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Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Synthetic diamonds that fool the experts, L.A. on foot, a website for the philosophical, and more.

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Party central

This Saturday, join Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, host Jimmy Smits, and a cast of Muppets in Washington for PBS's 29th annual "A Capitol Fourth." The event boasts the nation's most spectacular fireworks display and offers musical talent to suit all ages, including Natasha Bedingfield. The National Symphony Orchestra will be on hand to set the tone, while Kermit and crew can be expected to lead a national singalong when it comes to the patriotic tunes. Yankee Doodle Dandy, indeed.

Synthetics you'll love

If a few pioneers in the art of fooling Mother Nature have their way, diamonds could soon be everyone's best friend – and not just for bling. Cheaper diamonds can now mean a revolution in electronics because diamonds are more versatile than silicon. Tune in June 30 at 9 p.m. to PBS's "Nova scienceNow" to learn more about the art of the synthetic diamond – and about the challenges of reproducing the real thing.

L.A. sans automobile

When it comes to examples of iconic modern architecture, Los Angeles is a world-class destination, with Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall attracting a steady stream of international visitors. And Art Deco lovers have long savored the hotels and monuments from that glittery era. "Pocket Guide to Los Angeles Architecture" (W.W. Norton, $22.95) is not the only architectural guide to the city, but it outshines its competition. Author Judith Paine McBrien and architect-illustrator John F. DeSalvo combine breezily concise prose sketches and charming line drawings, concentrating on walking tours, making this tiny guide a primer for car-free architectural sightseeing.

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