Monitor picks

From 'Blink' to Dice-K, here are five things we think you'll really like.

Empire strikes out?

Daisuke Matsuzaka might have been "the monster" in Japan, but after two upsetting losses, the Red Sox have yet to get their $52 million worth from the pitcher nicknamed Dice-K. This weekend, the Yankees come to Fenway Park for three nationally televised games. Maybe an ancient baseball rivalry can get the boy wonder in shape. No pressure, Dice-K.

La vida Lopez

The entire first seasons of two very funny guys are finally available for DVD viewing, Drew Carey and George Lopez. Each is a gentle groundbreaker in his own way, especially Lopez, who makes middle-class Hispanic life seem so all American.

Writer of wrongs

In Freedom Writers, Hilary Swank portrays Erin Gruwell, an idealist plunged into a gang-riddled high school armed with nothing more than a piece of chalk. Movies about inspirational teachers who transform classes of misfits into academic superstars are as commonplace as Eva Longoria magazine covers. And yet this true-story film, now on DVD, managed to challenge and surprise us without over-cloying sentimentality.

Love at first sight

Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" argued that even the smallest – and seemingly inconsequential – ideas can "spread just like viruses do," and make an impact on the world at large. In "Blink," out this month in paperback, Gladwell takes on the power of first impressions. Do you think, for instance, that military strategy is always a matter of intense deliberation? Think again.

Virtual babel

OK, you might not really like this unless you get a kick out of reading clever "away messages" on AIM. But at you can catch individuals' responses to one simple question: "What are you doing right now?" The answers pour in from all over in many languages, and with a panoply of user icons. Keep hitting refresh to catch a global, communal vibe. Hey, we're all doing nothing!

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