The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Pleading no contest — but we’re dead set on bringing you more obit poems

Hello, everyone. This is one of those weeks in which I’d rather have you spend your precious Invite-dedicated minutes and neurons focusing on the fabulous results of Week 1004, the obit poems, and so I’ll try not to ramble on so. (This sooo never works.)

But I do have to share my giddiness over the plans for the Invitational’s 20th anniversary — we’ll be the cover story in the March 3 Sunday Style section, and are scheduled to get three full inside pages as well. Even with Sunstyle’s tabloid-size pages, that’s a heck of a lot of real estate by today’s print-newspaper standards.

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Much as Style did for the 10th anniversary, we’ll be featuring a selection of the Invite’s Greatest Hits, though this time focusing mostly on the past decade (still, that’s 515 contests since the previous retrospective) and aiming to showcase both the depth and breadth of the Invite. I’m thinking of imperiously decreeing The Best in each of a number of our perennial contests — limericks, horse names, joint legislation, cartoon captions, etc. — along with a sampling of one-off contests as well. And online, we’ll offer a gallery of the craziest products to emanate from the pen and Mac of Such a Big Shot Cartoonist Bob Staake.

On top of that, we’re going to celebrate a big part of the Invite that most readers have no idea about — the whole subculture of the Loser Community: the standings, the social events, the competition for Loser of the Year and other awards. An article about this phenomenon will probably be written by one of Style’s feature writers, as this one was from 1998, for the Invite’s fifth anniversary. In that story, a dozen leading Losers (including several who are still active today) gathered at The Post — the Invite was a much more local contest in the pre-Web era — and said lots of funny things on demand. It’s a riot; be sure to read it when you have a chance. bit.ly/invite1998

So starting this weekend, I’ll start going through my binders-full-of-Invites to choose the best-of — that is, when I’m not systematically puzzling out each of the untold thousands of pieces of “joint legislation” in Week 1005, submitted by nearly 500 entrants (including an unheard-of 105 people who were entering the Invite for the first time). The only thing I can report so far: Congressman Peters is one very productive legislator, so to speak; he’s featured in more than 240 of the Losers’ bills. And how, uh, droll that he was elected the same year as Rep. Holding.

The Late Show: The amazing results of Week 1004

Actually, it’s not amazing to me, given that every single year, our obit-poem contest yields a wide range of clever, funny, imaginative and sometimes even tasteful poems about people who died in the previous year. And as so often happens with in our poetry and song parody contests, there were simply too many worthy entries than I could present in a single list and expect anyone to reach the bottom. As it is, the online results run about 65 column inches — a very lengthy list, especially since it includes two song parodies that really demand to be sung out loud, or listened to along with the accompanying YouTube clips.

On our newly expanded print page, I was able to fit 15 poems, including, on Super Bowl Weekend, Barry Koch’s ode to Art Modell, who packed up the Cleveland Browns and turned them into the Baltimore Ravens. (I really wanted to quoth his Poe’m in full.) And online, there are (if I counted right) 32, including a second Inkin’ Memorial winner.

Both our Bobble-Linc winners this week are relative newbies to the Invite who quickly established themselves as Loser phenoms, especially when it comes to poetry contests. Robert Schechter, who debuted only in Week 931, adds three blots of ink to amass a total of 91 blots of ink (including four Inkers and Inkin’ Memorials), while Nan Reiner, who started about a year earlier, in Week 877, surges past the 100-ink mark (and five top prizes) with four poems this week.

While I’ve given out two first prizes in a single week, this might be the first time that I ended up choosing the same person’s work for first and second place. (Before the advent of blind judging, this probably wouldn’t have happened.) Although our standing rule is to give out just one prize per person per week, it seems unfair to deprive Nan of either the Bobbling Abe or the lovely toilet-shaped coffee cup. Nan sent in such good stuff for this contest that for cockroach-eater Ed Archbold, who brought her the toilet-winning limerick, she supplied an almost equally good alternative poem:

In Florida, Ed Archbold scarfed the vermin-eating crown,
But all those worms and cockroaches just weren’t staying down.
Regurgitate, then aspirate; the end result was grim.
The critters have the final laugh; they’re munching now on him.

And the two runners-up are also renowned Loserbards, and for many more years: Brendan Beary, who with more than 850 entries is of the seven members of the 500-ink Invite Hall of Fame, and Jeff Brechlin, the famed Hokey Pokey sonneteer, who’s racked up about 370.

I do hope you have a chance to read all this week’s poems; there are gems all the way to the end, including an imaginative one from First Offender David Williams, a music professor, about the avant-garde composer Elliott Carter, and a couple of no-way-in-print rhymes about “Emmanuelle” actress Sylvia Kristel. But even this list doesn’t include some really outstanding longer efforts, such as a sonnet by Christopher Lamora about a self-proclaimed Spanish royal; I posted that one this morning on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook, which once again I importune you to join.

Of course our abundance of terrific poems doesn’t mean there weren’t hundreds of unterrific ones as well; the usual bad rhymes ranged from the okay-for-rap-but-not-for-us “awesome”/ “Dawson” to the bad-for-everyone “assessment”/ “firmament.”

Reading the page proof of the 15 print entries, Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford was ebulliently HAWing in her chosen medium of writing in the e-mail subject line. “GREAT INVITATIONAL!!!! My picks: Funniest: Levon Helm [by First Offender Nancy Lasner]; close 2nd, Jean Harris [Christopher Lamora’s limerick]; dear to heart, Earl Scruggs [Chris Doyle]; Super Special award to Art Modell poem!” [Barry Koch]

Loser nooz

The Royal Consort and I had a fun time ingesting mass brunch quantities at Mango Mike’s buffet last Sunday, in the company of about 15 Losers, Devotees and their orderlies. The next brunch on the calendar is another buffet, this one at Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs right near the City Dock in Annapolis. I’m not sure I can make this one myself, but it’s always fun, and a good opportunity to walk around historic Annapolis. The time hasn’t been posted yet; I’ll let you know next week, or check bit.ly/loserbrunches in a few days.

The reason that the brunch schedule and stats aren’t quite up to date is that the Keeper of the Stats, Elden Carnahan, has been doing something that’s maybe a wee bit more valuable: Every year since Katrina hit New Orleans, he and fellow members from his church in Laurel, Md. (or, as he calls it Nether Scaggsville, after a nearby town), have traveled to Louisiana and Mississippi to help repair houses and do other good works for the area’s needy.

This year Elden and Co. stopped in Montgomery, Ala., home to fellow Big Deal Loser Beverley Sharp. Not only did they meet up with Beverley and her husband, Dick Amberg, at Jefferson Davis’s home church, but Beverley and Dick gave them all a big Southern lunch at their house. Elden has found the annual trip enormously gratifying — and not just for the ribs and deviled eggs — and invites any Losers or others interested in making the trip in 2014 to contact him at elden.carnahan [at] gmail [dot] com. Construction skill isn’t a requirement.

Best kept buried: The unprintable obit poems

Not at all surprisingly, there were numerous clever-but-are-you-kidding entries this week. Among them:


Helen Gurley Brown
Enlivens Paradise
With tips on going down.
Saints lap up her advice. (Chris O’Carroll)

A quasi-Stalinist donkeyhole
Who managed to come across (mostly) droll,
He spelled his name like a social disease.
But pronounce it Alex COE-burn, please. (Chris O’Carroll, for Alexander Cockburn)

Robin Gibb
A pity that most of your disco songs stunk;
You sang as if Barry were squeezing your junk. (Jeff Brechlin)

Philly-sho’-dilly-show,
Donald Cornelius
Got him a firearm,
Blasted a hole,
Causing a premature,
Messy derailment of
Ferro-equestrian
Filet of soul. (Nan Reiner)

A procedural matter: ‘Next week’ lines, HM subheads

I figured that only people who are Invite-obsessed enough to care about this matter would reach the bottom of this week’s column. Anyway, I’d like to change (actually change back) the procedure for submitting honorable-mention subheads and what used to be called “revised titles” for that week’s contest: From here on in, please send those entries on an e-mail separate from the e-mail for regular entries, still to losers@washpost.com, with something in the subject line that makes it easy for me to find. (The HM and RT lines can share a single e-mail.) And let’s have a 25-entry limit on each of those as well (in addition to your 25 regular entries).

The prize letters for Week 1003 are going out late this week, I’m afraid — they got in line behind the 20th-anniversary excitement, a software class that it turns out I won’t be needing after all, and the onslaught of legislation. I’ll start on them after I finish this column. Sit tight, Losers. You will endure.

 
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