Hello, everyone. It’s almost 3 p.m. on Thursday, and I have entirely lost — into the ether — the initial, 1,300-word-plus version of this column, except for some of the tribute below to our newest Hall of Famer, Steve Dudzik. So you’ll be spared some of the entry analysis and other thumb-sucking in this Convo 2.0.
As the Week 1024 Style Invitational notes, this homage to Edward Gorey’s “Gashlycrumb Tinies” (original 26 lines and drawings here) asks only that you write two little rhyming lines. The flip side is that it’s hard to be funny in two little rhyming lines. You can do it, though, or at least the Losers did in Week 757. Here are the results of that one (scroll past the Week 761 contest, and also read around the little ads interspersed). Note how topical the rhymes were; the big deal that week seems to have been the resignation of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer after the revelation of his hobby engaging expensive prostitutes. But any sort of printable irreverence is fine.
Do note that almost all, but not all, of the inking entries are in the galloping dactylic meter that Gorey used in “Tinies.” I didn’t make it a requirement, but looking back at the Week 757 winners, I feel that Ellen Raphaeli’s runner-up S/T couplet — “S for Spitzer: squanders sums for sordid sex: sore luck./ T is for Testosterone: turns titan into schmuck” — seems out of place as it marches amid the waltzing couplets surrounding it.
I am now officially late — a status that will probably be in effect for a year — in preparing the booklet of collected ink of (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.), our newest member of the Style Invitational Hall of Fame, in which Steve joins the legendary Chuck Smith, Jennifer Hart, Russell Beland, Tom Witte, Chris Doyle, Brendan Beary and Kevin Dopart. Along the way — and it’s a very long way, since Week 7 — Steve has won the Invite 15 times: first in 1996, for suggesting items for Martha Stewart’s to-do calendar (“Gild Lilies”), and most recently for a contest to caption a page from one of Bob Staake’s picture books (“Mr. Wilson went to his grave denying that he gave Dennis the Menace the special elderberry hot chocolate”).
One of Steve’s specialties in the Invitational was The Ear No One Reads, a deliberately cryptic award given out by the Czar in the first five years of the contest. As I explained in a Post online chat in 2004 (on which I just spent 15 minutes wallowing in nostalgia):
“The Ear No One Reads was published every week in the Sunday Style section over several years and credited to the winning contributors in the body of the Invitational, though it did not appear there. In newspaper lingo, the ears are the little blurbs on the sides of the masthead on the front page (where it says The Washington Post, or Style). On A1, there’s a weather ear, for example. In Style until the masthead was redesigned in the late 1990s, there was a line that said People/Fashion/Gardens.
“One week we suddenly realized that People/Fashion/Gardens didn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense, seeing as how the gardening columnist, the incomparable essayist Henry Mitchell, had, well, died. It seemed a little too brusque to just drop “Gardens,” and so the editor of the Sunday Style section at the time, one Gene Weingarten, had the idea of replacing the standard text of the ear with something “Mysteries of Life Unraveled,” to see if anyone would notice. The next week he had “Walking on Eggshells With Hob-Nailed Boots.” Then he started using ideas sent in by readers, and the Czar credited them for writing The Ear No One Reads.”
The thing was that the Czar would never explain what it was — people had to figure it out on their own. Instead, he would say stuff like this: “The Faerie of the Fine Print & The Ear No One Reads would like to observe that we have begun getting tormented letters from people who don’t know what The Ear No One Reads is and want to find out. We feel their pain.” I’m sure most people never figured it out.
Steve had a number of these Ears published: “Featuring Sequentially Numbered Pages”; “Perfect For Making Huge Origami Cranes”; “For Audio Version of The Post, Read Stories Out Loud”; “Roll Into Cone for Emergency Funnel”; and many more. So many that Steve took the nickname Ear Boy, one he uses to this day. Weirdo.
In addition to 20 years of ink, Steve has shown up — usually late, but there — at dozens of Loser events. He’s been there at the advertised hour, however, at the several Loser Holiday Parties he’s had at his house in the Maryland outer suburbs. And presumably he wasn’t late was right on time for his July 2000 wedding to Lequan , an event at which numerous Losers were in attendance, and to which Steve didn’t wear a Loser T-shirt.
Okay, this is where I will not reconstruct my elaborate analysis, complete with various examples, of how the “grandfoals” contest — in which the horse names being “bred” are often complex puns themselves — inevitably involves ignoring one or more elements in the parents’ names, or the term being punned on, and that the rare entry that ingeniously manages to incorporate every last element often isn’t very funny. Maybe we can discuss it on the Style Invitational Devotees page, after the Devs start posting their many, many “noinks” that were robbed of recognition by That Nasty Old Lady.
There were indeed lots of very clever and funny entries; although I ended running 60 — which is probably too many for any sane person to puzzle out in a sitting — there were easily 60 others that could have substituted, were the first 60 unable for some reason to perform their duties. And 39 individual Losers will be getting prizes next week.
At least three of this week’s four “above-the-fold” winners — I’m not sure about relative newbie Nan Reiner — have had notable success in our equine contests over the years. But Madonna and Chilled makes the first win for foal-name specialist Laurie Brink, who gets her 35th ink, including the four honorable mentions she got four weeks ago in Week 1016, the initial foal name contest. Meanwhile, Nan makes up for an inkless 1016 with four horses this week, including the “hug a loser” mug-winning Shad ’n’ Freud. Week 1016 winner Mark Eckenwiler is baaaack with five more inks, including the mug- or bag-bagging Anti-Fun Gal, and Double Hall of Famer Tom Witte made me laugh out loud with his use of Viper to refer to what mellower people might call Mr. Happy, especially since it’s only an Intermittent Viper.
There was only one First Offender this week — congratulations to Ron Moretti for Burning Sensation x Pane in the Ash = Hot, Cross Buns — but several Losers picked up their second or third inks; given that according to Keeper of the Stats Elden Carnahan the vast majority of people who get Invite ink never appear in the ’Vite again, I’m always happy to see the brand-new people return. Kudos especially to Lisa Henderson, who got her FirStink air “freshener” for Week 1016 and this week snarfs up three honorable mentions.
Last year we ran yet a third horse-names contest, using the 35 or so names from the Week 1016 list of 100 that didn’t get ink the first time around; while that contest actually went well, and I could judge these things all year round, I think it ventured into overkill.
There’s plenty of scatological humor in this week’s entries, so these aren’t as shocking a contrast as in some weeks. But I wasn’t about to run:
Burning Sensation x Wiener Returns = Chlam Dip (Kevin Dopart)
Cleavage x Waste Point = MoreThanaMouthful (Tom Witte, though More Than a Handful might have passed muster)
Mountain Doohickey x Round Yon Virgin = She’ll Be Comin’ (Nan Reiner)
Urine the Money x Smooth Operetta = Piss Sing Contest (Nan Reiner)
Meanwhile, Jeff Contompasis, the father of young daughters, designated this fairly subtle one as “ ’Verse only,” so I must oblige: West Pointy x I’m Turning 50 = South Pointy