Newley's Notes

NN125: Uber-Grab Deal; Alexa Gets Creepy; ‘Sopranos’ Prequel


Hi, friends. Welcome to the latest edition of Newley’s Notes, in which I share the best of what I write and the best of what I read.

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What I Wrote in The Wall Street Journal

🚘 — Uber Agrees in Principle to Exit Southeast Asia for Stake in Rival — The story, which I wrote with my colleagues Greg Bensinger and Julie Steinberg, begins:

Uber Technologies Inc. has reached an agreement in principle to sell most of its Southeast Asia operations to local rival Grab Inc., ending a costly fight for market share in the fast-growing region, according to people familiar with the matter.

In exchange for its operations in Southeast Asia, Uber would gain a roughly 30% stake in Grab, these people said. The two companies are still hashing out the final terms of the pact, the people said, cautioning any deal would be subject to regulatory scrutiny. One of the people said Uber’s stake in Grab could wind up being smaller.

5 Cool Tech-ish Reads This Week

🗞️ 1. “Get news. Not too quickly. Avoid social.” That’s New York Times tech columnist Fahad Manjoo’s Michael Pollan-esque advice. In a much-discussed piece, Manjoo says for two months he disconnected from online news and social media, relying instead on print editions of the Gray Lady, The WSJ, and The Economist. He writes:

It has been life changing. Turning off the buzzing breaking-news machine I carry in my pocket was like unshackling myself from a monster who had me on speed dial, always ready to break into my day with half-baked bulletins.

The gist: he felt plenty well informed about the world but avoided needless micro-updates, hot takes, fake news and social media toxicity.

(Postscript: Dan Mitchell, writing later at Columbia Journalism Review, quibbled with just how disconnected Manjoo really may have been during the period, given that he was still frequently using Twitter.

“I think it’s clear that I meant I ‘unplugged’ from Twitter as a source of news, not that I didn’t tweet at all,” Manjoo told Mitchell.)

🙄 2. Alexa: super creepy. Some owners of speakers powered by Amazon’s Alexa reported that the devices have been intermittently letting out weird giggles. “We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” Amazon told The Verge’s Shannon Liao. Here’s a video.

(It is no secret that I don’t like these listening devices — sorry, connected home gadgets — one bit.)

🌁 3. Depressing San Francisco story of the week: A shortage of affordable housing due to the tech industry boom means some middle class workers are paying up to $2,400 per month for what are essentially dorm rooms that lack kitchens or bathrooms.

The company building the units, called Starcity, “has already opened three properties with 36 units,” writes Nellie Bowles in the New York Times. “It has nine more in development and a wait list of 8,000 people.”

💬 4. Tool of the week: A great place for finding real quotes, at a time when many dubious ones are floating around online, is, by writer/editor/researcher Sara Bader. Tagline: “A growing library of verified quotes.” You can search by author and by topic.

🕶️ 5. “The Big Lewbowski” is 20 years old. Charles Bramesco, writing in the New York Times, gives us “10 righteous heirs” to the Coen brothers’ masterpiece: Films released since 1998 that offer bits of Dude-esque stoner humor, film noir, and meta-strangeness.

🔫 Working Title of the Week

“The Many Saints of Newark.”

That’s the tentative title of a “Sopranos” prequel film — yes, you read that right — being produced by David Chase.

The official description, according to the NYT, says it will be “set in the era of the Newark riots in the ’60s, when the African-Americans and the Italians of Newark were at each other’s throats, and when among the gangsters of each group, it became especially lethal.”

There’s no release date yet, but I will certainly be watching this one.

🤡 1 Silly Thing

Bootleg_Daycare is the name of an Instagram account devoted to poorly done replicas of cartoon characters.

👊 Fist bump from New Delhi,


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