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The Sopranos

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The Don, the Survivor, and the Coach.

“Anybody who had even the slightest contact with Gandolfini will testify to what a great guy he was, how full of life he was…whether he was feeling well or poorly, or living smartly or stupidly, there was always something about the guy that you wanted to embrace. You could feel it shining through the screen, that warmth and vulnerability, that broken yet still-hopeful humanness.” James Gandolifni, 1961-2013.

“‘I hate the word horror,’ the author told fantasy editor and writer Stanley Wiater for the 2009 video doc Dark Dreamers. “To me, the word horror is visceral. Terror hits you in the mind. You don’t have to show anything to scare a lot of people.’ Just the wail of an invisible child, or the face of a furry gremlin…on the wing of a Twilight Zone plane.” Richard Matheson, 1926-2013. For the next generation of kids to be touched by Richard Matheson’s stories, what nightmares await! What dreams may come!

“‘He was the most successful coach of the 1960s, and it could be said he still was in the 2000s,’ Caldwell said. ‘His ability to be successful at the same place over such a long period is unparalleled.'” Harry Parker, 1935-2013.“‘It really is like God died and nobody knows what anything means now, because Harry was the sport,’ said Bruce Smith, executive director of Community Rowing.”

Don Headroom.

“People want a dance that makes them feel safe. They’ll do anything for it, even leave their friends behind.” Also by way of The Late Adopter, Buzzfeed collects some of the best hits of 80’s Don Draper. “Imagine this: not just one Corey, but two.” For more fun, read the very funny Twitter feed. “Simon isn’t about remembering a bunch of colors and sounds. It’s about remembering who we are.”

Speaking of Mad Men, I liked Forrest Wickman’s Chevy-is-Vietnam reading of last week’s strange, Dr. Feelgood-enhanced episode. That being said, the agency is starting to lose me — Don’s been spinning his wheels all season, and while it may be true-to-life, it’s not all that compelling to watch the main character become ever more repugnant and self-pitying while making the same mistakes, over and over and over again. (With that in mind, it’s become especially clear this season that Matt Weiner cut his teeth on The Sopranos.)

Also, nothing on the show is dumber or more show-stopping than 30’s whorehouse Dick Whitman. Every time we flash back to that ridiculous thicket of hyper-Freudian backstory, I’m reminded of nothing so much as Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.

It’s Alright Ma, It’s Life and Life Only.

“A question in your nerves is lit, yet you know there is no answer fit.” To the consternation of many, David Chase ends eight years and six seasons of The Sopranos with a cut-to-black and (more problematically, to my ears) Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” (Obviously, I preferred the soundtrack to AJ’s exploding SUV.)

I too thought the cut was a bit abrupt at first, but, after awhile, it grew on me. Life goes on at the Sopranos compound much as it has this past age, with a piano hanging ominously over Tony’s head and Carm, Meadow, and even the recently-awakening AJ all once again at peace with his ill-gotten mobster gains, thanks to the “Made in America” trifecta of denial, materialism, and onion rings.

Six seasons of talk therapy notwithstanding, people on The Sopranos (as in our world) never tended to change much, nor did they usually receive any comeuppance for their bad behavior (although Phil Leotardo might have something to say about that.) So Tony, still the king of his castle for now, blasting Steve Perry and looking over his shoulder, seems as good a way to end the show as any. If you’d prefer to see him go down in a hail of bullets, you can imagine it thus. More likely, to my mind, is he either ended up like Johnny Sack, withering away in prison, or Uncle Junior, withering away out of prison. Either way, the larger world ultimately has little use for Tony’s deeds and misdeeds, and will eventually forget him as it forgets everything. (As Tony lamented several times, “What ever happened to Gary Cooper?”)

Nevertheless, as The Sopranos often reminded us, the end can come at any moment — and it will come — so enjoy the good times and take what solace from life as you can, be it from a family of ducks in your swimming pool, a Beamer that gets 28 miles in the city, or a nerve-wracking family dinner at Holsten’s.

Requiem for North Jersey.

“‘It’s going to be controversial, it’s going to be talked-about,’ Van Zandt, whose character ran the notorious Bada Bing strip club, told the Los Angeles Times this week.” Meanwhile, regarding a criminal held more fondly in the nation’s esteem than Libby or Jefferson: One way or another, the end comes for Tony Soprano this Sunday night. I wouldn’t presume to guess what doom David Chase et al have in store for Tony in the final hour, although I suspect it’ll be something he — and we — didn’t see coming.

Full of Passionate Intensity.

“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” (Well, except in the Sopranos’ pool, since AJ can’t even tie a cinder block properly.) With last week’s murder, a war with Phil Leotardo breaking out over slights to Meadow, AJ’s botched suicide attempt, and only two episodes to go, The Sopranos moves into progressively darker territory.

Tony in Freefall.

There is no pain, he is receding…With last night’s chilling episode (and only three more to go), Tony Soprano’s descent seems to gain momentum (and a major character met a surprising end.) I’m still confused as to what to make of Tony’s peyote-induced realization in the final moments of the episode. Thoughts?

Tony’s last Aria.

We try to get out, they keep pulling us back in: AICN Coaxial points the way to this trailer for The Sopranos‘ final season, beginning April 8 on HBO.

I Think I’ll Call it America.

“From his first day on his own, he was not someone who could be reduced to a type, a symbol, or made to stand for a cause. Against all odds he had in fact achieved what the country promised him: ‘life,’ on his own terms; ‘liberty,’ seized, acted out, taken from him; ‘the pursuit of happiness’ — which, at the end of his life, meant firing a revolver in the air.” In an Independence Day-themed commencement speech reprinted in Salon, rock critic Greil Marcus riffs on the American Dream, using The Sopranos‘ Vito Spatafore and Theodore Rosengarten’s The Life of Nate Shaw as examples. The latter is a favorite book of Columbia’s Eric Foner (although he didn’t list it here), and it seems likely that he (or possibly Marcus’ fellow Dylanologist, Sean Wilentz) was the guy who recommended it.

Flip you for real.

“Leave it to Justice Antonin Scalia to trigger a nationwide debate about the hermeneutics of chin flips.” From an “empaneled jury” of Sopranos actors to Justice Scalia’s uncharacteristic appeal to foreign precedent, Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick muses on the sideshow surrounding the Justice’s recent Sicilian kiss-off.

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