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The Quick 10: 9 Movies and Shows Affected by the Hays Code

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It was this day in 1930 that the Motion Picture Production Code (AKA the Hays Code) went into effect, imposing a set of strict guidelines on Hollywood that are laughable today ("Revenge shall not be justified," "The use of liquor when not required by the plot will not be shown," "Obscenity in word, gesture, reference, song joke or by suggestion is forbidden"). We may not realize it, but most movies from 1930 to the mid-"˜60s had to make concessions for this code "“ here are nine you may recognize, and one that managed to sneak by the censors.

1. It Happened One Night. This Oscar-winner was one of the first to really adhere to the code and was richly rewarded for it. The code prohibited basically even the smallest hint of lust or passion ("Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown," and "[Scenes of Passion] should not be introduced when not essential to the plot"). So when the script called for Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert to be stuck in a motel room together, they did it in the most chaste way possible: a blanket was hung between the two beds in the room and Claudette wore a set of pajamas that covered everything but her face. When Clark Gable gave her a "lesson" on how a man undresses, she freaked out. The movie became the first to hit the Oscar Grand Slam "“ it won Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

2. The Outlaw. This movie was kept out of theaters simply because the advertising featuring Jane Russell's cleavage was too racy. Director Howard Hughes threw an absolute fit and ended up cutting a total of 30 seconds from the movie that featured too much décolletage. The movie hit theaters for about seven days in 1943, two years after filming was complete. The Hays office decided it was still too risqué and the movie was yanked, not receiving a full release until 1946. It was such a controversial film by then that it was a massive success.

3. Anything featuring Betty Boop. Pre-Hays Code, Betty was a flapper who liked short skirts and low necklines. Post Hays-Code, Betty wore skirts to the knee, ditched the garter belt in favor of leg-covering stockings, and favored practically prudish necklines.
4. Casablanca. Joseph I. Breen, the head of the Production Code Administration, personally objected to any reference in Casablanca about Rick and Ilsa having possibly slept together in Paris. Although they still managed to get the point across, the original version was not so subtle.

5. I Love Lucy. It's pretty hard to have a pregnant main character without ever uttering the word, but Lucy managed to do it to appease the Hays people. They usually used the word "expecting." Lucy and Ricky maintained separate beds on the show for the same reason, which makes you wonder how they found themselves "expecting" in the first place.

6. Anything with Fatty Arbuckle. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle was involved in a scandal involving the suspicious death of a young starlet not long before the Code was implemented. In fact, this was part of the reason for the Code "“ some felt Hollywood was getting out of hand with the sex, drugs and drinking (sound familiar?) and that morals needed to be re-instilled. One of Will Hays' first acts was to ban Fatty from the movie industry entirely. Hays recanted later the same year but the damage was already done "“ Arbuckle's career never returned to the heights it had reached before his scandal and blacklisting.

7. Gone With the Wind. Ever wondered why the childbirth scene in GWTW is so tiptoed around? Now you know. The Hays Code very specifically said, "Scenes of actual child birth, in fact or in silhouette, are never to be presented." So I guess the fact that the birth was even shown in shadow was a pretty big deal. Also a big deal? That famous line, "Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn." It was quite the accomplishment to get that one tiny four-letter word past the Production Code Administration. It was kept in because the swearing stayed true to the original novel.

8. Monkey Business. Groucho Marx was pretty good at innuendo "“ so good, in fact, that he barely had to say anything at all to upset the Production Code Administration. There's a line in Monkey Business that should have gone, "I know, you're a misunderstood woman who's been getting nothing but dirty breaks. Well, we can clean and tighten your breaks, polish your frame and oil your joints, but you have to stay in the garage all night." The Hays Office felt this was all too much and made them chop the references to polishing the frame and oiling the joints.

9. The Bad Seed. In book about a little girl with an evil mind, the girl's mother kills herself and attempts to kill her daughter at the end. The daughter survives to (presumably) kill another day. In the movie version, however, the mom survives and the girl is killed by a bolt of lightning. This is because the Hays Code forbade the glamorization of crime or making it seem as if a life a crime paid "“ so the good mother dying and the evil daughter surviving was a big no-no. Apparently the Hays Office was willing to overlook a curse word in the name of staying true to a novel, but not murder.

10. The Gang's All Here. Sometimes the things the Production Office would overlook were pretty baffling. This film is a perfect example. Although Groucho Marx was forbidden from making references to "frames" and "oil," it was perfectly acceptable for Carmen Miranda and a bunch of scantily-clad ladies to do the "banana dance" suggestively around a bunch of five-foot-tall bananas. Talk about innuendo! The movie was even banned oversea but the Hays Office let it slide. Hmm. Giant bananas at 3:40, if you don't want to wait:

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]