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Samit Basu

Time for a makeover

It's definitely the age of makeovers ' and I'm not talking about Jassi. Formidable institutions with serious public-relations requirements are trying in a big way to reach out to people through the only medium that seems to move them ' entertainment. Take, for instance, the case of senior UN official and author Shashi Tharoor and The Interpreter. Tharoor's argument for allowing Sydney Pollack's film ' where Nicole Kidman takes on an evil African despot ' to become the first ever to be shot at the UN Headquarters was that the UN needed to be demystified ' and hence the ban on shooting wasn't wise. It's a good move, far better than cheesy Arab-terrorist films eulogising the Bush administration, but what next' World Bank Boys' Vatican Holiday' G-7 Games'

Download this festival

An interesting three-day social experiment started simultaneously in Mumbai, the UK, the US and Finland this Friday. Called Algomantra, it's an 'open source downloadable festival' that brings together the arts, urban research and social gaming in an attempt to map out urban space and remodel thought-to-fit computer programs. Participants take a 58-hour vow of silence and do things like contribute words to a collective 'organic' poem on a wall, travel around the city guided by random directions from a computer to draw subjective experience-based maps for an interactive art installation, and test the pattern of rumour formation in crowds by moving around a pre-ordained grid all over the city and whispering secret messages to one another. It all ends today with a grand party, attended by international filmmakers, researchers, artists and bloggers. Crazy, if you ask me, but I wish I was there.

I'm tired of watching Aishwarya rai mouth inane platitudes to famous chat show hosts, from Oprah to Letterman to K-Jo. A request to her agents ' we want to see her on Jerry Springer with Sneha Ullal, Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi.

Customised blessings

Did you know you can get customised blessings and advice from gurus on your phone courtesy Sadhana, one of our high-tech spiritual channels' I recently tried SMSing a guru to find out whether I should get a haircut, but the message didn't get through ' I had no money on my phone. Do try your luck, though.

Rushdie magic

Why do I love the irrepressible Salman Rushdie' Not just because I get to see Padma Lakshmi at his readings, but because he has the uncanny ability to sometimes get things magically right. In a recent essay on books, he writes, 'When a reader falls in love with a book it leaves its essence inside him, like radioactive fallout in an arable field, and after that there are certain crops that will no longer grow in him, while other, stranger, more fantastic growths may occasionally be produced.' That he occasionally threatens to attack reporters with baseball bats only adds to his charm.

AWARD OF THE WEEK

Award

Goes to 17-year-old student Kaavya Vishwanathan, who has just bagged a $500,000 advance from high-profile US publisher Little, Brown and Co. to write two young-adult novels starring a teenaged Indian girl. Incredible.

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