By the E, Pat Myers
Hi, everyone, and before I forget, I should wish you a happy Thanksgiving now, because I don’t think I’ll be posting the Conversational next Thursday; I’ll do it Friday.
Sure enough, I encountered my first Salvation Army bell ringer yesterday outside the Safeway. Yesterday as in the 14th — not even halfway through November. So I don’t feel so bad starting with the holiday stuff this week — especially since the results to Week 997 will be running in the Dec. 16 paper.
Not to mention that the idea for the contest popped up so alluringly on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook, and from a brand-new Devotee, Daphne Steinberg of the D.C. suburbs. Daphne, who’d joined the group just a few days earlier, sort of tiptoed up to the page and queried politely: “Pat, as a Style Invitational virgin since I’ve yet to submit an entry, I don’t know the protocol for suggesting a contest topic or if I’m even allowed to do so. Nevertheless, I have an idea ...”
As many ticked-off Losers can attest, it’s a lot harder to get a contest idea used than to get ink for an entry. I turn down the vast majority of suggestions, either because we’ve done that contest and I don’t think we can come up with another whole page of great entries, or because I think the contest would be too limiting, or too duplicative, or — this is very common — all the entries are likely to be close variations on a single joke.
I hate to reject contest ideas: For one thing, I hate to disappoint or discourage people (yeah, I know, I’m in the wrong job). But also, I NEED them. With luck (see next section), I’ll need one every week for a long time, with the exception of scheduled contests like the obit poems (first of the year) or the horse names (before the Kentucky Derby) and, every two years, the joint-legislation contest.
So Daphne’s idea — along with the follow-up suggestion by Brendan Beary that the entry might include part of the sales pitch — grabbed me right away: It couldn’t be more timely, and it should draw a wide variety of humor. Even spoofs of fundraising pitches could go many ways. And it’s not the kind of contest that requires a lot of “work” — perusing a week’s worth of news stories; creating a perfectly formed poem. You just have to be funny.
Meanwhile, Loser 1.0 Elden Carnahan, Keeper of the Stats, has compiled — because he truly cannot help himself — a list of 606 magazines that can be used for the Week 996 contest to combine two titles of periodicals (this list is in no way restrictive; any real magazine that’s not on the list is good to use as well). Elden also announced this morning: “I have a spreadsheet that will give you random combinations of the 606 magazine names.” To which Absurdly Obsessive Loser Jeff Contompasis replied: “Did you add a sheet to generate all 366,630 order-dependent permutations?” Thanks, guys, but I think we’ll just stick with the list of names and let the Losers permute them themselves. But I’m thrilled at that “606” and the hundreds of thousands of possible combinations, since that means I’m not too likely to get 25 versions of any one pair of magazines.
ALL SHOOK UP
Quote of the day — the day being December 20, 2011, when I posted this to the Devotees: “Quote of the day, courtesy of Washington Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli: ‘You can count me among the fans of The Style Invitational. You can count on doing it as long as I’m here.’ ”
So we found out this week that we’ll actually be doing it longer than he’s here — the final day for that fan of The Style Invitational will be somewhere around Dec. 31. We have absolutely no reason to think, however, that my future uber-boss, Marty Baron, currently editor of the Boston Globe, won’t appreciate highbrow poop jokes — or, more to the point, appreciate the creativity, loyalty and enthusiasm of the Invite’s readers and contestants. For those who work in the vocabulary of the New Media, the Invitational is one of our most enduring examples of the coveted “UGC” — “user-generated content.” So hopefully we’ll continue to have you users generate content well past our 20th anniversary this coming March. (I couldn’t help notice that, in contrast to the bespoke and polished Brauchli, Baron seems a bit ... rumpled. Like a news guy. Maybe he has an easygoing sense of humor, too. Without a doubt, he has an excellent reputation as a newspaper editor.)
HISTORY UNDER RAPS: THE RESULTS OF WEEK 993
I’m so glad I overcame my initial hesitancy about doing this contest. Okay, it was inevitable that Style Invitational poems are not going to sound like classic rap, but then again, neither, really, do those on the real Epic Rap Battles of History — and those are videos. What this contest showed up perfectly — much as the the Your Mama contest did — was how well the Losers can juxtapose fairly erudite references to historical and literary subjects with a form that goes out of its way to come off as lowbrow and “street.” For instance, I was surprised but not shocked (har har) to receive three separate trash-talking raps between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla (Seth Brown’s squeaked out the narrow victory).
On top of that, the bards of the Loser Community just can’t help but come up with ingenious clever, sophisticated rhyming; I couldn’t bring myself to say, “Sorry, it’s just not authentic to match up ‘passé, Annette’ with ‘and bayonet,’ “ as Nan Reiner did in her Obama-Romney smackdown. (I wasn’t as much a stickler for perfect rhyme and meter this time around, though it was more about looking the other way on “abominable”/”indomitable” rather than “doctor”/”chiropractor.”) And finally, I knew that the Losers would come up with some really unusual, imaginative matchups.
Yup, yup, yup. I’m looking forward to showing this week’s results to Marty Baron as an example of What The Invite Is. (Once again, as in the recent song parody contest, I averted my eyes to the fact that some of the better raps went longer than I’d asked for.)
With her 40th (and 41st) ink, Amanda Yanovitch is knocked out of the running for the Cantinkerous award to the Loser with the most inks who’s never won first place (Brad Alexander is holding on with 81, according to Elden’s list at bit.ly/newloserstats). Amanda’s duel between Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth is an instant haha as soon as you see the names of the characters, but they also are given great trash-talking lines — including, in perfect rap rhythm, “hexametaphosphate.” And be sure not to miss Amanda’s hilarious honorable-mention video between Santa Claus and the folkie children’s entertainer Raffi. Amanda has three talented young sons who’ve been recruited in earlier videos; they’re all probably destined to be her rivals in Invitedom before long.
Though she’s not exactly in the typical rap demographic (here she is a few years ago with Mae Scanlan at a Loser brunch), Beverley Sharp sent in a long list of super-funny battles between lots of imaginative subjects — three of which get ink this week. Her total of 355 blots has her close on the heels of Jonathan Paul and Jeff Brechlin on the all-time list, and with those two guys showing nowhere near the proper Invite-obsession that Beverley shows every single week, she’ll be able to trash-talk right past them very soon.
And the other “Cup Punneth Over” mug or Grossery Bag goes to the break-the-form zinger by Andrew Ballard, the London-based brother of Virginia-based Loser David Ballard. It’s just Andrew’s second blot of ink; his first was in Week 958’s “wellerism” contest, with “Now I can retire in peace,” said the old mechanic, admiring the new hydraulic lift in his home garage.”
This week’s HAWs from Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford could be heard all the way out here in Mount Vermin, my home base: She just e-mailed me: “BIG SHIFT IN TECTONIC PLATES!!! I AGREE WITH THE EMPRESS ON NO. 1!! These are all fantastic....No. 2 is Easter Bunny v. Santa.”
Not inking but certainly worth sharing here was the only other video I received, by Gregory Koch of the University of Connecticut. Unlike Amanda, Gregory cannot yet dragoon two adorable and talented sons into service in the Quest for Ink, so he instead turned to a pair of cute but not wildly expressive “rappers” for his epic battle between Borat and General Aladeen of another Sacha Baron Cohen movie, “Dictator.” Click on “Show more” to see the words, which you’re going to need.
PARENTAL ADVISORY — EXPLICIT CONTENT: THE UNPRINTABLES
Not a lot, but a few Losers honored the rap tradition with profanity and various other NSFW attributes. One of the milder ones was one of several depicting a duel between the Czar and the Empress, this one from David Garratt:
Czar: “Once the Style Invitational sizzled and rocked--
The pride of the Post, a legacy you’ve mocked.
No, now it languishes like an old Christmas fruitbread;
neutered, mundane, and rarely read.”
Empress: “As George Harrison once sang, all things must pass.
And you, dear Gene, can kiss my ass.”
But the undeniable Scarlet Letter goes to the already well-Lettered Dixon Wragg:
Batman: “No wonder Krypton kicked you out,
When they found out what you’re all about!
It’s no surprise what the pervert spies
With his X-ray eyes at the junior highs!”
Superman: “You’re batty, all right;
I’ll agree on that,
But a bat ain’t nothin’ but a flyin’ rat!
And everybody knows when you start throbbin’
You’re bobbin’ up and down on Robin.”
(I won’t be showing Mr. Baron that one.)
NEXT LOSER BRUNCH: BALTIMORE
As it did around this time last year, the Loser Brunch moves up to the Baltimore Art Museum for a Dec. 9 dose of culture at the awkwardly named Gertrude’s John Shield’s Restaurant inside the museum. RSVP to Elden through the Loser Stats Page or right here. (I can’t make that one.)