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Dimension Films

15 Things You Might Not Know About Scream

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Dimension Films

We won’t spoil the big reveal in Scream, which was released 20 years ago today, but even if you know the ending of Wes Craven’s horror masterpiece, these facts may be able to shock you.

1. THE ORIGINAL TITLE OF THE FILM WAS SCARY MOVIE.

The original title of the film was Scary Movie, but it was changed to Scream by the Weinstein brothers—then the heads of the film’s production company, Miramax—in the middle of production. They allegedly decided on the change because Harvey Weinstein was listening to the Michael Jackson song “Scream” in his car with his brother Bob. They both liked the title for a horror movie.

2. IT WAS PARTIALLY INSPIRED BY A REAL-LIFE STORY.

Screenwriter Kevin Williamson was partially inspired by a real life series of student murders in Gainesville, Florida in 1990, perpetrated by killer Danny Harold Rolling who was later dubbed “The Gainesville Ripper.” Williams was also inspired by John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween, his favorite movie.

3. THE SCRIPT SPARKED A MAJOR BIDDING WAR.

Williamson’s self-referential script sparked a fierce bidding war in Hollywood between five movie studios before Williamson ultimately accepted Dimension Films’ $400,000 offer to buy the screenplay.

4. IT COULD HAVE BEEN DIRECTED BY GEORGE ROMERO, OR SAM RAIMI.

The Weinstein brothers initially approached noted horror directors George A. Romero and Sam Raimi for directorial duties, but they both turned the project down. Wes Craven, who had directed the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, initially passed as well, but he signed on to direct after Drew Barrymore agreed to appear in the film in the lead role of Sidney Prescott.

5. DREW BARRYMORE WAS SET TO STAR, BUT CHANGED HER MIND.

Barrymore changed her mind about playing the lead five weeks before production was set to begin. Barrymore instead suggested she play Casey Becker, the teen terrorized by the killer in the opening scene, to cleverly subvert audience expectations that a star of her stature would survive the movie. Casting directors approached Alicia Witt, Brittany Murphy, and Reese Witherspoon to take over the Sidney Prescott role before eventually casting Neve Campbell.

6. BARRYMORE WORKED FOR LESS THAN A WEEK.

Barrymore shot all of her scenes in the first five days of production.

7. THE FILM'S ICONIC MASK WAS FOUND DURING A LOCATION SCOUT.

The killer’s now-iconic mask was a simple off-the-shelf Halloween mask. Craven and a producer found it at a house they were location scouting.

8. BOB WEINSTEIN WASN'T CONVINCED THAT THE MASK WAS SCARY ENOUGH.

Bob Weinstein initially thought the killer’s mask wasn’t scary enough and considered replacing Craven as director. But Craven and editor Patrick Lussier created a workprint out of dailies of the opening scene that convinced Weinstein to quickly change his mind.

9. THE VOICE BEHIND THE KILLER IS VETERAN VOICE ACTOR ROGER L. JACKSON.

Besides Scream, Jackson’s credits include the role of Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls. Craven separated Jackson from the actors and had him actually talk to them over the phone to make their reactions feel more genuine.

10. LINDA BLAIR HAD A CAMEO.

Linda Blair, the star of The Exorcist, makes a cameo as one of the news reporters outside of the school. She’s the one with the bright orange blouse. Later on, she’s the reporter who confronts Sidney in Dewey’s police car. Craven previously directed Blair in the 1978 TV movie Stranger in Our House.

11. THE HIGH SCHOOL THEY PLANNED TO SHOOT AT CHANGED ITS MIND ABOUT THE PRODUCTION.

The high school scenes were originally supposed to be shot at Santa Rosa High School in Santa Rosa, Calif. But despite getting approval from the school’s administration, the city school board banned the production weeks before the shoot began over concerns that the script glorified violence. 

12. THE HIGH SCHOOL IS ACTUALLY A COMMUNITY CENTER.

Eventually, the high school scenes were shot at a community center in nearby Sonoma because it didn’t fall under the jurisdiction of a school board. As a joke, in the “Special Thanks” section of the end credits it says “No thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa city school district governing board.”

13. WES CRAVEN HAS A CAMEO.

Director Wes Craven makes a cameo as a janitor. He’s wearing Freddy Krueger’s hat and sweater.

14. THE FINAL SCENE TOOK 21 NIGHTS TO SHOOT.

The 42-minute final act, taking place entirely during the party at Stu’s house, took 21 successive nights to shoot. The cast and crew jokingly called it “The longest night in horror history.”

15. IT WAS INITIALLY SLAPPED WITH AN NC-17 RATING.

The film was originally given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA for being too gruesome, and despite the fact that Craven initially refused to cut anything, the movie was edited and resubmitted by the studio nine times before it was given an R rating.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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technology
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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Health
200 Health Experts Call for Ban on Two Antibacterial Chemicals
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iStock

In September 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ban on antibacterial soap and body wash. But a large collective of scientists and medical professionals says the agency should have done more to stop the spread of harmful chemicals into our bodies and environment, most notably the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban. They published their recommendations in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

The 2016 report from the FDA concluded that 19 of the most commonly used antimicrobial ingredients are no more effective than ordinary soap and water, and forbade their use in soap and body wash.

"Customers may think added antimicrobials are a way to reduce infections, but in most products there is no evidence that they do," Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that these chemicals may actually do more harm than good. They don't keep us from getting sick, but they can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs. Triclosan and triclocarban can also damage our hormones and immune systems.

And while they may no longer be appearing on our bathroom sinks or shower shelves, they're still all around us. They've leached into the environment from years of use. They're also still being added to a staggering array of consumer products, as companies create "antibacterial" clothing, toys, yoga mats, paint, food storage containers, electronics, doorknobs, and countertops.

The authors of the new consensus statement say it's time for that to stop.

"We must develop better alternatives and prevent unneeded exposures to antimicrobial chemicals," Rolf Haden of the University of Arizona said in the statement. Haden researches where mass-produced chemicals wind up in the environment.

The statement notes that many manufacturers have simply replaced the banned chemicals with others. "I was happy that the FDA finally acted to remove these chemicals from soaps," said Arlene Blum, executive director of the Green Science Policy Institute. "But I was dismayed to discover at my local drugstore that most products now contain substitutes that may be worse."

Blum, Haden, Schettler, and their colleagues "urge scientists, governments, chemical and product manufacturers, purchasing organizations, retailers, and consumers" to avoid antimicrobial chemicals outside of medical settings. "Where antimicrobials are necessary," they write, we should "use safer alternatives that are not persistent and pose no risk to humans or ecosystems."

They recommend that manufacturers label any products containing antimicrobial chemicals so that consumers can avoid them, and they call for further research into the impacts of these compounds on us and our planet.

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