By the E, Pat Myers
Good morning! It is for me, anyway, since it seems that I won’t have to worry about getting new first-prize trophies for the next four years. After 10 days of failing to find a new supply of Inkers — the Thinker bookends that we used for the past 419 weeks, putting paper bags over their heads to shield them from ignominy — and then coming up with a pretty cool replacement, but only 15 of them — just last night I learned that the manufacturer of the bobblehead that we’re calling the Inkin’ Memorial had agreed to make 250 more. If we would buy 200 of them.
Enormous thanks to Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford for giving the go-ahead last night: not only for funding a prize that costs more than double the previous one, but of course for showing faith that the Invite has at least 4.25 more years in it. If Lynn is able to make it to the Flushies on May 12 — she’ll stop by if she doesn’t have guests from out of town that weekend — be sure to be especially nice to her and NOT make fun of her drawly accent and NOT complain to her that The Washington Post is going down the toilet and your paper is always delivered into the bushes.
The little placard in the photo is a rough draft generated from my home inkjet printer and taped to an index card. The plan is for The Post’s art department to do it up all fancy-like, on some sort of card stock or tagboard. The winning Loser may just prop up the card as in the photo, or dab a little glue on the Mister Lincoln’s legs. The bobblehead itself should be pretty impressive to those who’ve received Inkers; while only 5 1/2 inches tall, it’s made of a weighty plasterlike resin. And the head bobbles with abandon. Another nice thing is that each Inkin’ Memorial is packed in molded styrofoam and squeezed into a box; it’s unlikely to break in transit. This is a big improvement over the Inker, which was so lightweight that it’s hard to see how anyone could have used it for its ostensible purpose as a bookend, and was so fragile that the base would break off if you looked at it with a nasty glare.
So all you have to do is win first place in The Style Invitational. Piece of cake.
Well, maybe it isn’t so cakey this week. As I note in the lead of this week’s Invite, Chris Doyle produced the example of RUSH to SLUT as one of his many amazing entries for Week 961, the contest in which all the words in an entry had to have the same number of letters. I thought we’d done this very contest before, but I couldn’t find it on Elden Carnahan’s Master Contest List; it’s much like — but significantly different from — this one from Week 314 (March 1999), which asked people to “start with the name of a famous person ... Progress through a series other names or phrases. Each name or phrase must be related to the prior item either by being a homophone or a definition. Eventually, arrive at a name or a phrase that is an appropriate pairing with the original name.” For this one, you’re just changing the words by one letter at a time.
This week’s contest might prove incredibly daunting; I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the words used in the chains prove somewhat tenuous. I’m not worried, though, because I can always fill the page in four weeks with any number of fine entries from past weeks (not to mention the horse name contest of Week 965). Also, it’s not important to have a really long chain. It is important to have a funny one.
WHAT A BUNCH OF SMART-ASKS: THE RESULTS OF WEEK 962
Oh, man, this was a fun one to judge. It always is — I think this is the 10th time we’ve done the Questionable Journalism contest (under various names), and I’ve always found lots of material over which I spit the proverbial coffee (or, sometimes, the literal coffee). Not that many people entered, which isn’t surprising for a contest in which you have to do research (as opposed to, say, the horse names, for which you just have to look at the list on the Invite page). But many Losers sent sizable lists of entries, and I found myself with far more good questions than I could use in one week. (There are 40 online, 19 in the print paper — they take up a lot of space.)
I often send a short-list of several dozen entries to my predecessor, the Czar of The Style Invitational, when I’m trying to make my final cut from the entries I most like, and want to make sure that another reader will understand them. This time I sent him something like 100 entries. Very often, he’ll choose no more than 20 or 25 percent of the list. This time — it’s the only time I can remember that he did this — he said he really couldn’t help me: They were all terrific.
It’s the second Inker (and the last ever for anyone, unless they’re resurrected in many years) in only eight inks in all for Cathy Lamaze of the Washington area. (Her first one was for an offbeat contest in which we ran a partially filled-in crossword grid, with maybe half the letters in a given word shown; Her winner: Go for the regular: Rallying cry of the mediocre.) Her nerdiness joke this week drew lots of laughs from family members when I read it out loud in the car (I carry printouts everywhere for judging).
On the other hand, Dave Prevar — winner of the cow-dung-paper journal (not to be confused with the Wall Street Journal, which is bullish) — picks up Ink Blots 209 and 210 this week. By the way, Dave once again is coordinating the May 12 Flushies festivities, along with Elden. It is not 100 percent coincidence that the event will be held in Annapolis, home of (Dave Prevar, Annapolis). If you would like a closer venue, Dave will probably let you replace him as Flushies coordinator. Info and RSVP information here to attend the Flushies.
Loser Sue Lin Chong, who’s been Inviting on and off since Year 1, gets her 178th blot for an uncannily fitting Donner Party joke; and Hall of Famer Brendan Beary, who’s been depressingly selective about which Invite contests he’s entering, gets his choice (as does Sue Lin) of shirt, mug or, now, bag for a joke that also earned the weekly HAW from Lynn, “Even at the risk of being fired!!!” (Nah, it’s very mild by Invite standards.)
I was happy to see the return this week of some lately missing names, most notably Russell Beland. With more than 1,500 inks, Russell is by far the top-Losing contestant ever; after many months’ absence, he entered Questionable Journalism, one of his favorite perennial contests (not only did he come up with the idea for it many years ago, he’s won it three times: in 2001, ’05 and ’07).
Russell was the first person I met in the Loser Community; for many years, he wrote his own online column about the Invitational (this was mostly before the Style Conversational began in 2007), complete with savvy advice on the new contest and a critique of the results (and the judging), as well as related news. And within one day after the Czar announced in February 2001 that he would be replaced for three months with “the Auxiliary Czar” and “the Uberczar” — the only information (no names given) was that the Auxiliary Czar was female; the Uberczar was not; and they were both Jews — I received an e-mail from Russell requesting an interview by e-mail for his newsletter, The Weak Week. I complied, beginning a frequent correspondence over many years in which Russ was, let’s say, not too shy about offering his opinions. While I think it’s kind of sweet that he’s found life beyond The Style Invitational, I still hope he starts entering regularly again. He is really funny.
Also back on the page after almost a year is Frank Mullen III, of Illinois (and I think formerly of the D.C. area). Frank debuted way back in Week 138 and has picked up 39 inks in his occasional visits to Loserland.
QUESTIONS THAT COULDN’T BE ASKED: THE UNPRINTABLES
Lots this week, especially from the incorrigible Dixon Wragg, who gets the Scarlet Letter this week for the whole body of unprintable work. To (much) wit:
--A. Both he and Santorum campaigned hard in recent days.
Q. What part does Viagra play in Romney’s appeal to women voters?
--A. Change came in the form of the Rev. Alex Mullaugh, a priest who was assigned to the chapel on the hospital grounds, where Santorum was the only altar boy.
Q. What is the ultimate derivation of the lowercase noun “santorum”?
--If you expect people to bend to your wishes every once in a while, then you must bend to theirs every once in a while.
Q. What version of the Golden Rule is observed both on Capitol Hill and in prison?
— A. “It’s time to come together, it’s time for us to get behind one candidate and get the job done.”
Q. What would be a really unfortunate slogan for the Santorum campaign?
But Dixon didn’t have a monopoly on unprintability:
A. “Several of his cohorts in discourtesy are snorting and grunting in my inbox even now.”
Q: According to his fourth wife, what is the best part of being married to Rush Limbaugh? (Judy Blanchard)
A. Ann Romney talks openly about her love of horses.
Q: How is Mitt’s wife different from Catherine the Great? (Robert Schechter)
A. Whack a little and then retreat.
Q: What advice would you give to a pervert just starting out? (Robert Schechter)
A. “In an instant, Wang’s recovery is threatened.”
Q. Why did the break of John Wayne Bobbitt’s bike chain cause such concern? (Roger Dalrymple)
Happy Easter and Passover weekend, everyone — eat up!