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I Trained a Neural Network With the Titles of 3,500 Horror Movies

It’s funny what kinds of things can spark you into going down a rabbit hole and losing an evening of your time to some creative concept. The following conversation inspired me to finally learn something I’ve been meaning to do for ages.

Steve: First up on my Shudder playlist is Prince of Darkness, Sennentuntschi, The Old Dark House, VIY, The Changeling, The Beyond, Monster Party, Revenge, Phantasm Ravager.

Jeremy: You are just making those names up!

Jeremy: I kind of want to train a neural net to make horror movie titles now.

It turns out that with a little minor programming knowledge and some general technical know-how, you can build a neural network and train it off of text pretty easily. This Lifehacker article got me started. I got textgenrnn installed and up and running pretty easily, but the hardest part was figuring out how I was going to build my database of titles.

Luckily, the hard-working people behind Wikipedia had collated tables of movie titles throughout the decades. Copying and pasting a single column of an HTML table isn’t easily accomplished, except I found a Chrome extension that made it simple. From that, I began the laborous process of going through each year and decade and about an hour later, I had 3,500 horror movie titles to serve as grist for my neural mill. I just used all the titles from the 1940s onward that were in Wikipedia. I imagine there are many missing from my dataset, but it seemed large enough to work from.

I trained it on 10 epochs and played around with a temperature score from .5 to 1.0 (anything higher than 1.0 resulted in complete nonsense, and oddly, the rare actual title). Some of the results were awesome. Some were funny. Anyway, enough about methodology. You want to see some of the titles! Here are some of my favorites out of about 110 that I kept.

Top Ten Cool/Want to Actually See Or Possiblly Write

  • Nervosis
  • Cat Mantis!
  • Primal in the Red Wicks
  • A Vampire’s Dead on Elsion
  • Stigmatary
  • Or, Vampire for the World of Grave
  • The Nine Shelley
  • Eat the Night
  • The Chainsaw Mentor
  • Creep Baseball

Top Ten Funny (Or At Least They Made Me Laugh)

  • The Terror of Part II: The Dead Row
  • Lake Bad Haunted Hunter
  • Serial Sister
  • Stard vs. Piss
  • The Night Babes from Maris
  • Shark 2
  • Hot Ransomer
  • Don’t Comb Your Soul
  • Lips from the Wizard
  • Pirhana 33DD (I spit out my soda when I saw this one)

Some of these, for all I know, may be actual titles, but I tried to check them against my master list.

Which ones are your favorites?

Photo by Pelly Benassi on Unsplash

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Now Available To Boss Around on Patreon

Because Patreon’s deal is about to get much less friendly for creators, I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger on activating my own Patreon page, which I have been toying with for about two years now. I probably don’t have the fanbase necessary to earn pro-rates for writing fiction and releasing it there, but I consider it mostly another tool in the toolbox to building a career, rather than a replacement for that kinds of on-spec writing we SF/F short fiction writers do generally. I’m never going to get rich writing fiction, and that’s great! I can finally focus on writing exactly the off-kilter stuff that I really want.

The tiers are really just a first pass effort, so if you have suggestions, feel free to share them.

I guess this means I’m going to start writing again! If that sounds like a good thing, maybe consider joining up?

You can find my Patreon page here.

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Life Cycle of the Common Parking Lot Sandberg

When I was a boy, I loved the archipelagos that formed in parking lots towards the end of winter and the dawn of spring. Murky, sand-drenched snow-islands accreted around every lamp post, existing in defiance of air temperatures thanks to their composition of half grit, half ice.

They seemed towering, ephemeral Everests that demanded conquering. Often my siblings and I would try to climb them to the chagrin of my parents who only wanted us to get in the damned car so they could get home after a long day.

As spring bounded on each year, the islands wore ever downward, the warming tide against their shores, until nothing remained but a sea of asphalt left pocked by potholes. But for a brief few weeks, there they dwelled in the K-Mart lot, a temporary geography ripe for imagination, calling to be explored and to be dreamed larger than they really were.

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Nature Walk Photos, December 21, 2018

I’m learning so much more about birds lately.

The birds I was most interested in growing up were birds of prey, and that carried into when I took up photography last time. Part of this is that they’re large enough that you don’t need a very long lens to capture them. Thanks to the new camera and lens, I’m able to get much better photos than before. Many of these are cropped to some degree to get a good composition, but still – I’m seeing them much closer than ever before, and so smaller birds are easier to chase.

Because of that, I’ve been looking them up in bird identification guides. Birds with names I recognize, but couldn’t name at sight are suddenly so much more familiar to me now that I’ve had time to photograph them.

Today, I saw house finches, carolina wrens, cedar waxwings, a female downy woodpecker, and a few more things that I didn’t manage to capture quite yet. In particular, blue jays are proving to be real bastards. They make a racket when they see me, scaring off all the other birds, and they don’t like to come out into the open enough for me to get a good shot. I will take great satisfaction from finally capturing a decent photo of a jay.

(more…)

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Nature Walks, December 16-17, 2018

Bird photography is hard.  There’s a bit of a dance to it, at least how I practice it.  I understand that most serious bird photographers use blinds and sit in one place, but who has that kind of time?  Instead, I combine my photography needs with my exercise needs, and I hike out into wild spaces. 

When I see a bird perched in a way that is conducive to a decent enough shot, I begin the slow process of approach.  You can’t look right at the bird a lot of times, as they’re sensitive to your line of sight.  And if you move too quickly, you read as a predator, and they fly away.  If you move right, keep your eyes down, and push forward slowly, you may close distance enough that the crop won’t be too bad.  You have to watch the bird during this to make sure they don’t move. And often, they do.  And so the bird backs up, you get closer.  Bird backs up, you reframe and get closer.  It takes me an hour to get a handful of decent shots.

I’m thinking about googling up the location of public bird blinds in my area, honestly.

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Photography

Nature Walk Photos, December 13th, 2018

Merry Christmas and happy birthday to me.  I invested in a new camera yesterday, an E-M1 Mark II Olympus.  It’s my first time shooting without a mirror, and I have to say, so far I’m pretty impressed, although I really would have liked better light to practice with this morning.

I went out to the Baker Wetlands today because I thought for sure I’d find some good wildlife to chase, and there was a decent amount of activity out there, not that I could see any of it. It was basically working in pre-dawn conditions due to the cloud cover.  Still, I managed to snap a couple of shots that I liked, and I’m really in love with this new camera.

A big reason I’ve decided to take pictures again is for my health. I hiked about a mile and a half this morning in pursuit, and it didn’t feel like exercise. I was engaged and in the moment the entire time, only stopping to check my phone for the time once and a while (because no matter what, I have to get into the office and build websites for part of the day). 

We’re in the depths of winter here now, as you can see. I’m looking forward to spring already.

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Nature Walk Photos, December 12, 2018

I’m trying to ease back into photography.  Apparently the way I do that is take a two hour hike into the woods near our house to chase birds. 

I feel good for having done it.  I’m very much out of practice, and it’s going to take me some time to rediscover my eye for these things, as well as technique.  I was fascinated by how much of my operation of the camera itself was muscle memory, though. I hadn’t picked this up seriously in about five years, since moving to Kansas, and surprisingly, my hands still knew how to adjust all the settings as I went without much thinking. 

Here are some photos that weren’t too terrible.

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Photography

My First Gutenberg Post, and general thoughts about WordPress 5.0

This is going to be a very geeky post, not really about writing, but more about web design and WordPress more specifically. Feel free to skip it entirely.

So here we are: WordPress 5.0. I’ve made many testing Gutenberg posts, but this will be my first post in the new WordPress Editor out in live code. The experience is pleasant enough, I suppose. I wish I could say the same about the run up to the release.

The Gutenberg release has been incredibly frustrating to watch, especially because of my reliance on custom fields in the work I develop for clients.  Over the past few years, I’ve come to rely on Advanced Custom Fields for that work as a framework underlying my code, and the Gutenberg team appears to have gone ahead and shipped 5.0 with a bug that causes the name of every single registered ACF panel to appear on the Gutenberg screen, despite this being a known issue. They may fix it in a couple of weeks.  WordPress 5.0 never should have launched with such a glaring error.

There’s a lot to like about this new editor, but the editor is the heart and soul of WordPress, the piece that nearly every WordPress user touches when they interact with the software. What’s the sense in launching something that breaks in such a fundamental way on possibly millions of websites?  And let’s not forget the massive usability concerns for those with accessibility needs. From my standpoint, Gutenberg wasn’t ready. It was rushed, to meet some secret timeline that the rest of us were never given the logic behind.  The damage it has done could have been avoided.

It’s shaken my faith in a platform that I have come to rely upon for my very livelihood. Moving forward, I think I will be asking myself more often: “can this be done without WordPress?” Instead of asking: “can it be done with WordPress?”  And that’s a shame.  Because what the 5.0 release debacle has demonstrated to me is that if my needs and the needs of my clients don’t align with what Automattic and Matt Mullenweg have decided is good for them, then our needs will lose in the contest every single time. WordPress doesn’t seem to be the open source project that I thought it was.

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