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Integrity Toys

11 Jem (and Jerrica) Dolls From the '80s and Today

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Integrity Toys

Truly outrageous as ever, Jem of Jem and the Holograms fame (or Jerrica Benton, if you’re opposed to acknowledging the hologram-created alter-egos of singers/record label owners/altruistic foster home angels) remains an icon of animated coolness that transcends the '80s era she so fully embodied. The star of 65 episodes of a television show centered on friendship, music, magical earrings, romance, dudes named Rio, and synthesizers in equal measure, Jem’s popularity hasn’t waned in the near-30 years since she made her broadcast debut. Like any proper star of stage and screen, Jem’s essence has distilled down to doll size a number of times over the years, including a run of dolls in the eighties and a brand new line that’s not even two years old yet. 

1. Jem/Jerrica First Edition – 1985

Photo courtesy of Pranceatron

The first Jem/Jerrica doll isn’t that impressive (a large forehead and a tendency for hair color to fade isn’t a good look for anyone), especially considering its rich source material. But the 1985 issued Hasbro doll does include two totally on-point outfits (one for Jem, one for Jerrica) and earrings that light up. While this first doll may not be the best looking of the bunch, it did come with a series of instructions on how to style her hair for maximum coolness—both in Jem fashion and for a Jerrica look. 

2. Glitter ‘n Gold Jem/Jerrica – 1986

Rock´n Gold Jem/Jerrica ( in box )

This second edition, the Glitter 'n Gold doll, was a real upgrade—it had a more refined overall look, bendy joints for dancing power, another styling guide, and appropriately star-shaped earrings to match. Known as Rock ‘n Gold Jem in France and Belgium (a name-change theme that continues to pop up in the '80s editions), the set included two different outfits to mix (one for Jem, one for Jerrica, though they were adorably interchangeable). The doll also came with a very flashy cassette tape that included three hot jams: “Glitter 'n Gold Theme Song,” “Depends on the Mood I'm In,” and “Love Is Here.”

3. Rock ‘n Curl Jem - 1986

Consider Rock n’ Curl Jem (known as Rock ‘n Roll Jem in France) a rock star doll on a budget. While she came with extra long hair (you know, for curling), the doll didn’t include a Jerrica outfit, blinky earrings, a stand, or a cassette tape for listening pleasure. She does, however, share the same face mold as both Glitter ‘n Gold Jem and Flash ‘n Sizzle Jem, so at least she fits in with the rest of the bunch. 

4. Flash ‘n Sizzle Jem aka Rock ‘n Flash Jem – 1986

Roxy in box , Flash'n Sizzle Jem in box

Reportedly the rarest of the early addition Jem dolls, Flash ‘n Sizzle Jem (or, if you’re French, Rock ‘n Flash Jem) returned the dolls to their high standards. With a Jerrica outfit, flashing earrings, a doll stand for sweet posing, and a cassette tape with three songs (“Jem Theme,” “Time Is Running Out,” and “Set Your Sails”), Flash ‘n Sizzle already came with plenty—but she also included yet another awesome hair styling guide. And, while Jem usually gets the best outfits, this time Jerrica took over, sporting a jaw-dropping yellow and pink hoodie minidress that fans would probably still wear today.

5. Rockin’ Romance Jem – 1988

RockJem.com

Behold, the dark period of Jem dolls. Before the doll line was cancelled in 1988, a number of new editions were worked up—some even made it into Hasbro’s Pre-Toy Fair 1988 catalogue or popped up as prototypes—so while these dolls don’t actually exist, we do know what they would have looked like. A few Rockin’ Romance Jems have shown up on auction websites, but that doesn’t make them quite official. What is official about this doll is that she would have come with “the most outrageous hair ever,” a wavy and crinkled affair that featured one heck of a top ponytail. Now that’s romance!

6. American Beauty Jem – 1988

Photo courtesy of Pranceatron

The other great unreleased Jem doll, American Beauty Jem was a red, white, and blue doll. It was intended as a riff on an episode of Jem and the Holograms that featured the girls on a nationwide tour and that ultimately concluded with a big, bad, bedazzled jam about America.

7. Hollywood Jem – 2012

Integrity Toys

For fans of Jem, June 27, 2012 is a day that will live in glorious infamy, as it was the day that Integrity Toys announced that they were teaming up with Hasbro to issue a whole mess of new Jem dolls (including other characters!). The first product of that collaboration was Hollywood Jem, a Comic-Con exclusive with a limited run of just 500 dolls. Despite her hip look, Hollywood Jem does pull from a classic Jem look, including an outfit from the episode “One Jem Too Many” and a hairstyle most reflective of Jem’s actual tresses. 

8. Classic Jem – 2012

Integrity Toys

Classic Jem followed Hollywood Jem just one month later—also available in a limited run (just one thousand dolls this time around). While Classic Jem is a modern gal (she is, after all, considered a collectible, not a toy), the doll features a very recognizable Jem outfit (no, really, you may recognize it from that very first edition). For added flash, this Jem comes complete with a corded microphone for rocking out—and while that might not sound so cool, it’s pretty impressive to see Jem clutching something that looks like a real microphone, not just a piece of plastic. 

9. Jerrica Benton – 2012

Integrity Toys

But what about Jerrica? Neither Hollywood Jem nor Classic Jem featured a Jerrica outfit, so Integrity went ahead and made a Jerrica-only doll. Like Classic Jem, her outfit is very recognizable—both from the show and from the first edition doll. But how will this Jerrica become Jem? With included Synergy-friendly star-shaped earrings, that’s how!

10. Glitter ‘n Gold Jem – 2013

Fashion Doll Chronicles

Like Classic Jem, this year’s Comic-Con exclusive from Integrity and Hasbro looked back on vintage Jem dolls for inspiration, giving fans an updated take on the 1986 Glitter ‘n Gold Jem. This time around, however, outfits for both Jem and Jerrica were included, all the way down to individual sets of tights and weirdly realistic pumps.

11. Broadway Magic Jem – 2013

Shugashug

The latest Jem doll is a super-exclusive only available to members of Integrity’s own W Club and with a slim run of 500 dolls. A meticulous take on Jem’s look from the “Broadway Magic” episode, her iconic dress looks so spot-on that it proves that the new Jem line is only getting better and more adherent to its source material. Her hairstyle might not exactly be canon, but that misstep is forgotten in the face of extra trinkets like tiny Broadway tickets and a fake love letter from Rio.

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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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