Pulse: 60-Second Critic August 2007



By Amy Strauss

Gophilagifts.com, the latest effort to generate city buzz from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, offers clothing, Frisbees, lip balm and thermoses emblazoned with old tourism campaign slogans such as UWISHUNU and “Philly’s More Fun When You Sleep Over.” Maybe if the cute-enough vests, dorm tees and rib tanks simply had a Nike swoosh — or, better yet, no logo at all — I’d embrace them. But while slogans may work well in tourism initiatives, they don’t on attire meant to be worn anywhere other than the Wildwood Boardwalk. I mean, seriously — would you ever put on a “Boundless Philadelphia” t-shirt? Oy, IWISHINEVERNU. C-

Beach Read

Merciless by Richard Montanari

Ballantine Books; $24.95

By Holly Luu

Merciless reads like a made-for-TV crime drama: 100 short chapters chop the story — about a serial killer who leaves his victims strewn elaborately along the banks of the Schuylkill — into digestible bits brief enough to lay claim to any attention span. Impassioned veteran detective Kevin Byrne and his tough but grounded (of course) partner Jessica Balzano star, with an array of peripheral characters who come and go to lead whodunit guesses astray. Montanari’s focus wanders from the personal lives of his gumshoes and the semi-lunatic murder witness Matthew Clarke to the chilling ruminations of the anonymous killer, but never lands anywhere long enough to produce true depth and intimacy. That said, he’s plenty good at building suspense — I devoured each chapter, and was rewarded with a surprising and satisfying denouement. B

The Pool at Harrah’s, Atlantic City

By A.J. Daulerio

This $50 million palm-and-ficus-lined oasis is sure pretty to look at, and that’s the trouble: Looks are all she’s got. Bikini-clad waitresses keep the strawberry daiquiris coming all day, but don’t expect to get a tan: The pool’s dome is UV-protected, making you feel like you’re lying under a giant pair of sunglasses. You can enjoy a poolside rubdown ($70 and up), or just wait until the space flips into nightclub mode, showcasing the promise of poolside naughtiness and a young but still cheesy crowd. But it’s easier to flag a cab at Broad and Erie than to get a drink from the positively derelict nighttime staff, leaving you the options of buying into a ridiculously pricey bottle-service program or renting a cabana or hot tub, which can run upwards of $400. The whole thing is lost in an early-’90s Delaware Avenue vibe while trying too hard — and failing — at Vegas slimeball chic. D

Skin Radio, 1340 AM

By Victor Fiorillo

Bus ads for Skin Radio 1340 proclaim “Alternative music is back!,” and the good news is, it is. The replacement station for WHAT, “The Voice of the African-American Community” — which featured the perpetually annoying but strangely endearing Mary Mason — Skin is independently owned, meaning that the DJs aren’t told by some mega-corporation what music they have to play. The result: You get a lot of local bands, bands you’ve never heard of, and lesser-known songs from popular artists like Beck and the Chili Peppers. But unless you have an HD radio receiver — which, lengthy scientific explanations aside, makes HD stations on the AM dial sound as good as FM, and which no one we asked has — Skin sounds like crap. Which would seem to defeat the purpose. C-

What I’m Reading

Ann Weaver Hart, President, Temple University
Canyon, by Michael P. Ghiglieri

“My husband and I are going to run the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon
in wooden dories; we were looking for good books about the Grand Canyon.
The book is a combination of river running, natural history, geography, Western
legend and history. It’s great reading — quite an adventure — though my husband
assures me that it overemphasizes the adventure and risk, and I should not worry
about ditching in the Lava Falls rapids.”