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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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Photo courtesy of the author, in the shadow of Nino Heroe Manuel Bonilla in Miraflores

In the work of literature to which I return most frequently, Eduardo Galeano writes, “There is nothing less empty than an empty stadium. There is nothing less mute than the stands bereft of people.”

He goes on to describe the sounds of games past, the echoes of Wembley from ’66 or the Camp Nou at any time when you’re unfortunate enough to miss Messi’s magic in real time, but he could have just as easily been describing any of the myriad pickup games that my oldest, not older, brother and I saw happening in Lima on and around Christmas, the holiday season be damned for anything but an occasion on which to kick around. People certainly invoke God enough to demand some time, after all.

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Brian Kraker / Tuesdays With Horry

Brian Kraker / Tuesdays With Horry

Right from the very start, 2016 stood to challenge us. From the very start, we knew it wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill annum, from North Korea’s interstellar aggravation to the deaths of every stranger we thought we knew, from our laughter at nationalistic shortsightedness abroad to the joke turning on us with an apolitically exhausting election cycle that, even now, seems interminable, this year has cast shadows into every corner and fear into every heart, asserting its overwhelming pessimism past the point of absurdity and into realms of dystopian ennui.

But then, light is said to shed out of darkness; without the light, we wouldn’t know dark from darker, and pitch blackness would be broad daylight. As historically low as some of the valleys insisted upon going, a great many peaks, more than we’ll care to recall, shot up with a distinctly human, distinctly empathetic vitality. 2016 was the equivalent of the Gordie Howe hat trick: a goal first, an assist next and one giant, inevitable fight, with indescribable rage having finally boiled over to manifest itself in hideousness antipathy. It is with this in mind that we at TwH look back, one final, bitter time at the insanity of the preceding twelve months, with an eye toward what society has constructed as 2017. If Earth is really dying, and if we’ve only got five years left to cry in, U better live now.

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slager

Brace, as defined by the dictionary, as a verb: prepare (someone or oneself) for something difficult or unpleasant.

Sometime last week, I saw a tweet from the Michael Slager trial where he (Slager) alleged that he never received proper training on how to de-escalate situations (Okay, I don’t have the verbatim. I’m not a journalist, so please just trust that I have the gist of things). If you are unfamiliar with Michael Slager, he is a former cop in North Charleston, SC, who was on trial for the murder of Walter Scott (Also, if you’re unfamiliar with Michael Slager, tip of the cap to ya! I consider myself a pretty connected person, but this story might have been pretty challenging to avoid, especially in South Carolina. So, I mean this when I say that it’s impressive to *not* have known about Slager or Scott in any capacity.)

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Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Aside from my Abercrombie #8 perfume, Gilmore Saturdays were perhaps the most defining aspect of my early teenage years. In 2004, I was 12 and had just transferred to a new school. My less-than-stellar adjustment to this foreign environment prompted my interest in the more naïve and enjoyable world of Stars Hollow. Every Saturday, three consecutive reruns of Gilmore Girls aired from 7 to 10 pm. My dad ordered pizza and watched with me. Like any good father, he was Team Dean.

Eventually, as I came into my own, Gilmore Saturdays became a thing of the past, but my love and affection for the characters did not wane. I loyally collected every season of the show on DVD and faithfully watched every episode over and over again. To this day, after a frustrating week, I always return to the show as a sort of medicine.

There have been a lot of different takes on the revival. I do not pretend to stand apart from the thousands of other fan girls (and guys) who waited with bated breath and took to Twitter immediately following those final four words. My sentiments are surely repetitive and have already been proclaimed through eloquent think pieces and less eloquent social media posts. During a time when the term ‘echo chamber’ takes on increasingly polarizing meaning, there is none more righteous or as passionate as that which Gilmore fans inhabit.

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This past summer I taught a college composition course that focused on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The final assignment in the class required students to assemble an online portfolio where they reflected on their progress as writers and researchers over the quarter.

Having taught this class before, I knew that these portfolios often provided insight but sometimes devolved into a series of clichés about improvement accompanied by colorful and irrelevant images designed not so much to convey a rhetorical message but to distract from the lack of substance in the writing. It is with this cynicism that I regarded the above image, prominently plastered on the homepage of one student’s portfolio.

Though I found the Pepe the Frog meme a bit baffling in the context of the assignment, I quickly dismissed it as an attempt to take up space and moved on to grading other portfolios.

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