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Anachronistic Memes: The Best of the Bayeux Tapestry

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The original Bayeux Tapestry is a huge embroidered panel illustrating the Battle of Hastings and other historical scenes surrounding the Norman conquest of England in the year 1066. It was crafted sometime between then and 1077. Because of its use of pictures to tell the story, it has been called "the first known British comic strip."

Today, we have an online generator called the Historic Tale Construction Kit, with which anyone can create a virtual tapestry that will say anything you want, illustrated with characters copied from the original Bayeux Tapestry. Unfortunately, I've never been able to access the gallery at the site, but the best creations make their way into the internet at large. Modern pop cultural references and internet memes make great tapestries.

526CSI

Lieutenant Horatio Caine of the TV show CSI: Miami invariably begins the story with a pair of sunglasses and a horrible pun. Things were no different in medieval times. Monorail has more tapestries illustrating various memes, parodies, and jokes, including a series of panels illustrating the song "My Milkshake" by Kelis, and an appearance by Pedobear.

400hand

With a little tweaking of the language, any pop culture phrase can be adapted as a Bayeux Tapestry.

This notice is a translation of "the cake is a lie", which was originally a reference to the game Portal, but is also used just as it is to comment on either a cake or a deception.

550Belair

The next three revised Bayeux Tapestry examples are from Encyclopedia Dramatica. There are more, but be warned that any page of the website may be NSFW. If you've ever been engrossed in a dramatic story posted online only to have it devolve into the theme from the TV show The Fresh Price of Bel Air, then you'll appreciate this adaptation.

450Doods

Gamers brought us the phrase "I'm in ur base, killin ur d00dz," which went super viral when applied to LOLcats. It also works well on a tapestry.

550taseme

University of Florida student Andrew Meyer was arrested at a John Kerry speech in 2007. As he was overpowered by police, he yelled, "Don't Tase me, Bro!" They tased him anyway. The quote became an instant catchphrase. This tapestry illustrates how the outburst may have been worded in the Middle Ages.

450trebuchet

I don't know the source of this joyous tapestry, but I can assume that Keith Bowman would have been excited to witness the Battle of Hastings.

550bayeauxrythms1

Bayeaux Rhythms is a webcomic that is entirely generated with the Historic Tale Construction Kit.

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In between regular jokes, Bayeux Rhythms has occasional panels that deal with the problems of moving from the old website and communicating modern ideas to characters who are stuck in the Middle Ages.

550GotBack

There is only one female character in the tapestry toolbox, which just leaves that much more room for lyrics. These translate into Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back".

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That one female character puts up with a lot of grief.

550twowenches

A certain pornographic video is better known for its shock effect than its desirability, which makes it ripe for mockery.

550mentlflss

Now see how simple this is? If I can put a tagline into language that vaguely resembles Middle English, you could easily come up with something much funnier! Try the Historic Tale Construction Kit yourself.

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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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