Tuesday, December 11, 2001

The Nobel Prize dinner was yesterday. While the prizes are one of the few things Sweden does that is recognized worldwide, the dinner itself is pretty much a local event. And the whole dinner is broadcast on one of the state television channels. I missed the beginning, but I did see the glassparaden, which consists of a host of waiters done up all fancy-like marching down the steps holding platters of ice cream done up all fancy-like (this year it was vanilla ice cream with black current sorbet) to the accompaniment of a trumpet fanfare. The king always serves himself.

I also listened to V.S. Naipaul's speech (which was slight but amusing), and then the speech by Leland Hartwell, who won for medicine. But the next guy, chemistry prize-winner Barry Sharpless, started going on and on about carbon being the center of everything and nature being right-handed and he was trying so hard to say something profound yet graspable, but it was all coming out a jumble. I get so embarrassed for people when they stumble in front of a crowd like that, so I had to go smoke a cigarette and ended up missing the rest of the speeches.

Throughout the whole ceremony, I thought how odd it is that we are so drawn to televised pageantry related to prize-winning (uh, I am referring - in a barely graspable way - to Miss America, the Academy Awards, etc.) but this is surely the only pageant of prize-winners on television where the contestants actually do things that have a profound and long-lasting impact on life.

- by Francis S.

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