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Reviewing The Wrestling Album

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You'll pay to watch your favorite wrestlers fake-fight, but will you shell out your hard-earned cash to hear them really sing? The Wrestling Album, a 1985 release by the World Wrestling Federation, sought to answer that question. As part of our ongoing commitment to exhaustively covering ill-conceived novelty records by athletes, let's take a track-by-track look at this classic.

Track 1 "“ "Land of a Thousand Dances ?!!?"

Most albums try to open with a strong track to grab the listener's interest. This is not most albums, just as most song covers don't need incredulous punctuation. This dud opens with a whole slew of wrestlers warbling the rock staple with slightly modified lyrics. The wrestlers start grunting, bleating, and choking out individual lines before giving way to another grappler. Years later, it's hard to identify a lot of individual wrestlers' voices, though some come through loud and clear—particularly Freddie Blassie's and the Iron Sheik's. (It's probably a good thing the Sheik was handy with a camel clutch, because his earning potential as a singer would have been limited.)

The aural pain isn't quick, either; the song drags on for over four minutes and gets worse as it progresses with lyrics like "I wanna pound on your wimpy little body/How could you? You're so dang shoddy." Amazingly, this isn't the worst track on the record.

Can anyone stop this madness? Only Rowdy Roddy Piper, who throws an on-tape hissy fit that introduces one of the album's running conceits: between-track commentary by the WWF announcer team of Vince McMahon, "Mean Gene" Okerlund, and Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Ventura remains in his snotty heel character throughout the record and turns in a truly egregious bit of vocal overacting that's worth the price of the album.

Track 2 "“ "Grab Them Cakes" by Junkyard Dog

14.jpgThe late Junkyard Dog was a man of many talents. He could wear a chain and dog collar and make it look good. He could bodyslam much larger opponents. And he could apparently record a decent song. "Grab Them Cakes," which sees JYD get backing from disco queen Vicki Sue Robinson, is a surprisingly serviceable mid-"˜80's dance track. More impressively, JYD decided to take on a socially important issue in his song: butt-grabbing. (He's strongly in favor of it, it seems.) The Dog is ostensibly providing dancing instructions in the song, but all you have to do is "dig the groove" and "go for your partner's you-know-what." Plus, there's a lot of gratuitous barking, which really helps it stand out from the other dance tracks of its day.

"Grab Them Cakes" was released as a single, and it was successful enough to earn Junkyard Dog a spot on American Bandstand, an opportunity no other wrestler ever received.

Track 3 "“ "Real American" by Rick Derringer

Thanks to this song, no one who spent their formative years watching classic WWF television will ever forget how important it is to "fight for what's right. Fight for your life." Derringer's repetitive guitar rock track later earned a place in wrestling fans' memories when it became Hulk Hogan's entrance music. Even now, it's sort of hard to hear it without cupping a hand to your ear.

Interestingly, though, the song wasn't originally intended for Hogan. As Vince McMahon's between-track commentary reveals, "Real American" was supposed to be the theme music for U.S. Express, a champion tag team of Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda. The Hulkster didn't get start using the song until after the tag team broke up in 1986. Still, though, to the modern ear, this sounds like a deliciously nostalgic big boot to the face.

It's worth listening for the backing vocals of one Mona Flambe. "Flambe" was the pseudonym Cyndi Lauper used to record on this track, a ruse that might have worked marginally better if she didn't have such a distinctive voice and clear ties to the WWF.

Track 4 "“ "Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield" by Jimmy Hart

5.jpgHart, the "Mouth of the South" and pesky manager to wrestlers like the Honky Tonk Man, could really sing, and not just in a "He's not so bad on a WWF record" sense, either. Before Hart ever got into wrestling, he was a vocalist in the Gentrys, a rock band that charted a #4 Billboard hit with its million-selling "Keep on Dancing" in 1965.


Armed with this vocal pedigree and his brand of high-strung humor that endeared him to so many wrestling fans, Hart lays down a diss track on, you guessed it, Rick Springfield. Hart's beef with Springfield isn't totally clear, but it seems to stem from Springfield's stated fondness for girlfriend-stealing.

The track starts out strong with Hart voicing both sides of a conversation between himself and his girlfriend's mother before turning into a competent piece of guitar rock that bears more than a passing resemblance to Springfield's "Jessie's Girl." Although the chorus is more stilted than catchy, Hart acquits himself pretty well here, and it's definitely one of the better tracks on the record.

Track 5 "“ "Captain Lou's History of Music/Captain Lou" by Captain Lou Albano

1.jpgA few paragraphs ago I promised that "Land of a Thousand Dances?!!?" wasn't the worst track on this album. It's truly terrible, but it takes this bomb less than a minute to usurp the throne of awfulness.


The song begins with a lengthy conversation between George "The Animal" Steele and Albano on the history of music before segueing into "Captain Lou," which is apparently a modified cover of an NRBQ song. There's really no good way to describe this track; it's like a tone-deaf Cookie Monster got drunk, took a bunch of stimulants, then waddled into a karaoke bar to scream "Captain Lou, Captain Lou, Captain Lou!" while George Steele moaned in the background. I suppose there's an outside possibility that this isn't the worst piece of music ever recorded, but I'd be willing to bet one of my paired organs that it is.

We'll put an audio clip up here, but I wouldn't recommend listening to it. There's an off chance it could get stuck in your head and drive you to madness.

Track 6 "“ "Hulk Hogan's Theme" by the WWF All Stars

There's not much to say about Hulk Hogan's pre-"Real American" theme song, a nondescript arena rock instrumental that's heavy on keys, wailing guitars, and explosions. It sounds pretty much like any other babyface wrestler's theme song. In this case, though, it's notable for its length: four minutes. Really, the track gets its point across in the first two minutes, and by about the four-minute mark, even the most die-hard Hulkamaniac is probably wishing they hadn't torn off their shirt so early in the song. As a reward for making it through the whole thing, the listener gets to hear Jesse Ventura vomiting in disgust during the commentary track. Now that's showmanship!

Track 7 "“ "For Everybody" by Rowdy Roddy Piper

10.jpgThis one's sort of hard to wrap your head around, but bear with me. In the song, Piper is a Canadian guy playing a Scottish guy trying to sing like a backwoods American singer who's had one too many jars of whiskey. Piper, the WWF's most hated heel at the time, apparently recorded this track as a way of showing his utter contempt for the rest of humanity. Since the promotion catered to children, though, he couldn't sing his real message of "F--- Everybody," so it was neutered to "For Everybody." Not only does this little clean-up job really neuter the viciousness of Piper's message, it makes the sax-heavy song downright confusing. What is for everybody? It's not really clear. What we do know is that Piper still wants us to "kiss [his] trash."

Track 8 "“ "Tutti Frutti" by "Mean" Gene Okerlund

mean-gene.jpgIf this song doesn't make you laugh, you might be legally dead. After all, who better to cover Little Richard than a small, bald, mustachioed wrestling announcer? Okerlund's actually not a bad singer, and he enthusiastically throws himself into the song. The final product is pleasantly surprising, like finding out the creepy old guy who hangs out at the karaoke bar can actually belt one out. The underlying concept of Mean Gene covering Little Richard, though, is too hilarious to overcome, so instead of sounding like a musical triumph, it's the record's comedic high point.

Track 9 "“ "Don't Go Messin' With a Country Boy" by Hillbilly Jim

Thought this was just a rock record? Think again. Hillbilly Jim turns in this track, and while he can't really sing, it's impressive to see just how many country stereotypes the producers crammed into less than three minutes. Fiddles? Check. Down-home backup singers? Got "˜em. Banjo? Yep. Copious use of the Jew's harp? Oh, God, yes. References to moonshine? Abundant. Hillbilly Jim warns listeners of the terrible fate that will befall anyone who might have the audacity to mess with a country boy: "You'd be biting off a hunk too big to chew." Really? That's it? Give it points for being understated, but that doesn't really provide much of a deterrent to messing with a country boy.

Track 10 - "Cara Mia" by Nikolai Volkoff

volkov.jpgThe great thing about wrestling is that no matter how absurd it gets, it can always top itself. The rest of the album might have been bizarre, but the final track kicks things into surreal territory. Volkoff, the WWF's premier "Soviet" heel at the time, recording a dance cover of "Cara Mia" sounds odd, but his earnest voice nearly saves it from being pure camp.


At just under the two-minute mark, though, Volkoff "goes berserk," stops singing, and starts screaming about how he'll show you music with class: Russian music. He then starts an exuberant rendition of the Russian national anthem, much to the disgust of McMahon and Okerlund.

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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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Name the Author Based on the Character
May 23, 2017
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