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11 Things You Might Not Know About Lipstick

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One of the world’s most popular cosmetics, lipstick has historically been not only a tool for enhancing beauty, but also an inspiration for art and architecture, a point of political contention, a clue to crime, and an economic measuring stick. It has signified sexiness and sophistication, countercultural whimsy, female power, male power, safety and danger. 

1. LIPSTICK HAD A LONG AND WINDING HISTORY BEFORE THE TUBE

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Before lipstick existed in the way we know it, the Mesopotamians applied colorful jewels to their lips. The ancient Egyptians were also in on the lip-adornment craze, applying a potted dye to their pouts that was comprised of iodine, fucus-algin, and bromine, a combination that was later discovered to be toxic. Cleopatra fortuitously avoided the deadly concoction by using crushed carmine beetles to stain her lips red. Scarlet was still the fashionable color in the 1600s when Queen Elizabeth I (above) offset her powdered face with a red shade made from beeswax, though only a couple centuries later, Queen Victoria would declare makeup to be “impolite.”

2. THE MODERN SWIVEL LIPSTICK BEGAN WITH THE TURN OF A SCREW

In 1923, James Bruce Mason, Jr., of Nashville, Tennessee, patented the first swivel lipstick (he called it a "toilet article," and wrote that it related to "devices for holding articles such as lip sticks which are worn away during the use thereof"). As the lipstick depleted, the user turned a decorative screw head at the base of the tube. Later in the decade, the original “It girl” Clara Bow would make the “Cupid’s bow” style of lipstick application a hit. 

3. A KISSING MACHINE WAS INVENTED IN THE QUEST FOR INDELIBILITY

Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

As lipstick became more and more of a commercial success, the mission to make it “kiss-proof” got serious. In 1939, Max Factor, Jr., invented a “kissing machine” comprised of rubber lip molds affixed to a pressure gauge. The machine was designed to give workers on the Max Factor assembly line, who had long tired of kissing tissues, a much-deserved break. The eerie-looking machine would later appear on the cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2003 Greatest Hits album.

Despite Max Factor’s best efforts, however, chemist Hazel Bishop became best known for perfecting no-smear lipstick in 1949.

4. LIPSTICK WAS THE CALLING CARD OF A VERY FAMOUS MURDERER

Though lipstick became a way of brightening lips and possibly lives in the ‘40s, it also had a dark side. One of Chicago’s grisliest serial killers took his moniker from the cosmetic. After killing Frances Brown in 1945, someone scrawled in lipstick on her wall, “For heaven’s sake, catch me before I kill more. I cannot control myself.” William Heirens became known as the notorious “Lipstick Killer.” He died at 83 in prison last year.

5. IT WAS ALSO A CLUE TO A NO-GOOD, CHEATIN’ HEART

Rather unfortunately for philanderers, lipstick never truly became completely kiss-proof, as evidenced by Connie Francis’s 1959 chart-topper “Lipstick on Your Collar,” above. “You said it belonged to me, made me stop and think/ Then I noticed yours was red, mine was baby pink,” Francis sang with sorrow. “Who walked in but Mary Jane, lipstick all a mess/ Were you smoochin’ my best friend? ‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘yes.’”

6. LIPSTICK WAS A DEADLY WEAPON DURING THE COLD WAR

Photo courtesy of the International Spy Museum

Luckily for cads like Connie Francis’s man, the KGB never mass-marketed its single-shot pistol called “The Kiss of Death,” designed to look like a tube of lipstick; there would be no crimes of American passion by smoking lipstick gun. But during the Cold War, stealthy female KGB operatives could easily conceal the 4.5 mm weapon and use it to fire at a close, unsuspecting range, according to the International Spy Musuem in Washington D.C. The Kiss of Death pictured above is circa 1965 and is part of the museum’s permanent collection. Though the lipstick pistol is in a classic shade of red, ‘60s Mods were beginning to popularize unconventional lip colors like tangerine, pale pink, silver and even blinding white.

7. AND A TOOL OF PEACEFUL PROTEST DURING VIETNAM

Photo courtesy of Michael Marsland/Yale

In 1969, students at Yale asked Swedish-born conceptual artist and Yale alum Claes Oldenburg to create a sculpture with a revolutionary aesthetic that could also serve as a platform for public speakers during political rallies. The result was an enormous “lipstick” fashioned from red vinyl atop a “war tank” made of plywood, and it commanded a bold and looming presence in the university’s Beinecke Plaza. Oldenburg named the sculpture Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks (above), and eventually the original materials were replaced with weatherproof steel, aluminum and fiberglass. Oldenburg’s work has been shown at the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others.

Though heavy makeup had been popular during much of the 1960s, hippies had begun to reject makeup entirely in favor of a bare-faced, all-natural aesthetic.

 

8. SKYSCRAPERS HAVE BEEN BUILT IN THE NAME OF LIPSTICK

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In 1986, another massive “lipstick” was erected, this time between 53rd and 54th Streets at Third Avenue in New York City. Dubbed “The Lipstick Building,” the red granite-and-steel skyscraper was sleek, triple-tiered and tubular, just like a swivel lipstick. Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff would do much of his scamming on the building’s 17th floor, which became the focus of a New York Times article titled “The 17th Floor, Where Wealth Went to Vanish.”

9. ECONOMISTS USE IT TO NAME “EFFECTS”

Economists use the term “The Lipstick Effect” to explain how, during times of financial hardship, consumers often refrain from buying large-ticket items and instead purchase small goods like lipstick to lift their spirits. (Still, lipstick is one of the most commonly shoplifted products in America, possibly because it can easily fit into a pocket.) But the Lipstick Effect didn’t exactly work to French cosmetics house Guerlain’s advantage in 2007, right before the Great Recession.

In November of that year, Guerlain rolled out a $62,000 lipstick called “Kiss Kiss Gold and Diamonds” that featured an 18-karat gold tube embellished with 199 diamonds. To even think about purchasing Kiss Kiss, one had to make an appointment for a consultation at the upscale Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City. Reporting on the outrageousness of it all, The New York Post served up its usual headline snark: “Kiss $62K Goodbye."

10. LIPSTICK HAS INCITED POLITICAL MUDSLINGING

Much like “lipstick on your collar” has come to mean “you’ve been runnin’ around on your woman,” the expression “putting lipstick on a pig” has also become part of the popular lexicon. But it wasn’t until the 2008 presidential campaign that we all collectively realized that no one really knows what it means. Serious publications like Slate and TIME devoted articles to tracing the expression’s origins and meaning. Why all the hullabaloo over a silly-sounding expression?

It all started when Obama criticized John McCain and Sarah Palin’s repeated promise of change. “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” Obama said. The comment would probably have passed unnoticed had Palin not made a lipstick reference herself the week prior. “You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull? Lipstick,” the proud hockey mom said. The McCain-Palin camp accused Obama of making a not-so-subtle jab at Palin and demanded an apology.

Obama dismissed the accusations, and told David Letterman that the lipstick-pig expression is a common one in Illinois. “Had I meant it that way [as an insult], she would be the lipstick,” Obama said.

11. AND KEPT THE PEACE AT HOME

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Just when it was beginning to seem like Obama had finally lived down that last lipstick-related rigmarole, the president appeared just this last May at a White House-hosted event for Asian American and Pacific Island Heritage Month with … lipstick on his collar.

“A sign of the warmth here is the lipstick on my collar,” he said, pointing to the bright pink stain on his white shirt. “I think I know the culprit. Where is Jessica Sanchez? It wasn’t Jessica, it was her aunt—where is she?” The crowd laughed. “I just want everybody to witness. I do not want to be in trouble with Michelle.”

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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