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

Week 939: Doubled-up features, and a flood of natural-event poems

Happy autumn, everyone. I’m sitting amid a pile of sundry silly objects that are destined for door-prizedom tomorrow at the Flushies, the Style Invitational Losers’ own awards ”banquet,” which this year will invade Granville Gude Park in Laurel, Md., rain or shine, from 1 to 5 p.m. As of Thursday night, the current count of Losers, their hapless auxiliaries, and a few hangers-on is 51 out of a maximum of 70, so there is room for you if you’d like to RSVP immediately and pay your $25 per person at the park. The thing, though, is that you really have to promise to come, or at least pay: The people from Famous Dave’s Barbecue will be delivering food for the number of guests the Flushies organizers tell them.

If you’d always wanted to pay homage to The Great Chuck Smith of Woodbridge, for example, or to see Years On End Top-Winning Loser Kevin Dopart dribble barbecue sauce on himself, you couldn’t find a better venue. As usual, I’ll be there to congratulate (a.k.a. mock) the Loser of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and various winners of commemorative toilet paper. I’m bringing the Loser T-Shirt dress created and donated by Loser Barbara Turner as a prize, just so Barbara can show it off before we give it to the winner of the Week 937 contest. This is the second dress Barbara has made for us; the first one was won by Dion Black, who — without coercion — sent us a picture of himself wearing it.

There will be at least one Loser-performed song parody in honor of the occasion, and some other thing the organizers won’t tell me about.

So if you’d like to come and you haven’t contacted Loser Guru Elden Carnahan, e-mail him pronto at elden [dot] carnahan [at] gmail [dot] com and promise him convincingly that you and your money will be there on Saturday (or at least the latter), and he’ll give you the directions to the park and various other details. It’s supposed to be fall weather, not summer weather, so the Speedo made out of Loser magnets should probably be saved for another occasion.


Veteran Loser Christopher Lamora, now stationed in Guatemala City, visited the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook and suggested several contest ideas, the first being “portmanteau titles”; he suggested “Hoop Dreams From My Father” and “Red Dawn of the Dead.” (My failure to mention him in this week’s Invite column — except for his poem — will cost him a point in the Loser Standings, but hold on...). As I too often am wont to do, I immediately responded, “Portmanteau titles we’ve done exactly.” And I said this quickly because I’d recently responded the same way to several other people who suggested the same or a similar contest (and that’s why no suggester’s ink for Christopher).

And I was right — we had done them exactly. But after checking Elden Carnahan’s new Master Contest List, I realized that the “Mash” contest was from all the way back in 2005 — the Empress Era, but early in it. Which means there are scads of movies out there that couldn’t have been used the first time around.

This week’s contest is different in two significant ways from Week 610 — it’s more restrictive in one way, less restrictive in another. First, this is for movies only; the first contest also extended to plays and TV shows. But more significantly, the first contest specified that the two fused works “have a significant word in common,” while this time we’re not asking for that explicitly. Why? Well, look at the first example, a runner-up from Week 610: “Please Don’t Eat Miss Daisy.” The two movies had no single word in common — there was just “Daisies” and “Daisy.” Clearly, I’d either forgotten or decided to ignore (or seriously bend) the rule of the contest when I found the entries I liked the most. (The winner, “Terminators of Endearment,” had the same sort of problem, and the honorable mention ”Gandhi-haw” — “an hour of Delhi laughs and homespun humor” (Bob Dalton) had it worse. So this time I didn’t use the word “portmanteau” or ask for a word that appears in both titles. But most likely, most of the entries will be portmaneaux anyway.

This is a contest made for the 25-entry limit. (I was really saved by that new policy in the Week 936 neologism contest for plays on foreign phrases, since I got 349 e-mails. Knowing that none of them should contain more than 25 terms is extremely heartening to this wearying brain.)

As I noted in the results to Week 610, I’d gotten a lot of funny titles that week with nothing funny to describe them. To get ink in this contest, you’re going to have to be funny on both sides of the colon.


I was informed — also on the Facebook page, and also by Christopher Lamora, for that matter — that I’ve put up a lot more poetry contests in the past year than in a typical year. It’s hard not to, though, when the Greater Loser Community includes so many star light-verse poets.

Someone else griped at so many limerick contests, and urged a larger variety of poetry. Well, Week 935 — poems about a natural event — yielded an English 201 survey of varied poetic forms, with 25 inking entries ranging from four words (by Mae Scanlan) to 39 lines (Amanda Yanovitch). And though most of the entries concerned the Virginia earthquake and Hurricane Irene (given that the contest was announced Sept. 2), others pondered Vesuvius and Pompeii and Krakatoa; the San Francisco quake of 1989; Katrina and Tohoku. And, from someone named Lee, Lee.

The Inker this week goes to a fairly new, very enthusiastic Loser who’s getting better and better. Matt Monitto, a sophomore at Elon University in North Carolina (but a Connecticut native) who blew us away with his polished and clever song parodies, appropriately blew us away with his long-form (iambic heptameter, or “fourteener”), beautifully crafted poem about the hurricane. It’s Matt’s first Inker, but his 14th ink, since he first surfaced in Week 902.

Our three top Losers are all well-known funny poets: Edmund Conti and Mae Scanlan have been published in light-verse publications for several decades, while Nan Reiner has propelled herself up the Loser charts in the past year with great help from her versifying skills. (While Edmund is hiding out in Raleigh, N.C., Nan and Mae are both coming to the Flushies — Nan will sing the song she wrote for the occasion, with Mae accompanying her keyboard.

Some recurring themes: The “earth moved,” for once, during sex — Tom Witte’s rhyme edged out the others; and “shaken and stirred,” featured in entries that pretty much canceled one another out.

Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford’s “Haw” of the week was actually a haw-haw: a tie between Tom’s earth-mover and Mel Loftus’s “underwater” verse. But she was most excited to see all the winners from her home state of North Carolina.

I got an interesting poem from Jonathan Molinatto of College Park, Md., that confused me:

What soft, pale light through yonder branches comes?
Is that the east? No way! Is that the sun?!
Arise, my friend, and wake me from my swoon,
As I am sick of rain and frail and thin
From lazing in this tree with just Irene,
Who kept me from my bed since yestereve:
While hunting ice to keep the spoils at bay,
The rains came up and washed my car away.
This morrow, oak, I bid you by-the-by...
I wish I had not climbed you quite so high.

Aside from the unrhyme of thin/Irene, and a classic dangling participle (“while hunting ice ... the rains came up”), I liked the way the Shakespeareanish poem read, but I couldn’t figure out: He’s “lazing” in a tree DURING A HURRICANE? Or at least a post-hurricane rainstorm? That is one mellow guy, even if he’s frail and thene.

But even more interesting was the contribution from Kathleen Brasington of Annapolis, who’d won a couple of inks a couple of years ago. When not making a real living, Kathleen is a songwriter and performer who lists her genres as “Comedy/ Piano Rock.” Kathleen even has a CD out, called “Full Frontal” — and it’s terrific. You can listen to the whole thing here; I especially liked “Play Me Like a Piano” (a title that makes a good excuse for an eye-catching album photo) and “Tall, Dark and Gay.”

Anyway, Kathleen sent me the lyrics and a link to a clip of her song “Disaster,” which is “about natural disasters but celebrity disasters, which maybe kinda sorta counts.”
Here’s one passage:
It’s hard to find a job with my qualifications
But it’s not that I don’t have dreams and aspirations.
On Job Fair Day, when they called my name,
I said, “I wanna be a catastrophic hurricane.
Gonna blow Charlie Sheen right out of the water.
I’ll be ten times worse than that Hilton guy’s daughter.

Next year, Kathleen, we’re booking you for the Flushies. See 50 of you tomorrow!

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