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18 Fan Art Tributes to Tony Soprano

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HBO

Yesterday, actor James Gandolfini died suddenly at the age of 51. While he played many great roles throughout his career, the one he will be best remembered for is his impressive portrayal of gangster Tony Soprano.  In honor of Gandolfini’s most famous character, here are some fantastic pieces of fan art immortalizing the intimidating waste management consultant.


Drawing by DeviantArt user Do-Down

Gandolfini was born to a father who was a native of Borgotaro, Italy and a mother who was born in the USA, but raised in Naples. Both of his parents were devout Roman Catholics and they constantly spoke Italian while at home. As a result, Gandolfini had close ties to his Italian heritage and often visited the country of his ancestors.


Digital art by DeviantArt user kgreene

In high school, Gandolfini was voted “Class Flirt” in his school yearbook. As a teen, he played basketball and acted in school plays, though he didn’t fall in love with acting right away.


Drawing by DeviantArt user honey-vinegar

Gandolfini earned a Communications degree at Rutgers University, where he also worked as a bouncer at the student pub. After college, he moved to NYC and worked as a bartender and club manager. It wasn’t until he went to an acting class with a friend of his that he realized that he wanted to break into the business.


Drawing by DeviantArt user LFalco

He got his first big role in 1992, when he was cast in a Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire beside Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange.


Drawing by DeviantArt user dtwolf

His career really took off after his first big screen performance as terrifying henchman in 1993’s True Romance. While he wasn’t a main character in the film, his chilling scene with Alabama was one of the most memorable parts of the movie.


Portrait by DeviantArt user Mark137

In 1995, he worked with the director of True Romance again, this time in Crimson Tide. Again, he played an intimidating tough guy. As The Daily Beast points out, “Gandolfini, again, stole every scene he was in as the imposing henchman who had no problem doing Capt. Ramsay’s dirty work.”


Digital painting by DeviantArt user davidbrooker

"He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that," David Chase, who created The Sopranos, said in a statement. "He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time.  A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes."


Digital art by DeviantArt user Cowboy-Lucas

In 1995, Gandolfini starred in Get Shorty alongside John Travolta and Gene Hackman. This role gave Gandolfini his first chance to show off his comedic talents, rather than just acting as an intimidating monster.


Drawing by DeviantArt user HoneyOats

Of course, it was Gandolfini’s role in The Sopranos that made him truly famous. The show premiered in 1999 and lasted six seasons. In all, there were 86 episodes showing the difficulties faced by mob boss Tony Soprano as he tried to balance his position in organized crime and his role within his own family.


Caricatures by DeviantArt user Elninger

"Jimmy was the spiritual core of our Sopranos family, and I am stunned at this devastating loss," Albrecht, former CEO of HBO and current CEO of Starz, said in a statement. "He was a great talent, but an even better man. My thoughts are with his family.”


Drawing by DeviantArt user Marvel5968

Gandolfini won three Emmys for Best Actor in a Drama out of a total six awards he was nominated for during the show’s run. Despite his critical acclaim, the actor never felt comfortable with the press. "My father always said a million times, 'We're peasants,"' Gandolfini told Rolling Stone. "It's just a little odd for me, to get that slightly different treatment sometimes. And I'm uncomfortable with it. ... I want nothing to do with privilege."


Oil painting by DeviantArt user andygoti

During The Sopranos' run, Gandolfini loathed that people really thought he was the cold-blooded killer he played on the show. Shortly after the show started, he once had someone knock on the door of his apartment, "So I opened the door and the guy just turns white," Gandolfini said in a magazine interview. "All of a sudden I realize, 'Oh ... he thinks I'm Tony."'


Digital painting by DeviantArt user visceraINL

While the role was an easy one for him to take on—"I'm playing an Italian lunatic from New Jersey, and that's basically what I am," Gandolfini said—the character was drastically different from the real-life personality of the actor, who described himself as "a 260-pound Woody Allen."


Digital painting by DeviantArt user vio47

After The Sopranos ended, Gandolfini tried to shake his mobster image, playing the director of the CIA in Zero Dark Thirty, a comedic Senior Military Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense in In The Loop, gentle monster Carol in Where The Wild Things Are, and a strict, blue-collar father in Not Fade Away.


Cube papercraft by DeviantArt user ManosHandsofFate

Gandolfini always maintained a sense of humor about his work, and he loved taking on comedic roles, once quipping, “The older I get, the funnier-looking I get, the more comedies I’m offered. I’m starting to look like a toad, so I’ll probably be getting even more soon.”


Pencil drawing by DeviantArt user UnbreakABLE-ice

Writer, director and producer Steve Zaillian expressed his grief about Gandolfini’s death, saying, "I worked with Jim before The Sopranos and after it, and throughout these many years he has always been the same man. A real man, like they don’t make anymore. Honest, humble, loyal, complicated, as grateful for his success as he was unaffected by it, as respectful as he was respected, as generous as he was gifted. He was big, but even bigger-hearted. I’m so saddened to lose my friend, and sadder still for his family."


Sculpture by DeviantArt user RoccoSculptor

The actor was in Italy this week to attend the 59th Taormina Film Fest in Sicily, where he was scheduled to participate in an event this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino.


Digital painting by DeviantArt user sebtuch

Gandolfini is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, who just gave birth to a baby girl last October. He also has a son from a previous marriage, who was born in 2002.

Yesterday the world lost a truly gifted and humble actor. Friends, family and fans will mourn his loss for years to come.

Sources: Hollywood Reporter, The Daily Beast, CNN, CBS, NPR and NY Daily News

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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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8 Common Dog Behaviors, Decoded
May 25, 2017
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Dogs are a lot more complicated than we give them credit for. As a result, sometimes things get lost in translation. We’ve yet to invent a dog-to-English translator, but there are certain behaviors you can learn to read in order to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you. The more tuned-in you are to your dog’s emotions, the better you’ll be able to respond—whether that means giving her some space or welcoming a wet, slobbery kiss. 

1. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with his legs and body relaxed and tail low. His ears are up, but not pointed forward. His mouth is slightly open, he’s panting lightly, and his tongue is loose. His eyes? Soft or maybe slightly squinty from getting his smile on.

What it means: “Hey there, friend!” Your pup is in a calm, relaxed state. He’s open to mingling, which means you can feel comfortable letting friends say hi.

2. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing with her body leaning forward. Her ears are erect and angled forward—or have at least perked up if they’re floppy—and her mouth is closed. Her tail might be sticking out horizontally or sticking straight up and wagging slightly.

What it means: “Hark! Who goes there?!” Something caught your pup’s attention and now she’s on high alert, trying to discern whether or not the person, animal, or situation is a threat. She’ll likely stay on guard until she feels safe or becomes distracted.

3. What you’ll see: Your dog is standing, leaning slightly forward. His body and legs are tense, and his hackles—those hairs along his back and neck—are raised. His tail is stiff and twitching, not swooping playfully. His mouth is open, teeth are exposed, and he may be snarling, snapping, or barking excessively.

What it means: “Don’t mess with me!” This dog is asserting his social dominance and letting others know that he might attack if they don’t defer accordingly. A dog in this stance could be either offensively aggressive or defensively aggressive. If you encounter a dog in this state, play it safe and back away slowly without making eye contact.

4. What you’ll see: As another dog approaches, your dog lies down on his back with his tail tucked in between his legs. His paws are tucked in too, his ears are flat, and he isn’t making direct eye contact with the other dog standing over him.

What it means: “I come in peace!” Your pooch is displaying signs of submission to a more dominant dog, conveying total surrender to avoid physical confrontation. Other, less obvious, signs of submission include ears that are flattened back against the head, an avoidance of eye contact, a tongue flick, and bared teeth. Yup—a dog might bare his teeth while still being submissive, but they’ll likely be clenched together, the lips opened horizontally rather than curled up to show the front canines. A submissive dog will also slink backward or inward rather than forward, which would indicate more aggressive behavior.

5. What you’ll see: Your dog is crouching with her back hunched, tail tucked, and the corner of her mouth pulled back with lips slightly curled. Her shoulders, or hackles, are raised and her ears are flattened. She’s avoiding eye contact.

What it means: “I’m scared, but will fight you if I have to.” This dog’s fight or flight instincts have been activated. It’s best to keep your distance from a dog in this emotional state because she could attack if she feels cornered.

6. What you’ll see: You’re staring at your dog, holding eye contact. Your dog looks away from you, tentatively looks back, then looks away again. After some time, he licks his chops and yawns.

What it means: “I don’t know what’s going on and it’s weirding me out.” Your dog doesn’t know what to make of the situation, but rather than nipping or barking, he’ll stick to behaviors he knows are OK, like yawning, licking his chops, or shaking as if he’s wet. You’ll want to intervene by removing whatever it is causing him discomfort—such as an overly grabby child—and giving him some space to relax.

7. What you’ll see: Your dog has her front paws bent and lowered onto the ground with her rear in the air. Her body is relaxed, loose, and wiggly, and her tail is up and wagging from side to side. She might also let out a high-pitched or impatient bark.

What it means: “What’s the hold up? Let’s play!” This classic stance, known to dog trainers and behaviorists as “the play bow,” is a sign she’s ready to let the good times roll. Get ready for a round of fetch or tug of war, or for a good long outing at the dog park.

8. What you’ll see: You’ve just gotten home from work and your dog rushes over. He can’t stop wiggling his backside, and he may even lower himself into a giant stretch, like he’s doing yoga.

What it means: “OhmygoshImsohappytoseeyou I love you so much you’re my best friend foreverandeverandever!!!!” This one’s easy: Your pup is overjoyed his BFF is back. That big stretch is something dogs don’t pull out for just anyone; they save that for the people they truly love. Show him you feel the same way with a good belly rub and a handful of his favorite treats.

The best way to say “I love you” in dog? A monthly subscription to BarkBox. Your favorite pup will get a package filled with treats, toys, and other good stuff (and in return, you’ll probably get lots of sloppy kisses). Visit BarkBox to learn more.

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