“The Sopranos”

Down now to the last five episodes before creator David Chase closes down the series for good, the show that changed television forever continues to be one of the few good reasons to pay for cable. James Gandolfini will probably never escape the shadow of Tony Soprano as he moves on inevitably into big budget films, but that is more a testament to the incredible intensity of his performances, and the sympathy he has for a character that is, to say the least, a flawed protagonist, than it is a commentary on his limitations as an actor. He has been at it ten years, and the character remains as complex and compelling as he was in the series’ first season. He has created one of the great characters in television history. I am still not sure where the show is heading as far as a conclusion goes — will Tony be killed? Go to prison? Lose someone close to him (I am betting on his son — “the sins of the fathers” angle)? With each episode here in the final season, the suspense continues to build, the sense of impending doom coiling around Tony more and more. The show now feels more like one long movie, a great film noir, than a television show, and what a great movie it is.


The Ponys, Turn The Lights Out

The year is still young and already there have been a handful of albums I have really enjoyed, including stellar records from the Kings of Leon and Arcade Fire and pretty good ones from Lucinda Williams and the Greencards, but this is the album I love the most, a collection of great songs from a youngish Chicago band that at first blush sounds like a savvy selection of covers of classic garage-rock gems from the 1960s. If you have heard of the Nuggets box sets, you’ll know what I mean and need this in your collection immediately. If not, think fuzzy guitars with a lot of reverb, power chords, soaring harmonies, hooks you’ll be humming all day. Think rock and roll without the frills and slick production. Put it on and turn it up.


Pablo Neruda

My favorite poet after Walt Whitman is my go-to poet when I am trying to convince freshmen and sophomores that poetry is actually worth their time after all. Last week, as I finished reading one of my favorite Neruda poems that has this as the last line—”I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees”—I looked up and saw what every literature teacher hopes to see, a classroom cast under the spell of poetry, every student paying rapt attention. Read another one, a girl in the back said. I did. You do the same, and you’ll be the richer for it.

— By Chris Cox

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