- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2007

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

Cosmo soaps

The cyber-version of CosmoGirl! (www.cosmogirl.com), a magazine set up to be the teen sister of Cosmopolitan, will jump into the world of on-demand webisodes next spring with a soap-opera series set in a suburban high school.

Three- to four-minute segments will post online three times per week for five weeks and will follow the lives of best friends Jaime and Anna as they live through their junior year in a small Michigan town.

Casting should begin this fall, but one role will be available for a lucky reader of the publication through an upcoming contest.

Although that might be welcome news for the CosmoGirl! demographic, a very interactive and feature-laden site already is available to take them into the complex trends in fashion, beauty and style.

According to a drop-down list, hot topics for teen girls these days include “High School Musical” star Zac Efron, kissing, getting in shape and what guys want. Each of those meaty areas leads to videos, stories and plenty of reaction from the CosmoGirl! online community.

As visitors peruse the site, they will be overwhelmed with the levels of content found as they get advice on dream jobs, read a guide to guys, learn safety tips on blogging, watch a video from the “Hairspray” red-carpet premiere and find a daily and monthly horoscope.

One section even might appeal to guys. Fun and Games delivers a set of 15 well-designed casual challenges to waste time and sharpen the mind. Action titles include a CosmoGirl!-style edition of pool (with a pink table and choice of stylish cues), Disco Bowling (complete with mirrored ball, music and funky digital scoring) and Buzz Off (swat mosquitoes before they chase a sunbather off a beach).

The brain drainers include Suds (create words by popping bubbles containing letters), Sududeku (a version of Sudoku that uses guys’ faces instead of numbers) and two types of solitaire.

Also in the Fun and Games section is a monthly manga that presents the serialized adventures of CG, a college sophomore who lives in Tokyo. The sequential art, created by Svetlana Chmakova via the publisher TokyoPop, is drawn in Japanese comic style and is easily paged through and read right at the site.

Aragorn Online

Turbine’s massive multiplayer online game, the Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, gives fans devoted to J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed fantasy universe the chance to freely explore 10 million meters of landscape and interact with legends from “The Fellowship of the Ring” for seven days.

After a massive 3.9- to 5.6-gigabyte download to a computer (minimum system requirements include a 1.8 GHz PC with Windows XP operating system and 64MB NVIDIA Ge Force 3 or ATI Radeon 8500 video card and broadband connection) the player creates a character from one of the four classes — man, elf, dwarf or hobbit — and can exist virtually in Middle-Earth.

The good news is that for a full week, the player will be dazzled by what he sees as he goes on quests within incredibly detailed and active environments found in lands such as the Shire, Angmar and the North Downs.

The bad news is that after the free trial, to continue to develop his new online avatar, the player will need to spend $29.99 to download the full version of the game and $14.99 per month to stay hooked into the fantasy world.

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 e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www3.washingtontimes.com/ familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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