- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2005

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

The cyber-sky is falling

Disney’s first in-house computer-animated effort sans the safety net of Pixar Studios arrived in theaters last week and made a healthy dent in the box office despite a lukewarm response from critics.

“Chicken Little” relates the woeful tale of a fowl who mistakenly cried foul and then must deal with stopping an alien invasion when none of Oakey Oaks’ residents believe him.

The movie’s official Web site (https://the-sky-is-falling. movies.go.com/main.html) should unanimously please critics, and especially children.

Visitors’ investigations begin while exploring a faux online newsmagazine that warns about the falling sky and has the supposed facts to back it up.

Sections including the Proof (a photo gallery of evidence), Spread the Word (offering printable stickers and downloadables) and Legends and Prophets (text news reports) mix with information nuggets discussing the appearance of mysterious hexagonal patterns in the Bermuda Triangle, on Mars and even in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” The patterns are leading researchers to believe signs are in place for the unusual atmospheric phenomenon.

The online mag’s Prepare Yourself section provides a two-page, tongue-in-cheek Survival Guide PDF and allows visitors to play a game of survival that oddly resembles Tetris.

Surfers who click the hexagonal Chicken Little icon in the lower-right-hand corner of the magazine screen get a funny surprise. The entire site falls over, crushing the domesticated bird and revealing another cyber-stop highlighting the cityscape of Oakey Oaks and loaded with a variety of online activities and information about the film.

Besides a look into the Downloads section to send e-cards, grab an animated signature to spice up online correspondence and install a screen saver, visitors will want to stop by the Games area for its six challenges.

The best of the bunch includes Dodgeball (players control the heroic chicken as they try to catch balls and duck falling hexagonal chunks), Batting Practice (players use the space bar to swing) and a karaoke session featuring the Barenaked Ladies song “One Little Slip.”

Galactic

The New Orleans funksters of Galactic, with special guest vocalist Ivan Neville, will stop by the 9:30 Club on Friday and Saturday. Fans preparing to hear the jazz-rock-funk fusion ensemble (which boasts a pair of musicians originally from the D.C. area — Jeff Raines and Robert Mercurio) have a great way to enjoy some of the cool sounds via the band’s hip Web site (www.galacticfunk.com).

Visitors immediately are privy to a controllable jukebox located in the upper left corner of the black and fluorescent green front page. It plays seven full tracks from the group’s live and recording career, including cuts from the two-year-old album “Ruckus.”

The musical Mardi Gras continues via a very generous Aud/Vid section that contains streaming MP3s of live tracks, downloadable MP3s, Real Audio Player selections and even concert video footage available in low-band and high-band viewing experiences via Real Player or Windows Media Player.

In total, visitors can listen to 35 full songs, including a wicked live version of “Sympathy for the Devil” recorded in 2002 in Charleston, N.C., along with 19 concert video cuts such as the nine-minute “Shibuya” from the Fuji Rock Festival in 2002 and “Africa,” performed at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, Calif., in 2001.

Hard-core fans also can purchase seven full downloads of concert board mixes, averaging 20 songs per show, for $9.95 in the MP3 format, and even download the CD label, booklet and tray art to print out.

Mario eats a Big Mac

Fast-food-addicted owners of Nintendo’s dual-screen hand-held gaming system, the DS, get a free bonus when visiting more than 6,000 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States.

While downing their burgers and fries, gamers can use their greasy thumbs to challenge players across the globe in wireless contests via Wayport’s gratis Wi-Fi service.

Of course, when I say “free,” it still means players must have a DS ($129) and any of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection-friendly game cartridges, which, as of tomorrow, means MarioKart DS ($34.99). Up to four players will need a copy of the title to compete via a connection as they drive around familiar characters controlling wacky vehicles on 30 tracks.

Other games slated to become part of Nintendo’s massive wireless network in the near future include Tony Hawk’s American SK8Land, Animal Crossing: Wild World, and Metroid Prime Hunters.

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, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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