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Ambassador Talent Services

Meet the World's Greatest Elvis Impersonator

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Ambassador Talent Services

by Shawn Klush, as told to Nick Greene

Even when he’s not on stage, Shawn Klush speaks with Elvis Presley’s unmistakable drawl. The Pennsylvania native is so convincing as his hero, the BBC named him the World’s Greatest Elvis. We asked him what it’s like to become—not just impersonate—the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.

Elvis was always playing in the house. He was my dad’s idol, and I got bit by that bug real early. I remember being 3 years old singing Elvis.

My first performance was at a school function. I didn’t think I was gonna make it, walking in a dark room and not knowing what’s there. It was one song, “Edge of Reality.” It went over huge.

I performed in the Poconos before going on tour in Canada, where I won a competition in Montreal. Soon after that, I started performing across the country, including on the very Vegas stage where Elvis played. I’m a lucky guy. I got real lucky to be able to do this. And a lot of this stuff is natural for me.

I didn’t watch anything to practice or mimic; I didn’t stand in front of a mirror. I’ve never done that. I don’t know how I’ve gotten to where I am by not doing that, but there’s something that happens every time before I go on stage that scares me to death—like anxiety almost to the point of where you can’t control it. That helps me with the show. I do whatever I feel, whatever pops up. It’s that excitement. It’s that big buildup. It’s that love. It’s that “Holy crap,” you know what I mean?

There’s a connection with him. I wish you could step outside of yourself and inside of me to feel it. Maybe you can explain it; I can’t. It’s everything you’ve ever expected and it’s nothing you’d ever expect. I stay as true to the original as I can. It needs to be what he is and who he was. The original guitars, the boots, the suits. San Remo boots aren’t made anymore; you can’t find ’em. I took a pair to a boot maker and I said, “Can you replicate these in my size?” And he said, “Yeah, no problem: five grand.” That’s what sets us apart. You gotta think, nobody’s gonna spend $5,000 on a pair of boots that don’t mean anything today. But our show is that way. The guitars—I play nothing but Gibsons. They’re $4,000 or $5,000 apiece. The karate stickers that he put on the guitars are impossible to get because the guy that invented them passed away and his wife said, “Bull. You can’t have them.” We do it, and it’s all out of respect and adoration and love.

I don’t perform “Edge of Reality” anymore. It’s considered a movie song; it doesn’t have anything to do with his performances. You don’t go out in the middle of a show in a jumpsuit and sing, “When her motor’s warm, and she’s purrin’ sweet...” You don’t sing “Spinout!” It doesn’t work. You can add things and embellish by doing this and that, but people are gonna go, “Elvis didn’t do that.” Everything is about being true. Don’t fool yourself, don’t fool anybody else. Feel it in your heart before it comes out of your mouth, and you should be OK. If you believe in you, they’ll believe in you. Just remember the love that’s there for that guy.

It’s very difficult to walk in someone else’s shoes. It’s hard to live up to an image, to be somebody else. Breath—you know? It’s hard to take their breath. I always regarded Elvis as a bigger, stronger individual than me—an iron giant—and I thought I couldn’t come near that. How this has all happened is beyond me; I’m just grateful for it. It’s pretty strange.

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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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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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