Henri, le Chat Noir
Merri Cyr/PBS
Life on Four Strings, a PBS documentary about Jake Shimabukuro
An Appointment with Mr. Yeats by The Waterboys

Top Picks: Henri the cat's philosophical musings, HBO's specials on childhood obesity, and more

A PBS documentary explores the life of ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro, Venmo lets phone users transfer money from one device to another, and more top picks.

Le chat noir

Perhaps you have heard of Henri, the YouTube sensation and now Friskies spokescat. He is a beautiful black-and-white tuxedo feline who expresses his existential angst through half-lidded eyes with a touch of parody (“My thumbs are not opposable, yet I oppose everything.”). Now Henri, le Chat Noir appears in book form as black-and-white photos with furry philosophical musings certain to crack a smile from even the most hardened cynic.

A necessary appointment

Call it poetic license: The Waterboys have created an entire album from the poems of W.B. Yeats. An Appointment with Mr. Yeats finds the Celtic rock band returning to the 1980s sound they dubbed “the big music.” Fiddle player Steve Wickham brings a gentle caress to “Sweet Dancer” and frays his frenzied bow during “Mad as the Mist and Snow.” Mike Scott has seldom sung as soulfully, especially on “Song of Wandering Aengus.” It’s The Waterboys’ best record since “Fisherman’s Blues.”

Text me some cash?

Caught cash-less? Venmo lets people transfer money from one smart phone to another. Pay your friends for those concert tickets or give your share of the rent with just a few taps. Each payment comes with a personalized note, making exchanges clear, social, and fun. Credit-card transactions carry a 3 percent fee but everything else is free, and Venmo is FDIC approved. It’s available for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry.

Native son

Byron Janis, one of America’s first acclaimed native-born pianists, began his career studying in New York with the legendary Josef and Rosina Lhévinne. RCA Red Seal celebrates his 85th birthday (April 16) with a box set of his entire discography newly remastered from original sources, Byron Janis: The Complete RCA Collection. Selections include Beethoven sonatas (Tempest, Waldstein), Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and many others by Bach, Liszt, Chopin, and Gershwin. The 11-CD-set also includes a DVD documentary, “The Byron Janis Story,” produced by Peter Rosen.


Life on Four Strings, a PBS documentary about “accidental superstar” and “ukulele hero” Jake Shimabukuro, airs May 10. The film visits his early years in Hawaii, his breakout viral YouTube video of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and his international success topping the Billboard charts. If you have ever doubted the lowly uke could be a first-class musical instrument, tune in and doubt no more.

Weighty subject

HBO tackles childhood obesity and the responsibility of parents in The Weight of the Nation for Kids on May 7. This three-part series of half-hour specials follows the “Weight of the Nation” documentaries that aired in May 2012. This round is especially designed to help young people and their families make food and activity choices that will improve their health now and in the future.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Top Picks: Henri the cat's philosophical musings, HBO's specials on childhood obesity, and more
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today