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6 Flicks That Drove Crazies to Kill

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Just as the literature-inspired shooters of the 70s and 80s were probably crazy long before they picked up a copy of Catcher on the Rye, the psychos who claim a movie drove them to kill were probably psycho long before screening Psycho. (But hey, you never know.) These are six films that supposedly pushed people over the edge.

1. William Friedkin's BUG

This creepy but not entirely successful 2006 psycho-thriller about paranoia and insect infestations was directed by William Friedkin, most famous for The Exorcist. Despite dealing with a few murders and plenty of craziness in its own plot, the crime it inspired was considerably more horrific and strange. In January, blaring headlines like "Millionaire executive unhinged by horror film killed daughter" announced the tragedy, apparently trigged as stressed-out insurance executive Alberto Izaga watched Bug in a theater with his wife. (It was the only movie playing that had available seats; perhaps this tragedy could've been avoided, ironically, if the film were more popular?) Soon after, his wife would find him babbling incoherently in the middle of the night, shouting about the film, the Devil and death. Experiencing what his wife would call an "extreme and sudden" breakdown, he bludgeoned his two-year-old daughter to death while yelling "God doesn't exist! The universe doesn't exist! Humanity doesn't exist!" Judged not guilty by reason of insanity, the judge passed sentence thusly: "This is a truly agonizing case. No sentence I pass can ever match the sentence you will pass on yourself."

2. The Matrix and the Landlady Effect

The Matrix and its many sequels are deadly films. Deadly not only in terms of pacing, plot development and believability (the sequels especially), but also, strangely, to landladies. Claiming they had been "sucked into the Matrix," a Swedish exchange student, Vadim Mieseges, and an Ohio woman, Tonda Lynn Ansley, attacked their landladies in an attempt to free themselves from mind control. Both plead (and were granted) insanity, and thus liberated from the Matrix (and, one would assume, their leases), they're "free" to spend the rest of their lives in mental hospitals.

3. Scream

Yes, even parodies of horror movies can inspire people to kill. In fact, the list of murders attributed to this film is shockingly long and the crimes especially grotesque; this truncated version is from Crimelibrary:

A boy and his cousin in Los Angeles obsessed with the film murdered his mother by stabbing her 45 times; a man wearing the mask shot and killed a woman in Florida; a boy in France killed his parents while acting as Ghostface; and in England, a pair of boys repeatedly stabbed a third one, claiming the film had prompted them to do it.

4. The Ten Commandments

heston.jpgAdmittedly, this isn't a film you'd expect to find on this list, nor associated with such brutal crimes. It was a more innocent time, perhaps: in 1959, a serial rapist and killer dubbed the "the Beast of the Black Forest" was striking fear into West German hearts. Caught when he carelessly took a bloodstained suit to a tailor for mending (and left behind a briefcase containing a sawed-off shotgun), under interrogation 23-year-old Heinrich Pommerencke would blame his lust crimes on Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, especially noting a scene in which scantily-clad women dance around a golden calf. (That's when he "knew he had to kill," he said.)

5. Taxi Driver

John Hinckley, Jr., President Reagan's would-be assassin in 1981, has the rare distinction of claiming he was influenced not only by a book (Catcher in the Rye, naturally) but a film: Taxi Driver. The latter certainly has more parallels to Hinckley's crime: Robert DeNiro stars as a lonely, obsessive taxi driver who hatches a plot to kill a prominent politician, but ends up unleashing his rage on a warren of local pimps, thus saving the waifish, gold-hearted prostitute played by Jodie Foster from a life of iniquity. Hinckley got the story a little backwards, claiming that he needed to shoot Ronald Reagan in order to "impress" real-life Foster (not a prostitute), with whom he was obsessed. (Nobody said psychos were logical.)

6. Natural Born Killers

060706_columbine_hmed_12p.h2.jpgThis film has the dubious distinction of having "inspired" more killings than perhaps any other; the real-life body count is likely higher than that of Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis' nihilistic killers in the film. They include a copycat Bonnie-and-Clyde style rampage which left one man dead and another woman paralyzed, a teenager's decapitation, a gang killing and two infamous school shootings -- Michael Carneal's Paducah, Kentucky rampage and Eric Harris and Dylan Kleibold's massacre at Columbine High School; the latter used the term "going NBK" in reference to their murderous plans.

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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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