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Josh Willis // Pizza Planet

6 Things We Learned from Pizza Planet, the Toy Story Punk Band

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Josh Willis // Pizza Planet

Pizza Planet is a "pizzacore" band from College Station, Texas. The duo consists of Josh Willis on drums and Nic Shields on guitar and vocals. Here's the twist: all their songs are based on the movie Toy Story. Indeed, even their name refers to the pizza/arcade in the movie.

In their first EP released on Bandcamp, Escape From Pizza Planet, the band's opening tune is "Snake In My Boot," referring to Woody's famous line when his string is pulled. Other songs include "Double Bypass Brain Surgery" (Sid's disassembly/torture of toys), "The Claw," "To Infinity," "And Beyond." (The last two songs are a little light on lyrics, with Shields simply hollering the song titles over grinding riffs.)

Here's a quick phone video of the band performing "Snake In My Boot":

It's not every day that you encounter a band so singly dedicated to its premise, and having such fun doing it. In order to understand more about Pizza Planet, mental_floss conducted an email interview last week. Here are some keepers, lightly edited for clarity.

1. THEY ARE TRUE FANS OF TOY STORY

mental_floss: How old were you guys when Toy Story came out?

Nic Shields: I was almost 2.

Josh Willis: I was 3? Maybe a late 2. It's definitely one of the first movies I remember watching.

mental_floss: When was the most recent time you saw Toy Story?

Shields: Probably 4 or 5 months ago.

2. THEY INVENTED "PIZZACORE"

mental_floss: ... Your Bandcamp page says [your band is] "pizzacore." Where does Pizza Planet fit in the world of musical genres?

Shields: ...We are definitely pizzacore. Which I believe is a genre we invented.

3. NEITHER BAND MEMBER IS A "BUZZ" OR A "WOODY"

mental_floss: Would you describe yourselves as more like Buzz or Woody? (And why?) Alternately, is there some other character is the Toy Story universe you really identify with?

Shields: I want to feel like I am Mr. Shark because I just make fun of everybody all the time and enjoy mockery in general. And that's exactly what this band is, mockery.

Willis: I really identify with Slinky, he's super sarcastic but also I have the ability to stretch my body to absurd lengths.

4. THEY PUT ZERO EFFORT INTO THIS BAND, AND THAT'S OKAY

mental_floss: The message of the Toy Story movies (especially Toy Story 2) seems to boil down to, effectively, "Accept your situation and enjoy it while you can." Does that message resonate with you?

Shields: (laughing) That's exactly how I feel about this band because we put zero effort into it. We play in serious bands that we put time and effort into, but everybody just cares about our joke Toy Story band. So I've just learned to take whatever comes and stop trying.

Willis: Yeah, I'm in the same spaceship as Nic [Shields] on this one. I have a lot of disdain toward this band because of how little effort I've put into it and how little I care compared to my serious band that I drop a lot of time and care into and write about stuff that is important to me. But I'm learning recently to just accept it and enjoy it while it lasts.

mental_floss: How long does it take to write a typical Pizza Planet song?

Shields: About twice as long as it takes to play it.

Willis: None of our songs are longer than 2 minutes I don't think. We usually practice maybe an hour a month. We weren't kidding when we said pretty much zero effort is put into this band.

5. AUDIENCES HAVE MOSHED TO PIZZA PLANET

mental_floss: What's the biggest audience you've ever played to, as Pizza Planet? How about the smallest?

Shields: Probably a little over 100, and smallest would probably be like 10.

Willis: Yeah, we played in a taco shop in Denton Texas called "Killers Tacos," there was probably 100+ people there. They were moshing and going crazy enough that we had to tell them to calm down because I could feel the floor moving underneath us.

mental_floss: Does the audience understand the whole Toy Story thing? Like, do you explain it to them first?

Shields: Absolutely, we treat them like children and walk them through every song we play.

Willis: Yeah, we usually will describe what each song is about from the movies and between almost every song say "All our songs are about Toy Story" so hopefully nobody has misunderstood.

6. MORE SONGS ARE COMING

mental_floss: Any plans to record more Pizza Planet songs?

Shields: Yeah!

Willis: Yeah, we just booked studio time with a friend of ours, we're going to re-record the original songs on our [EP Escape From Pizza Planet] plus some more songs. I think it'll be like 10-11 songs total.

mental_floss: Have you learned anything doing this project?

Shields: That hard work doesn't pay off and to not take anything too seriously.

Willis: Yeah definitely that I need to stop taking stuff as seriously with music. I'm just having a blast and doing stupid stuff with one of my best friends and if people are into it, whatever, and if they're not, who cares? I'm in a band that plays music about Toy Story and you're not. So yeah.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE BAND AND FIND THEIR MUSIC

For a bit more on the band and their dreams of getting a cease-and-desist order from Disney, read this article from The Daily Dot. Their Facebook page is a lot of fun, and their music is on Bandcamp.

We salute you, Pizza Planet—The Claw has chosen wisely.

(All images courtesy of Josh Willis, used with permission.)

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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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iStock

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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