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11 Fun, Silly, Weird and Far Out Monet Tributes

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Today would have been Claude Monet’s 172nd birthday, so in honor of one of the world’s most influential impressionists, here are a few tributes to his famous works of art.

1. Land of Misfit Toys

We just had an article about recycled art yesterday, but we didn’t include Tom Deininger, another talented artist specializing in the use of discarded toys. Here’s what happens when a pile of old plastic toys and trash come together to form “Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies.” While most of the pieces are too small to see without coming in for a more detailed shot, you can probably at least spot the Sponge Bob Squarepants toy in the top right.

2. Modern Art

It’s hard to say if Monet would've approved of Banksy’s graffiti or his political message, but there’s no doubt that Banksy has been inspired to some extent by the impressionist. In fact, he has even taken to recreating Monet’s classic “Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies” with the modern addition of abandoned shopping carts and traffic cones sitting in the waterway. The name of the doctored piece? “Show Me the Monet.”

This piece is one of many that the famous graffiti artist has snuck in and hung in famous art galleries and museums around the world.

3. Toon Tribute

The Simpsons have mimicked just about every top artist of the last 2000 years and seeing Bart get a ride along the artist’s famous garden bridge only serves to show just how relevant Monet’s work remains in modern times.

4. Having A Ball

Claude Cormier & Associates Inc. used over 90,000 plastic balls to create this amazing replica of the wisteria blooms that Monet was so fond of painting throughout the years. The creation was designed to help Le Havre celebrate their Contemporary Art Biennale with a tribute to the city’s most famous native.

5. Building Blocks

It’s hard to capture a lot of detail in a Lego creation, but the blurriness of this remake of Monet’s 1873 “Impression, Soleil Levant” by William Keckler only makes it a more suitable tribute to the impressionist.

6. 8-Bit Impressionism

Ever wish you could see what Monet’s work would look like if it were recreated in the 8-bit video game world of the past? Well, artist Jaebum Joo is here to help by reinterpreting “Study of a Figure Outdoors: Woman with a Parasol, facing left” as a classic game image.

7. Dutch Treat

These days, you aren’t anyone if you haven’t had an artistic cake designed to look like you or your work. Fortunately, Flickr user Megpi helped further secure Monet’s place in history with this lovely recreation of his famous “Tulip Fields With The Rijnsburg Windmill.”

8. Nerd Alert

Like cake dedications, any famous artist of the past is destined to have a few geek interpretations of their work. This “Darth Vader With A Parasol” painting by David Barton is a perfect blend of classic Monet and 20th century pop culture.

9. Meow-nay

Not even a classic impressionist like Monet can escape the internet’s cat obsession. Here is artist Svetlana Petrova’s take on “Haystacks at Giverny” with her little Zarathustra taking over for the haystack.

10. Invasion

What happens when Voltron invades “Les Coquelicots a Argenteuil?” Well, while you might expect a lot of screaming and terror at the sight of the giant robot, according to artist Hillary White, things seem to go on pretty much as usual—just with a massive robot blocking out much of the scenery.

11. The Comic Connection

To help promote the release of The Avengers, Marvel decided to publish a number of variant covers for some of their most popular titles this April. All of the titles were inspired by famous artworks of the past and while this variant of Avengers Assemble #2 by Stephanie Hans doesn’t seem to be based on any particular Monet painting (although it could be one I’m just not familiar with), it’s immediately obvious that the style was definitely inspired by the impressionist’s great body of work.

What do you guys think of these tributes? Are they sad attempts at capitalizing on the work of one of the world’s most famous artists? Or are they fitting dedications to someone who has influenced the art world so, so much? Also, if you happen to know of any other tributes not listed here, feel free to tell us about them in the comments.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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iStock
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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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