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YOU, TOO, CAN WIN $292,840: One of the art world's best-known awards is Britain's often controversial Turner Prize. Past winners include Chris Ofili (1998), who used elephant dung in his paintings, and Damien Hirst (1995), who did something with the severed remains of a pickled cow.

With that in mind, here is the short list of contenders for this year's prize (which comes with the aforementioned cash):

A bare room with flickering lights, by installation artist Martin Creed.

A reconstruction of a dusty storeroom intended to look like a dusty storeroom in the Tate Museum, by Mike Nelson.

Richard Billingham's video of his alcoholic father sleeping in bed.

A video installation showing two gay cowboys cavorting nude in a swimming pool, by Isaac Julien.

TOM RIDGE WISHES HIS TITLE WAS THIS COOL: The New Zealand government has created a new position: Minister for the Lord of the Rings. The country is so excited that 35 New Zealand locations were used in Fellowship of the Ring, the first movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it decided to put someone in charge of coordinating its self-promotional efforts (food, beverage, make more movies here!) tied to the film's release next month, Reuters says.

The government also is paying to have maps made that identify New Zealand as Home of Middle-earth, the land where Frodo the hobbit sets out to destroy the magic ring left him by his Uncle Bilbo.

GOSSIP I: Whether to raise their two young children as Scientologists has been a sticking point in the Tom Cruise- Nicole Kidman divorce, says. But lately, Kidman, who is Catholic, has been more agreeable to letting the children learn Scientology if it will help resolve other differences, mainly money, the Web site said. A Kidman spokeswoman told the actor couldn't be reached for comment.

GOSSIP II: Mariah Carey and ex-husband-music mogul-onetime mentor Tommy Mottola, who divorced bitterly in 1997 and stayed bitter, have become less bitter, maybe even friends, reports say. Carey's breakdowns and hospitalizations prompted Mottola to get in touch with her. They "have resolved some residual things that are giving her more peace," makeup artist Billy Brasfield told A Carey rep told the New York Daily News the two are talking, but about a greatest hits album that her former label, Sony, is releasing.