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11 Things You Might Not Know About She-Ra, Princess of Power

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DreamWorksTV

At the height of He-Man's popularity in the early 1980s, Mattel and cartoon studio Filmation discovered an interesting demographic detail about the series: 30 percent of its audience consisted of girls. To help satisfy the unpredicted demand for a female fantasy character, the companies conceived of She-Ra, twin sister of the massively-muscled swordsman and sworn protector of Grayskull’s honor. Hop on Swiftwind and take a trip through these 12 little-known facts about the warrior princess of Etheria.  

1. Toy Stores Didn’t Know Where to Stock Her.

Despite being an offshoot of the hyper-masculine He-Man line, She-Ra was officially described as a “fashion action doll” by Mattel, a strange amalgamation of sword fighting and hair-combing. That left stores with the dilemma of whether to place her near her Barbie brethren or among the testosterone-laced aisles of action figures. While some stores situated her adjacent to He-Man, Sears put her next to dolls in their catalog; others split the difference and stocked her in both departments.

2. She Gave Barbie a Boost. 

In the toy world, “flanker” lines are created to help support a main toy product by expanding a category and raising interest. In She-Ra’s case, Mattel saw her as a way of boosting attention for their high-profile Barbie line, which had grown stale. In an interview with He-Man.org, Janice Varney-Hamlin said, “Barbie sales had flattened out at the time, so introducing a competitive fashion doll line that we owned should expand the size of the entire category and allow the Barbie business to grow.” In 1986, after surviving an onslaught from rival Jem and the Holograms, Barbie posted $350 million in sales.

3. She Was Voted Most Likely to “Hold Back Tears.”

A late 1980s study arranged by the Institute for the Study of Women and Men at the University of Southern California graded different lines based on what girls thought their toys were most or least likely to do. Barbie was expected to be “out on a date”; She-Ra was thought to be less apt to cry. She was also preferred as a mentor over Barbie, with one girl remarking, "I like her because she knows what she wants and how to get it.” (A boy who was asked his opinion said, “She-Ra's strong and really smart. All Barbie is worried about is wearing her clothes and living in her dream house.")

4. That Headdress? It’s An Upside-Down Mask. 

The original She-Ra fashion action doll issued in 1985 featured a winged headdress that could be flipped upside-down and worn as a mask, but girls in focus groups disliked this feature. Mattel strayed from the idea, buyers were rarely aware of it, and Filmation had her sporting a more conventional tiara in the animated series.  

5. Mattel Bought Out a Rival "Sheera."

Before Mattel launched the line, they took notice of author Barbara Hambly’s fantasy novel, Ladies of Mandrigyn, featuring a character called Sheera. Despite no obvious similarities, Mattel decided to purchase the ancillary rights to the books for $25,000 so no competing toy companies would muddy the waters with a competing Sheera line.

6. She Had a Lust Animation Specialist.

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For reaction shots where She-Ra needed to be overly expressive, producers counted on one female animator in particular. According to show writer Bob Forward, the woman in question “threw lust into everything … [the director] used her for everything where he wanted passion.”  

7. Mattel’s Boys' Department Blamed Her for He-Man’s Falling Sales.

Despite an aggressive marketing campaign, She-Ra was unable to duplicate the success of her cousin: According to former Mattel employee Roger Sweet, roughly $60 million worth of She-Ra merchandise was sold in 1985, a pittance compared to the $400 million He-Man brought in the following year. But sales subsequently plummeted: According to Hamlin, employees in charge of Mattel’s boy lines were adamant that She-Ra was responsible for their declining sales. (In fact, it was likely over-saturation in the action figure market that led to the character’s demise.)

8. She Made In-Store Appearances.

Hamlin, who was in charge of marketing for girls' merchandise at Mattel, hired actresses to appear in character as She-Ra for toy stores. She recalls that when she was auditioning women for the part, a sizeable number of male Mattel employees would suddenly appear in hallways.

9. She Was Supposed to be in the Masters of the Universe Movie.

Masters of the Universe, the notoriously under-budgeted 1987 feature, was originally intended to include She-Ra; concept art by production designer William Stout was even commissioned. But director Gary Goddard felt it would be best to concentrate on He-Man for the first film. (It would be the only film.)

10. She Was Nearly in a Rock Band.

Fans bemoaned a statement by onetime cartoon property owners Entertainment Rights in 2006 where it was mentioned She-Ra was being considered for a radical reinvention. “We’ll probably re-launch She-Ra featuring a rock-and-roll band and a girl with long blond hair who will have a guitar instead of a sword,” CEO Michael Heap told World Screen. The idea never went anywhere, however, and She-Ra has yet to be resurrected.

11. She’s Become a Gay Icon.

According to Filmation’s Erika Scheimer, daughter of president Lou Scheimer, She-Ra has emerged in recent years as a gay icon due in part to some subversive references made in the series by writers. (One episode featured male sidekick Bow in a dress.) Scheimer also says the She-Ra animated feature theme song, "I Have the Power," has been played at several gay weddings.   

BONUS: A woman named She-Ra Once Robbed a Store.

She-Ra Batey, a cashier in the United Kingdom, was arrested in 2014 for stealing over $5000 US from her employers at a Derby-area supermarket so she could go on vacation in Mexico. Batey pled guilty and was ordered to pay restitution.  

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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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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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