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Top Lesser-Known (but Good) Sci-Fi Movies of 2016

Gizmodo has a list of good sci-fi films you might have missed this year.

The only one I’ve seen here is “Midnight Special,” which I thought was solid but not earth-shattering.

I must say I was surprised to see “Swiss Army Man,” which I mentioned back in April, listed here. I just couldn’t get past the trailer. But maybe it’s worth a watch?

By Me and a Colleague Yesterday: Morgan Stanley Fund Cuts Valuation of its Flipkart Holding

The story begins:

MUMBAI—A Morgan Stanley investment fund has reduced the valuation of its holding in Flipkart Internet Pvt. by 38%, as India’s leading e-commerce firm faces increased competition from U.S. rival Amazon.com Inc. and others.

In a U.S. regulatory filing this week, the Morgan Stanley Select Dimensions Investment Series fund said for the quarter ended Sept. 30, it held 1,969 Flipkart shares, which it valued at $102,644, or $52.13 a share.

For the preceding quarter, the fund—part of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, the company’s asset management division—reported the same number of shares in the startup, but valued them at $165,967, or $84.29 a share

In a statement, a Flipkart spokeswoman said the Morgan Stanley fund’s markdown was a “purely theoretical exercise” that is “not based on any real transactions.”

Related posts/stories:

By Me on Friday: How Amazon Has Taken India by Storm

Video: Me on Facebook Live Talking about Our Recent Amazon Story

Facebook Live Video: A Colleague and I Discuss Demonetization in India

Embedded above and on The WSJ Facebook page here: A colleague and I earlier this week discussed India’s demonetization — the government’s sudden decision to eliminate its biggest bills.

On the Importance of Reading Books to Understand the World

Will Schwalbe, in a WSJ Saturday essay called “The Need to Read”:

We need to read and to be readers now more than ever.

And:

Books are uniquely suited to helping us change our relationship to the rhythms and habits of daily life in this world of endless connectivity. We can’t interrupt books; we can only interrupt ourselves while reading them. They are the expression of an individual or a group of individuals, not of a hive mind or collective consciousness. They speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s. You can rant against a book, scribble in the margin or even chuck it out the window. Still, you won’t change the words on the page.

The technology of a book is genius: The order of the words is fixed, whether on the page or on the screen, but the speed at which you read them is entirely up to you. Sure, this allows you to skip ahead and jump around. But it also allows you to slow down, savor and ponder.

And a passage that especially resounded with me:

So I’m on a search—and have been, I now realize, all my life—to find books to help me make sense of the world, to help me become a better person, to help me get my head around the big questions that I have and answer some of the small ones while I’m at it.

I know I’m not alone in my hunger for books to help me find the right questions to ask, and find answers to the ones that I have. I am now in my mid-50s, a classic time for introspection. But any age is a good age for examining your life. Readers from their teens to their 90s have shared with me their desire for a list of books to help guide them.

In a word: yes.

The essay is excerpted from Schwalbe’s new work, “Books for Living,” which comes out next month.

Why We Gain Weight Over the Holidays

Stephan Guyenet, an obesity researcher whose work I’ve linked to in the past, on why we tend to get fat over Thanksgiving and Christmas:

Thanksgiving is a special time in the United States when we gather our loved ones and celebrate the abundance of fall with a rich palette of traditional foods. Yet a new study suggests that the 6-week holiday period that spans Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve accounts for most of our country’s weight problem (1). Understanding this fact, and why it happens, gives us powerful insights into why we gain weight, and what to do about it.

The human brain is the product of millions of years of survival in the face of scarcity, and it has a number of hard-wired tricks up its sleeve that helped us stay alive in the world of our distant ancestors. One of these is an important function called reward, which mostly whirrs away below our conscious awareness. In a nutshell, every human brain is wired with specific motivations that help us seek the things that are good for us, including physical comfort, sex, social interaction, water, and of course, food (3). But not just any kind of food: the brain isn’t wired to make us crazy about celery sticks and lentils, but rather to seek concentrated sources of fat, starch, sugar, and protein that would have met the rigorous demands of ancient life (4, 5, 6). In everyday experience, we feel cravings as we smell turkey roasting in the oven, or see a slice of pumpkin pie obscured by a generous dollop of whipped cream. This craving, along with the enjoyment we feel as we eat delicious foods, is the conscious manifestation of reward.

Click through for more info, and steps to help curb holiday weight gain.

This Week’s Newley’s Notes, Turkey Day Edition: Amazon Killing it in India; Trump and Visas; Nature vs. Instagrammers

Newleys notes

Edition 72 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them here, sign up at this link. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief — and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter where I share my stories and links to items that catch my eye.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a great one. Making a pecan pie? Don’t forget you can find my Aunt Cece’s famous recipe here! (Thanks for the reminder, Patrick B.!)

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ

Jeff Bezos Invests Billions to Make Amazon a Top E-Commerce Player in India – This is a story I’d been working on for some time, and I’m happy with how it turned out. It begins:

NEW DELHI– Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, perturbed by his company’s failure to capture much of the massive Chinese market, had a pointed message for executives in India during a visit in 2014: Don’t let that happen here.

Do what it takes to succeed and don’t worry about the cost, Mr. Bezos said, according to a person who was present.

Amazon, which dominates online selling in the U.S. but so far has gained little traction in developing countries, has since invested billions of dollars to build a logistics network spanning India to reel in shoppers.

The result: the company rapidly became India’s No. 2 e-commerce player and moved within striking distance of local rival Flipkart Internet Pvt., according to some estimates. Indeed, Mr. Bezos last month declared Amazon was on top in a market it largely had ignored until recent years, though he didn’t say by which measure.

Click through for a video (you may recognize the narrator’s voice). A colleague and I also chatted about the story on Facebook Live; the video has been watched more than 40,000 times.

What President-Elect Donald Trump Said About Working Visas to the U.S.. The story begins:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Monday said his administration will scrutinize what he called “abuses” of visas amid speculation that he intends to restrict the flow of skilled workers into his country.

In a two-minute video posted on YouTube, Mr. Trump for the first time since the Nov. 8 election articulated to the public what he plans to do during his first 100 days in office.

“On immigration,” Mr. Trump said, “I will direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”

Indian Online Payments Firm Paytm Says Cash Crunch Has Boosted Business. The story begins:

Indian online payment firm Paytm says it has added 8 million new users in the two weeks since the government announced the replacement of the country’s highest-denomination bank notes.

In a bid to root out corruption, counterfeit money and tax evasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov. 8 announced the replacement of notes worth 500 rupees ($7.30) and 1,000 rupees ($14.60). That move has resulted in a cash shortage, with scores of people lining up outside ATMs and banks to deposit their cash, exchange old notes or withdraw new bills.

WHAT I WROTE AT NEWLEY.COM

Book Notes — Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The latest in my series of posts about books I’ve been reading. Previous such posts are here.

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) The New York Times’s 100 best books of the year. Among those on the list that caught my eye and I’d like to read: “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, and Don DeLillo’s new novel, “Zero K.” Surprised to see here, as I read it and wasn’t hugely impressed: “Before the Fall,” a thriller by Noah Hawley.

2) Great idea for a world map: every country, with their tourism slogans. I am so happy to be living in Incredible !ndia.

3) “What Is The Most Underrated American Poem?” This piece at Ploughshares puts the question to several poets, critics and academics.

4) Instagrammers are ruining America’s natural treasures. What happens to a once-unknown swimming hole when it’s suddenly overrun by hundreds of social media addicts?

5) Humorous “SNL” video: Can’t stomach the notion of a Trump presidency? Consider moving to “The Bubble.”

Thanks for reading.

Love,
Newley

By Me Yesterday: India’s Paytm Sees Surge in Usage After Demonetization

The story begins:

Indian online payment firm Paytm says it has added 8 million new users in the two weeks since the government announced the replacement of the country’s highest-denomination bank notes.

In a bid to root out corruption, counterfeit money and tax evasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov. 8 announced the replacement of notes worth 500 rupees ($7.30) and 1,000 rupees ($14.60). That move has resulted in a cash shortage, with scores of people lining up outside ATMs and banks to deposit their cash, exchange old notes or withdraw new bills.

The inconvenience has also pushed people to sign up for digital wallets.

“This is the golden age of investment in digital payments in India,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, chief executive of Paytm parent company One97 Communications, said at a news conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Patym, which is backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., makes a popular mobile app that can be used to pay for everything from auto-rickshaw rides to groceries.

The Noida, India-based firm is adding about 500,000 new users daily following Mr. Modi’s announcement, according to Mr. Sharma. It added 100,000 a day last month.

Click through to read the rest.

By Me Yesterday: What Trump Said About Working Visas to the U.S.

The story begins:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Monday said his administration will scrutinize what he called “abuses” of visas amid speculation that he intends to restrict the flow of skilled workers into his country.

In a two-minute video posted on YouTube, Mr. Trump for the first time since the Nov. 8 election articulated to the public what he plans to do during his first 100 days in office.

“On immigration,” Mr. Trump said, “I will direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”

He also said he would take action on trade, energy policies and more.

My previous stories on Trump and immigration are here and here.

Video: Me on Facebook Live Talking about Our Recent Amazon Story

Embedded above and on The WSJ Facebook page here: A colleague and I earlier today discussed my recent story about Amazon’s rapid rise here in India.

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