Friday, February 18, 2005

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

Casting for Pods

Listening to radio via the Internet has become commonplace, but the latest buzzword in high-tech aural programming is “podcasting,” which gives almost anyone with a computer, broadband connection and decent microphone the chance to become the next Howard Stern.

Amateur broadcasters simply record and turn their ramblings into an MP3 format, and listeners from around the world can freely download their shows into an appropriate player (like Apple’s iPod, thus the term podcasting) ” or just imbibe the sounds via any computer with MP3 capabilities.

The files generally are in the multimegabyte range, and those obsessed with the trend can even buy such software as iPodderX ( Priced at $19.95, the product searches the Internet for favorite shows and automatically downloads them to the user’s iTunes-loaded computer. Interested parties also can use any aggregator that supports RSS 2.0 with enclosures.

Podcasts are as varied as a Wisconsin couple discussing married life (, or former MTV jockey Adam Curry’s daily ramblings ( There’s also a talk show devoted to beer ( and another where Sherlock Holmes’ stories are read (

I’m thoroughly enjoying my visits to Coverville (, created and hosted by Denver resident Brian Ibbott, who simply features the best and worst of cover songs.

Each broadcast, roughly 30 minutes long, legally includes songs (through a licensing agreement with BMI and ASCAP) by famous artists who have dipped into the musical catalogs of others for their own takes on popular hits.

Coverville has been around only since September, but listeners have access to 49 shows. The lineup might feature Mr. Ibbott playing the Brady Kids version of Don McLean’s “American Pie,” Jerry Lee Lewis covering the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace,” Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ take on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” theme (“Love Is All Around”) and ABBA’s 1977 hit “Knowing Me Knowing You” performed by Evan Dando.

Broadcast corporations should be sweating the podcast revolution, especially if this type of renegade radio continues to gain momentum. The shows easily are more interesting than anything on the commercial airwaves, and the sheer volume of eclectic programming means everyone can find something to enjoy.

Web wiseguy

Two-time Oscar nominee John Travolta reprises his role as mobster Chili Palmer, changing his focus from muscling in on movies to making music in “Be Cool,” the sequel to the 1995 hit “Get Shorty.”

The official Web site promoting the movie (, which opens March 4, offers a high production design mixing multiple interactive elements with songs, retractable photo collages, and audio and film clips.

Two areas will especially stand out for those seeking a multimedia experience.

First, the slickly packaged but fairly irrelevant mixing board allows fans to hear dialogue from the film delivered by 10 of its main characters ” including ones played by stars Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Danny Devito and, of course, Mr. Travolta ” simply by clicking the mouse on the characters’ virtual personae.

Second, the much more substantial “Make Your Own Video” feature enables Web visitors to create short clips by incorporating art elements from the film. Wannabe directors can start by entering their name. Next, they’ll choose mood-music tracks (from Christina Milian or John Powell), select theme-defining opening and ending audio clips, and will have access to 16 film images to create their own clip.

Each image can be manipulated through a variety of video effects such as fades, zooms and pans, combined with transitions between scenes. Additionally, dialogue “bubbles” are available to add some clever text to the composition.

When finished, the masterpiece can be e-mailed to a pal.

• 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 to (jszadkowski@washington

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