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“Salieri pours poison into Mozart’s glass,” Mikhail Vrubel

The popular perception of Antonio Salieri, if the stage and film versions of Amadeus are to be believed, is that he was the unforgiving rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the man who championed the Austrian composer publicly while attempting to derail his career privately, like a southbound A train without a supportive governor for support. The film, of course, used poetic license to an extreme in the cases of both Salieri and Mozart, suggesting that, while there was some sense of rivalry, there was also a begrudging respect, manifested in the fact that Salieri conducted a handful of Mozart’s works both while the composer was alive and afterward.

A physical specimen of uncommon stature, even by 2017 standards, Russell Westbrook is not the prototypical NBA player. He stands at a modest 6’3” and weighs an everyman-esque 200 pounds[1], yet he in his 6’3”, 200-pound frame has done more in an athletic context, pound for pound, than perhaps anyone else (a) not playing upper echelon European soccer, (b) not an NFL quarter- or halfback, if that counts or (c) named Allen Iverson[2]. On Monday night, for his efforts this past season, one which was forgotten by June but will never, ever be forgotten, Westbrook was awarded this season’s Most Valuable Player.

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Courtesy, I guess, of Absolute Entertainment

“One man. One bus. Three hundred and sixty miles of simulated post-apocalyptic desert, and the endless struggle between man and nature personified.”

So begins the description of the iTunes version of Desert Bus, a minigame which originated on Sega and the PC within the world of Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors and which has been hailed by some, including The New Yorker, as “the very worst video game ever created.” It is a testament to futility, yet one which allows for the possibility, however minimal and cockamamie, of victory. Drive the distance from Tucson to Las Vegas, in painstaking real time and with the bus constantly swerving just so to the right, and be rewarded with a single, solitary point. The game cannot be paused.

The metaphor you likely saw coming: LeBron James is the driver of this bus. Each game of these Finals is likely to be his own, personal trek to Las Vegas[1] on behalf of a nation that unwittingly bought a ticket. We’re all aboard for the rubber match of a rivalry that is set to define this revolutionary half-decade of NBA basketball, a handful of years which will determine the course of the league, and its game, for a long while. But first, of course, must come the unmanageable task of the series itself.

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Image result for master of none season two

Courtesy Netflix

There is way too much television content out there right now. While this could be an understatement, consider the following: “Comedians portraying a fictional version of themselves” is now a comedy subgenre. At least five of these shows have premiered since 2010, and there are probably more examples if you stretch the definition a bit[1]. All are set in urban environments and feature a famous comedian playing a not-yet-famous performer who is unlucky in love and life, and probably depressed as a result.

These shows are meta as hell, but they still expect the audience to empathize with the characters as if they were not just stand-ins for the comedians. It seems doubtful anyone would have understood how this could become a trend as recently as ten years ago, but now standup is practically a stepping stone to creating dramedies, not helming a sitcom. Comedians are now expected to be auteurs.

Aziz Ansari’s Master of None returned with a new season a few days ago, and it feels most akin to the show that truly started this trend, Louis CK’s Louie[2]. CK and Ansari both masterfully channel the same, neverending frustration of searching for a perfect partner, while also paying tribute the hilarious oddities and breathtaking beauty offered by Manhattan’s diverse expanse[3].

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“’Aye, verily this is the hound of a man that has died in a far land. If he were but in form and in action such as he was when Odysseus left him and went to Troy, thou wouldest soon be amazed at seeing his speed and his strength.

No creature that he started in the depths of the thick wood could escape him, and in tracking, too, he was keen of scent. But now he is in evil plight, and his master has perished far from his native land'” – Homer, The Odyssey, book 17, lines 314-319

On Tuesday night, another season of New York Rangers hockey came to an end. It was fairly unceremonious, at least as far as Rangers hockey goes; the aging goalie did what he could, abandoned by a similarly aging[1] blue line and all the scoring talent of fake bands in prestige television shows, propped up as a way to make money for the protagonist, whomever s/he is and whatever their motivation. Entertainment is what it is, but hockey, also, is what it is. Both of these things, and neither of them, define the present-day Rangers.

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Triple Self-Portrait, Norman Rockwell (1960)

Today marks the beginning of the NBA playoffs, a most glorious time of the year when the basketball is noticeably better. In a season full of downright certainty underpinned by complete uncertainty, these playoffs are going to shock and surprise us in ways we can’t even imagine, because they almost universally do. Can’t hold anything back now, and all that.

For just a brief moment, however, it seems fitting to gaze back with awe on one of the more improbable regular seasons we are ever likely to see, one full of jaw-dropping individual performances. Specifically, and with the utmost respect, it is my duty to inform you that, unless you are one of the members of the media yet to reveal their MVP vote via a longform column explaining why you didn’t pick any of the other candidates instead, nobody cares about your choice for this year’s NBA MVP.

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“Open” is a peculiarly malleable word, one which shifts with the times and becomes whatever the ones weaponizing it desire. Fields can be open, as can forums; countries, well – that’s up to big wigs.

Merriam-Webster takes one opportunity to define something that is open as “enterable by both amateur and professional,” as well as, primarily, “having no enclosing or confining barrier.” When confronted with the realities of the 2017 Australian Open, it is vital to keep these two, in particular, in mind. The former is a matter of practice and formality; the latter is a guide to understanding the drafts that continue to slip through the windows of two tennis players born just under two months apart 35 years ago: Serena Williams and Roger Federer.

Over the past few days, I’ve been struggling to comprehend what I watched happen in the finals at the first major of the year. Literally half a world away[1], four tennis players on the wrong side of 30[2] survived tough draws, lucky breaks, stunning upsets and injury scares to reach a pair of Grand Slam finals which would’ve appeared unremarkable a decade ago but which, in 2017, were downright anachronistic.

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Photograph:A painting shows George Washington giving a speech on the day he became president in 1789.

Tompkins Harrison Matteson/Library of Congress

In theory, democracy is a relatively emotionally detached system, a utilitarian tool for selection based on preference which, at its conclusion, yields the most popular choice for a given role. In practice, of course, it isn’t so simple, as voting methods and the different weights assigned to certain swaths of the voting populace tend to skew results one way or another.

All of this is entry-level political science; you certainly don’t need anyone reminding you of the way things are, especially on this of all days. It seems overly simplistic to just say that sometimes things don’t break the way they should, the way most people think they should, but then, it becomes hard to explain other voters’ tendencies[1] without reverting to childish name-calling and inflammatory rhetoric.

On Thursday, the NBA announced the starters for this year’s All-Star Game. Russell Westbrook, currently leading the league in scoring while averaging a triple-double, was not among them.

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