Style Conversational Week 1057: Our mugs here


It was a toss-up (hardehar) about which photo of this week’s second prize would go in the paper. We went with the other stupid one rather than this selfie. (Pat Myers/The Washington Post)

Well, I had this sports-themed contest to do. And I’d just gotten this basketball-glasses prize from Nan Reiner. And, as usual, I was writing up the new contest Monday night at home at about 2 a.m. and I needed a picture of the thing. Hence the selfie. And that night I posted on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook: “I have just sent the layout person a selfie of me demonstrating this week’s second prize. Tomorrow I might come to my senses and decide that, really, there’s no need to make myself look both idiotic and scary in a major metropolitan newspaper.”

Fortunately, the Royal Consort was home the next day, courtesy of the federal government’s weather-sequester, and took a head-on photo. While my personal offspring differed on how much I should humiliate myself in the print pages of The Washington Post, I was persuaded to use the tiara-and-sweatshirt version after my predecessor, the Czar of the Style Invitational, opined on the selfie: “You look 87. And demented.” So I went with looking Only Somewhat Older Than the Actual 55. And Demented.

If you have a better memory than I do, you might remember that the very design for our new Loser Mug was actually published (as a Photoshopped mockup) in the print Style Invitational of March 6, 2011, as an honorable mention in a contest for ideas for the previous mug. (In one of the facepalmier flubs in Invite history, the explanation of what the mug would say — complete with “trying to show this as art instead of a description” — ran right next to the picture.)

Why am I using an honorable mention from Week 906 rather than one of that week’s runners-up? All the “above the fold” entries were of course very good, but they weren’t suitable for mugging this time around: Jeff Contompasis’s “One ounce short of a pint” won’t work because the new mug is a more wieldy 11 ounces rather than the current 15; Drew Bennett’s two-sided “Sometimes you lose . . . and sometimes you lose” wasn’t workable for production reasons; and Tom Witte’s “Middle-Wit Champion” ended up on a Loser Magnet instead.

The new mug is already in production and should arrive within two weeks. As I said, it’s smaller and lighter-weight than the first two “El Grande” models (but it allowed us to have more colors in the graphic). Last week’s third- and fourth-placers both asked for mugs rather than Grossery Bags, and those might be our very last two “My Cup Punneth Over” models (The snow kept me home from the newsroom’s Invitational Prize Closet this week, and I don’t remember if I had any more than that.) So this week’s third- and fourthers probably will have to choose either the Love/Loser (and wait awhile) or the bag.

Even more than with our Whole Fools bag, we did worry about copyright infringement on Robert Indiana’s LOVE image, originally painted in 1966 for a postage stamp. But fortunately for us, the artist didn’t obtain a proper copyright on the image, and lost a court case shortly afterward. Since then, the New York Times noted just a few months ago, the tilted-O square has been “emblazoned on posters, depicted in paintings, hewed in marble and sewn in sequins. It’s in English, and in Spanish and Hebrew and Chinese. And it is cast on coffee mugs, splashed across magazine covers and on the sides of a pair of high-top Converses.”

But I hope it’s never been shown like this before.

So as long as we just give the mugs away as prizes, and don’t put them on the market, our lawyer says we’re safe. (Though we’re also, as always, pretty darn sorry.) I’ve ordered 100 of them, so this edition will last us anywhere between one and two years, depending on who opts for it versus the bag. Thanks, by the way, to Royal Scion No. 2 Valerie Holt for Photoshopping Bob Staake’s design onto an image of a blank mug.

When our [stuff] fits the fan: This week’s contest

When it comes to the apotheosis of trivia-geekdom, sports fans can definitely duke it out with movie buffs and history nerds — two of the blocs we pandered to in previous fictoid contests. So it’s certainly time for a turn for bogus sports facts in Week 1057. Basically, the false fact needs to be more than just-not-true; it needs to make some sort of point or joke, even if it’s a subtle or unstated one.

One tack to take is to spoof a well-known factoid. For instance, it’s widely reported — with wildly varying numbers — that it takes 43 muscles to frown and only 17 to smile. In Week 812, Barbara Turner won some paper dolls depicting the George H.W. Bush family by noting: “It takes twice as many muscles to make an armpit fart as it does an actual one.”

Another way is to cite some statistic that sounds slightly plausible — if your brain gearshift is stuck in N. For our first, unthemed “Unreal Facts” contest, in 2007, Joseph Romm won the Inker (the predecessor of the Inkin’ Memorial) with this fictoid: “Although the Chinese outnumber us 4 to 1, Americans have a greater combined weight.”

How sports-insidey can the Week 1057 entries be? I admit, it’s a tough call. I am not, at least not now, a rabid sports fan, but I read the headlines and occasionally watch games. Back in the ’70s, I had a weird early-adolescent obsession with NFL football, and can still recite whole lineups of, say, the ’72 Dolphins. I used to follow pro tennis avidly, have concerned myself with horse racing’s Triple Crown since I was 6 years old, and have watched thousands of hours of Olympics coverage. But please don’t concentrate on those sports just to increase your chances of ink; I can Google with the best of them, and can get a feel for how well known some player or event is.

Tough asks to follow*: The results of Week 1053

(*Kevin Dopart’s non-inking entry for an honorable-mentions subhead)

Just like the Bank Shots bank-headline contest, the perennial Questionable Journalism contest suffered not at all by being opened up to quotes from publications other than The Post (though the large majority of Losers continued to use the work of Our Benefactor). As usual, there were lots more good entries than I had room for, probably including your favorite “noinks,” as the Devotees call the also-rans. (They often share them on the Devotees page right after I post the results. Feel free.)

When I logged onto Facebook this morning, I was informed that today is the birthday of Loser John Folse. And so I’m especially pleased to be able to send him a little bobblehead as a birthday present: John’s reinterpretation of the joys of “buying a record” gives him his first win — in fact, his first above-the-fold ink — in his decade-long career of very intermittent Invite-entering, for his eighth blot in all.

Non-intermittent entrant Brendan Beary is back on the leaderboard in one of most successful contests over the years, allowing him to become intimately acquainted with an oven mitt that looks a whole lot like the Czar. It’s the 17th ink and the second runner-up for Michael Greene, whose “you can insert a chicken soup recipe” quote came from a Charles Krauthammer column about the Affordable Care Act. And Jeff Contompasis — JefCon to his devoted fans — continues past 350 blots with his 30th above the fold.

With Malitz toward ... This week’s fave of Sunday Style Editor David Malitz was Brendan’s Weiner joke (“I guess I’ll go low this week,” David says. (And if that’s not low enough for you: Unprintable entries from Week 1053 are tucked away at the bottom of this column. If you don’t like tastelessness — a perfectly valid preference — please don’t look at them.)

Everybody’s talking about the weather!

Loser Jeff Shirley alerted me that David Letterman devoted one of his Top Ten lists this week to our still-running Week 1056 contest, new meteorological terms. Well, he didn’t actually mention the Invite, but anyway, if you submitted any of the following jokes, you’re out of luck, unless the description is in­cred­ibly great:

Top Ten Recently Adopted Meteorological Terms
10. Chris Christie-esque Belt of High Pressure
9. A Desolation of Smog
8. Global Moistening
7. Oprah-and-Gayle Warning
6. Low Visibility in San Antonio
5. Fahrenheit, Celsius and Mild Celsius
4. Drizzle-Izzle
3. Extreme Mildness
2. Premarital-Cipitation (??)
1. Michelle-Obama-Stare Icing

An anagram to drop the imperial jaw

The letter I sent out to First Offender Jon Gearhart and other Losers of the Week 1051 anagram contest read thus:

“The Washington Post
1150 15th STREET NW
WASHINGTON. D.C. 20071-7403
January 12, 2014


Congratulations - you lose.
 If you create an anagram out of this entire letter, it will reveal ...that you are even nuttier than I thought you were for working out that ingeniously, zingily funny anagram for Week 1051 of The Style Invitational.
 And so I’m pleased to present to you this fine award, on behalf of Wet Hogs in Hot Pants.
Cherish your prize, you Loser, and keep it coming,

[signed] The E
The Empress of The Style Invitational
a.k.a. Spry Meat
losers@washpost.com
myerspat@gmail.com”

I then hand-wrote this on the bottom:
“Great anagram, Jon – my favorite among numerous efforts on the healthcare.gov theme. ‘Enjoy’ this FirStink for your First Ink – and keep entering – I promise that the real prizes aren’t half as smelly.”

A very few days later, I received this e-mail from Jon:

January 17, 2014
To the effervescent Empress,
 I’m willing to guess that you never thought that you’d hear this sudden folly from me so soon. I just want to take the time now to say thanks for the lovely FirStink. Everytime I smell it’s refreshing, heavenly elephant shit fragrance, I’ll think of you.
 I apologize if it’s an inappropriate annoyance to write to you like this. I hope that such a dazzlingly praiseworthy woman can always use a brown-noser like me puffing smoke up your...ego.
You’re so greatly entertaining, a master perfectionist, an enlightening prevaricator of truth.
Jon Gearhart
Des Moines, IA
105121150@thy_tenth_wart.org
1520071403@what_a_fat_ho.com
P.S.- This is an anagram rearrangement of the letter you sent me, numerals and footnote, too.”
----
YES, IT CHECKS OUT.

Did you have to ask? Unprintables from Week 1053

First, some that aren’t tasteless but they’re just too insidey for the general Invite:

A: The whole house smelled like pine needles.
Q: How did you know I got my first ink? (Jeff Contompasis)

A: Life is what happens when you’re not reading the headlines.
Q: What did significant others of SI non-inkers say to them after the recent Bank Shots contest? (Roy Ashley)

Now, for the yucky yuks:

A: “We have to stop at 2, and they can keep going and going.”
Q: Why do the anorexics always lose to the bulimics at the hot dog eating contest? (Mike Ostapiej)


A: What was once a term relegated to the back alleys of NWS offices, private meteorological meetings, and weather geek forums has gone mainstream.
Q: Why is the Weather Channel recruiting meteorology students for “blow jobs”? (Ben Aronin)

A: The recovery clearly remains incomplete.
Q: Bill Frist, what would you say about Terry Schiavo now? (Kevin Dopart)

And the Scarlet Letter goes to ...
A: “But I think I’m coming into my own again.”
Q: So it’s true that you’ve stopped wearing my underpants while watching those videos? (Roy Ashley)

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