Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Jul 04

Animated Movie: A Marxist’s Take on the Double-Dip Recession

Posted: under Online Video, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Not sure if I agree with all the theses, but at least the intro really accurately runs down all the flak-catching targets for what was known as “The Subprime Mortgage Meltdown,” and is now about to be known as “The Great Depression II.”

Man, I wish I could draw as good as this guy. Reminds me of the UPS commercials where the guy with the whiteboard is illustrating in realtime what he’s talking about. Give me that guy at a board meeting, and I could sell those rubes bags of dirt.

Happy 4th of July, America. Not sure the clock has quite yet struck the hour for another Lexington & Concord, this time with the targets being Goldman-Sachs CDO traders …

RSA Animate – Crises of Capitalism

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Apr 13

Hypnotic Motion

Posted: under Video.

This is an experiment to see if adding some video files to posts is at all workable when this site is accessed via the mobile web. Please stand by.

Hypnotic Motion

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Dec 16

The Music Video Is The Advertisement: Lady GaGa Goes Post-McCluhan On Us All

Posted: under New Marketing, new media, Online Video, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Her “Bad Romance” music video features prominent product placement for stuff she designs & sells – and has garnered 38 million views.

The song itself is kinda beside the point – it’s bubblegum synth-disco-pop, about as bland and processed as the stuff the taxi drivers in Moscow used to subject me to on the way back & forth from my gig there. Which may be why it’s getting so many views – this is the kind of stuff that works internationally, since the thumping beat and lyric structure make it sound pretty much interchangeable with everything else on the radio.

Can't wait until she starts marketing the exploding bustier shown here; Madonna's Wannabees all wore their undies over their shirts. Wonder if GaGaEttes are going to be lighting their smokes off their flaming boobs.

Can't wait until she starts marketing the exploding bustier shown here; Madonna's Wannabees all wore their undies over their shirts. Wonder if GaGaEttes are going to be lighting their smokes off their flaming boobs.

But the real action here is in the video to the song. Blew my mind. Didn’t think that people had budgets like this anymore. Costumes that would make Gaultier sick with envy — white latex with “Where the Wild Things Are” shiny plastic crowns, some kinda homage to LeeLoo’s orange strappy outfit in The Fifth Element and a Eastern European mobster/white sex-slave buyer with a steampunk-ish articulated brass chin. Looked to my eye like about a week in production, probably about $500K in total costs of models, locations, crews, lighting, post-production.

The plot seems to be that Lady GaGa wakes from her sleep the way normal people do – by sticking her hand out of a gleaming white Tylenol-shaped coffin – getting forced to drink high-end vodka and the gyrate for & be sold to a bunch of strange pervy dudes.I half expected to see Liam Neeson kicking someone’s ass in the backdrop and telling her, “Here’s the scary part. You’re going to be taken…”

Nobody does these kinds of elaborate music videos anymore, because there is no way to recoup that kinda cash from the moribund music industry.- at least, not until now.As Dan Neil points out in the LA Times

the “Bad Romance” video, which features placements for no less than 10 products: a black iPod; Philippe Starck Parrot wireless speakers; Nemiroff vodka; Gaga-designed Heartbeats earphones (via Dr. Dre); Carrera sunglasses; Nintendo Wii handsets; Hewlett-Packard Envy computers; a Burberry coat; those crazy, hobbling Alexander McQueen hyper-heels; and enough La Perla lingerie to choke an ox.

This isn’t a music video so much as the QVC Channel you can dance to.

I had thought that Madonna and Michael Jackson were about as sophisticated as you could get when it came to figuring out ways to build up a juicy public image, and then squeeze it until rivers of cash started running out. Not so. Lady GaGa has rightly recognized that selling CDs if for chumps; anyone can pirate them, and pretty much does.

No, you need to sell things that people can’t copy – or at least, if they do, it kinda defeats the purpose. So Lady GaGa’s come up with the list of high-end commercial goods to do “Hero Shots” of in the video and obviously done revenue deals with them.

As a business model, I have to say hats off to the Lady. She’s adapted to the draining of value from the content (i.e. nobody actually buys music anymore – at least, not like they used to), and migrated over to where the money still lies.

When advertising no longer works, when information is a commodity in which we all drown for free, then the only things that are left that have any value are physical objects that we can wear, eat, drive or plug in, as well as what cultural anthropologists call “fetish objects” that bestow special status because they signify that we hae enough disposable income so as to be able to waste a couple grand on some gaudy sunglasses.

I’m not sure if this is the way that all news & entertainment is going to have to go in the future. All of it sponsored, with big shout-outs to the guys footing the bills worked into the info-stream every 10 seconds or so.  I do know that if this works, we’re going to see a lot more of these “branded videos” online.

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May 20

Friday Noon Videos: Week of May 15

Posted: under Online Video, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eurovision, Artsy Sheep, Sean Connery Torments Alex Trebek, and Drool-worthy Vids Made with a Canon 5DII

Please excuse the mess: I’ve been wrenching away at the template on this blog, trying to get it to function in IE7, as well as to get the banner to animate (without having to resort to either an animated GIF or a .flv file that slowed load time to a crawl).

This week, I’ve got a great mix of light & funny and experimental & trippy.

First out of the box, the most popular video of the week – the Eurovision winner. A fiddle-playing Norwegian kid, with big soulful eyes that has all the chicas in the comments section swooning.

It wasn’t until I spent a couple of months in Moscow that I realized what a big deal the winner of the Eurovision song contest was. Apparently, this has become the proxy for the landwars of the 19th century, and the combat in the voting and online is as fierce as Austerlitz.

Hey, if this can keep them damn countries from launching senseless wars against each other, I’m all for it, and will encourage it in any way that I can.  Any chance we can get Putin to do a soulful KGB ballad about the sadness & emptiness of life, now that they can no longer yank fingernails out of dissidents.

Eurovision Winner – Alexander Ryback

Julia Dales – Beatbox Champion

Next up is another musical video – somewhat more stripped down. This teenage girl manages to mimic a pretty elaborate beatbox; the comparisons to the dude in the “Police Lobotomy” movies are inevitable, if somewhat trite. I kinda wonder why this was shot in the backseat of a car? Maybe it was where they could find the best acoustics – although the window is open.

Anyway, the talent to sing while still laying down a rhythm track is hot, and the Republican Party should recruit this girl immediately, and send her thru a Cato Institute shake-n-bake seminar on right-wing ideology. That way, when next the reporters start asking pesky questions about the GOP’s alternative to Obama’s universal health coverage, she can leap into the fray and distract everyone from the utter lack of any sort of ideological alternative.


Cute Girl Has Amazing Beat Box Skill – Watch more Funny Videos

Extreme Sheep Art

I guess it’s not as bad as some of the other, more “Performance Art” pieces that could be done with a flock of sheep & some bored shepherds.

Actually, this is quite sweet, and made me think of the movie “Babe.” I had never noticed how predatory the herding dogs look when they come at the sheep; their heads are so low to the ground their muzzles must be damn near scraping, and they look like they’re coiled and ready to go for the throat. Maybe the panicked reactions of the sheep aren’t so out of line?

Anyway – any video that manages to combine sheep in lighted vests, a hillside & the 1812 Overture to good effect gets a thumbs-up from me. And the sheep have obviously been getting their cardio-vascular exercise.


Samsung Extreme Sheep LED Art
Uploaded by sertanarig.

SNL – Will Farrell Returns as Alex Trebek, Still Tormented by Sean Connery

Everytime I see versions of this skit, I collapse in laughter.

Killer line this time: “Is that what the moustache is for, Trebek?”

Why I Want a Canon 5D Mark II: Part 1 – Deep Powder Skiing

I defy anyone to try to get this kind of quality in such extreme conditions with a standard HD camera; the camera is either way too clunky (check out the trippy sequence when the skiiers are weaving through the trees – a larger camera would have smashed into the trunks & not have been able to thread the needle) or too bulky to take along with you during a downhill run like this, over moguls and deep powder.

The shots of the snow were so crisp that I got a brain freeze.

Powder Mountain Perspective from Ian Provo on Vimeo.

Part 2: Great Music Video Cinematography & Color Depth

This is just neat-o eye candy.

wemakemusic* – Dance with a Statue from Sebastian Woeber on Vimeo.

And last, check out this (it’s not embeddable, so you’ll have to click through) – it’s just a camera test, but it feels like the beginning of a 70s-vintage thriller like “French Connection” or something.  The stedicam work done with the 5D is great-it must be a treat to be able to be so nimble in your movements because of the reduced size & weight. The video is a little sticky, so you’re going to have to wait for it to buffer, which can be a pain. (Brief pause to check stats)

This vid is about 116 megs, so yeah, it’s gonna take a while. Obviously fairly uncompressed, which is why the image quality is so high.  Hope I’m not banging your bandwidth too bad, guys… but I do recommend checking out how well the 5D does Panavision with a 50mm lens on it.

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May 09

Friday (after-) Noon Videos – Week of May 8

Posted: under Online Video, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m feeling a little New Media biz overstimulated, a result of spending the weekend at BarCampLA, and then segueing directly into the Digital Hollywood conference.  Apparently, you can get too much of a good thing … if by “Good Thing” you also include in that little Venn Diagram:

  • Marketing directors who name-check “Minority Report” more than once per panel session when asked to ruminate on “Whither Advertising?”
  • VCs desperate to invest in anything with the word “mobile” in it (hey – my cat is mobile when she prowls the yard, hunting crickets, with a strong social aspect as she tries to catch the sparrows that twitter at her – the line forms to the right for those ready to dump $3M in Tier One Angel Funding on us)
  • Angry movie/TV producers, eking out a living from creative projects 15 years out of date, desperately searching for someone to write them a check to produce the script that every agency in town has rolled their eyes at
  • DRM technology salesmen who “guarantee” that their solution will prevent the video industry from following the music industry down the toilet (but who go silent when asked what major releases, specifically, can you not find on Pirate Bay?)
  • having to park in the “overflow” lot at the Santa Monica Civic Center, thus making we walk past the Rand Corp. headquarters repeatedly, thus probably landing me on a list of those to be rounded up & waterboarded by Information Retrieval Services and Michael Palin, sometime in the near future

So the weekly round-up of the best/funniest viral videos on the web is little delayed this week.

First, one that was sent to me because it stars a distant relative – Don LaFontaine aka “The Voice” aka “That Guy in the Movie Trailers Who Always Says ‘In A World…’ ”

The Five Biggest Voices in Hollywood – All in a Limo

This is a few years old, but I’m posting it because it’s funny, it gathers together the best voices in Hollywood with a pretty decent storyline, and because Don was The Man.  I can kinda do an imitation of his voice, and I have done so for many of my indie-film friends who want a sarcastic Don LaFontaine-esque big scary voice to underline the over-the-top aspect of their parodies.

Best lines: Don: “Nick Tate …”

Nick: “…a voice sixty-five million years in the making.”

Don: “Ominous.”

John Leader: “Mysterious.”

Nick [line delivered with a smirk as the camera does a close-up]: “Hung like a horse.”

OnionTV: Trekkies Revolt Because New Movie Isn’t Cheesy

This is worth watching if for no other reason that it reminds you how transparently awful 60s-era sci-fi was.  A while back, I watched the DVDs of the original series on a friends gigantor home theater, and was shocked to see how bad the makeup was, how the alien-world backdrops were clearly visible painted walls, and how everyone was sweating under the hot lights, even the Red Shirts (probably because they’d had a couple of stiff drinks over lunch to make them properly enthusiastic as they yelled “AAAgggh!” while off-camera prop artists chucked rubbery tentacles at them.

Play Him Off, Keyboard Cat

OK, this is one of those strange web videos that goes viral every once in a while for reasons that passeth all understanding.  I’ve been seeing it crop up on all the video-sharing sites, and blogs are starting to embed it on their pages.  Including this one.

I’m guessing that the dingbats over on 4Chan are somehow behind this one, and that there is some strange cosmic significance to the cat doing the Paul Schaeffer schtick, but I don’t really have time to delve deep down into it.  Or it’s just random & st00pid, and the point is that there is no real point, and we should all go back to reading our Sartre.

Enjoy.  Or endure. Whichever.

Lord of the Rings Look & Feel on a $5,000 Budget

This is impressive.

I can’t embed this here, so click on the link above, or go the the page “The Hunt for Gollum” to check this out.

The sidebar on Daily Motion claims that this film was made for less than $5,000, and the end credits make it clear that nobody was paid to appear in this film, nor is anyone making any money out of it. This is pure fanfic – and a strikingly good example of that.  The costumes and the travel budget to the various woods & gardens that they used for sets in this film alone would add up to far more than $5K.

Somebody loved this movie.

I hope that Peter Jackson, New Line’s assignors & HarperCollins just let this one be. If they’re smart, they will.  This film is not a copyright infringement.  Well, it kinda is … but what it is really, is a brilliant piece of marketing for all the fans of the LOTR trilogy, to keep them engaged with Tolkien’s world.  And yeah, the acting is a little stiff at points, and the pointy ears on the elf-chick are not good, but for all that, this is an enjoyable cinematic experience.

At some point, we’re going to figure out that the copyright laws actually are more of a hindrance to the creators of intellectual property like this, than they are of a help.  It took George Lucas a couple of decades to learn that the best way to communicate with his fan base was not via “cease and desist” letters, but through actually talking with some of the amateur fimmakers who felt so touched by his art that they wanted to make their own art so they could keep playing in his wonderful sandbox.

Just as newspapers are having to learn that they don’t own the news anymore – as if they ever really did – so too are TV and filmmakers going to have to learn in the years ahead that they don’t really “own” content that connects with, and inspires the audience in the way that the LOTR franchise so obviously connected with, and inspired these filmmakers. Check out this article for more on the prosumer impresarios.

Kudos, guys.  (And howinhell did you get all those people in the end credits to sign up to slave away for you for no $$ whatsoever?)

This is a huge hit over on DailyMotion, and some real effort went into making this.  I think that some of the early shots are "machinimation" from the various LOTR videogames.

This is a huge hit over on DailyMotion, and some real effort went into making this. I think that some of the early shots are "machinimation" from the various LOTR videogames.

Dirty Sexy Money

And last in the lineup is the NSFW entry, which shows what our money gets up to in its spare time.

This is apparently an ad for banks in Germany, and it shows the US Dollar getting busy with the Pound (that hussy!) who is apparently quite the little tramp…

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May 01

The Cure to Swine Flu Hysteria: Laughter

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense, Friday Noon Videos, Online Video, Video.
Tags: , , ,

The swine flu pandemic – er, ahem H1N1 virus (now the officially gov’t sanctioned name for the Aporkalypse) – has generated hysteria in the news that rivals the Deadly Y2K Bug That Was Gonna Kill Us All (if you don’t remember – a sample headline from Wired at the time was “Head for the Hills!”).

So I’ve kinda amended the “Friday Noon Videos” format a bit to include some of the best snark available on the web, in the hopes on contributing to a general relaxation from the End of Days-level media converage this illness has been getting.

So first, this LOLCat-esque picture is making the rounds:

Next has to be the parody of Twitter’s “Failwhale,” which is a pretty decent homage to the way that the “pandemic” has been dominating online conversations this past week:

…and now for the videos.

First, got this gem from Gentleman Jim Breiner, who particularly liked the way it mimics the breathless reportage of some TV commentators.  I particularly like the set for this “underground newscast” — it looks like someplace that only a member of the “Trailer Park Boys” would find appropriate for a TV studio.

Next, I gotta go with this bit from an “Actual victim” of the swine flu, revealing how it was that the virus made the porcine-to-human jump (hint: he was a little drunk at the time, she was dressed provocatively, hormones were running high).

Last, I’d love to show off this series of unintentionally funny 1975 ad for swine flu shots.  Pay attention to the cheesy 70s synth score in the background. Whoever that composer was, he obviously moonlighted on porno movies up in Northridge.  Straight outta Boogie Nights.  I think some of the moustaches on these guys could thatch the roofs of an entire Amazon jungle village.  

Oh, and here’s an obligatory serious link to commentary on where newspapers and indeed, the entire publishing industry, is headed — and why.

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Apr 24

Friday Noon Videos – Best of the Web Week of April 24, 2009

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense, journalism, Online Video, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Last week at the International Symposium of Online Journalists in Austin, I presented a series of viral videos to make the point that the national discourse is no longer “owned” by what we think of as professional media.  It may seem like a trivial point, when compared to the other nuclear meltdown-level emergencies of declining advertising, lack of a sustainable business model for the future, declining audience share, sky-high debt loads, etc. – but I believe that adapting ourselves to this new environment is the first step towards resolving these other problems.

I asked the audience how many of them "got" the central image here, and could put it into its viral meme context.

I asked the audience how many of them "got" the central image here, and could put it into its viral meme context.

Over at the Online Journalism Review, Robert Niles makes a compelling and far more comprehensive argument about why the whole concept of ownership of the news & the national conversation has been toxic to the mainstream media’s efforts at retaining its audience share.

Another point that I tried to make was that it is OK to use humor in your reportage, now and again. The relentless barrage of bad news these days is making us all a little crazy (see this excellent Newsweek article on this topic).  There’s a reason that John Stewart & Stephen Colbert are so popular – they report on the news, they give it the kind of context that is so often missing on these stories, and they do it in a way that makes us crack a smile.  It’s the voice that I remember from my early b.s. sessions at seedy bars with grizzled news veterans.  It’s a human voice. The voice that says, “Well, y’know, I hadda write the story about [local businessman X] getting the Nice Guy award for the paper. But the funny thing is that everyone knows that he’s a screaming tyrant whose wife tried to run away…”

It’s the kind of voice that can re-establish the trust that our audience has lost in us.  The one that doesn’t feel the need to kneel and genuflect at the altar of he-said she-said “objectivity.” The one that can make us feel informed, energized, and in control a bit – because things that we can laugh at are no longer quite so scary.

[And yeah, I know, my much-promised blog post about the effects of fear in the media on all of us is still in the works. Forgive me.]

So for all of you trapped in office cubicles, or just in need of a bit of diversion at the end of the week, here are the top viral videos:

Read More

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Apr 18

Links for video “Story in Slices” (Efecto Telenovela)

Posted: under Digital Migration, Online Video, Video.
Tags:

I have learned the hard way not to dare to try to play video on the UT presentation system. So I’m using this blogpost as a way to put up the links to the examples that I want to use in tomorrow’s talk about how to tell complex stories using the “Telenovela Effect.”

What kind of new dialectic – that is, what kind of form & function of transmitting information – has evolved on the web to reach the audiences?  Well, one of the big successes that we should look at is the most popular webisodic – one that recently notched more than 1 million subscribers:

Fred

From a teenage kid in Nebraska with a cheap videocam, to a growing brand and industry. Warning: adults will not "get" this humor. Really.

From a teenage kid in Nebraska with a cheap videocam, to a growing brand and industry. Warning: adults will not "get" this humor. Really.

The first is a link to a fascinating site called “Alive in Baghdad.”

This is a site that combines the work of both amateur and professional videographers.

This is a site that combines the work of both amateur and professional videographers.

Next is BoingBoingTV, where they produce quirky original content that tracks the latest in odd & quirky news:

In a similar vein, there is also Rocketboom:

And Mahalo TV:

Shelby Star local videos (pay special attention to the sports section)

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Apr 15

John Battelle – Packaged Goods and $100 CPMs

Posted: under advertising, new media, Online Video, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is part 3 of John’s keynote at OMMA 2009.

…and yes, I know, I don’t have the excerpts and such that made the other videos interesting to watch. But I figure if you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably already pretty interested in what this guy has to say.

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Mar 26

“Newspapers deserve to die” – Jason Calacanis keynote at OMMA 2009

Posted: under Digital Migration, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression

Curmudgeons skip directly to 7:50 or so, for the juicy bits. If you are in a crowded place, please allow at least 10 feet of safety space in all directions for when your head explodes.

This is the first part of the rather incendiary keynote speech by Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo.com, at the OMMA Hollywood 2009 conference. The keynote’s title is “Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression,” and in it, Calacanis cheers the death of newspapers and “Old Media,” and lauds paid search as the “most powerful advertising medium ever created.”

Not coincidentally, Mahalo is a paid search company.

Along the way, Calacanis also trashes social media advertising, showing screenshots of drunken parties to “prove” that all advertising on this platform is unwelcome, intrusive and doomed to die.

Highlights:

“Gosh, newspapers didn’t see this coming, did they? I mean, the newspapers were reporting on their own demise for a decade. And they still couldn’t change it.

It’d be as if you’re the Titanic and you haven’t even left port yet.  And they’re like, “By the way, there’s a lot of icebergs to the north.” And you’re like “OK, thanks.” A day later, it’s “Icebergs are still there.”

They’re like, “Full speed ahead! To the icebergs, as quick as possible!”

They did nothing. They deserve to die. Don’t cry for newspapers, it’s great that they go out of business, because new things can take their place that are better. Much better.

(snip)

Don’t cry for journalism.  Rejoice, because a new journalism is being built, today, as we speak. And it’s going to be better than the last one.

(snip)

“They deserve to go away. Goodby, good riddance.”

The keynote was obviously designed to provoke a reaction (more than one conference attendee muttered “linkbait” after listening), and it certainly did that, as every other session after this opened with the panel trying to refute Calacanis’ claims. I’ll post John Battelle‘s rather more measured keynote tomorrow.

I have a few reactions to this, and I’ll post some more with the other three videos in this series.  But to start with, the notion that newspapers did nothing at all about the internet is absolutely false.  The industry has tried to engage with online since before there was an internet (you’ve probably all seen those videos from San Francisco, showing the early paper over video screen tech of the 80s). The problem is, that the battlefield on which newspaper have been trying to engage has shifted radically.  First, it was the fight between portals – Prodigy vs. CompuServe vs. AOL.  Then it was Netscape vs. Internet Explorer. Yahoo vs. Google. Facebook vs. MySpace.

Newspapers are a $50 billion a year industry, with tremendously expensive production and distribution infrastructure, grown up over centuries.  If the Tribune chain had just splashed kerosene over the presses back in ’92, and declared in the flickering light that they were shifting every penny over into becoming a competitor to AOL … well, they probably still woulda wound up about where they are.  But along the way, there would have been tremendous dislocation – millions of readers not getting information.  Millions of readers turning to competitive print products that would have made billions.

So the newspaper industry has tried incremental solutions. Right up to this point, where, as we see in Seattle & Denver (despite what Jason sneers at, there are plenty of people who want to read what he dismisses as “boring” stories about local government, taxation, schools and crime) the papers are being forced to migrate to the web under conditions that are nothing short of brutal.

It’s all very well and good to talk about the exciting news products that are “being built today, as we speak.”  But I know many of the people that work at these small, struggling web news outfits. They are up against the wall, just trying to keep the broadband bill paid.  They are not going to be able to devote thousands of man-hours to digging through documents and making connections, and going out and doing original research (i.e. interviewing people to get things that are not archived on the magical, all-seeing web). Maybe this will be solved someday – but it ain’t the case today, and that’s when we need it.  We need this kind of enterprise reporting, or this country is going to implode, because society is angry at the economic collapse, and nobody’s really been able to dig deep enough to explain it. At least, not in a way that holds up & makes sense for more than a month or so…

If I sound like a bit of a curmudgeon here, well, it’s hard to watch this and not get a bit grouchy. I agree with Jason on the broad points – that Big Media has sinned, and is paying the price; that ad dollars are shifting to where the consumer eyeballs are, and that this trend is only accelerating.

But dude? Less of a gleeful grin.

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