Pulse: 60-Second Critic: October 2006

Philadelphia in the Movies
By Jennifer Schwartz
We all know about the Rocky stairs, but can you point out the City Hall-area manhole from which Bruce Willis emerged in 12 Monkeys? How about the apartment where Haley Joel Osment saw dead people, or the train station where John Travolta ran for his life in Blow Out? If you’re intrigued by how our city’s landscapes, landmarks and random alleys got their 15 minutes, this tour, presented by the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, explains it all amidst the comfort of a mini-bus that shows film clips as you view the real thing. At three hours, the $35 Sunday-afternoon tour ($30 for kids and seniors) is too long, and some of the 64 featured locations, like the pharmacy where Denzel bought diapers in Philadelphia, seem like filler. But there’s enough trivia and insider scoops (and gooey chocolate chip cookies) to entertain locals as well as tourists. B

G-Town Radio
By Victor Fiorillo
“Remember, FM radio may be free, but it also sucks,” declares G-Town Radio’s home page. True enough. It’s hard to remember the last time I stuck to one radio station for more than 10 minutes before pressing the SEEK button. But this Internet radio station, the brainchild of longtime Germantown resident Jim Bear, who programs via a PC in his home office, has held my attention since launching over the summer. It might seem boring to rely on one guy’s taste in music (though that’s essentially what you’re doing with FM). But the breadth of G-Town’s offerings, from rare James Brown cuts and Fela Kuti to vintage British metal and excellent local tracks (musicians can e-mail their mp3s for consideration and free airplay), plus syndicated alt-news programs that make NPR seem right-wing, mean there’s plenty for (almost) anyone. And the best part: no commercials or paid subscriptions. A-

Pirate Soul: A Swashbuckling Journey Through the Golden Age of Pirates
By Pat Croce
(Running Press; $23.95)
By Amy Strauss
Former 76ers president Pat Croce, whose Pirate Soul museum opened in Key West last year, has now put out a book about his high-seas obsession. If it wasn’t Peter Pan but actually Captain Hook you always secretly admired, here’s an easy way to prep yourself for piracy — or at least for the next Pirates of the Caribbean. 

In just an evening’s read, Croce separates pirate myth from fact, such as whether or not they really walked the plank. Colorful illustrations and sketches break down the history of piracy into short, easy segments, from seaports to ships to navigation to torture tools. (Yeah!) This interactive book, with pop-out maps, pull-out replica documents, playing cards, pirate glossary, compass and Jolly Roger flag, only has one thing missing — a bottle of rum. A

The Prophecy
By Shane Simon
(Simon & Son Publishing; $22.95
By Jacob S., age 13
Simon, an 18-year-old kid from Doylestown, self-published this novel with help from his dad. I expected it to be a fantasy novel about a hero who surpasses all odds to complete his quest. But as the story unfolds, it’s less Lord of the Rings than Romeo and Juliet, with lovers from two separate kingdoms caught in the middle of a war between the “Menace of All Beings” and the righteous human alliance. Toward the end, the romance becomes less noticeable and the adventure aspect moves to the forefront. The writing is more elegant than I can manage, the descriptions are good enough that I could visualize the action, and the characters come alive. If you’re looking for a gift to give a fantasy lover, this is a good bet. B+