Style Conversational Week 1063: Nothing is beyond compare


Bob’s sketch for this week’s Invitational, illustrating the difference between a three-cupped bra and the Human Barbie. (Bob Staake for The Washington Post)
March 6, 2014

(Above: Bob’s sketch for this week’s Invite. I loved it but asked that he take the bra out of the shopper’s hand, to emphasize that having three breasts is almost unnoticeable when compared with the freakishness of the Human Barbie: Ukrainian model Valeria Lukyanova, who by grotesque surgery, makeup and starvation has made herself look like this, this and this, now says she is a “breatharian” who is close to existing only on air and light.)

If you were to click over to Elden Carnahan’s exquisitely time-sucking Master Contest List of all Style Invitational contests ever, and then clicked on the category “Differences,” you’d see (assuming that Elden didn’t miss any) that Week 1063 marks the 22nd time the Invite has asked readers to tell how two particular things or people are alike or different — occasionally things the entrant has to come up with himself, but usually they’re in a list we provided. The first of these, 18 years ago this month (Week 155), was headlined “Comparison Shopping” (I like that; maybe I’ll bring that back next time); it was suggested by Russell Beland, who had already accrued 73 blots of ink and would go on to become the first Loser to top 1,500. (Though pretty much retired from the Invite, Russell returns today to grab the first honorable mention in Week 1059.)

The first list comprised: The former Yugoslavia; A white Ford Bronco; A $4 haircut; The devoted followers of Pat Buchanan; A bowling ball; The Washington Wizards; That gap between Letterman’s teeth; Butt cleavage; Gaithersburg, Md.; Bob Dole’s grandfather; A pound of poop; A pound of aluminum; A pitchfork; That dog on “Frasier”; Saddam Hussein’s brother-in-law; Pringles with olestra; and Those Ads featuring Ronnie Mervis, of Mervis Diamond Importers, Inc.

And the “above-the-fold” results:
Third Runner-Up: What is the difference between a pound of aluminum and Saddam Hussein’s brother-in-law? It would take forever to gather together a pound of Saddam’s brother-in-law. (John Kammer, Herndon, Va.)

Second Runner-Up: What is the difference between a bowling ball and the devoted followers of Pat Buchanan? One tries to knock over white, red-necked things, and the other tries to recruit them. (Andy Glendinning, St. Mary’s City, Md.)


The final version, with the empty-handed lady. (Bob Staake for The Washington Post )

First Runner-Up: What is the difference between the Washington Wizards and a $4 haircut? Eventually, a $4 haircut will grow on you. (Charlie Myers, Laurel, Md.)

And the winner of the “Alien Autopsy” video: What is the difference between a bowling ball and the devoted followers of Pat Buchanan? A bowling ball requires an opposable thumb. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge, Va.)

Chuck, by 1996, was already an Invite legend; as the Invitational began its fourth year he’d already amassed well over 200 blots of ink, and Week 155 was his tenth first-place win. Chuck was so absurdly dominant in the Invitational that in just Week 66, a little over one year into the Invite’s existence, the Czar presented a contest for “what to do with the Chuck Smith problem.” Those top results:
Report from Week 66, in which we asked you how to solve the problem of (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge), specifically that over the last year this contest has been more or less hijacked by one precocious bureaucrat from some dirtball Washington suburb.
Third Runner-Up: Begin to assign him little nicknames in print. Like (Chuck “Poopy Drawers” Smith, Woodbridge). Or (Chuck “Sexually Transmitted Disease” Smith, Woodbridge). (Earl Gilbert, La Plata)
Second Runner-Up: Get the Tobacco Institute to prove there’s no such thing as Chuck Smith of Woodbridge. (Joan Delfattore, Newark, Del.)
First Runner-Up: Announce that Week 70 is a contest to write threatening letters to the president. Then forward Chuck’s entry, and only Chuck’s entry, to the Secret Service. (Paul Styrene, Olney)
And The Winner of the Bust of Richard Nixon: In order to discourage me, alter my entries prior to publication so I seem to be a complete jackass. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

Chuck went on to become the first member of the Style Invitational Hall of Fame, with 500 inks, and though he’s cut way back on his Invite activity in the past decade, he’s gotten ink in each of the contest’s 21 years, including last week; currently he has 837 blots, including 31 wins. And longtime Washington Post readers still, when I mention what I do for a non-living, will ask me, “Do you know that guy Chuck Smith of Woodbridge”?

Russell, by the way, did get ink in the contest he suggested: The difference between the Washington Wizards and a Ford Bronco: The Bronco has had a superstar athlete on board in the past decade. (Good thing we can’t joke about the Wizards’ incompetence anymore.) Russ was often perturbed, when he wasn’t busy being perturbed about something else, that he wasn’t credited every time we ran the compare-and-contrast contest over the years, and was thus denied all those contest-suggestion points in the Loser Stats. But he did get a pile of points for just being good at that contest, including this classic win from Week 276: What is the difference between the human navel and a 1998 VW Bug? In the case of the navel, most people would rather have an innie. In the case of the Bug, most people would rather have an Audi.

As I mention in the introduction to this week’s Invite, the Week 1063 categories were supplied by various members of the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. As I’d told them, they don’t get official ink for their suggestions, but I was happy to appropriate the posts by Devs Kristen Rahman, Brendan Beary, Danielle Nowlin, Beth Morgan, Robin Diallo, Jerilyn Sweitzer, Bruce Alter, Mairzy Salander, Dave Letizia, Joel Wasinger, Kathy El-Assal, Terri Berg Smith, Joe Neff, Bruce Niedt, J.J. Gertler and Ward Kay.

(De)facing the music*: The results of Week 1059

*Beverley Sharp’s “noink” alternative headline

I was a bit doubtful about this contest to add some words in parentheses to a song title: First, I thought it might be too short-form and wouldn’t allow for enough cleverness; and second, we’d trod similar ground just recently in the two song-questions contests, Weeks 1041 and 1045. But not to worry: I had a LOT of entries to choose from — I estimate more than 2,500 — and a lot to laugh over. My first cut was 147 entries, so if yours didn’t get ink today, you can figure that it allllmost did. I was especially delighted to see that 23 people were entering for the first time, and that some very occasional entrants returned for this contest.

I loved the economical elegance of Mark Raffman’s Inkin’ Memorial winner — the fifth for the Loser phenom since his debut in Week 979. And it will be Lawrence McGuire who gets to go shopping with the Bimbo bag for second place.: With 154 blots of ink, including five wins and 14 others above the fold, Lawrence is the 37th-highest-scoring Loser of all time — and one of only three Losers among the top 37 whom I haven’t met in person, even though he lives just a few miles away from me. (I’ve given up on cajoling The Reclusive Lawrence to come to a Loser event.)

On the other hand, it’s just the eighth (and ninth) blot of ink for Jeff Seigle, who first got ink way back in Week 326 but chose to have a life; it’s his first above-the-fold ink. Same for the fourth-place Bill Smith, who scores No. 9 (and No. 10) with his hilarious wordplay on the old Bob Dylan protest song. I hope that Jeff and Bill will let me know if they’d rather have the Loser Mug or the Whole Fools Grossery Bag.

With Malitz toward . . . The favorite this week of Sunday Style Editor David Malitz (who’s a writer on pop music) is “Turn! Turn! Turrn! (Recalculating),” submitted by both Brendan Beary and Danielle Nowlin. And we have a new award from layout editor Amy King, who’s in charge of putting the Sunday Style section to press every Thursday: So King’s Peach this week is “Like a Rolling Stone (Follow Mick on Facebook)” by Bill Smith.

Don’t forget to Flush!: The Losers’ award lunch will be May 10

I just heard from Dave Prevar, one of the coordinators of this year’s Flushies, the Loser Community’s annual awards luncheon. After looking into several options, they’ve decided to return to the Holiday Inn in College Park, Md., right off the Capital Beltway near where it meets I-95. We’ve had the Flushies there several times before, and while its banquet room isn’t especially picturesque, it’s at least convenientesque and reasonablesque, and the food — a buffet — is tastyesque. The festivities will take place Saturday, May 10, roughly from noon to 4; lunch will start at 1, followed by the awards for Loser of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Imporved [sic] and Least Imporved [sick], and more. And I hope that, as in past years, some of the Losers will offer up various “entertainments,” especially in the form of song parodies.

When the cost is figured out, I’ll be sending out an invitation to everyone on the Invitational (great name, huh?) e-mail list; if you’re not on it and you’re interested in coming, e-mail me for details. Now I have only two months to decide which tiara to wear!

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