The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Week 933: You might not have a novel in you, but how about 56 words?

By the E, Pat Myers

Good morning, everyone. The Style Invitational is making a relatively rare venture this week into free-form writing with Week 933’s 56-word-story contest. There’s no doubt that the Loser Community in general prefers highly structured contests, and I always get a lot more entries for a contest that calls for a short wordplay, or maybe a cartoon caption. But as this week’s inking (and many clever non-inking) song parodies demonstrate, it’s clear that there’s a lot of writing talent out there in Loserland, and of course a lot of imagination.

And at 56 words a pop, how many good ones do I really need, anyway?

Answer: Ten. Maybe nine.

As to what “a story” is: It’s something in which there are some action and some character or characters. It’s not just a little musing, a la Jack Handey’s “Deep Thoughts.” But I think I’ll be very wide open to just about anything that’s interesting and funny and EXACTLY 56 words. Note that compound words — i.e., two full words joined by a hyphen — count as two words. This is different from a word combined with a mere prefix, such as “re-” or “non-”; (for the suffixes “-like” and “-less” — which really aren’t being their own words there, even though they are of course words in other contexts — you can skirt the issue by omitting the hyphen altogether).


Yet another song parody success, and a fun one to judge: Not only were some of the tunes used new to me, but I was unfamiliar with some of the TV shows as well. (Actually, one of my signal weirdnesses is that I haven’t watched any TV series regularly in a long time; I used to work at night and just couldn’t bring myself to record them and set aside time to watch them later.) Fortunately Mr. Internet explained everything to me, or, if I was feeling especially lazy, I just asked the parody writer about a certain point.

Because of the above, the Week 929 entries were not the ideal ones to take on my family’s short, Internet-less camping trip — the contest was “pegged” to the death of “Gilligan’s Island”/ ”Brady Bunch” creator Sherwood Schwartz, which didn't fit too well with my vacation schedule — but I had time to go on my lengthy YouTubing excursion when I got back.

There weren’t as many entries as in most of our contests, or even most of our song parody contests, but there were at least hundreds and many of them were quite lengthy, so there was certainly plenty to judge. And I liked a lot of them. I wasn’t as willing as in the past to pull out a single verse from a song rather than run the whole parody; for one thing, some songs told stories (like this week’s winner), and for another, it’s just more satisfying to be able to sing a whole song or at least the verse-bridge-verse.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as lenient on the rhyming as in this week’s judging. You’ll see numerous not-kosher matches even among the top winners: “greener house/ Fledermaus”; “autopsy/ we can see”; even the ouchy “tantrums/ rant moms.” Maybe it was my mellow mood amid the oceanside pines of Cape Henlopen; maybe it was the recordings I was listening to later, when making my final choices, that got me relying more on vowel assonance. It’s quite possible that a year or even a month from now, I’ll look back and tsk-tsk myself. But I’ve always held that the strict rules of rhyme and meter might possibly be bent if the poem were funny enough, and I guess that’s what I felt during the judging this time, repeatedly — they were funny. (No, limericks are an entirely different story. Don’t even think about it.)

Because of the length of this week’s four top winners, all the honorable mentions appear online and not in the print paper. I could have cut some lines out of the songs and rejiggered things to get one HM onto the page, but that didn’t make sense to me. As it was, only the first verse of Brendan Beary’s second-place song made the paper; it runs in full online.

And as I note at the end of this week’s column, song parodies take a long time to read and appreciate, because you shouldn’t just eyeball them: You should read the parody while you’re listening to the song in your head (on on the YouTube link), or you should sing it out loud. So it’s often a couple of minutes spent with each song. For this reason, I ran just 14 songs in this week’s results, even though there are several more (possibly many more) that deserve to be heard; I was concerned that readers simply wouldn’t get to the last songs on the list. (Note: Mad Magazine’s famed song parody features usually contained only a half-dozen or so songs.)

So instead, I’m holding a number of songs to run online in the future, one or two at a time, along with the results of that week’s contest. They’ll count as honorable mentions for Week 929, even though Lifetime Keeper of the Stats Elden Carnahan has no doubt already begun gathering ripe tomatoes to fling at the Empress for adding more tsuris to his task.

It’s the first Inker — and the the 38th ink and the third “above the fold” -- for Nan Reiner, who thundered into Loserdom almost exactly a year ago and quickly became a fixture, both in the Invite results and in person at various Loser brunches and other social events, as well as on Losernet, the Loser-run e-mail group, and now volubly on the Style Invitational Devotees site on Facebook. Nan’s spot-on story-song about “Kate Plus 8” — set to the “Brady Bunch” theme — was sent right before the show’s cancellation.

(Incidentally, if it’s early on Friday and you didn’t see Bob Staake’s cartoon on this week’s Invite, that’s because the square dimensions didn’t fit the template I can use and I’m awaiting assistance from Paul the Guy. It’s illustrating the winner. You can see it here.)

Meanwhile, it’ll surprise no regular Invite reader to see Brendan Beary’s name twice amid the parody ink. This week’s tribute (dystribute?) to PBS gives Brendan his 27th second-place win to match his 27 inkers. And shirts or mugs go to two more veteran Invite poets: Jeff Brechlin, whose grisly “CSI” song really must be read while Mister Rogers himself croons the tune, and Kathy Hardis Fraeman, who skewers the what-were-they-thinking “Toddlers and Tiaras.” All four top winners each sent several terrific entries that I hope to share eventually.


Falling just short of ink but certainly deserving of mention this week were the video clips created by new Loser Amanda Yanovitch and featuring her three precocious and — sorry, boys — adorable sons: A song for “Book TV” called “ZZZ-Span Presents”; for “Hoarders,” “Dump” by “Minivan Halen”; and for the show about the Duggar family and its 19 kids, “Don’t Stop the Breeding.” (it helps to know the melodies of “Jump” and “Don’t Stop Believing ” for the latter two songs).

Not to mention the clips by older Loser Drew Knoblauch, whose rhymes were even looser than I could take this week, but who did a very funny parody of “Paparazzi” about the celebrity gossip site TMZ, and put it on video set to Drew’s (I assume) own keyboard performance, a rather ruminative, lyrical version of the thumping Lady Gaga tune. And even funnier, though not exactly polished, is his tribute to the series “Hung” (an HBO show about a male prostitute), set to the lovely strains of “Moon River” and called something that the blocking software might flag, so just look at the link and the nice picture, for some reason, of a koala.


The special late-August edition of the Loser Brunches is on for Sunday, Aug. 28, at 1 p.m. at the Appalachian Brewing Co., Gettysburg, Pa., followed by a battlefield tour provided by ’Burger Losers Marty McCullen and Roger Dalrymple. I understand that we have seven people signed up so far, including me and the Royal Consort; if you’d like to join us, click on the link above to RSVP and get the details. I think some carpooling might be arranged; Gettysburg is about 65 miles north of D.C.

Read what others are saying