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Wikimedia Commons/Thinkstock/Erin McCarthy

The 11 Best-Named Political Parties 

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Wikimedia Commons/Thinkstock/Erin McCarthy

When they came up with their party platforms, these politicians got creative. From beer drinkers to zombie enthusiasts to the just plain ridiculous, here are 11 (now mostly defunct, unfortunately) political parties that injected boring old elections with a jolt of satirical humor.

1. Polish Beer-Lovers Party (Poland)

Armed with a silly name and a love for ales, the party thundered into Polish government in 1991, winning 16 seats in the Sejm, the lower house of Poland's parliament, in the first election after decades of communist rule. The party split itself into two factions, Big Beer and Little Beer, though founder and satirist Janusz Rewiński held the tenet that "beer is neither light or dark, it is tasty."

The Big Beer faction eventually gave up on the joke and renamed itself Polish Economic Program to take politics a little more seriously.

2. Union of Conscientiously Work-Shy Elements (Denmark)

Danish comedian Jacob Haugaard started the party in 1979 as a joke, but something really funny happened in 1994: he won a seat in the Folketing, Denmark's national parliament. Despite running on a jokey platform—campaign promises included better weather, tail winds on all bike paths, and more Renaissance furniture in IKEA stores—Haugaard took his four-year term seriously, since he usually had a deciding vote in a split parliament.

The Union of Conscientiously Work-Shy Elements managed to accomplish three of its not-so-outlandish goals in its brief but triumphant four-year run in office: issuing Nutella in army field rations, rationing more bread for ducks in public parks, and the construction of a public restroom in a park in Aarhus, where Haugaard started the party.

3. The Rhinoceros Party (Canada)

Party organizers named themselves after the rhino in the 1960s, because like politicians, rhinos are "thick-skinned, slow-moving and not too bright, but can move fast as hell when in danger." The namesake was also inspired by Cacareco, a Brazilian rhinoceros that rode a landslide victory to a seat in Sao Paulo's city council in 1958. After years of staying defunct in the political scene, the Rhinos charged back into the political jungle in 2007 under party president Brian Salmi, who legally changed his name to Satan.

After a $50 million lawsuit in 2007 filed as "Satan v. Her Majesty the Queen" was dropped, Satan ran in a federal byelection with a slew of outrageous promises, including renaming Canada "Nantucket," turning Montreal's Ste-Catherine Street into the world's longest bowling alley, and banning Canadian winters. He also promised, like the first incarnation of the party, not to keep any of his promises if elected.

4. Anarchist Pogo Party of Germany (Germany)

Two punks in Hannover decided that, in 1981, there weren't enough political parties named after hardcore dances (the Pogo is sort of a distant cousin of moshing). Thus, they formed the Anarchist Pogo Party of Germany—one motto: "Saufen! Saufen! Jeden Tag nur saufen," or "Drinking, drinking, every day just drinking"—with a big emphasis on "Anarchist." Goals included the removal of police from Germany, youth pension instead of retirement pension, and Totale Rückverdummung, or the "total restupidfication" of Germany.

When the party ran for Germany's Bundestag legislative body in 1998, they enticed voters to the polls with the promise of free beer; alas, they didn't get the 0.5 percent of the vote they needed to pay for all the beer. The APPD got involved in 2005's federal election as well, campaigning for Wolfgang Wendland, frontman for German punk band Die Kassierer, as their candidate for chancellor.

5. The Dungeons, Death and Taxes Party (Great Britain)

The Dungeons, Death and Taxes Party has a hard enough time keeping its own name straight. While the way you see it here is how it's officially listed on the BBC website, the party's two candidates in 2005's United Kingdom General Election, Brent Harris of Edinburgh East and Damien Fleck from York, ran as members of the "Death, Dungeons and Taxes Party."

The party's name (its registered address is popular tourist spot the London Dungeons) is as draconian as it sounds. The Dungeons, Death and Taxes Party's manifesto involves a pledge to invade and annex France, spike tax rates up to 90 percent, and reintroduce hanging, but "only for minor offences, such as writing graffiti and dropping litter." Should the Dungeons, Death and Taxes Party seize power, major offenses like murder and "those guilty of improper use of mobile text abbreviations" will get punished by disembowelment.

6. Canadian Extreme Wrestling Party (Canada)

The Canadian Extreme Wrestling Party settles on its leader in the only way it knows how: by crowning the winner of a wrestling battle royale. Founded in 1999, the party was decidedly left-wing and touched on sane ideas like the environment, gun control, national security, and foreign affairs.

Only its candidates were off-the-wall. Ed White, who goes by Sailor King Moondog White in wrestling circles, ran for Canadian Parliament as a member of the CEWP in 2000. His slogan? "Parliament needs a Moondog." Turns out, it didn't, and didn't again in 2004 either, when White re-ran with a new party.

7. The Miss Great Britain Party (Great Britain)

The Miss Great Britain Party formed in 2008 to make Westminster sexy, not sleazy (even though their proposition was "Better Miss Nip & Tuck than elect some shmuck," according to The Hindu). Founder Robert de Keyser—ex-chairman of the Miss Great Britain pageant—had noble intentions, like making the political process more glamorous and fun, but looks only took this political party so far.

Miss Great Britain Gemma Garrett ran for election in 2008, but even she admitted her lack of political prowess, telling the Daily Mail, "I may not know a lot about politics yet but I do know about people and how everyone would prefer that Britain looks and feels beautiful instead of dwelling on the ugly and negative side of life and politics."

8. Citizens For Undead Rights and Equality (Great Britain)

Lending its name to a parody marketing tie-in for zombie video game Dead Rising 2, the CURE party advocates for Britain's no-longer-living occupants. Their manifesto includes a "robust" social reintegration program for zombies, permitting marriages between the living and the undead, and making cemeteries more comfortable for Great Britain's undead populace.

The party got some serious backing, too: Capcom, the video game developer behind the Dead Rising series, supported a protest of more than 50 zombies (okay, living people dressed up like zombies) in front of Parliament in 2010. Party leader Harry Cole didn't seem discouraged by poor election results, telling The Independent that "we fielded candidates in four constituencies in the UK General Election, and only came last in one of them—it’s clear our manifesto already appeals."  

9. Polish Party of the Bald (Poland)

Out of respect to Polish democracy, the Bald Party didn't field any candidates in parliamentary elections in 1993—party leader Leszek Mazan told the Chicago Tribune that "would be a certain offense to the Polish nation and to Polish political responsibility." But the party still stood stoically behind important ideals, like the outrage against baldness that led to bald Polish kings being painted with hair.

The party's first object was to "fight against the discrimination of bald people," which included Mazan asking historical institutions to repaint bald kings more accurately. The Bald Party supported any and all bald candidates, and Mazan had a sort-of bald superiority complex, coming to the conclusion that people sporting no hair "are more intellectual because the baldness comes from the more efficient work of the brain cells."

10. The Party For Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law (Austria-Hungary)

The brainchild of Czech writer Jaroslav Hasek and a few hard-drinking literary friends in 1911 might be the only frivolous political party in history with its own hymn:

A million candidates rose up
To hoodwink honest people.
The electorate would give them votes
And they would gladly take them.
Let others call for violent progress,
By force world order overturn.
Moderate progress is our aim
And Jaroslav Hašek is our man.

But a less political motive to kickstarting a political party (and a great plot for a potential romantic comedy) was to help a close friend chase his love (PDF) of the daughter of the proprietor of the inn where the party held election meetings. The party members hoped that increasing the innkeeper's custom would persuade him to take more kindly to his potential son-in-law.

11. Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (Hungary)

"Free beer and world peace for all" isn't the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party's slogan, but it easily could be. The party, whose logo is indeed a two-tailed cartoon dog, planned to run for—but not win—office in 2010. Its platform included promises like two sunsets a day, building a spaceport in the middle of the Great Hungarian Plains, and flooding the main roads of Budapest with beer on holidays. You know, to combat traffic problems.

The party is firmly in on the joke: One promise they proffered was to "put yellow rubber ducks in every puddle that’s deeper than five centimeters," and their slogans range from "Eternal life!" to "There's a 93 percent chance we won't steal!" Said party chairman Gergely Kovacs to Reuters: "We don't really want to be mayors. Only exclamation marks."

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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]