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7 Music Video Injuries and Ailments

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Before MTV debuted in 1981, music videos consisted of performance clips by British bands who couldn’t afford to tour America. But when the station took off, everything about videos got bigger: the concepts, the budgets, the stunts—and definitely the hair.

But making videos wasn’t all glamour. Behind the scenes, the long days were filled with vomit, blood, and diarrhea. Here’s a brief look at the injuries and ailments behind some of the decade’s most iconic videos.

1. Adam & the Ants // “Stand and Deliver”

Adam Ant performed his own stunts in “Stand and Deliver.” He had already jumped out of a tree but when it came time for the dandy highwayman to jump through a breakaway glass window, he balked. The crew insisted it wouldn’t hurt—but, in fact, it hurt a great deal when he split his head open and bled everywhere.

Adam was able to finish what is probably his best-known video, but he learned his lesson. Months later, he hired a stuntman for “Ant Rap,” who also injured himself onset. 

2. Prince // “1999”

Prince’s 1982 single “1999” is a bit of a bummer (it’s about the nuclear arms race). But for the video Prince wanted something more fun—namely purple lights and tons of smoke. The shoot only took four hours, but that was enough time for it to have a negative effect on the crew: The mineral oil used in the smoke machine made everyone have diarrhea.

3. The Police // “Wrapped Around your Finger”

With next to no money or concept, The Police shot “Wrapped Around your Finger” on a set consisting of 1000 candles. For the last shot, directors Godley & Creme asked everyone to leave the set except Sting and two crewmembers. Their only direction was to film whatever Sting did.

Mephistopheles may not have been his name, but when Sting knocked over the candles, the hot wax burned him and the two other men. Thankfully, the burns weren’t severe.

4. Van Halen // “Panama”

The “Panama” video consisted of Van Halen flying across the stage through the air and generally just acting nuts. And that’s exactly what got bassist Michael Anthony injured. Anthony was the first to shoot his flying scene, but the harness didn’t quite fit. He likened the experience to being castrated and having his nuts in a vise.

Anthony recovered from the incident and went on to father two children after the making of this video. And “Panama” went on to become one of the most famous cock rock songs of all time.

5. Billy Idol // “Eyes Without a Face”

For 30 straight hours, Billy Idol didn’t see anything but fire, smoke, and half-naked women while making “Eyes Without a Face.” And those were almost the last things he ever saw. The day after the shoot, Idol was hospitalized when his contact lenses fused to his eyes thanks to the dry ice on set and lack of sleep.

Months later, on the “Flesh for Fantasy” shoot, the cinematographer and director both went blind from exhaustion. Luckily, everyone’s sight returned and the two videos helped Rebel Yell last 70 weeks on the Billboard charts.

6. Culture Club // “The War Song”

Around 400 kids appeared in this anti-war video, and Culture Club made an effort to take great care of them. Everything was going great until after lunch; the kids ate burgers, fries, and milkshakes, and when crewmembers suspended some of the kids in the air for a parachute scene, they were promptly puked on.

7. Duran Duran // “The Wild Boys”

Duran Duran wrote “The Wild Boys” for a movie of the same name. When it fell through, director Russell Mulcahy channeled his ideas into this epic $1 million post-apocalyptic video. The second verse consisted of singer Simon Le Bon strapped to a windmill that dipped his head below water. When the windmill broke with Le Bon’s head underwater, the crew had to rescue him from drowning.

Le Bon downplayed the incident, saying he didn’t fear for his life. Maybe that’s because he also survived a near shark attack while shooting “Rio.”

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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]