Back from California with a detour to Mars


LoserCon West ’13: Clockwise from left: Pat Myers, Christopher Larsen, Beth Morgan, Dixon Wragg, Mary Ann Henningsen Frankenfeld, Malcolm Fleschner and Harold Mantle at Buck’s, Woodside, Calif. (Photo by Mark Holt)
June 27, 2013

Hi, everyone. Social butterfly that I am, I’m flitting from the gala dinner pictured above to this month’s Loser Brunch, this Sunday at 10 a.m. Clyde’s at Mark Center, in the office/hotel complex just off I-395 and Seminary Road in suburban Alexandria. If you’d like to join us — and I hope you would — e-mail me at pat.myers@washpost.com so we can get a good head count and we don’t have to sit two to a chair.

My week-long visit with the Royal Consort to San Francisco and points south really couldn’t have been better: Along with hikes and drives along the absurdly beautiful Pacific coast and redwood-filled state parks down to Big Sur, and up and down the clifflike hills of downtown San Francisco, I got to get to know several members of the Loser community: In the first part of the trip, we visited the home of 102-time Loser Malcolm Fleschner and his family in Palo Alto (me: “The weather is perfect today!” Malcolm: “You lucked out — you hit one of the 358 nice days of the year!”), who had organized the dinner at the eccentric diner Buck’s in nearby Woodside .

As you can deduce from the photo above, the Buck’s staff may have had second thoughts about seating us right in the middle of the restaurant. (Note the people at other tables trying to ignore us.) Actually, we didn’t throw the silverware or anything, though, as at any public Loser gathering, the words “kangaroo scrotum” do cause neighboring chins to rise from menus. None of the California Losers knew one another except from the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook: Dixon Wragg, who’d driven hours south from Santa Rosa to join us, and who volubly entertained the group with reminiscences of being stationed at Fort Belvoir many decades ago, and marching in formation while on acid; Beth Morgan, who’d just hosted an air guitar competition at a San Francisco club; Mary Ann Henningsen, who has a bicoastal marriage with fellow Loser Phil Frankenfeld of Washington, who unfortunately didn’t wear the tube top made of Loser magnets that she wore to the 2006 Flushies; Christopher Larsen, who doesn’t enter much but posts lots of funny comments to the Devotees; Malcolm, who used to do a lot more Losing before he started producing a current-events discussion show affliated with the Young Turks, but still writes a humor column for the San Jose Mercury News; and Harold Mantle, whose Invite involvement goes back to Year 1, when he was working in the Washington area before returning to California. But they all could share that link that unites Losers everywhere: They had all been robbed of ink by The Style Invitational.

After a few days in the San Jose area, we ventured a bit south and visited 75-time Loser David Smith and his family in Santa Cruz, who tipped us off to two picturesque towns we’d never have visited otherwise: the fishing village/wildlife haven of Moss Landing and the mini-town of Davenport, where some guy named Ansel Adams took a picture of a picturesque church, but didn’t have the chance to enhance his photo by including David in his cute little hat.

Otherwise, I managed not to think about the Invitational too much during the week, except for judging the haiku entries and most of Week 1024 on the plane, and finally getting last week’s contest posted on the Web when it didn’t publish automatically as it was supposed to. I’m just about caught up except for about half a dozen more prize letters for this past weekend’s Losers. Be patient.

Week 1027: A binary challenge; Week 1026: You might wonder ...

Had our Week 145 contest not been so successful with its variety of names for men’s and ladies’ rooms in various buildings, I’d have been too afraid to post even this broader contest. As I said, I’m going to be flexible in what counts as a building feature, or even a pair.

I got a question about Week 1026 from a contestant: Did the “you might ...” jokes have to be one of the five categories listed at the top of the contest, or could you come up with your own? As the contest states in boldface: “Give us a joke using any of the templates above.” So if you think that means “using something other than any of the templates above,” I will have no sympathy when I slash through the printout of your entry (except for the tree-part that gave its life for you).

The Martian comicals*: The haiku of Week 1023

*A revised title suggested by numerous Losers

I judged this contest in the airport and on the plane to San Francisco; by the time I got off the plane, at least 1,000 entries later, I was casting sentences repeatedly in the haiku form/of 5, then 7, then 5/driving hubby nuts. But maybe the altitude helped me get into a suitably spacey mood.

While, as I’d predicted, I came across numerous pretty-but-not-funny entries, most people realized we were looking for zingy humor, and there was a lot to choose from. It turns out that many people sent the maximum of 25 entries. (Because all the poems were of the same form, I had no idea whose entries I was judging, or even when one’s person submission finished and another person’s began; all the entries are compiled into one long list with all identifying information removed.)

Not surprisingly, there were a number of variations on various themes: I think there were eight referencing the ’60s sitcom “My Favorite Martian” (one of my childhood favorites); I ended up using Nan Reiner’s, which didn’t spell out the title. I did give joint credit to one entry, the first honorable mention, because both Beverley Sharp’s and J. Calvin Smith’s entries had the idea of Martians calling candy bars “Earth.” The printed one is Beverley’s; here’s Calvin’s:
Mars and Milky Way
Are now names of candy bars.
Do you guys eat Earth?

I’m not going to get into debates whether other people’s same-idea entries were equivalently close.

Go ahead and send your stuff to NASA (a link is in the Invite) and, if you haven’t already, to the NPR blog that posts everyone submissions along with readers’ “likes” and comments (almost all complimentary); looking at the blog now, I see a lot of haiku that are pretty similar to what we’re running; I sincerely doubt those are going to end up on the DVD to the Martian atmosphere.

While I did allow people to write haiku describing life on Earth, there was just NO way to interpret the contest as haiku for Martians who have invaded Earth! Yet I received several entries like these:

Thank you for coming.
We’re so sorry you missed us.
Please forgive our dust.

Thank you for coming
All this way just to return
Three baby robots.

Though we had four First Offenders this week, the “above the fold” winners are all Invite vets: It’s the 53rd (and 54th) blot of ink for Rob Huffman, and his third first prize, since he started Losing in Week 918. I was relieved to find out that the second-place prize, the heavy glass bottle of sand, would be going to a local: I’ll try to deliver it in person to Mike Gips, who’s on a heck of a roll; he won the Week 1022 contest as well. Danny Bravman, who started getting ink more than a decade ago when he was in high school, picks up Ink No. 72 and his 12th above the fold (including seven wins); and Chris Doyle, about whom no more need be said.

With Malitz toward ... Brendan Beary, whose warning to Mars about how “we were not afraid to boot out Pluto” was the favorite this week of Sunday Style Editor David Malitz.

See some of you Sunday! I’ll be away the weekend of the July 21 brunch in Hyattsville, alas.

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