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7 Extremely Focused Art Sites

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They say when you find something that works, you should stick with it. You may find that others want to participate too, even if your site is all about one very specific subject.

Big Beautiful Wonder Woman

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Cartoonist Jamar Nicholas started The Big Beautiful Wonder Woman Blog to share his collection of drawings featuring the zaftig superhero. He invites artists to share their own vision of queen-sized Wonder Woman, whether that vision is curvaceously cute (like the drawing by Chrissie Altese on the left) or covered in cellulite (as in the drawing on the right by Derrick Fish).

Ice Cream People

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Brian Butler is conducting A Survey of Ice Cream Entities, and wants your photgraphic or artistic evidence of Ice Cream People.

The intent of this project to get the Ice Cream Person recognized among the greatest of supernatural beings, (right up there with Bigfoot, Lochness, and UFOs).

According to the FAQ, an Ice Cream Person is "a hybrid creature composed of both human and ice cream parts." The hybrid on the left is by Sir Mitchell and the plush on the right was created by Jenny Harada.

Skull a Day

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Noah Scalin makes skulls. He created Skull-A-Day to showcase his artwork, and posted one every day, as you could guess from the title. The skulls are made from some surprising materials, such as his Googley-Eyed Skull and Sewn Skull.

The reality of making so much art is eventually I burned through all of the materials/ideas at hand and had to reach out to others for help, and really that's been some of my favorite work. I was also completely surprised by the community that grew up around the project and the fact that the Braincase (the submissions section), which I had never intended to be a part of what I was doing, turned into such a large part of the project.

Scalin still produces a skull for every day, but posts submitted skulls in addition. A recent contest invited people to illustrate Mr/Mrs Squarehead Skull.

700 Hoboes

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The 700 Hoboes Project was inspired by the book Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman, in which the author names 700 hoboes (800 in the paperback edition). Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing suggested that artists illustrate each name, and that's exactly what happened. The submissions initially came into a Flickr set, and then a website was created for the project. There are now 1769 illustrations of hoboes. Honest Amelia Dirt by Ape Lad (Adam Koford) is on the left, and Slow Motion Jones by xandrian is on the right.

Mickey Feio

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Mickey Feio (Ugly Mickey) is a Brazilian site with depictions of Mickey Mouse that would make Walt Disney turn in his grave. It began as a showcase for the International Ugly Mickey Contest, but after contest was over, the Mickeys kept coming! The mouse on the left is by artist Danilo Beyruth, the emo Mickey on the right is by Monike Demikoski.

Che Feio

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Ernesto Che Guevara was a very handsome revolutionary in life and an icon in death, but that icon is fodder for parody. Che Feio (Ugly Che) as another Brazilian blog that takes submissions of Che art using massive amounts of artistic license. In Portuguese. The works here are by Estenio Arantes (left) and Bruno Pagani (right).

Bad Spock Drawings

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The idea behind Bad Spock Drawings is stated in the first post by creator Jason Robert Bell, also known as Caveman Robot.

A few weeks ago I was doing my daily hour of "mindless doodling" and this Bad Spock was created, something about it made me laugh, and I realized that there needs to be more Bad Spock drawings! Not just drawings by me, but all the other artist/ free thinkers I know as well, a giant step for illogical thought.

The picture that inspired him is on the left. Many have contributed, including Kyle Thye, who did the confused Spock on the right.

Do you know of more sites that would fit this description?

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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
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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]

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