Top Picks: iTunes and Education, the Dark Side of Modeling, and More

Foxygen's new album is a retro pop collection that sounds new and old at the same time, the Discovery channel highlights the inventions that made the modern world in a new series, and more.

Les Misérables on DVD
Foxygen’s new album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
A. Sabin/PBS
Girl Model, a documentary on PBS’s “POV”

California Retro

They sound like nothing and everything you’ve ever heard. Foxygen’s new album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, actually lives up to the impossible promise of that title. Sam France and Jonathan Rado, a fearless southern California duo, appear to have tossed their 1960s and ’70s record collection into a blender and whipped up the coolest, most original retro-pop confection of this or any year.

Inventing the World

Discovery Channel takes a look at the gadgets and creations that have transformed our lives in How We Invented the World. The series premières Tuesday, March 19, examining cellphones, cars, airplanes, and skyscrapers. Each episode reveals the interesting stories that ultimately led to the creation of these iconic inventions.

Oscar Flicks

A slew of marquee films – most with Oscar nods this year – have arrived on DVD: Les Misérables, with Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-winning turn as the downtrodden Fantine; The Master, the story of a troubled man and an equally troubling guru; Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial journey through the hunt for Osama bin Laden; and The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s prequel to his brilliant “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

iTunes and Education

Apple’s massive library of educational videos and podcasts, called iTunes U, recently hit a major milestone: Users have now downloaded 1 billion lectures and course documents through this free service. Check out the audio edition of “The Civil War and Reconstruction Era” from Yale University. This excellent lecture series dives into the debates and battles that gripped America from 1845 to 1877. It’s available, free of charge, through iTunes.

Get Up and Dance

Minute by Minute, the new album by The James Hunter Six, will have you wearing out your dancing shoes. This is old-school R&B with a jive groove. The joyful horn section sounds brighter than a sunrise on Mars, the rhythm section swings with the graceful precision of double trapeze artists, and Hunter has a voice that alternates between slightly frayed croon and James Brown-like yelps of delight. Soul music? More like sole music.

Dark Side of Modeling

Reality TV depicts a high-fashion world in which a few girls can actually succeed. But the truth is something darker as revealed in Girl Model, a documentary on PBS’s “POV.” The film profiles 13-year-old Nadya Vall as she is sent off to Japan. She goes out on modeling jobs that provide no pay – not the rich contract she had been promised – and ends up doling out her own money to live and even obtain a precious copy of the magazine in which one of her pictures finally appears. Sober and sad but important. It airs March 24.

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