Top Picks: The band Postmodern Jukebox, the 'Independent Lens' film 'Happiness,' and more

The PBS program 'Killer Landslides' examines what causes the landslides and whether people can be warned in time, Hayao Miyazaki's film 'The Wind Rises' is a visual stunner, and more top picks.

NINA BERNFELD/PBS
Happiness

Simple happiness

“Independent Lens” presents Happiness, about 9-year-old Buddhist monk Peyangki who has grown up in rural Bhutan without electricity and is dissatisfied with the simple life. When he travels to the capital with his uncle to buy a TV, he encounters modern luxuries for the first time. Will they bring pleasure to his life? Directed by Thomas Balmès, it airs Nov. 17 on PBS at 10 p.m.  

Ragtime pop

Scott Bradlee is trying to create an alternative universe of pop music. A jazz pianist by training, he takes contemporary songs and gives them a vintage ragtime treatment with his band Postmodern Jukebox. He started by recording and uploading videos right from his living room. They drew such a following that Postmodern Jukebox just wrapped up its first tour. Check it out on the YouTube channel ScottBradleeLovesYa.

Idiosyncopation

There’s nothing like discovering new music as original as tUnE-yArDs: Nikki Nack, a multitracked solo project by Connecticut native Merrill Garbus. Sounding at times like a playground full of chanting, harmonizing kids (all voiced by Garbus) banging on whatever’s handy (buckets, soda bottles), it’s a cockeyed and witty celebration of life’s surprises. Start with the album’s hit “Water Fountain.”  You’ll grin from ear to ear.

Deadly mud

Earlier this year, a landslide devastated Oso, Wash., killing 43 people. A few months later, a landslide in Afghanistan killed an estimated 400. Are more and more of these disasters in our future? In Killer Landslides scientists discuss why they happen and whether radar monitoring technology can provide warning in time for people to escape. “Killer Landslides” airs on PBS on Nov. 19 at 9 p.m.

Japanese anime

The animated film The Wind Rises, which legendary director Hayao Miyazaki says is his last movie, is a visual stunner. The movie is based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, who is entranced by flight but never thinks through the dangers that lie in wait (Horikoshi designed the planes used by Japan in World War II). “The Wind Rises” is available on DVD and Blu-ray Nov. 18. 

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