Pulse: 60-Second Critic: July 2007

Flow: The Life and Times of
Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River
By Beth Kephart

(Temple University Press; $23)
By Sandy Hingston

How you feel about Flow will depend on your receptivity to its conceit: Main Liner Kephart (A Slant of Sun; Still Love in Strange Places) anthropomorphizes the Schuylkill and gives her reactions to monumental and everyday events — the building of the Water Works, a bridge suicide, men fishing — in brief bursts of prose. Some results are giddily lyrical: “Next week the shad will rise again. Come upriver and blush me pink with their useless enthusiasm.” Other entries dangle historical tidbits: shelter offered George Washington’s troops, how pollution curtailed ice-skating, a ghastly flood in 1733. (Downside: The black-and-white photos are way too small.) This slim valentine can be silly and sentimental, but there are enough direct hits, including the river’s reaction to the new Expressway (“They have christened the comet with a name, and that name is Traffic”), to redeem it. B+


From $31.21 at select Macy’s and 3121perfume.com
By Jessica Blatt

There’s nothing subtle about Prince — he is, after all, an artist who changed his name to a symbol. So it’s no surprise that his new women’s fragrance, 3121, is also over-the-top: The emerald-shaped bottle, with a 22-karat gold panel, is filled with purple (reign!) potion. Then there’s the scent itself. The maker behind 3121, Philly-based Revelations, says to expect notes of bergamot, jasmine, gardenia, orange flower, muguet, tuberose, ylang-ylang, patchouli and sandalwood. It’s a hefty mixture, for sure, one that an office-mate said was reminiscent of Perfume Barbie. Still, there’s more than kitschy thrill: On the day of 3121’s debut, July 7th, seven percent of sales will be split among seven charities. Rock on. C+

Our Take on new and notable summer diversions

Steel Pier Helicopter
By A.J. Daulerio

At the very tip of Steel Pier sits an impossibly tiny Robinson R44 Clipper, which will take you on a wobbly tour of Atlantic City’s generally unexciting gray-water shoreline and casino-punctured sky. It costs $34 for a basic five-minute tour, and $95 for the longer “High Roller” tour. The latter is a decent way to break up your blackjack, especially at night, and especially with the door open. (We kid you not.) Sadistic thrill-seekers: Ask the pilot for lots of sharp, holy crap! turns. Steelpier.com. B+

Rosaire’s Big Bears Show
By Victor Fiorillo

Maybe ultra-shock movies have desensitized us, but the bears under this not-so-big top don’t really offer the “amazing thrills” promised by the similarly ho-hum Clementon Park. The brown bears and grizzlies seem like sweet animals who would rather not be coerced into walking around on their hind legs in exchange for the promise of bloody meat. Better to save the $30 park admission and catch a few episodes of Nature. Clemontonpark.com. D

The Boardwalk at Hershey Park
By Victor Fiorillo

Hershey’s impressive new $21 million water park serves up G-force nightmares with the Vortex and several other “aggressive thrill rides” sure to please those with a need for speed, and there are more than enough offerings for the kids and wimps. The Boardwalk’s best treat is the Waverider, a two-rider surfing simulator that gives you plenty of wet and wild thrills without the riptide and sharks. Hersheypa.com. A

El Toro
By Jessica Remo

It’s hard playing little brother to Kingda Ka — Great Adventure’s 2005 golden child and, the park claims, the world’s tallest and fastest coaster — but true junkies will tell you the year-old El Toro is just as good, if not better. And because it’s wooden, it’s a sweet throwback for purists. With a record-breaking 76-degree-angle first drop, super-sideways turns, secondary hills that don’t disappoint, and speeds of up to 70 mph, this is one mean hunk of timber. That’s why, as the sun set and the busloads of high-schoolers headed home, I rode it seven times … in a row. Sixflags.com. A+

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