Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Vince Guaraldi in his essence, 'Life on Mars' TV series now on DVD, creativity at its best in '500 Tables, and more.

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Prank film, pointed message

The merry pranksters of left-wing activism in "The Yes Men" (2003) are back with a sequel, The Yes Men Fix the World, to debut on HBO July 27, 9 p.m. This time, their elaborate hoaxes involve going on BBC news representing Dow Chemical, Union Carbide's parent company, to announce that the firm will pay reparations for the Bhopal pesticide factory disaster in 1984. They also tackle Katrina relief as well as publish more than a million faux editions of The New York Times, announcing the end of the Iraq war. They bedevil their targets, but also ask a good question: What if we did things differently?

Guaraldi in his essence

Recommended: Vince Lombardi: 12 quotes on his birthday

Most likely you know the Vince Guaraldi Trio from the Peanuts TV specials, most notably "A Charlie Brown Christmas." But the pianist/composer with the handlebar moustache was a popular attraction for West Coast jazz fans for years before and after his Peanuts fame. A new collection, Vince Guaraldi: Essential Standards, aggregates material from his "legitimate" jazz career, including his early 1960s radio hit "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," and selections from the ground-breaking Bossa Nova album "Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus."

Time-warping detective

The hit 2006 British TV series "Life on Mars," about a modern Manchester detective who mysteriously wakes up in the 1970s, did a subtle job of investigating all the possible explanations – at the same time as it solved crimes. Last year, ABC launched a Manhattan version, but the original can't be beat. The first season is out on DVD July 28.

How to do 100,000 things

Joining the crowd of instructional video sites, howcast.com offers short, humorous, visual guides to everything from how to survive a bear attack to how to pretend you're a real New Yorker.

Hidden corners of the hub

Think you're familiar with Boston's sights? Boston's Secret Spaces (The Boston Globe, $16.95) takes a peek into 50 places the average visitor, or even resident, might not know: MIT's nuclear reactor, lunching lions at Franklin Park Zoo, J.F.K.'s private dining room at Locke-Ober. All of it is an intriguing glimpse at the city's rich back story.

Table creativity

500 Tables: Inspiring Interpretations of Function and Style, by Andrew Glasgow (Lark Books, $24.95) is a feast of ingenuity, grace, and sometimes straight-up wit. From a table constructed of recycled aluminum traffic signs to one resembling a sliced-off radish to subtle reinterpretations of traditional design, many of the tables look barely functional but offer lessons in exquisite craftsmanship. You may not find a spot for your cup of tea, but you'll be glued to your seat admiring the ingenuity of modern furnituremakers.

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