Kodak's 'Ali' and CBC's 'Marconi' sites illustrate the pleasures of Flash

A pair of Shockwave/Flash diversions this week. One celebrating an athlete, the other a scientist. "Variety is the soul of pleasure."

At a time before personal fame could be aided by the Internet or live global satellite broadcasts, Muhammad Ali was the most recognized person on the planet. Ali Through the Lens of Howard Bingham is the latest offering from Kodak's online magazine, and as such, the site naturally concentrates on the visual elements of Ali's career - and of the current Will Smith movie. (Bingham not only photographed the boxer's career, he is also a close friend of Ali's, and executive producer of the film.)

Through the Lens is divided into four parts - the first, Howard Bingham and Ali, illustrates a nearly 40-year friendship through photographs and audio clips. History VS Hollywood compares moments in the film to parallel events in history - taking images from the 60s and 70s, and allowing visitors to 'toggle' between real life incidents and cinematic recreations.

Next, in a case of life imitating art imitating life, Jeffrey Wright as Howard Bingham offers a look at images taken during the filming of Ali by the actor who played the role of Bingham, as he was portraying Bingham. Finally, The Music plays 30-second samples from 15 songs featured in the film, accompanied by a slide show of 'behind-the-scenes' images. Fans of Muhammad Ali, motion pictures, and sports photography will all find a little something here.

The next site concerns a man that fewer may know, but who has had a greater impact on our day-to day lives - as a pioneer of wireless communications. One hundred years ago last December, Guglielmo Marconi (a first name that has suffered as many mispronunciations as Zbigniew Brzezinski's) stood on a hill in St. John's, Newfoundland, flying a kite in a storm. While the exercise may have seemed an odd one for a sane adult (Ben Franklin notwithstanding), there was an antenna attached the kite, and with it, Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal from Cornwall, England.

In commemoration of the centenary, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had planned a global radio extravaganza with live broadcasts, simulcasts and 'guest feeds' from other networks around the world. As it turned out, most of said extravaganza fell victim to a technician's strike, but one of the surviving elements was a nifty bit of interactive exploration of the planet through sound and images.

Tuning the World's Global Sampler takes photographs and audio samples from six cities around the globe and allows visitors to mix them to create their very own online multi-media presentations. Pressing different letters on your computer keyboard result in a variety of short duration or looping audio clips, and with each new sound, linked images make their way onto the screen - growing from various points to fill the browser window, and creating an animated visual collage which parallels the mix of sounds. When you decide to end an exercise, pressing the keyboard's space bar fades the audio to silence and returns the screen to the city's opening image.

It can be quite an addictive operation. The mixes have the feel of the scene-setting interludes that punctuate documentaries, and the experience is enhanced by the fact that, as Shockwave applets, all the sounds and images are loaded at the front end - so there are no delays during mixing. If you create a mix that you're particularly proud of, you also have the options of recording it, saving it, and even sending it to a friend via e-mail. (Saved mixes for each city are also available onsite, so if you prefer, you can just sit back and absorb the work of others.)

The only other feature at Tuning the World, the Marconi Game, may be no Tomb Raider, (in fact it's more a transatlantic version of Pong) but if you like it, it can be downloaded to your hard drive - so you'll be able to play whenever you wish without having to go online.

Ali Through the Lens of Howard Bingham can be found at http://www.kodak.com/US/en/corp/features/ali/, with CBC's Tuning The World at http://www.tuningtheworld.com/.

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