CLOSE
Original image
YouTube

12 Stripped-Down Facts About Showgirls

Original image
YouTube

Twenty years ago, the semi-pornographic yet campy Showgirls was released into theaters, starring Saved by the Bell's Elizabeth Berkley as a stripper-turned-Vegas showgirl. The movie tanked at the box office, won seven Razzies, and was so poorly reviewed and received that it ended careers. Years later, through video rentals, the meant-to-be darkly funny film became a cult classic, made a huge profit, and found an audience.

1. KYLE MACLACHLAN WAS “GOBSMACKED” WHEN HE SAW THE MOVIE FOR THE FIRST TIME.

In a 2012 interview with The A.V. Club, Kyle MacLachlan (Zack Carey) talked about the first time he saw Showgirls. “I was absolutely gobsmacked,” he said. “I said, ‘This is horrible. Horrible!’ And it’s a very slow, sinking feeling when you’re watching the movie, and the first scene comes out, and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s a really bad scene.’ But you say, ‘Well, that’s okay, the next one’ll be better.’ And you somehow try to convince yourself that it’s going to get better … and it just gets worse.” 

MacLachlan went on to say he thinks that the movie is “inadvertently funny” but it didn’t turn out the way he expected. He also thinks the wrong material was placed in the hands of the wrong cast and crew, and he accepts it for what it is. “Even Ishtar eventually disappeared. But this one keeps coming back!” he said.

2. QUENTIN TARANTINO LOVES SHOWGIRLS.

In the 1998 book Quentin Tarantino: Interviews, Tarantino applauded Showgirls’s status as a mainstream exploitation film. “The thing that’s great about Showgirls, and I mean great with a capital great, is that only one other time in the last 20 years has a major studio made a full-on, gigantic, big-budget exploitation movie,” explained Tarantino. "Showgirls is the Mandingo of the '90s."

However, Tarantino did have one critique: “The only scene that didn’t work for me at all was where Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan have sex in this pool. But the scene where she lap dances on him ... that was a good scene, man!”

3. FEMINIST GLORIA STEINEM WANTED TO WORK WITH JOE ESZTERHAS.

In his 752-page autobiography, Hollywood Animal, Basic Instinct and Showgirls scribe Joe Eszterhas revealed that, after Showgirls came out, Gloria Steinem approached him about a film project. “Gloria Steinem and I had a meeting about doing a movie about the young Marilyn Monroe,” he wrote. “I took the idea to Paul [Verhoeven] and he’d turned it down. The media had a lot of fun with it, though: Gloria Steinem producing a movie done by the Showgirls guys.”

4. AFTER 20 YEARS, ELIZABETH BERKLEY HAS FINALLY MADE PEACE WITH THE FILM.

Berkley attended a 20th anniversary screening of the film this summer at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where she spoke about the humiliation she felt when the film came out and how painful the backlash was to her, saying that “1995 was such a different time, where taking risks like that was not embraced. They were laughed at, they were shamed, publicly. To be a young girl in the center of that was something that was quite difficult. But I found my own resiliency and my power and my confidence … Tonight I want to thank you guys for giving me this gift of truly getting a full-circle moment of experiencing the joy with you.”

5. ESZTERHAS THINKS THE MOVIE WOULD’VE BEEN A HIT HAD MADONNA BEEN CAST.

Madonna was considered for the part of Cristal Connors, which eventually went to Gina Gershon. Eszterhas wrote in Hollywood Animal that Verhoeven didn’t like “Madoo’s” (his nickname for Madonna) input, so she wasn’t cast. “Had Paul liked Madoo’s script ideas, then the critics would have liked Showgirls better because it would have been Madoo’s script, not mine. Then Showgirls may not have been one of the greatest clinkers of all time.” Drew Barrymore was considered for the Nomi part, but she couldn’t dance. Again, Eszterhas thinks if Madonna and Barrymore were in the film, it would’ve turned out better.

6. ESZTERHAS ENCOURAGED TEENAGERS TO BRING FAKE IDS BECAUSE HE THOUGHT THE MATERIAL WAS MATURE ENOUGH FOR THEM.

One reason Eszterhas became known as “the most reviled man in America” was because when the NC-17 movie was released, he issued a press release telling teens to bring fake IDs. In Hollywood Animal he says, “Had I not told teenagers to bring their fake IDs, I would’ve avoided making a colossal a**hole of myself.” He also explains his motive for the teen IDs: “There was nothing in the movie to harm them, because I didn’t believe that either four-letter words or naked body parts would do any harm to teenagers. Since only those teenagers who look close to 18 have fake IDs, I certainly wasn’t calling for 10- or 14-year-olds to see it. It would be good for teenagers’s values to see Nomi Malone [Berkley] rejecting stardom and money because of the amorality which it cost.”

7. SHOWGIRLS IS THE HIGHEST-GROSSING NC-17 RATED FILM OF ALL TIME.

Though getting slapped with an NC-17 is usually a death knell at the box office, Showgirls was made with that rating in mind. Showgirls has a lifetime gross of $20,350,754, which is good enough for first place. Other NC-17-rated films in recent years such as Shame (2013), Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013), and Killer Joe (another film starring Gina Gershon, 2012), didn’t even come close to Showgirls’s gross. The film went on to earn more than $100 million on home video.

8. ESZTERHAS REGRETS CALLING THE FILM “A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE.”

When the film came out, Eszterhas said it was “a deeply religious experience,” but in a 2006 interview with Nerve, he clarified his comment. “At the end of the picture, [Nomi] does turn her back on all of it,” he said. “The final image is of her walking away from everything that’s made her a star, and in a sense, she cleanses herself. But to call it a deeply religious experience was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I’m Hungarian, and Hungarians are noted for doing some singularly stupid things, and I don’t think I would consider myself an especially intelligent Hungarian either, so there you go.”

9. GINA GERSHON WASN’T ALLOWED TO DO A TEXAS ACCENT, BUT DID IT ANYWAY.

As written, Gershon’s character Cristal was from Texas. But in an interview with The Daily Beast, the actress said that Verhoeven was against her speaking with an accent. Instead, she spoke in a Texas twang all day on the set in the hope that nobody would notice. “It drives me crazy,” she said about watching Showgirls. “I see parts where I wish I could loop and do ADR and fix my accent. I have a hard time watching the movie.”

10. PENNY WROTE, DIRECTED, STARRED IN, AND EDITED A SHOWGIRLS SEQUEL.

Rena Riffel, who plays Penny in the movie, made a satirical sequel in 2011 called Showgirls 2: Penny’s from Heaven. The movie features some of the original film’s cast members, and pokes fun at its source material. This year a re-cut version is coming out, with deleted scenes, a shortened version, and new dance numbers. Riffel asked Verhoeven to direct the sequel but “he said it was the most painful, hurtful, negative experience and he would never step foot back in the Showgirls world again,” she told Gawker. “A lot of the casting directors would call me in for a big movie after Showgirls was out just to sit there and get mad at me and say, ‘How could you do that, Rena? You should be ashamed of yourself.’ They didn’t even care if I read my scene for them. Hollywood, it made them mad.” 

11. CARRIE ANN INABA AND ELIZABETH BERKLEY GOT INVOLVED WITH DANCING WITH THE STARS.

Choreographer/dancer Carrie Ann Inaba played Goddess Dancer in the film and was previously an In Living Color Fly Girl, but she danced her way into becoming a judge on Dancing With the Stars. In 2013, Berkley finally got over her fear of dancing (she experienced a lot of ridicule after the film bombed) and competed in the reality series’s 17th season. But she and her partner, Valentin Chmerkovskiy, were eliminated.

12. JIMMY FALLON SIMULTANEOUSLY PARODIED SHOWGIRLS AND SAVED BY THE BELL.

In February of this year, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon arranged a partial Saved by the Bell reunion with Fallon participating in a sketch featuring Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris), Mario Lopez (A.C. Slater), Tiffani Thiessen (Kelly Kapowski), Dennis Haskins (Principal Belding), and Berkley (Jessie Spano) reprising their characters from the show. At one point during the self-aware skit, Gosselaar says, “Jimmy going on a date with Nicole Kidman is like Jessie becoming a stripper,” a reference to Berkley’s Showgirls role. Berkley took the swipe in stride and also parodied her famous “I’m so excited, I’m so scared” line from Saved by the Bell.

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
arrow
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
Original image
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!

Original image
Opening Ceremony
fun
arrow
These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
Original image
Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

501069-OpeningCeremony2.jpg

Opening Ceremony

To this:

501069-OpeningCeremony3.jpg

Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES