There must be some mistake. September 24, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: 2008 MacArthur Fellows, MacArthur awards, MacArthur Fellowship
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.