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China’s next cultural export could be TikTok-style short soap operas

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Until last year, Ty Coker, a 28-year-old voice actor who lives in Missouri, mostly voiced video games and animations. But in December, they got a casting call for their first shot at live-action content: a Chinese series called Adored by the CEO, which was being remade for an American audience. Coker was hired to dub one of the main characters.

But you won’t find Adored by the CEO on TV or Netflix. Instead, it’s on FlexTV, a Chinese app filled with short dramas like this one. The shows on FlexTV are shot for phone screens, cut into about 90 two-minute episodes, and optimized for today’s extremely short attention span. Coker calls it “soap operas for the TikTok age.”

In the past few years, these short dramas have become hugely popular in China. They often span nearly a hundred episodes, but since each episode is only one or two minutes long, the whole series is no longer than a traditional movie. The most successful domestic productions make tens of millions of dollars in a few days. The entire market of short dramas in China was worth over $5 billion in 2023.

This success has motivated a few companies to try replicating the business model outside China. Not only is FlexTV translating and dubbing shows already released in China, but it has also started filming shows in the US for a more authentically American viewing experience.

It’s easy to compare apps like these to Quibi, a high-profile video service that infamously failed after less than a year in 2020.

But these latest Chinese apps are different. They don’t aim for slick, expensive productions. Instead, they choose simple scripts, shoot an entire series in two weeks, market it heavily online, and move on to the next project if it doesn’t stick.

“The biggest difference between short dramas and films is that they provide different things. We have to analyze the psychological needs of our audience and understand what they want to see … and we try to provide some emotional values,” Xiangchen Gao, the chief operations officer of FlexTV, tells MIT Technology Review.

When a show finds the right audience, it can generate significant revenue in the US too. The top-grossing show on FlexTV can bring in $2 million a week, while the production costs less than $150,000, Wang says.

Several other apps, like ReelShort and DramaBox, are also racing to bring Chinese short dramas to an international audience. They frequently top app stores’ download charts and produce blockbuster shows. Short dramas have been proven to work in China. It’s not always easy to replicate a business model in a different market, but if they succeed, they could be China’s next big cultural export.

The roots in Chinese web novels

Short dramas like Adored by the CEO are often adapted from another cultural product that is distinctly Chinese: web novels.

Web novels are a unique form of literature that has been popular on the Chinese internet for much of the last two decades: long stories that are written and posted chapter by chapter every day. Each chapter can be read in less than 10 minutes, but installments will keep being added for months if not years. Readers become avid fans, waiting for the new chapter to come out every day and paying a few cents to access it.

While some talented Chinese book authors got their big break by writing web novels, the majority of these works are the popcorn of literature, offering daily bite-size dopamine hits. For a while in the 2010s, some found an audience overseas too, with Chinese companies setting up websites to translate web novels into English.

But in the age of TikTok, long text posts have become less popular online, and the web-novel industry is looking to pivot. Business executives have realized they can adapt these novels into super-short dramas. Both forms aim for the same market: people who want something quick to kill time in their commute, or during breaks and lunch.

Many of the leading Chinese short-drama apps today work closely with Chinese web-novel companies. ReelShort is partially owned by COL Group, one of the largest digital publishers in China, with a treasure trove of novels that are ready for adaptation.

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By: Zeyi Yang
Title: China’s next cultural export could be TikTok-style short soap operas
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Published Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2024 10:00:00 +0000

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PRAISEWORTHY PICKUPS: An Evolution From Wartime Workhorses to Modern-Day Masterpieces

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PRAISEWORTHY PICKUPS: An Evolution From Wartime Workhorses to Modern-Day Masterpieces

It’s fair to say that pickup trucks are as deeply embedded in American culture as, well, baseball and apple pie. It was Henry Ford who originally took note of a preliminary pickup design the military was using during World War I and used that as a springboard to create the civilian pickup truck, which he integrated into a special Model T vehicle. Not to be outdone, Chevrolet came out with their Model 490 around the same time. Named for its $490 price tag, it was offered with the frame only – buyers had to purchase the cab, bed and body for the frame to complete the vehicle. Pickups became a mainstay on farms, in the military and in other industrial fields, such as construction, where hauling was a part of the job. Today’s pickup trucks have evolved into luxurious family-friendly vehicles loaded with incredible amenities to suit every taste. But in the past decade or so, a new evolution has taken place in the world of the pickup truck, and it’s very much on full display at every Barrett-Jackson auction. Those trucks from days gone by have proven to be the perfect canvas for customization. Talented builders have unleashed their creativity, transforming what used to be run-of-the-mill pickups into modern works of rolling high-tech art. Showcased here are some remarkable examples of pickup truck craftsmanship that would stop even Henry Ford in his tracks – all being offered with No Reserve at the 2024 Scottsdale Auction, January 20-28 at WestWorld. Register to bid today.

Pictured above, this nut-and-bolt restored custom 1953 Ford F-100 second-generation pickup is powered by a 5.0-liter Coyote twin-turbo engine paired with an advanced 8-speed automatic transmission. The upgraded braking system features 6-piston brakes in the front and 4-piston in the rear, providing balanced braking performance. This truck features custom headlights, power steering and power windows. 1956 CHEVROLET 3100 CUSTOM PICKUP “SINISTER 56″ – NO RESERVE
Known as “Sinister 56,” this custom award-winning 1956 Chevrolet 3100 pickup is powered by a twin-turbo LS 427ci Redline Performance-built engine producing over 1,200rwhp, mated to a Bowler-built TREMEC T56 6-speed manual transmission. It rides on a GSI Machine and Fabrication chassis equipped with RideTech air suspension and AccuAir management system, allowing it to lay the rockers on the ground. The custom interior features a Vintage Air system, Dakota Digital instrumentation and a Mosconi stereo system with Focal speakers. The custom black walnut bed with a raised floor has an automated bed lift and a built-in beer cooler. 1979 CHEVROLET K5 BLAZER CUSTOM PICKUP “LOLITA” – NO RESERVE

Known as “Lolita,” this multiple-award-winning custom 1979 Chevrolet Blazer pickup is powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 engine paired with a Chevrolet Performance Supermatic 10L90 10-speed automatic transmission. This unibody custom has been dyno-tuned at 600hp to the rear tire and features front and rear sway bars and tubular control arms, power rack & pinion steering, a fully built Ford 9-inch rear end, 4.10 gears and Moser axles. Stopping power is provided by Wilwood 14-inch 6-piston brakes. The custom interior includes Dakota Digital gauges, an Ididit tilt steering column, a Vintage Air system and a power window kit.

This custom 1977 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U1300 SE pickup was previously owned by actor and former politician Arnold Schwarzenegger and is powered by a 6.4-liter inline 6-cylinder turbo-diesel engine paired with an automatic transmission. In 2012 it was fully restored, modified and upgraded by Unimog Specialists Merex Mertec in Gaggenau, Germany. Included in the sale is a full file folder with pictures, documentation and certifications. 2,674 miles (title reads exempt).


Award-winning “REDefined,” powered by a Don Hardy LSA engine boasting a Holly EFI and Whipple supercharger that collectively generates 850hp with 752 ft/lbs of torque. Equipped with a 4L80 automatic transmission and a Ford 9-inch rear end.


This custom Hogan Built 1970 Chevrolet K10 factory short-bed pickup is powered by a GM Performance crate 525hp 6.2-liter LS3 engine mated to a Hughes 4L80 transmission and an Atlas transfer case. The aluminum block is refinished in its classic Hugger Orange and features a Holley intake topped with a 14-inch air cleaner. Under the truck there is a fully polished 3-inch TIG-welded

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By: Barrett-Jackson
Title: PRAISEWORTHY PICKUPS: An Evolution From Wartime Workhorses to Modern-Day Masterpieces
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Published Date: Wed, 06 Dec 2023 23:40:36 +0000

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Frontier Adventure

Electrodes in Spacesuits Could Protect Astronauts from Harmful Dust on Mars

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To quote NASA associate administrator Jim Reuter, sending crewed missions to Mars by 2040 is an “audacious goal.” The challenges include the distance involved, which can take up to six months to traverse using conventional propulsion methods. Then there’s the hazard posed by radiation, which includes increased exposure to solar particles, flares, and galactic cosmic rays (GCRs). And then there’s the time the crews will spend in microgravity during transits, which can take a serious toll on human health, physiology, and psychology.

But what about the challenges of living and working on Mars for several months at a time? While elevated radiation and lower gravity are a concern, so is Martian regolith. Like lunar regolith, dust on Mars will adhere to astronauts’ spacesuits and inflict wear on their equipment. However, it also contains harmful particles that must be removed to prevent contaminating habitats. In a recent study, a team of aerospace engineers tested a new electrostatic system for removing Martian regolith from spacesuits that could potentially remove harmful dust with up to 98% efficiency.

The new system was designed by Benjamin M. Griggs and Lucinda Berthoud, a Master’s engineering student and Professor of Space Systems Engineering (respectively) with the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol, UK. The paper that describes the system and the verification process recently appeared in the journal Acta Astronautica. As they explain, the Electrostatic Removal System (ERS) they propose utilizes the phenomenon of dielectrophoresis (DEP) to remove Martian dust from spacesuit fabrics.

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Dust flies from the tires of a moon buggy, driven by Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan. These “rooster-tails” of dust caused problems. Credit: NASA

Much like its lunar counterpart, Martian regolith is expected to be electrostatically charged due to exposure to cosmic radiation. But on Mars, there’s also the contribution made by dust devils and storms, which have been known to generate electrostatic discharges (aka. lightning). During the Apollo missions, astronauts reported how the lunar regolith would adhere to their suits and get tracked back into their Lunar Modules. Once inside, it would similarly stick to everything and get into their eyes and lungs, causing irritation and respiratory problems.

Given their plans to return astronauts to the Moon through the Artemis Program, NASA is investigating several methods to prevent regolith from getting into habitation modules – like coating technology for spacesuits and electron beams for cleaning them. While Martian dust is expected to inflict similar wear on spacesuits, the situation is made worse because it may contain toxic particles. As Griggs explained to Universe Today via email:

“Beyond having an abrasive effect on spacesuits themselves, Martian regolith is also expected to present health issues to astronauts. It is known to contain a range of harmful particles which may be carcinogenic or cause respiratory issues, and data from the Pathfinder mission showed the presence of toxic particles such as chromium. Martian regolith will therefore require removal from spacesuits prior to entry into habitation zones on Mars to prevent contact between astronauts and regolith particles.”

The principle behind the device, dielectrophoresis (DEP), refers to the movement of neutral particles when subjected to a nonuniform electric field. Their proposed Electrostatic Removal System (ERS) comprises two components: a High Voltage Waveform Generator (HVWG) used to produce square waves of varying frequencies and amplitudes up to 1000 volts and an Electrostatic Removal Device (ERD) consisting of an array of parallel copper electrodes. When the square waves are applied across the electrodes in the ERD, a large and varying electric field is generated. As Griggs summarized:

“Therefore, when dust particles are incident on the surface of the ERD, the dust particles are displaced through a combination of electrostatic and dielectrophoretic forces (due to the large electric field), which acts on charged and uncharged particles respectively within the dust. This acts to displace dust particles in a direction perpendicular to the electrodes, resulting in the clearing of the ERD surface.”

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