Pulse: 60-Second Critic: September 2006

The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ

Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center
By Victor Fiorillo
A card-carrying NRA-member friend likes to talk about the power he feels when discharging his firearm. It’s a sentiment I don’t disagree with, having pulled my share of triggers over the years. But that’s a mere delusion of grandeur compared to the omnipotence derived from playing the Kimmel Center’s new $6.4 million, 32-ton pipe organ, as I recently had the opportunity to do. I’m no Bach or even Larry Ferrari, but a dozen years of classical piano training helped me fumble through some impressive arpeggiated chords and droning low octaves. I wanted to see what “Smoke on the Water” sounds like through nearly 7,000 pipes and 111 stops, but with Mervon Mehta (Zubin’s son) and Curtis’s organ guru, Alan Morrison, looking on, I opted for a little Rachmaninoff instead. Legendary jazz organist and Philly girl Trudy Pitts will debut this baby for real on September 15th. A+

Head Trauma

Directed by Lance Weiler; opens this month at select area theaters
By Will Hobson
Writer/director Lance Weiler’s first film, 1998’s The Last Broadcast, stirred controversy when the strikingly similar Blair Witch Project pulled down $240 million a year later. This sophomore effort was shot in Weiler’s native Bucks County and stars Vince Mola (the perpetually annoying SuperPhan) as drifter George Walker, a creepy, alcoholic version of George Costanza who sustains a head injury. Nightmares and day terrors featuring a young girl’s murder and a dark, hooded assailant ensue as the line between George’s reality and fantasy fades. Mola is outshone by his supporting cast, especially New Jersey’s Jamil Mangan as a neighbor, but Head Trauma succeeds where The Last Broadcast fell to pieces—in crafting a climax that pulls together the loose ends. Bottom line: better than Last Broadcast and Blair Witch, but Lance shouldn’t bank on any $240 million. B

The Philadelphia Bracelet

Designed by Montesino USA
By Abbe Wright
We’re all about showing pride in the City of Brotherly Love, but would you wear this on your wrist? Robbins 8th & Walnut hawks the “original Philadelphia Bracelet,” designed by Montesino USA as part of its Destination Bracelet collection; Philly joins Marco Island, Las Vegas and Sea Isle City as tourist locations featuring these upscale mementos. Capitalizing on the legacy of Betsy Ross, the “P” on the silver-and-14-karat-­yellow-gold bracelet is highlighted by what Robbins calls a “draping flag” but looks more like a striped AIDS ribbon. The clasp is a tiny Liberty Bell that hooks through the “P.” The “birthplace of freedom” symbolism just doesn’t come through in this pricey souvenir. Though it’s a better Philly gift than a t-shirt, at $125 a pop (or $1,055 for the version with five minuscule diamonds), you’d be better off making some true Philadelphia memories. C+

Middle Church

By Bob Edgar (Simon & Schuster; $25)
By Sandy Hingston
Former Delaware County congressman Edgar’s ambition is ­inarguably noble: “reclaiming the moral values of the faithful majority from the religious right.” A minister before serving in Congress, Edgar punctuates his ­arguments—against the war in Iraq, pollution, big business and Republicans in general—with simple, poignant stories: of a four-year-old in a Baghdad church, of hearing Martin Luther King preach, of what he learned about prayer from a son’s horrific plane accident. And those arguments are sound. (“The Bible mentions abortion not once, homosexuality only twice, and poverty or peace more than 2,000 times.”) But unless you buy this for your favorite Ann Coulter fan, he’s preaching to the choir. Nice touch: The chapter headings juxtapose verses from Scripture with the more rabid rantings of Coulter, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell et al. B+