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MEET BOZLO BEAVER

Online games and baubles may be delightful tools of procrastination, but few inspire an urge for frequent repetition. Now, the digital world brings us Bozlo Beaver, an insufferable but adorable electronic pet -- what's known in industry parlance as an interactive character. Bozlo's life is hardly the stuff of soap operas, but he's one of the first Net-based animated characters whose adventures you may start yearning to follow. The pint-sized creature comes to you via free weekly E-mail updates and, in the best of cartoon traditions, plays out a 60-second vignette in which he schemes to destroy your computer.

Bozlo is very childish. He's a waste of time. And he's loads of fun. In one recent episode, the cheeky beaver arrives by cab and informs the computer-user that the user is "moving out." He then disables the on-screen cursor and places it inside the cab. The taxi whisks away, and Bozlo, flashing a wide grin, shouts: "I sent your cursor to Mexico!" With just one deft click of your mouse, however, the taxi returns, disgorging the lost cursor. Says a dismayed Bozlo, who then hops back into the speeding taxi: "I don't have to tolerate this anymore. Take me to the nearest bar!"

Bozlo is the product of a small Manhattan company called togglethis, which hopes to license its interactive technology to the big media companies that control the Bugs Bunnies, Roadrunners and Mickey Mouses of the world. Togglethis envisions Web sites populated by such interactive characters, each acting as a pitchman, site guide, or playful mascot. Bozlo Beaver is, in fact, sponsored by Intel, which includes a short vignette of its dancing, foil-wrapped "Bunny People" at the end of selected Bozlo episodes.

For now, however, Bozlo remains relatively untainted by advertising or overexposure. Through word-of-mouth alone, the company says, some 35,000 people now receive the weekly episodes. Bozlo might not singlehandedly vanquish the midday office blues, according to one fan, but the missives sure "create plenty of laughter in our office." And just how many soap-opera stars can claim that?

To subscribe, visit www.togglethis.com and download the Interactive Character Engine, which should take about five minutes on a standard modem. You'll then receive weekly Bozlo updates by E-mail, which load almost instantly. Versions are available for Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and Macintosh.

By Dennis Berman in New York


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