Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

'Eco Chic' book for the green traveler, Nicholas Kristof's reporting chutzpah on HBO, dulcet harmonies on the Real Vocal String Quartet's debut CD, and more.

Stephanie Berger
The Merce Cunningham Dance Company performed "Events," a memorial celebration at the Park Ave. Armory on Oct. 28, 2009. Current as well as former members of the company performed excerpts from dances throughout his career. The dancers here are Brandon Collwes and Melissa Toogood.
'Eco Chic' (Editions Didier Millet) is a new book on luxe and green shops, spas, hotels, and more.
The debut CD from the Real Vocal String Quartet (Flower Note Records).

Green and stylish

For the ecoconscious with a stylish bent, "Eco Chic" (Editions Didier Millet, $25) is a new kind of guide. Packed with lush photos, it takes a look at 50 ecoaware retreats around the world, plus where to shop and eat to make the lowest impact. Some of the most striking resorts are dotted around Asia, but if long-haul travel is not in the cards, take a look at ecofriendly restaurants and stores in places like New York and Los Angeles for a closer dip into chic green culture.

Journalistic chutzpah

HBO's "Reporter" – a 90-minute documentary about New York Times two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof – is a startling reminder of the importance of feet-on-the-ground journalism. His articles brought the world's attention to the tragedies in Darfur. This film, airing Feb. 18 at 9.30 p.m., chronicles his continuing travels through lawless areas of Africa to document ongoing charges of genocide and barbarism.

A final bow

This week, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, founded by the modern dance pioneer, launches a final two-year world tour. The Legacy Tour, which will travel to nearly 35 cities, offers a last opportunity to see the groundbreaking choreographer's work performed by the company he personally trained. It will end in New York City on Dec. 31, 2011, after which the company will close. On view: dances from throughout its 50-year history, some of which have not been performed in decades. For more details:

Oscar insights

The British Academy Film Awards are often a good predictor of who walks away with an Oscar a few weeks later. And this year they will air on BBC America (Feb. 21 at 8 p.m.) the same day the stars come together at London's Royal Opera House. The nominations announced Feb. 1 have "Avatar," "An Education," and "The Hurt Locker" leading the pack. For a full list go to

The real thing

If you're preparing for a trip, before you book that hotel take a look at The website shows undoctored photos of resorts and rooms next to the official version. The photo "fakeout," as Oyster terms it, could change your itinerary.

Vocal strings

On their eponymous debut CD, the Real Vocal String Quartet (Flower Note Records) winningly redefines string quartet repertoire with an authority that puts them in the same league as the venerable Kronos Quartet. These four Berkeley women perform largely original music – flavored with Appalachian fiddle tunes, African songs, and Brazilian dances. As their name suggests, their dulcet voices harmonize in lush synchronization with their violins, viola, and cello. This spritely marriage of string quartet precision and elegance with lyrically sophisticated pop vocals makes their bridging of the chasm between pop and classical music freshly enchanting.

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