- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2005

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

Info highway hitching

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams’ hilarious science-fiction fantasy, finally arrives in movie theaters April 29, and its dazzling Web site (hitchhikers.movies.go.com) will adequately prepare viewers for the film’s sardonic, out-of-this-world experience.

Visitors take a virtual elevator trip around the Heart of Gold spacecraft, peering into the ship’s compartments and through windows with dazzling views of the galaxy. Marvin, the brilliant and chronically depressed robot, acts as a guide who pipes in with messages of hopelessness whenever he’s clicked upon.

Sections include 360-degree views of sets, a trio of film trailers (in Real Player, Windows Media and Quicktime formats), and audio and visual introductions of eight characters. You’ll also find an avalanche of downloads, including screen savers, e-cards and skins for the WinAmp Media Player.

Occasional hot spots offer another level of surprise. Those daring souls who visit the Games section — and are brave enough to click the “don’t push” button, for example — are rewarded with a giant bulldozer rolling planet Earth off-screen.

While in Games, visitors also will find seven challenges, ranging from a multiple-choice Hitchhiker’s Guide trivia quiz to a slider puzzle. The puzzle requires the piecing together of a video clip to design a planet, complete with an orbiting moon.

The Web site also presents 19 entries from the standard repository for all knowledge and wisdom of the universe — aka “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” A pop-up box contains an interactive encyclopedia revealing that: 1) the Pan Galactic Gargel Blaster is the best drink in existence, 2) love is “mostly painful” and 3) the Vogon species is not only responsible for destroying Earth but is known for punishing poetry readings.

Cyber Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan closed down his famed band in 2000 but remains a focus of Internet fan sites.

Disconnected Pumpkin heads may be happy to learn that Mr. Corgan has put his band’s entire catalog of songs, including 114 rarities and B-sides, online via such music-selling portals as iTunes (www.itunes.com), RealPlayer Music Store (musicstore.real.com) Rhapsody (www.rhapsody-music-service.com), MSN (www.music.msn.com) and Sony Connect (www.sonyconnect.com).

Those unwilling to drop 99 cents per tune (with discounts for complete album or bulk purchases) may also want to check out graduate student Trond Pettersen’s Web site dedicated to the songwriter (www.billy-corgan.com) for a cornucopia of visual and audio performances among its bland designs.

Mr. Pettersen has compiled a shining multimedia biography of the musician under the Downloads section, which contains lists of links to free MP3s and MPEG videos along with plenty of photos and fan art.

Unique gems include an entire audio performance of the first Smashing Pumpkins show at the Metro club in Chicago in 1988, a video of a 1998 live performance of “Perfect,” audio selections of poetry readings by Mr. Corgan, and even a humorous answering-machine message from the alternative music star.

Keyboard kicks

Director-actor Stephen Chow displays his Tex Avery martial-arts style in a gangster genre movie, “Kung Fu Hustle,” which opened last week to critical raves in New York and Los Angeles.

Fans of Mr. Chow’s who are unable to see his film in their cities will appreciate its official Web site (www.sonyclassic.com/kungfuhustle). In addition to featuring multiple media moments from the epic, it provides an amusing gaming area to waste time pleasantly.

Dubbed the Pig Sty Arcade, the section contains a quartet of free-to-play homages to 1980s-style arcade action. My favorite, Axe Gang Rampage, allows players to give the thugs a taste of their own medicine as they move a miniature avatar up a city street to toss an unlimited supply of bladed tools at the hostile gang.

Nostalgic gamers will appreciate Kung Fu Fighter (which has its roots in side-scrolling combat titles such as Street Fighter) which requires players to use keyboard commands to unleash lethal hand-and-foot combination moves upon their computer opponents.

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).

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