50 Coolest Websites 2005: Arts and Entertainment

  • Share
  • Read Later

SAY CHEESE: Wallace and Gromit

Aardman Animations
The official site of the studio that created Wallace, the hapless yet well-meaning, cheese-loving inventor, and Gromit, his faithful canine companion, is a treasure trove of video clips (click on Show Reel) and links to character sites including www.wandg.com, where you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Wallace & Gromit's first feature-length movie, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, due in theaters in October.

The Complete Review
This well-organized, easy-to-search compendium of book reviews—last we checked, there were 1,430 titles covered—includes editor's picks and bestseller lists by year. The site links to (and vets) dozens of literary weblogs, from Bookninja to Mobylives to its own Literary Saloon. The Review Index lets you search for books by author or title, genre or nationality; you can read the site's own review or click to read reviews published elsewhere.

Classical Music
Opus 1 Classical
A rich, expansive resource for music fans more into Handel than hip-hop, Opus 1 provides information on classical music concerts, festivals and opera in dozens of cities across the globe. You can browse by city and calendar month, or try the Venue Finder. Listings include program information and links to where to buy tickets.

New York Public Library's Digital Gallery
Lose yourself in this vast collection of rare prints, vintage maps, manuscripts, posters, photographs, sheet-music covers, dust jackets, menus, cigarette cards and other artifacts. There are more than 300,000 digital images of original materials available for viewing. Access is free, and you can download images to your computer for personal or research use. The My Digital page will store your favorite discoveries along with your search history.

The Museum of Online Museums
This elegantly-designed portal links to established museum and gallery sites such as those run by the Museum of Modern Art, The Bauhaus Archive and The Art Institute of Chicago. It will also introduce you to countless other online collections, from Van Gogh's letters to Chinese postage stamps to Manhole Covers of the World. For more, go to the MoOM Annex.

Dozens of free Web-based games, gorgeously designed and relatively simple to play, which is perfect for non-gamers looking for an engaging way to waste time. Choices are presented as icons on the home page (no names, no explanations) but this only heightens the joy of discovery. Keep spiders off your cake, protect dragonflies from rhinoceros beetles, toss tiny umbrellas to baby birds as they fall out of their nest—all you need is your mouse and maybe your arrow keys to maneuver. For more silly diversions, try Little Fluffy Industries, which is part blog, part portal: editors review and link to new online games every day.

McSweeney's Internet Tendency
This site has amused and delighted fans for years, but has hit new levels of inspiration with funny bits like the recent Baseball Knowledge Will Not Help You Pick Up Girls. There's an archive full of Lists (Embarrassing Things That Might Happen to You While Using a Lightsaber) and Reviews of New Food (on blowing bubbles with Skittles gum: "You would have far better luck coaxing a sphere out of chewed-up crayon and oatmeal"). Affiliated with, but separate and distinct from, the quarterly print literary journal McSweeney's.

More Funny Stuff
Ze's Page
The site began four years ago with "How To Dance Properly," a series of short looped video clips that web designer Frank posted online to amuse friends. The link was passed around like a virus you wanted to catch; within days millions had logged on, and a Web star was born. Today, Ze's page hosts a huge collection of interactive toys and games, comedic writings and humorous video monologues.

Podcast Bunker
The Web's best source of talk radio for your iPod. Unlike other sites that offer podcasts for downloading, such as podcastalley.com and ipodder.org (two other good sources in their own right), Podcast Bunker evaluates each feed for audio quality and content and only lists the best stuff. Click the Quick Guide for the full list of recommended programs, plus 30-second previews.

Got a fabulous digital music collection, but don't like breaking the law to share it? This peer-to-peer service is legal, because listeners don't actually download any music. Instead, they stream music on their computers that is webcast over the Internet by other members. (The company does have to pay webcasting royalties to copyright holders, and charges some user fees to cover them.) The offerings are listed in the traditional peer-to-peer way, noting artist, album, song title—in this case, the one currently playing—and source. Basic service is free, but limited to 30 minutes of listening a day. For $5 a month ($48 if you pre-pay for the year) you get unlimited listening time and can save up to 10 hours of programming for listening later. Premier members can also download the IMDJ application and create up to five different channels. Honorable mention: Underheard.org, which makes independent and community radio available for streaming or downloading to your portable audio player.

An ambitious guide to what's on television. The All Shows index is organized by category (Comedy, Drama, Children's Talk, Soaps, Reality, Sci-Fi and so on); browse from A to Z or by decade. You'll find everything from the Life and Times of Juniper Lee to The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. But of the 14,000 shows in the database, only 2,500 of them have content that's fully fleshed out, so the idea is to have fans help fill in the rest. Register for a free account to write (or edit) plot summaries and episode recaps, contribute trivia tidbits or write reviews. (The website's editors review every submission before it is posted.) The News page reports tidbits like Patrick Stewart's heart-attack scare and Megan Mullally's talk show deal. For a snarkier take on what's on the tube, there's always televisionwithoutpity.com.