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There must be some mistake. September 24, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Last night, Silence Dogood—apparently still smarting from our little misunderstanding about stinkbugs (see her post “Stinkbugs 3, Silence 0” for more on that unfortunate episode)—snidely informed me that the 2008 MacArthur Fellows had just been announced. “I don’t know how it happened,” she said in a tone of voice that can best be described as smugly sarcastic, “but you weren’t on the list again.”

Well, I don’t know how it happened, either. There must be some mistake.

To quickly recap, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awards fellowships each year to people it feels to be deserving, in any field, based on their future potential. The Foundation’s website (www.macfound.org) sums up what it means to be elected a MacArthur Fellow: “The MacArthur Foundation today named 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2008. This past week, the recipients learned in a single phone call from the Foundation that they will each receive $500,000 in ‘no strings attached’ support over the next five years.”

$500,000 in “no strings attached” support is something our friend Ben could really use. And, geez, nominators, if anybody fits your criteria, it’s our friend Ben: “The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Yo, nominators! Over here!!!

Unfortunately, there’s no way of contacting the nominators for this so-called “genius award” in order to press your case. That’s because they’re all anonymous. For all our friend Ben knows, they could all be Wal-Mart greeters. (Yet another reason to be polite to everyone.) The number of fellowships awarded each year varies, depending on how many recipients the nominators find worthy, with an eye towards each recipient’s “promise for important future advances.”

“Too bad, Ben,” Silence offered in mock-sympathy. “Back to beans and rice for another year, until the world—or at least someone besides you—finally acknowledges your genius.”

Grrrr. Nobly ignoring this taunt, our friend Ben rushed to the computer and called up the MacArthur website to check on the 2008 winners. This year’s list was heavy on physicians and scientists who specialized in neurobiology, with some physicists and astronomers thrown in. Rounding out the list were a saxophonist, sculptor, violinist, stage lighting designer, fiber artist, instrument maker and composer, urban farmer, and music critic. Notably absent were any freelance writers-poets-editors-organic homesteaders-heritage chicken enthusiasts such as yours truly. What were they thinking?!!

However, our friend Ben has not given up hope. Looking closely at the pictures and descriptions of the winners, our friend Ben noticed that, instead of centering the 25th winner under the others, his photo and description were in the left-hand column, leaving an empty space on the right. It occurred to me that this could only mean that someone was missing from the list, someone who had, perhaps, been attending a local festival or going to Hawk Mountain or grocery shopping when that “single phone call” came.

Should you wonder where our friend Ben is for the next unspecified period of time, I’ll be within arm’s reach of the phone. But please don’t call me. You might tie up the line.



1. fairegarden - September 24, 2008

Surely you will fill that empty space as you are so deserving for the reason you have named above. I especially think that heritage chicken enthusiast is what got their attention.

Ha! I have to agree—it’s chickens or nothing!

2. Becca - September 24, 2008

James and I know how we’re going to pay off our house now. It is our mission to win one of these fellowships. That, or the government could bail us out. Wonder which is more likely to happen??

Good plan, Becca! I myself am hoping the lottery will save me if the MacArthur and Nobel prizes don’t start rolling in… I’d say all three are more likely than a government bailout!

3. Cinj - September 24, 2008

Oh no! Maybe you should invest in an answering machine just in case you ever miss another important phone call,. LOL.

Well, I bought my lottery ticket today. If I win this time I’ll offer up a fellowship for a chicken loving-poet-writer (also a mother, a mother-in-law, anda gazillion bill collectors. It’s nice to dream, isn’t it?). Fat chance, but it COULD happen though right?

Ha!!! And yes, of course it could happen, Cinj! I’m a big believer in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Theory of Winning: It just takes one grubby ticket to win, as long as it’s the RIGHT ticket. And guess what we’re having for supper tonight? Pizza!!!

4. Daphne Gould - September 24, 2008

But isn’t it wonderful that a farmer got on the list?

Of course! As I was thrilled to see Gary Paul Nabhan and Wes Jackson in previous years. Now they just need to add Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Walker, Eliot Coleman… and, of course, our friend Ben!

5. Terra - September 24, 2008

I do know one of the nominators; understandably they do want to keep a low profile, and yes, she is a greeter at a certain retail store, in an undisclosed location.
Next year, if all goes well, you and I can share a genius award, for our gardening writing and all around humor and contributions to humanity award.
“He who makes a man chuckle saves the world.”
Don’t despair, 2009 is our year.

Good plan, Terra, I live in hope for 2009! And of course I love your quote!

6. Curmudgeon - September 25, 2008

Last year I remember being fascinated by the spider silk biologist who won. This year I was soooo excited to see Adichie on the list. Have you read Purple Hibiscus? We were just commenting about the awards at our house because last year at this time WN’s place of employment was in an uproar as one of their own had won one of these babies. This year, for some reason which we absolutely cannot fathom, nobody at the nursery where WN now works nor at the cultural org where I work was on the list of recipients. Well, we’re setting our sights on next year. We’ll be watching for those flying pigs.

I, too, was fascinated by the spider silk biologist, and no, I’ll have to find Purple Hibiscus. Yow—I can see how a colleague’s winning a MacArthur could throw a place into an uproar! 2009 is definitely going to be our year!!!

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