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Banksy’s 11 Most Complicated Works

1. Mobile Waterfall Truck

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While Banksy is best known for his stencil-based, spray-painted wall pieces, the artist has continually mixed things up over the years, and he’s taken some big risks with different pieces. One of the first pieces of the “Better Out Than In” show also seems to be one of the most complicated, at least technically speaking, considering it involves a fully working waterfall that travels around the city in the back of a delivery truck. So far, it’s one of two moving trucks (and, yes, he’s even added his touch to stationary vehicles) that Banksy has included in this latest set of works, but its working water and over-the-top whimsy make it feel far more complicated than his cute/disturbing slaughterhouse truck, packed to the gills with mooing and cooing stuffed animals.

2. The Elephant in the Room

Banksy.co.uk

When Banksy hit Los Angeles back in 2006 for his first U.S. exhibition, he brought along traditional works, large-scale pieces, and a literal elephant to fill a room. While it may have been amusing that Banksy titled his showing “Barely Legal,” it wasn’t so funny when U.S. officials deemed his painting of an actual, live elephant named Tai, done up in pink and gold paint to match the wallpaper of a room set-up, actually broke the law: Banksy had the proper permits to include Tai in the exhibition, but painting the pachyderm from trunk to toe was illegal (and quite time-consuming to complete in the first place).

3. Going to the Zoo

Zoochat

Plenty of Banksy pieces have been destroyed or removed, but two of his most ballsy are so hard to find pictures of that they seem more like myth than reality. Those two pieces—some of Banksy’s most dangerous, reckless, and illegal works—briefly had homes at the London Zoo and the Bristol Zoo. In animal enclosures. Which Banksy climbed into in order to tag them. We said “dangerous,” right? The London Zoo penguin enclosure was once home to swimming birds and 7-foot-high letters that read, “We’re bored of fish.” At Bristol, Banksy took to the elephant enclosure to write, "I want out. This place is too cold. Keeper smells. Boring, boring, boring” on a wall. 

4. The West Bank

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In the late summer of 2005, Banksy took to the Israeli West Bank barrier to paint a staggering nine pieces on the wall that separates the country from the landlocked Palestinian territories. Banksy’s work on the Palestinian side is remarkable (and remarkably complicated) for a number of reasons: it’s a politically volatile area that is constantly patrolled, Banksy’s works there are massive, and the pieces all come with a very political bent (and a paradise-seeking theme). While the wall is home to plenty of other protest graffiti, Banksy’s work remains the most well known.   

5. The Phone Box

Artlet Blog

When Banksy goes large-scale, he really goes large-scale. In 2006, the artist made a sculpture based on a classic red London phone box (paging Dr. Who), crumpled the thing up, rammed a pickaxe through it, made it look as if it was bleeding, and left it on a side street in the busy Soho section of London. How did he do it? How did no one see? How do you make a phone box sculpture? Who knows? 

6. Guantanamo Bay Comes to Disneyland

WebUrbanist

Banksy’s work has always come with political bite, but he took a real chomp out of international politics with a stunt he pulled at Disneyland back in September 2006. The artist snuck in an inflatable doll dressed like a Guantanamo Bay detainment camp prisoner (complete with an orange jumpsuit, black hood, and handcuffs), and then managed to blow up the thing and place it within the confines of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride. The piece stayed up for over an hour, until the ride had to be shut down to remove it. Most people can’t even sneak outside drinks into Disneyland.

7. One Nation Under CCTV

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Perhaps one of Banksy’s most recognizable pieces (though it’s since been removed), the artist took to a large London wall back in April of 2008 to paint his then-biggest work. A commentary on the UK’s widespread use of CCTV cameras to watch its populace, the building-sized piece read “ONE NATION UNDER CCTV,” and featured a depiction of both a child-sized artist and a watchful security guard. The amazing part? Banksy had to scale a wall and erect scaffolding to paint the artwork—located right next to those omnipresent CCTV cameras, which failed to capture the artist. 

8. Artworks in the Museum, New York Edition

Wooster Collective

In March of 2005, Banksy subverted the traditional means of getting his artwork into famous museums—he just posted them up himself. He hit four of New York City’s biggest art meccas—the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Museum—mounting up new pieces at each. Most of the pieces stayed up for an entire day before officials noticed that anything was amiss, even as museum patrons eyeballed works they knew weren’t exactly right.

9. Artworks in the Museum, London Edition

Flickr user MichaelPickard

Later that same year, Banksy took his museum-trolling gig back to London, turning his stunts in gallery 49 of the British Museum. There, he posted his version of a cave painting (a primitive hunter, pushing a shopping cart), complete with descriptive placard. Again, the artist added his own work to a famous museum without notice, and the piece stayed up for days. 

10. The Bristol Exhibition

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Four years later, Banksy launched his biggest museum hoax to date—though his exhibition at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery was actually sanctioned and commissioned by the museum. Still, only two officials knew about the installation, and Banksy and his team hit the space in the middle of the night to replace other artworks with a hundred of his own—from a massive truck installation to classic stencils, all the way down to a small, kitted out mouse placed in the museum’s natural history section.

11. Exit Through the Gift Shop

While plenty of artists have made the leap from graphic arts to the big screen, Banksy’s unique film Exit Through the Gift Shop is an exceedingly bold, wacky, and complicated endeavor that stands out amongst its brethren. Sure, the film picked up an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, but the tale of French street artist Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash) and his wild ascent to the top tier of his profession is wickedly fun, possibly fake, and perhaps the best insight into who Banksy is yet. The artist reportedly spent a year on editing alone, forced to sift through nearly 10,000 hours of footage shot by Guetta (most of it proving unusable). Of course, that seems complicated and hard enough—but when you consider the widely circulating theory that Banksy himself is Mr. Brainwash, the film itself seems like a bit of a miracle.

 

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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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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