We haven’t published a Fresh Powder in 22 days. We’ve eaten many pies in the interim, sure, traveled long distances and watched many football games, but haven’t consumed a whole bunch of news. Luckily, somebody’s been flagging stories along the way to go back to after the Christmas trees came down. (Me. That somebody is me.) The holidays were bananas on the brain, as usual. I can’t wake up on time anymore, I hardly know what day it is, and I completely forgot how to play ping pong (tragic, at our particular place of business). As we all start to remember how to tie our shoes again, there’s a lot of news to catch up on. Some of it’s good and thought-provoking (we’ll get there) and some stuff you just need to know. Let’s start with this: Donald J. Trump is still the president. That’s very clear. Although he was impeached before break, little has moved the needle on it since, as the opposing parties spar with sticks for swords over the rules. Here’s the latest: “Pelosi’s refusal to transmit the articles as she sought information about the scope of the trial, including witnesses, has also spurred a number of Republican senators to craft legislation and strategize about how they could begin the trial without the House’s blessing. But McConnell, speaking privately to his members, made clear that he would not make any moves on a trial until the articles had been formally transmitted.” (Washington Post) This calls for a mom.
. . . What about the Democratic candidates for president? Who’s left? That depends on how long it’s been since you refreshed your feed. Vox: “The field has been expanding up until the last minute. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed for the Alabama primary right before the deadline. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has entered the race. Even Hillary Clinton is taking calls encouraging her to run again, though she says it is exceedingly unlikely she’d seek the White House for a third time.” (I’m with Hillary. Who’s watching this race thinking, “Yeah, I wanna do that!”?) The next debate is Jan. 14.
. . . Politico asked 23 historians, “How Will History Books Remember the 2010s?” How’s this sound? (*clears throat*): “The 2010s, in hindsight, began with the 2007-08 financial crisis. The inability to foresee and prevent that crisis, combined with the subsequent lack of punishment for anyone behind it, served notice to much of the population that the establishment (whatever that was) was no longer doing its job (whatever that meant). As the crisis led to economic collapse in rural and formerly industrial areas, working-class and lower-middle-class citizens responded angrily to what they saw as a broader failure by elites (not just in politics but also in the media, think tanks and academia) to respond to the problems of globalization (including trade, immigration and crumbling communities) that primarily afflicted the left-behind regions. The result was a furious populist backlash—one that played out in country after country across the developed world, with movements that were more or less alike in their grievances and lack of coherent solutions.” (Rolls off the tongue, don’t it?)
Game of Thrones came and went in the 2010s, but the deconstructions of its final season — perhaps 2019’s hottest topic in entertainment — seem alive and well. Vox’s Emily Todd VanDerWerff wrapped up the year writing about the falsehoods it tried telling us about those who want power. (It’s a doozy.) “The idea that wanting a thing makes you someone who perhaps shouldn’t have it is too often a pretty fiction designed to prop up an unjust status quo. Those who want to change the status quo, who long for power to make sure that things shift and are altered, well, they’re the ones we can’t trust? … No one less than Donald J. Trump used variations on this idea for much of his public life. (This is a man who, in 1987, famously said that he’d never want to be president.) It was only when he felt as if only he could make America great again that he ran, the gray champion who refuses and refuses and refuses the call until it’s almost too late, and he rides in from the east to save the republic.” (Told ya.)
. . . Speaking of power: “Taylor Swift Bent the Music Industry to Her Will,” in the 2010s (Vulture)
“A deeply felt, mostly unexamined, sense that tech would lead to a freer and more convenient existence was the midwife of our digital present. It allowed the creator of a website to rate the attractiveness of Harvard’s women students to build an advertising platform with $55 billion in annual revenue. It allowed an online shop created to sell books to build a $25.7 billion cloud computing network. It allowed a company that started as a way for rich people to summon private drivers to turn itself into $47 billion, well, whatever the hell Uber is.” Alright, we really let the internet get away from us during the 2010s. BuzzFeed News reporter Joseph Bernstein puts it into perspective really well, I thought, that if, perhaps, our eternal optimism for a future the World Wide Web could create is how we allowed once-niche startups to explode, then, perhaps, we have only ourselves to blame for everything we hate about it today. Bernstein would say it has alienated us more than it ever brought us together: “Even when we get ‘good’ information online, we can’t always be sure where it’s coming from and why we’re seeing it when we’re seeing it. A profit-driven information apparatus uses a huge and growing fake user base to juice the statistics it shows to advertisers. The incentive is not to show you true things, but to be able to claim as many people as possible are seeing something, anything. To be no different to the men with the money than a bot, that’s an alienation. To not know where the things you read and see come from, nor that they’re real, that’s an alienation. To labor to pick out true from false, and know that many Americans don’t bother to do the same, that’s an alienation.”
. . . To the Xanga, AIM and Myspace crowd: Do you know where your content is? “Despite the constant flurries of social startups, when the dust was blown off the chisel, the 2010s revealed that the content you made — your photos, your writing, your texts, emails, and DMs — is almost exclusively in the hands of the biggest tech companies: Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, or Apple. The rest? Who knows? I hate to tell you, but there’s a good chance it’s gone forever.” (Narrator: Fresh Powder is powered by Google, a big tech company.)
Video: Butler, Freese, Paterno, Donovan, Rice, and Rousey, the bat toss, the Miracle, the black out, the Masters, and the block. Have you embraced all the feels and re-lived all the memories from ESPN’s Images of the Decade yet?
“They’ve grown up with social media, and their fluency with these platforms means they understand how they should and shouldn’t shape discourse. They’ve watched ‘fake news’ become a kitchen-table term. It’s their vantage point, often lower to the ground floor on the issues that impact them, that gives them a unique perspective on where journalism goes from here.” The Future of the News Industry, According to Student Journalists (Teen Vogue)
This also happened during the break: “It’s very Bostonian. The idea of a truck heist involved in Charlestown with lobsters is very, very unique to this great city.” Meanwhile, on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, Dominos was selling pizzas for $30. (It’s OK, they were larges.)