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Consider this your map of the future. Twenty-three Web siteschosen by industry experts, created by savvy, driven individuals with a flair for the creative, and surprise, surprise, they're not all loaded with dough. What they all are is eager to please. As part of the infotainment phenomenon that has come part and parcel with the late 20th century, they feed your mind and bend over backward to make sure you're not bored. What else do they have in common? Reams of information. A sense of humor, often an irreverent wit. Crazy color -- vibrant hues as well as creamy, muted shades meant to calm and soothe. Almost every site uses sound and moving images to create an audio/video experience that will remind you of your television, but with its own unique options. They are also, quite frankly, a kick to look at. Each of these sites screams enthusiasm for several different things, from hot dogs to gap-tooth smiles, but their whispers are the same: This is what the World Wide Web can do. Of course, you could just ignore those whispers, but consider this fair warning.
These Web sites are out there, and they're looking to change the way you think.
Best Art-Related Site
The Charmed Horizon
Artist Kim Stringfellow's fantasia on desire combines lustrous photography, poetry, and sounds to create a virtual full-body art immersion.
Best Band Site
Prozzäk's Simon and Milo lend a hefty dose of irony to this playful site, where their colorful cartoon alter egos do the talking.
Best Business (Nonprofit) Site
Experience Music Project
Wanna hear a Stratocaster? Wanna find out when Mudhoney formed? This Seattle-based online museum archives the development of the Pacific Northwest music scene and houses a treasure trove of musical factoids, sound and video clips.
Best Business (Profit) Site
Precision Digital Images
The nifty rainbow strip that lets you calibrate the screen color on this graphic arts imaging Web site may tie you up for a while.
Best E-commerce Site
Grace Furnishings & Services
Collection of elegant, high-end furnishings spun from an organic farm in Ashland, Ore. for the sophisticated and socially conscious.
Best Educational Site
TILT (Texas Informational Literacy Tutorial)
Gentle tutorial which instructs you on finding information on the Internet. Designed for students, but my parents could use a browse.
Best Electronic Entertainment Site
Hollywood Stock Exchange
Finally, you can get a piece of your favorite stars. Like its predecessor fantasy football, the Hollywood Stock Exchange sets up an impressive system of bulls and bears based on the commerce of Hollywood films and actors, and lets you buy stock in them. It's free, yes, but heed this warning: It's addictive.
Best Event-Related Site
a campingflight to lowlands paradise
Dedicated to a three-day festival of theatre, music, and movies in the Netherlands.
Best Film Industry Site
El Guapo's Showbiz Jobsite
This resource for actors and screenwriters combines information on businesses, money available, and training, as well as links to trades.
Best Film Site
Footlong, the only Web site about hot dog movies
Aspiring filmmakers and seasoned smart-asses Chris Batak and Gerry Beyers go whole hog in their frank elegy to the footlong hot dog and their upcoming movie on the subject.
Best Grrl's/Women's Site
The Rollers Redefined Drum & Bass Web site
Local ravers Curly, Siren, and Firewheel chat up electronica.
Best Music Industry Site
Io Studios Inc
An otherworldly, luminous, Austin-based site offering graphic and sound design.
Best None-of-the-Above Site
Subtitled "everyone needs a little space," this goofball site pays homage to the gap-toothed -- from the Wife of Bath to Lauren Hutton.
Best Online Community
Righteous network of zines that will tell you what's really in vogue, from the chicks who are truly sassy.
Best Online Drama
Collaborative Web site about love and heartbreak in which the unfolding drama is a pastiche of the written experiences submitted by readers.
Best Online Gaming Site
Bubbly chat rooms mix up the popular word games of the Fifties with the popular medium of the Nineties.
Best Personal Site
Hipster cyberpunk and Web designer Jason Kottke's sleek designs and rumbling meditations cover life, commerce, and the pursuit of happiness on the Net.
Best Recreational/Hobby/Sport Site
Skater punks take note: Hardcore online devotion to inline skating.
Best Travel Site
Texas Monthly Ranch
As Texan as 10-gallon hats. Unfortunately, this Ranch is fixin' to shut down.
Best Use of Animation
Best Use of Audio
No monkeying around here: Clean, informative visuals with a sense of whimsy and congo drumbeats make this Austin-based interface design company one my favorite stops.
Best Use of Design
This New York City design firm specializing in putting motion on the Web knows their kinetic, hypnotic graphics are their best selling point.
Best Use of Video
The New Venue
And now for something completely different ... Honkworm, a Seattle-based digital filmmaking firm goes Monty Python with its animated short, "Les Poissons: Journey Into the Mind of the Fish."
Design-dense Webzine uses its noggin to make a reading experience that plays to the Web's strengths, melding moving images, photos, and words into a singular online reading experience.