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Top Picks: National Geographic's 'Inside the American Mob,' a café soundtrack for your computer, and more

Leon Fleisher's birthday is celebrated with a 23-CD box set, Chicago restaurant Hot Doug's gets its own book, and more.

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Hot dogs in Chi-Town

If you know Chicago, you know it loves its hot dogs (pickle spear, no ketchup!). Hot Doug’s is a hot-dog restaurant with an hour-long line; Hot Doug’s: The Book tells how it all (including the game-meat dogs and duck-fat fries) came to be – complete with photos, favorite anecdotes, and fan mail. The owner, Doug Sohn, adds as much to the experience as the perfect “snap” of the hot dogs. You’ll devour every word.

Balkan brass

Brasslands is an award-winning documentary film and CD soundtrack about a yearly trumpet competition that, with its more than a half-million fans, takes over Guča, a tiny Serbian village. The film is in limited release in the United States (check www.brasslands.com), but the raucous CD that is a celebration of the human spirit amid adversity is available through Evergreene Music.

Dance masters

The documentary Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand Still is a love letter about an iconic institution and dance – ballet, modern, and jazz. Nestled deep in the Massachusetts Berkshires, Jacob’s Pillow was founded in the 1930s by modern-dance pioneer Ted Shawn. With interviews of such masters as Merce Cunningham, Mark Morris, Judith Jamison, and Suzanne Farrell, as well as a slew of up-and-coming talent, this award-winning film is an encyclopedia of American dance. It airs on PBS’s “Great Performances” July 26.

Mob mentality

This seems to be the summer of the mob, with the James “Whitey” Bulger trial under way in Boston and HBO offering old episodes of The Sopranos. National Geographic Channel connects all the dots with its comprehensive-if-chilling Inside the American Mob, premièring July 28 at 9 p.m. It’s a history lesson on the modern Mafia, told by FBI agents, informants, and police who helped take down La Cosa Nostra. Each hour examines a pivotal time frame, beginning with 1970 and leading up to the present.

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Desktop coffee shop

It’s a website (soon to be an app) with a premise so simple that we were skeptical: The ambient sounds of a cafe provide a measure of white noise that may actually ease the creative process. Coffitivity (coffitivity.com) delivers to your desktop a low-level clink-and-chatter audio track that’s seamlessly looped – and rather relaxing. Other sites provide other ambient sounds. But we’ll take this one, with a decaf latte, and save the trouble of finding a spot at Starbucks.

A career on 88 keys

To celebrate Leon Fleisher’s 85th birthday, Columbia/Epic and Sony Classical are releasing a 23-CD deluxe box set spanning this great American pianist’s 55-year career. Two discs capture Fleisher at the peak of his reemergence after his right hand was disabled in 1965, plus a third disc of “Piano Concertos for the Left Hand” with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The last disc of three Mozart piano concertos was released in 2009, his first two-hand concerto recording in more than 40 years.


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