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11 Quotes from Celebrities About Their Music Careers

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1. Eddie Murphy

Thanks to Murphy’s 1985 single “Party All the Time,” it seems no one will let him live down his music career—though many forget how popular the Rick James-produced hit actually was. The song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Plus, its album, How Could It Be?, made it to #26 on the Billboard 200. Murphy is still making music, but “Party All the Time” continues to work against him.

In a 1987 conversation with Interview magazine, Murphy was asked why many celebrities, who were rumored to be working on his album at the time, never showed up in the finished product. In addition to Rick James, Prince and Stevie Wonder were supposed to collaborate with Murphy. He responded, “Egos, man. If I had done the album with all of those guys and it had been a success, people would have said, 'Yeah, it's good, but who couldn't have made a good record with Prince, Stevie, and Rick?' And if it was a flop, people would say, 'Damn, not even Prince could save that f***ed-up shit.'"

2. Tyra Banks

In the early 2000s, Banks worked with Mariah Carey’s music manager, Benny Medina, and released the single “Shake Ya Body” in 2004 to promote the second season of America’s Next Top Model. This wasn’t her first foray into music, though. A few years earlier, she was featured on the single “K.O.B.E.” alongside fellow celebrity-turned-musician Kobe Bryant.

In a 2006 profile of Banks in Forbes, she dismissed her music career: “Oh child, that was a dream. I sounded decent, but you shouldn’t ever do something just because you’re only decent at it.”

3. Shaquille O’Neal

Shaq has had a fairly extensive rap career since 1993. He has released five albums, including his debut album Shaq Diesel, which went platinum within months. Interestingly, Shaq was planning a rap with Notorious B.I.G. in the mid-'90s. The two were even supposed to meet up the night that Notorious B.I.G. died.

In his autobiography, he wrote, “For me, it wasn’t about the money. Everyone in the record industry knows you don’t make real big money unless you go on tour all the time. For me, it was about fulfilling my dream and rhyming with all my favorite emcees.”

4. William Shatner

In 1968, Shatner released his first album, which was met with much confusion. In his own spoken-word style, he has done covers of many popular songs, including “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Rocket Man.”

In 2004, Newsweek quoted Shatner as saying, “I'll tell you the truth, the album ‘The Transformed Man’ is much more extensive than just ‘Tambourine Man’ and ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.’ So yes, in the beginning it bothered me that people singled them out and poked fun at them. They didn't know what I was doing. But since these people only heard ‘Tambourine Man,’ I went along with the joke.”

5. Don Johnson

The Miami Vice star released two albums during his tenure on the show. His single “Heartbeat” even hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. He was also good friends with the Allman Brothers, who he wrote songs with occasionally. Johnson has a co-writer credit on “Blind Love” and “Can’t Take It with You.”

In 2012, Johnson told Men’s Journal, “I used to sing with [The Allman Brothers Band] occasionally. In fact, my debut was at Madison Square Garden. Dickey brought me out to sing ‘Ramblin' Man’ with him. I was 26 or 27 at the time, and you can imagine the thrill of walking out there and doing that. Music and laughter went together a good deal, but then I became famous and it all changed. After I was an actor, it was miserable.”

6. Bruce Willis

Last year, Willis showed off his harmonica skills during his SNL monologue, but that was just scratching the surface of his musical abilities. In 1987, Willis released the R&B album The Return of Bruno.

Who’s Bruno? That would be Willis’s alter ego, Bruno Radolini, who had his own HBO mockumentary released in conjunction with the album. Some of Bruno’s pals starred in the film, including Elton John, Ringo Starr, and Bon Jovi. Willis’s single “Respect Yourself” ended up hitting #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, but he wasn’t able to replicate that success.

In 2013, an interviewer asked Willis if he’ll be making more music. He responded, “Fortunately not ...There are a lot of really good singers in the world and I’m very happy to let them handle that. I just can’t stand there and stand the sound of my own voice. It’s excruciating.”

7. David Hasselhoff

Hasselhoff released his first album, Night Rocker, in 1985, and has since released 18 more. Many of his singles haven’t achieved mainstream success in the United States, but they have gained a lot of traction in Germany and Austria.

Hasselhoff has said, "It’s difficult for an actor to break through as a singer in America. I was the Knight Rider guy, I was the Baywatch guy, and nobody was interested in doing my musical career. And I said, 'Well, I don’t care!' So I got on an airplane and flew to Germany and sold millions of records! I was playing to 10,000 people a night! When I was on the bow of the boat on Baywatch, it was with a brand new telephone, booking corporate gigs for the weekend."

8. Brian Austin Green

Before becoming famous, the 90210 star had attended junior high school for music. He was looking to follow in the musical footsteps of his father, George Green, who was a professional drummer. The younger Green released one album, One Stop Carnival, in 1996. His foray into hip hop wasn’t well-received, but the producers of 90210 did incorporate his music into the show.

In 2010, Green told Details, “Acting wasn't anything I ever considered doing as a career. I had every intention of being a musician. After 90210 started, I started to miss music and wanted to get back into it. So I got a bunch of equipment and started producing and writing songs on my own.” He wasn’t interested in his character, David Silver, becoming a musician, though. He claimed, “To me, it was kind of making a mockery of what I had outside of the show. But I thought, ‘If you guys really are running out of ideas and it's going to give you more to work with, go for it.’”

9. Keanu Reeves

Reeves played the bass and wrote music for the alternative rock band Dogstar. Before even releasing an album, the group toured as an opening act for Bon Jovi. Their debut album, Our Little Visionary, was released in 1996. The album sold primarily in Japan where the band also toured. In 2000, Dogstar released their final album, Happy Ending.

In 2000, a Rolling Stone reporter asked Reeves if music was just a hobby. He responded, "I don't know. We play in a band. We f***ing make music. We try to make records. We hang out. 'Is it a hobby?' I don't know. We get paid, so isn't that professional? So, OK, I'm a professional hobbyist."

10. Jamie-Lynn Sigler

Sigler tried to break into the music industry mid-way through her run as Meadow Soprano on The Sopranos. In 2001, she released the bilingual pop album called Here to Heaven. At the end of the day, her single “Cry Baby” got some attention, but sales weren’t great.

In 2007, Sigler told Vegas magazine, “There was no creative process at all. It was a very packaged thing, and people were wanting to capitalize on The Sopranos. I take responsibility—I was part of it—but I hated every moment of it. I was faking it the whole time.”

11. Joey Lawrence

In 1993, “Nothin’ My Love Can’t Fix,” off of Lawrence’s self-titled album, reached #19 on the Billboard Hot 100. Around this time, there was a ridiculous and hilarious rumor that Mayim Bialik and her family refused to let Lawrence’s album be played on the set of Blossom. Four years later, Lawrence released Soulmates. He has released a few singles since and there has been talk of a new album, but nothing concrete.

Of all the celebrities on this list, Lawrence may be the most proud of his music career. In 2007, he proved that he could still recite “Nothin’ My Love Can’t Fix” lyrics, namely the following: “Philly Zoo to be exact/And Philly's my origin as a matter of fact/But let's get back to the subject at hand."

“I was, like, 15 when I wrote that thing," He told Philadelphia magazine "It was definitely one of the earlier crossover pop hits that kinda worked.”

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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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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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