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Six picks: recommendations from the Monitor staff

A crab-boat saga, Marvin Gaye on PBS, a LEGO-building website, and more.

May 2, 2008

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cowboys at sea

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The brothers Hillstrand, our favorite captains from the Discovery Channel's hit "Deadliest Catch," traded crab pots for pens to reel off Time Bandit, a thoughtful memoir (named for their black-hulled boat) about their white-knuckled Bering Sea exploits.

bluegrass gold

The Punch Brothers, five hipster bluegrass chamber musicians headed by mandolin phenom Chris Thile of Nickel Creek fame, first reminded us of banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck sitting in (in a tux) with a string quartet years ago, playing chamber music. With their new CD, Punch, the Punch Brothers are much further out there. Thile has even written a complex 40-minute suite in four movements ("The Blind Leaving the Blind") that they played last year at Carnegie Hall.

sweet sounds

The late Motown legend Marvin Gaye struggled with emotional and creative demons his entire life, but during his heyday he transformed a genre and inspired generations of vocalists. See the performances, hear the music, and learn his story. Marvin Gaye: What's Going On airs on PBS Wednesday, May 7 at 9 p.m.

radio from anywhere

In his recent single "Radio Nowhere," Bruce Springsteen bemoans the dead dial and says he's searching for a world with some soul. He might want to log on to Streema.com, a site that aggregates the globe's radio stations. We sampled Mood FM in Jordan, heard Nordic favorites Roxette on Denmark's Radio Alfa, and were so taken with a South African band called Stealing Love Jones on 5 FM that we bought its album on online.

mothers' tales

Besides standard "utility" pieces (on teaching kids about composting with worms, for example), the May issue of the Disney-produced magazine Wonder time scores with a timely collection of narrative stories – 24 pages of the issue – by mothers. Read about a toddler in tow, and protected, in one of the world's danger zones, or an Ivy Leaguer coming to terms with the trying life of her maternal grandma, a housecleaner. Thanks, moms.

Pixel bricks

Looking for a creative alternative to Grand Theft Auto IV? The free LEGO Digital Designer lets builders stack the perfect creation on their PC. Bricklayers can blueprint their next masterpiece or just bumble around without making a mess. You can save your creations and then e-mail screenshots. Download the latest version at ldd.lego.com. Runs on PCs and Macs.

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