Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor Staff

A sultry Cape Verdean songstress, an MP3 player for under 20 bucks, a chance to say Boo at the Zoo, and more.

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boo who?

Looking for a family Halloween activity? The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is hosting Boo at the Zoo, and many other zoos are planning similar spooktacular events. Count on everything from costume contests and cool crafts to creepy-crawly meet-and-greets, games, and treats – designed to be not too scary for the little ones, but lots of fun for all. Check with your local zoo, and have a fantast-eek time!

forgotten, but not for long

Recommended: Culture and Science

It's been called "the forgotten war," but as Frontline's The War Briefing makes clear, the next US president won't be able to "side-burner" the struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan for long. As evidence mounts that insurgents are using the protection of Pakistan to grow stronger, the next administration will face tough decisions about how to fight more than one major war at a time. Airs Oct. 28 on PBS at 9 p.m.

Sultry songstress

The intimate, soothing songs of Mayra Andrade on her debut album Navega sweep you up in their seductive rhythms. The young Cape Verdean artist weaves Brazilian, African, and Caribbean influences into her fusion playlist, but keeps a strong link to her native country's traditional music. Already a sensation in Europe, she's worth brushing up your Portuguese to listen to.

cheap, cheap

Used to dropping $20 to $30 just on accessories for your iPod or MP3 player? Now, comes a price-breaking alternative, a 1 GB MP3 player from SPI retailing for $19.99. Available online (www.spiinc-tx.com) and out in stores in November, these streamlined little players are no bigger than, say, a lumberjack's thumbprint. They are wearable, with a clip, and come in metallic colors like pink, purple, blue, green, and orange.

slide show

There's nothing alien about the folk, blues, and rock 'n' roll on The UFO Has Landed, a 34-track Ry Cooder anthology. The compilation also includes selections from the bottleneck guitarist's evocative soundtracks. When Cooder plays the slide-guitar theme of the road movie "Paris Texas," you'll marvel how the notes shimmer like heat haze on asphalt.

Grabbing the 'Brass' ring

It's a setup straight out of fan fiction: Michael Connelly forces his two heroes, defense attorney Mickey Haller and police officer Harry Bosch, to play nice. When attorney Jerry Vincent is killed, Mickey inherits his case load – including a producer accused of murder. While Mickey prepares a defense, he finds himself helping Harry, who's trying to catch Jerry's killer. "A trial is a contest of lies," Mickey says early on, and that's good to remember. A slightly hokey ending jars, but The Brass Verdict is brilliantly plotted.

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