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VOL. 53, NO. 2


October 20, 2017

Students help organize Mental Health Summit Agents of Change hosts speakers to dicuss mental health By Anisa Kundu & Michael Ren Staff Writers Agents of Change hosted its first Mental Health Summit on September 24 at Santa Clara University. The event focused on addressing the stigma around mental health issues with a variety of guest speakers that ranged from nationally acclaimed professionals to local students and teachers. Attendees included students, parents, and educators. In April 2017, 80 student interns of Congressman Ro Khanna’s campaign created Agents of Change with the common goal of inspiring others around them to take initiative and work towards improving their society. Since its inception, the organization has grown to include more than 200 students, and the Mental Health Summit was its first major project. Notably, the organization is not directly affiliated with Khanna. Juniors Samir Banerjee and Tarun Devesetti and Senior Devesh Kodnani helped organize the event, which Agents of Change had been plan-

ning since June. As co-founder and one of the executive leaders for the entire Agents of Change organization, Kodnani has overseen many of the events that the different committees of Agents of Change host. Devesetti’s role was to publicize the event, which was done through Facebook and an online survey, and Banerjee was the Director of Operations for the event. At the event, many local individuals involved in education spoke to the audience about their experiences with mental health issues among students. Notable speakers included Vicki Abeles, director of the movies Race to Nowhere and Beyond Measure, Mental Health Researcher Stuart Slavin, M.D., and a panel of Agents of Change members. Abeles focused on the detrimental effects of assigning large amounts of time-consuming homework after the students have completed many hours of intense school work during the day. According to Abeles, this “second graveyard shift” is detrimental to students’ mental health and their overall performance at school.

Students and adult panel speakers discuss their experiences dealing with mental health issues.

Slavin traveled from Saint Louis University out to Santa Clara University in order to share his research on mental health at Irvington High School compared to that of Saint Louis University. Slavin found that 80 percent of the students at Irvington High reported facing moderate to severe anxiety and 50 percent said they dealt with moderate to severe depression, which shocked Slavin since the students in medical school at Saint Louis University had reported fewer mental health issues. Lastly, a panel of teachers and Agents of Change students addressed the issues of silence on mental health issues and the lack of communication between students and teachers. Addressing the stigma around mental health in the Bay Area, Banerjee said, “A common perception is I’m from a relatively high socio-economic status, I go to a school with other people of a high socio-economic status, I have a functional fam-

The audience listens intently to speakers.

ily, I have no ‘excuse’ for having a mental health issue.” For students, the event emphasized that no student was alone in their individual struggles with mental health, and showed that success in life is not dependent on academic success. The event’s guest speakers presented methods of achieving happiness that did not involve stressing out over academic endeavors. “What we wanted to tell everyone, is that there are other options,” said Devesetti. While Agents of Change does not yet have any future events planned, it will continue to work with organizations around the Bay Area to increase awareness in the subject. Banerjee said, “It’s important to remember that this is just the beginning; not only the beginning of just Agents of Change, but the beginning of this particular discussion that gets so much less attention than it deserves.” ▪ PHOTOS COURTESY OM KHANDEKAR

FUSD hires food service company Sodexo

Gender inclusivity training brings change

Sodexo will help increase participation in FUSD lunch programs

Gender advocacy organization visits MSJ staff over summer

By Ian Hsu & Ashni Mathuria Staff Writers Starting from the 2017-18 school year, FUSD hired French food service company Sodexo to provide f ood service management for the district. Additionally, recent changes in school cafeteria food laws have lowered nutrition standards that schools must meet. In 2010, Former First Lady Michelle Obama helped pass the Healthy, HungerFree Kids Act, which set stricter regulations on the nutritional content of school lunches and gave schools that met nutrition standard criteria extra funding. The act focused on combating the issues of childhood obesity and hunger by improving the quality of and increasing access to school lunches. In

Recent changes in school cafeteria food laws have lowered nutrition standards that schools must meet. May 2017, President Donald Trump began rolling back the rigid nutritional criteria, relaxing laws regulating sodium levels, whole grains, and low fat milk in school lunches. For school years 2017-20, schools that meet US Drug Administration’s Sodium Target 1 (ranges from less than 1,230 milligrams of sodium to less than 1,420 milligrams of sodium for kindergarten through high school students) will now be considered compliant,



In addition to the Centerspread photo coverage, the Smoke Signal also uploaded photo albums on the website for each day of the week!

By Julia Park & Jennifer Xiang Staff Writers MSJ staff met with gender inclusivity group Gender Spectrum over the summer together with staff from Hopkins Junior High School and Niles Elementary School. The meeting prompted administration to change a C-Wing female single-stalled staff bathroom to a student gender-neutral bathroom. Gender Spectrum is an Oakland-based company that helps schools understand gender diversity. The company’s Senior Director Joel Baum presented at a staff development day a few days before school began. Assistant Principal Jeff Evans invited Baum to MSJ after watching him lecture about the gender spectrum to FUSD administrators and believed that the information would empower


In the long-awaited horror film Happy Death Day, protagonist Tree Gelbman is forced to relive the day she is brutally murdered over and over. Check out the Smoke Signal’s review of the movie online!

teachers to address gender diversity in their own classrooms. Baum’s presentation was directed at MSJ staff, but it was open for staff from other schools in FUSD as well. Baum covered the differences between body, sex, gender identity, and gender expression. He also explained terms such as transgender, nonbinary, genderfluid, and intersex. Most importantly, he gave teachers resources, ideas, and proprietary handbooks for how to make all students feel welcome and safe at school regardless of gender. Teachers reacted positively to the presentation. “A lot of teachers said that it was one of the best staff developments that they




2 News


The Smoke Signal


Friday, October 20, 2017

GENDER | Bathroom

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as opposed to the previous Sodium Target 2 (ranges from less than 935 milligrams of sodium to less than 1,080 milligrams of sodium for kindergarten through high school students). Schools experiencing hardship in serving 100 percent whole grain will be granted exemptions for the 2017-18 school year. Furthermore, schools will now be able to serve 1 percent flavored milk. According to The New York Times, the decision to repeal nutrition laws created under the Obama administration was primarily due to students eschewing cafeteria food that was ultimately healthier but less appetizing. Sodexo is an internationally-recognized food service manager that is employed by a wide variety of establishments, including corporate and government institutions. On


The MSJ cafeteria increases snack variety to raise participation in FUSD lunch programs.

Aug. 23, 2017, the FUSD Board of Education approved a one year agreement to hire Sodexo to provide food service management for the district due to a decline in the participation of FUSD school cafeteria lunch programs. Recent data gathered by the FUSD Child Nutrition Services (CNS) Department indicated that the surplus of food led to two million dollars worth of food wasted each year by FUSD alone. After four weeks of data collection at FUSD schools, Sodexo indicated that students are not buying food from school cafeterias because lunch times are too short and lunch lines are too long. Another major problem is that about 2,500 students in the district who are eligible for free or reduced lunches are not utilizing this service, incurring a large budget deficit because food that is produced for these students goes to waste. The goal of Sodexo is to raise awareness and participation in school cafeteria lunches by increasing the variety in meals. Sodexo will not be changing the level of nutrition students receive in their lunches. Current ideas proposed by Sodexo for increasing participation in school cafeteria lunch programs include extending the length of time allotted to school lunches as well as splitting the lunch period into two to reduce the length of lunch lines. As Sodexo begins working with CNS to better the quality of school lunches, FUSD Associate Superintendent Raul A. Parungao hopes that Sodexo’s new improvements will “increase student participation in school cafeteria lunch programs.” ▪

ever had, because they learned a lot from it and they felt more confident with that issue,” Evans said. Teachers widely appreciated the seminar and its lessons. “One thing I focus on in my class is the idea of membership in a community, what does it mean to be in a community ... so right now we’re struggling with it as a nation, we’re struggling with it as a state, we’re struggling with it as a school, so I think it’s good we go through this kind of training,” English Teacher John Boegman said.

“One thing I focus on in my class is the idea of membership in a community, what does it mean to be in a community ...” — ENGLISH TEACHER JOHN BOEGMAN As a result of the presentation, Evans proposed having a gender-neutral bathroom in the C-Wing. The C-Wing female single-stall staff bathroom was chosen to be converted because it was in the center of the campus and staff rarely used it. Principal Zack Larsen, teachers, and FUSD Board of Education have already approved the change, and the new policy will take into effect as soon as maintenance comes to change the lock on the door and put up the new sign. Although transgender students are already allowed to use the bathroom and locker room of their choice as per FUSD’s education code, Evans hopes that a gender neutral bathroom will make non-gender-conforming students more comfortable and send a message about MSJ’s stance on gender diversity.


The gender neutral bathroom will be located in the C-Wing.

Other schools in FUSD are also promoting gender diversity by creating gender-neutral bathrooms. The district is also looking for other ways to promote a safe space for all genders of students, such as changing school registration forms or emergency forms to include a more diverse selection of genders and a space to include preferred name and pronouns. Evans hopes that the gender-neutral bathrooms are only the beginning of the move towards gender inclusivity. “We want to show that we want to be a gender-inclusive school,” Evans said. ▪

Debate competes at Harker Invitational Debate members excel at tournament and earn bid to Tournament of Champions By Katherine Guo & Karen Li Staff Writers Members of Debate competed in the Harker Nichols Invitational from September 30 to October 1 at the Harker Upper School in San Jose, CA. The Harker Nichols Invitational is Debate’s first major tournament of the year. Historically, Debate has performed very well in the past, regularly advancing competitors into intense elimination rounds and winning the tournament in the Public Forum (PF) category last year. This year, Debate sent six PF teams to the tournament, comprised of Freshmen Serena Mao and Ian Park, Sophomores Yash Dalmia, Krish Kothari, Rithvik Koppurapu, Kartik Narang and Dylan Zhang, Juniors Amogh Ayalasomayajula, Arunav Gupta, Lucas Huang, and Ishan Maunder, and Senior Devesh Kodnani. At the tournament, four out of the six teams advanced into the elimination rounds, with Gupta and Huang reaching octofinals, which are comprised of the top 16 debate teams. Kodnani and Maunder successfully made it to the

tournament finals, but lost on a close 2-1 decision. Kodnani and Maunder also received their second bid to the Tournament of Champions, completing their qualification. As a whole, the team performed exceptionally, with only two weeks worth of practice. PF Captain Junior Ishan Maunder said, “I’m very proud of how the team performed as a whole at this tournament. Starting labs [practice] just a few weeks ago, most of us didn’t have very much practice on this topic, so I’m happy that we performed much better than expected.” Despite the short practice time, many teams performed well, including the underclassmen. Debate is often regarded as a highly competitive extracurricular with a steep learning curve between Junior Varsity (JV) and Varsity divisions. Freshmen entering debate with middle school experience often choose to spend a year in JV to gain additional experience and skills before advancing. However, Mao and Park, the only freshman team from MSJ at the tournament, advanced to double-octofinals, winning over older and more experienced teams from other schools. Mao said, “It was really different because in mid-


Juniors Lucas Huang and Arunav Gupta, Senior Devesh Kodnani, and Junior Ishan Maunder pose for a picture.

dle school, I would go in JV, so it was nice experiencing a varsity tournament. We actually did a lot better than we expected, [although] we can probably improve more on coordination because we had trouble being organized [as a team].” While Debate has already experienced a huge success with the Harker Nichols Invitational, the club continues to work hard on improvements. Co-President Senior Robert Chen said, “I hope that we can transition to a better club structure because of the recent situation that happened

with our coaching. Furthermore, I want the whole club to be unified a lot more in terms of the different debate events and our different debate levels.” Moving forward, Debate is determined to continue the success for the rest of the year and extend it across the whole team. Chen said, “I’m really proud to see where [the team] can go in the future.” ▪


for the SEPT. 22 , 2017 issue News Pg. 1: Rodan Builders is misspelled. News Pg. 2: Matthew Vierk teaches geography. News Pg. 2: Darby Broeker is misspelled. Centerspread Pg. 10: Toby Remmers teaches three periods of US History and two periods of World History. A&E Pg. 13: Sonia Tasser is in grade 12. A&E Pg. 13: Bill Skarsgård is misspelled. A&E Pg. 13: “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears is misspelled. A&E Pg. 13: Becky Jean Williams is misspelled. A&E Pg. 13: Of Birds, Bees, Butterflies, Etc. is misspelled. A&E Pg. 13: Crazy, Stupid, Love is misspelled.



Compiled by Ashni Mathuria, Praveen Nair & Kelly Yang Staff Writers

ABCNEWS.GO.COM A firefighter monitors flames as a house burns in the Napa wine region in CA.

GETTYIMAGES.COM A trio flee the scene while others lie behind a wall during the shooting.

THEGUARDIAN.COM Spanish police push back Catalonia voters during the referendum.

Wind-driven fires whip through Northern California Wildfires have been raging across Northern CA’s Napa, Solano, and Sonoma counties, devastating nearly 217,000 acres and forcing the evacuation of more than 75,000 residents. According to CNN, strongs winds have been fueling the flames as they began to blaze across the state on the night of October 8, and more than 40 people have died. Hundreds of firefighters have been recruited to battle the over a dozen fires across three different counties.

Deadly Las Vegas shooting at festival, hundreds injured On October 1, in the deadliest massacre in modern US history, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of more than 40,000 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, leaving 58 dead and wounding more than 500. Paddock shot from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The Federal Bureau Investigation and Sheriff Joseph Lombardo believes that Paddock was a “lone wolf ” attacker. The cause of the shooting is still under investigation.

Catalonia holds referendum on independence The region of Catalonia held a referendum on October 1 on its independence from Spain. The Spanish government declared the vote unconstitutional, and deployed police forces to disrupt the election as much as possible. More than 900 people were injured by police during the referendum, in which 92 percent of voters backed independence, although pro-Spanish parties boycotted the election. The national government refused to recognize the results.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal

amy’s approach

The Smoke Signal Mission San Jose High School Est. 1964 Vol. 53, No. 2 | Oct. 20, 2017 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 2020 students EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Carolyn Ge, Mallika Gupta NEWS Gloria Chang, Andrew Kan OPINION Amy Chen, Vicki Xu FEATURE Heather Gan, Helen Wang CENTERSPREAD Zen Thumparkkul, Richard Chenyu Zhou A&E Stephanie Dutra, Hana Sheikh SPORTS Hannah Chou, Cindy Yuan GRAPHICS Evangeline Chang, Victor Zhou WEB Ishika Chawla, Jonathan Ko TECH Julia Park, Michael Ren BUSINESS Ian Hsu CIRCULATION Anagha Mandayam ADVERTISING Shivani Avasarala, Katherine Guo EVENTS Evie Sun, Maggie Zhao SPECIAL PROJECTS Joelle Chuang WRITERS & PHOTOGRAPHERS Shiantel Chiang, Rishi Chillara, Riya Chopra, Christine Dong, Arpita Gaggar, Toshali Goel, Kikue Higuchi, Samir Jain, Anisa Kundu, Karen Li, Lucia Li, Ashni Mathuria, Praveen Nair, Sahana Sridhar, Shreya Sridhar, Shreya Srinivasan, Shray Vaidya, Tylor Wu, Jennifer Xiang, Kelly Yang ADVISER Sandra Cohen Send letters to the editor to Letters under 300 words may be considered for publication and must include a full name and school affiliation. The Smoke Signal reserves the right to edit for clarity and length. To advertise in the Smoke Signal, email ads@ Advertising that is included on the pages of, or carried within, the Smoke Signal, is paid advertising, and as such is independent of the news and feature content. The Smoke Signal’s right to freedom of speech and press is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. All policies on distribution, corrections, and bylines can be found at


A well-known platitude goes as follows: “Take the high road.” The sentiment has grown particularly popular over the past year, with former First Lady Michelle Obama emphasizing the thought in her famous 2016 address to the Democratic National Congress: “When they go low, we go high.” The statement’s fluffy sense of unity is certainly admirable. The assumption that the entire nation shares ideas of a high ground — similar concepts of right and wrong — and can unite behind them has allowed for the peaceful coexistence of large groups of people, after all. The problem is that taking a “moral high road” is an exceedingly vague call to action. What clear high road could there have been in the election: staying above the conflict and allowing the mud-slinging and the fabricated news to spread, or trying to curb it by get-

The problem is that taking a "moral high road" is an exceedingly vague call to action. ting down and dirty? Clearly Michelle Obama thought it was the former, but many others wished to fight the fake news. The uncertainty surrounding “moral high roads” originates from the evolving nature of morality. Our beliefs develop as we learn more about the world around us growing up, and we must allow them to continually do so. The evolution of morality also occurs

By Amy Chen & Vicki Xu Opinion Editors

across history — what we believe is immoral today was not so in the past. In the present-day US, slavery is morally reprehensible. But just two centuries ago slavery was simply another justifiable aspect of life. Thomas Jefferson , as stated in the

Our beliefs develop as we learn more about the world around us growing up, and we must allow them to continually do so. Notes on the State of Virginia, thought blacks must be kept legally suppressed to preserve societal stability, because “blacks ... are inferior to the whites in the endowments of both body and mind,” even while believing “all men are created equal.” Even at a single point in time, interpretations of morality differ due to differences in upbringing or ideology. A 2012 study by Social Psychologists Jesse Graham, Brian A. Nosek, and Jonathan Haidt about the stereotypes of liberals and conservatives showed that differing political views did correlate to differing interpretations of morality. Liberals assumed that the conservatives were attempting to directly undermine the liberal beliefs rather than uphold their own and vice versa. Thus, they each ended up stereotyping the other group as immoral and corrupt. Thus, in a society where morals vary so greatly, appealing to a collective yet narrow “high road” only claims moral superiority as it implies that all other approaches are “low roads.” Even if wellintentioned, its use can be condescending

The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board

Missing school: necessity or pipe dream? It’s no secret that MSJ students come to school out of sheer necessity. After all, missing a day means lessons to catch up on, extra assignments to complete, and tests and quizzes to make up. Particularly for accelerated or weighted classes, such a scenario creates a backlog of work that we would rather endure another painful day to avoid. Yet it’s impractical to suggest that we should be present at school every day. We get sick. Extracurricular commitments often offer opportunities, such as conferences and competitions, that occur during school days. Personal issues sometimes force us to miss school as well. As humans we are not invincible, but we prioritize school to the point where we can’t bear to miss a day. We often compromise our health and extracurricular activities in order to simply save ourselves the trouble of being absent. School culture is part of the reason. Peer pressure and a fear of bad grades and falling behind push us to go to school in all cases. But the specter of make up work is a greater factor: Accelerated courses such as APs often do not follow the regular FUSD make up work policy of giving students the same number of days to complete assignments as days of classes missed. Instead, make up assignments are crunched into fewer days in the interest of keeping up the class’s pace, adding pressure. This sense of a vicious cycle keeps us from taking breaks, even while sick, and also deters us from pursuing extracurricular opportunities such as science fairs and international sports competitions that might enrich our worldviews otherwise. In truth, we shouldn’t be so obsessed with coming to school on days better spent

vicki’s voice


Taking the “moral high road”

recovering from sickness or attending once-in-a-lifetime extracurricular opportunities. For instance, sitting in a classroom with a splitting headache or a distracting sore throat still results in sub-optimal performance. Sickness also spreads to others, resulting in an unproductive and unhealthy environment overall. In the case of extracurricular events that require missing school, chasing and finding our own interests allows us to gain irreplaceable experiences. Whether it is performing at a Superbowl or attending a national business conference, these extracurricular activities expose us to valuable new ideas outside of the academic bubble. For instances like this, missing school is worthwhile, and the idea that workload keeps us away from school is a shame. Of course, it’s unreasonable for us to try to change our school culture in one night. However, greater emphasis could be placed on applying the make up work policy to APs for short, one to two day absences. For three-day or longer absences, having an abbreviated curriculum that still summarizes missed lessons and assignments will allow students to catch up with their classes in a shorter amount of time, while retaining a reasonable amount of information. In short, the absolute need to go school at any cost damages our health and pulls us away from enriching activities. To begin to address this issue, we should take a closer look at the make up work policy as well as our school culture. ▪

Opinion 3

and counterproductive when dealing with conflict. After all, nobody likes to be told their beliefs are wrong, nor will they believe it. We should avoid operating on the basis of moral superiority; our morals are not necessarily better, and just telling others to act on our own ideas (“take the high road!”) won’t resolve anything until we understand the basis for their actions. At MSJ, this can also be applied to how we respond to academic dishonesty and cheating. The 2017 Stanford Survey of Adolescent School Experiences Report revealed that only 10 percent of students had not cheated in any way throughout the 2016-17 school year. If we truly intend to curb cheat-

Thus, in a society where morals vary so greatly, appealing to a collective yet narrow “high road” only claims moral superiority as it implies that all other approaches are “low roads.” ing, we cannot simply tell cheaters to “take the high road.” That’s meaningless since cheaters’ ideologies allow them to cheat. Even if they recognize that other people view their actions as immoral, cheaters will manage to find justification for academic dishonesty, rendering this type of approach useless. Instead, we should gain a better understanding of their motivations and beliefs and in turn, demonstrate the follies of their actions. The fact is, we are all prone to misjudgements and errors. Even Mother

We should still strive to be as moral as we can with our limited understanding of right and wrong, but we cannot engage in absolutism toward others. Teresa, who is often cast as an exemplar of goodness, acted in ways that some considered to be less than morally sound. In 2013, a group of Université de Montréal academics criticized her “caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it, ... her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce” in a comprehensive review of the existing literature about the saint. Clearly no one is justified to treat their moral beliefs as universal law. Of course, we should still strive to be as moral as we can with our limited understanding of right and wrong, but we cannot engage in absolutism toward others. Although it may be impossible to determine a perfectly moral path for every situation, the first step we can take is to reevaluate what we think are our “moral high roads” relative to others’ and act accordingly. Moreover, instead of thinking in terms of a “high road,” we should think of tangible steps to take to make a situation better for all people. ▪

By Karen Li & Lucia Li Staff Writers



4 Opinion


The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

Backlash against gender diversity in Silicon Valley By Julia Park & Shreya Sridhar Staff Writers

(although not always) equally encourage girls and boys to go into STEM. But although gender diversity initiatives targeted at young girls are crucial, they are not enough because childhood pressures are not the only reason for the gender gap in computer science. Another significant root of the gender disparity is the sexism that exists within the industry, which pushes interested and talented female coders out of the profession. In a professional setting, it is significantly more difficult for a woman to advance in the tech industry. Northwestern University Business Professor Lauren Rivera found that the vague concept of “culture fit” is often used during the hiring process as a justification for

The gender gap is the computer science field’s most widely known secret. As a progressive area, Silicon Valley seems to support gender diversity initiatives in order to raise the low proportion of female programmers, which currently hovers around a dismal 13 percent. Yet Silicon Valley is now experiencing a reactionary backlash as male employees question the existence of sexism and the necessity of those initiatives, decrying the pursuit of “diversity for the sake of diversity.” Despite the fact that some policies are worthy of critique, we must remember that sexism does exist in Silicon Valley and that gender initiatives as a whole are necessary to Another significant root of the gentackle this problem. der disparity is the sexism that exists Skeptics of gender initiatives argue that within the industry, which pushes diversity initiatives are no longer necessary interested and talented female codbecause current STEM opportunities such ers out of the profession. as MSJ’s Computer Science Club are open to all genders and Bay Area families usually implicit discrimination against minority job-


seekers. Because culture fit can mean anything from enjoying working casually to looking like a model white male programmer that the similarly white male hirer would like to work with, companies use the idea as a blanket reason to arbitrarily turn down candidates, especially women. UCLA Psychology and Gender Professor Kim Elsesser said in a 2017 interview with the Atlantic that women are likely to be shut out of board meetings, and men are often hesitant to invite women to certain networking opportunities, such as a night out over beer. Not only that, but the gender gap is often blamed on women themselves rather than sexism. Google employee James Damore claimed in a memo that women were unsuited for engineering and that “[biological] differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership” In arguing that women are inherently bad at programming, he seems to forget the fact that programming was developed by women and was once perceived as a feminine job similar to “preparing a dinner,” as inventor of the compiler Grace Hopper said. It is important to note that perception of merit and talent is unfairly contingent on the worker’s gender. A 2010 study from Harvard University titled “The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations” found that when people had to award bonuses to a male and female worker with similar profiles, they tended to award the male more. Even more interestingly, emphasizing that the company was meritocratic actually increased the likelihood that the male employee got the higher bonus. Clearly, employers unfairly associate merit with men regardless of objective merit. This tendency happens in a non-experimental setting as well. A study done by computer science students in 2016 shows that code written by females is accepted at a slightly higher rate than code written by males on Github, but only if they hid their gender.

Gender initiatives represent an important opportunity for capable women to prepare against and fight these biases. Admittedly, it is difficult for policy to be perfect; certain gender initiatives such as a strict quota system are illegal and unfair to both men and women. However, it’s important to have diversity initiatives such as Girls Who Code, affirmative action, diversity workshops, and anti-sexual harassment pledges and explicitly acknowledge that sexism is a real and pressing problem that creates unjust circumstances. We must not forget that today’s Silicon Valley does not objectively choose the best talent and unintentionally creates a gender gap. Today’s Silicon Valley passes over objectively more talented women in favor of mediocre males who fit in within the existing male culture. Criticizing diversity policies might be necessary, but it’s important to compare their impacts against the status quo; shooting down attempts to fix the problem without offering

We must not forget that today’s Silicon Valley does not objectively choose the best talent and unintentionally creates a gender gap. other viable solutions only fuels the sexism in Silicon Valley by putting the pressure on women to find the impossible perfect solution. Sometimes, we must support imperfect but beneficial diversity initiatives in order to combat the blatant sexism that robs women of opportunities and the world of female talent. ▪

Blame the person, not the platform By Sahana Sridhar & Shreya Sridhar Staff Writers

ter society, not to propagate hatred. Over the years, however, these neutral anonymous forums have become associated with malicious messages and degrading comments, and thus, have acquired negative reputations. In the 2013 Annual Cyberbullying Survey by the charity Ditch the Label, ASKfm was labeled one of the three most common communities used for cyberbullying, likely due to its anonymity. Similarly, Sarahah has raised eyebrows due to its potential to foster cyberbullying. In fact, US-based nongovernment organization Common Sense Media referred to the website as “ready-made for cyberbullying.” It is unfortunately true that the unbridled

If a bully at a school was stealing other children’s lunch money, should the blame fall on the bully for his or her actions, or the school, for providing a place for the bully to torment other children? Most people would quickly answer that the bully is at fault. This concept should applied to social media in that they simply act as a neutral forum, but are often blamed for the users’ misuse. With the quickly growing influence of anonymous social media like ASKfm, Sarahah, and more recently, the tbh app, the general public can increasingly blame these platforms for fostering negativity and cyberbullying. However, these apps and websites Evidently, these anonymous platare not the root cause of hurtful comments forms were intended to better sociand feedback; instead, the users are respon- ety, not to propagate hatred. sible. The interest surrounding anonymous speech allowed by ASKfm and Sarahah has commentary websites and apps began with made the platforms breeding grounds for Whisper, an app released in 2012 where us- hate. Many users think of free speech as the ability to bring down others with hateful and These apps and websites are not malicious comments, solely because the Inthe root cause of hurtful comments ternet’s unrestrictive nature gives them the and feedback; instead, the users impression that their actions don’t have any are responsible. consequences. Given this lack of restriction, it is easy to blame the platforms for the bulers make confessions without revealing their lying, but the freedom the platform allows is identity. Soon, platforms following Whisper, meant for expressing constructive opinions such as Sarahah and Secret, began to gain and engaging in meaningful discussion withpopularity. The website Sarahah was devel- out facing direct scrutiny, not for tormenting oped by Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq with the in- others. Integrity comes into play here, so these tention of allowing employees to give their anonymous platforms could be used the way employers anonymous feedback. More re- they were meant to. Users must remember cently, as reported by TechCrunch, the tbh that common decency is vital. team introduced the tbh app to be a product The underlying idea associated with social that would “tell you all your strengths and media is that they are simply platforms with things you’re good at and make you hap- which comments, both good and bad, can be pier and more productive.” Evidently, these spread. It is up to the user to decide how to anonymous platforms were intended to bet- exercise this freedom. Many spread positiv-

ity through social media by anonymously uplifting other users. But of course, many others also look at the anonymity as a chance to start degrading people online. These users take

It is easy to blame the platforms for the bullying, but the freedom the platform allows is meant for expressing constructive opinions and engaging in meaningful discussion without facing direct scrutiny, not for tormenting others.

forms with negativity, we should realize that social platforms can either be used to build up or tear down fellow users, and that the responsibility ultimately rests with the individual user. The idea of proper etiquette and mannerisms should be enforced here instead of condemning forums created with positive intentions. We should take ownership of our actions, hold ourselves to higher standards, and enforce structure for the betterment of our world, instead of taking the easy way out and blaming platforms to avoid accepting our own faults. ▪

advantage of their freedom of speech by directly insulting or spreading hateful comments about specific people. Since the conception of social media, people have been posting hate comments, whether anonymous or identifiable. Internet trolls existed before anonymous platforms were created and have been notorious on various platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. Instead of associating anonymous plat-


Rather than place blame on anonymous social media platforms, we should acknowledge the responsibility of the individual user and act accordingly.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal

Opinion 5



By Evie Sun, Shray Vaidya & Tylor Wu Staff Writers

The issues of local, state, and federal minimum wage laws have been heavily debated across the political spectrum. This coverage includes a description of minimum wage and how it is decided, the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage, a brief history of minimum wage, and views from think tanks across the political spectrum regarding their opinions on the decision to raise the federal minimum wage. In addition, the Smoke Signal has contacted College and Career Specialist Catherine Castillou for input and gathered student perspectives about raising the minimum wage.

Portland: • bumped up to $11.25 from $9.75 in 2017 • to rise until July 2020, when it will hit $14.75

Seattle: • $13 for employers with 500 or less employees • $15 for employers with more than 500 employees. • higher minimum wage meant to meet living costs

San Francisco: • hourly minimum wage of $14 as of July 2017. • city leadership plans to increase the wage to $15 in 2018 to lower cost of living Fremont: • follows the $10.50 CA minimum wage (no citywide minimum)

Chicago: • $11 per hour • will rise to $13 by 2019 • minimum wage hike aims to make living costs affordable

New York City: • $11 per hour for businesses with at least 11 employees • $10.50 for companies with fewer than 11 employees • wage will rise to $15 by the end of 2018 for most businesses, and by 2019 for businesses with less than 11 employees.

Houston: • $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage since 2009 • living costs high despite low minimum wage

Atlanta: • rising from $13 to $15 by mid-2018 • intended to make living in the city more affordable

• balance living costs better, especially in expensive cities • improve worker productivity; more incentive to work • help reduce poverty; workers earn more

The legal minimum wage for employees applies to full-time employees above the age of 20 without disabilities who do not receive tips. Companies are only required to pay tipped employees $2.13 per hour, as long as their wage and tips add up to the minimum wage. Young workers under 20 can be paid $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days of employment if they are not displacing other workers. Full-time students can be paid 85 percent of the minimum wage if the employer obtains a certificate from the Department of Labor. Student learners, defined as high school students older than 16 in vocational programs, may be paid 75 percent of the minimum wage while the student is enrolled in the vocational program. Heritage Foundation claims that an increase in minimum wage will strain many Californians seeking jobs, as business will respond by cutting jobs, raising prices, and investing in automation. Heritage claims that a starting pay of $15 will make it difficult for less-skilled workers to find jobs. In addition, the new minimum wage will have a greater impact in areas with lower living costs, as employers in high-cost areas must pay higher wages to retain their workforce.

“I think it's fair pay when given other forms of compensation, bonuses, or benefits (for example, I make commission on top of minimum wage, and I can expense all meals and parking fees).”

Miami: • shares Florida minimum wage of $8.05 per hour • high housing costs despite low minimum wage.

In 2012, the Department of Labor and Employment implemented a two tiered wage system in order to determine the federal minimum wage. The first tier uses factors like the poverty threshold, inflation, socio-economic indicators, Gross Regional Domestic Product, and prevailing wage rates as determined by the Labor Force Survey to set the mandatory minimum wage. The second tier is voluntary productivity-based pay, which pays supplementarily based on performance quality. At the state level, the government can pass laws that can heighten the minimum wage past the federal minimum. If a state has a law in place that sets minimum wage as lower than the federal minimum wage, such as Georgia, then the federal minimum wage is still applied. Past the state government, cities can also set their own minimum wage. These may be influenced by factors such as cost of living and unemployment, which can vary greatly from city to city. Cato scholars claim a minimum wage decreases employment and that the minimum wage acts as a tax on labor intensive companies, downsizing human capital. They believe the first positions to be eliminated are ones that require little experience or education, hurting people from disadvantaged backgrounds most. Cato Institute suggests a focus be placed on increasing overall economic growth, which naturally decreases unemployment and increases wages.

DO YOU THINK THE CURRENT CA MINIMUM WAGE OF $10.50 PER HOUR IS ENOUGH, INADEQUATE, OR EXCESSIVE? “The current minimum wage really depends on the students’ living situation. If a student is working merely to make money to be spent freely, then the current minimum wage is fair. But if a student is working in effort to support their family, then the current minimum wage is arguable.”

• smaller businesses may not be able to afford paying workers more • raising minimum wage increases the price of consumer goods • companies automate tasks instead of hiring workers to complete them






Los Angeles: • $12 per hour for companies with 26 or more employees • on course to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15 by 2021

The ACLU cites raising minimum wage as an effective method to combating poverty and racial injustice. Raising minimum wage would help close this gap. Moreover, a disproportionate number of minimum wage workers are minorities, and according to the ACLU the current minimum wage serves only to deepen racial inequality. The ACLU also says that raising the federal minimum would lift six million people out of poverty while simultaneously allowing for an opportunity to fight racial injustice.


“I think it is inadequate because many teenagers start branching away from their parents in high school and especially college, and they aspire to be independent adults who provide for themselves. If they are unable to earn enough at their minimum wage job, because they are too young to be in a professional workplace, they lose independence. This causes them to depend on many people, which can be damaging when they grow up and they have to do everything for themselves.”

The Smoke Signal collected these anonymous student voices through a voluntary Facebook survey.

HISTORY The history of the minimum wage in America began in the early 1900s to prevent worker exploitation. At the time, all minimum wage proposals were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The concept was not revisited until the Great Depression under President Roosevelt’s New Deal, which implemented a minimum wage. The minimum wage under the New Deal, designed to help with unemployment and economic recovery, was also ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act. The first minimum wage was 25 cents. The federal minimum wage was last increased in July 2009 from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour. Today’s minimum wage is higher than the historical average minimum wage when adjusted for inflation, but is lower than the peak value of the minimum wage in the late 1960s.

COLLEGE AND CAREER SPECIALIST CATHERINE CASTILLOU: “I think that if a student is able to [work], working is a great thing. ... You get a lot of experience, and it’s really good to hear something from someone other than a teacher, other than a mom or dad. Then, you know, it’s more of a reflection on the real world. ... I think it’s important that there’s a fair wage but what happens is — when they increase the minimum wage, then employers tend to have to cut back on the number of hours they give out so that they’re still probably hitting the same expense line for that payroll expenditure, which is usually the biggest expense that businesses have. It’s a good thing — it has to be fair to workers and for students, you know, making minimum wage is great. For people who have to live on that and make minimum wage, it’s tough.” MAPCHART.NET, FREEPIK.COM

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The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Types of People During Halloween

Feature 7

By Katherine Guo & Shreya Sridhar Staff Writers

As Halloween approaches, stores stock up on costumes, houses transform from white picket fences to haunted mansions, and, of course, local supermarkets begin to offer tons upon tons of sugary treats. Join the Smoke Signal as we take a look at different people who are likely to ring your doorbell.

Frenzied Enthusiast

Couldn’t Care Lesser

The Couldn’t Care Lesser is characterized by low-hanging fruit costumes such as taped glasses for a nerd or a simple paper taped to their chest. When they ring the doorbell, “trick or treat” is delivered in a monotone drone that makes one wonder if they truly are zombies. They are typically accompanied by a larger group of other trickor-treaters that often includes one Frenzied Enthusiast to maintain group morale.

Neverland Child Once in a while, a door is opened to an oddly tall fairy with wrinkles who nevertheless eagerly asks for candy. Fear not, for Tinkerbell has not undergone a sudden growth spurt. Rather, you have encountered the somewhat elusive Neverland Child . Instead of staying home during Halloween, they stick out like a 6 foot sore thumb among tiny Wonder Women, Spidermen, and Cinderellas. However, one cannot help but empathize with this trick-or-treater. After all, who doesn’t want to stay young forever and receive free candy?

Adrenaline Junkie

Unlike the rest of the population, the Adrenaline Junkie seeks out potential demon possessed haunted houses or ghost-infested lodges. Instead of maximizing candy gathering, they set their sights on the adrenaline rush from having the living daylights scared out of them by creaky floorboards, sneaky shadows, and ominous moans. At some point in the night, their screams can be heard across the city. Whether they are screams of joy, terror, or of insanity, no one will ever know.

Bargain Hunter Although most claim to be disgusted by Bargain Hunters, we must admit that many of us were one before. The notorious Bargain Hunter looks at Halloween night as a time to restock their junk food cache. This trick-or-treater is feared by parents, since they discreetly take more than the allowed ration of candy. If the sign says to take one, you can be sure that they will take a handful. In addition, these cunning trick-or-treaters make the best trades, and end up with a pile of candy.

Alumni Spotlight: Zuhayer Quazi By Christine Dong Staff Writer


Class of 2016 Alumnus Zuhayer Quazi

Alumnus Zuhayer Quazi graduated with the Class of 2016. He believes that his time here gave him the tools and the experiences useful for the future. “We come from a great place with extremely talented people, and the experience you get at MSJ really help in the future,” said Quazi. The summer after graduating from high school, he worked at a small start-up fromwhich he obtained valuable experiences from. He attended University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, studying Economics for a year before transferring to Carnegie Mellon University, where he currently studies Statistics and Machine Learning. This summer, Quazi experienced an interesting and demanding internship as a software engineer with the Nasdaq Stock Market, the second largest stock exchange in the world by market capitalization. Quazi and his team had first drawn the attention of Nasdaq with one of the team’s creations at a hackathon, an intense design event where programmers, graphic designers, interface designers, and others involved in software development work together to create usable software within a limited time frame. Quazi and his team used a machine learning model, sentiment analysis, and Nasdaq’s Data-On-Demand Application Programming Interface to create a stock predictor. After seeing their invention, Nasdaq invited the team to New York City, NY to pitch it to the Chief Technology Officer of Nasdaq. While there, Quazi and his team were offered internships by one of the recruiters of the company.

It is easy to spot this trick-or-treater since their costume shows their enthusiasm for Halloween. If they dress up as a movie or TV character, then their costume looks so close to the original that it’s uncanny. Some costumes even look better. The Frenzied Enthusiast can be seen darting from house to house in a well-organized manner, ensuring that they receive the maximum amount of candy. They also manage to coax adults into giving them extra candy for having the best costume on the block. For the Frenzied Enthusiast, Halloween is the most boo-tiful night of the year.

The internship took place in Boston, MA and was a fun, difficult, and educational experience for Quazi. At the internship, Quazi worked with a small team to build a product from scratch. The project proved to be both challenging and enjoyable. “It was a really fun experience because it was as if we were working in a start-up within a massive company,” said Quazi. He was nervous when starting the project, and although he initially struggled with it, in the end experience helped him improve greatly as a programmer. He advises students to take chances and make mistakes, since one will always grow and learn from the experience. Quazi emerged from his internship in Boston with new experiences and new wisdom to add to the lessons he learned from his time at MSJ. For current students, he advises them to take risks and take advantage of the opportunities that they have, and to make the most of their time in high school. “High school is a safe space — whatever you do, you’ll always have a safety net to fall back on,” Quazi said. “Get involved on campus and try out different organizations and clubs. There are so many opportunities for you to grow outside of all the hard classes you may be taking. You’ll look back regretting that you didn’t do that one event or didn’t get closer to that one person or didn’t try out for that one thing.” Quazi also encourages students to form lasting bonds with their peers. “These are friends that may last a lifetime, and once you go to college, you’ll miss them so much and wish you took the time to spend more time with them,” Quazi said. ▪


Alumnus Zuhayer Quazi with his hackathon team.

Older Sibling We have all seen this trick-or-treater or even been one before. The Older Sibling is the poor soul who is dragged along to either chaperone or “have fun” with their younger sibling. Just like the Frenzied Enthusiast, they can be spotted a mile away… for a different reason. The Older Sibling usually is dressed in sweatpants, an old T-shirt, and a facial expression saying, “I could not care less.” They are usually surrounded by giddy children, not realizing that these are the ghoul times. GRAPHICS BY STAFF WRITER LUCIA LI

Dear Diary: If School By Samir Jain Staff Writer

was an RPG

Oct. 1, 2017 Dear Diary, It’s already been a month into school, but my experience points (XP) are dangerously low. Between the lag caused by my extreme sleep deprivation and utter apathy for my courses from perpetual grinding, I consistently get questions wrong in class and never participate. At this rate, I’ll be the only one taking a critical hit among my junior level. It’s safe to say that it was too risky and ambitious trying to reign victorious in a level entirely dominated by overly powerful players. I would definitely be better off in the inexperienced freshman level. Oct. 3, 2017 Dear Diary, I spent all of yesterday doing AP US History notes. For every page that I write, my health points (HP) go down by 10. The more words I scribble down, the more tired my arm becomes, which gives me a handicap. All the other players at the start of school told me that the game-masters, who call themselves the College Admission Officers, think highly of such rigorous gameplay, and give you 100 extra XP at the end of the first of four stages. Oct. 4, 2017 Dear Diary, I have a midterm on the first half of The Great Gatsby tomorrow, and I haven’t started reading yet, as predicted. I can choose to read the tedious and monotonous 20th century jargon as I should, which would give me a whopping two XP per page, or I can instead be doomed to face additional course bosses during the summer. Given the choice, I would certainly pick the former, despite the novel’s dull and tiresome nature. I can always simply listen to my favorite mixtape while reading to recover my HP. Oct. 7, 2017 Dear Diary, It’s the weekend now and I’ve slept almost 17 hours since yesterday, making my HP soar sky high. I feel so rejuvenated I could even tackle those notoriously peril-


ous AP US History notes and my Honors Precalculus problem sets that have crept up on me. But alas! My slumber has left me complacent and absent-minded, and I just want to waste time before an arduous week ahead. I knew tackling five higher-level courses would give me regrets. Between AP US History and Precalculus, it seems that I will have to sleep at one point. Oct. 9, 2017 Dear Diary, It’s only the start of the week, and my HP is already almost depleted. With three exams about to confront me today, it seems like this is the final straw. Thankfully, I purchased premier, consumable items from my school’s guild, including Doritos, Cheetos, and iced tea, all of which restore 50 HP each. No matter how much damage I take today, there’s always a road to recovery. Oct. 12, 2017 Dear Diary, My scoreboard came back today, and I can gratefully say that I emerged triumphant from that bloodbath. I was able to vanquish all the other players in my courses, winning me 1,000 XP points, and advancing me to the final stage in this level. In retrospect, the junior level wasn’t the most ominous one that I could have chosen. I had my ups and downs, but with the implementation of careful strategy and gameplay, I will tenaciously push through this final chapter. ▪

8 Feature


The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

Horror Movie 101

With Halloween slowly creeping up on us, the Smoke Signal has compiled a guide to the five most ghastly cliché elements of a typical horror movie.

By Joelle Chuang & Anisa Kundu Staff Writers

Haunted Houses

It might start as a dare among a group of laughing, immature teenagers, as they approach a dilapidated house (and it always has to be at night). Anyone in their right mind would never enter a dark house that hasn’t been occupied for years, has haunting stories surrounding it, and just spells out trouble — but the characters do exactly the opposite. The typical scenes unfold: creaks and sounds that turn out to be just the cat, and the eventual uncovering of some traumatic event that occurred in the house. The suspense builds as they discover that there is no way out of the house, and everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong.


Jump Scares

Every horror movie nerd will know that when the main character is on an epic escape from a monster or murderer, not only will they trip and fall at the most inconvenient moment, but they will inexplicably be unable to get up. This overused tactic is used to supposedly heighten tension, but ends up creating more frustration than fear in the viewers, and we can all admit that we’ve screamed, “Go! Go faster!” at least once to the two-dimensional characters.

The hero is walking down a long, dark, hallway with suspenseful music playing in the background, and then suddenly, a decomposing body part drops down into his face. These typical jump scare scenes may give us a sudden cheap jolt but are so overused that the viewer is almost already anticipating the jump scare. It just seems like the movie director is trying to keep the audience awake, and not really providing a deeper sense of fear that builds up throughout the movie.



What is it with this overused notion that darkness is the only setting in which horror movies can take place? As horrifying as the monsters under our bed may seem, most of the real horrors in our life take place in broad daylight. Horror movies might be much more effective if they captured that monstrous look of disappointed parents. Directors should know that we would much rather deal with the invisible demons of the dark than these uncomfortable situations.

Whether it’s the dolls in Annabelle or the clown in IT, directors love to destroy the familiarity associated with innocent objects and portray them as evil. These directors appear to delight in making us shiver in fear every time we see an ordinary doll. At this rate, there will soon be a horror movie that causes people to run in the opposite direction from something as innocent as a puppy. Soon, those who do not watch horror movies will gape at our irrational behavior. PHOTOS BY CHRISTART.COM, CLIPARTBARN.COM, FOTOSEARCH.COM, PINART.COM, VIDEOHIVE.COM

Student Spotlight: Helen By Kelly Yang Staff Writer

Sophomore Helen Chen recently won two firstplace ribbons at the Alameda County Fair for two of her paintings. This event is very competitive, with young artists from all over the county entering their pieces in hope of receiving a ribbon. Chen’s entries included an acrylic painting of a landscape and an oil painting of a flower. Chen has had exceptional talent for art since a young age. As a kindergartener, she discovered her natural gift for drawing by enrolling in her first art class. After only a few lessons, she fell in love, realizing that the intricate curves, lines, and brush strokes came naturally to her. At first, she only enjoyed sketching and coloring, believing that painting and shading

Sophomore Helen Chen

were much too difficult. However, as she grew more advanced in all the facets of art, she began to broaden her horizons, trying out different mediums to illustrate landscapes and depict objects in nature. She draws inspiration from the natural beauty in the world around her, and her favorite scenes to paint are flora and fauna. “I like flowers and things outside, like landscapes and waterfalls,” she said. Chen began painting to express herself. “I’m very shy and never know what to say, so … I can make cards or paintings for people, and I try to make things meaningful that way,” she said. Chen is known among her peers for her gifts of intricately painted bookmarks or studiously hand-drawn birthday cards. She will often use her free time to sketch out little tokens of her creativity and present them to her friends as keepsakes. Occasionally, these doodles will be the beginnings of a masterpiece. Chen also uses art as a way to balance out the demands placed upon her in high


school. After a long, taxing day of academics, she often finds herself sitting at her desk, sketching or painting the beginning of a masterpiece. “Drawing helps me cope with the stress of school because it’s really fun,” she said. Other than traditional oil painting and coloring, Chen has also delved into more modern forms of art. “I don’t do graphic design, but I tried digital painting styles,” she said. However, even when launched into this new era of digital art and graphics, Chen remains faithful to more classical mediums. She said, “I really like colored pencil and watercoloring.” A busy student involved in extracurricular activities, Chen believes that although art calls to her, she will not pursue it in college. “I will continue just doing it as a hobby,” she said. While art may not be the fo-

cus in Chen’s future, she is sure that it will always be a part of her life. She said, “There are so many beautiful things in this world that I hope will remain forever, and I hope that I can savor these beautiful things by drawing and painting them rather than just bulldozing onwards in my own little world.” ▪


Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal



DIEHARD TRYHARDS try Painting to Bob Ross Juli a

I have absolutely no experience with painting; my artistic eperience is limited to doodling tornadoes and stick figures in the margins of my class notes, and I was blown away by all the preparation needed before we began painting. Oil paint is different from acrylic paint? We have to prime the canvas? Do we really need paint thinner? But I have watched plenty of Bob Ross videos while scrolling through my Facebook feed, and his voice is so magical that maybe, just maybe, I will be able to properly paint one happy little tree.


Art has always been my number one passion since I was young. However, I’ve barely dabbled in oil painting, and I have yet to experience the glorious gift to mankind that is Bob Ross. My strengths lie in character illustration through sketching; paint is unfamiliar to me. However, my art experience will no doubt come in handy. With a steady hand trained from years doodling cartoons and an enthusiastic attitude, I’m ready to “Gogh” into this relaxing while simultaneously frustrating painting session.

Feature 9

By Toshali Goel, Lucia Li, Julia Park & Shreya Srinivasan Staff Writers

Bob Ross was an internet legend, best known for his soothing voice, calming demeanor, and his ability to paint beautiful landscapes in just 30 minutes. Read about four Diehards who follow along with his video “Bridge to Autumn,” which is Season 31, Episode 7 of Ross’s show and attempt to master the wet-on-wet technique with oil paint. Will Ross’s famous quote, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents” still hold true?

S h re ya

While I do have some experience with drawing, painting has always been an arduous task. The colors bleed together, and I go from a dragonfly to a splotchy mess in just a few minutes. This, paired with my unfortunately short temper, has resulted in plenty of wasted paper and palettes of paint featuring 12 shades of brown. Hopefully, under Ross’s guidance, I will be able to conquer my lack of artistic prowess. In honor of young Shreya who aimed to be the next Michelangelo, I pray Ross will aid me in the creation of a halfway decent painting.

To s h a l i I have been painting since I was young, and I was involved in one of the murals on campus, so I would say I have a decent amount of experience. However, I have no experience whatsoever with oil paints. I have only used acrylic paints, and my brief phase of wanting to paint with oils quickly subsided after I saw the price tag on some of the sets. Watching Bob Ross videos was a big part of why I began painting and drawing in the first place, so hopefully inspiration will strike me once again and bless me with some newfound oil painting skills.


Painting was both a joy and a struggle. Watching the paints mix on my palette was hypnotizing, and I loved how my brush glided across the wet canvas to create a sky with just a few strokes. When I tried to copy Ross’s techniques with a palette knife, I could only create a dung-covered bridge. The paint from the knife did not neatly transfer onto the canvas and instead mixed unexpectedly with the background paint. After wrestling with the knife for a while, I gave up and settled on using the end of my thin paint brush for detail. Ross is all about creativity, right?

My meager experience in oil painting gave me a slight edge over my opponents. Even so, I had a rocky start as I struggled to maintain control over the paint. My trees began as a blotchy mess, and as a perfectionist, I was distraught. The paint’s consistency frustrated me to no end, being completely foreign from the very precise and opaque ink that I’m used to. Luckily, I soon got the hang of oil paint and began to embrace the imperfections of my painting as “happy accidents.” I even began to improvise a bit towards the end, and I can confidently say that I’m quite happy with the result!

Ross has a way with his strokes that gives life to his art, a way that I certainly am lacking in. When working on trees, Ross jammed his brush into the canvas, producing cloudy strokes that did in fact resemble trees. I, on the other hand, struggled to get my trees to look like anything but fluffy blobs. The colors, to my surprise and pleasure, did not mix together and the components of the painting were evident. Though the palette knife and I had a brief struggle (in which the palette knife won), I enjoyed the experience and found Ross’s creative leeway helpful.

Ross’s optimism helped me see mistakes as not fatal and encouraged me to continue where I would normally scrap my work and call it a day. When I accidentally colored in the entire lake gray instead of leaving some white to give the illusion of reflection, I simply painted more white over it. When my trees just looked like a lump of brown, I used a clean brush to take out the brown paint and give the trees more texture. The resulting painting isn’t perfect and neat like Ross’s and I only placed third, but I think it’s aesthetically pleasing enough to hang on my wall. Now I just have to figure out how to wash the stubborn oil off of my palette and clothes.

I’m much more appreciative of Ross and his legacy after this. It is difficult to appreciate the nuance and skill that painting requires when he makes it look so easy. This painting was a great exercise in learning to look not at the minute details, but considering the whole and diving into new experiences. Ross’s soothing attitude allowed me to breeze past my mistakes, and it’s no wonder that he has so much Internet fame. And so I come out of this Diehard Tryhard session with an unexpected first place, a smeared bridge to a splotchy autumn, and a new outlook on painting.

What Ross did easily in 24 minutes took me 2 hours, and I came out of it looking like a rainbow had viciously attacked me. There were certain points in the process I definitely struggled with, but I can confidently claim that Ross’ instruction produces amazing outcomes even for the artists whose greatest accomplishments are stick figures. Additionally, Ross’s lax attitude made the entire process much more relaxing. While my end result is nowhere near the level of Ross, much less Michelangelo, I am satisfied to say that I’ve created an acceptable piece of art and enjoyed constructing it.




I was initially hoping that my background in acrylic painting would translate into a knack for oil paints. That illusion was very quickly shattered. Acrylic paint, a fast drying medium, is much more forgiving than oil is. I found myself constantly worried that I would touch an area that had taken such a long time to perfect only to ruin it within seconds. Ross’s tips throughout the videos were helpful at times, but could also be confusing and difficult to follow. I definitely gained some elementary knowledge of oil painting from this unique experience, and I ended up with a satisfactory painting for a first time with the medium. The idea of creating a quality work of art on such a time crunch was undoubtedly daunting at the beginning of the process. But after a while, I began to heed Ross’s advice to focus more on the “Joy of Painting” and less on creating a perfect replica of his work. It made the experience much more relaxing and meditative. For the time given and the skill set I had regarding oil paintings before this endeavor, I am contented with my perfectly acceptable second place. I enjoyed the process of painting, and have definitely gained more appreciation for that aspect of art.




10 Centerspread


The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

20 18 19 20 21


Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Centerspread 11

thought “I“I thought that, for for our our that, first year, we did pretty well. I liked the excitement and I think, now, excitement, wewe know what wewe need to know what need to do for next year.” — Charlotte Sayle, 9

“They kept everything clean; the Bollywood and Hip-Hop air bands Students were really good, and you could tell and teachers how much they practiced.” were welcomed –– Baladithya Balamurugan, 12

onto the campus on "[The backdrop] was well-drawn the morning of and painted, and it looked October 2 by a banner of like they spent a long the Class of 2021 chant, time on it." — “21 We’re Gonna Stun,” that Jasper Wu, 11 lined the bottom of the amphitheater stage. The freshman also put up several other posters and banners on the walls of the amphitheater, including portraits of Moana and Maui standing on a beach. In addition, four streams of blue and white balloons hung high overhead. To top it all off, a white frame lined with blue flowers and labeled “Moana Freshmen” leaned against streamer-clad railings as a photo booth.

"The Bollywood performance stood out to me because it lasted longer, their costumes were more memorable, and there were more people. Also, the backdrop on the stage was really good, and I think they did the skit well." — Jessica Xu, 10

As the MSJ community assembled during lunch to watch the eagerly-anticipated freshman performance, the freshmen jumped right into their skit, giving a suspenseful introduction to the legend of Homecoming and the Homecoming Trophy on the island. The skit followed the journey of Moana, Maui, Heihei, and Pua, representing the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes, respectively, as they search for the lost piece of the Homecoming Trophy to return class spirit to the island of MSJ. Throughout their perilous journey, the group met many obstacles: the killer crab Tamatoa, who represented the senior class; monster coconuts; and the lava monster, Te Kā. The passionate acting of the freshmen skit performers clearly expressed each character’s feelings, allowing the audience to easily understand the main ideas of the story. Furthermore, the costume selection was simple yet functional, combining aspects of traditional Hawaiian-style dress with modern fashion. The Moana Freshmen had six airbands, all of which were teeming with school spirit. The Class of 2021 began with a stirring performance from a live airband playing “How Far I’ll Go,” one of the most popular songs from the Moana soundtrack, that soon had the entire audience singing along. The Jazz Funk airband performed next, elegantly coordinating a large group of people to showcase their gymnastic talent. Next, two singers stole the stage as they performed yet another iconic song from the soundtrack: “You’re Welcome.” The Bhangra airband also performed with a great deal of enthusiasm, adding a humorous touch by showering the crowd with fake money. The Class of 2021 was also able to showcase their athletic prowess throughout their fight set, performing a complex combat routine that ended with an intense arm wrestle. The hip-hop airband followed, opening with a unique arcade game tune before transitioning into more traditional street dancing. The Bollywood airband, which elicited loud cheers of excitement from the audience, danced with a large amount of passion and concluded the rally with an intricately-planned pose. The freshman class was able to kick off the first day of Homecoming Week amidst supportive cheering from all four grades. The thrilling show ended early, allowing the MSJ community an opportunity to take pictures with the backdrop, performers, and the flowery photo frame.

By Kikue Higuchi & Ian Hsu Staff Writers


12 Centerspread


The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

By Shivani Avasarala & Shiantel Chang Staff Writers

The amphitheater was streaming with yellow on the second day of Homecoming week, with balloons and colorful flags strewn over the amphitheater and a solid yellow 2020 near the railing. The detailed canvas hung across the stage depicted Rapunzel looking out over the castle to another land. The sophomore class of 2020 put a Homecoming-themed spin on Tangled, a Disney favorite, braiding a spirited story with energetic performances and intricate decorations.

This year was actually the first homecoming that I performed in, and immediately what surprised me was how supportive everyone is of each other. ̶ Tanisha Roy, 10

The sophomores began their performance with a dynamic live rendition of Ed Sheeran s Sing. Students of all classes showed their spirit and support, uniting to sing the chorus with the live band ‒ a lively opening for the sophomores imaginative skit. The skit followed Rapunzel, representing the sophomore class, as she dreams of attending Homecoming from the confines of her castle. Despite her mother pressing her to stay at home and study, Rapunzel receives help from Flynn Rider, Pascal, and Maximus, representing the freshman, senior, and junior classes respectively. The skit was humorous and entertaining, and actors presented realistic voice-overs and expressions to convey the emotions of the characters. Intertwined within the skit were diverse dance airbands, wearing a variety of yellow-themed costumes from bright yellow sweatshirts for the Urban airband to the classic frilled skirts paired with yellow crop tops for the Bollywood airband. Beginning with Tahitian s elegant choreography and unique formations, members filled the entire stage, dancing to intense, rhythmic songs, while the K-Pop and Jazz airbands rotated between powerful, slow songs and energetic ones. Further into the performance, the audience swayed to a slower remake duet of Taylor Swift and Zayn s popular hit, I Don t Wanna Live Forever. The fight set airband also raised excitement in the crowd, building up tension featuring difficult martial arts moves. Next up was the lyrical airband s masterful technique and consistent synchronization. Bringing more energy to the stage, both the Bollywood and Urban airbands presented dynamic choreography that brought all four classes to their feet, cheering as performers flooded the stage for airband finales.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal

Juniors ofthe Caribbean


Centerspread 13

By Evie Sun & Kelly Yang

Staff Writers

Pirate flags and black balloons hung over students’ heads as they settled down in the amphitheatre for the juniors’ Homecoming performance on October 4. Beige fishnets with post-it notes full of memes decorated the railings, and a painted backdrop depicting waves and pirates provided a perfect frame for the performers.

The Class of 2019 opened their performance with an energizing rendition of Smash Mouth’s “All Star,” inviting the audience to jump in, sing, and clap along with the live band. Their voices seamlessly melding together, the vocalists’ lyrics rose above the cheering, ending their performance with a smooth blend of harmonic melody. The juniors’ unique ballroom airband took the stage next. With breathtaking acrobatic tricks mixed into the suave steps of their waltz, the dancers kept the audience’s attention riveted as they whirled about the stage. Punctuating the fluid notes of traditional ballroom music were splashes of pop songs and remixes, such as “Fergalicous” by Fergie and “Touch” by Little Mix. The singing airband followed, belting out passionate interpretations of popular songs, including Nicki Minaj’s “Starships.” The junior class’ skit offered a unique spin on the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Its plotline followed the journey of pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, a junior, and blacksmith Will Turner, a freshman, as they rescue Sophomore Elizabeth Swann, who was kidnapped by the cursed crew of the Black Pearl. They are joined by Senior Captain Barbossa, who allies himself with Turner. At the climax of the skit, the fight set crew rushed on stage with sword props, showcasing their impressive martial arts combat and wrestling skills in rhythm to Darude’s “Sandstorm” — a song made famous by memes. Living up to their chant, the Class of 2019 “meme team” incorporated countless puns into their skit, eliciting frequent laughs and groans from the audience. Throughout the juniors’ performance, a variety of spirited airbands were smoothly mixed in, from the graceful silver flags and well-coordinated movements of Color Guard to the intense choreography of the K-Pop airband. The Bollywood airband wove American pop songs into traditional Bollywood music and incorporated the use of sapps, wooden instruments used in Bhangra dancing. The jazz dancers drew out cheers from the viewers with their high extensions and expressive lines. The juniors ended on a high note as the hip-hop airband delivered an uplifting performance with the unique addition of a live violin — a vibrant contrast to their upbeat pop remixes. The Juniors of the Caribbean united to proudly display their spirit, whether it was through their engaging skit or their enthusiastic airbands. Their audience did not hesitate to show support by waving pirate flags and cheering on the performers.

Each of the individual airbands brought a unique color to the overall atmosphere of the performance and the compelling action of the skit. The skit concluded with Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, and their animal companions uniting to save Homecoming from the wrath of Rapunzel s mother. The sophomores brought the audience members together with a heartwarming ending and gathered on stage to chant 2020 legendary! one final time.

You could see how much practice and effort they put in. I thought they did a really good job overall. ̶ Winnie Xu, 11 I thought their decorations were fantastic! … I was absolutely blown away by how much they've improved in just a single year. ̶ Emily Chang, 12

It was interesting to see the MSJ representatives fighting each other and coming together under the theme of unity. ̶ Audrey Yung, 9


"I especially loved the skit, it was really original. All the humor in the juniors' skit was pretty nice. They incorporated the whole theme into their skit, I loved it." —Anoushka Shrivastava, 9

“I loved all the puns in the skit, and I think the fight set was really good, especially because they actually picked people up!” — Josephine Chew, 10

“What stood out to me the most was the amount of spirit our class had … it was amazing to see all the hard work and effort our class put in and have it finally be shown.” — Thea Sarino, 11

"I really liked the variety of their airbands, especially since they added Color Guard. I just really liked the diversity in their air bands, not just hip-hop and jazz." — Eric Zhu, 12 PHOTOS BY STAFF WRITERS KAREN LI & SHREYA SRIDHAR. GRAPHICS COURTESY KRIS YUAN

14 Centerspread


The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Class of 2018 welcomed the student body and staff with red and white streamers and balloons embellishing the amphitheatre on the morning of October 5. A lava-spewing volcano decorating the lawn outside the library and a backdrop painted with evident care attracted wandering eyes. To top it off, a bright red tunnel was constructed over the ramp, painted with a city skyline and a quote from The Incredibles, “I never look back, darling! It distracts from the now.” Even before their performance, the seniors were full of energy, and their well-known chant “You wish you were a senior, hoo hah!” echoed through the senior lounge. The seniors introduced their class’s performance with their first live airband, producing a roar of excitement from the audience. Singers were accompanied by the beat of snare drums and the strong but harmonious notes of trumpets and trombones. They opened with a medley of songs by Beyoncé and ended with “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 ft. Christina Aguilera; the songs sent a wave of nostalgia through the cheering crowd, which proved to be a prevalent aspect throughout the entire performance. The skit followed the lives of a superhero family who is unable to fit into society. Each character experiences their own personal struggles, trying to reconcile their superhero capabilities with everyday life. Although the family gets into arguments and disagreements, in the end, Seniors Bob and Helen, Junior Violet, Sophomore Dash, and Freshman Frozone unite to eventually fight the enemy as a team. A multitude of airbands were skillfully woven through sections of the skit, beginning with jazz. As the catchy “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato began rippling through the audience, class chants began to subside and were replaced with clapping and singing. A smooth transition from jazz to yet another singing airband produced a series of “Hoo Hah’s” from the senior crowd. The impact of the singing airband was memorable to say the least, as it elicited deafening cheers as soon as the classic “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift began. Ballroom performers fascinated the audience with their sophisticated lifts and well- rehearsed twirls and dips, while the intense fight set, featuring a wall-climbing stunt, left the crowd’s adrenaline pumping. The well-coordinated Bollywood airband consisted of intricate formations and quick, clean transitions between songs, reflective of the thought and effort the airband leaders poured into it. Haka left the audience in a state of both awe and frenzy with its lively spirit. The long hours that the seniors dedicated to all their airbands was evident. Color G uard mesmerized the crowd with synchronized flag-spinning, and the other highly anticipated airbands such as Urban, K-Pop, and hip-hop did not disappoint with their smooth and energetic moves. Towards the end of the performance, red and white confetti showered onto the the audience. Finally, the jubilant seniors rushed onto the stage and began their senior rollercoaster, an annual tradition, to mark their very last Homecoming. The pride that Class of 2018 exhibited during their airbands and skit made the last day of Homecoming performances one to remember.

By Joelle Chuang & Sahana Sridhar Staff Writers

“What stood out to me was the decorations! Their center backdrop looked like it was printed … their decorations were amazing, their dancing was fantastic, and they had so much spirit!” — Puja Kulkarni, 11

“Although all of the other class' fights scenes were really good, this one was very realistic. You could tell these were really experienced martial artists. Also, the general vibe was really good; the seniors were hyped, and they created a really exciting atmosphere." — Rishi Jain, 10

“I think we had a lot of spirit, and it was nice to see that our last Home -coming ended with a bang.” — Valery Piachonkina, 12

"The dancers were more cohesive than ours and a lot of other classes … their skit was really funny, and it flowed really well." — Elizabeth Teo, 9


Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Arts & Entertainment 15

C R I T I C S’ C O R N E R MusiC: marshmello, Miley cyrus | Film: blade runner 2049, kingsman: the golden circle

Under the radar

kingsman r e tur n s w ith a b ang

Music review miley cyrus

marshmello By Samir Jain Staff Writer

By Lucia Li Staff Writer

Marshmello is an electronic dance music (EDM) record producer and DJ whose definitive identity is currently unknown, with him wearing a characteristic white marshmallow helmet to mask his persona. However, he is rumored to be the revered American DJ Chris Comstock, also known as Dotcom, alluded to by Skrillex, Diplo, and other bigshots in the world of EDM production. His music first displays upbeat, mellow rhythms that transcend into more fast-paced, electric, and heavy synthetic sounds, usually with intermittent vocal accompaniment that adds a level of depth and connectivity for the listener. Marshmello’s steady, infectious beat is largely popular among the dance music youth due to his collaborations with Omar LinX, Ookay, Jauz, Slushii, and recently Khalid, but he is virtually unknown to the mainstream media. Marshmello’s official debut album was Joytime in 2016, with hit tracks “Keep It Mello” and “Want 2 U.” He also released several independent mixes on SoundCloud as early as 2015, including “WaVeZ” and “FinD Me.” However, his first major breakthrough came with the release of “Alone” in 2016, which thrust him into the EDM music scene proper. Marshmello followed up these initial successes with several distinct collaborations in 2017, such as with Noah Cyrus in “Chasing Colors,” and, more recently, with Khalid in “Silence.” These newer works are psychedelic and surreal in nature, instigating a feeling of catharsis and wistfulness in the listener. His captivating, pronounced beats are complemented by an eerie, hollow, and artificial voice, touching upon deep feelings of nostalgia and sentimentality that we all harbor. ▪

Once again, Miley Cyrus reinvents herself and her music style with the release of her sixth studio album, Younger Now. The new album’s country-pop sound is reminiscent of her musical origins, and contrasts starkly with her previous, controversially risque R&B album, Bangerz. Opting for a plucky acoustic guitar and light drums to cradle her sultry vocals, Cyrus has added a much more personal touch in Younger Now, filling the tracks with emotional lyrics that reflect her own love and life. The album starts out with the nostalgic sounding “Younger Now.” The woody tones of an acoustic guitar combined with Cyrus’s whimsical crooning creates a floaty feeling reminiscent of a pleasant postdream daze. Cyrus reflects on her experiences, urging the importance of embracing the past as well as accepting change in the lyrics: “Change is a thing you can count on/ I feel so much younger now.” The album serves as her call of self-realization and reflection — signaling her satisfaction with her new style. After the first track “Younger Now,” 10 songs follow along the same vein, with small variations occasionally shining through. Most notably, “I Would Die for You,” showcases a mourning, reverent cry of love — Cyrus’s vocals exposed and left with raw emotion. Also notable, “Rainbowland,” features a collaborative honky tonk country track with her godmother Dolly Parton, together fantasizing about a utopian society of freedom and equality for all. Unfortunately, Younger Now falls short for a new start. Cyrus seems somewhat restrained in this album, both in passion and personality. She truly possesses great vocal talents, but Younger Now’s songs do not do her justice. As much as people dissed her bold move into electronic and R&B with Bangerz, there was no denying that she did it well. Younger Now is like a desperate about-face back into familiar, boring territory, and her songs seem almost like a retraction of her previous attitude. Especially when contrasted with the radical, risque Miley of before, this album seems a bit lackluster. Her vocals lack the passion that would showcase her true ability. The album is also very repetitive. The 41 minutes of country pop show very little variation from the standard set by the first track. With 11 tracks, the music begins to blur together — most of the songs become easily forgettable. Although Cyrus sings of change and a new her, her music soon falls into a dull monotony of acoustic guitar and jaded vocals. Additionally, Cyrus somehow manages to sound detached while singing about more personal, deep, and emotional lyrics reflecting her life. The album ends off with the track “Inspired,” a powerful closing to an otherwise unmemorable album. “To make the most out of it while we’re here/We are meant for more,” makes for a profound closure, her mature sound and a quivering violin adding a new layer to the music. Younger Now, simultaneously personal and detached, shows maturation, but also a harsh step back from Cyrus’s previous style. ▪

By Praveen Nair Staff Writer The spy comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service was a surprising hit following its 2014 release, lauded for its fight scenes, laughs, and unpredictable plot. The sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, brings back much of the original’s strong points, but cannot quite match the excitement and novelty of the first film. The Golden Circle takes place a year after the events of The Secret Service, as protagonist Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is now a full-fledged Kingsman. The agency now faces a new foe: international drug lord Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore.) Feeling outmatched, Eggsy and support agent Merlin (Mark Strong) are forced to depend on their American counterparts, the Statesmen, to take down Adams’ empire. The plot mirrors the original film, with what Eggsy playfully calls a “savethe-world situation.” But The Golden Circle takes a few creative liberties in its story. Along with the Statesmen, the film introduces a medical gadget that can ostensibly save agents from gunshots. But the appearance of this device devalues much of the plot, as the audience is led to believe that any seemingly dead character can be virtually resurrected. While this method is used to inject some twists into the film’s plot, it does so at the cost of the story’s plausibility.


Fight scenes were the most entertaining part of The Secret Service, and this continues in The Golden Circle. The fight scenes feature masterful cinematography and slow-motion. The film lives up to its reputation as an over-the-top James Bond flick with such gadgets as an umbrella gun, electric lasso, and briefcase rocket launcher. The Golden Circle’s fight scenes also give the impression of being shot in one camera take, which allows the film to guide the audience through the fight. The fight scenes are also set to fast-paced guitar solos and classic rock, which serve to heighten the excitement. However, the fun of the fight scenes highlights errors in the pacing of The Golden Circle. The film clocks in at a hefty 141 minutes, much of which is spent on an overwrought romantic subplot or unnecessary filler. These portions leave the viewer wishing to return to the frantic exhilaration of the action scenes, which overwhelmingly carry the movie. The Golden Circle’s most unexpected element is an extended cameo by singer Elton John, who plays an exaggerated version of himself. John delivers a few profanity-laced tirades, dons flamboyant costumes, and even has his own fight scene. Surprisingly, the scenes involving John are some of the film’s most entertaining.

The addition of the Statesmen allows The Golden Circle to introduce a star-studded American ensemble, led by Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Pedro Pascal. The new additions perform well, but their limited screen time limits character development. Julianne Moore’s portrayal of villain Poppy Adams is perhaps the film’s best performance, combining equal touches of smiling sweetness and psychopathy. The shift toward the United States also drives the movie towards some social commentary. The American President (Bruce Greenwood) serves as a secondary villain, as the film uses satire to call into question some of America’s laws. Unlike some of The Golden Circle’s other subplots, the political storyline adds an appreciated layer of subtlety to an otherwise standard action plot. Kingsman: The Golden Circle brings back all the elements that made its predecessor a hit. But it also tries to stuff in elements that feel out of place in the franchise, and ultimately contribute to a drawn-out runtime. However, The Golden Circle, as an action spy comedy, isn’t aiming for nuance, but rather for an entertaining viewer experience. In that respect, it accomplishes its mission. ▪ Rating: B

blade runner 2049 breaks the sequel curse

Book Bites By Ashni Mathuria Staff Writer

Student Recommendations Title: Bubble World Author: Carol Snow Rating: Easy Genre: Fiction Freesia is a young girl who lives in a utopian virtual world designed to help her overcome her social anxiety. However, when cracks start to appear in her perfect utopia, she must face the harsh reality of the real world. “It shows the symbolism of being extremely identified with your online persona and having a deteriorating relationship with your friends and family.” — Sharanya Kumar, 11 Title: A Darker Shade of Magic Author: V.E. Schwab Rating: Easy Genre: Fiction Kell, who delivers messages and packages between dimensions, is accidentally given a seemingly innocuous artifact and is thrust into a realm of magic he has never before experienced. “I really enjoyed this book because, unlike in other popular fiction books, the main characters were very realistic and dynamic. ” — Carolyn Qian, 10

By Jennifer Xiang Staff Writer Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling as the titular Blade Runner, is the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner. The original film, which was lambasted for its slow pacing and lackluster action, became a cult film after multiple recuts and re-releases over decades. It was beloved for its stunning visuals, philosophical ponderings, and innovative synth-heavy soundtrack. The sequel, set 30 years after the original, embraces the original film’s legacy with beautiful sets and visuals, but its plot is much more susceptible to scifi pitfalls and ennui. Blade Runner 2049’s marketing shows a film much different from its product; in reality, it is not an action movie but a futuristic detective film with sparse, brutal, and unglorified action sequences. Gosling plays Officer K, a Blade Runner, which are detectives who hunt down stray Replicants — manufactured humanoid androids made of engineered bioparts. Replicants have advanced far from where they were in the original film; memory implants have given them empathy and they are now similar to humans. Officer K is investigating the mystery of the Blade Runner of the first film, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who is revealed to have disappeared. A Replicant megacorporation, headed by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his assistant Luv


(Sylvia Hoeks), hunts Officer K and Deckard down for their involvement in the case. The film is carried through its 164-runtime not by dialogue or conflict, but by long winding shots through beautiful, retro-futuristic sets. A score by Hans Zimmer shines as well, but at times it is nothing more than a remix of Vangelis’ original score. There is nothing notable besides Zimmer’s usual fanfare except for fan-baiting moments where themes from the original film are reused. The cinematography, on the other hand, is consistently stunning, and it is hard to pry one’s eyes away from colorful, atmospheric backgrounds polished with physical effects and models. The plot of the film is a compelling mystery that twists and turns in a way that is still followable. However, it is shoehorned into the plot of the first movie, which didn’t lend itself easily to a sequel. Hidden sideplots and posthumous motivations for characters in the first film are thus added in to make a sequel work. Philosophical questions are posed by the plot throughout the film on what it means to be human and the connection between memories and empathy. Yet the film does not allow itself to dwell on or further develop these questions; instead, it moves on and lets the audience forget them, leaving an impression at the end that altogether there is little meaning to be

found in its attempt to mean everything. The acting tries to show the characters reflecting on these ideas, yet they are simplistic and often fall flat. Few characters are developed to their full capacity and the wasted potential is obvious and distracting. Hoek’s character, for example, has no personality past her villainy, despite the movie’s hinting that she is more than that. Hoek’s and Leto’s characters are a far cry from the enjoyable, alive villains of the original movie; instead, they often act off-camera, their exact motivations unclear. They are thus hardly characters but mere tools to surprise the viewer and move the plot along. A romantic subplot between Officer K and Joi (Ana de Armas), the two most interestingly created characters in the film, tries to elicit emotion from the viewer yet stumbles in its penultimate scene. The film is still largely enjoyable. Oscar-worthy cinematography and an attempt at deeper thinking, accompanied by Gosling’s superb acting, make a film that stands up to further scrutiny, with a tight, reasonable plot better than the majority of modern sci-fi that, in the end, justifies its runtime, despite its pitfalls. ▪

Rating: C

Rating: B


16 Arts & Entertainment


The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

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Friday, October 20, 2017 The Smoke Signal


Arts & Entertainment 17

By Shivani Avasarala, Shiantel Chiang, Anagha Mandayam, & Shray Vaidya Staff Writers

Although previously overlooked by many American record labels, Asian-American rappers are emerging more frequently in the media and the mainstream music industry. They embrace and express elements of their heritage and culture within their music, while simultaneously breaking stereotypes surrounding the identity of a typical hip-hop artist. The Internet’s most popular music streaming platforms, including Soundcloud, YouTube, and Spotify, allow them to cultivate successful careers and set an example for aspiring Asian-American artists.

A rap duo comprising of British-Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed and Indian-American rapper Heems, Swet Shop Boys is relatively new to the music scene. Their first studio album, Cashmere, dropped in late 2016, and was followed up by an EP, Sufi La, in early 2017. They are well known for their unique style of blending Bollywood and classical South Asian tunes into their songs. Actor Riz Ahmed is renowned for his role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and also made history when he won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his role in The Night Of, making him the first South Asian to win at the ceremony.

Montalvo arts center

The new parish From Chengdu, China, the Higher Brothers are a group of four rap artists — consisting of MaSiWei, DZ, Psy.P, and Melo — who recently gained a large fanbase nationally and internationally. Higher Brothers’s works include their album, Black Cab, and single, “Made in China,” both of which have been extremely successful. They are recognized for their mission to spread rap, or specifically trap music (a subgenre of hip-hop), across China. However, this group has also received a fair share of negative responses from the Chinese government for their rebellious lyrics. Specifically, a line from one of their earlier songs about the app Uber where they said “But if any politicians try to shut me up, I’ll cut off their heads …” prompted a negative response. Higher Brothers get some of their influence and inspiration from many American rap artists.

Fo x oaklandtheatre

Greek Theatre

Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, better known by her stage name M.I.A., is a British rapper of Sri Lankan Tamil descent who has released five studio albums to date, with the most recent being AIM in 2016. Her hit single “Paper Planes” reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and has more than 100 million plays on Spotify. She has been included in Rolling Stone’s “100 Best Songs of the Decade” list and named by Time magazine in 2009 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. M.I.A. is also a social activist, using her own experiences as a child when her family was forced to flee Sri Lanka to speak out against the oppression of Tamilians in the country.

Originally from the Philippines, Ruby Ibarra was introduced to rap when she was 5 years old, and the hip-hop culture largely resonated in her neighborhood. Because her interest in music grew, she began releasing YouTube videos of her music in 2010, garnering attention from XXL Magazine and Worldstar Hip Hop. Her 2012 mixtape, Lost In Translation, accumulated nearly 100,000 digital downloads and 50,000 Soundcloud streams. In October 2017, she released her debut album, CIRCA91, featuring her distinct rhythmic flows and sharp lyrics in both Tagalog, her native language, and English.

The warfield

Shoreline Amphitheatre

Navraj Singh Goraya, known by his stage name Nav, is an IndianCanadian rapper and music producer. He began his musical endeavors by uploading songs to Soundcloud and producing for other popular artists, including Drake, Gucci Mane, and Kodak Black. Nav started to gain public attention after social media celebrity Kylie Jenner posted a video of herself on Instagram lip-syncing to his hit song, “Myself.” His self-titled mixtape has been receiving critical acclaim for his unique, drowsy style and his music production skills.

Originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, Brian Imanuel, known as Rich Chigga, is a young rapper and comedian who rose to fame after his debut song “Dat $tick” went viral. His unique, gruff voice, outspoken lyrics, and genuine songs brought him much public attention. Since then, he has collaborated with prominent hip hop artists including Ghostface Killah, XXXTentacion, and Young Thug, and released several of his own tracks, including “Who That Be” and “Glow Like Dat.” Rich Chigga cites his biggest musical inspirations as Childish Gambino, Young Thug, and Tyler, the Creator. Currently, he is on on his nationwide “Come To My Party” tour.


18 Arts & Entertainment


Ramen Instant’s most popular items are the Black Garlic and Shoyu Ramen. In addition, they offer Truffle Ramen, Trout Ramen, and Spicy Mazeman, a traditional cold noodle ramen. The restaurant also has a build-your-own option. All ingredients are fresh and bring their own distinct flavor to the plate, mixing well with the subtle tones of the soup base. Despite how fast the ramen is made, the meat and vegetables are arranged decoratively and make the plate look appetizing. The noodles had varying firmness, but the firmness can also be customized according to your preference. The presentation, freshness, and flavor of the ramen all culminate in a fantastic eating experience.

4/5 Each bowl ranges in price, from $10 to $12 depending on the type of soup and meat. This ramen is slightly expensive considering the amount received. The bowls are smaller than the bowls of ramen found at an ordinary Japanese restaurant but are sold at the same price. The quality and freshness of the ingredients, however, make up for the quantity. The price is still a little steep for a student budget, but if you don’t mind splurging a little on good, authentic food, this is the ramen house for you.

By Kikue Higuchi & Maggie Zhao Staff Writers

Ramen Instant, a ramen restaurant, at 36488 Fremont Blvd., Fremont, CA 94536, recently opened across the street from American High School. Ramen Instant makes their own noodles on site daily and uses fresh ingredients to bring an organic twist to traditional ramen. The Smoke Signal reviewed several of Ramen Instant’s most popular dishes.

The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

The wait staff is one of the strengths of Ramen Instant’s service, as they are always eager to explain the menu and the different options offered to customers. Despite making their own noodles on site, Ramen Instant has quick service, living up to the second half of their name. In addition, throughout the meal, the servers come to each table and ask about customers’ meals, which creates a friendly and personal serving experience. The restaurant is also kept neat and clean. The cordial and helpful service markedly enhances the Ramen Instant experience.

5/5 Ramen Instant’s decor is minimalistic and streamlined. The restaurant uses neutral greys, whites, and browns to create a simplistic color theme. Ramen Instant has handwritten menus on chalkboard walls, adding an intimate touch to the decor. In the background, jazzy coffeehouse music plays to give a laid-back vibe. Small details, like potted plants on each table and picturesque Studio Ghibli-style wall illustrations, contribute to the aesthetic. Overall, these factors work together to create a relaxing environment.


Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal


Arts & Entertainment and Sports 19


Athlete Spotlight: Starla Murillo Coach Spotlight: Edward Njoo By Riya Chopra Staff Writer

Sophomore Starla Murillo


Sophomore Starla Murillo is an active member of the MSJ Varsity Girls’ Volleyball, Basketball, and Softball teams. The Smoke Signal interviewed Murillo to find out more about her life as an athlete for three different sports and where her passion and motivation for these sports come from. Murillo has loved sports for as long as she can remember. Her journey as an athlete began when she was in elementary school, where she recognized that she was much taller than most of her peers. She decided to start playing basketball in fourth grade because of her height and fell in love with playing a team sport. She also played baseball for a few seasons in her elementary years. In seventh grade, she participated in the Hopkins Junior High Girls’ Basketball and Volleyball teams. Murillo went on to play for MSJ Varsity Girls’ Volleyball last year and was one of the four freshmen on the team. Murillo’s inspiration and passion for sports comes mainly from her family. “When I was younger I used to hear stories from my parents about how my mom did cheer, basketball, and volleyball. And my dad was a cyclist and he did football and wrestling. So once I heard those stories, my passion came from them. And my siblings both played football,” Murillo said. Starla’s father attends all her games, always motivating and encouraging her. “It’s so nice to hear him cheering in the crowd and to have him be proud of me. He’s just my number one supporter,” said Murillo. Murillo is set apart from her peers not only because she is highly skilled in three different sports, but also because her resilience allows her to bounce back from the obstacles she’s faced.

Murillo was born into a deaf family and has had to deal with many of the difficulties of having deaf parents. “When I was in elementary school, I would get so many questions like ‘Oh how do your parents drive?’ and ‘How are you here?’ ‘How are you hearing?” Murillo said. “They don’t think deaf people can do a lot of things and I would get so upset when people thought deaf people were dumb — it just really made me sad.” In addition to having to cope with these challenges, when Murillo was just 13, her mother passed away from a sudden heart attack at home. Her mother was also one of her biggest supporters and was at every single one of her games, cheering her on from the sidelines. “My mom’s passing took a huge toll on me and I managed to get through that. So it’s just amazing to be where I am right now. I’m just happy I overcame those difficulties,” said Murillo. Murillo finds herself constantly busy on the weekdays and is almost always practicing, doing her homework, or studying for a test. Murillo said, “Somehow I just end up managing three varsity sports and then school work and studying for tests and then friends. I usually don’t hang out with friends until the weekend. I just try my best and if I don’t finish I usually just get up at 5 a.m. or 4 a.m. to finish.” By staying focused and working efficiently, Murillo has managed to live a balanced life and has accomplished many commendable achievements as an athlete. In addition to playing for three varsity sports teams, Murillo has also been featured on Cal Hi Sports’ “Spirit of Achievement” segment, which is a series on the Bay Area sports coverage channel that features high school athletes who have overcome adversity. “It was so mind-blowing that they wanted to interview me. It was so unrealistic. When my coach told me that Cal Hi wanted to interview me, I was like ‘Why me?’ — I didn’t understand. But then during the interview, I understood why they wanted to interview me — my past and how I managed to get through what I’ve been through.” Murillo said. Murillo’s future goal is to play basketball at a collegiate level and pursue a career related to science. Murillo said, “Hopefully basketball can get me into the college I want and in that college I can study science.” For now however, Murillo is just focusing on playing three varsity sports while still maintaining good grades and a healthy lifestyle. ▪

By Michael Ren Staff Writer Edward Njoo is an alumnus of the Class of 2014 and former member of MSJ’s Varsity Cross Country team. After completing his bachelor’s degree at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Njoo has returned to MSJ this year as a cross country team coach. The Smoke Signal sat down with Njoo to discuss his experiences with cross country. Throughout elementary and middle school, Njoo had focused more on sports such as tennis and soccer, and less on running. However, this changed upon starting high school. “When I got to high school I had [Cross Country Coach and Physical Education Teacher Jack Marden] in my freshman year of PE, and I thought he was really interesting in terms of how he expressed his love for running, so I got into it and decided that cross country and track and field were my thing,” said Njoo. One of Njoo’s most memorable experiences was his first cross country practice at MSJ. “We were doing [practices] here at school, and I had never run so hard and so fast and so long in my life. It was an interesting experience, as afterwards I could barely walk home, but something about the camaraderie, and the team, and the physical training in and of itself stuck with me, and I came back the next day to practice.” In addition to Marden, Njoo owes his dedication to the sport to former MSJ Cross Country Coaches Linda Addison and John Hotchkiss. “They really instilled in me that running is a sport for everyone; it’s not just for the fast people,” said Njoo. Njoo would go on to participate in cross country in all four of his years at MSJ. Although he was not exceptionally fast when he joined, through hard work and dedication Njoo eventually began competing in varsity races in his junior year and ultimately became captain of the Boys’ Varsity team in his senior year. During his senior year, Njoo ran in the morning before school as well as in after school cross country practices, averaging about 60 miles per week as part of his training regime. Njoo continued to train during his time at college. “In college I wasn’t good enough to make the Division One [cross country] team but I continued to train,” said Njoo. “I [increased] my mileage in college and I

ended up qualifying for the Boston Marathon twice and maybe a dozen half marathons or so.” Njoo eventually hopes to compete in the Boston Marathon as he has not yet done so, but for now he is focusing on participating in more local races and marathons. This school year, Njoo returned to MSJ as an assistant coach to Marden, where he is focusing on spreading his love for running to everyone on the team. “Some of my happiest moments here in high school were made in cross country and track, and I want to help others have that experience,” said Njoo. In the future, Njoo hopes to continue coaching for the team, but his plan may change depending on other matters that might arise such as job opportunities or acceptance into a doctorate program. Overall, Njoo has found that his experiences with cross country have impacted his life far beyond sports. “Being a former Mission student, when AP classes get tough and homework gets heavy and the studying becomes near impossible, I saw many parallels between that and cross country,” said Njoo. “We face challenges as both students and athletes, and I think learning to overcome those challengers by putting your mind to them and doing your best day in and day out, whether you’re at practice or studying for the next exam, is something that will help you become a successful student and athlete. To me it’s not two separate realms of student life, but two sides of the same coin.” ▪


MSJ Class of 2014 alumnus Edward Njoo.

20 Sports


The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

Girls’ Tennis slams Logan 6-1 By Kelly Yang Staff Writer Girls’ Tennis competed against James Logan High School at Fremont Tennis Center on October 5 to kick off the sixth game of the season. After a series of long, intense matches, Varsity defeated Logan with a score of 6-1. The team played diligently, hitting accurate shots and making exceptional saves. Junior Brittany Tran started her first set with strong serves and hard hits, gaining an early lead. While Logan fought back valiantly with some well-placed volleys and lobs, Tran also stepped up, winning her games with scores of 6-2 and 6-0. On a nearby court, Junior Cassidy Sun and Varsity Captain Senior Arabhi Thananjeyan played a doubles match, releasing quick forehands and powerful overheads as they danced around the court, fending off Logan’s steady backhands and accurate serves. Although Logan pushed back with a few spectacular shots, Sun and Thananjeyan ended up taking the match, winning both games 6-3 and 6-2. Junior Ankita Hooda and Freshman Hilary Lu also flourished in another doubles match close by. As Logan repeatedly hit the duo with unexpected lobs and hard serves, Lu responded with powerful overheads while Hooda vigilantly returned serves. Their chemistry and teamwork enabled them to triumph, winning 6-0 and 6-2. Varsity Coach Patricia Birks attributed the team’s success to the athletes’ integrity and determination. “There was a lot of adversity when people were calling line judges,” she said. “The thing that really stood out to me was the character of the girls; our girls continued to play fairly, called all the lines correctly … as a whole the team did well.” Varsity Captains Senior Courtney Tran and Thenanjeyan credited their victories to their versatile coaching. “Our coaches are both tennis players, so they give us a lot of input on how to place our shots, and they help us apply our drills,” Tran said. Thananjeyan and Tran were very satisfied with their performance as Logan has always been a tough opponent to face. “Mission has always had a huge rivalry


Freshman Ashley Tsai prepares to send the ball over the net.

with Logan which has lasted over 15 years,” Thananjeyan said. “There is always a lot of pressure when we have to play against them to maintain our three-time undefeated league champion title. Our team is very strong and we manage to pull through every time.” In addition to defeating Logan, Thananjeyan and Tran have high hopes for the team’s future. “Post season we sometimes have a difficult time competing with other teams outside of our league,” Thananjeyan said. “This year we have a very strong team and I think we have a good shot against other schools.” ▪

Junior Brittany Tran performs a backhand to return a low ball.


Friday, October 20, 2017

The Smoke Signal

Quirky Sports There are many types of well-known sports, such as basketball or soccer. However, there are some kinds of sports that are more obscure, funky, and unusual. Here are eight quirky sports for you to read and spread the word about.

Race Walking Race walking is an endurance sport that requires participants to walk long distances while keeping at least one foot on the ground at all times. The Summer Olympics hold 20- and 50- kilometer race walks. These walks are far from slow; Japan’s Yusuke Suzuki set the men’s world record for the 20-kilometer race walk at 1:16:36. The rules make the sport tougher than it might seem; Australian race walker Jane Kara Saville was famously disqualified at the 2000 Olympics in her hometown of Sydney for lifting both feet off the ground while leading within a few minutes of the finish line. While it is not a widespread sport today, “pedestrianism” was very popular among the American working class in the 19th century.

Underwater Basket Weaving Underwater basket weaving is a competitive sport where contestants weave baskets under water. The judge or referee chooses the basket design that is to be woven, and players then dive underwater and begin weaving. The person who can weave a basket in the shortest period of time is named the winner. Players may surface for air, but the time spent above water is tripled and added to their overall time. Underwater basket weaving was created in 1965 by Samuel Cochrane when his wife threw a halfwoven basket at him and it landed in the water behind him. A frequently used idiom associated with this sport is “Underwater Basket Weaving 101,” a course title many college professors use to describe an easy class of a college athlete.

Combat Juggling In the sport of combat juggling, competitors attempt to juggle a given object while also actively attempting to disrupt opponents’ juggling. To achieve this, jugglers must try to bat down their opponents’ projectiles while their own are still in the air. The official Major League Combat (MLC) league is organized by the World Juggling Federation, which specifies a standard of two five-member teams, although the sport can be played in many other configurations. The MLC annual finals have been featured on ESPN; the 13th annual convention will take place this December in Las Vegas.


Sports 21

By Rishi Chillara, Christine Dong, Anagha Mandayam & Praveen Nair Staff Writers

Quidditch Similar to Harry Potter Quidditch, real-life Quidditch is a co-ed sport, with seven players on a team. Each player carries a broom between their legs throughout the game, which is played on a field. In Quidditch, there are three chasers, two beaters, a keeper, and a seeker. Chasers are the players who score points and chase after a volleyball called the quaffle. Keepers and beaters are defenders, with keepers defending the goal posts and beaters defending other players by using dodgeballs to hit the opposing team. Seekers run after the snitch runner, a human prop who wears all yellow with the snitch tennis ball attached to them and runs back and forth across the court. Today, Quidditch is rising in popularity with a national US tournament and an international world cup tournament.

Underwater Hockey Underwater Hockey, also known as octopush, is a variant of ice hockey played underwater. Players are organized into two teams of six and utilize fins and snorkels to maneuver themselves underwater for two ten-minute halves. The goal and the stick also vary from ice hockey; the goal is not a net, but rather a small trough or ramp with a small space between the edge and the wall. Players aim to hit the puck into this goal with a 12-inch hockey stick. What began as a way for the British Navy to keep their soldiers fit transformed into a fast, dynamic sport played in more than 20 countries.

Shin Kicking Shin kicking is an English combat sport that involves two contestants kicking each other in the shins while holding each other’s collars. To be judged the victor of a shin kicking match, one must win at least two of the three rounds of the game by forcing an opponent to fall to the ground. In the past, competitors sometimes wore steel-toed boots, but now they are required to wear soft shoes and are allowed to pad their legs with straw as well. The sport is one of the most popular events of the Cotswold Olimpick Games held in England.

Bossaball Chess Boxing Chess boxing is a hybrid sport that combines the mental game of chess with the physical sport of boxing. A chess boxing match features 11 short rounds alternating between chess and boxing. Since it is possible to win through either a checkmate in chess, a knockout in the ring, a judge’s decision, or by exceeding each round’s time limit, competitors must display proficiency in both chess and boxing. There are a number of organizations dedicated to chess boxing such as the World Chess Boxing Organisation, the World Chess Boxing Association, London Chessboxing, Chess Boxing Global, and the Chess Boxing Organisation of India.

Bossaball incorporates aspects of volleyball, soccer, gymnastics, and music. Two teams of four play on an inflatable court, similar to that of volleyball, with two trampolines. Teams are allowed five touches before they have to send the ball over the net. Players can only play the ball using the volley touch or the soccer touch, which includes contact of any other body part other than the hands. Teams earn three points from soccer touches and one point for volley touches, and goals are also worth more if scored in the opposing trampoline zone, which is close to the net.



The Smoke Signal

Friday, October 20, 2017

Love the Athlete, Accept the Political View




22 Sports


Colin Kaepernick and his teammates kneel while the National Anthem plays.

As with all public figures, the actions athletes take are often put under high resolution microscopes by the general public. With the recent controversies involving athletes’ political involvement that have made front page news and left Twitter in chaos, the accomplishments of the athletes involved are often overshadowed by their political views. Further, news that is more pressing and relevant to the public is often ignored due to the attention that athletes’ actions call for. Although their platforms are definitely useful in calling attention to social issues, how athletes use their platforms should not overpower their athletic prowess or more urgent news.

It is not unheard of for professional athletes to use their spotlight to speak out. In the 1968 Summer Olympics, sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists and bowed their heads during the playing of the national anthem as a symbol of black power. As a result, Smith and Carlos were disqualified from the US Olympics Team. Today, the controversy continues, with the introduction of the “take a knee” movement following 49ers’ Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s choice to kneel during the national anthem before a game. According to Time Magazine, the Game Operations Manual states, “During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at

attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking;” this rule has been valid since 2009, and Kaepernick’s violation upset many Americans. Recently, President Donald Trump made his opposition to the “take a knee” movement clear, referring to those who choose to kneel as “sons of bi*ches” in a tweet in September 2017. It is apparent here that these athletes are being condemned for their political actions. Although each athlete is entitled to their own views on political and social issues, the emphasis the news places on their views is a gross overreach. Instead of being recognized solely for their skill on the field, athletes face nega-

By Katherine Guo & Sahana Sridhar Staff Writers

tive impacts on their careers because of the views they express. For example, although Kaepernick received the credit for taking his team to the Super Bowl and therefore recognition for his talent, he remains unemployed. CBS Sports Analyst Boomer Esiason went as far as to say, “[Sports teams] would have a very, very tough time signing somebody who protested the American flag and the national anthem.” In a late-breaking development, Kaepernick sued the NFL for collusion. This showcases the overlook of undeniable athletic skill, as the public was so quick to dismiss Kaepernick’s status and career simply because he chose to utilize his platform in a manner that upset a certain demographic. As sports viewers, the public has to recognize that athletes are entitled to their political and social views, as is the rest of the population. Although it is easy to condemn athletes for their personal choices because it seems that their sole area of expertise is their sport, it does not necessarily mean that they are limited to speak of nothing but their careers. Some might say that, although athletes are allowed to express their opinions, they should expect a scrutinizing response because of their spotlight and subsequent large audience. Although free expression and feedback from the public is definitely within their rights, a difference in political views is not cause to defame these athletes. The solution is clearer than it appears: hate the sin, love the sinner. While the public has the right to disagree with the political views an athlete holds, the controversy should not extend to judgements about the athletic prowess or value of a player. When an athlete, or any celebrity for that matter, uses their public status to make a statement, it almost seems natural that it should ellicit a reaction from the news, be it positive or negative. The deliberate actions taken by the athletes ought to be recognized, but not to the point that they overshadow not only the athletes’ skills but also more urgent news. It hardly seems arguable that news regarding an athlete’s choice to take a knee during the anthem should receive greater attention than more pressing issues regarding the government or public safety. ▪

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Volume LIII, No. 2  
Volume LIII, No. 2