Don Calzoni is a very wealthy man who has made his fortune in olive oil. He is in a stage of life where he has everything in life that money can buy. Still and all, there is a lingering emptiness in him. But he doesn’t know what it is. Finally, his shrink identifies it. The shrink says: “You don’t get no respect. That’s it. You want to buy respectability. Consult a Madison Avenue spinner on how you can go about it.”
On the appointed date, the spinner arrives. Don Calzoni sits down with him. The following conversation takes place.
Don Calzoni: I don’t get no respect. How can I best throw money at something to buy respectability. From the real intellectual folks, I mean.
Spinner: My company experts have developed just the plan for you. We will set up a new physics prize. It will be called the Calzoni Prize for Postmodern Physics. The recipients will be created Calzoni Laureates.
Calzoni: I like it already! Go on. But what does Postmodern mean?
Spinner: It is just a good word to have. Anyway, the main thing is to make the award money so starkly large that it dwarfs all the awards past, and is a good multiple of the Nobel Prize. Let us say five prizes will be given out each year, each equal to US$10 million. Is that workable?
Calzoni: No problem.
Spinner: Good. Then let’s get into the nitty gritty. First we have to hire a suitable consultant from within the establishment and give the guy a few millions in consulting fees. He will help us identify the candidates upon whom the prize can be most leveraged.
Calzoni: I don’t understand that. How do you leverage a prize?
Spinner: Well, if you just the give the prize to someone because he is doing great physics in energy technology, it is no good for you. You have to give it to people who are already famous and glamorous and are constantly in limelight. Then your name just gloms on to them.
Calzoni: Whether nor not they are doing good physics?!
Spinner: Exactly. It is not about physics. It is about buying respectability – as you said yourself.
Calzoni: Well … er … OK.
Spinner: So, if we give the award to physicists who are already centerstage, in no time your name will be in New York Times, Nature, Science, Physics Today, PBS … – the bastion of the highest intellectuals. From there your name will spread like wildfire around the globe.
Calzoni: But critics will say …
Spinner: Never mind the critics. Nobody listens to them. People will say they are jealous. Now, what we will do is give the prize to people with maximum Nobel potential. And when he gets the Nobel Prize, he will invite you to come to Stockholm as his guest. That way you can also bask in the Nobel light. Also, the Calzoni Prize will come to be known as a harbinger of the Nobel Prize for the candidate! The two hot areas of physics today are Big Bang and String Theory. Those are where our focus should be.
Calzoni: Can you give me an example of a candidate you have in mind?
Spinner: Absolutely. It is the superfamous Edward Witten of Princeton University. If you gave him, say, $100,000, then he might reject it – to show he doesn’t accept just any old prize from anyone. But US$10 million? He will take it. All he will say in accepting it is: “I am soooo surprised.”
Calzoni: Anything else?
Spinner: There is the issue of the manner of delivering the prize. We thought at first that we would wire the money straight to the awardee’s bank. But that idea is already taken. So our plan is this. We will rent an eighteen-wheeler truck with a billboard painted on the right side – a blown up image of the $10 million check! We will park the truck in front of the awardee’s home at predawn. A chorus gig will jump out of the truck and start serenading the brand new Calzoni Laureate.
Calzoni: Let’s get started then.
Spinner: OK. Let me call the consultant. Let’s see … it is about 2 pm in Taxas now. He should be in his office.