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Even More Secrets from the Set of Roseanne

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When we left you last week we were in the midst of some Roseanne behind-the-scenes trivia. We now continue with all the facts that fit"¦or at least all those we couldn't fit in the first time.

Entering Season Three with Trepidation

Picture 224.pngThe San Diego Padres invited Roseanne to sing the National Anthem prior to a game against the Cincinnati Reds on July 25, 1990. Perhaps the first finger of blame should point at the Padres management "“ what were they thinking? Roseanne was a sitcom star, not a singer, and her speaking voice alone should have clued them in that she was no Barbra Streisand (or even no Ashlee Simpson). Nevertheless, Roseanne agreed to the gig and was flown via helicopter along with husband Tom Arnold to Jack Murphy Stadium. In one of his rare lucid moments, Tom peered out of the "˜copter at the crowd below and suggested to his wife (who had already made it clear that she intended to "have fun" with the anthem) that she may want to reconsider. "There are a lot of people out there," he warned her, "and they probably take the National Anthem very seriously." Roseanne shrugged off his warning and went ahead to screech "The Star Spangled Banner" off-key and capped off her performance by grabbing her crotch and spitting. She was unanimously trounced by the media the next day, with even then-president George Bush denouncing her performance as "disrespectful." Needless to say, the producers and sponsors of her show were nervous about the upcoming Season Three, due to start filming in a few days. Would the public remember the National Anthem debacle by the time the first show aired and boycott the series? In typical Roseanne fashion, she had her character poke fun at the situation, with Roseanne Conner announcing at the beginning of the season opener "It's such a beautiful morning today, it just makes me want to sing!" The spontaneous applause of the studio audience was an indication that all was forgiven.

Revolving Beckies

Picture 116.pngAlicia "Lecy" Goranson was the first and original Becky Conner. She left the series at the end of the end of Season Four in order to attend Vassar College full-time. Or so went the official explanation. However, several years later Roseanne was a guest on Howard Stern's radio show, and Robin Quivers asked her something along the lines of "Is it true Lecy Goranson left the show because she was being sexually harassed by one of the producers?" Roseanne was momentarily taken aback and asked, "Where did you hear that?" before quickly changing the subject. Goranson graduated from Vassar in 1996 with a degree in English (with a concentration in poetry). She re-appeared as Becky for what was supposed to be the final season of Roseanne, and then left the show again. Alicia (as she prefers to be called now) has appeared in a few films and on some TV shows, and was recently spotted reading tarot cards for money at the Gowanus Yacht Club in Brooklyn, New York.

Picture 126.pngSarah Chalke, who took over the role of Becky Conner after Lecy left (both times), expressed a desire in 2001 to take a break from acting in order to go to college. But later that same year she landed a co-starring role on the hit sitcom Scrubs.

The Chuck Cunningham Syndrome?

Picture 105.pngNatalie West was cast as Roseanne's best friend and co-worker, Crystal Anderson. Crystal was consistently unlucky in love (with several failed marriages in her past) and her character alternated between naïve and just plain goofy. The character of Crystal was conceived during the original "pitch" meetings before the Roseanne show was sold "“ after all, it's a golden rule of sitcoms that every main character needed a wacky friend or neighbor to "bounce" off. However, as the series progressed, it became evident that not only did Laurie Metcalf ("Jackie") and Roseanne Barr have better chemistry, it was also easier for the writers to concoct situations involving Roseanne and her sister than Roseanne and her best friend (especially since Crystal had a young son to care for). When Roseanne married Tom Arnold and he joined the cast as Arnie, Sandra Bernhard was brought aboard as Arnie's free-wheeling love interest (Nancy) in order to provide story lines for Roseanne's new hubby. With Jackie acting as Roseanne's best friend and Nancy providing the wackiness quotient, there wasn't much left for Crystal to do, so Natalie West was eliminated from the opening credits after Season Four and reduced to "recurring character" status.

She Looks the Same but She Isn't the Same

Picture 233.pngDuring the hiatus after Season Five, Roseanne treated herself to some major plastic surgery: face lift, nose job, cheek implants, eyes, chin, the works. Unfortunately her surgeon (according to Roseanne) sewed a scalpel inside her face and she had to undergo a second round of surgery to have it removed. As a result, she hadn't completely healed by the time filming for Season Six began. In the first few episodes, the heavy makeup she wore to cover the bruises gave her face an almost orangey glow

The 9th Ring of Sit-com: The Awful Season

Picture 135.pngSeason Nine was the final one for Roseanne, and it also marked the first time that the show failed to crack the top 25 in the Nielsen ratings. Not surprising, since the stories and characters had strayed far from their original Blue Collar premise. Sturdy, dependable Dan Conner suddenly left his family to head to California where he had an "almost" affair with a nurse. (This story arc was used to accommodate John Goodman's schedule; he had a burgeoning film career and hadn't wanted to return for the show's final season.) Then the Conners won $108 million in the Illinois lottery and went on a variety of bizarre spending spree-type adventures. Since the main source of comedy on the series was the family's never-ending struggle to pay their bills, this plot twist truly confounded the show's fans. However, there was some twisted Roseanne Barr reasoning behind the lottery episodes: she had purchased the U.S. rights to the hit British TV series Absolutely Fabulous, but had been unable to sell it to any of the major networks. So she simply turned her own show into Roseanne-Fab, and even had Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders guest star in one episode for those who didn't "get" the joke.

Shouldn't you "beep" when you backpedal that much?

Roseanne had been pummeled from all sides by critics, fans and Nielsen numbers during that disastrous ninth season, so in an effort to maintain some professional dignity and credibility, she used a classic TV escape valve: all those lousy episodes never really happened. During the season finale, it was revealed that all of the last season (and parts of earlier seasons) had come from the pen of Roseanne Conner, the writer. Roseanne's dream of becoming a writer had been mentioned often during the course of the series, so apparently it seemed logical to her to make much of her sitcom fodder for a book she'd been writing all along. Remember Dan's heart attack at Darlene's wedding? Turned out he'd actually died shortly afterward. His California affair was Roseanne's mind trying to reconcile the fact that he'd left her. After his death, she'd imagined what it would be like to have all the money in the world, hence the lottery episodes. By the way, Darlene actually married Mark and Becky married David, and Jackie was a lesbian"¦ Oh heck, it's easier if you just keep track on your own scorecard while you listen to Roseanne explain it all herself:
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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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