Monitor Picks

Five things we think you'll really like.

Funny money

When analyzing an investment, the most important factor is: 1) The amount of return. 2) The degree of risk. 3) The name of the jockey. If you answered No. 3, Dave Barry's Money Secrets ($24.95) is your guide to financial insecurity. In his latest "self-help" book, the humorist explains everything from how the US economy works (including Adam Sandler's often overlooked role) to a sure-fire way to succeed in the stock market. (Note: Time travel is required.)

Vlog on

Rocketboom.com, a video Web log from New York, resembles a cable-access version of SNL's "Weekend Update." Amanda Congdon, the sardonic and photogenic host, uses an anchor-desk format to offer musings on news and culture, but it's her daily collection of esoteric video footage - ranging from a woman knitting herself into a cocoon to drag races with VW buses - that makes rocketboom weirdly addictive.

Leaving the high school halls

Mr. Breathy Pop Star suddenly goes all blues-guitar god on us, and you know what? It works! Yes, this is the same John Mayer who hit the charts cooing "Daughters" to teenagers last year. On his new album, Try!, he fronts a Hendrix-style power trio, sounding at home and down home at the same time. Try it.

A fresh 'twist'

For a moment there, we were worried about Sir Ben Kingsley. The Oscar-winning actor had the ignominious distinction of starring in two of the worst movies of the past 12 months, "BloodRayne," and "A Sound of Thunder." Thankfully, his turn as Fagen in Oliver Twist has us saying, "Please Sir, can I have some more?" The Roman Polanski film, now on DVD, was deemed one of 2005's best movies by our critic, Peter Rainer.

Commercial success

By some estimates, as many as half the people tuning into the Feb. 5 Super Bowl will be doing so for the advertising. Spotbowl.com turns ad-watching into a sport of its own, offering tips on starting a game of "commercial trivia" at your party Sunday and providing a ballot to vote for your favorite spot (miniature Vince Lombardi Trophy not included).

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