Archive for December, 2009

Best school books

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

By Lauren Eberle

Have you ever looked at your reading list for the year and wonder “Why am I reading this?  How can a book written 50, 100, even 2,500 years ago help me understand modern literature and English?”  To help puzzled students understand not only the literary merit, but the educational value of the books you have or will be reading, the best book from each grade level has been summarized and analyzed to answer such questions.

The Odyssey by Homer
Leisure: 4 out of 5
Academic: 5 out of 5

Though the entirety of the text is not read in every class, The Odyssey is still one of the most important books read in freshman year.

The epic, set ten years after the fall of Troy, centers on the war hero Odysseus.  Trapped by the nymph Calypso, he longs to return home but is unable to do so alone.  Persuaded by Zeus, Calypso allows Odysseus to build a ship and leave for home.  What follows is a tale of trials and tribulations like no other, filled with angry gods, cyclopses, sirens, and test after test of willpower, strength, and wits.

Despite the poem’s length and somewhat meandering plot, The Odyssey continues to stay on the required reading list is because of reoccurrence throughout literature.  Since its creation in the seventh century B.C., The Odyssey has been linked to pieces of literature through allusions and references.  It has also been used as a basic template of the epic journey that is still used today.  The template, or the Epic Hero’s Journey, consists of several parts, all relating to The Odyssey.  The hero must have a flaw, have a quest, and be aided by supernatural aids.  Throughout their journey, the hero must undergo a series of tests, travel to the underworld, and ultimately take their “throne”.  Some modern examples that follow this template are Wall-E, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and O Brother Where Art Thou? The overall enjoyment of this book rates at 3 out of 5, but in educational benefit it definitely ranks at an 5 out of 5.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Leisure: 4 out of 5
Academic: 4 out of 5

Lord of the Flies, unlike many required reading books, can be used as an introduction to understanding both literature and the world around us.

Set in a time of war, the book revolves around a group of British school boys stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashes into the sea.  It presents an account of the boys’ stay on the island, their battles with human nature and the hierarchal structure, and their struggles dealing with each other.  An encounter with “the beast”, a creature of unknown identity that haunts their stay on the island, adds still more tension to the situation, and helps to ultimately bring chaos and destruction upon the boys.

Lord of the Flies facilitates deeper thinking, and requires the reader to look beyond the surface of words.  Even “the beast” holds many different levels of meaning.  Symbolizing death, the devil, the boys’ insecurities and fears, and what Golding sees as mankind’s primal instinct to do great evil.  Although at times the book can be very dark, it still gets a 5 out of 5 ranking in leisure. Lord of the Flies is perfect for students learning to analyze symbolism and thinking on a higher level, giving it a 4 out of 5 ranking in academics.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Leisure: 3 out of 5
Academic: 10 out of 5

The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick, a man new to West Egg.  Within the first few weeks of Nicks stay, he comes to know his party-throwing, boot-legging neighbor Jay Gatsby, and becomes involved with Jay’s relationship and obsession with Daisy, Nick’s cousin.  The book describes Gatsby’s torturous relationship with the married Daisy, and his harrowing path towards self destruction.  Throughout the novel, Nick stands as a sarcastic, mildly biased observer who manages to convey the whole of the many-sided drama to the reader.

In addition to being a classic, The Great Gatsby is also a stepping stone into understanding the use of imagery and description to reveal a higher meaning within the text.  There are blatantly obvious symbols, from Dr. T.J. Eckleberg’s faded glasses watching over the Valley of Ashes to the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock in which Gatsby pines after every night.  However, meaning can even be found within the very name of a character, like Daisy’s and Gatsby’s, which symbolize death, losing one’s identity, obsession, and the search for salvation. At times the vast amounts of imagery and symbolism can be overwhelming, making the leisure ranking only a 3 out of 5. However, the full breadth of meaning and instructive value in the book calls for an 10 out of 5 in academics.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Leisure: 4 out of 5
Academic: 5 out of 5

Shakespeare’s Hamlet tells a tale of death, sorrow, and revenge.  Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, comes home from school abroad for his father’s funeral to find that his mother has remarried- to Hamlet’s uncle Claudius.  Hamlet is soon visited by his father’s ghost, who has been haunting the guard in his free time, and learns that his father’s death was no accident but a case of murder committed by Claudius.  Hamlet, overcome with grief and anger upon learning of his uncle’s treachery, swears vengeance.  And so begins the true story.  The chaos that ensues following Hamlet’s oath is filled with madness, double-handed tactics, and indecision, all leading up to the amazing, astonishing, astounding final scene.

Hamlet is perhaps best known for its fantastic use of diction.  The characters’ very word choices give insight into the very feelings and intentions that they are trying to disguise from those around them and even themselves.  Puns, paradox, antithesis, and other literary devices show the contradictory meanings of speeches and soliloquies throughout the play.  Kings trying to reassure their people end up reveling to the reader their true lack of caring and greed.  Soliloquies meant to be reflections on a character’s lack of action and determination to become more prone to violence show their inability to ever reach that goal.  Being Shakespeare, it is sometimes hard to follow, giving it a 4 out of 5 in leisure. But in educational value it earns an 5 out of 5. Hamlet offers solid examples of many different literary techniques, and serves as a fantastic resource for students learning how to use them.

Categories: Reviews

Passive-Aggressive Notes review

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

By Trecia Cruz

(Photo Harper Collins)

Passive Aggressive Notes by Kerry Miller started off as a small website but has now grown into a book filled with those notorious angry notes.

This book started off as a website called, which is somewhat like Post Secret. The website collected notices directed to annoying neighbors, irresponsible coworkers and more. Before she compiled the book, Kerry Miller wrote about her day to day life. She started posting these passive aggressive notes on her blog from other people. They were very sarcastic and rude, yet humorous. She then published these in a book for everyone else to read.

Most of these notes were very amusing and actually made me chuckle. One note reads, “If it’s too hard to close these doors, maybe you shouldn’t be opening them and I totally agree. Another one read, “Dear stalker, please do not leave anymore notes or flowers on my door. I am not interested.” I was surprised that some people actually had the guts to write down these notes to people. Most of the notes are about common day to day annoyances that you would get frustrated by too if you were to encounter them.

Other notes, however, I didn’t get as much. I couldn’t understand what some of them meant and they weren’t funny as others. A note read, “You are welcome to contribute If you are enjoying the special blend coffee in Marketing on a regular basis.” And I didn’t know what it was talking about. Some were confusing and I think that maybe older people would understand them better than younger ones.

Overall, Passive Aggressive Notes was a good laugh that many will enjoy. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Hamlet play review

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

By Yasmine Mahmoud

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a staple in every senior’s English class but isn’t always easy for them to comprehend from a popcorn reading activity. Unable to interpret certain scenes, students frequently lose interest in the play, considering it “lame”, “stupid” or “outdated”, simply because they have trouble visualizing the emotions or movements explained in the text. Seeing as Shakespeare is essentially timeless, the excuse of Hamlet being outdated is almost out of the question, while complaints of lameness or stupidity are often unfounded. The best way to understand this play has been and always will be watching a production along with a close reading and analysis of the play.

Unfortunately, watching Hamlet at the Noe Valley Library is not the best way to learn exactly what is going on in the play. Put on by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, it is a good way of breaking into the acting field. The play was abridged and allotted an hour and a half on the library site, but it only ended up to be forty-five minutes long. Hamlet’s introduction was so exaggerated he began sweating within the first ten minutes, which was alarming. I had trouble understanding the less famous scenes because throughout the majority of the play, Hamlet shouted all his lines, which made his body language difficult to read, the plot was not well illustrated and child actors did not bother with costumes, which was distracting because of their choice to wear bright orange tie-dye. While I appreciate minimalism, the set could be more accurate; the backdrop continues to portray nighttime throughout the play.

Featuring mostly adult actors, the small cast had three men, two women and two children who did a charming job of reading highlighted lines off of a clipboard while not in costume. The whole experience was rather charming albeit exaggerated with the minimalist set, and extensive explanations of the most famous scenes. The actress playing Ophelia did a splendid job, switching her role with that of another sentinel, the change from man to woman not very detectable during the production.

Overall, the production focused on the most famous scenes of the lay and were illustrated fairly well, although the plot contained holes which made it difficult for one who has not read the play challenging; it was an interesting experience. I give it a 3 out of 5.

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time review

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

By Steven Hansen


Insomniac Games, with its nearly flawless track record, never ceases to impress. With their latest entry in the Ratchet and Clank series, the team managed to once more up the ante and make the tried and true formula feel fresh, while retaining the elements that have drawn people to the series since its beginning.

A Crack in Time introduces a new character Alister Azimuth who, much to Ratchet’s surprise, is a fellow lombax – the first one he has ever encountered. Azimuth has been in exile, spending his time seeking The Great Clock, an entity with the capacity to turn back time, in an effort to undo the disaster that befell the lombax race. Coincidentally, Ratchet’s longtime partner Clank, mysteriously vanished following the last game’s cliffhanger ending, winds up in The Great Clock, as well as in the hands of an old foe, Dr. Nefarious.

A Crack in Time is definitely the most narrative-heavy Ratchet and Clank title, and to great effect, as the game maintains the series’ clever humor and witty one-liners, but adds a sense of depth and investment to the characters, while also providing cohesion and, in some instances, closure to the long-running series as a whole.


Adding to the immersion are solid voice acting and beautiful visuals. The cut scenes in particular rival – even outdo, in some regard – Pixar films. The in-game visuals, less impressive than the pre-rendered CGI cut scenes, are also stunning, bringing across beautiful, color-laden worlds rife with countless explosions.  It’s a visual treat.

Of course, these newfound narrative chops don’t hinder Insomniac’s natural ability to craft tight, polished gameplay, either, which is at the series’ best in A Crack in Time. Staying true to its roots, the game has some of the best platforming around, and well as the series’ staple, frenetic gunplay.

The huge arsenal, as always, is incredibly creative and a joy to toy around with. Each spin on typical gun classes (Shotgun, rifle, etc) is as unique as ever, such as a living organism’s mating call acting as the game’s shotgun, and mesh nicely with the other, less typical weapons.

One of the most pleasant surprises for me was the Plasma Striker, a long-range crossbow akin to my old favorite, the Flux Rifle. The game also retains some past weapons, such as the Groovitron Glove, which throws out a disco ball and causes all enemies in the vicinity to break out into dance, and a new addition of the fan favorite Ryno.


While the gunplay itself remains largely similar to past installments, new enemies and the new awesome arsenal keep it completely fresh. Equally impressive is the outstanding level design, which Insomniac built off of the concept of warping time and keeps gameplay fun. Catching some of Ratchet’s old pirate nemeses crashing to earth in the form of time-frozen scenery was a great nod to past titles, and aspects such as that constantly display the inventiveness of the development team. 

Mainstay gadgets, such as the Swingshot and gravity boots, return as well, but most notable is the new addition, the Hoverboots, which Ratchet to traverse environments more quickly and add another element of frenetic speed to the gameplay. They also serve as a bit of a replacement for Clank, who spends most of this game, for the first time, separate from Ratchet.


Clank has his own segments, which are some of the freshest and strongest puzzling the series has ever seen. His segments revolve around time, and using time pads to send multiple pre-recorded versions of himself to accomplish tasks in conjunction with each other.  It’s a little bit complicated to imagine, but incredibly clever, and executed nicely.

Also expanded in A Crack in Time is ship navigation, with various galactic sectors to explore. Along with adding a nice element of exploration, it does open the world up a bit more. Unfortunately, the aerial battles leave a bit to be desired in terms of both difficulty and interest, but it isn’t much of a complaint.

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time is an impressively polished, clever, and fun game that is likely to fly under the radar amidst a packed fall season in gaming. The fact that after so many iterations, Insomniac was able to piece everything together so nicely and that people are still interested in the series serves as a testament to consistency and excellent execution put forth. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the Ratchet and Clank games.

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New Moon review

December 10, 2009 1 comment

By Rebecca Gigi

(Photo Summit Entertainment)

Typical teenage love story with obsessive, love sick girl, plus “dreamy” vampire, divided by hunky werewolf all adds up to the highly anticipated sequel to Twilight is New Moon. Viewers pay ten dollars to view two long hours of teen drama that you could easily get for free at your local high school.

In the second installment of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, the romance between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) grows in New Moon until Edward and his family abandon the town of Forks, Washington.

As heartbroken Bella goes through months lonely and upset, she finds that Edward’s image comes to her whenever she puts her life in jeopardy. With the help of her friend Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), Bella starts to recover and build a relationship with him, only to find he is a “monster” as well when he turns into a large werewolf. 

Once Edward comes back for Bella, he is faced with meeting the Vulturie (vampire royalty) and going through a vicious fight and vows to be with Bella forever in the end.

The special affects and action are drastically improved from Twilight. There were many intense fight scenes between the wolves and vampires that I did not expect after the inactivity relative to Twilight. The addition if the Vulturie also added some creepiness added to the suspense of the ending. New Moon has humor as well. There were many one liners that grabbed my attention and made me giggle in my seat.

However, the movie dragged in many points. The director could have cut out the scenes with Bella just staring off into space without dialogue or any hint of what she was thinking about. That probably would have cut down the movie to about an hour and 15 minutes from two hours. 

This movie had way too many make out scenes for my liking. Either Bella and Edward were eating each other’s face, or Jacob and Bella’s faces were so close that you knew what was coming. This movie made me sick to my stomach from being forced to eat so many the cheesy love lines. There were just too many clichéd “I never want to hurt you,” or “It’s not you it’s me,” lines.

What really irked me was how few characters were wearing shirts. Was there a real need to have the entire Wolf Pack shirtless even in the rain? When Bella was bleeding, Jacob’s shirt came flying right off with ease. The vampires did their fair share of baring it all as well.

Overall, I give this move 2.5 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed the action and points of intense drama that continued through out the whole movie, but the annoying randomly shirtless boys and constant in your face view of intense teen passion was a turn off for me.

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We are El Camino: Lisandro Gomez

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

By Steven Hansen

(Photo Katrina Nolasco)

“Don’t ask me where I’ve been; ask me where I’m going,” is senior Lisandro Gomez’s mantra. Gomez, after a rough five years, recognized his path as one of a scholar with limitless potential.

Gomez was raised in a low socio-economic household by immigrant parents with little schooling and little grasp of the English language. Like many in his position Lisandro faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles chose apathy towards school thinking it was useless. This thinking started him down a dark road.

His delving into the seedy underworld truly began with his attempts to join a gang in middle school. “I wanted to have that power and respect that they did, so I gave it a shot,” Gomez recalled. But following those influences didn’t lead to a positive outcome, as Gomez quickly found out when his best friend went to jail for assault and battery. “I realized that the tough guy life wasn’t for me,” Gomez said.

However, while not taking it to such extremes, Gomez still wasn’t the ideal student by the time he got to high school. He was content to be a class clown and a nuisance, quickly writing off seemingly inconsequential things such as homework or college. “My parents fought so hard to make me a good kid and I just wanted to be cool,” Gomez laments. “I thought I would get all the ladies and respect by being cool, like not paying attention in class, making fun of the teacher, and getting in trouble. I wanted people to know my name and I was willing to do anything.”

Eventually, however, reality set in for Gomez. His parents began to push him to do better and meet his potential, as well as offer in the occasional reality check. Equally shocking to Gomez was his brother’s newfound success in academics, coming home with straight “As”. “While his report card would be glued onto the refrigerator, mine would be hiding somewhere behind last month’s water bill,” Gomez said.

(Photo Katrina Nolasco)

Those external factors, combined with a push by El Camino counselor Lea Sanguinetti, led to Gomez’ difficult but rewarding transition from delinquent to academic. “Ms. Sanguinetti saw something in me,” Gomez recalled, “she helped me believe that I could go to college and become something of myself. I could recall walking into her office after school to complain about my rather rough day, and Ms. Sanguinetti with a warm smile and a contagious giggle would say, ‘Lisandro, you’re doing great. Keep it up and the universities will be applying for you to go to their school,’” Gomez said.

Of course, making the change was an arduous process, as Gomez suddenly had a lot more work on his plate. According to him, making this life change was the most difficult thing he’s ever attempted. However, he had to do so, as he was now in competition with hundreds within our school and thousands throughout the nation to get a spot in college. “Now I had to push myself, cut down on distractions and get things done. It took a lot for me to turn down dates for math homework and two hour phone calls in exchange for reading time,” Gomez said.

Still, the end justifies the means for Gomez, as he has successfully completed AP and Honors courses within the last year and a half, and is on his way to attending college – a possibility he wouldn’t change for the world.

“I didn’t want to be a part of another lame statistic on how Latinos have the lowest college education and how there’s arguably more Latinos in jail than in college,” Gomez said.

Gomez has chosen his path in life and knows it will eventually lead to success.

“Before, I thought life was about being the cool guy with all the girls, the coolest clothes, the nicest car and the most devastating punch,” Gomez recalled. “Now, I see life through a whole different pixel. It’s a lot easier going downhill than up, but once you strive and struggle to get to the top, you’ll be up there with the best of them.”




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District employees make changes after safety seminar

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

El Camino plays it safer

By Marivic Victoria

"Since the safety meeting, I have kept a set of very straight-forward rules and always remain aware of all possible things." Spanish teacher Denise Webb said. (Photo Marivic Victoria)

In response to the October 27 district safety meeting, El Camino High School has started taking precautions.

After the meeting, teachers began to take what they’ve learned and put it into action. Many teachers are now keeping their doors locked throughout the school day and cover their windows with papers or posters.

“Besides locking my door and covering my window, I have also educated my students about the procedures they must do and the different drills we need to practice,” math teacher Stephanie Lopes said.

Many additional steps are being considered towards El Camino’s safety. District wide, schools are implementing a uniform color safety cards. Yellow cards to indicate a class is safe and red to signal if someone is injured or there is danger.

“I think the new methods are a good idea, but it doesn’t really affect me as a student. I still think it will make things a little bit safer in case of an actual emergency,” junior Nathan Huey said.

The district has also been considering the banning of cell phones. In the occurrence of a lockdown, many students would feel the need to call their parents or the police. Having numerous students using their cell phones at the same time can overload cell phone towers and cause them to crash, preventing police and rescue personnel from being alerted to an emergency.

“I think in the perspective of a parent, it is important for their child to have a cell phone, but if a lockdown was to occur, we should leave the police or swat team to deal with and leave it alone,” Principal Adele Berg said.

As a school, it is important for us to take these issues seriously and train ourselves in case a shooting was to occur. Berg believes everyone should be trained and students should be able to know what to do if something was to go wrong.

Since our school has many open areas, it would be easy for an intruder to step in. It’s important for everyone to stay alert and warn someone if anything seems out of order.

“If a lockdown was to occur, I would get on my cell phone and alert the office immediately,” Campus Security Ron Haynes said.

In response to increasing school violence across the country, El Camino is finally taking matters into their own hands.

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