Top Picks: The program WorldWide Telescope, the book 'The Third Plate,' and more

National Geographic Channel's miniseries 'American Genius' looks at some of history's most famous rivalries, the Milk Carton Kids' third album 'Monterey' features an innovative approach, and more top picks.

Brendan Pattengale

Road songs

The Milk Carton Kids (Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan) felt like their acclaimed live shows were much more representative of their music than what they’d recorded in studios. So for their third album, Monterey, they decided to write and record all new material live in various venues along their lengthy tour, but before the audience arrived. The result is the same gorgeous close harmonies, thrilling lighter-than-air guitar lines, and 11 beautiful songs – all performed without a net. 

Star search

Ever feel like a quick trip to the stars before turning in for the night? Microsoft has married space imagery and data in a free open-source online computer program. With WorldWide Telescope scientists can link their research together in layers, students can tinker, and amateur astronomers can take guided tours of the galaxies. There’s one (understandable) catch: Some features run only on Windows machines. 

American innovators

National Geographic Channel’s new miniseries American Genius takes a look at some of history’s most storied rivalries – from Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst to Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla – that resulted in some of the world’s most important innovations. The first two episodes, comparing the achievements of Apple’s Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates followed by the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss, air June 1 at 9 p.m.


Recipe for sustainable food

All chefs strive to heighten flavors of meals they prepare. The Third Plate, by bestselling author and chef Dan Barber, gets at the literal root catalysts to outline how symbiotic relationships between farm animals and soil result in the best-tasting meat and produce. In colorful and smart prose Barber explores how these relationships can be improved. The book is now out in paperback in time for summer reading. 

Family harmony

Last year the talented and eclectic Ben Harper and his mom, Ellen, released a folk album, “Childhood Home.” The short documentary Ben and Ellen Harper: A House Is A Home takes viewers right into the heart of that sweet simplicity. It’s a tribute to his formative years selling and repairing instruments in his grandfather’s Folk Music Center in Claremont, Calif. Check it out on YouTube at

Prestige Folklore
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