Top Picks: Google+, Wonders of the Universe, vintage photography, and more

Google's new social networking service Google+, Brian Cox goes from punk rock to astrophysics, classic American photography, and more recommendations.

The Weinstein Company
The film 'Miral' directed by Julian Schnabel is now on DVD.
Vintage photos are available on
'Alone with the Blues' is a recording by jazz pianist Ray Bryant.

From Page to screen

Miral is the semiautobiographical film based on the novel by Rula Jebreal. The memory film is a personalized history of the Palestinian people dating to the founding of Israel. Unabashedly political, this work by Julian Schnabel starring both Freida Pinto and Willem Dafoe, is both lyrical and tough-edged. The release is available on Blu-ray and regular DVD.

The New Facebook?

Sick of Facebook and complicated privacy settings? Give Google+ a try. Google's take on social networking is organized around "circles," a group of friends, family, acquaintances, etc. Your circles are only visible to you, and you can put your Google+ friends into any circle you like. You can share specific information that you post on Google+ with any combination of your circles, a step up from Facebook. The user interface is relatively easy to use, but still has some kinks to work out. Google+ is "invite only" for now, but invites are relatively easy to get and should be open to the public by the end of July.

Pictures worth a thousand words

Love vintage photography? Online you'll find a wonderful photo album of a time gone by. The Shorpy blog site (named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a 20th-century teenage coal miner) offers hundreds of high-resolution photos of America from as far back as the Civil War. Most photos are taken from glass negatives so crisp you can see every expression in a crowd. Prints are available. Check out

Ukulele Fever

Have a hankering to learn how to play the ukulele? There's a handy-dandy website to show you how. Hosted by renowned uke maestro Jim Beloff, is your go-to site for browsing, buying, and learning about all things uke. You can shop for ukuleles, songbooks, and instructional DVDs. You can read interviews with top players and collectors. You can even sample Beloff's jampacked jukebox of ukulele favorites. Uke out of tune? Use the online tuner and you'll be serenading your sweetie in no time.

Space jams

Summer is the perfect time to lie on a high, grassy hill and peer into deep space. Join punk rock keyboardist-turned-astrophysicist professor Brian Cox as he tells the stories of the stars in his new four-part series, Wonders of the Universe, kicking off Wednesday July 27 at 9 p.m. on the Science Channel.

Remembering Ray Bryant

Gifted jazz pianist Ray Bryant, who died in early July, was an absolute master of jazz, blues, gospel, and soul piano styles, with a left hand that could swing, boogie, and caress with the best of them. His masterly bluesy solo and trio albums are the best places to catch up with the peerless pianist: "Alone with the Blues" (1958), "Ray Bryant Plays" (1959), and "Hot Turkey" (1975) are all downloadable (on iTunes and other music sites) and should jump to the top of your jazz playlist.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.