(Here’s the link to the video of the Fanny Bank, with halting commentary by the Empress, who’s also filming; the link wouldn’t work within the photo caption.)
Hi, everyone. I’ve been digging through the Style Invitational’s deep archives lately while scouting out material for my latest little Share The Invite effort, a Facebook page called Style Invitational Ink of the Day. If you have a Facebook account and click “Like” at the top of that page, every morning thereafter your news feed will be graced with a single (usually) gem from some contest, old or recent; each post is accompanied by a link to the index at washingtonpost.com/styleinvitational. My hope is that people will click “share” and pass the joke along, and that eventually people unfamiliar with the Invite will check out the current contest. So far, with 92 “likes,” we’re not exactly viral — we don’t even have a sniffle — but it’s fun to spotlight great Invite humor in any case, and who knows? Forty of those 92 people are not my Facebook “friends,” so I do think it’s getting around. (I also tweet a link to this page; my Twitter handle is PatMyersTWP .)
Anyway, it was in one of those strolls through the Master Contest List where I came across what in 2002 was numbered “Week CV” (you don’t want to know) but is actually Week 438. Looking at the results posted four weeks later (Elden Carnahan has a handy link right there!), I noticed that many of the names were for people who were more likely to be in the news then than now — including, in today’s examples, Paula Zahn and Liz Phair, along with Drew Bledsoe and Juanita Kreps. Which, to me, says: Give it another go.
Do try to find out how the person’s name is pronounced, more or less, okay? Puns are about sound.
The Week 1009 contest was a second-timer as well. The first time around, in fact, the winner of Week VIII (April 2000) went on to be named by the Czar in 2003 as the best Invite entry ever:
Monica Lewinsky: Well, I was, like, a woman, y’know. William was, y’know, like, a man. So I’m, like, so lonely. Willie is, like, well, Willie. Anyway, a wink, some skin, “lookie lookie,” we make some nookie. Willie says, “Nice melons.” I mean, like, wow! Willie was mine, I was Willie’s. No one knew! So I’m, like, seein’ Willie, only slyly. Anyways, I’m, like, callin’ Lin. So we yak ’n’ yak. I’m like, well, me ’n’ Willie, y’know? Lin’s like, “Wow, Willie?” So I say, “Yes, Willie.”
Anyway, now Lin knows. Once I was, like, “Lin, is a click on my line?” Lin says, “A click? No.” Well, as we all know now, a click WAS on my line. Now, Ken comes in. Now I’m, like, NEWS! Monica mania! I’m, like, a mess. Ken is, like, so asinine. Ken was on a mission. Ken is, like, soooooo my enemy! Lin was so sneaky. Lin is a swine. Oink oink. Willie? Well, I say Slick Willie will owe someone some alimony. Me? Well, now I’m, like, a well-known woman. Now I can make me some money. Way cool. Awesome. (Richard Grossman, McLean)
Very ingenious — I’d say equally ingenious — stuff this time around as well, with a n entirely new cast of characters. Not only in the subjects of the entries, but in the Losers themselves; it’s extremely rare that not a single Loser gets ink in both contests, especially when they’re a “mere” 13 years apart.
I wonder — though I’m not about to try to find out — whether the results of Week VIII were entirely valid: whether all the letters in each entry were actually contained in the subject’s name. I wonder because while judging Week 1009, I encountered many entries, including some from the most experienced and trustworthy of Losers, that contained extraneous letters. And I don’t think I would have noticed them had they not been checked systematically — a task I don’t think Czar was able to do 13 years ago.
My vetting plan was to winnow the entries a whole lot, and then — one entry at a time — do a global search-and-replace for each letter in the person’s name, replacing each A with a period, each E with a period, etc., through all the letters; if any letters were left standing, the entry was invalid.
But I asked around on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook, and two of our more quantitative Losers, Jeff Contompasis and Steve Langer, came to the rescue. Jeff sent me a spreadsheet on which I could enter the subject’s name, and then the entry, and it would announce “false” or “true,” but I could never get it to work on my computer. Meanwhile, Steve offered to run the list en masse through his own program, and so I sent him my “short-list” of several dozen entries (with no Losers’ names attached; in fact, at this point I hadn’t looked them up myself).
Steve returned the list the next morning with the news that ELEVEN entries were invalid, some by as many as three bad letters. A few required simple fixes such as dropping or substituting a word (I rescue otherwise worthy entries all the time); others I ended up tossing anyway. There are only 24 entries today, because after a while, tons of writing like this (even with pretty natural syntax) becomes a chore to read.
It was no chore to select today’s inking entries, though. It’s the first Inkin’ Memorial — though not the first winner — for Matt Monitto, a junior at Elon University in North Carolina (though he’s from Connecticut). Matt is best known in Loserland for his phenomenal song parodies, though it was a poem about Hurricane Irene that won him an Inker in 2011. Matt also has blotted up 40 inks since his freshman year, with five “above the fold.”
Second and third places go to Kevin Dopart and Chris Doyle, two of the most decorated names in Loserdom (though it’s hard to keep the tinsel from sliding off those D’s). But a first-ever Cup Punneth Over mug or Grossery Bag goes to David Messing of Washington, on just his second ink ever. David was a First Offender in the Week 1003 contest to reassign an ad slogan — “Play. Laugh. Grow.” (Fisher Price) for Viagra — so he still has yet to earn his first magnet.
I felt only a little bit bad this week for those who sent in elaborate entries for “Arnold Schwartzenegger” and “David Ramsey” without checking the actual spellings of their names.
I ate about three meals’ worth of brunch this past Sunday as I joined about 15 Losers and saner halves at Paradiso in Northern Virginia. It’s always especially fun to meet new Losers for the first time, and on Sunday I got to meet two:
Jeff Shirley got his first ink a few weeks ago with his “joint legislation” of the Barking-Peters Act to control excess ventriloquism; Jeff, who lives in Richmond, was visiting relatives in the D.C. area and came to the brunch bearing a token that you can see in the photo at left: It’s a larger-than-life-size papier-mache plunger with genuine wooden handle. Jeff had brought it as a prize donation, but I think it’s really ideal for use at the Flushies (see the next section) : perhaps as a gavel, or maybe in some sort of crowning ceremony.
Danielle Nowlin was a First Offender in the Week 995 Ask Backwards contest (A. Google Mirth. Q. What did Al Gore do to celebrate inventing the Internet?) and since then has sent strong entries almost every week. I was a bit concerned to hear her asking Jeff Contompasis about the intricacies of Elden Carnahan’s Loser point-scoring system, since we’d like Danielle to have at least a few more weeks of sanity before the true obsessiveness kicks in. Danielle, herself a former middle school band teacher, is married to the music arranger of the U.S. Marine Band, and Danielle says we might be able to strong-arm him for keyboard work at some Loser events (perhaps we should give him a giant Inker Head-Bag to preserve his reputation).
And just announced: The next Loser Brunch will take place Sunday, April 14, at 10 a.m. at Whitlow’s on Wilson, 2854 Wilson Blvd., in the Clarendon section of Arlington. At that hour it’s usually pretty easy to get street parking. That’s a buffet as well. To RSVP, go to NRARS.org and click on the link at the top about brunches.
All this pigging out is getting even to me, a notorious pigger-outer: There’s been talk about doing a more ambulatory activity sometime this spring; Highly Ambulatory Loser Tom Witte suggests a hike on Sugarloaf Mountain at the upper edge of Montgomery County, Md., along with a stop at the winery at the foot of the mountain. There’s an easy walk and a more challenging route; perhaps there could be two groups.
The Losers Who Bring You the Flushies Every Year — Dave Prevar, Pie Snelson and Elden Carnahan, are ironing out the details, but they’ve settled on a date and a venue: sometime Saturday afternoon, May 11, at Jake’s American Grille, which is in upper Northwest Washington, in the Chevy Chase D.C. neighborhood.
The Flushies “banquet,” now in its umptieumpth year (okay, I looked it up; it’s the 18th), is the Losers’ own production, in which they bestow plaques for Loser of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Imporved (sic), Least Imporved, and some other categories as well. Losers who’ve had a record year or who’ve passed a certain milestone, such as 50 or 100 inks, are recognized. There’s usually an entertainment portion featuring Losers who’ve penned song parodies for the occasion. And there’s also lots of time to Meet the Parentheses — to match up names and faces, and just gab. You don’t have to be a Loser to attend; the Merely Curious are welcome as well. I’ve been coming to the Flushies every year since, I believe, 2002. Perhaps I’ll wear a plunger along with my tiara.
It’s especially fun when out-of-town Losers come to the Flushies. May is really the loveliest time of year in Washington (usually), and this time it’s right in D.C., although Jake’s is a bit of a walk to a Metrorail stop.
The organizers are trying to keep costs down; when more details are set, I’ll send out an invitation to the Invite’s e-mail list. (E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be added to that list.) So try not to schedule your graduation, wedding, etc., for that day.