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10 Hitchcock Quotes for his Birthday

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Happy Birthday, Alfred Hitchcock! The director, who died in 1980, was born 114 years ago today. Here are a few words from the auteur himself to mark the occasion.

1. On eggs

"I’m frightened of eggs, worse than frightened; they revolt me. That round white thing without any holes, and when you break it, inside there’s that yellow thing, round, without any holes… Brrr! Have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid? Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting. I’ve never tasted it."

From a 1963 interview, via Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews.

2. On Violence in Movies

"Violence on the screen increases violence in people only if those people already have sick minds. I once read somewhere that a man admitted killing three women and he said he had killed the third woman after having seen Psycho. Well, I wanted to ask him what movie he had seen before he killed the second woman. And then we'd ban that movie, don't you see? And then if we found out that he'd had a glass of milk before he killed the first woman, why then we'd have to outlaw milk, too, wouldn't we? At a screening of Psycho a young boy came up to me—he was about 9 or 10—and he said to me, 'What did you use for blood—chicken blood?' And I said, 'No, I used chocolate sauce.' ... The point is that he said what did you use. He knew it was a movie, that it was pretend."

From a 1969 interview with the New York Times.

3. On his wife, Alma Reville

"Had the beautiful Ms. Reville not accepted a lifetime contract without options as Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock some 53 years ago, Mr. Alfred Hitchcock might be in this room tonight, not at this table but as one of the slower waiters on the floor. I share my award, as I have my life, with her."

From his speech accepting the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 1979.

4. On Psycho

"I once made a movie, rather tongue-in-cheek, called Psycho. The content was, I felt, rather amusing and it was a big joke. I was horrified to find some people took it seriously. It was intended to make people scream and yell and so forth—but no more than screaming and yelling on a switchback railway (rollercoaster). I'm possibly in some respects the man who says in constructing it, 'how steep can we make the first dip?' If you make the dip too deep, the screams will continue as the car goes over the edge and destroys everyone. Therefore you mustn't go too far because you do want them to get off the switchback railway, giggling with pleasure."

From a 1964 interview with the English TV show Monitor, via The Daily Mail.

5. On Puns

"Puns are the highest form of literature."

From a 1972 television interview with Dick Cavett.

6. On the difference between mystery and suspense

"The two things are absolutely miles apart. A mystery is an intellectual process, like in a whodunit. But suspense is essentially an emotional process. Therefore, you can only get the suspense element going by giving the audience information. And I daresay you've seen many films which have mysterious goings on, you don't know why the man is doing that, and you're about a third of the way through the film before you realize what it's all about. And to me, that's complete wasted footage, because there's no emotion to it."

From a 1970 AFI Seminar.

7. On what made him happy

"My wife is an excellent cook, and I could die eating. The things that make me happiest in the world are eating, drinking, and sleeping. I sleep like a newborn babe. I drink like a fish, have you seen what a red face I have? And I eat like a pig. Even if it does make me look more and more like a porker myself."

From a 1963 interview with Oriana Fallaci, via Alfred Hitchcock: Interviews.

8. On why people kill

"Years ago, it was economic, really. Especially in England. First of all, divorce was very hard to get, and it cost a lot of money. ... They do it in desperation. Absolute desperation. They have nowhere to go, there were no motels in those days, and they’d have to go behind the bushes in the park. And in desperation they would murder. ... [Mass murderers] are psychotics, you see. They’re absolutely psychotic. They’re very often impotent. As I showed in Frenzy. The man was completely impotent until he murdered and that’s how he got his kicks. But today of course, with the Age of the Revolver, as one might call it, I think there is more use of guns in the home than there is in the streets. You know? And men lose their heads?"

From an interview with Andy Warhol in the September 1974 issue of Interview, via Filmmaker IQ.

9. On Youth

"I am pro-young. I wrote my first script at the age of 22 and directed my first film at 25. So I'm for the young. And when people today say I'm 70, I say that's a confounded lie. I'm twice 35, that's all. Twice 35."

From a 1969 interview with the New York Times.

10. On Drama

"What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out."

From Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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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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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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