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Six picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

A testosterone-filled 'actuality' series, a new soulful CD, a website for the font-struck, and more.

June 13, 2008

Mark Thomson

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Soul revival

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The natural successor to Amy Winehouse may just be ... a man. British singer and guitarist James Hunter has been championing old-school R&B much longer than the young chanteuse, paying his dues as a member of Van Morrison's band. Now, with a voice steeped in Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson, and guitar licks that swing as much as they sting, Hunter is poised for a breakthrough as his new album, The Hard Way, is released through Starbucks stores.

Picking favorites

Spearheaded by singer Peter Gabriel, TheFilter.com creates personalized recommendations for you in music, movies, and online videos. To get started, sign up and use its search engine of millions of songs and then, if you like, download a Filter widget that tracks what you listen to and watch on your computer. The more information you feed the site, the more refined its feedback.

Racer's edge

The career of a California-born racing legend is neatly packaged in ESPN Inside Access: Jeff Gordon (June 10, $19.95). Oval-track aficionados may be riveted by the sheet-metal snakes of stock cars. A broader audience will enjoy backstory videos, including interviews, and Gordon, age 7, in Quarter-Midget Racing action. Too good, too soon for many of racing's Good Old Boys (and some of the sport's fans), Gordon hit the gas in the mid-'90s as the youngest NASCAR champ and never looked back. He kept it together despite some major speed bumps, too.

'On guerrilla gardening'

Richard Reynolds pours his knowledge of beautifying orphaned plots into this small handbook "for gardening without boundaries." He gives a potted history, propaganda tips, and how to dig in when the authorities approach.

Structured doodling

If you've ever spent the afternoon doodling wings around the letters of your name, you'll love fontstruct.com. The font-designing website enables you to create a whole new alphabet using the site's simple construction blocks and builtin software. Make your alphabet public or download others' designs to your computer, such as Hairdo – each letter is groomed with stylish bangs or sideburns – or Ransom Note, no need to cut letters from a newspaper anymore.

'Black Gold'

You may not like those soaring prices at the gas pump, but you gotta love the roughnecks that pull that petroleum out of the ground. Tune in for a summer testosterone hit in truTV's new "actuality" series, Black Gold, (June 18, 10 p.m. ET/PT). We get up close and sweaty with the life-and-death, backbreaking work these crews do, often at breakneck speeds and under grueling weather and in dangerous geography – it's a high stakes world where personal fortunes can be made and lost overnight.

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