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18 Fun Facts About Teen Witch

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BELLHOUSENY.COM

If you’ve had the pleasure of catching a screening of Teen Witch over the past 25 years—on television, at a live sing-along, or on an old-school VHS—you know that Louise Miller is a teenager with magical powers who is gonna be the most popular girl at her high school. But here are 18 things you might not know about the 1989 cult classic.

1. TEEN WITCH WAS PITCHED AS A GIRL VERSION OF TEEN WOLF.

While the final version of the film bears some obvious similarities to Teen Wolf—a teen balancing high school life with his or her supernatural abilities—it originally intended to borrow the title font, tagline, and general plot from the 1985 Michael J. Fox hit. Eventually, Teen Witch morphed into an original work.

2. THE MOVIE TANKED IN THEATERS.

Shot on a budget of $2.5 million, Teen Witch wasn’t able to conjure up any magical box office numbers. It made just $3,875 in its opening weekend, and had a total domestic gross of $27,590 for its entire run. It was via subsequent airings on cable and ABC Family that its popularity began to grow.

3. ITS MUSIC IS ITS CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT.

Love it or hate it, Teen Witch’s odd—and some might say nonsensical—supernatural elements and teen rom-com moments are part of its charm. But its singing and dancing are what have cemented its place in pop culture history. Nerve.com may have described it best when it called the movie’s famously terrible “Top That” rap as “everything wonderful and terrible about [the 1980s] rolled into one misguided appropriation of hip-hop.” As a result, Teen Witch Sing-Alongs have become popular events in major cities, from New York to San Francisco.

4. UNFORTUNATELY, YOU CAN’T PURCHASE THE MOVIE SOUNDTRACK.

The producers of Teen Witch clearly did not anticipate that it would become a pop culture phenomenon, so the film’s original budget did not include funding for a soundtrack release. Fortunately, there is YouTube.

5. BUT A LIVE MUSICAL RECORDING DOES EXIST.

As the film continued to grow in popularity, the film’s musical producers—Larry and Tom Weir—decided to re-record the soundtrack with new performers. In 2007, they released Teen Witch The Musical on Amazon and iTunes. It was released in anticipation of a Broadway-bound musical (which has yet to materialize).

6. THE GROUNDLINGS LAUNCHED A LIVE VERSION, TOO.

The renowned Los Angeles improv group—which counts Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Paul Reubens, Maya Rudolph, and Rachael Harris among its alumni—launched a live version of the show, Teen Witch: The Musical, on January 21, 2013.

7. THE MOVIE’S POPULARITY MAKES SONGWRITER LARRY WEIR THINK PEOPE ARE “PRETTY MESSED UP.”

In a 2007 interview with Austinist, Teen Witch songwriter Larry Weir acknowledged the movie’s cheesiness. “What’s crazy is that we have been to screenings all over the country, in Seattle, San Francisco and even Manhattan, and for every screening there have been lines around the block and packed theaters, which leads me to believe that there are some pretty messed up people out there,” he joked. “In San Francisco it was almost like being at a concert, they cranked the audio up and it was wild." 

8. ROBYN LIVELY BLAMES HER BAD DANCING ON BEING “THE MOST POPULAR GIRL.”

“I took all the dancing too seriously at the time,” star Robyn Lively, who played Louise Miller, recently admitted to BuzzFeed. “I was a little more self-conscious back then. And when I had to do the ‘most popular girl’ spin inside the bedroom, I had twisted my ankle. I’m going to blame most of my bad dancing on the ankle.”

9. LOUISE’S DAD HAD A HISTORY WITH WITCHES.

Wikimedia Commons

Louise’s father, Frank, was played by actor Dick Sargent, who was no stranger to sorcery. From 1969 to 1972, he played (the second) Darrin Stephens—husband to Samantha and father to Tabitha—on the popular series Bewitched.

10. IN MANY OF THE MUSICAL NUMBERS, THE FILM’S AUDIO AND VIDEO ARE OUT OF SYNCH.

This is particularly apparent in the infamous “Top That” rap.

11. MANDY INGBER COUNTS TEEN WITCH AS ONE OF HER WORST SUMMER JOBS.

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In a 2013 interview with Diet Detective, actress-turned-yogi Mandy Ingber, who played Louise’s best friend Polly, recalled that her “most noteworthy ‘bad summer job’ was the summer I did Teen Witch... It haunts me, as the ‘rap’ I did for this ’80s movie lives on through the Internet. I think that’s the best of the worst.”

12. IT TOOK A DRAG QUEEN TO GET JOSHUA MILLER TO APPRECIATE THE FILM.

In a 2013 interview with VICE, Joshua Miller—who played Louise’s obnoxious little brother Richie—admitted that it took some time for him to understand the movie’s appeal. “It wasn’t until years later though, when a drag queen named Peaches Christ started hosting midnight screenings of Teen Witch in San Francisco, that I began to appreciate it,” he admitted. “He invited me to one, and prior to the screening he sat me down and explained that as a teenager he could see that I was not like the other boys; that there was something sexually ambiguous about me that gave him a sense of comfort, especially in Teen Witch. That meant the world to me. From then on, I was proud. I don’t take compliments from drag queens lightly, because they have no problem telling you what time it is. There’s no f****** bulls***."

13. MILLER IS PART OF A FAMOUS FAMILY.

Though he was just 14 years old at the time of Teen Witch’s release, Joshua Miller was no stranger to Hollywood. Miller is the son of playwright and Oscar-nominated actor Jason Miller (Father Karras in The Exorcist) and Russ Meyer muse Sue Bernard. His grandfather, Bruno Bernard, was one of the world’s first celebrity photographers. And he is the half-brother of actor Jason Patric. But Miller wasn’t the only famous son on set. Polly’s funky “Top That” cohort Noah Blake is the son of actor-turned-murder suspect Robert Blake.

14. MADAME SERENA SHARES A HOUSE WITH MICHAEL JACKSON.

The creepy Victorian house that Zelda Rubinstein, as Madame Serena, calls home in Teen Witch is the same Los Angeles abode where Michael Jackson turned into a werewolf in the video for “Thriller.”

15. ROBYN LIVELY’S MOM IS RESPONSIBLE FOR LOUISE’S AWESOME ’80S STYLE.

Kaptain Kirk, YouTube

“My mom was really the one who created the entire style for Teen Witch,” Robyn Lively told BuzzFeed about Louise Miller’s totally ’80s wardrobe. “I’m dead serious. She was super involved, and is super creative, so I wore a lot of my actual clothes in the movie. Truly, Louise was my mom’s vision. She really created an iconic character.”

16. A TEEN WITCH REMAKE WAS ANNOUNCED IN 2008.

In 2008, Variety confirmed that High School Musical star Ashley Tisdale would re-create the role of Louise Miller in a Teen Witch remake. And in 2010, Tisdale talked about how (unlike in the original) the new Teen Witch would actually do some of her own singing. But it’s four years later now and no production start date has been announced—and Tisdale is about to celebrate her 29th birthday—so... 

17. BLAKE LIVELY HAD HER OWN TEEN WITCH WEDDING MOMENT.

When Robyn Lively’s younger sister, Gossip Girl star Blake, married Ryan Reynolds in 2012, she wanted to give her a gift she’d never forget. “My younger sister and younger brother are huge Teen Witch fans,” the elder Lively told Pop My Culture Podcast. “So for [Blake's] wedding, my younger brother and I got together and figured out how to do that last scene, the ‘Finest Hour’ dance... I got a blue dress, a blue tutu, and the music comes on. I had the necklace remade. I took it off and threw it to her. We did the whole dance!”

18. BUT BRAD AND RANDA LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

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Louise gets the guy in the end of the movie. But in real life, high school stud Brad (Dan Gauthier) ended up with Louise’s teen rival, Randa (Lisa Fuller). “They dated while making the movie and got married shortly after the movie wrapped,” Lively—who admitted to harboring a major crush on Gauthier—told BuzzFeed. “I was heartbroken, but I still went to their wedding. Brad and Randa really lived happily ever after.”

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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