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7 Unique Tattoos of Lesser Known Masterpieces

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If you want a tattoo that is memorable, it’s reasonable to select a work of art that has stood firmly in the minds of men for generations. Familiar names like Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and Picasso call up popular images known the world over, and these are the pictures usually selected for inking. But for a tattoo that is both memorable and unique, why not examine the lesser known work of the great artists? You might find a piece of brilliance that speaks more to your individuality, like the tattoos below.

1. Edvard Munch’s Girl and Death

All right, I know you love The Scream. We all love The Scream. We all have moments when we feel like that terrified figment trapped alone in a sour warped rainbow. But Edvard Munch was able to render severe and complicated emotions in his other works, too. Munch created this sketch in 1894, putting an unsettling, brilliant twist on an ancient artistic subject, Death and the Maiden. In Munch’s world, Death didn’t frighten or dominate Woman (or Love, if you will). She embraces him tenderly, fearlessly. Tattoos are often chosen because they represent strength and courage. You don’t get much braver than kissing Death in the face.

2. Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Butterfat Studios / Wikiart

It’s hard to copy Rembrandt; he did works of careful subtlety and great detail. It’s especially hard when you’re wrapping his masterpiece around a fleshy human arm. All in all, this inking of Sea of Galilee went pretty well. You can see Jesus, with a slight glow around his head, in the bottom right corner, matching the glow of golden heavens that are pushing away the storm. Also, if you really like this painting, a tattoo is a good way to make sure it sticks around. No one has seen the original since it was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Massachusetts in 1990, in what is still considered the largest art heist in history.

3. Van Gogh’s Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries, Sketch

This might shock you, but there are so many Van Gogh inspired tattoos out there that they are an absolute fad. They are the spiral perms of the 21st century. I resisted the sunflowers, the endless renditions of Starry Night (with and without the Tardis), and even a couple Café Terrace at Nights. But I liked this one. It’s the preliminary sketch Van Gogh quickly drew out of a painting he later finished. As he wrote a friend, “It was before the boats hastened out; I had watched them every morning, but as they leave very early I didn’t have time to paint them.”

4. Picasso’s The Dog

Not just any dog, mind you. Meet Lump. He was a dachshund who belonged to a friend of Picasso. The artist and the wiener dog made a loving connection, with Picasso portraying Lump in many of his pieces. Lump also is the only known individual to ever have eaten a piece of art by Picasso. Which serves Picasso right for using a sugary cake box to construct it. The simplicity of this tattoo, done in a single line, is a natural choice for dachshund lovers as well as fans of Picasso’s period of simple, clean line drawings.

5. Paul Klee’s Siblings

This isn’t a completely faithful copy of Klee’s original (also called “Brother and Sister”); the tattoo artist chose his own coloration. But the message Klee laid down is still there. Your siblings; you have tangled, blurred and inextricable relationships with each other. Still you might find beauty in them. Or just chaos. Klee, who had one sister, finished this piece in 1930.

6. Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase

Marcel Duchamp is the kind of artist who can just infuriate people. Not for being vulgar or controversial, but for slapping an upside-down urinal or a wheel stuck to the top of a stool in a museum and calling it “art.” And getting away with it. Much of Duchamp’s work wasn’t about pleasant aesthetics. It was about providing the viewer with a genuine WTH? moment. Nude Descending a Staircase caused a huge reaction when it went on display in New York in 1913. Because, as one reviewer described, it looked like “an explosion at a shingle factory.” It wasn’t that it was ugly; Cubism was already a recognizable form. It was the frustration. Duchamp triggered the audience’s sexual curiosity and fascination with the taboo, and then didn’t satisfy it. Or maybe he did?

7. Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross

Miguel Angel / Wikiart

Salvatore Dali was more than just the melty-clocks guy. This most peculiar yet strangely reverent take on an extremely familiar image proves that. Dali claimed the idea for the painting came to him in a dream. Drawing inspiration from a 19th century sketch done by a Spanish monk, Dali set about creating one of the most unique takes on Christ’s crucifixion ever set to canvas. It is notable that there is no blood, no nails, nothing that would distract from the theretofore unthinkable downward (Godlike?) perspective of the scene. And most unusual: how many of the 1000s of depictions of Christ’s death don’t show His face? In addition to the endless religious and philosophical discussions you could trigger by taking your shirt off and showing this at dinner parties, you can add geometry to the conversation. Dali certainly did, saying, “I devised a geometrical construct comprising a triangle and a circle, the aesthetic sum total of all my previous experience, and put my Christ inside the triangle.”

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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]