Original image

11 Classic Posters You Might've Had on Your Wall

Original image

Well, most likely you wouldn't have had all 11 of these iconic posters on your wall simultaneously, but if you grew up in a certain era you probably either owned or saw one of the following posted somewhere, whether in your own bedroom, on the wall of a dorm room, in a "hip" teacher's classroom, etc. Here are the stories behind those iconic posters:

1. Hang in There, Baby

There were hundreds of variations of a dangling kitten hanging in there, but this black and white poster was the original. Sadly, there is not much information to be found as to who created it; the copyright info leads to nothing but dead ends. However, one thing we can probably be certain of, as Marge Simpson noted when she saw the copyright date of 1968, is that the kitty model for the poster is either long dead or a candidate for Guinness World Records.

2. Farrah

The Pro Arts Company of Ohio was run by two brothers who specialized in selling youth-oriented posters. They hit pay dirt in the early 1970s when their "Fonzie" poster sold a quarter of a million copies. In early 1976, one of Pro Arts' founders heard from a friend that many of his dorm-mates at college were buying women's magazines just for the Wella Balsam shampoo ads that featured a blonde beauty named Farrah Fawcett. Pro Arts tracked down Fawcett and arranged a photo shoot beside the pool at her Bel-Air, California, home. Photographer Bruce McBroom used an Indian blanket that doubled as a seat cover in his Chevy as a backdrop. Farrah chose a red one-piece bathing suit in lieu of a bikini in order to cover a scar on her stomach. In the ultimate example of serendipity, between the time Farrah posed for the poster and its release in late 1976, she had been hired as one of Charlie's Angels and the first few episodes had aired. The free publicity provided by the show sent poster sales into the stratosphere, and made Pro Arts a multi-million dollar company.

3. Footprints

This is another poster that was reprinted in several thousand forms graphics-wise, but the poem remained basically the same: the narrator was chatting with the Lord about how when he imagined his life there were two sets of footprints in the sand, but during the lowest parts of his life there was only one set of prints. The Lord replied that those were the times when he was carrying the narrator. Sadly this inspirational verse has a very contentious history, with no less than four people vehemently insisting that they wrote the original poem. Oregon artist Burrell Webb claims that he composed the verse in 1958 after being dumped by his girlfriend. Mary Stevenson, who went on to first be a showgirl and then a nurse, states that she wrote the poem as a teenager in 1936 during the Great Depression. Evangelist Margaret Fishback Powers insists that she wrote the words in 1964 when her future husband proposed to her on the beach, and the verse became ever so meaningful to her in succeeding years when she was struck by lightning (twice), saw her daughter go over a 60-foot waterfall and her husband suffer a heart attack while rescuing her, and suffered a bout of meningitis. Carolyn Joyce Carty, who is one of the most litigious "authors" when it comes to the Footprints poem, says that she wrote the verse in 1963 at the age of six on an old Remington typewriter based on the Sunday school teachings of her aunt Ella.

4. Keep on Truckin'

Robert Crumb first drew the "Keep on Truckin'" cartoon in 1968 as part of the first issue of an underground comic called Zap. Crumb later confessed that he thought the "Truckin'" panel was the "dumbest page in the whole comic" but somehow the image caught on with the hippie counter-culture and took on a life of its own. On the advice of a friend, Crumb retained a lawyer and went after the biggest retailer of "Truckin'" merchandise, A.A. Sales, a company that was using the image on everything from posters to coffee mugs to bath mats. A lengthy legal battle ensued that resulted in Crumb receiving a whopping $750 settlement, but A.A. Sales disputed even that paltry amount and pursued the matter to federal court, utilizing a little-known defense known as "notice omission" – that is, Crumb had lost all claims to his drawing because he'd never included the little C in a circle copyright symbol along with his name and date. The case dragged on and on (and on) and even changed some copyright laws along the way, but R. Crumb ultimately stated that he'd had no intention of becoming a "greeting card artist for the counter-culture movement" – he never wanted to do "shtick."

5. Love is...

Kim Grove met Roberto Casali at a Los Angeles ski club in 1967. She drew little cartoons of a boy and girl together to document the budding romance and to give to Roberto as "love notes." Luckily Roberto kept all the drawings and submitted them to the Los Angeles Times, which published the first Love Is... panel on January 5, 1970. Soon the cartoon was syndicated worldwide and the subject of coffee mugs, T-shirts, and posters. In 1975, Roberto was diagnosed with cancer, and Kim made the then-controversial decision to have some of his sperm frozen for later use. A little over a year after Roberto passed away, Kim gave birth to their son Milo.

6. Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Today most folks view seagulls as nothing more than rats with wings, but back in 1972 one of those scavengers was the subject of a multi-million dollar franchise. Richard Bach's feel-good story Jonathan Livingston Seagull contained less than 10,000 words but sold more than 8,000,000 copies in hardcover and paperback, and various posters based on the warm fuzzy axioms in the novella were equally successful sellers.

7. Mark Spitz

Swimming superstar Mark Spitz was the first athlete to win seven gold medals at an Olympiad. When he posed for a poster wearing a Stars and Stripes Speedo and his medals, he became not only a household name but also a sex symbol. Look carefully at Spitz' famous poster and you'll notice his hand casually obscuring the "Speedo" logo. That's because he had a contract with German swimsuit manufacturer Arena at the time and was trying to avoid any "conflict of interest" lawsuits.

8. War Is Not Healthy...

Printmaker Lorraine Schneider sat at her Los Angeles work table one morning in 1966 and etched out a sunflower and a child-like anti-war slogan on a two-inch square piece of metal. The resulting poster sold millions of copies worldwide, but Schneider earned not one penny from it; shortly after she designed it, she gave all the rights to a small local group called Another Mother for Peace. AMP closed its offices in 1986, but the group was re-established in 2003 with the advent of the war in Iraq.

9. Peter Max

No bedroom was officially groovy or trippy enough without an official Peter Max poster. Max ushered in the psychedelic era of the 1960s with his vibrant colors, abstract stars and planets, and messages of love and peace. Max's artwork also powered 7-Up's 1968 "un-cola" advertising campaign.

10. Jaws

It took Bantam Books illustrator Roger Kastel six months to get the paperback cover illustration just right for the Peter Benchley book Jaws – none of the drafts seemed scary enough. Finally it was decided that the best way to get a good view of the great white shark's razor-sharp teeth was to picture him from underneath. Universal Pictures was so impressed with the final product that they agreed that it would be the only picture used in any promotional materials for the film.

11. Jim Morrison

Joel Brodsky photographed Jim Morrison in New York City for the 1967 "Young Lion" shoot. He later recalled that Jim had been drinking heavily the entire time and was stumbling around the studio, knocking lights over. Despite his faulty equilibrium, Morrison still managed to engage the camera; when the above photo appeared in The Village Voice, the paper received more than 10,000 requests for a print of it.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
Original image
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]