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FourPlay: Digital Journal Rates Sites, Sounds, Words and Visuals

Digital Journal — Get the quick and dirty from Digital Journal‘s FourPlay section! Take a look at hot websites, cool music, good books and the people that keep popping up in the news. Digital Journal showcases the Sites, Sounds, Words and Visuals of today and tomorrow!


SITES

TemplateKingdom.com
“Personal offshoring?” “Micro-outsourcing?” Whatever you call it, individuals are increasingly looking to developing economies for their personal Web design. Template Kingdom, located in the vast Software Technology Parks of India, offers customized, professional-looking websites within a day, based on existing templates. Sites cost as little as $40 (US) and they’ll even throw in
a year of hosting — bad news for your local geek.

Channel101.com
If you’ve got five minutes to kill, Channel 101 has the best — and hilariously worst — short-form TV shows online. The brainchild of B-listers Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab, Channel 101 users submit parody “pilots” to be judged by a cabal of jaded Hollywood types. The best shows, like the lawyer-irking House of Cosbys, get approved for more episodes; the crappiest ones wallow forever in virtual TV limbo.

SOUNDS

Buddha Bar, Nature (George V Records)
Buddha Bar goes the visual route by releasing its first DVD-CD combo, blending images of nature with the album’s pseudo-acid jazz. More often than not, the DVD’s quick cuts of diving dolphins and sprinting leopards nicely match the tunes — a perfect choice when you want to get your lounge on. The CD is worth the price alone, but don’t expect a huge departure from the Bar’s usual sedated grooves.

Herbie Hancock, Possibilities (Vector Recordings)
A jazz legend who can get funky in a wink, Hancock collaborates with old-school stars and rising popsters on his latest disc. Sting, Paul Simon and Annie Lennox lend their talent to tracks that range from great (Santana’s still got it) to mediocre (Lennox should’ve stayed home). But Hancock’s collabs with the young’uns — Joss Stone, Christina Aguilera — add much-needed spark to an album that could have appealed only to nostalgic jazz-heads.

WORDS

Naked Consumption by Anthony J. Stokan (ISBN 0-9737819-0-4)
Analyzing the retail world is like reading the ingredients on the Mystery Meatloaf: potentially scary but worth knowing. In Naked Consumption, retail trends are divulged so clearly you can’t help but admire them. From the increasing use of touchscreens to the growth of dollar stores, each sector is broken down with examples of business role models (but the chapter on Wal-Mart feels bloated at 24 pages). More than a primer, this book probes the mind of over-consumers to explain why shopping has become second nature.

iPod, Therefore I Am by Dylan Jones (ISBN 1-59691-021-6)
Another entry into the growing I-love-iPod genre is an almost erotic paean to the greatest invention since the wheel (author’s words), but half the book works as a music-obsessed memoir. Jones, editor of the British GQ, jumps from interviews with iPod’s designers to memories of Prince’s early albums. “The iPod provides a soundtrack to our lives,” Jones writes. The experience even borders on the metaphysical: “What I always thought was a parallel universe is in fact my own private universe…” Whatever.

VISUALS

Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (20th Century Fox). 88 minutes
Expectations ran high for this direct-to-DVD Family Guy flick, but beware of meandering plot lines and cameos from secondary characters who have overstayed their welcome (like Greased-up Deaf Guy). The comedy still flows in almost every scene, as the film follows baby genius Stewie on a quest to find his real dad. What feels like three separate episodes stuffed with pop culture references might someday work as a quirky time capsule that will cause aliens to observe, “Wow, those humans are messed up.”

McLibel (Cinema Libre). 85 minutes
What Super Size Me did for fast-food education, McLibel does for Activism 101. This fascinating doc follows two protesters who stand up to McDonald’s and its $19 million (US) legal team by exposing the damage the burger empire has inflicted on animals, young workers and the environment. Most revealing are the stories about spies McDonald’s sent to infiltrate the group, and the secretly taped meeting in which McLawyers reveal how much damage their dissent has caused.

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