Monitor Picks

Save this dance

Remember that first dance in middle school? The downcast eyes. The clammy hands. Mad Hot Ballroom, out this week on DVD, is a chance to triumph vicariously over that awkward rite of passage. As public-school students salsa and jive their way through a dance competition in New York, the documentary offers humorous and tender scenes from the unchoreographed world of children on the verge of young-adulthood.

TV when you want it

Forget to set your VCR? No worries. You can now download your favorite TV shows - legally - and watch them anytime. Using Apple's iTunes software (available at apple.com/iTunes), pick from five ABC programs. Our test took 22 minutes to download a 42-minute drama over DSL. The picture quality, even at full screen, was impressive ($1.99 each).

A winning Prize

Julianne Moore plays Evelyn, who supports 10 children and an alcoholic husband (Woody Harrelson) by composing jingles and essays in Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio, now in theaters. The film veers from tongue-in-cheek documentary to gritty drama to sitcom, but it's true to the spirit of the book and Evelyn's life - lumpy but filled with expectancy of good, and utterly charming.

Learning links

Arts & Letters Daily (artsandlettersdaily.com), compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education, is a great source for stories from well-known publications (The New Yorker, International Herald Tribune) as well as the more esoteric (London-based online magazine Spiked and Toronto's The Walrus). It's updated six days a week with links to writing on topics including criticism and culture.

Home sweet home

My First Place, which debuts on HGTV Saturday night, captures the joy of walking into your new house for the first time. Young homeowners are given a $3,000 budget and the services of a top-tier designer. Blank walls and empty rooms are brought to life as a house becomes a home.

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