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Early Footage of 10 Famous Musical Acts from the '90s

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Recently, we happened upon a video of Rage Against the Machine playing in a tiny record store in 1992, shot just before they were a big deal. Watching made us wonder what other '90s musical acts looked like before we'd heard of them, so we rounded up some early video and recordings of 10 old favorites.

1. Rage Against the Machine in 1992

In March 1992, RATM held a show in Zed’s Records. This was just five months after their first public appearance, and six months before the release of their first album.

2. Nirvana in 1988

That's Krist Novoselic's mom's basement. It would be a few months before the band released their first single, “Love Buzz,” and another two years before Kurt Cobain met Courtney Love. That’s Chad Channing on drums, who was later replaced by Dave Grohl. If you don’t watch the full six minutes, at least check out “About a Girl” at 3:25.

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1984

Within a few months of recording their first demo together, the group had a record deal with EMI and were performing live on television for the first time, introduced by an uncertain-looking Alan Thicke. (His awkward exit at the end makes the whole video.)

4. Mariah Carey in 1987 & 1990

Mariah was still in high school when she recorded her four-song demo with friend and songwriter Gavin Christopher. (The pair worked out of a basement.) In 1988, Carey's friend Brenda K. Starr introduced her to head of Columbia Records and future ex-husband Tommy Mottola. By 1990, Carey was making her television debut on the Arsenio Hall Show.

5. Weezer in 1993

In August 1993, Weezer had only been a band for about 18 months. It hadn’t taken long for them to get a record deal, though; they signed with Geffen in June of '93 and recorded their first album shortly afterward. This video was shot before Jason Cropper left and was replaced by Brian Bell.

6. Hanson in 1992

Look at them, with their tiny air guitars. In 1992, the Hanson Brothers were an a capella act specializing in hits from 1958. Their break came in 1996 when they unleashed “MMMBop” and earned three Grammy nominations.

7. Whitney Houston in 1982

This is Whitney’s first recorded lead vocal, but she wasn’t exactly new to the business in 1982. Houston sang background on Chaka Khan’s hit “I Am Every Woman” in 1978 (then recorded it herself for The Bodyguard). Before that, she toured nightclubs with her mother, Cissy, and sang in the church choir from age 11.

8. Alanis Morissette in 1985 & 1991

At the ripe old age of 11, Alanis co-wrote and released her first single, “Fate Stay With Me.” The song didn’t do well, but by 1991—just four short years before she gave us multiple bad examples of irony—Alanis became a mainstream act in Canada with her first hit, “Too Hot.”

9. Shania Twain in 1978

When she was almost 13, Eilleen Twain visited Opry North, where she performed Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and a song she wrote herself when she was ten, “Is Love a Rose.” In 1993, she changed her name and released her self-titled debut album.

10. No Doubt in 1987

When No Doubt headlined the 1987 Mod Expo, Gwen was a backup vocalist, her brother Eric played keyboard and wrote most of their songs, and cofounder John Spence was the lead singer. In December of that year, Spence committed suicide; the band broke up, then reformed soon after with Gwen as lead. Eight years later, the band released Tragic Kingdom and found mainstream success.

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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]