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5 Stars Who Badmouthed Their Own TV Shows

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Two and a Half Men’s Angus T. Jones isn’t the first actor to publicly bash his own show. (Jones, who called the show "filth" earlier this week, has since backpedaled and apologized.) Here are a few other stars of series past who couldn’t resist airing their grievances.

1. I Am Not Spock. OK, Maybe I Am.


Leonard Nimoy was a relative unknown when he landed the role of Mr. Spock on Gene Roddenberry’s new sci-fi series Star Trek. While most struggling actors would welcome the promise of a regular paycheck, Nimoy began kvetching as soon as filming for the pilot was underway. He thought the pointy ears would be a career-killer and refused to wear them. He eventually relented and, much to everyone’s surprise, after a few episodes were broadcast it became evident that Spock, not Captain Kirk, was the fan favorite. Nimoy was mobbed by teenage girls, he recorded albums, and he decided that the Star Trek scripts were no longer up to par—the writers simply didn’t understand the complex character he’d created and were turning him into a buffoon. He made his displeasure known in countless interviews at the time and was reportedly relieved when the series was cancelled in 1969. He tried to distance himself from his Vulcan alter-ego and even entitled his autobiography I Am Not Spock. But he ultimately appeared in six (and direct two) Star Trek feature films years later, and released a second book, I Am Spock, in 1995.

2. Am I Blue?


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Sharon Lawrence apparently didn’t grasp the concept behind an “ensemble cast,” since she griped from the beginning that her role as Assistant D.A. Sylvia Costas on NYPD Blue wasn’t big enough. During a hiatus from filming she did a guest spot on Caroline in the City and NBC was impressed enough with her comedic talents that they offered to star her in her own sitcom, Fired Up. The series debuted on September 22, 1997, and was cancelled in February 1998. Lawrence went back to NYPD Blue, even though she’d previously told the press that “there was no meaningful place” left for her on the series. After a few episodes were in the can, she told reporters at an ABC reception that she would not stay with the show unless she was given significantly better material. The producers solved the problem by writing her character out of the series for good at the end of season six.

3. Bad Times


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Good Times was supposed to be a starring vehicle for Esther Rolle, who had played the character of Florida Evans for two seasons on Maude. Unfortunately, the initial premise of a nuclear African-American family struggling to make ends meet was soon overshadowed by the popularity of Jimmie “J.J.” Walker. Suddenly, every plot centered around J.J.’s latest money-making scheme, and Rolle compared his pop-eyed jive-talking persona to a modern-day minstrel show. In a 1975 Ebony magazine interview, the actress lamented, “He’s 18 and he doesn’t work. He can’t read or write. He doesn’t think. The show didn’t start out to be that… Little by little—with the help of the artist, I suppose, because they couldn’t do that to me—they have made J.J. more stupid and enlarged the role. Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child.” Rolle left the series when her contract was up, but was wooed back a year later with a salary increase and a promise of better story lines.

4. When In Doubt, Pout


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Richard Dawson’s flagging career got a major boost when he became a regular panelist on the Match Game. Impish, irreverent and intelligent, he quickly became a favorite both with the audience and with contestants. In 1976, producer Mark Goodson hired Dawson to host a new game show, Family Feud, which was an immediate hit that eventually beat Match Game in the ratings. Filming five Feuds per day followed by five Match Games was taking its toll on Dawson, and he asked to be released from his Match Game contract. The producers refused, however, since Richard was still a major draw for their show. To add insult to exhaustion, the producers also tweaked the format of Match Game and installed the “Star Wheel”; no longer could a contestant choose a celebrity for the “head-to-head match” round, they had to rely on the luck of a wheel spin. This move essentially stole Dawson’s spotlight, as he had almost always been the default choice in that round. He openly rebelled by almost completely withdrawing from the proceedings; he no longer bantered or joked around, but simply displayed his answer when called upon. His somber persona did not go unnoticed by his fans, as can be seen in this 1978 episode.

5. Thanks, Sort Of


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Penn Badgley is certainly grateful to Gossip Girl for making him a star, but he is also quick to assure folks that he really didn’t want the role of Dan Humphrey in the first place, he never liked the character in the second place, and he wasn’t a bit sorry to hear that season six would mark the end of the series. "I wouldn't be here without Gossip Girl, so I will always be in debt and grateful. And I've said some [stuff] that … I don't regret it, but I'm just maybe too honest about it sometimes,” he said earlier this year. He also mentioned that he initially turned down the role because he’d been on several other CW network shows already and that Dan Humphrey just seemed like “more of the same,” but his parents and managers ultimately told him “you need this, man.”

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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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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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