- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2003

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

What’s the URL, Kenneth?

The elder statesman of college alternative rock, R.E.M., continues its 2003 tour with an Oct. 8 stop at the Patriot Center, and fans anticipating the concert will find an awesome display of multimedia information packed into the group’s official Web site (www.remhq.com).

The melding of imagery and song leads visitors to more than 100 audio nuggets of the 30-second variety from the band’s 10 album library, 47 visual vignettes of their bizarre music video releases over the last 23 years — which unintentionally highlight the evolution of lead singer Michael Stipe’s hair (from its jumbled mess in “So. Central Rain” to nonexistence in “Daysleeper”) — and such standard Web-insider fare as set lists, tour dates, an on-the-road diary from the crooner, photo slide shows and almost 90 minutes of R.E.M. music that’s been remixed from some famous DJs.

Additionally, the latest upgrade to their cyber stop contains a 17-minute video clip (streamed in eight different download speeds to either Quicktime or Windows Media Player) of the three remaining original members — Mr. Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills — rehearsing in Vancouver along with a few hard-to-see mates. “Get Up,” “Walk Unafraid,” “Maps and Legends,” and “She Just Wants to Be” are played and sounded great on my Harmon-Kardon speakers.

Windy surf

Christopher Guest’s mockumetary “A Mighty Wind” arrived on DVD shelves this week, and those looking for a bit of background on the faux-performing giants, “The Folksmen,” “Mitch & Mickey” and the “New Main Street Singers” need only stop by the official “A Mighty Wind Blows” Web site (https://amightywindonline.warnerbros.com/) for a quick historical primer on these “legendary” folk folk.

With an opening page supported by the soothing sounds of the theme song performed by all of the groups, visitors can quickly choose from mini-areas highlighting the three bands through a biography, discography, rare photos and a video archive.

Click on an album tab, watch a hand move into a shopping bag and pluck out such goodies as — in the case of The Folksmen — six album jackets. Each presentation contains an audio snippet from some of their classics — Who could forget the frenetic “Old Joe’s Place” from “Singin’” or “Blood on the Coal” from “Pickin’”? — and lyrics to sing along.

The site designers plant a tongue firmly in their cheek as they hysterically meld the folk culture to 21st-century technology.

Byte on the NEC

The Halloween season got an early start last week through the release of a film exploring the epic struggle between vampire and werewolf clans. Sony Pictures’ “Underworld,” starring Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman (formerly of the WB’s “Felicity” fame), presents an intriguing cyber stop (https://www.entertheunderworld.com) that takes visitors into a dark, R-rated multimedia world of violent horror.

Visitors first choose between entering the world of immortal overlords or lycan savages and then navigate their selections via a multifunctional weapon that resembles an intricate martial arts star. Bundles of intense imagery, sounds and text immerse the visitor into “Underworld” lore with areas that include a six-century timeline highlighting some real infamous creatures and the carnage they inflicted, a biography on eight key characters and a log sightings activity map monitoring vampire and werewolf cells around the globe.

Most spectacular, however, is the free, 29.5 megabyte gaming modification download that will have the 8 million owners of the first-person shooter, Half Life, licking their fangs. Those who have a full copy of Half Life (https://half-life.sierra.com/), version 1.1 or later, installed on their PC will now be able to enjoy an Underworld “capture the flag” simulation (it’s M-rated, so only those 17 years old and older need apply) in which players must imprison a Hybrid to collect points while blasting night feeders getting in the way.

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 ([email protected]).

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