Week 1023’s Martian orders: Form three lines


Bob Staake’s original sketch depicting a cellphone in space.
May 23, 2013

Yeah, I know, water isn’t going to be sitting in a space toilet anyway. Still!

Week 1023 should be lots of fun for those Losers who complain about the Empress’s strictness about/ failure to understand rhyme and meter: This week neither is necessary. But neither is either forbidden! Anything (printable) goes, as long as it’s 5-7-5 in syllables; I’m going to get the complaints from the purists no matter what disclaimers I put in. (I’ll even be flexible as to what’s a syllable; “fire,” for example, could be two syllables as well as one, for those who say “fye-er” rather than something closer to “fahhr.”)

The deadline for the actual NASA contest is July 1, and the winners will be chosen by the public later that month. Our results are going up well before that, on June 20, so feel free to send your Style Invitational entries to the NASA contest anytime. Maybe the public will go for irreverent humor! Naah.

Meanwhile, NPR.org’s blog The Two-Way (we assume that’s a play on broadcasting jargon) has been inviting readers to post their efforts. I’ve seen a couple there that were a bit Invitey, but most are along the line of “red titan of rome/ celestial wanderer / teach us to know peace.” Lovely, but we’re not in the market for lovely. I’d prefer you not post your own entries there until after the Week 1023 results go up; then feel free to send either inking entries or your “noinks,” as the Style Invitational Devotees have taken to calling them.

We’ve done several haiku contests in the Invite over the years: The first, in 2000 (according to Elden Carnahan’s nifty Master Contest List), was to construct haiku using only words found in headlines in that Sunday’s paper. The results are here, also courtesy of Elden). In 2002, we asked for haiku about particular politicians (results here). And in the Era of the Empress, we’ve had two very successful contests for current-events haiku (Week 827, results here, below the new contest, and Week 917, ditto). So I’m confident on this one.

Now available on your device: The results of Week 1019

It was Bob Staake’s own contest idea, concurrent with his book-tour visit to Washington: Think of things to do during Screen-Free Week, a whole week when, if we follow the wishes of the book industry, we tear ourselves away from our LCDs and various other Ds and celebrate the world around us, presumably by reading printed books. To help his publisher Random House promote the campaign, Bob had compiled his own humorous list of 31 activities, almost all of them based on the premise of re-creating or substituting for some online addiction or custom. And as you can see by this week’s results, most of the entries for this contest — maybe three-quarters — took the same tack. And so I sometimes had to choose among several funny ideas for the same joke: So while, for example, Neal Starkman gets ink for his suggestion to “take turns calling up people you barely know and tell them what you had for breakfast,” I could also have gone with Christy Tosatto’s “Draw pictures of your restaurant dinners and mail to friends and relatives,” or Kevin Dopart’s “Leave voicemail messages about funny cats with all your friends.” Or one of several others. But I did have to choose.

I’m wishing that I’d asked Bob to draw a cartoon of Art Grinath’s winning entry, rather than one for the new contest. But I’ll leave you all to re-create it with your own personal faces, or perhaps those of your loved ones. Art has been Losing in the Invite since all the way back in Week 106, intermittently having his run of more than 300 losing inks broken by 15 actual first-place wins. And it is my firm belief that Art is one the two funniest current or former economics professors in America, the other being Biggest Loser Ever Russell Beland. It was great to see Art at the Flushies this month; here’s a photo of him among the Great Unwashed at a 2008 Loser Brunch (he’s the second, mischievous-looking guy on the left, next to Dave Prevar). Art also ended up with fourth place this week, but I’m going to assume he’d prefer the Inkin’ Memorial to a mug or bag.

It turns out that all four of our “above-the-fold” winners this week are longtime Losers, though the other three are much more discriminating. Snagging the yummy-looking giant gray gummi rat is Josh Feldblyum, who got his first ink in Week 462; this is his 16th ink, and his third above the fold. Josh has been entering the Invite more than usual lately — perhaps he’s been up all night with his newborn. Another even more intermittent longtime entrant, Keith Waites (first ink Week 263), gets his first above-the-fold ink and his eighth overall. And our very favorite New Zealand radio host, Andy Bassett — catch his live-streamed show at, well, 1 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday nights (it’s 5 p.m. Sunday there) — blots up his 29th ink since Week 562, and his fourth big-deal prize.

Andy, by the way, recently shared a beautiful music video he produced of his own song “White Crosses,” about the impromptu memorials that spring up on highways — I guess around the world.

With Malitz toward ...

This is how we’ll be announcing the weekly pick of my new editor, David Malitz, who’s now in charge of all of Sunday Style. David and I have been working together for two weeks now, and we’re clearly on the same page about what the Invite should be. This week David’s pick is Neal Starkman’s HM, about calling up people with your breakfast news. I just learned that, like me and the Royal Consort, David is also an alumnus of the Diamondback, the University of Maryland student newspaper. We didn’t overlap in College Park, however, since when I graduated in 1980, David was off that year being born.

Special communique from the master of the Hunt

This morning I asked Gene Weingarten, who with Dave Barry and Tom Shroder is one of the masterminds behind the Post Hunt — the enormously popular, bedeviling brain-teaser/city fair that The Washington Post Magazine puts on every year — whether he had anything to share in the Conversational. All he would offer is “It’s June 2, and will be very tricky, in a way the Losers are uniquely equipped to handle.” He refused to elaborate. Information and practice puzzles are at washingtonpost.com/posthunt. I hope that this year we’ll finally get a Loser team among the top finishers. Coordinate in the comments thread here or, probably more fruitfully, on the Devotees page.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone. I’ll take those Week 1022 entries on Tuesday if you insist on spending your Monday memorializing.

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