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The Late Movies: Reggie Watts, the Beat-boxing, Singing, Dancing Comedian

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Reggie Watts is an entertainer with something for everyone, but what's weird is that he's awesome at everything he does. He's a world-class musician, standup comedian, dancer, playwright, and actor...you name it, he's done it, and he's done it shockingly well. He's probably best known for his beat-boxing musical improvisation, though this post will show you a little of everything. Please note: most of these videos contain a lot of swearing. That's why it's the Late Movies, y'all.

I Just Want To (Beat-boxing/singing/DJ)

One man, a sampler, and a microphone...this is a good example of what Watts does live. Sweet and soulful. His vocal style towards the end seems to channel Bobby McFerrin.

TakeYouOut (Skit)

In this street skit, a confrontation takes an unexpected turn. "They got these salads there man, they [expletive] bad-ass."

TakeYouOut from Reggie Watts on Vimeo.

Pop Tech Performance (Beat-boxing + Singing + Standup + Pseudo Tap-Dancing)

Live at the Pop! Tech conference. I really enjoy the standup -- the first part is reminiscent of the running gags in Stella where they intentionally mispronounce something for no reason. There's a part 2 that's well worth your time.

Big Muff (Beat-boxing + Crazy Visuals)

Director/videographer Jake Lodwick writes: "Reggie Watts fooling around in a feedback loop with his new reverb box. We set up a mirror so he could watch himself and interact with the colors live!" Note: "Big Muff" is the name of a famous distortion pedal for electric guitar and bass.

Reggie Watts: BIG MUFF from Jake Lodwick on Vimeo.

Love and Sandwiches (Live Performance with Piano)

A heartfelt song about Reggie's woman making some sweet sandwiches, but he has some problems with the bread.

Live at the Comedy Central Stage, 2006 (Standup + Singing)

This is straightforward indie/intellectual standup, followed by a fake Egyptian child's song, followed by a history lesson, followed by a discussion of robo-tripping, followed by...well, just go with it.

[Expletive] [Expletive] Stack (Music Video)

Watts takes a collection of words you can't say on TV and makes a song out of them, complete with a signature dance. It's a beautiful parody/celebration of rap videos. Sample lyrics: "Yo. Word. Adjective. Pronoun. Adverb. Run-on-and-on-and-on. Where my gerunds at? (Parenthetical.) [TONS OF EXPLETIVES.]" There's even a reference to The Shining.

LOOSEWORLD x Waverly Films: Reggie Watts in F_CK SH_T STACK from LOOSEWORLD on Vimeo.

Monday Night Standup (Standup + Beat-boxing + Rap)

Sort of a predecessor to the video above, preceded by some brief project management-related standup comedy. Watts's performance is interrupted/concluded by some Slim-Jim performance art.

Lots More

There's tons at YouTube and tons more on his Vimeo page. He also has a new CD/DVD album out.

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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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