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5 Graffiti Artists You Should Know

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British graffiti artist Banksy, who's been in the news quite a bit lately, is probably the most well-known graffiti artist of all time. He's also the only graffitist most people know by name. But there is a plethora of graffitists, both talented and not-so-talented, and some of them warrant just as much attention, if not more so, than Banksy. A few that top the list...

1. Lady Pink: Sandra Fabara

The Ecuador-born Sandra Fabara was raised in Queens, NY, and started creating graffiti in 1979, during her years at the High School of Art and Design. She quickly became the only female able to compete with the boys in the graffiti world. At the same time, she was already exhibiting paintings in art galleries. Her starring role in the movie Wild Style in 1982 made a national name for her and earned her a cult following. Since then, her works have been added to the collections of major museums. She now runs a legitimate mural company with her husband Smith, an artist.

2. Xenz: Graeme Brusby

Xenz.jpg Apparently, Graeme Brusby is "widely considered to be the UK's most important graffiti artist after Banksy." He's definitely one of the most Internet-friendly graffiti artists, with a web site, blog, Flickr photostream, MySpace, and fan forum. Brusby got into graffiti as a teen in the "˜80s, then studied at Edinburgh College of Art. Today, he's a member of "one of the UK's most admired graffiti art collectives," the TCF crew, and is frequently included in collaborations and exhibitions.

3. SABER

Saber.jpg The graffiti artist SABER is the creator of a giant work on the sloping cement bank of the Los Angeles River, supposedly the largest graffiti piece ever created. The 1997 piece required 97 gallons of paint, took 35 nights to complete, and is nearly the length of a football field—so large it can be viewed in satellite images. SABER has held a solo exhibition and released a monograph, and he's put his skills to use working for Harley-Davidson, Levi's, Hyundai, and Scion, among others.
(Photo from anarchosyn's Flickr stream.)

4. Tox: Daniel Halpin

Tox.jpg Daniel Halpin has gotten a reputation as London's "most prolific bomber" since his tag appears EVERYWHERE in the London rail system. His tag, consisting of "TOX" and then the last two digits of the year, is the most well-known tag in London. Apparently, 2003 was the apex of his tagging, with virtually every inch of the Metropolitan line covered in "Tox03." Then, in 2004, he was arrested. His graffiti, arrest, and trial were discussed in a Discovery Channel piece that same year. Despite the arrest, his tags have been spotted at least as recently as 2007.

5. Borf: John Tsombikos

Borf.jpg With the help of some friends, John Tsombikos, an art student, left his mark all over D.C., including a five-foot-high face and a 15-foot "BORF," in 2005. Much of his graffiti involved mysterious phrases like, "Borf writes letters to your children." There was also a recurring face, which is said to be the face of one of Tsombikos' friends, who went by the nickname Borf and had committed suicide. In D.C., Borf graffiti was ubiquitous, on walls and pillars and bridges and overpasses. Tsombikos remarked he felt powerful, "like Batman or something," when he heard people talking about his work. But, in July 2005, Borf came to an end when Tsombikos and two friends were arrested for defacing property.
(Photo from niznoz's Flickr stream.)

BONUS: For more graffiti fun, check out the Graffiti Project on Kelburn Castle, for which Brazilian artists were brought to Scotland to paint Kelburn Castle. The site has photos, videos, and more.

Know of any other talented, prolific, or otherwise interesting graffiti artists? Tell us about 'em!

(Click on the images above to see larger versions.)

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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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