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Where Are These 12 Boy Bands Now?

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Groups like One Direction, The Wanted, and Big Time Rush are keeping the legacy of boy bands alive, but lest we forget the previous generation of singing boys who captured our hearts, here's a look at what the boy bands of yesteryear are up to these days. (In keeping with this spirit, this piece was written while listening exclusively to the Backstreet Boys.)

1. New Edition (1978)

Harbingers of the boy bands to come, New Edition has stayed largely silent in the past few years. After the 2004 release of One Love, the group has performed sporadically at awards shows and music festivals. They are scheduled to release a comeback album, though no official date has been announced.


2. New Kids On the Block (1984)

Making the dreams of countless teenaged girls come true, in 2011 New Kids On the Block joined forces with the Backstreet Boys to tour as a super boy band, NKOTBSB. They released one self-titled album that featured songs from each individual group as well as joint recordings like “Don’t Turn Out the Lights.” The supergroup consisted of all members of both groups, save for Kevin Richardson of BSB and NKOTB’s Mark Wahlberg and Jamie Kelly, who left the group in the 1980s.


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3. Boyz II Men (1988)

After losing Michael McCary in 2003 due to his severe scoliosis, Boyz II Men continued as a threesome, releasing several albums including the cover albums Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA and Love. The group celebrated their 20th anniversary last year in style, cruising from Miami to the Bahamas and releasing Twenty, a two-CD album with a mix of original and rerecorded Boyz II Men songs.


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4. Take That (1990)

Following Robbie Williams’ return to Take That in 2010, the group’s Progress album broke records, becoming the fastest-selling album of the past century with 235,000 records selling on release day alone. They recorded the official single of the film X-Men: First Class in 2011, all while members pursued individual careers simultaneously. Gary Barlow spent two years judging on The X Factor, while Robbie Williams continued recording solo material. In 2012, Take That performed at the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, though Williams was not present as he was attending the birth of his daughter. Word on the street is that the band is working on a new record for 2013.


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5. Hanson (1992)


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Fifteen years after the release of “MMMBop,” the Hanson brothers are still making music and touring, most notably with Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. They were also featured in the music video for Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” keeping an impressive schedule for brothers who, between them, now have nine children of their own.


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6. soulDecision (1993)


Notable for receiving top 40 airplay before signing a record deal, soulDecision have all but disappeared into obscurity with other groups featured on Now That’s What I Call Music! 5. Their song on the compilation, “Faded,” was also the charting single of their album No One Does It Better. After opening for Christina Aguilera and *NSYNC, they released a second album, after which David Bowman, and then Trevor Guthrie, left the group. They have remained inactive since.

7. Backstreet Boys (1993)


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Though they allegedly prefer the term “vocal harmony group” to boy band, the Backstreet Boys remain the epitome of boy band goodness to countless girls who were in the third grade in 1998. Thankfully, they have managed to stretch their career successfully over the past two decades. BSB released Never Gone in 2005, after which Kevin Richardson left the group amicably and the four remaining members put out Unbreakable, which debuted in the top ten of the Billboard charts in 2007, as did 2009’s This Is Us. In 2012, BSB announced that Richardson rejoined the group and the five would be releasing their eighth album in 2013. “It’s Christmas Time Again,” the first song to feature all five members since 2006, was released last month.


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8. *NSYNC (1995)

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*NSYNC played their last televised performance in 2003, performing a tribute to the Bee Gees at the Grammy Awards, and they made their last public performance in 2004. In his 2007 autobiography, Lance Bass cited Justin Timberlake’s solo career as the main catalyst behind the band’s demise, though they never officially announced a breakup. Comments on the band’s potential reunion from JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone remain mixed. You can catch JT every once in a while on Saturday Night Live, in the movies, or trying to revamp MySpace.

9. 98 Degrees (1996)


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The guys who gave us “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” went on hiatus in 2002, after which, you no doubt recall, Nick Lachey married and starred in a reality TV series with Jessica Simpson. Response to rumors of a reunion between the members has been skeptical, but the band performed together twice in the past year, and reportedly they have been working on a new album—their first in 12 years.


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10. Dream Street (1999)

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The Dream Street boys broke up in 2002—and they are probably the only boy band to be disbanded by judicial decision. After a legal disagreement between their managers and their parents (which the parents lost), the boys were instructed to break up. Jesse McCartney has seen the most post-breakup success with three top ten singles and acting credits on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Summerland, and the movie Chernobyl Diaries.

11. O-Town (2000)


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Like One Direction, O-Town was formed during a reality show. Arising out of MTV’s Making the Band in 2000, the band broke up only three years later. Though several members moved on to solo careers, Ashley Parker Angel probably stayed most in the limelight with a reality TV show, a solo album, and a run as Link Larkin in the Broadway production of Hairspray. Rumors of the band reuniting sans-Angel surfaced in 2011, but thus far no album releases have been planned.

12. B2K (2001)

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After their four releases between 2002 and 2003, B2K all but disappeared. Lil’ Fizz and J-Boog launched a record label, Popular Entertainment, and J-Boog starred in You Got Served with Omarion. Omarion has continued to work on Rick Ross’ label Maybach Music Group. Raz B has reportedly written a memoir amid a stir of controversy, as it alleges molestation and homosexual acts by several prominent members of the rap community.

For 12-12-12, we’ll be posting twenty-four '12 lists' throughout the day. Check back 12 minutes after every hour for the latest installment, or see them all here.

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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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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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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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