- The Washington Times - Friday, July 2, 2004

Each month the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free, interactive sounds and action.

Webbed radio

Why bother listening to the commercially clogged airwaves when the Internet offers a nice selection of radio stations to enjoy while working in a computer environment? One of the best, 3WK Underground (www.3wk.com), has been offering an eclectic selection of songs 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the past seven years.

Music aficionados only need one of the following World Wide Web browser player plug-ins — Windows Media (www.windowsmedia.com), Real Media (www.realmedia.com), Shoutcast (www.shoutcast.com) or Ogg Vorbis (www.vorbis.com) — to enjoy either a streaming Web cast featuring classic rock or the best of independent sounds.

About the only advertisements are in the form of banner ads rotating at the bottom of the player’s box. They do not interfere with the sound and are much, much less obnoxious than listening to radio commercials or bearing the brunt of ramblings from overexuberant car dealers.

Once the music is playing between 20 and 56 kilobytes per second, listeners also will see the title of the current songs and see the next song in the queue.

Classic rock includes a live version of Cream’s “Steppin’ Out,” T-Rex with “The Slider,” the Beach Boys’ “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” the Stooges with “Ann” and theVelvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.”

Indie fare ranges from Radiohead’s “Paperbag Writer” to the Squeeze/Brian Eno-inspired “Stay Loose” from Belle and Sebastian to Run Run Run’s “All of a Sudden.”

A special bonus for indie fans can be found under the site’s Downloads section, which contains 80 free-to-download songs from up-and-coming artists in either MP3 or Ogg Vorbis formats. Connoisseurs of the cutting edge will appreciate the Robert Fripp-like warblings of Paul Duncan, the Kilowatts’ swirl of “King” and Lisa Cerbone’s 8-megabyte ballad “Ruthless Order.”

Those with a more discerning ear might want to become a 3WK member and for $10 a month or $100 a year listen to the Web casts in high-bandwidth, CD-quality stereo sound.

Web-head Web

Fervor over a recent college graduate with the powers of an arachnid is in full force again, and anyone not in the know when it comes to Stan Lee’s favorite superhero needs only stop by the “Spider-Man 2” Web site (http://spiderman.sonypictures.com) for a quick history lesson and updates on his current film career.

The wall crawler gets quite the tribute, thanks to a slick multimedia presentation that includes visual snippets of the main characters, biographies of the cast and crew, videos of trailers and commercials (available to view via Quicktime and two connection versions of Real Player and Windows Media), 360-degree, manipulable panoramas of five of the movie sets (requiring the iPix plug-in) along with a selection of screen saver, wallpapers and AOL Buddy icons.

Additionally, three other features caught my attention.

First, a massive Web blog from co-producer Grant Curtis keeps fans up-to-date on the film. With a Web blog, the latest communication tool, folks who love to write can quickly unload a stream of consciousness on unsuspecting victims.

Second, a timed quiz on Spidey trivia has a player answer 100 questions as quickly as possible with just 10 wrong answers allowed. It includes multiple-choice queries encompassing both film appearances and comic-book minutiae.

Finally, with hundreds of well-drawn pieces, an area devoted to fans spotlights some of the most promising artists unknown to the comic-book industry. Maybe their postings on the Web site will catch the eyes of Marvel Comics or DC Comics editors looking for that next big illustrating talent?

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski @washington times.com).

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