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Top Picks: Easy decorating, 'Birds of the Gods,' and 'Colstrip Montana'

An iTunes app for wall art, birds of paradise in a PBS special 'Birds of the Gods,' 'Colstrip Montana,' a book that changed landscape photography, and more recommendations.

January 14, 2011

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura of 'Star Trek'. Tune in to the second season of “Pioneers of Television,” which debuts on PBS Jan. 18 at 8 p.m.

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Tales of TV's early days

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Ever wonder what Albert Einstein's favorite TV show was or what series featured the small screen's first interracial kiss? Tune in to the second season of "Pioneers of Television," which debuts on PBS Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. Kelsey Grammer narrates this four-part look at major genres: the western, crime drama, science fiction, and local kids' TV. A parade of well-known and loved performers from the early decades share stories of their now-famous shows, from Angie Dickinson to James Garner, William Shatner, Martin Landau, and Fess Parker.

A violinist's other virtuoso act

Violinist Isaac Stern is a towering figure of 20th-century music, but he was also a champion of New York City's Carnegie Hall. Sony Masterworks has released "Isaac Stern: Keeping the Doors Open," an homage to the half century of untiring work by the musician and his friends to update and maintain the hall. The CD has memorable performances from throughout the decades, including Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64, with Stern, Leonard Bernstein, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Hang the art

If your walls are looking bare, try art.com for decorating ideas that range from classic Van Gogh reproductions to hand-painted canvases by lesser-known artists. Once you've picked a frame for your picture, use the art.com iPhone app (from iTunes) to test it out in your home – a risk-free trial installation – before whipping out the plastic.

Plumage parade

With feathers of crazy colors and mating dances as exotically beautiful and bizarre as any on earth, the birds of New Guinea are so spectacular and otherworldly they were dubbed birds of paradise by the first European visitors. Tune in to "Birds of the Gods" on PBS's "Nature" Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. for this David Attenborough special detailing the effort to understand and record these rare creatures.

Eco-friendly swap shop

In this age of frugality, the Yankee swap's sophisticated online cousin, swap.com, is a popular haunt for the media hungry. Gather up your dust-covered books, CDs, DVDs, and video games and list them at the site along with your "want" list, and an algorithm makes the match. Except for postage, it's a free and fast way to refresh your media library.

Ravaged landscape, real art

Art, history, science, and ethics come together in "Colstrip, Montana" (Taverner Press), a groundbreaking collection of photographs of one of the largest open-pit coal mines in North America. Taken in the early 1980s, David Hanson's haunting aerial images reveal the dramatic changes to the wider landscape. Critics hailed his work, and a new generation of landscape photographers drew inspiration. Now his book invites us to look carefully at the ground beneath our feet.

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