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Top Picks: Historian Niall Ferguson on PBS, Carole King's demos, and more

National Geographic's digital edition shines on the iPad, an old newsreel shows window washers in 1938, and more top picks.

May 18, 2012

The May issue of National Geographic

Tim Laman/National Geographic

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The printed page comes to life

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The May issue of National Geographic has a fascinating look at a tiny South American bird that sings with its wings. Now iPad owners can watch and hear the manakin's wing-chirping. The magazine's digital edition has outshined the print offering for months now, and this latest issue demonstrates why. A video and an interactive graphic show how the feathers rub together like a wee violin. The iPad edition is free for current print subscribers or $20 a year for newcomers.

Soul mates in sound

After a good – but disappointingly stiff – studio debut, The Tedeschi Trucks Band can now be heard in all their funky, passionate glory on a new live set, "Everybody's Talkin'. " Gifted soul-belter Susan Tedeschi, her virtuoso guitar-slinger husband Derek Trucks, and their copacetic nonet tear it up from start to finish on 11 well-chosen tracks. Gems in this embarrassment of riches are the heavenly "Midnight in Harlem" and the gospel classic "Wade in the Water."

A night to remember

PBS will feature its 23rd annual National Memorial Day Concert on May 27. This year's "night of remembrance" will be hosted by actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise and include an all-star lineup of dignitaries, actors, and musical artists with the National Symphony Orchestra. It airs live from the West Lawn of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., at 8 p.m.

Who will lead civilization next?

Renowned historian Niall Ferguson is back on PBS with his cheeky analysis of the West's economic and cultural rise based on what he calls "the six killer applications": competition, science, modern medicine, democracy, consumerism, and the work ethic. Civilization: The West and the Rest with Niall Ferguson premières May 22 and 29. Check local listings for times.

Men on skyscrapers

British Pathé, a media company that produced newsreels between 1910 and 1970, recently posted to the Web an old newsreel that detailed the day-to-day jobs of window washers in 1938. Try not to get vertigo as the camera pans down to the city streets hundreds of stories below and follows the window washers as they squeegee at dizzying heights. How did the cameraman do it? Check out the video at http://bit.ly/windowwashers.

'It Goes Something Like This...'

If there was a Mt. Rushmore of American songwriting, the face of Carole King would surely be grinning up there with those of Gershwin and Cole Porter. The list of hits she has written is astounding: 50 songs in the Top 40 for artists ranging from Aretha Franklin to The Monkees. Carole King: The Legendary Demos gives us a peek into her creative process. “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Crying in the Rain,” “A Natural Woman”, and other gems are all here in their original form, with their creator on keyboard and vocals.

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