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8 Pseudonyms Famous Writers and Directors Used in Movie Credits

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Just because you created the work doesn’t mean you want credit for it. Sometimes directors, writers, and actors use pseudonyms to protect their true identity for works they are not proud of, while other various reasons include modesty, religious and political persecution, and just sheer entertainment value. Here are eight movie pseudonyms you may not have known.

1. Pseudonyms: Peter Andrews, Mary Ann Bernard, and Sam Lowry

Real Name: Steven Soderbergh

Director Steven Soderbergh often writes his own movies and works as his own cinematographer and editor. The 50-year-old director doesn’t like to see his name used multiple times, so he adopted the practice of using pseudonyms for his various movie credits.

While working on the film Traffic in 2000, Soderbergh wanted to use the credit “Photographed and Directed by,” but the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has firm rules against credits between a writer’s credit and a director’s, so Soderbergh decided to use the pseudonym “Peter Andrews” (his father’s first and middle name). He has since used the pseudonym “Mary Ann Bernard” (his mother’s maiden name) for his editing credits, starting with his 2002 film Solaris. At times, Soderbergh also used the pseudonym “Sam Lowry” as a writer’s credit.

2. Pseudonyms: Ian McLellan Hunter and Robert Rich

Real Name: Dalton Trumbo 

In 1947, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) blacklisted Dalton Trumbo for suspected involvement with the Communist Party. Unable to work in Hollywood, Trumbo used the pseudonyms “Ian McLellan Hunter” and “Robert Rich” to continue as a screenwriter. In fact, Ian McLellan Hunter and Robert Rich received Academy Awards for Best Writing for the films Roman Holiday in 1954 and The Brave One in 1957. Dalton Trumbo was later given the Academy Award for The Brave One in 1975, one year before he died. Years later, Trumbo posthumously received the Academy Award for Roman Holiday in 1992.

3. Pseudonym: Douglas Sirk

Real Name: Hans Detlef Sierck

Regarded as a very popular writer and director in pre-war Europe, Hans Detlef Sierck changed his name to “Douglas Sirk” when he fled Nazi Germany to the United States with his Jewish wife in 1937. Douglas Sirk’s career flourished in the States; he made colorful and lush melodramas including Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, and A Time to Love and a Time to Die. Sirk remained an influence on the next generation of directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pedro Almodóvar, Wong Kar-Wai, and Todd Haynes.

4. Pseudonym: Bob Robertson

Real Name: Sergio Leone 

Afraid that American audiences wouldn’t accept a western made in Italy, Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone changed their names to “Bob Robertson” and “Dan Savio” on A Fistful of Dollars in 1967. The film was a big hit in America for its genre bending conventions and heavily violent nature. The film also birthed the popularity of the “Spaghetti Western,” or Italian Western genre in the United States, and Sergio Leone went back to using his real name on all of his future films. 

5. Pseudonym: Roderick Jaynes

Real Names: Joel & Ethan Coen

The Coen Brothers work together as a filmmaking duo: Joel takes the directing credit, while Ethan takes the producing credit, and both share the writing. But when it comes to editing, the Coens decided to use the pseudonym “Roderick Jaynes,” so their names wouldn’t appear multiple times in their films' credits. Roderick Jaynes has twice been nominated for Academy Awards, for his editing work in the films Fargo and No Country For Old Men.

6. Pseudonym: Donald Kaufman

Real Name: Charlie Kaufman

Writer Charlie Kaufman shared a writing credit with his late twin brother, Donald, on the film Adaptation, which was directed by Spike Jonze (real name: Adam Spiegel; the pseudonym is a reference to musician and bandleader Spike Jones). The Kaufman brothers were both nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2003. If he won, Charlie Kaufman would have received both of the Oscars—because Donald never actually existed.

7. Pseudonym: Woody Allen

Real Name: Allan Stewart Konigsberg

Born Allan Stewart Konigsberg, “Woody Allen” changed his name to Heywood Allen at the age of 17 after a traumatic experience at an inter-faith summer camp as a child. He later started to write for The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show at age 19, before becoming a playwright and a prominent writer and director. 

8. Pseudonym: Alan Smithee

Real Name: Any Director Who Doesn’t Want Credit For A Movie 

The Director’s Guild of America (DGA) invented a pseudonym for directors who had lost creative control on a film’s production and wanted their names off the final version of the movie. “Alan Smithee” was a way for directors to have a “clean” resume divorced from terrible movies. The first use of the pseudonym was on the film Death of a Gunfighter, which Robert Totten and Don Siegel directed separately in 1969.

The DGA retired the Alan Smithee pseudonym in 2000 with Kiefer Sutherland’s use of it on the film Woman Wanted. Other “notable” Alan Smithee uses were David Lynch’s directing credit on the extended edition of the movie Dune, Michael Mann’s credit on the edited for television versions of Heat and The Insider, and Steve Langley’s work on the animated feature film Mighty Ducks The Movie: The First Face-Off. Director Paul Verhoeven used the pseudonym “Jan Jensen” (a Dutch variation of Alan Smithee) on the edited for television version of Showgirls.

Although officially retired, the pseudonym continues to be used as TV, music video, and video game credits.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.