CLOSE
Original image
YouTube

11 Lucky Facts About Dirty Harry

Original image
YouTube

Nearly 45 years ago, Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel changed action cinema forever with Dirty Harry, a brutal crime drama about a take-no-prisoners cop who also gets the dirtiest jobs in his city, and the killer he’s trying to bring down. The film was a massive box office hit, divided critics with its apparent political messages, and made Eastwood into the biggest movie star in the world.

Now, if you’re feeling lucky, here are 11 facts about the iconic film ... punk.

1. IT ORIGINALLY HAD A DIFFERENT TITLE.

Though it’s hard to imagine the film not being identified so strongly by its title character now, back when Dirty Harry was just a developing screenplay by the husband and wife team of Harry Julian Fink and R.M. Fink, it was known as Dead Right.

2. FRANK SINATRA WAS SET TO STAR.

The idea that anyone but Clint Eastwood could play Harry Callahan seems strange, but a number of other stars were considered for the title role first, among them Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum, and Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was actually attached to the film at one point, but pulled out because of an injury to his hand. So Eastwood stepped in, and the rest is history.

3. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SET IN NEW YORK.

The original script called for Callahan to be a tough New York City cop, but by the time Eastwood came onboard, and re-teamed with director Don Siegel (they’d already made three films together, including The Beguiled), it was decided that the setting should be San Francisco, a city both men loved.

4. AUDIE MURPHY WAS ALMOST THE VILLAIN.

Siegel made the interesting choice of approaching World War II hero-turned-actor Audie Murphy for the role of the sadistic killer known as “Scorpio.” It’s still not clear if Murphy ever considered taking the role, because he died in a plane crash before filming began.

5. TERRENCE MALICK WORKED ON THE SCRIPT.

Though Eastwood and Siegel ultimately stuck close to the original script by the Finks, Dirty Harry went through several rewrites before making it to the screen. Among the screenwriters to take uncredited shots at the script was a young Terrence Malick, who had not yet had his breakthrough feature film debut with Badlands.

6. CLINT EASTWOOD’S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT MAKES A CAMEO.

While filming Dirty Harry, Eastwood was on the verge of releasing his first film as a director, Play Misty for Me, and the film actually makes a small appearance in the adventures of Harry Callahan. During the iconic bank robbery scene, as Harry crosses the street—under the shower of an exploded fire hydrant—to confront the final robber (and say his famous “Well, do ya, punk?” line), a theater marquee advertising Play Misty for Me is visible in the background.

7. EASTWOOD DID HIS OWN STUNTS.

For the scene in which Harry chases down Scorpio, who has kidnapped a busload of children, the character is required to leap from a trestle bridge onto the top of the moving bus. If you watch the scene carefully, you’ll notice that it’s not a stuntman making the leap. Eastwood did it himself.

8. EASTWOOD DIRECTED ONE SCENE HIMSELF.

During one night of shooting, Siegel had to miss work because of the flu, leaving the production without a director. So Eastwood took over. The scene in which Harry confronts a suicidal man on the roof of a building was directed by Eastwood.

9. THE FAMOUS FINAL SCENE ALMOST DIDN’T HAPPEN.

After dispatching Scorpio in the film’s final moments, Harry takes out his badge and tosses it into the nearby water. Eastwood was initially very uncomfortable with this, fearing that it would signify to the audience that Harry was definitely quitting police work for good. Siegel argued that it instead meant that Callahan was simply frustrated with the policing system that made it so hard for him to get rid of the killer in the first place, but decided to compromise. The director told Eastwood that he could simply draw back his arm as if he were about to throw the badge before thinking twice and putting it back in his pocket. Eventually, though, Eastwood came around to Siegel’s point of view, and threw the badge.

10. CRITICS WERE NOT BIG FANS AT FIRST.

Though it’s now regarded as a classic action film, many prominent critics weren’t kind to Dirty Harry upon its initial release, particularly because they felt it glorified Harry’s particular brand of rule-breaking, bigoted policing. Newsweek called the film a “right-wing fantasy,” while legendary New Yorker critic Pauline Kael infamously dubbed it “fascist medievalism.”

11. IT INSPIRED A REAL COPYCAT CRIME.

In the film, Scorpio abducts a young girl and buries her alive, then demands ransom money from police. Apparently, this plot actually inspired a real crime. In 2009, a German couple was put on trial for the 1981 abduction and burial of a young girl after an informant turned them in. Reports from the court case revealed that they demanded ransom for her safety, and got the idea from Dirty Harry.

Additional Sources:
Clint: The Life and Legend
, by Patrick McGilligan
American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood
, by Marc Eliot

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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
iStock
arrow
technology
Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
Original image
iStock

When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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