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

Week 964: Our most marketable prize yet — a grocery bag; and our voyage into Amazon

By the E, Pat Myers

Last time I ventured into the fascinating mess that is the Style Invitational Prize Closet (still in there: toy eyeglasses with a piece of toy snot “dripping” from the nosepiece), I noticed that we didn’t have too many Loser T-shirts left. Meanwhile, I’d been amassing a collection of promotional tote bags from various sources; I take a half-dozen of them to my bag-it-yourself supermarket every week, and have even been using them as ad hoc storage bins at home and at work. And I thought: You can NOT have too many of these babies. And they take up virtually no room. And they don’t break in shipping. And you can put a really big picture on them!

And so in Week 964, we ask the Loser Community for suggestions for what the tote bag should feature. One cool thing is that this piece of non-woven polypropylene could well end up being one of the artsiest-looking cheap tote bags around, because the artwork will be committed by Bob Staake himself — late of a very much talked about New Yorker cover plus an inside picture of Rush Limbaugh. a week later. Bob also has a new children’s book out (with Peter Stein), “Bugs Galore,” and several more are in the works, including the stylish “Bluebird,” a wordless book that uses a mostly monochromatic palette to beautiful effect (the link is to a vertical banner; the book isn’t really in the shape of the Empire State Building).

What we’ll do, just as we did for the last mug contest (Week 906), is to choose the winning idea, which might be either just a slogan (as that week’s winner was) or something more picturey. Both Bob and Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford (it’s her budget) will have input along with me. The maximum space for the design is 12 inches wide by 8 inches high, and has to include “Style Invitational,” the Washington Post masthead, and “” — hey, at least it’s not your chest that will be the walking billboard. We’ll pick out a color after we decide on the design; our choices will probably be red, blue, pink, orange, purple, lime green, forest green, burgundy and khaki — so don’t do something whose punch line relies on, say, white or black. It’s very important that the design require no more than two colors, in addition to the background of the bag itself. And the design will be on just one side; don’t give us ideas that call for an opening line on one side and a punchline on the other.

Traditionally over the Invite’s 19 years, the runner-up prizes (given to the third- and fourth- place finishers and occasionally one or two more) have featured the word “LOSER”; that’s how the contestants came to be known as the Losers. Your entry may take that tack, but it’s not a requirement (note that the latest mug is not technically a Loser mug). Or you might play on the runner-up idea, or just refer to the Invitational in general. In the past, some but not all of the designs have referred to the objects they adorn; the back of the current Loser T-shirt, for example, says, “Last Seen Wearing This Shirt.” The previous edition had “Object in T-Shirt Is Brighter Than It Appears.” Another great T-shirt slogan, from years back, was “Less Taste, Great Filling.” Your slogan shouldn’t be totally arcane, something understandable only to regular readers, much less only to contestants. Otherwise, think of that sigh, followed by yet another robotic explanation, you’ll have to feed to the next person in the checkout line at Safeway.


After we finally got the right links out to everyone last Friday, we received a fun assortment of rapturous reviews for the five household objects advertised on (still never explained: Who’d mail away for table salt?). Anyone who sent in an entry is now free to (in our book, anyway) post the review on the actual Amazon page; I saw some joke reviews there already, but they weren’t Invite entries. If you got ink today and post your entry to one of those pages, I suppose you should mention that it has been published by the Style Invitational.

Proving that you can sneak political humor into the unlikeliest Invitational contests, rookie phenom Melissa Balmain grabs her second Inker and fourth “above-the-fold” ink since her debut four months ago, with her testimonial for the white thread, from Mitt Romney (he should watch out, though — leaky Etch-a-Sketches can get silver stuff all over the shirt sleeves). Melissa also gets an honorable mention for an entry “from” Mitt’s anti-elitist opponent Rick Santorum, BA, MBA, JD, lauding dishcloths.

Mining the same vein that has brought him a certain fame for the past nine years, Jeff Brechlin offers up a Shakespeary iambic ode to the black pocket comb, much like his winning entry for Week CLXI, in March 2003, a truncated sonnet that delivered the instructions for doing the Hokey-Pokey. (You may well have seen the “fervid Hokey-Poke” poem just in the past few weeks, since someone’s photo of it — uncredited to Jeff, alas — has suddenly been going viral, or perhaps bacterial, in the social media and on various blogs. Numerous non-Losers have sent it to me for me to admire.) This week’s ink marks this 358th blot for the man the Loser stats list as Beef Flinch, Jr. The owl boluses couldn’t go to a more nature-loving father; Jeff famously posed his infant daughter, nestled in her little baby seat, on the ground for a photo, next to a big snapping turtle he’d just come across. (The daughter is still extant.)

Due a mug or shirt (or I guess they could wait for a bag) are Connecticut collegian Gregory Koch, who picks up his second above-the-fold ink with his pithy celebration of the taste of salt; and Maryland professional collegian (i.e., economics professor) Art Grinath (aka Rag-Thin Rat) with his warning to purchasers of dishcloths other than The World’s Best.

I didn’t hear from either Lynn Medford or her fill-in editor this week about which entry she preferred over my own choices, and I’m afraid I don’t have anything that’s really Scarlet Letter material — someone wrote something tasteless about salt being useful for feeding corpses to people, but eh, you’ve seen one cooking-corpses-in-a-Dutch-oven joke you’ve seen them all.

Last week I neglected to note the return to Loserland of Mark Young, who from Weeks 402 to 652 ran up 64 inks and then vanished, Invite-wise. I happened to see a post from Mark on Twitter a few weeks ago and I invited him back; he got an honorable mention last week and may be back for more.


I suppose we can find a pack of little teacher’s-pet-type gold and silver stars to sprinkle among the Losers at the next Loser Brunch, Saturday, March 31, at 11 a.m. at Paradiso on Franconia Road, close outside the Beltway off the Van Dorn Street exit. Ann Martin will have swum across from England by that time, and I plan to be waiting there, beach towel in hand. RSVP to Elden Carnahan sometime before then. And arrive hungry — it’s a very nice buffet.


Neighsayers, saddle up.

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