I know, I know -- the first rule of Book Club is, don't use Book Club as a verb! But seriously, I never thought I'd say this: I joined a book club. A sit-around-in-someone's-living-room-sipping-brandy-discussing-Jonathan-Franzen book club. For years, I didn't see the point; I had spent four years talking about books with groups of people at Kenyon College (the better of our seminars were even held in professors' living rooms), and as much as I'd enjoyed being an English lit major, it seemed like I'd had enough book discussions for a lifetime. I was wrong.
I finally let a friend talk me into joining her newly-formed club a few months ago, and now, just a handful of meetings into this thing, I think I understand why people do it. Part of it's the food-folks-and-fun aspect of it, since it's as much social as, for lack of a better word, educational, and there are generally snacks and a fermented beverage or two. Also I'm really proud of the name I came up with for our group: Fahrenheit Four-Fifty-Fun! But having read and discussed Freedom (two thumbs up!) and then Room (three thumbs up!), I think I'm hooked. I'm notorious for reading books quickly and then quickly forgetting what I'd read, but even thirty minutes of talking about what I read with other people seems to cement the thing in my mind in a whole new, much-harder-to-forget way. And, not to sound like an English lit major or anything, it forces you to "engage with the text" on a new level, even if you resort to using the always-dumb book group questions they sometimes include with the books (which are generally along the lines of "what would you have done differently if you were character X?").
So what I'd like to know is this: do you book club? (Gah, I verbed it again.) What do you get out of it? And why did it take me so long to try one? (Actually, don't worry about answering that last one.) If you'd prefer to let me know on Facebook or Twitter, you can do that, too.
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
BY Jay Serafino
January 16, 2018
You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.
Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.
The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”
The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.
With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’sin bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.
To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
BY Mental Floss UK
January 15, 2018
by Ryan Lambie
At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.
As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.
In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.
Could it be a coincidence?
Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.
Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).
Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?
When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”
In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”
So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.
Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.
The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.
Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.
It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.