innocence, compassion, humor, and devastation. “I was in high school when [To Kill A Mockingbird] was published, and I had a really advanced English teacher who wanted us to do current fiction, and I just fell in love with the book. I think then, as I experience a lot of the political strife with race relations with justice and injustice, that there’s really a lot that you can get from fiction.”


by michelle obama

Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming shares her moments of suffering, discovery, and triumph throughout her life in an effort to inspire others to defy expectations as she has. “I would recommend reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming. It’s reall y fabulous, it’s not about being in the White House, it’s about her life, how she was raised in a very simple manner, low-income basicall y, and ended up at Princeton, [then] at Harvard Law, doing amazing things. So it’s just one of those very, very motivating and inspiring stories.”


by cristin terrill

A young con artist and runaway, attempting to find a family to call his own, cons his way into the Tate household using the identity of Daniel Tate. However, he finds himself in a family harboring a dark secret concerning his name. “This is a comfortable read. It doesn’t have a high word count [and] makes it seem as if you’ve ... become part of it. To read is to be able to travel through books, to learn more words, to experience events that you wouldn’t normally do in your life, and to learn skills from them.”

by doris kearns goodwin





Friday, February 1, 2019

The Smoke Signal





12 Arts & Entertainment


by ernest callenbach

Ecotopia illustrates an ecological utopia founded when northern CA, Oregon, and Washington secede from the Union to create a perfectly balanced society between human beings and the environment. The novel brings up ecological issues that still have relevance today. “I first read it ... more than 20 years ago, and we’ve actually come up with the inventions talked about in this book [today]. At the time when this was written, most of it was considered fantasy, but what I like about science fiction and this book is that they show you that anything’s possible.” photos by staff writers ian hsu, jonathan liu & jennifer xiang

Insight Education

College Counseling & Test Prep SAT Boot Camps SAT December Boot Camp: Dec 26 - Jan 5 (8 day) Wednesday - Saturday

9:00am - 6:15pm

SAT Winter Boot Camp: Jan 12 - March 2 (8 day) Every Saturday

9:00am - 6:15pm

ACT Boot Camps ACT Dec Express Boot Camp: Dec 27 - Jan 4 (5 day) Thur - Sat Thur - Fri

Dec 27 - 29 Jan 3 - 4

9:00am - 6:00pm 9:00am - 6:00pm

ACT Jan Express Boot Camp: Jan 5 - Feb 2 (5 day) Every Saturday

9:00am - 6:00pm

High School & College Admissions Counseling College Admissions Insight for Seniors: Applications, Common Application Essays, Supplement Essays, Interviews, Scholarships, Recommendation Letters & Financial Aid High School & College Admissions Planning & Research: For High School Students in grades 9 through 11 Extracurricular Activities & Volunteering: Choose, Prioritize & Stand out on the college application

Contact us today! www.insight-education.net | (408)-252-5050 | info@insight-education.net

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Smoke Signal


Arts & Entertainment 13

C R I T I C S’ C O R N E R MusiC: e^st | Film: a dog’s way home, escape room | gaming: don’t forget our esports dream

Under the radar


A Dog’s Way Home loses its way


don’t forget our esports dream

By Mingjia Wang Staff Writer While some people — especially loyal Bay Area residents — might argue that West is best, a young singer from Australia is drastically changing the narrative. Maybe East really is best — E^ST being the stage name for 20-year-old musician Melisa Bester, an artist who combines pop and indie-electronic genres to create a truly unique and resonant sound. E^ST released her fourth EP last year, Life Ain’t Always Roses, adding onto a diverse discography that also includes two successful singles. Life Ain’t Always Roses is a rollercoaster of emotions that features a conglomeration of musical styles ranging from electronic and light-hearted to synth-heavy and overwhelming. Her haunting voice shines in every track, piercing the air with a sharp, melancholy timbre. Two standout songs, “Friends” and “Heaven In My Mind,” are shockingly raw depictions of the realities of friendship and drug abuse. E^ST’s ability to convey pure, unfiltered emotion through her word choice and the distinct timbre of her vocals make her songs credible and stirring. She sells herself as a young, observant songwriter with genuine concern for the people around her, equipped with a tremendous talent to share her insights. E^ST characterized her music best when she said, “I want to be as honest as I can so there’s something people can connect to.” Despite the fact that she has yet to release a full album, E^ST has solidified her career as a talented and powerful vocalist, unafraid to tackle sensitive issues of pain or loss. In recent years, E^ST has opened tour performances in Australia for prominent groups like Twenty One Pilots and Panic! At The Disco — and her early success shows no signs of stopping. In an interview with Nylon, the Australian singer says she hopes to refine and develop her own unique style, continuing to make “music that excites.” ▪

By Tylor Wu Staff Writer

By Jessica Xu Staff Writer The bar was set low for A Dog’s Way Home, so much so that it seemed impossible for the January 11 film to be a letdown. Incredibly, it manages to bite the dust before even reaching the first metaphorical hurdle, serving up a floundering offering with only a hint of potential. Bella is a stray dog that is taken in by Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), a college student living with his veteran mother (Ashley Judd). Unfortunately, Lucas lives in Denver, CO, where pit bulls like Bella are banned. After multiple clashes with animal control, Bella is sent to New Mexico. Remembering Lucas’s last command, “go home,” she embarks on an arduous journey in an attempt to return to him. The trailer spoils the end of the movie; whether or not Bella finds her owner in the end is not significant. Instead, the purpose of the movie is to tug at audiences’ heartstrings. The only thing the movie tugs, though, is heavy eyelids; there is no real emotional weight to the story. Yellow-tinted shots of sweeping landscapes and

stirring orchestral music may evoke nostalgia, but they can only do so much. Too much time is spent on montages that ultimately add little to the movie. On the other hand, the movie rushes through Bella’s experiences with people and other animals and does not fully flesh out any of them. Even deeply tragic events are brushed off and forgotten about after a few minutes, and any potential for poignancy fizzles out. To its credit, though, the film is occasionally punctuated by humorous moments that help keep audiences marginally awake. Flaws in production quality are conspicuous throughout the film. From the beginning of the film, the voice of Bella sticks out like a sore thumb. While it is natural to expect her to sound naive and childlike, her voice is overly chipper and conveys little emotion, dulling the emotional impact of scenes that would otherwise be touching. Moreover, the character of Lucas feels out of place at times, as Hauer-King’s acting is rigid and forced. The crudely-written dialogue compounds this, making scenes even more awkward. In addition, pop songs with tasteless, forgettable lyrics accompany multiple montages.


More often than not, they are shoehorned in and disrupt the flow of the movie. As A Dog’s Way Home mostly takes place in cities and the wilderness of the Southwest, one would normally not expect the visual effects to be hugely noticeable. However, the special effects in the film are unrealistic to the point of being ridiculous. In particular, a cougar made with CGI is far less than realistic; this is made even more painfully obvious in shots where Bella and the cougar appear at the same time. In a few instances, the special effects are so jarring that they detract from what is happening in the scene. Ultimately, A Dog’s Way Home is far from an artistic masterpiece. The sentimentality and pathos central to so many movies centered around dogs is diluted in A Dog’s Way Home. The film, competing with famous titles such as Marley & Me (2008) and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), had big shoes to fill but completely whiffs its shot. In the end, it is best suited for dog lovers and people just looking for a movie to pass the time. ▪ Rating: C

Escape Room Locks Itself Into a Dead End

B AY A R E A EVENTS By Selina Yang Staff Writer February 9: Makers Market in the Park Santana Row, San Jose Held monthly, this market features dozens of local artisans, crafting workshops, and and live music, displaying the best of what the Bay Area has to offer. February 19: Panic! At The Disco: Pray for the Wicked Tour Oakland, CA Showcasing their newest album, the hit indie rock band returns with promises of a brilliant and showstopping live performance. January 4 - February 28 : LMNL: Immersive Art Experience San Francisco, CA Mesmerizing light shows, vibrant glass sculptures, hypnotic artworks, and more can be experienced at this new cutting edge art gallery. February 27 - 28: La La Land with San Francisco Symphony San Francisco, CA Watch the award winning musical movie La La Land, accompanied by a full, live orchestra playing the soundtrack, in person. ▪


By Kimberly Huang Staff Writer Escape Room was Director Adam Robitel’s chance to redeem himself following his disappointing release of Insidious: The Last Key in 2018. Instead, his latest offering hit theaters on January 4 and, unfortunately, squanders its promising premise to leave viewers wondering if he deserves a third chance. Escape Room follows six characters who must navigate a series of nightmarish escape rooms, and although it executes classic horror tropes well, it just doesn’t live up to its full potential. The movie starts off with a bang: an escape room scene that effectively — if not originally — introduces the intense panic Escape Room maintains in its audience throughout its entirety. However, almost as soon as the opening scene begins, it snaps to a flashback that introduces the protagonist, socially awkward genius Zoey (Taylor Russell), along with the other five members of her cohort. All six characters then receive a mysterious puzzle box: their invitation to an escape room where

they are promised a $10,000 prize for success, but instead receive a living hell. Escape Room follows a traditional thriller storyline from there. The six characters solve puzzles and continue through a series of escape rooms in scenes that are action-packed, yet also painfully predictable. Plot points are easy to guess and keep the movie reliant on pure secondhand panic to keep the audience engaged. Easily the best part of the film are the escape rooms themselves, which are intricately detailed and prod at the fears of characters and audience alike. The puzzles within the rooms were clearly paid careful attention and contain none of the logical dissonance that usually breaks full immersion. Both lighting and soundtrack, usually subtle and dark but sometimes spiraling into psychedelic, emphasize the raw fear and emotion of the characters without overpowering them. Furthermore, Escape Room brings to the table the brilliant acting of Deborah Ann Woll as Amanda, an Iraq war veteran, who immediately claims a place in the hearts of moviegoers

through her bond with Zoey and the complexity of her character. Yet, with all of its brilliant execution, Escape Room can claim to be one of the few movies that is utterly ruined by its ending. Groans can be heard from the audience as immersion and the movie’s defining tension are abandoned in favor of setting up a sequel with awful and overused tropes. The wandering last fifteen minutes remove all the mystery from the origin of the escape rooms, with the movie’s previously acceptable levels of predictability being exacerbated to the level of a linear diagram. In one fell stroke, Escape Room overshadows its moderately successful plot with a tired concept that should have been put to rest ten years ago. As a thriller, Escape Room doesn’t need to portray any sort of message. Its one job is to incite fear, which it does well at least until its closing scene. The movie is proof for the film industry that the last impression is as important as the first, and its end unfortunately spoils a unique premise that would better have been left a mystery. ▪ Rating: C-

“Visual novel” and “esports” are two terms that are never talked about in the context of one another. However, that is the exact genre of Don’t Forget Our Esports Dream, a game with both the detailed story of a visual novel and the excitement of competition. The Kickstarter project was released in mid-November on Steam and indie game distribution site itch. io. It focuses on the stories of two rising StarCraft players during the height of StarCraft: Brood War’s popularity in Korea. Most of the story is a typical underdog sports story about overcoming struggles; however, themes about societal pressure and gender inequality are also scattered throughout the story. One particularly poignant example is the backstory of SynthA, a female pro gamer who sees herself out of a player role and used as marketing material in the near future. The high school students preparing for their upcoming college entrance exams also offer commentary on the undue pressure society places upon young people to figure out who they are too quickly. The themes are stretched a little thin due to the relatively short nature of the game, however, and as a result feel somewhat underdeveloped for such a story-driven game. Unlike many games in the visual novel genre, Don’t Forget Our Esports Dream embeds a sort of “mini-game” where the game breaks from being an interactive story. The player takes control of the character’s StarCraft game from time to time, having their actions per minute and accuracy scored at the end of each segment. It offers a refreshing break from reading, but with little instruction, it can be a little confusing. The rest of the game operates like an interactive storybook where the player makes decisions that can affect the outcome of the story in a style similar to Telltale Games releases such as The Walking Dead. The story can feel lacking in player input, though, causing it to feel more like an experience on rails, which dampens the otherwise well-written story. Art in the game is distinctly anime-like. A bright color palette makes the game very eye-catching, and the upbeat soundtrack helps to keep the pace moving. Some of the background music switches can be a bit jarring, but overall the instrumental soundtrack complements the visuals well and helps to immerse the player in the game. Even without background knowledge of the competitive StarCraft scene in Korea, Don’t Forget Our Esports Dream offers a compelling story with interesting ideas. With attractive art and a well-executed soundtrack, it has a lot to offer — even for players who do not follow professional gaming. ▪ Rating: 4/5


14 Sports & Advertisement


The Smoke Signal

Girls Soccer falls to American 0-4 Girls Soccer squared off against the American High School Eagles on Tuesday, January 8 at Tak Fudenna Memorial Stadium. The game was an intense struggle with rapid changes of possession as both teams moved the ball up and down the field. However, eventually American closed it out 4-0. MSJ had the advantage at the beginning of the game, leading to an attack toward American’s goal and getting a well-angled shot off towards the top left corner of American’s goal. However, American’s goalie blocked the shot and enabled the Eagles to stage a counterattack. Later on, American began pressuring MSJ players

more, gaining possession of the ball for the majority of the rest of the half. Eventually, American’s offense broke through MSJ’s defense. The center kicked the ball to the bottom right corner of the goal, scoring the first goal in the first 20 minutes. Throughout the first half, American had noticeably more time on the offensive end than MSJ. MSJ was considerably more aggressive in the second half. However, the other goals were scored in similar fashion as American pressured MSJ to gain possession of the ball, engaging the single line of defenders and breaking through before other players could arrive to help. Undeterred, MSJ maintained the

quality of their play throughout the game. Goalie Senior Diane Shan had many close saves, catching the ball head-on as it arced toward the goal. Forwards Senior Rachel Lin and Sophomore Leah Pan took the ball deep into American’s defense several times, powering past defenders and setting themselves up to score. The game concluded 4-0. MSJ’s teamwork and aggressiveness has considerably improved since their past games. Coach Terry Dalziel said, “We took more shots today than we did all season.” They owe this success to practice drills, where players get a quick snapshot of their surroundings to better connect their passes to other players.

Friday, February 1 2019

By Thomas Chen Staff Writer

In addition to practicing fundamental skills like passing, the team refined strategic aspects of their play. Dalziel said, “We did a lot of work over Winter Break on position play ... how they should tackle, who should push up, how they play the defenses position.” They also worked on being more aggressive to gain possession of the ball. Indeed, Lin said, “This game each one of us was a lot more aggressive.” The team still looks to further improve basic skills like passing, clearing the ball on defense, and pushing up as a team. Currently 0-5 in league games, Lin said, “We hope to win a game soon … and hope to play better and qualify [for NCS].” ▪ ▪

Captain Senior Rachel Lin advances the ball across the field.

photo by staff writer thomas chen

Friday, February 1 2019

Sports 15


The Smoke Signal

Boys Basketball comes up short 64-79 beginning, scoring an alley-oop to increase their lead by 4. The two teams continued to trade baskets, and Arora was key this quarter to keep MSJ in the game by scoring a three-pointer as well as three free throws after a foul to tie the game at 47 apiece. However, the Irvington offense kept pushing, scoring a three pointer and following up with a layup in the last 5 seconds of the quarter, making the score 47-53. The fourth quarter was by far the most competitive, with MSJ making an effort at a comeback, and Irvington trying to increase their lead. The crowd also became increasingly energetic at this time, adding

to the excitement of the last few minutes. With 2:30 left in the game, the Warriors remained 6 points behind, 64-70. MSJ began fouling the Irvington players in an effort to get the ball back and prevent them from running the clock out, but this led to Irvington scoring 9 points through free throws, and the game ended with a final score of 64-79 in Irvington’s favor. Despite this loss, the Warriors are looking forward. Coach Mike Kenney said, “We ... play to survive — we gotta beat the full court pressure. As far as the rest of the season, we just keep improving. Hopefully we are better tomorrow than we were tonight.” ▪

Sophomore Jonathan Ko scans the court for his teammates.

By Yusuf Rasheed Staff Writer Boys Basketball played the Irvington High School Vikings at MSJ on Tuesday, January 8. The game was full of aggression as players from both teams excelled early in the season, with an energetic crowd boosted the excitement during game-changing moments. MSJ trailed behind the Vikings for the majority of the game, and despite scoring multiple three-pointers in the last quarter, Irvington held its ground and won 79-64. The Vikings started out hot, stealing the ball shortly after tip-off to score the first layup and three-pointer of the game. Small Forward Senior Siddharth Raman quickly answered back, scoring two layups to make the score 4-5. The N IO N I OP X TS OR SP

rest of the quarter was full of fast-paced action as both teams made multiple turnovers and defensive errors that resulted in fast breaks and open layups. By the end of the first quarter, the score remained close at 14-15 with the Vikings in the lead. Irvington continued their aggressive play in the second quarter. While Sophomore Jonathan Ko took a huge fall two minutes into the quarter, he got right back up, and teammate Junior Arnav Arora responded with a spin move layup to again cut the Vikings’ lead to one. However, MSJ could not take the lead, and Irvington always responded to their runs. After an evenly matched second quarter, the Warriors headed into the half down two, 28-30. The third quarter was full of three-pointers and steals from both teams. Just like the first half, Irvington played fast in the

The truth behind health products

By Anika Arora Staff “Girl, tell them to #SUCKIT,” read a billboard in Times Square: an advertisement for Flat Tummy Co’s diet suppressant lollipops. Months before, model Kim Kardashian had endorsed these lollipops via Instagram, drawing criticism from actress Jameela Jamil and many other celebrities for promoting a product that encourages unrealistic beauty standards. Due to their enormous social media presence and influence, celebrities should avoid endorsing harmful products that reinforce the stereotype of a “perfect body type.” Social media has a powerful influence on our perception of the ideal body. Most actresses, actors, and models on social media fit the “ideal body” stereotype Hollywood created, which places emphasis on having an hourglass figure and blemish-free skin. However, many people who subconsciously compare themselves to these men and women are unaware of what goes on behind the scenes. Celebrities often have a team of makeup artists, hairdressers, and skilled photographers on site to create an illusion of flawlessness. Additionally, they are airbrushed to erase imperfections and may be digitally slimmed down to fit the standard. Many people who are unaware of the photoshop and preparation behind the photos compare themself to manipulated images. Instagram gives celebrities a platform to showcase digitally-altered photos of themselves that fit the “ideal body type.” With each photoshopped image posted, the already unrealistic bar of beauty inches higher. In addition to celebrities perpetuating the idea of an ideal body type, the products they endorse are detrimental to health. The company Flat Tummy Co. promotes diet suppressing lollipops through celebrity-endorsed advertisements. They recommend eating one or two lollipops per day whenever “hunger strikes,”

& Aria Lakhmani Writers as it can suppress an appetite for up to three hours to help consumers lose weight. This attracts many people looking to achieve a “perfect body” quickly. However, using this product may result in short-term benefits but will ultimately harm the body. According to Refinery29, “Over time, eating foods that trick you into feeling full can lead to binging, overeating, and malnutrition.” Since two of three ingredients are brown rice syrup and cane sugar, eating numerous lollipops daily as a replacement for meals can deprive consumers of essential nutrients like protein and carbohydrates that are vital for growth and overall well-being. Herbal diet pills are another commonly used product which “guarantee” women an ideal body within weeks, according to the magazine Broadly. They are not market regulated nor approved by the Food and Drug Administration but are still consumed by 150 million Americans every year. A 2015 study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine states that these pills cause 23,000 emergency room visits per year in the US due to the illegal ingredient ephedrine, a supplement that is used to treat low blood pressure but can also cause elevated heart rate, nausea, or insomnia if unnecessarily taken. Most similar diet products are not officially regulated and are untrustworthy. The media has a dominant influence on societal beauty standards. By using social media platforms to promote harmful products, celebrities reinforce the stereotype of one flawless body type. It must also be recognized that celebrities don’t rely solely on the products they advertise; many have personal trainers and go to the gym often. To really lose weight, people are better off eating nutritious foods and working out. As consumers, it’s our duty to look past the facade of the beauty standards portrayed by the media and do what is the most healthy for ourselves. ▪

Seniors Siddharth Raman and Raunak Srivastava defend against Irvington’s offensive set.

spor t sby t es M 4

By Aria Lakhmani & Yusuf Rasheed Staff Writers









Girls Soccer vs Kennedy 5:45 p.m. @ TAK

Boys Soccer vs Kennedy 3:45 p.m. @ TAK

Girls Soccer vs Moreau Catholic 6:00 p.m. @ TAK

Boys Soccer vs Moreau Catholic 3:45 p.m. @ TAK

Boys Basketball vs Washington 7:30 p.m. @ Washington

Girls Basketball vs Kennedy 7:45 p.m. @ MSJ Boys Basketball vs Kennedy 7:30 p.m. @ Kennedy


12 Boys Basketball vs Kennedy 7:30 p.m. @ Kennedy



15 Wrestling MVAL 9:00 am @ Logan Boys Basketball vs Kennedy 7:30 p.m. @ Kennedy

16 Photo

The Smoke Signal


Combining beautiful artwork with impactful messages that advocate for change, murals are a prominent aspect of our school environment. However, despite walking past these murals daily, few students know the history or inspiration behind the art pieces. Each mural, created through the collaboration of MSJ art students, highlights a facet of the school community, our educational departments, and the world at large. Here, we showcase a select few murals on campus.

by Anisa Kundu, Jonathan Liu & Sabrina Wu Staff Writers

Gym The gym had another mural prior to the current one, but because it had not been maintained, the art students decided to paint a new mural. According to Christensen, the main goal was to make the gym look more aesthetically pleasing and create an inspiring environment for all students and athletes.

N-Wing The N-wing is known for being mostly dedicated to the world language department, and the mural in this area depicts the diversity of the cultures and languages taught in these classes. According to Christensen, the staff and art students found that particular design attractive because the mural expressed inclusive, global symbols.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Process Most murals begin with a request from one or more academic departments. After the art department decides which topics and symbols will best represent the chosen subject, Art Teacher Edie Christensen tasks her Art 2 and 3 students with designing and visualizing them. With each mural being site-specific, each student submits a design proportional to the allocated wall space. From there, all the art students and staff vote on a final design to ensure proper representation of the school. A few art students, including the main designer of the mural idea, are further tasked with painting the campus wall. Each mural usually takes 23 months to complete and costs up to $200 for supplies. If you look around our school, you can see that our murals are unique because they symbolize our caring about the environment, people, unity, friendship, and diversity. — Art Teacher Edie Christensen

E-Wing The murals within the E-wing highlight the importance of environmental preservation. According to Christensen, there had been an Alaskan oil spill at the time and Christensen, as a naturalist, believed the symbol of “Mother Nature” would be impactful. The staff at MSJ supported Christensen’s idea, and the mural now serves as a representation of our school’s respect for the earth. Snack Bar Like the E-wing mural, the mural at the Snack Bar serves to share a broader message, rather than highlight a specific educational department. It depicts the world and its diverse people, cultures, and backgrounds coexisting in harmony.

Amphitheater When students first enter MSJ, a large mural across the amphitheater with “Mission” written in bold green letters greets them. Covered with everything from musical notes to tennis rackets to math textbooks, this mural depicts the versatility of our student body and its diverse range of abilities.

“Which of MSJ’s murals do you think stands out the most and why?” “I like the E-wing murals because they are all very creative and well executed. Also some of them relate to literature, which is one of my favorite subjects.” — Pamela Casipe, 12

“How do you think these murals add to the MSJ community?”

“Which area of MSJ would you like to see more murals on? Are there any different kinds of murals you would like to see?”

“These murals give us something to look at and enjoy. They add interest to my day because I get to see different styles from different students.”

“I personally would love to see all our walls to be covered with murals over many generations. I would love to come back to high school, see new murals and appreciate their artistic expression. I am an art-lover and I’m loving looking at people's perspective of the world.”

— Shraesht Chitkara, 11

— Satabdiya Roy, 12 photos by staff writers anisa kundu, jonathan liu & sabrina wu

Profile for The Smoke Signal

Volume LIV, No. 5  

Volume LIV, No. 5