The radicalization of the US Republican PartyJUL 20

Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann argue that the Republican Party has been radicalized and Trump is the result.

Trumpism may have parallels in populist, nativist movements abroad, but it is also the culmination of a proud political party's steady descent into a deeply destructive and dysfunctional state.

While that descent has been underway for a long time, it has accelerated its pace in recent years. We noted four years ago the dysfunction of the Republican Party, arguing that its obstructionism, anti-intellectualism, and attacks on American institutions were making responsible governance impossible. The rise of Trump completes the script, confirming our thesis in explicit fashion.

Amazon's ad-supported Android phone is only $50JUL 19

If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can buy the BLU R1 HD smartphone for only $50 (or double the memory and RAM for $10 more). The phone is unlocked so you don't need to sign a 2-year phone contract, but Amazon's ads and product offers display on the lock screen (just like they do for the Kindle). According to Joanna Stern at the WSJ, it's no iPhone or Galaxy, but it's great for the price.

No, the R1 doesn't feel or look like a premium phone, but it also doesn't feel like something you'd find on a Toys "R" Us shelf. The metal frame and the touch screen's curved edges give it a weighty feel, while the black plastic casing is more firm Coke bottle than flimsy ShopRite water bottle. Even the power and volume buttons have a satisfying click.

The 5-inch, 720p screen is very bright and viewable at multiple angles, even outdoors. It's not as crisp as the 1080p displays you'll get on $200 Moto G4 or Honor 5X, but again...$50.

In only 9 years, we've gone from smartphones with touchscreens being magical to companies nearly giving them away. Back in 2009, John Walkenbach predicted that Kindles would be free by sometime in 2011.

The price for Amazon's Kindle 2 has dropped again. It started at $359, and then was reduced to $299 last July. Now it's $259.

If this price trend continues, it will be free by June, 2011. I'm actually serious about this. At some point, the Kindle will be free. It will probably be before June, 2011.

The cheapest Kindle is currently $80, so we haven't quite gotten there yet. Which is a bit puzzling now that I'm thinking about it again. Amazon is famous for playing the long game. If compare the cost to giving away a free Kindle (or highly subsidized higher-end Kindle) to every Prime member who signs up or re-ups for two years vs. a) the revenue gained from the ebooks purchased by those customers, b) the revenue from new Prime members, and c) being able to offer a package which is basically free shipping on all Amazon orders + Netflix + Spotify + a ton of free books + a free Kindle...that's gotta make good economic sense for them, right? I mean, unless so many Prime users already have Kindles that giving them to those that don't doesn't make sense.

Anyway, it'll be an interesting race...will the smartphone beat the Kindle to free? (via df)

We're getting six new episodes of Making a Murderer from NetflixJUL 19

Well! Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, directors of Making a Murderer, are working on six more episodes of the series for Netflix.

The new episodes of Making A Murderer will provide an in-depth look at the post-conviction process of convicted murderer Steven Avery, and his co-defendant, Brendan Dassey, as their respective investigative and legal teams challenge their convictions and the State fights to have their life sentences upheld.

They will also offer access to Avery's new lawyer Kathleen Zellner and Dassey's legal team, led by Laura Nirider and Steve Drizin, as well as the families and characters close to the case.

I thought Making a Murderer was excellent, one of the best things I watched last year. Reminder: the entire first episode of the show is on YouTube for free. (via @beaucolburn)

An appreciation of The Darjeeling LimitedJUL 19

I am not alone in saying that The Darjeeling Limited is perhaps my least favorite Wes Anderson movie (even though Ebert liked it). But it's Evan Puschak's favorite and he does an admirable job in raising my appreciation for the film.

The true size of things on world mapsJUL 19

True Size Map

One of the most popular map projections of the world is the Mercator projection:

Mercator Projection

It's useful but misleading in important ways. With the the True Size Map, you can drag countries and continents around a Mercator map to uncover their true sizes. For example, it may not be apparent on a Mercator map that Australia is about the same size as the lower 48 US states (see above). Or that Africa is much larger than it seems on the map:

True Size Map

Or is it that North America is oversized on the map? Greenland certainly is. Its true size becomes more clear when you overlay it on India:

True Size Map

Mercator's been around for hundreds of years, so luckily cartographers have invented dozens of other ways to visualize the world in 2D, each of which have their own strengths and disadvantages. You can view many of them here.

Update: I had somehow forgotten about this great scene from The West Wing discussing the geographic bias of the Mercator map:

(thx to the many who reminded me)

Constructing a grass hut from scratchJUL 19

The dude from Primitive Technology is back and this time he's constructed a grass hut from scratch.

This hut is easy to build and houses a large volume. The shape is wind resistant and strong for it's materials. Gaps can be seen in the thatch but not if viewing from directly underneath meaning that it should shed rain well. A fire should be possible in the hut as long as it's small and kept in a pit in the center.The reason the hut took so long is due to the scarcity of grass on the hill. It could be built much quicker in a field.

A tour of the Stanley Kubrick ExhibitionJUL 18

The Stanley Kubrick Exhibition is currently showing at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and Adam Savage went to take a look and show us around. Super bummed I haven't seen this in person yet. After SF, it heads off to Mexico City.

The 50 best animated films of the 21st centuryJUL 18

The Playlist has decided on their list of the 50 best animated films of the 21st century (so far). Here is 50-46:

50. Brave
49. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
48. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
47. Tokyo Godfathers
46. Frankenweenie

And 5-2:

5. The Triplets of Belleville
4. It's Such a Beautiful Day
3. Up
2. The Incredibles

I'll give you a hint about #1: it is somehow not Wall-E, which didn't even crack the top 10. And come on, Up? The opening of that movie is damn near perfect, but the rest of it is good but not great.

We're the SuperhumansJUL 18

Channel 4 is broadcasting the 2016 Paralympic Games in the UK and the commercial they made for it is great. I spied Richard Whitehead in there...his performance winning the 200 meters in the 2012 Paralympic Games is incredible:

Making handbags from lab-grown human skinJUL 18

Human Skin Fashion

Designer Tina Gorjanc plans to create a collection of leather goods made from skin grown from human DNA, specifically the DNA of fashion designer Alexander McQueen. McQueen died in 2010, but he sewed his own hair into the items in his first collection, which is where Gorjanc is sourcing the genetic material for her leather.

The Pure Human project was designed as a critical design project that aims to address shortcomings concerning the protection of biological information and move the debate forward using current legal structure.

Furthermore, the project explores the ability of the technology to shift the perception of the production system for luxury goods as we know it and project its implementation in our current commercial system.

In other words, should we be able to make handbags from of Alexander McQueen's DNA without his (or his estate's) permission? Dezeen has more details on the project. BTW, the handbag pictured above is a mockup created from pigskin, onto which freckles have been applied. Other mockups include replicas of McQueen's tattoos, which, you know, wow. (via @claytoncubitt)

Kylo Ren's outtakes by the AuralnautsJUL 16

The Auralnauts are back with their expertly made revisions of Star Wars movies (see also Star Wars Episode II: The Friend Zone) and this time their subject is Kylo Ren from The Force Awakens.

What? What, dude?! Jim, what is up with your friend?

The Po Dameron interrogation scene: I haven't laughed that hard in a loooong time.

4K video of Norway's stunningly beautiful fjordsJUL 15

If you need a small window of peaceful beauty today, here you are.

The legs of New YorkJUL 15

NY Legs

NY Legs

NY Legs

NY Legs

Stacey Baker, who is a photo editor at the NY Times, spends some of her leisure time photographing the legs of women on the streets of NYC. Her Instagram account has 78K+ followers and now she's turned the project into a book: New York Legs.

NY Legs Cover

Great cover.

A manifesto from People Reluctant To Kill for an AbstractionJUL 15

In 2004, George Saunders wrote a article for Slate in the style of a manifesto for an organization called People Reluctant To Kill for an Abstraction. I believe Saunders' piece has some relevance to current events.

At precisely 9 in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At 10, Phase II began, during which our entire membership did not force a single man to suck another man's penis. Also, none of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside out via our powerful explosives. In addition, at 11, in Phase III, zero (0) planes were flown into buildings.

And in summary:

This is PRKA. To those who would oppose us, I would simply say: We are many. We are worldwide. We, in fact, outnumber you. Though you are louder, though you create a momentary ripple on the water of life, we will endure, and prevail.

(via everything changes)

As American as free hotel iceJUL 14

For the New Yorker, Heidi Julavits wrote about the easy access to ice being a particularly American trait.

As a kid, I took summer road trips with grandparents, and ice machines proved key to our modern pioneer-style vacations, wagon-bumping from one national park to another. We stored drinks and food in a giant cooler that, each morning, needed to be filled with new ice that would gradually melt during the day, until we reached our final destination.

Yes, this. I drove all over the US with my dad and sister in the summers when I was a kid and we rarely ate out (couldn't afford it)...a big cooler full of daily replenished ice preserved our stores of food for the whole trip.

Anyway, for more info on refrigeration and how it changed America, see also the chapter on refrigeration in Steven Johnson's How We Got to Now and Nicola Twilley's posts on the artificial cryosphere.

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