Top Picks: An alligator app, great commencement speeches, and more

John Mayer's musicianship is first-rate on his new album, National Geographic explores the unusual animals of America, and more top picks.

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    Helen Mirren in 'Prime Suspect'
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    Untamed Americas
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Get out of town

National Geographic presents Untamed Americas, a gorgeous four-part miniseries narrated by Josh Brolin. Tune in to track creatures both massive and tiny through the "Mountains," "Deserts," "Coasts," and "Forests" of North, Central, and South America. Learn why the tiny ninja-like desert grasshopper mouse is really a "wolf in mouse's clothing" and watch as the social hierarchy of wild mustangs unravels. Premières June 10 and 11. Check local listings.

Summertime calypso

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Bring the lilt of the Caribbean to a summer home filled with children out of school with Songs in the Shade of the Flamboyant Tree. This collection of Creole nursery rhymes from Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Reunion Island comes from and features adults and children singing in this language spoken by some 7 million people.

A stream of British TV

Acorn Media has long been a source of DVD releases for top British television shows. As the world readies for a summer of Britainmania, indulge your taste for “accent” TV via the website’s premium streaming service, Acorn TV ( For $25 a year, you can access full seasons of such chestnuts as “Prime Suspect,” starring the inimitable Helen Mirren, and the delicious Canadian dramedy “Slings and Arrows,” about the backstage shenanigans of a Shakespeare theater troupe.  

Pocket alligators

Many of the best iPhone games share three traits: charming art style, short play sessions, and rules that are simple to learn but difficult to master. Disney's Where's My Water? has got 'em all. The game revolves around a sewer alligator who wants to take a shower. Players must direct water through a maze of plumbing, away from toxic gunk, and to his bathtub. Also available for Android.

Words of wisdom gathered its 11 favorite commencement speeches from the past 25 years. The list includes talks by Jon Stewart, David Foster Wallace, Jon Huntsman Jr., and others. This year, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin told Syracuse University students, "I wish I could tell you that there was a trick to avoiding the screw-ups, but the screw-ups, they're a-coming for ya." For the full list, go to

Kickin' up dust

"Looking for the song Neil Young sung/After the Goldrush, 1971." It's a line from the first track of John Mayer's new album, Born and Raised, and it sums up the album in a nutshell. Gone are the soulful electric guitar heroics and swagger. It's a brand-new J.M. – chastened, humbled, and introspective. While the musicianship is first rate – mostly acoustic guitars, brushed drums, and plaintive harmonica – the songs themselves lack the spark and originality we've come to expect from this talented troubadour.


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