- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 10, 2005

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

NPR music casts

National Public Radio has created a vast place in cyberspace where one can hear an eclectic mix of music. Its weekly online-only show hosted by Bob Boilen, All Songs Considered (www.npr.org/programs/ asc/) is a perfect starting point for the listening festivities.

First, the All Songs Considered section houses all of the previous programs, currently totaling 99, in Real Player and Windows Media Player, with an option to set up and download podcasts of future shows.

Each program, which sounds like well-produced college radio, averages 30 minutes and covers topics such as “overlooked CDs of the year” while exposing listeners to full songs from artists such as Cream, Franz Ferdinand, Kate Bush, the Talking Heads, Danny Gatton and Marianne Faithful.



The programs are further embellished with a quick link list to hear highlighted songs and a menu of all artists featured, which links to individual artists’ tracks.

Next, Open Mic provides an online showcase for nearly 800 independent, unsigned or self-produced bands. Each five-minute daily program allows musicians to introduce themselves and play one of their songs. Recently featured bands include the jazzy Butterfat Trio from Chicago, Detroit’s the Strange and Oakland’s the Bellyachers.

The latest additions to NPR’s powerful online music lineup are live audio Webcasts of concerts from local venues. For those unable to listen to the performances the day they air, such as the Dec. 6 concert featuring Sinead O’Connor and Sly & Robbie at the 9:30 Club, an archive hosts full sets from Wilco, the Shins, Lucinda Williams, Secret Machines and the Kings of Leon.

Each concert page contains a song list, photos from the show and, for some bands, occasional group interviews that allow for complete MP3 downloads of their shows, such as Son Volt’s 24-tune performance on Oct. 21.

Sound quality is great. The White Stripes’ performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion and Iceland’s Sigur Ros at the Music Center at Strathmore sound especially crisp.

Narnia on the Net

Disney Pictures has brought part of author C.S. Lewis’ fantasy book series to the big screen with “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The tale of the four Pevensie children battling the White Witch to thaw out Narnia is a draw at theaters, and its official Web site (https://adisney.go.com/disneypictures/ narnia/ main.html) offers a multitiered look at the production, original source material and the frozen world through multimedia moments, games and away-from-the-computer activities.

The visually stunning hands-on site is anchored by a large map of Narnia and a coat of arms adorned with a golden lion’s head that opens sections. Visitors use their mouse to move around the parchment paper and to open magnified area portals or to enter locations.

A click on the map over to the White Witch’s Castle leads to exploring a frozen landscape, including discovering the recipe for Turkish delight and rescuing Edmund from the witch’s icy clutches. The rescue is no small feat as a variety of puzzles hinder progress along the way. The player must open a series of flags by pointing icons in the right direction, slingshot ice chunks over ornate flooring to capture a key, use acquired gems to shape the key and finally open the dungeon to free the child.

Other map paths lead to Tumnus’ Home, with a search for his flute pieces in a musical matching game, and the Lamppost, featuring passages from the book, downloadable bookmarks and collectible virtual tokens that contain images from the film.

Leaving the map and using the coat-of-arms menu leads to the Production Room, which reveals an artist’s work station, containing statues of the film’s creatures on shelves, a drawing table and a television monitor. Depending on where the visitor clicks, production art, a story synopsis, character biographies with 360-degree views and six videos about the movie can be found.

Going back to the opening page of the Narnia Web site gives visitors a chance to explore the Educator Materials section (www.walden.com/web/teach/ lww), which archives lesson plans, printable challenges, a coat-of-arms creator and options to design work sheets, book covers and certificates.

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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