Pulse: 60 Second Critic

DVDs Captain Janks Phoney Calls

Whenever history is made, Captain Janks is there to say something completely inappropriate. For 16 years, the North Wales resident has been crank-calling TV news on behalf of Howard Stern, and his greatest hits are collected on this homemade DVD (available at captainjanks.tk). Some are repugnant, like pranking live coverage of a Fresno massacre that left seven children dead. But watching Janks dupe the likes of Dan Rather and Chris Matthews, you can’t help but think that if news producers valued accuracy over immediacy, he’d be out of work. And when Kerri-Lee Halkett of Fox’s Good Day Philadelphia asks serious follow-ups after Janks says Stern’s dog pooped on the runways at Philly International, it’s hard not to laugh. — Richard Rys

Grade: C+

Fiction Jennifer Weiner Goodnight Nobody (Atria)

Pretty, kind, almost perfect über-mom Kitty Cavanaugh is murdered in the first scene of Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel — a mystery set in puritanical (but hardly pure) Upchurch, Connecticut. Kate Klein, the Weineresque protagonist/sleuth, barely knew Kitty, but she becomes obsessed with finding the killer. While Kate is complicated, vulnerable, and full of the self-deprecating humor Weiner is known for, the novel feels meandering suspense-wise, as Kate comes up against too many red herrings and brick walls. Still, Weiner’s deft strokes lovingly embellish many of the characters. Weiner doesn’t despise the snobs of Upchurch entirely, but she paints a picture of affluent suburbia so grim that it might depress John Cheever. — Kate McGrath

Grade: B+

Nonfiction Larry Kane Lennon Revealed (Running Press)

Having spent two years covering the Beatles and 40 more telling people about it, Larry Kane comes perilously close to bore territory with his Fab Four obsession. The surprise: The Philly broadcaster has written a smart, fascinating book about the smartest and most fascinating of the Beatles. Lennon Revealed is part memoir, part biography, as Kane mixes his recollections of Lennon with those of 70 more Lennon friends and lovers. Among them are May Pang, Lennon’s mid-’70s mistress, and Pauline Sutcliffe, whose late brother Stuart was Lennon’s soul mate (and possibly lover) in the Beatles’ early days. Kane is too in love with Lennon to be truly objective, but he gives us a vivid sense of what it’s like to have known a genius. — Tom McGrath

Grade: B+

Nonfiction Ray Didinger and Robert S. Lyons The Eagles Encyclopedia (Temple University Press)

Positive reviews of sports books generally include lines like “This book is not really about sports” or “This book is about so much more than a game.” Phooey to that. The Eagles Encyclopedia is terrific precisely because it couldn’t be any more about sports or football. Written by two of the biggest Eagles experts around, EE is loaded with stats, team history, informative profiles, and plenty of trivia (including the fact that the 1980 Birds were the first team in NFL history to receive a papal blessing). If you don’t care about the Eagles, stay away — you’ll find no lessons about the human condition here. But if the Birds make your life worth living, this is a great way to fill those stretches between football Sundays. — Jack Corcoran

Grade: A-

Attractions The new lights on Boathouse Row

Progress in Philadelphia? We’re all for it. Just please, give us back the old lights on Boathouse Row. Unveiled this past summer, the Row’s new lighting system was designed to be more efficient and dazzling than the bulbs and wires that preceded it. But updating this city landmark has sucked the soul right out of it. The old lights’ charm lay in their handmade quality, which reflected the quirky boathouses themselves and our rough-but-real character. The sleek new lights, in contrast, have all the warmth of a stadium scoreboard. An official enthused that the new lights would “change that gap-toothed smile that is Boathouse Row.” But that’s the problem. Who wants to look at David Letterman after oral surgery? — T.M.

Grade: D