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11 Golden Girls References Explained for Younger Viewers

You'd better stock up on cheesecake: all seven seasons of The Golden Girls will be dropping on Hulu on February 13, 2017. For those of you who were too young to watch the show when it first aired, many of the topical references might seem like ancient history. Hopefully, with this handy reference guide, those reruns will be twice as funny in the future.

1. DANNY THOMAS

“I’ve never known any personally, but isn’t Danny Thomas one?”
“Not Lebanese, Blanche, Lesbian.” — Dorothy, to Blanche, "Isn't it Romantic?"

Danny Thomas was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz in Deerfield, Michigan, but grew up in Toledo, Ohio (also the hometown of fellow Lebanese-American actor Jamie Farr). When Thomas was struggling to make a name for himself in show business, he prayed to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, and pledged to make a shrine in his honor if he found success. Not long afterward, Thomas landed several regular roles on network radio shows, which ultimately led to his own long-running TV sitcom, Make Room for Daddy. Thomas went on to produce several other successful TV series and also founded the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

2. ISHTAR

“Let me tell you girls the three most important things I learned about life: Number one, hold fast to your friends; number two, there's no such thing as security; and number three, don't go see Ishtar. Woof.” —Sophia, "The Audit"

Ishtar is a 1987 comedy starring two box office powerhouses of that time, Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, as two untalented songwriters who get a gig performing in Morocco and somehow end up involved in some Cold War shenanigans. Directed by Elaine May, the film received a lot of negative press before it was released due to its enormous budget and reports of fights between the stars and director. It went on to become synonymous with “expensive box office bomb” and ended up on many “Worst of” lists.

3. DOUG HENNING

“Well Rose, do I look like the Mayor of Palm Springs?”
“Doug Henning is the Mayor of Palm Springs?” —Rose, to Sophia, "An Illegitimate Concern"

Doug Henning was a Canadian-born magician/illusionist who gained fame in the 1970s with his World of Magic TV specials, and eventually a Tony-nominated Broadway show.

4. FESS PARKER

“Rose, you know how uncomfortable I am in front of a camera. Besides, I always come out looking like Fess Parker.”
“Don't worry, Dorothy. This is a documentary; it's okay if you're not good looking.” —Rose, to Dorothy, "Whose Face Is This, Anyway?"

By NBC Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Actor Fess Parker was actually considered to be ruggedly handsome, but that’s probably not the ideal look for a woman. Parker played both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett on two different TV series in the 1950s and '60s.

5. HEE-HAW

“Rose, I've never met anyone quite like you.”
“Check the cornfield on Hee-Haw.” —Sophia, to Rose's boyfriend Miles, "Triple Play"

Hee-Haw was a long-running (over 20 years in first-run syndication) comedy/variety show that was a rural version of Laugh-In. Each episode was filled with hayseed humor (a recurring skit featured cast members trading one-liners in a makeshift cornfield) and the top country music stars of the day.

6. SUSAN HAYWARD AND ANITA BRYANT

“This is more moving than Susan Hayward's climatic speech in I Want To Live!
“You're ready to fly right out of here, aren't you?”
“Well excuse me for living, Anita Bryant!” —Caterer, to Blanche, "Sophia's Wedding: Part 1"

Susan Hayward won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Barbara “Bloody Babs” Graham, a former prostitute and small-time crook who gets involved with a gang of men that commit a murder. Badgered by the press and represented by poor legal counsel, Graham was ultimately sentenced to the gas chamber.

A former Miss America finalist, Anita Bryant became the spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission in 1969 and appeared in a series of TV commercials singing the praises of orange juice. Then in 1977 she led a highly publicized campaign to repeal a Dade County, Florida, ordinance that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Her statements equating homosexuals with child molesters resulted in a national backlash that, for many years, made “Anita Bryant” a common insult directed at any person displaying an intolerance for homosexuality.

7. BURL IVES

"That child over there is trying to steal my daddy away. She ain't better but a tick on a slow moving hound dog.”
“Why is everyone around here talking like Burl Ives?” —Dorothy, to Blanche, "Big Daddy's Little Lady"

Burl Ives wasn’t born in the south, strictly speaking, but rather southern Illinois. However, early in his career, he gained fame as a folk singer with such homespun hits as “Bluetail Fly,” “The Foggy, Foggy Dew,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” He later acted in films and on television, and is probably best remembered today for his holiday hit “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and his narration of the annual TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

8. SHINOLA

"You know, back in Minnesota, I was known as the Sherlock Holmes of St. Olaf.”
“Figured out which one was Shinola, did you, Rose?”
“The hard way.” —Rose, to Dorothy, "The Case of the Libertine Belle"

Shinola was a brand of shoe polish. In the 1940s, a popular colloquialism to describe someone’s naiveté was, “He doesn’t know sh*t from Shinola.” Perhaps that’s why the brand eventually went out of business; the Shinola folks couldn’t come up with an advertising slogan that was more memorable than the insult. 

9. THE PLO

“Maybe you ought to join an organization that is a little less fanatical in its devotion, honey.”
“Oh, like what, Blanche, the PLO?” —Dorothy, to Blanche, "Sophia's Wedding"

The Palestine Liberation Organization is a paramilitary organization founded in 1964 and was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist group until the Madrid Conference in 1991.

10. YASSER ARAFAT

“You grow a beard, Dorothy! Believe me, I woke up one morning, I looked like Arafat!" —Sophia, to Dorothy, "End of the Curse"

Getty Images

When Sophia discussed the effects of menopause, she name-dropped Yasser Arafat, the longtime leader of the PLO, who was also known for his distinctive chin stubble. (Even younger viewers should probably understand this one.)

11. DAVID HOROWITZ

“I'm sorry, Dorothy, it's all my fault. I misunderstood the brochure.”
“'Fun in the buff at a mountain retreat! Hike, swim, and play volleyball while the sun beats down on your fanny!’ Call David Horowitz; I mean, how can they get away with this misrepresentation!” —Dorothy, to Rose, "Valentine's Day"

Consumer advocate David Horowitz used to host a TV show called Fight Back. He specialized in exposing false advertisements, shady business practices, and outright rip-offs.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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!

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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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