The Daily Tofu

A place for art, culture, history, and creation

Photography: The Weekly Photo Scavenger Hunt - Week 4 Architecture

Photo Scavenger Hunt, PhotographyTrey TakahashiComment

We had a wonderful round of nature submissions, with several shots from all over the world! This week we are going to take a step away from nature and head back into the city. If there is one thing that definitively marks the differences between people and cultures around the globe it's where we live. New and old, buildings establish man's mark on the world. That being said this week our main topic is going to be architecture.  Let's see what you got! Here is this week's scavenger hunt items:

  1. Columns
  2. The perfect set of patterns
  3. Something old
  4. A contemporary capture
  5. Textbook design

*Please be sure to include any information about your photos and name for citation of your work!

1. A Fresh Field of Flowers

2. Golden Light by the Moonlight

No submissions :(

3. The Breathtaking Beauty of Birds

4. An Everlasting Landscape

5. In the Wild with Wildlife

Thanks again for all the amazing submissions from:

Pascal J. Bonnet (@ijustdontknow)

Celene Barrera (@celenebeats)

Adrienne Davis (@oddvocadoe)

Trey Takahashi (@tofutakahashi)

Allison Launay (@ally_scared)

Please check out the artists cited above, and feel free to submit your work or any ideas for future scavenger hunts here

Click here to check out previous scavenger hunts and submissions!

Film History: A History of French Cinema (Part 2) - A Story of Passion, Seduction, and Survival

Film, Opinion, HistoryTrey TakahashiComment

Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo in jean-Luc Godard's À bout de souffle (1960)

If you have deeper look at what films France produces each year, you will discover that we release rather clumsy comedies and dull dramas. I will never say that all French films are all bad, but they simply do not compare to those we produced in the past. Simply take a moment and go on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and look at the highest rated French films. There might be a few from the 21st century, but looking at when a majority of the films were released, you will know what I mean.

Luc Besson at Wondercon. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

 Nowadays, French films are somewhat interesting, but not exactly entertaining. Who goes to the cinema without expecting any form of entertainment? I am the first one to choose the latest movie of the Terminator franchise rather than a movie pointed out human misery and that makes me feel absolutely miserable. Films you can find in any Paris cinema can be divided in three categories: American blockbusters, critically acclaimed award winners, and the “others:” Luc Besson’s movies (And, he could represent a category alone to me), indie films, low-budget comedies, dramas, &c.

Of course there are few exceptions. This is how the cash machine works:

The French like making films about what they know best: France, their most iconic singers, designers or actors. Unlike Marvel that seems to target a very specific kind of viewers, French producers try to target a larger public. The larger, the better, eh? They know that we, French people from 10 to 80 y/o, can afford to buy a ticket to see a biopic about Yves Saint Laurent rather than paying for Guardians of The Galaxy (2014). But how about the power of French films abroad? Are Americans as excited as we are when a movie about Cloclo comes up (“Who’s Cloclo?”). Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo in The Artist (2011)

I am the first one to admit that The Artist (2011) from Michel Hazanavicius was risky but a breath of fresh air at the same time. La Môme (2007) from French film-maker Olivier Dahan became unexpectedly very famous across the world, which did not happen since Amelie (2001). The reason? Telling the story of a worldwide-known deceased and iconic singer. Everybody knows Edith Piaf. And if you do not? Perhaps the songs “La Vie En Rose” and “l’Hymne A l’Amour” come to mind. I believe that Piaf still represents a fundamental aspect of popular culture. Numerous songs are used in films and other media such as Nolan’s hit Inception (2010) and the military epic Saving Private Ryan (1998). Sometimes when I meet foreigners, I ask them three words that best describe France or French culture. Piaf is always mentioned. Perhaps not her full name, but at least one of her songs.

Audrey Tautou in the famed film Amélie (2007)

Let look at some other examples of how France seduces American culture. But first let me ask why is Amelie (2001) one of our biggest success abroad? Simply because there has always been this fantasy about France, about Paris, capital of love. Jean Pierre Jeunet who directed this film succeeded in making people fantasize about our country. On behalf of French people, I apologize. Living in Paris isn't like Amelie (2001).

Marion Cotillard. Photo credit: Studio Harcourt Paris

French cinema survives through the careers of its best actors. There is this passion for French actresses and actors that makes me sometimes, proud of contemporary French filmmakers and their works. I remember that particular evening I was watching the Academy Awards when Marion Cotillard was a nominee for her role in La Môme (2007). I stayed up almost all night due to jetlag just watch the show (and dozed off the next day in class).

The day after, I carried the attitude: “Yup guys, bow down… bow down, we won!”

I then became a fan of the actress. It’s terrible to like an actress only because she got the top prize. I idolized her for years. Any news saying that she was casted in an American movie made me even happier.

Until I became a movie expert and had a deeper look at her acting (and that particular scene in The Dark Knight (2008). You know which one--I know you know.)

Working in the film business made me grow up in my approach to French film. Now I follow the careers of actresses who truly astonish me with their acting, hoping and praying that they get recognized for their talent someday. The French actress Eva Green is one example, and I would recommend everyone immediately binge-watch series Penny Dreadful.  She is the daughter of the acclaimed New Wave actress Marlène Jobert. I recall reading an article where she stated that she does not understand why Eva Green plays roles in indie movies, movies that “nobody watches.” I did watch Cracks (2009), the first Jordan Scott’s feature. I did watch White Bird in a Blizzard (2014) from Gregg Araki too. And trust me, it was awesome.

Recently, another French actress made her debut in an American movie. Well, not exactly her debut, since she has a small role in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011). But she gained a lot of attention thanks to the success of Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013). Lea Seydoux has not only a famous name and grandfather, she is also talented—very talented. I believe that her performance in the next James Bond movie Spectre (2015) will surprise us. In a good way.

Truth is, French cinema is no longer exciting. I had numerous appointments with screenwriters. I read many scripts over the past years. And what I felt wasn’t disappointment, but sadness.  Sadly, everything is so controlled that it is very hard to make a film nowadays in France. We no longer have the freedom to create and experiment--

Something has died, an element that is, I believe, the most important thing when it comes to movies: creativity.

To follow along with this series, click here

To check out Part 1 in this series, click here

-Allison Launay

Travel: The Pinball Hall of Fame - Las Vegas, Nevada

TravelTrey TakahashiComment

Rows of Pinball Machines, both new and old, line the walls of the Pinball Hall of Fame. Photo: Trey Takahashi

Las Vegas, home to some of the world's greatest resorts, a place where people come to blow their fortunes and live in excess. In a neon oasis, there is a flip side to all the glitz and glam, the underbelly of the facade. Everything here in Vegas is not about extravagance or excess, somethings just match the setting of an impossible city in the heart of wasteland.

Off the strip by several good miles and a couple blocks away from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, a dimly lit warehouse stands along Tropicana Avenue. Lacking the stereotypical neon sign, there is not even lit sign with basic lettering. Rather, a plain text on yellow banner stretched over the front which read nothing more than:


It's not just Pinball, vintage arcade games from the 80s and 90s are also on display for play. Photo: Trey Takahashi

Despite being in this strange spot that would be entirely missed by any passerby, the parking lot remains partially full with the occasional small tour bus parked out front. Something good must be going on inside, and something good enough for people to seek out this odd little warehouse in the scathing desert heat. 

We approached the building, doors blacked out with few people outside and opened up the doors. With a sudden blast of cool air, bongs and bells blasting, and flashing lights coming from every direction. It was immediately what this whole place was about, and why so many people just had to stop by.

Inside there are rows of pinball machines by the dozen, new and old, rare and common. The Pinball Hall of Fame markets itself as a museum, yet it is a museum that walks the line between a place to see old artifacts from a different era, and a social place to play arcade games and socialize with friends. Essentially, the whole place is a museum, taking machines that date back to the 1930s and allowing anyone to stop by and drop a few quarters inside.

It is not the fanciest of places by any means, there are some panels missing from the ceiling; the bathroom door does not always close all the way; some of the stools scattered about are ripped and torn; and there are piles of junk and equipment stacked in the back on a workbench. Yet, despite all of this, I could not imagine it any other way. The Pinball Hall of Fame is something that the Las Vegas is not, where everyone there tries to sell itself as something picturesque, this place keeps itself authentic. It has undeniable charm and character. It is simply a place where people can come and enjoy what the machines were always meant to do, rather than seeing them behind glass.

The famous Fireball machine from 1972 in action, ready for a round of play. Photo: Trey Takahashi

The famous Fireball machine from 1972 in action, ready for a round of play. Photo: Trey Takahashi

This is not saying the place is a dump, after all, it still is a museum. While there may be a few roof panels missing the machines themselves are kept in astonishing shape. It's a good thing too, as some of the machines they have in the collection are astonishingly rare and in breathtaking condition.

One machine poised right up in the front row, as if a crown jewel of the collection, was one of only two ever produced. A pinball mecca that has several stories of play on the inside composed of winding metal ramps mimicking a circus trapeze. 

There is nothing quite like the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, let alone anywhere. With many of the large arcades in the casinos closing their doors as Vegas shifts away from the days of a family oriented town, and the new Gameworks leaving much desired, there is something that the Pinball Hall of Fame offers that nothing else can: character.

Both tourists and locals alike try their hand at winning a replay and beating high scores. Photo: Trey Takahashi

-Trey Takahashi

Obscure Film: All This and World War II (1976)

Obscure FilmTrey TakahashiComment

In the 1960s and 1970s, movie studios began to produce some truly bizarre films that broke away from the conventions of filmmaking. Waves of art films (experimental films) saw their release to either cable networks or to theatres, and many of them so bizarre that they completely fell out of the public’s consciousness. Nowadays, most folks will cite the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (1968) as one of these such films. A wonderful combination of the music by the legendary rock group set to a truly obscure plot and animated style. However, there is a film that also takes the music from the Beatles and tries to paint a story with it, a film so bizarre and outrageous that it bombed from the box office and remains largely unknown by anyone outside of the rock n’ roll community or an avid b-list movie watcher: All This and World War II (1976).

Opening screen from the movie All This and World War II (1976)

Originally conceived by legendary record executive Russ Regan in a dream, All This and World War II took the idea of telling the story of World War II through the Beatles’s music. Set to various clips from golden era films and newsreels, All This and World War II was poised to be a ‘musical documentary’ covering the main events of the European and Pacific theatre from start to finish. With the only dialog coming from movie clips, and visual indicators of time/era/location from newsreels, the entire project makes for a very loosely driven narrative of the war. Nearly impossible to follow for the uninitiated of World War II, the film’s only redeeming quality had to come from a strong and powerful soundtrack. Still, despite the pure outlandishness of the film from concept, design, and editing, the film was given a full theatrical release by 20th Century Fox. With a $1.2 million dollar budget and a total bomb at the box office, the film was pulled from theatrical release after only two weeks.

Album art for the soundtrack to All This and World War II (1976)

Since then the film has largely remained in obscurity, not many people have really heard about it or remember it, those who do mainly recall the film from the soundtrack which made it on the charts and was quite popular in the late 70s. Drawing from the talents of many famous musicians such as Elton John, Keith Moon, the Bee Gees, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, and many more, the film used covers of Beatles songs rather than securing the rights for the original recordings themselves. Perhaps this is what gives the film its interesting flair, having such tracks as “Come Together” covered by Tina Turner set to a sequence of Americans rallying for the war effort or the Bee Gee’s rendition of “Sun King” providing the background tune to Japanese kamikaze pilots flying to Pearl Harbor.

An artist's parody of Tojo on the track page for the Bee Gee's cover of "Sun King"

Since its pull from theatrical release, it was rumored to have been destroyed by Fox, being remembered as an embarrassing experiment that failed miserably. However, the film did make it to several film festivals in very selective showings, and one more recent showing in 2007 at midnight in Los Angeles. While it never was released to the public the only available surviving copies derive from one single bootleg recording from a late night cable TV broadcast. Outside of people’s hands, and outside of the public’s consciousness, the film was regarded as one of the crown jewels of missing media, until the bootleg resurfaced and copies were made and digitized. Still, only a select few know about the film, and probably fewer have come to appreciate the outlandish concept behind it. If you can find a copy of it, it is probably one of the best little films to put on in the background as people watch, scratch their heads, and wonder what this whole thing is all about.

Interested in more bits of Obscure Film? Click here

-Trey Takahashi

Feature: First Time at the Fantasy Football Draft

SportsTrey TakahashiComment

 The League

Sports. A subject in trivia night that always left unanswered; a Jeopardy category that would make me sink into my chair; a topic of small talk that would go absolutely nowhere. Only in the cases of the Olympics or World Cup could I really tolerate watching sports. Here at least smack talking foreign friends was entertaining and fun, and there was a little more identity associated with national teams. Still, for many sports it was a case of dissociation and general ignorance. I had always lived in an area where there was never a professional team playing to identify with; not to mention my own ideas of the value of having such massive amounts of money being spent on sports. All of that aside, if I truly had anything to back up my own words, it would all be meaningless opinion unless I explored the world of sports more than I ever have, and what better way than to do so with fantasy football.  

As the NFL pre-season closes and fantasy footballers are setting up their leagues, my friend approached me about joining his league for a bit of fun on the side. What better time than now to jump into the action and figure out what all the sports hype was all about. So with a 20 dollar buy in and the chance to win some extra cash, a healthy knowledge of stats, and advice from a friend I joined a leagued in the local area with some along with a few friend in what is appropriately named: The Battle of the Neon Valley.

As soon as I registered I was already entered into a large roster of individuals all looking to win with their choice of draft picks, all of them ready to drop some smack talk and get into the competitive spirit of fantasy football. Now, the culture of fantasy football has always been something fascinating to me, and something that seemed to have a real charm that made it seem fun. After all there are the entertaining names such as the Tijuana Taco Ticklers next to the Spoopy Spectors and Le’Veon A Prayer. In some sort of The Leasgue-esque way, this fantasy football league seems to take the hilarity and humor of ridiculous competitiveness to create something entertaining for even the most non-sports versed people. In the same spirits and making fun of the now number one greatest terrorist threat according to the FBI, I entered the team name The Fetter-Free Freemen and saw my first scheduled face off with Taste My Rainbow.

The Draft

“The draft begins at 3:30EST” a little blurb popped up on my e-mail. It was time for it all to begin, and for this novice to see how drafting players really worked. This was the all or nothing, go big or go home, sort of situation, and one that would really affect performance at the beginning of the season.

My friend who had invited me into the league had me over at his house, along with other players in person and on call via Skype, all ready to talk about whom we were going to pick while simultaneously crying over other people snatching your dream team up before your eyes. As the clock ticked nearer and nearer to the start time, I received my draft order: Number 3. Not too bad.

The final starting roster for the Fetter-Free Freemen

We began going down the list of players, looking at whom to pick. Luckily, the service we were using provided by ESPN gave a basic idea of projected score counts and ranked players out the door. On top of that, websites built by people far more dedicated toward the game than myself have compiled relevant data together for choosing available players and drafting them based on their average scores, current health status, and how prone they are to injury. Taking those states into account it was time to get started.

With that information at hand opened my laptop and ran the draft aside various tabs of statistics to gather my players. In what might be an unfair advantage of non-bias toward players or teams, I slowly gathered up players, cursed others, and joined into the fun until the draft had slowly wound down. At the close, I had drafted a pretty solid team to kick off the season. With the draft closed and players slowly walking away, some rejoicing in their teams and others left worrisome, it was time to sit back and wait for the official NFL season to start. Maybe soon I'll be the guy in the sports bar cursing both teams pinned up against one another for not performing their best.

A "Report Card" ranking the teams.

To be continued...

-Trey Takahashi