Style Conversational: Week 1029 — Play it, Sam

July 11, 2013

There are contests I’m apprehensive about (e.g., the just-closed Week 1027) and then there are those like this week’s contest, which combines two of our most sure-fire genres: movie humor and song parodies. Writing parodies — or even reading them — isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; when I run a parody contest, I get a few “see you next week” e-mails from otherwise every-week entrants. On the other hand, there are Losers who enter virtually no other contests besides the parodies, as well as those for whom setting new, clever, perfectly rhyming lyrics to existing songs is just one more zingy arrow in their quivering quiver of Invite humor.

And everyone sees movies.

So have fun. As I say in the introduction to this week’s contest, the tune you use might be relevant in some way to the movie — I could see how that could enhance the humor — but it’s not a requirement.. And as I also said, what ends up going in the print paper — and that will include the top four winners — are songs that readers will be more likely to know; I’m afraid that even the cleverest parody lyrics aren’t much fun if you don’t know the song. Now that there’s a full page in Sunday Style for the Invitational, it’s possible that I can print a multi-verse song or two, but it’s still more likely that the entries I run in print won’t run more than eight lines.

There are differences between what makes a good performed parody — like the ones that Weird Al Yankovic does — and one that’s just going to be read. When someone sings out loud, especially in pop or rock music, the vowel sounds carry more weight than the consonants at the ends of the lines; this is why it doesn’t matter so much when a singer “rhymes” “ways” with “made,” and “eyes” with “life,” as in the bridge of this ubiquitous pop song. (whose other rhymes are pretty much kosher).

But Bruno Mars isn’t going to get ink in the Style Invitational. To work as clever light verse, which is what they are on the page, the rhymes have to be “perfect rhymes” — the last accented syllables of the words rhyme, and any syllables following those accented syllables must either be identical or, in rare cases, rhyme with each other. “Annoyance” doesn’t rhyme with “convenience” because their accented syllables,”noy” and “ven,” do not rhyme. And while “eyes” rhymes perfectly with “dries,” “eyes” does not rhyme with “dry.”

So even if you’re parodying a song whose rhymes won’t pass this test, yours should.

Also, when a song is performed as a whole musical number, the traditional structure of a repeated chorus works great. But as humor on paper, it doesn’t because it’s anticlimactic — there’s no “punchline” when the song ends with a refrain you’ve already used. It really helps a parody to have a strong finish.

Because this is a humor contest, we’re not necessarily looking for parodies that simply give an accurate synopsis of the movie’s plot; it needs to depict that plot with humor, make some wry observation. And it doesn’t have to even sum up the plot. Note that the instructions say that the parody should be “descriptive” of the movie; that’s intentionally broad wording.

In recent years, I’ve tried to include a YouTube clip to each parody I run, so that the reader can turn it on and listen to the tune while reading the parody. If you have found a clip that matches your parody, please include the URL in your e-mail; it’s fine to say “Start at 0:45,” for example, if the song has an introduction and you’re just using the main verse. I love being able to share the clips, because it’s fun to have a wide variety of songs and genres, and a fun way to discover new ones.

Also in recent parody contests, some intrepid entrants have made their own videos in which they or someone else sings the song; some have been elaborately produced numbers with graphics. I’m delighted to get and share the videos, but I’m still judging the songs by the same standards as the non-video entries. If you include the lyrics in graphic form as in the one linked to above (it’s very useful when lyrics are the important element), you might want to run them by me first; one year, someone wrote in misspellings and a few lines that just didn’t work, and I ended up not running it. If you’re going to do a video, please don’t publish it as “public” until I post the results; set it so that someone can access it if you give the link (and send me the link, duh).

By the way, this week’s prize is a mini-version of one that Tom Witte donated earlier, courtesy once again of his daughter Michelle. I took a picture to show the scale, but it didn’t come out well enough for The Post to use on the page; here it is with my very small hand clutching it.

Let’s Only See Every Ridiculoustricktomaketabackronymwork: The results of Week 1025

Actually, this week’s results were perfectly legit in my book; I didn’t have to resort to entries in which, say, the name was misspelled (“Hilary Clinton,” “Vagasil”) or the sentence being spelled out seemed to have been written by Google Translate 1.0, into Urdu and back. Lots of timely, biting humor in the week after the Snowden leaks were published, with an entertaining variety of approaches to the same word or name; I ran three for NSA, but there were probably a half-dozen other good ones as well, such as Not Strictly Accountable (Frank Barker), Now Surfing Anonymously (Mike Jacobs) and Now Say Aah (John Glenn).

I did find that extremely long backronyms seemed just too hard to read, at least in the paper. But I almost gave ink to John Bunyan’s for National Security Agency: Not Anything Troubling to Investigate, Obstruct or Notice About Legally-ish Seeking Evidence on Criminals by Unconstitutional Records Investigation of Telephones! Your Average Government Espionage -- Nothing to Concern You

In the results of Week 632, the last time we did this contest (with product names only), I ran the entries without saying what they “stood for”; the reader had to work it out. While it’s true that a little effort and a delayed revelation often makes humor rewarding, I thought it was just too much work to puzzle out dozens of entries at a time. It was pretty arbitrary whether I had the name before or after the backronym; once in a while it just struck me that such an entry would work better with the reveal at the end.

Lots of both brand-new people and almost brand-new people in today’s results! Before this week, the total ink Jay Cummings amounted to an honorable mention in Week 936 and another one in Week 941. So he’ll be able to say MWAHAHAH himself to the “Cantinkerous” Losers of the past 20 years, some of whom blotted up more than 90 inks before finally getting the treasured statuette.

Meanwhile, though Chris Doyle has a few more inks than Jay, about 1,488 or so, and has declined to clutter up his house with any more prizes, even he could use some toilet paper, even with euros printed on it. (Maybe not the accompanying no-tear roll, though.). Then it’s back to the newbies — with two First Offenders in the third and fourth spots. Paul Stackpole and Ben Shouse, along with your FirStinks for your first inks you get your choice of the Cup Punneth Over mug or the Grossery Bag; let me know which one you want.

With Malitz toward ... Paul Stackpole’s “Recalibrate, Bro ...” for Bryce Harper was the choice of Sunday Style Editor and mostly Pirates fan David Malitz.

More on the paywall

I still haven’t heard back from Post people about what links to Post stories will count toward the 20-per-month limit of online articles that you can access without a digital subscription (subscribers to the print Post get everything online free). But I’ve done some experimenting and there are a number of ways you’ll be able to circumvent the paywall so that you might provide us with material for which you may or may not be compensated with a 20-cent magnet..

First, it seems that links in Post stories to other Post stories won’t count against your limit. So if you want to check the long Style Invitational Rules and Guidelines linked to in each week’s Invite, it won’t cost you.

Second, all links to Post stories through Facebook and Twitter are also supposed to be free. I tested this with Lydia Nicola, a London-based Loser who’s such a fan of The Post that she already hit her limit this month, and she was able to read the Invite and Conversational through Facebook links. Yet another reason to join Facebook and the Style Invitational Devotees group.

Third, clicking on a link from Google to a Post story is also supposed to be free. This means you can Google, say, “Style Invitational Week 1029” (I wouldn’t use quotes) and there’s a good chance you’ll find the offending story that way. I wasn’t able to locate the Style Conversational the same way last weekend, but I think that’s because, until this week, I wasn’t using the words “Style Conversational” in the headline, since it was part of the logo. Let’s see if that trick works this week.

If you log on from a government, military or school computer system, that’s supposed to get you in as well. I’ll be eager to hear whether that works.

Once again, however, I do think $10 a month is a very reasonable price to get all of what The Washington Post has to offer. I’m certainly paying much more than that for my print subscription. News gathering, and even Empressing, isn’t paid for by tax dollars; the money has to be raised from advertisers and, when that’s not enough, from users. You’re all users.

Coming up: Lunch at the Gettysburg address, but first the Hyattsville address

I’ll be out of town on July 21, for the next Loser brunch — at Busboys & Poets’ branch in the newly artsy, close-in town of Hyattsville, Md., but it sounds like great fun. RSVP to Elden Carnahan here. And here’s a heads-up for the day trip on Sunday, Aug. 18, to Gettysburg on this 150th anniversary of the battle. Gettysburger Losers (and I don’t mean Rebels) Roger Dalrymple and Marty McCullen will lead us in a tour of the battlefields, and we’ll have lunch at the Appalachian Brewing Company pub — the Royal Consort and I had a great time when we went with the Losers a couple of years ago (until I happened to get sick at the end). We should work out carpooling on the Devotees page.

What is ‘coming in second by $2 on “Jeopardy” and thereby getting to win $2,000 of the $19,000 you racked up’?

It’s called being a Loser, of course. Still a great showing, aired just last night (three months after the taping), by 27-time Loser Beth Morgan of Palo Alto, Calif., whom we met on our California vacation a few weeks ago. You can see a play-by-play of the “Jeopardy” match, minus the Chitchat With Alex, here at j-archive.com; just roll over the clues to see each answer and who answered what.

A Style Invitational acrostic!

Reader and Invite fan Jim Cowie did us quite an honor — he constructed a Style Invitational-themed acrostic puzzle. You can access it and print it out to solve at the Losers’ page, nrars.org.

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