Pulse: 60-Second Critic: February 2006


By Maureen Tkacik
Once in a great while there comes an ad campaign I’ll wait through hours of mindless television in vague, sedentary hopes of seeing. Comcast’s new ads are so brilliant and, for cable companies, revolutionary that when they first started livening up Law & Order marathons, local cool kids began employing “Comcastic!” as their synonym du jour for “Like, whoa.” In one spot, a nebbishy cable guy jumps into a TV and takes a family on a tour of outer space, rhyming “Comcastic” with “Jurassic”; in another, a 1978 episode of The $20,000 Pyramid featuring M*A*S*H’s Loretta Swit is overdubbed so the contestant wins by discovering “Things that are Comcastic!” from the clues “HDTV, high-speed Internet, free OnDemand movies.” Some have complained that the commercials are confusing, that they don’t get it. Well, neither do I! That’s what makes them so fun to watch. A+

Kidd Chris Show: Weekdays, 3-7 p.m., WYSP-FM

By David Early
Howard Stern’s jump to Sirius Satellite Radio spawned a frenzy of wannabe replacements, and Kidd Chris was rumored to be a favorite until David Lee Roth got the nod. Tune in to WYSP any weekday afternoon, and you’ll be happy Chris was bypassed, though dismayed that he wound up here. Kidd completely misses the delicate balance Stern perfected between relatable, honest confession and over-the-top sex, farts and rock-’n’-roll stuff. Hearing the Kidd compare “black-on-blonde” porn to cops beating a woman with nightsticks while his toadies yell “fag” and howl for four hours is just, well, annoying. Offensive, gross and edgy can be funny, but funny Kidd ain’t. If we want to hear about balls all day, we’ll listen to WIP. F

Andrew Wyeth: Memory & Magic (Rizzoli; $49.95)

By Rebecca Kenton
Fans of the melancholy and mysterious artist will rejoice (quietly and contemplatively, of course) over this retrospective of about 200 works—tempera paintings, watercolors and drawings, many from the personal collection of Wyeth and his wife, Betsy. The book mirrors the coming exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, also titled “Memory & Magic,” set to open March 29th. Wyeth, 88, finds endless fascination in everyday objects and settings, most often minutely detailed in understated tones. He often sketches a painting with a person in it, then removes the person, leaving an eerie emptiness and sense of longing. Kathleen Foster and Michael Taylor, both curators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, are among the contributors of scholarly essays, and Foster’s is particularly readable, even for those who are merely enthusiastic admirers of Wyeth. A-

The First Wall Street
By Robert E. Wright (University of Chicago Press; $25)

By Sasha Issenberg
It’s clear from the outset that economist Wright has tried desperately to produce a book free of economic history’s flat, data-heavy cadences. He has succeeded in writing a jaunty narrative about Philadelphia’s role in creating America’s earliest financial institutions and their place in securing the young republic’s prosperity. Wright embraces an explanatory style designed for the general reader (he doesn’t assume you know what a central bank is) and has an eye for lively detail (including an experiment in which squirrel scalps were used as proto-­currency). But the costs of style are too high: Wright is often excessively casual and jokey. (“In most colonies, voters had to own a penis and a substantial amount of property.”) And one questions any would-be historian who creates composite characters and conceals the fact by burying it in a footnote. C+