Top picks: John Singer Sargent exhibit, Obama on 'Mythbusters,' Disney documentaries, and more

Portraits by John Singer Sargent on exhibit in New York, President Obama on 'Mythbusters,' three Walt Disney historical documentaries, and more recommendations

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    President Obama has used his bully pulpit to persuade the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” team to reexamine the ancient yarn that “the Greek scientist Archimedes really set fire to an invading Roman fleet using only mirrors and the reflected rays of the sun.
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A laid-back Sargent

John Singer Sargent is known for his Gilded Age portraits in the Grand Manner. An exhibition at New York's Adelson Galleries (19 E. 82nd Street) through Dec. 18 shows his laid-back side. In 30 paintings of figures in sun-dappled landscapes (1883-89), Sargent experimented with Impressionism. He'd fled France in disgrace after his "Madame X" portrait caused a scandal. During idyllic summers in the English countryside – with no commissions – Sargent painted solely for himself. Richard Ormond, a Sargent scholar (and the artist's great-nephew), calls the works "among the most ravishing things he ever painted."

Game on, Mickey!

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Whatever happened to Mickey Mouse? In this decade of computer animation and video games, Super Mario resonates more with kids than the round-eared rodent. So, to reboot its mascot, Disney is wishing on a Wii. "Epic Mickey," in stores Nov. 30, throws players into a world of forgotten cartoons. Armed only with a paintbrush and liquid thinner, Mickey must blot away evil and restore order to the hand-drawn kingdom.

Math and 'Mythbusters'

President Obama has used his bully pulpit to persuade the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" team to reexamine the ancient yarn that "the Greek scientist Archimedes really set fire to an invading Roman fleet using only mirrors and the reflected rays of the sun." The president appears on the Dec. 8 episode as part of his White House effort to promote science and math. Tune in to learn what the team discovers. (In 2006, the team declared the myth "busted," but President Obama wants them to make another attempt.)

Self-help, community-style

Need a crosswalk in your neighborhood, a new bike path, a street sign? SeeClickFix.com gives citizens a way to alert the community and local officials to issues and track their progress (or lack of). Well-designed and simple to use, it's "one of the most promising tools to enhance public participation in government," Planitzen.com says.

Local heroes

For fresh-food fans, localharvest.org is an encyclopedia of information about the nearest farms, co-ops, seasonal produce, and more. Punch in your ZIP Code and a map springs up with farmers' markets, whole-food restaurants, reviews, and more. It's a one-stop resource for freshness.

Disney's own animated history

Walt Disney was a pioneer in animation, but also in collaborating with creative artists around the globe. On Nov. 30 Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment releases three historical documentaries that shed insider light on the evolution of the studio: "Waking Sleeping Beauty," a film about the more recent studio history; "Walt & El Grupo," a film about Disney's outreach to South America; and "The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story," about the award-winning songwriters.

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