- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

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

Annapolis online

The legendary U.S. Naval Academy got the Hollywood treatment Friday with the release of Touchstone Pictures’ “Annapolis,” starring James Franco as a blue-collar teen who boxes his way to the respect of his classmates and a chance at making his dream come true.

Surprisingly, the film’s Web site (http://annapolis. movies.com) offers nothing about the history or traditions of the 161-year old institution but instead concentrates on routine promotional pablum, including production notes, 12 ways to view the trailer, a photo gallery and wallpaper, all experienced against audio backdrops of drill instructors barking commands.

Perhaps it’s because the movie was not filmed at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

The site does offer a game section, found under Drill, that gives players a trio of ways to have a virtual experience of some of the challenges dished out to academy freshmen, called plebes.

First, a finger-straining obstacle course has a player control a student using keyboard commands while racing against five classmates. He has two minutes to complete the course, run through by alternating quickly between pressing the right and left arrow keys. The player also must jump and climb his way over structures to finish and win.

Next, the Tank tests the player’s ability to stay cool under pressure, as he must stop water from entering his compartment on a sinking ship. Using the computer mouse, he drags wooden plugs into holes and then grabs a mallet to pound them into place. Of course, each plug wants to slip out and must be hit repeatedly if it is to stay put. Three difficulty levels determine how many holes must be plugged before the water level reaches a red line.

Finally, online students have five minutes to answer 15 multiple-choice questions in Plebes Quiz, about life at the Naval Academy. Players will learn when students get up in the morning, how many calories they eat a day and who founded the academy.

Cyber Hoops

At the Annapolis site, a menu at the top of the page gives visitors access to other Touchtone Pictures Web sites.

Those hip with hoops should check out the cyber-stop for “Glory Road” (http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/gloryroad), currently playing in theaters. The film dramatizes the real-life story of Texas Western (now University of Texas at El Paso) basketball coach Don Haskins, who worked with an all-black starting lineup to win the 1966 NCAA tournament.

After selecting background music — four tracks are available, including one from Alicia Keyes — and reading a timeline chronicling the team’s history and biographies of the actual players (with updates on what they’re doing today), visitors should jump to the Games section for a pair of tests.

First, Basketball Trivia offers 10 multiple-choice questions on hoops terminology supported by video clips that demonstrate the term being described.

Next, Glory Road Hoops allows a player to grab a ball with the mouse held down and direct it toward the hoop by releasing the mouse for a free-throw shooting frenzy. Players have 60 seconds to sink as many baskets as possible.

Veoh meets PSP

The merging of the mobile Internet revolution with on-demand television continues with “peer-casting” network Veoh’s (www.veoh.com) announcement that its catalog of more than 20,000 videos is available to download for free into Sony’s hand-held entertainment system, the PSP.

Users must first install the free Veoh viewer and have the PSP Media Manager software ($29.95) on their Windows XP PC. IPod owners already have access to a smaller portion of the catalog by using a simple subscription menu in the viewer.

Those who do not own a PSP or IPod can still enjoy watching and creating a diverse lineup of programming covering all of the ratings spectrum by going through the Veoh interface, which is a legal way to produce and watch TV-quality shows.

Current programs include a match from World Wrestling Entertainment’s Wrestlemania X7, a Lego version of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” a 1941 Superman cartoon, and a ridiculous number of segments devoted to skateboarding, including music videos and footage of the extreme sport.

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@washingtontimes.com). Joseph also writes a Web exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software. Check it out at www.washingtontimes.com/familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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