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Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Ken Burns' explores the national parks, Stargate fans get a new infusion of space travel, Putumayo celebrates Spain in its latest CD compilation, and more.

October 5, 2009

Animal Planet

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Big cat confab

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If, as a wit once quipped, God invented the cat that man may touch the lion, then Animal Planet invented the saturation DVD collection that all of us may get as close as humanly possible to the king of the jungle. This set of four discs, "A Lion Called Christian," "The Lion's Share," "White Lions," and "Rogue Lions," features lion tales from the charming story of Christian the cub known to millions through his YouTube video to a look at the endangered lions of Tanzania and the rogue lions of South Africa's Kruger National Park, who have developed a taste for human flesh.

Musical paella

If flamenco is your only idea of Spanish music, then Putumayo's latest CD compilation, "España," will be a rush of new rhythms, rumba, and mestizo (fusion) for you. The legendary Catalan gypsy singer Peret launches the album, which dips into folk, Basque traditions, Portuguese-influenced music, and vibrant bands that represent the best of mestizo fusion. The captivating rhythms will have you tap-tapping.

Adrenaline rush on DVD

"The Unit," the CBS action drama about an elite military team, was a kinetic mix of high-concept writing – Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet both wrote and directed – and good, solid action TV. With often mysterious and convoluted plots peppered with Mamet's love of both language and deception, the show was intriguing and fun, while mostly treading on the good side of mature, violent themes. The 19-disc collection of all four seasons arrives Sept. 29, complete with deleted scenes and featurettes.

A don't-miss for Stargate fans

Even if you know nothing of the quirky world of Stargate portal travel, the mere presence of British actor Robert Carlyle on the sci-fi TV series is reason enough to tune into the newest Stargate show, "Stargate Universe," launching Oct. 2 on SyFy channel. If you have a particular affection for this offbeat space travel mythology, then cozy up to this third TV incarnation, set to take the hapless residents of spaceship Destiny to the farthest corners of the Stargate portal system.

African jazz

Guinean saxophonist Mamadou Barry may have created the next Afro-jazz sensation (after Hugh Masekela's "Grazing in the Grass") with the North American release of "Niyo" (World Village). This instrumental showcase offers nine compositions that masterfully re-fashion US R&B sax soliloquies, creating improvisations heavy with African beats and harmonies.

America's best idea

The latest foray of documentarian Ken Burns takes him to every corner of the nation to examine the wonders of the national park system. "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," in which he explores what he calls the symbol of our democracy, begins Sept. 27 and runs for six episodes on PBS. It is a glorious look at the first country in the world to make a commitment to preserve its natural beauty in perpetuity for its people.

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