"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Blue Genius

Well, they've just announced the 2015 MacArthur Fellows -- i.e., the "genius grants" -- and again my name is nowhere to be found on the list. I checked, twice. Honestly, I'm not sure how much longer I can sustain this level of brilliance without the appropriate recognition. Inspiration is fleeting.

This year's honorees each receive a stipend of $625,000, payable in quarterly installments over 5 years. While I'm not quite sure what a "stipend" is, my disappointment isn't all about the money. Yes, it's largely about the money but there's also the component of being acknowledged for what I've done creatively and what I could do in the future with $625K burning a hole in my pocket. The foundation website mentions the award permits recipients "the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements." That is really a perfect set-up for me at the moment -- I've just been laid off from my job after 7+ years with the company and am completely without specific obligations. There are some reporting requirements, but those are at the behest of the Department of Unemployment Insurance. Once the grant payments start rolling in, I'll set aside being on the dole and can always reopen my claim once the stipend runs out.

"Stipend" -- it seems to be built around the word "spend", so maybe it has something to do with how I'm required to distribute the money to support the local economy? I'm just spit-balling here -- once I see the cash deposited in my account, I'll allocate some of my intellectual activity into further researching the meaning.

Again this year the recipients come from a wide variety of backgrounds -- scientists, community activists, artists. Well, they seem to cast a pretty broad net for "artists"; I see a tap dancer and a puppeteer among the winners. I bet right now the puppeteer is berating himself for not tap dancing while dangling his marionettes, thinking he could have doubled his award. Another of the winners is a playwright. Now, this inspires me: I'm going to write a play about my quest to be nominated for a MacArthur grant. If When I win, that'll be so meta.

Maybe "stipend" is another word for a wire transfer? Or cashier's check? I hope the money comes soon so I can start to really dig into this.

There is a poet in this year's group, and part of why she was honored was because, in her latest work, she "abandons all punctuation." That seems like a pretty low bar that I could easily meet if not exceed with minimal effort dedication to my craft and without working up much of a sweat its good to have an aspirational goal still within reach

Well, as Shakespeare (who never won a genius grant, and his grasp of punctuation was pretty shaky) wrote: "What's past is prologue." While I'm not sure what that means, either, cutting and pasting it here has led to a moment of even greater creative inspiration: tap-dancing marionettes performing The Tempest. I just need to stage it in a suitably gritty, contemporary setting while working the themes of climate change and displaced peoples into the production. Sounds like a sure-fire 2016 winner to me!

I'll need a little help getting this underway so one of the anonymous MacArthur people can see my brilliant creativity in person. If you'd like to stipend me (am I saying that correctly?) I promise to reimburse you right after I'm featured in next year's announcement, especially since with this approach I'm likely to at least triple, if not quadruple, the usual payout. Talk about genius...

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