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.

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

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.

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