Six picks: recommendations from the Monitor staff

National Geographic's TV extravaganza 'Earth: The Biography,' a reggae songster's lyrical rhythms, a color-filled trip around the world, and more.

planet earth from birth

Join National Geographic Channel earth scientist Iain Stewart as he profiles the planet using glorious high-definition technology in Earth: The Biography, a six-hour, three-part extravaganza airing consecutive nights beginning Sunday, July 13 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Hold your breath as he drops a hundred feet into the caldera of a live African volcano, hurtles 50,000 feet above Earth's surface, and scuba dives through the subterranean channels of giant Mexican caverns.

REGGAE'S SONGSTER SUPREME

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Some don't love reggae – or make an exception only for Bob Marley – because reggae can seem so rhythmically and lyrically formulaic. So this reissue of Life of Contradiction (Pressure Sounds), an obscure Jamaican masterpiece by Joe Higgs, Bob Marley's singing coach, is an ideal primer to open reggae-resistant ears. With a well-weathered voice suggesting a Rastafarian Curtis Mayfield, Higgs performed original love songs and political anthems with a delicate blend of gospel-like fervor and jazzy lilt. This is a sophisticated showcase of reggae's rhythmic drive and lyrical bite.

Rent check

Not sure if you're paying over the odds or live in a real steal. Rentometer.com will tell you. Type in your address, number of bedrooms, and number of units in the building and a pie chart pops up with the spread of rents in your area.

COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES

Naomi Kuno and her colleagues at Forms Inc. have written an invigorating, offbeat, yet widely accessible guide to color choices, Colorscape: An Around-the-World Guide to Color (Collins Design). By categorizing 658 colors, all luminously reproduced, according to cultural relevance and historical context, and listing five evocative words associated with each color, this is far more than a mere color catalog. By slotting colors into themes like mythology, music, seasons or celestial bodies, this text strikes sparks for the would-be designer and kaleidoscopically splashy creative thinker in everyone.

Well, Hello, WALL-E!

The hit movie WALL-E is sparking new interest in a nearly 40-year-old film. WALL-E, a lonely mute robot who is cleaning up a desolate future Earth, repeatedly screens two musical numbers from 1969's Hello, Dolly! to express his feelings of joy and love. "Dolly!" (three Oscars, including best musical score) starred Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau. "That's a perfect way for [WALL-E] to express the phrase 'I love you' without being able to say it," director Andrew Stanton told the movie website avclub.com.

Travel light

Tired of lugging around fat guidebooks with only a few relevant pages? Lonely Planets knows the weight of unwanted information and will let you buy its travel guides by the chapter. At lonelyplanet.com you can download from its Pick and Mix guides with a few pdfs thrown in free of charge.

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