Style Conversational Week 1067: Don’t forget to Flush

April 10

Before we get to this week’s contest and results — or, this week, results and contest — I wanted to let you know that the info for this year’s Flushies award lunch on Saturday, May 10, is now online at bit.ly/flushies19. If I consider you an extra-special friend (i.e, if you’re on the Invitational mailing list), you should have received an e-mail from me at noon on April 9. I’m going out of the country for a bit over a week starting the evening of Thursday, April 17, so there might not be a Style Conversational next week, and there definitely won’t be one on April 24. So this might be my only chance to beseech you to get your check to Elden Carnahan early so that the organizers don’t have to increase their blood pressure medication.

This will be the 19th annual Flushies, an event created and run entirely by the Loser Community, not The Post (I just pass along the invitation, and of course show up at the event to take my place atop the dunk tank). As it has several times before, though not for the past few years, it will take place at the Holiday Inn in College Park, Md., which makes up with convenience and value for what it might lack in quirky charm — but hey, the Losers bring their own.

There’s a buffet with good food; a cash bar; tons of free parking; and a sound system and a closing door that allow for the Singing of the Parody or Parodies, which are being composed now; one is always in honor of the Loser of the Year. There will also be plaques awarded to the Rookie of the Year, the Most Imporved (sic) and even the Least Imporved (sick). Also, if in the past Loser Year (roughly March to March) you’d reached a milestone of 50 blots of ink, or 100, or various other levels, or possibly just had your best year ever, you will be presented with a Valuable Useful Prize commensurate with your wondrous achievement. And a large fraction of the group tends to go home with one door prize or another.

But the best part is the chance to meet and chat with lots of funny people, the flexible (euphemism for warped) minds that make The Style Invitational, year in and year out, one of the most, uh, weekly features in The Washington Post. And just as at all Loser events, the atmosphere is all very relaxed — it’s not at all a battle-of-wits quipfest. You don’t have to have Invite ink to come to the Flushies — we’ve had a number of curious guests who just enjoyed reading the contest results every week and wanted to see if, say, (Kevin Dopart, Washington) was one person or a whole staff of humor writers. (Kevin has already RSVP’d, by the way.)

All the details should be on the link above. The hotel is right at U.S. 1 and the Capital Beltway, right between I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which makes it an easy day trip from as far as Philadelphia, and out-of-towners could spend a weekend during what’s usually the nicest month of the year. You can’t walk to the Metro station to go downtown, but the hotel might have a shuttle. If you’re in the D.C. area and need a ride, post something on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook, and someone might be able to help you out.

Actually, there isn’t a dunk tank. That I know of. There will, however, actually be a punching bag — one of those inflatable ones that fall and bob back up — with a photo of the Empress’s face on it.

History in the m(ist)aking*: The results of Week 1064

(*That’s a no-inking alternative headline by Danielle Nowlin)

Our “Week 1066 Minus 2” contest — to alter some moment in history and describe the effect — drew a goodly number of entries (some seem to have been a high school class assignment) and even a number of good entries, with alternative histories dating from the Big Bang all the way up to three weeks ago.

Last week, I noted that many of the Week 1062 compare-or-contrast entries shared a similar form, exemplified by Edward Gordon’s non-inking but funny “bellybutton lint is different from Buzzfeed quizzes because one is a bit of stinking fluff and the other collects in the navel.”

This week there was a different ubiquitous trope, which I’ll call the Oh Wait joke, since “oh wait” appeared 18 times in my file of the Week 1064 entries. Here are a few, some clearly better than others:

If Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace had never been born, we might not have the theory of evolution and people would still believe we’re all descended unchanged from Adam and Eve. Oh, wait... (Douglas Goralski)

If Spain had won the Spanish-American War, we might have had a large infusion of Latinos and Spanish would be a second language... Oh, wait a minute. Well, at least BS would stand for buena suerte (good luck). (Howard Walderman)

1917: The czar thwarts attempts to overthrow his reign. As a result Russia experiences corruption, people exiled to Siberia, widespread censorship, disparity in the distribution of wealth, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Oh wait, that is what happened anyway. (Steven Cawman)

1941: A typhoon sinks the fleet attacking Pearl Harbor, the United States never fights Japan, Japan becomes a huge economic power and the American economy is dominated by Japanese cars and electronics. Oh, wait, ah, I guess the outcome is the same. (Alan McDowell)

1969: What if Neil Armstrong’s first words on the moon were “Hah! In your face, Russkies!” As a result, Russia harbors a grudge against the United States and Western Europe. This culminates in 2014 when Vladimir Putin invades the Cri— oh, wait; never mind. (Neal Starkman)

1990: Marion Barry is not caught smoking crack and corruption continues in D.C. mayoral politics. Oh wait, no difference. (Scott Poyer)

I could have chosen one joke in that form to run this week — more than one would have been overkill -- but I just liked the inking entries more.

Year 19 Loser of the Year (and memorable Flushies speaker) Gary Crockett picks up his sixth win, and second Inkin’ Memorial — with his coffee-spittingly funny thought that if the DNC had been based at the Willard hotel, all our scandals would now end in “-lard.” Actually, at that time, the historic and grand Willard, a couple of blocks from the White House, was a ruin — it was closed in 1968 and went into serious decay for many years until it reopened with opu­lence in 1986. So in 1972, the Willard probably looked like this inside.

Another inveterate ink-snarfer, Frank Osen, gets the Penitential Hair Shirt (a burlap sack) for saying “Putbusser.” Evidently a real medieval/Renaissance hairshirt was much nastier than burlap: Used by some religious people in a practice akin to self-flagellation, it was a garment full of sharp bristles (usually goat hair) that not only itched, but cut into the flesh all day long. We’ll be perfectly happy if Frank sends us a photo of himself wearing his shirt over another shirt.

While Gary and Frank have 243 blots of ink between them — I hope they’re not wearing white if they ever meet in person — and 34 showings “above the fold,” runners-up Kathy El-Assal and Ken Schwartz have saner lives: It’s Ink No. 25 for Kathy, including an Inkin’ Memorial, and just No. 7 (and 8) for Ken, who got Ink No. 1 in Week 6 — our first cartoon caption contest.

With Malitz toward ... The favorite this week of David Malitz, editor of the Style half of the new Arts & Style section, is Ellen Ryan’s “William the Man” joke.

Once again, time for a change: The Week 1067 contest

I shared Bob Staake’s cartoon — actually a fascinating series of his sketch, his black-and-white version (for this weekend’s print Invite) and the full-color product — on the Devotees page earlier today, and asked if anyone could guess the caption — and thus the contest. People came close — there were several plays on “bolt” — but nobody volunteered the quote from “Jaws,” altered and reattributed to Igor.

Mike Gips suggested this contest to me a while ago; I thought it sounded familiar and traced the concept to Week 251, in 1998. But it seemed ripe for repeating: Not only has it been 16 years, but many of the names used for attribution then (scroll down for results) are only footnote-famous now: Harry Helmsley. Marla Maples. Terry Nichols. Cecil Jacobson. The Menendez brothers. Marv Albert. Steve Fossett. Even Dan Quayle, you know? I’ll be featuring inking entries over the next week on the Style Invitational Ink of the Day — as a promo for this week’s contest — and my fingers are crossed that people will remember John Bobbitt, Jeffrey Dahmer, Larry King and, heck, Saddam Hussein. So I’m optimistic that we’ll have lots of fresh quotes and freshly attributed people.

When Mike sent me examples with this contest suggestion, he sent them in a two-line format:
And miles to go before I sleep (R. Frost)
And males to go before I sleep (J. Jameson)

I think the humor will usually work better if you don’t first state the original quote, because it lets the reader bring it to mind himself, which enhances the payoff (just as Gary Crockett did not say “Watergate” in his winning entry). But I can envision instances where a change might be very funny, but just wouldn’t be clear enough without showing the antecedent first. (In fact, one of Mike’s other examples, which I won’t share here in case he wants to submit it as an entry, would work better if the original were included.) So I’m allowing that option as well.

So if you don’t hear from me next Thursday, happy Easter, happy Passover, happy horse-naming. I’ll visit the Devotees page and check my e-mail when I can from April 17 through 25, and will be busy getting both the Week 1068 and Week 1069 contests ready to go by next Tuesday.

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