Top Picks: Journalist George Plimpton on 'American Masters,' the Facebook app Paper, and more

A National Geographic IMAX documentary titled 'Pandas: The Journey Home' looks at China's work raising the animals and then releasing them back into the wild, the 'Frontline' two-part series 'The United States of Secrets' looks at the government's surveillance program, and more top picks.

On May 13 and 20, 'Frontline' will air a two-part series titled 'United States of Secrets.'

One-of-a-kind journalist

A legendary participatory journalist is the subject of the PBS “American Masters” documentary Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself. The adventurer/writer/editor who cofounded The Paris Review threw himself – literally – into whatever topic he was covering: quarterbacking for the Detroit Lions, goalkeeping for the Boston Bruins, and fighting a light-heavyweight champ – not to mention writing 15 books. It airs May 16.

Big Data spying

On May 13 and 20, “Frontline” will air a two-part series, United States of Secrets, that delves into the US government’s massive surveillance program. Covering events from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Edward Snowden leaks, the series tells the story of how the National Security Agency struggles to balance the work of scanning Big Data for potential terrorist attacks and the risk of government overreach into the private lives of citizens.

Icelandic pop ...

IKEA, Volvo, and Danish Modern design may be the best-known exports of the Nordic countries (see others, page 30), but the pop music scene holds riches, too. Tilbury, an indie band from Reykjavík, Iceland, embodies the elements of Nordic cool in its hypnotic album Northern Comfort. Simple, catchy melodies, sung in beautiful but emotionless voices, are awash in reverb-drenched old-school synths and dry drumbeats. Sounding a bit like the Shins with jet lag, Tilbury weaves a melancholy spell as warm as a wool sweater.

... and Norwegian Soundscapes

Jan Bang is a Norwegian electronic-music producer who, with his partner, Erik Honoré, is one-half of the team that puts on the annual Punkt Festival, which features “live remixes” of today’s most adventurous artists in the improvisational and experimental fields. On his second solo release, Narrative From the Subtropics, Bang has built a stunning collection of sound collages, blending orchestral samples, live and processed instruments, and vocals – his signature approach to sonic assemblage. The overall feel of the music is simultaneously ultramodern and ancient.

A new face for Facebook

Facebook introduced its new app Paper as a wipe-the-slate-clean moment. Rather than crunching down a desktop interface to fit on a mobile screen, the design team specifically built Paper to look good on an iPhone. You can swipe through your friends’ photos and updates as if they were pages in a digital magazine. An April update also added some Facebook favorites originally left out of Paper, such as birthdays and “Events.” The free app is available in iTunes.

Help for pandas

Pandas: The Journey Home is a new National Geographic IMAX documentary that tracks one of the largest conservation efforts on the planet: China’s patient work to breed and raise giant pandas in captivity and then release them back into the wild. Images of these gentle, bamboo-eating creatures roll across the large screen as viewers learn about the habitat challenges that have resulted in fewer than 1,600 giant pandas in the wild. It’s showing at select science centers nationwide.

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