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7 (More) Rockers and their Gratuitous TV Appearances

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After my post on pop groups who appeared on TV shows - your comments reminded me (or taught me) about a few more examples. Okay, you twisted my arm... here are a few more memorable TV musical moments.

1. The Doobie Brothers figure out What's Happening!!

Here's a plot line that doesn't stretch the imagination much: the Doobie Brothers, one of the hottest bands of the mid-1970s, show up at their old high school to play a concert on an episode of What's Happening!! (When's the last time Madonna played for free at Rochester Adams HS?) Anyway, in this episode a sleazy bootlegger convinces Rerun to hide a tape recorder the size of a lunchbox under his trench coat in order to tape the concert.

The band, who are so upstanding they named themselves after an illegal drug, proceed to lecture the youngsters on morality and righteousness.

2. Anarchy on the TV (How punk found it's way to Quincy, M.E.?)

In the late 1970s, punk rock was the musical genre that TV shows either poked fun at or reviled. A deliciously bad episode of Quincy, M.E. pins a girl's murder on punk music (apparently the ice pick in her neck had nothing to do with her death). C.P.O. Sharkey took a more traditional approach; they arranged for L.A.-based punks The Dickies to play "You're So Hideous" and simply let the shows' characters react to the ridiculousness of "kids today."

3. KISS throws Scooby-Doo a Bone

KISS.jpgKISS made a special animated appearance on What's New, Scooby-Doo? to commemorate Scooby's 350th episode on October 29, 2004. The Mystery Machine gang was headed to Banning Junction on Halloween to do some major trick or treating and also to catch a KISS concert in honor of the city's 100th anniversary. They were treated a performance of the classic "Shout It Out Loud." ("And we wouldn't be forced to do twice-yearly "˜farewell' tours if it hadn't been for... you meddling kids.!")

4. Milli Vanilli gets animated

Rob and Fab, collectively known as Milli Vanilli, appeared on the Super Mario Brothers cartoon series (the one without Captain Lou Albano). In an episode entitled "Kootie Pie Rocks," the duo are kidnapped and temporarily turned into accountants.

At one point, Rob states "Ve can't sing for you vithout a band," a statement that ranks right up there with Michael Jackson's confession in the "Thriller" video that "I'm not like other guys."

5. The Beach Boys crash an already Full House

One has to wonder whether John Stamos had compromising Polaroids of Mike Love stashed somewhere. Why else would The Beach Boys agree to appear on Full House three, count "˜em, three different times? We're guessing God only knows.

6. The Nanny gets down with Coolio

Picture 12.pngCoolio's appearance on The Nanny would've been less cringe-worthy if we hadn't been subjected to Fran and Niles the Butler attempting to get down and funky. Note the plot device at the end of the clip "“ Maxwell Sheffield's business partner, Miss Babcock, having a breakdown. Actress Lauren Lane was about to begin her maternity leave and they needed an excuse to have her C.C. character absent from the next few episodes. Watch the clip here.

7. One Very Brady Monkee

The "Getting Davy Jones" episode of The Brady Bunch is something of an anomaly. It was painful to watch upon its premiere, because The Monkees had been off the air for a few years and Jones was struggling to keep Davy-Mania alive. Viewers knew that by teen heartthrob standards, he was over the hill, and Marcia Brady and her friends would've been far more excited over someone like Bobby Sherman or Donny Osmond. All these years later, it's hip to still love The Monkees, and Davy's rendition of "Girl" has become a cult classic. (I still like Donny too, mind you. Met him once. He kissed my mom.)

The next TVHolic post will be dedicated to holiday-related shows and specials, but in the meantime feel free to comment on the above and also mention any performances I've missed.

Past 'Confessions of a TV-Holic'...

When Sitcoms Go Global
5 Cases of Unwanted Fame
When Sitcom Stars Start Expecting
7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Golden Girls
We Still Love Lucy
6 Backdoor Pilots (and why they belong at the back door)

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]