Style Conversational Week 1072: Rhymes with ‘howlin’ ’ — The Loser of the Year


Danielle Nowlin with the Rookie of the Year plaque, only the second most wonderful thing she’s ever had in her arms: the other, of course, is the Loser of the Year plaque. (Bruce Alter/Bruce Alter)
May 15

I promise that it’ll be at least nine months before I start rounding up people again for the Flushies, the annual award lunch in which the Loser Community “honors” its own. But as always at the Flushies — even the time it was outside and raining in October and we all froze — it proved a blast for the 45-odd (also 45 odd) Losers and their handlers who attended.

This year, the amazing Nan Reiner took over as emcee and raised the bar in a quantum leap, introducing each of a string of people with a custom-written poem or song. Flushies Founder Elden Carnahnan performed the ceremonial Throwing Of The Toilet Paper to award all the Losers who’d passed various milestones of ink-blotting, and I made my usual remarks about how the Invite managed, despite some threatening change or other, to survive another year. And Loser Bard Mae Scanlan read a delightful poem to Kevin Dopart on the occasion of his finally not finishing atop the Loser stats.

But as always, the event culminated with the announcement of the Loser of the Year, prefaced by a custom-written song parody, this year written by Brendan Beary and Nan, and sung to the Elton John song (duh) “Daniel” (here’s some of it):

There’s a young Loser who’s new to our game,
But it didn’t take her long to snag Invitational fame.
Oh, and… we just hope she’s not gonna need
To clean up her entries, ’cause soon her kids will learn to read.

The Oeuvre of Nowlin, it’s all such a treat.
We’ve gotta throw the towel in; we know when we’re solidly beat.
Oh, but… maybe she’ll give The White House a shove
With her smart-ass sendup on how they blew “healthcare-dot-gov”.

Oh, oh, oh... Danielle of Woodbridge, you’ve earned… har-de-har-hars
With rhymes on Harry Reems, and well-hung men from Mars.
Your gags are sly; they’re risqué, raw, and wry.
Danielle, you’re a star in the Loserdom sky... .

What is it with Woodbridge that makes Losers keen?
Ever since Year 1 it’s been the key Invitational scene.
Oh, but…as we embark on Year 22,
Now the Invite groupies will ask Chuck Smith if he knows you....

At age 32, Danielle Nowlin is the youngest Loser ever to win Loser of the Year in the Invitational’s 21 years. And she’s just the third woman — and the only one who was raising kids at the time. I’m always asked why men have historically dominated the Invitational at the highest levels, and my hunch is that women with young kids just don’t have the time for such frippery. So I was thrilled that Danielle managed to be both fiercely clever and fiercely competitive while not unduly neglecting her 4- and 2-year-old Loserkinder and her supportive husband, Ryan.

Along with Loser of the Year — awarded to the year’s highest-inking Loser who hasn’t won before (she tied with Chris Doyle with 87 inks, but he won in Year 10), Danielle also won Rookie of the Year, which goes to the highest-scoring Loser who hasn't been competing two full years.

Because it was only Week 995 — near the end of 2012 — when the results of one of our Ask Backwards contests included this: Answer: Google Mirth. Question: What did Al Gore do to celebrate inventing the Internet? (Danielle Nowlin, Woodbridge, Va., a First Offender)

And since then, Danielle has just been storming all over the Invite, in all sorts of contests, sometimes with four or five inks in a single week. Here’s a sampling:

A made-up definition for a real word: Hispidulous: Tending to spew saliva on others when speaking. “The hispidulous preacher’s congregation got used to being rebaptized every Sunday.”
— A made-up bank headline for a real Post headline:
Post headline: A handy tool for bakers and travelers alike
Bank head: Rolling pin perfect for bopping grabby TSA agents, say frequent fliers
A limerick on the news:
Pope Benedict dressed to the hilt —
Prada shoes, golden threads in his kilt —
But for Francis, no-flair
Vestments simple and spare:
Say! A Catholic without any gilt!

— A riddle that puns on someone’s name: Q. What do many of the male cast members of “Girls” have in common? A. Lena Dunham on-screen!

— Foal name: Texas Bling x Departing = Ex’s Bling

— What to do during Screen-Free Week: Call it “The Hunger Game”: Give the kids a corded phone and the number to the local pizza place. First one to figure out what a phone jack is gets to eat.

— Haiku to be sent on the Mars orbital probe:
Well, hello, Martian!
I see they were wrong about
“Little” green men. ROWR!

— Alphabetical couplets:
W’s your Wife, whose sweet love never ends;
X rates the porno she made with your friends.
— Pairs of building features: Pumps at a Sicilian gas station: Unleaded and Sonny Corleone

— Song parody that describes a movie:
“Sally Hemings: An American Scandal” to “White Christmas”
I’m dreaming of my black mistress --
You know, the one I’m glad I own.
Oh, her soft lips glisten; I can’t help kissin’
My dear Sal when we are alone.
I’m dreaming of my black mistress —
Who says you can’t buy love outright?
May she be free (but just at night)!
And may all our children pass for white.

— And in honor of this week’s contest, neologisms from ScrabbleGrams letter sets:
AIUKQSW: Quawk: Any Scrabble “word” that will score you a whole bunch of points if you can get everyone to believe your BS definition. Really, that’s what it is!
AOLDPRL: Laplord: Dog.
AUYMSPG: Pygma: A tiny but formidable family matriarch. AND Guymap: “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I know where it is.”

So far, Danielle has a total of 109 blots of ink, including two wins and 10 runners-up. And I have good reason to think it won’t be far off when I’m writing up a little Conversational tribute to her 500-ink ticket to the Invite Hall of Fame.

(Lots of photos and video clips from the Flushies have been posted to the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook; just keep scrolling down to see more and more of them.)

Jumble fever: The Week 1072 contest

I’d been waiting all year to give another go to the ScrabbleGrams contest. The initial list that Jeff Contompasis sent me when he suggested the first contest yielded these 7-letter sets as well. Given the enormous success of last year’s contest — I fortunately had the chance to spread the results over two weeks -- I’m much more confident this year, and am putting up fewer than half the options I offered in Week 1021. For inspiration and guidance, look at the results here and here.

Peeved with good intentions: The results of Week 1068

Since I gave out more than 50 prizes to the slew of Losers getting ink for the foal names of Week 1066, and then almost 40 for the altered quotes of Week 1067, I’m not really crushed that Week 1068 proved something of a bust: Asked what their first act would be if they got to be in someone else’s place, most entrants sent in what was essentially an Andy Rooney-style “you know what bothers me?” gripe, without the wit that would turn it into a funny joke. Today’s inking entries easily distinguished themselves from the rest of the pack.

It’s the fifth win in 57 blots of ink — an impressive ratio — for Ben Aronin. Speaking of youthful ink-grabbing, Ben first appeared in the Invite in Week 350, when he was 17. Meanwhile, I’ll try not to crush the paper-ring dog-shaped toilet paper cozy when I send it off to Jeff Shirley, who’s now quickly scored five entries “above the fold,” and 31 inks, since his debut in Week 1005.

Above the fold (i.e., the winner or a runner-up) is a familiar spot for 452-time Loser Beverley Sharp, who’s finished there 41 times, but a more novel experience for Michael Greene, who wins another Loser Mug or Grossery Bag in his third runner-up win and 20th ink overall.

David Malitz didn’t read the page this week — actually, yesterday I found out that he’s gotten a promotion and I’ll likely be dealing with a new editor. But today it was my long-ago boss — Mary Hadar, who was the editor of the whole Style section for a dozen years; who hired me as copy desk chief at age 27 in the 1980s; and who gave the green light for the Czar to start The Style Invitational in 1993 — who proofed the Invite page (a former copy editor herself, she immediately noticed a typo) and voted for Beverley’s mosquito entry as her favorite.

Shirt Happens: Alternative runner-up prizes

Founding Loser Elden Carnahan has decided to de-clutter his house a bit, and given that he's been an Invite winner or runner-up 71 times, you can figure out what some of the clutter is. At the Flushies, Elden Carnahan delivered into my hands several shopping bags’ worth of old prizes, including a trove of Loser T-shirts — all unworn or almost — dating back to the Year 2 version. I do plan to give a couple of these away as second prizes, but I’d also like to offer them to future winners or runners-up who’ve already won the same prize several times over. So perhaps Beverley would want a Genuine Elden-Won Shirt From the Past.

Elden also showed up with a thick stack of Style Invitational bumper stickers with various slogans; these were the czar’s equivalent of the magnets that the Empress instituted for honorable mentions — and people could get several in a week, if they had multiple ink. But because the stickers don’t fit flat in a standard mailing envelope — one of the reasons we switched to magnets — Elden instead will give them out in person to people who attend the monthly Loser brunches. The next one will probably be July 20 at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, Md. — check the Loser website at nrars.org for updates. (And of course I’ll announce it here.)

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