Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

A book of canine comfort, free tickets to 900 museums, a dark documentary on torture, and more.

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daryl, can we come and play?

Between touring and recording, Hall & Oates soul man Daryl Hall invites friends to his homes in upstate New York and London. Not just anyone, but musicians like KT Tunstall, country crooner Monte Montgomery, and funk duo Chromeo, among others. is short on talk and long on superbly played and recorded music, all captured on video. Most of the performed songs are available on iTunes for 99 cents a pop.

Comedy to Rock your World

"30 Rock" won the 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series; if you don't know why, you're in luck. 30 Rock: Season 2 comes out on DVD Oct. 7. You can still get to know – and love – Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy, Kenneth the Page, and the rest of the wacky group before Season 3 premières on Oct. 30.


Stratocaster meets orchestra on David Gilmour's Live in Gdansk, a 2006 show recorded in the shipyard where Lech Walesa launched his Solidarity movement. Fittingly, Gilmour dusts off Pink Floyd's "Great Day for Freedom" for the occasion. But it's the Baltic Philharmonic Symphony-assisted version of "Comfortably Numb" that helps make the two-disc set a must for Floyd fans.

900 museums in a day

Smithsonian magazine is offering free admission Saturday, Sept. 27, to nearly 900 cultural institutions around the US. For your admission card and list of participating museums, go to

Return to Bedlam Farm

If happiness is a warm puppy (and who would argue?), comfort might be a border collie. Jon Katz ("A Dog Year") devotes his latest book to two dogs: Izzy, who overcomes a past of neglect to bring joy to hospice patients; and Lenore, a black Lab puppy Katz calls a "portable happiness generator." In Izzy and Lenore, Katz also discusses his year-long battle to overcome depression and his challenges with aging. (Other Bedlamites, such as Elvis, the steer, also offer an ear.) Lenore is cute, but Izzy, with his instinctive understanding and innate grace of spirit, is the heart of the book.

a cautionary tale

The grim, quietly persistent story of America's use of interrogation techniques in its post-9/11 prison camps – Bagram, Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib – comes to HBO on Sept. 29, at 9 p.m. Taxi to the Dark Side, 2008's Oscar-winning documentary, tells of an Afghan cabby who is turned over to US forces for interrogation, only to die within five days of his arrival in Bagram (Afghanistan) prison. Unabashedly advocating prisoners' rights, the film explores what many see as America's lost moral position resulting from its use of what they – including Sen. John McCain – define as torture.

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