Style Invitational Week 933: Stories that count (to 56)

August 19, 2011

Call me Ishmael, inasmuch as I represent man’s eternal state of alienation. My boss, Ahab — bang! crash! aughh! — is battling to the death an implacable foe, inasmuch as he represents man’s powerlessness against nature and fear of confronting his inner demons — namely, that he’s secretly a vampire, inasmuch as we have to sell books. Suck. Die.


This week we “honor” the annual 55 Fiction contest sponsored by New Times magazine — for stories of 55 words or fewer — with our own version, cleverly distinguished by a vastly different number of words and a couple of other requirements. This week: Write a humorous story in exactly 56 words, as in the example above by Style Invitational Literary Flunky Gene Weingarten; two words joined by a hyphen count as two words. You can add a title; it won’t count toward the 56 words. It doesn’t have to be fiction, but it has to tell some sort of story (though as you can see from the example, this might be loosely interpreted; actually, don’t turn this into a contest to sum up a well-known work of literature in 56 words). This contest was suggested by Ted Weitzman, a veteran Loser who used to be credited as Paul Styrene, back before we had the no-pseudonyms rule.

Winner gets the Inker, the official Style Invitational trophy. Second prize receives this excellent and obviously appropriate little metal sign, discourtesy of Loser Nan Reiner. It’s about the size of a light switchplate.

Other runners-up win their choice of a coveted Style Invitational Loser T-shirt or yearned-for Loser Mug. Honorable mentions get a lusted-after Loser magnet. First Offenders get a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink for their first ink). E-mail entries to losers@washpost.com or fax to 202-334-4312. Deadline is Monday, Aug. 29; results published Sept. 18 (Sept. 16 online). No more than 25 entries per entrant per week. Include “Week 933” in your e-mail subject line, or it may be ignored as spam. Include your real name, postal address and phone number with your entry. See contest rules and guidelines at washingtonpost.com/styleinvitational. The revised title for next week’s results is by Kevin Dopart; the honorable-mentions subhead is by Gary Crockett.


This week’s winning parody: A song about “Kate Plus 8” to the tune of “The Brady Bunch.” (Bob Staake for The Washington Post)
Report from Week 929: Just sit right back

in which we asked you to write a song that told about a TV show, much as the “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch” themes do. Click on the title of the original song being parodied to listen to the tune.

The winner of the Inker

“Kate Plus 8”
(sung to the “Brady Bunch” theme)
Here’s the story of a girl named Katie,
Who was poor and living in a trailer park.
All she wanted in her life was to be wealthy;
On this she would embark.
It’s the story of a man so shady
He would happily exploit his kids and wife.
These two kindred spirits met and formed a couple,
And so began their life.
They went out and got a multiple conception,
And resolved to get some bucks for their big bang,
So they whelped and then they hawked their cute sextuplets:
That’s the way they all became the Gosselin Gang. (The Gosselin Gang, the Gosselin Gang . . . )

But this fouled-up family couldn’t last forever:
Jon was restless, and his wife was quite the shrew.
When she caught him in the sack with other women,
The Gosselin Gang was through.
But the lady wasn’t gonna give up easy.
On the gravy train she’d labored to create.
She convinced the TV folks to keep it going:
That’s the way they turned it into “Kate Plus Eight.”
(Nan Reiner, Alexandria, Va.)

2. Winner of the Lunch Bugs sandwich bags with theft-deterring bugs on them:
A PBS Evening (to “Wonderful World” (“Don’t know much about history . . . ”)
The invasion of Normandy;
Specials on seismology;
Shows to help you make a greener house;
A performance of “Die Fledermaus.”
No one else has the shows we do,
Yeah, but first we want to hear from you,
So we need you to pick up the phone.

It’s not easy here at PBS;
Ledger sheets are an awful mess.
Big-name sponsors are cutting back;
It’s been tough to stay in the black.
So the way we keep the lights turned on
Is a nonstop cajole-athon,
And we need you to pick up the phone.

Well, pledge campaigns instead of commercials
Seemed an even trade,
But lately we’re holding them 24-7,
Just to see the bills are paid. . .

You can see we’re not getting rich;
Viewers hate our bait-and-switch.
You just want the shows we said we’d air –
Moving coffee mugs will get us there.
If you deadbeats don’t send the dough,
Cookie Monster has to be let go,
So we need you to pick up the phone.

(Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

3. “CSI” (to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”)
It’s a beautiful day for an autopsy!
Let’s cut this guy open so we can see
His intestines . . . and his liver.
Then let’s open his stomach, what do you say?
To see what he had with that chardonnay.
Would you hand me . . . that skull chisel?
I have always wanted to take a closer look inside,
To roll my sleeves up, dig right in, and find out how they died.
So I’ll pick up a scalpel, and you will too,
We’ll damn the torpedoes and rip right through.
Would you hand me . . . his left kidney?
Let’s just cut him open.
(Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.)

4. “Toddlers and Tiaras” (to the “Mary Tyler Moore” theme)
They can turn the world on with their smiles.
(Maybe not the whole wide world, but certainly turn on the pedophiles.)
With their makeup and fancy dresses
We know that they’re wearing diapers and making messes.
Toddlers and tiaras! Temper tantrums!
Phony teeth and hair! The crazy-rant moms!
Babies are told to shake their butts.
Their mothers clearly must be nuts.
(Kathy Hardis Fraeman, Olney, Md.)

The themey underside: Honorable mentions

Any Weather Channel show (to “Stormy Weather” ; start at 0:28)
My oh my, trouble’s brewing in the sky – stormy weather
We’ll draw you right in with a tether
Of bad news all the time.

Ratings soar if flood water’s at the door – stormy weather
We shun the nice days altogether
And scare you all the time.

Feel a strong wind blow? Perhaps a twister’s perking.
See a flake of snow? Maybe a blizzard’s working.
Did Jim Cantore show? Then catastrophe is lurking!
Run for the hills once more.

Check us out, soon you’ll hear our warning shout – STORMY WEATHER!
So let’s fret and worry together.
It’s bad news all the time.
(Barry Koch, Catlett, Va.)

“Piers Morgan Tonight” (to “Tonight” from “West Side Story”; start at 0:58)
Now here’s a thing:
We fired Larry King,
And flew across the pond to get Piers.
We hoped he would
Be great (at least be good),
But we’ve got the worst ratings in years.
His weasel-like interrogations
And witless conversations
Are nothing but a blight.
Turn out the light,
And get this loser out of our sight!
Tonight!
(Stephen Gold, Glasgow, Scotland)

“60 Minutes” (to “The Twelfth of Never”)
You ask how long one hour is; I’ll make it clear:
Enough time for Mike Wallace to wreck a man’s career.
And Morley Safer brings us an exposé —
One hour is “60 Minutes,” and there’ll be hell to pay.

Frauds laid bare! Despots put to shame!
Please stay tuned, following the football game.

Now here’s a TV preacher turned out as fake,
And undercover footage of cops on the take.
Some guys will go to jail for their heinous crime,
And not for 60 minutes, but for a long, long time.
(Brendan Beary)

“Monk” (to “ABC” by the Jackson 5)

He uses ways to solve crimes
That you’ve never, never seen before,
Like holding his hands in front of his face
And then squinting at the floor.
Now, now, now, he sees the details (details, details)
You’ll never see-e.
“Listen to this detective, please:
He’s an ace, you see, because he’s got a disease.”
OCD, focus on symmetry.
His place is clean as can be,
OMG, OCD, It is plain to see!

OCD. Has to touch every tree.
But tell me, what’s that you see?
OMG! OCD—Criminals will flee!
(Matt Monitto, Bristol, Conn.)

“Dragnet” (to “If I Only Had a Brain”)

Every day’s a coat-and-tie day
For Sergeant Joseph Friday,
In pressed and pleated slacks.
He’s the model for cop fitness
As he canvasses each witness
To acquire “just the facts.”

He will listen to each story,
Most boring, but some gory,
And never grind an ax.
With the innocent protected
You will hear these words inflected:
“Ma’am, we only need the facts.”

L.A. should be this way.
This mythical PD
Is not known for Rodney King brutality.
But for his clipped … delivery.

Joe will never be relentin’.
He’ll send ’em to San Quentin,
So victims can relax.
By the book he nails each scummy
Little crook so dumb-dee-dummy
With his web of “just the facts.”
(Randy Lee, doing volunteer work in Kibwezi, Kenya)

Two set to the “Mickey Mouse Club” theme:

1. “House”

Who’s the snarky know-it-all we watch on Fox TV?
D-O-C-T-O-R H-O-U-S-E.
Who never shaves and breaks the rules with regularity?
D-O-C-T-O-R H-O-U-S-E.
Dr. House, Dr. House,
He’s hooked on drugs, and that’s why he gets high! High! High! High!
Still, we really love him ‘cause he’s sexy as can be;
D-O-C. . . (See you in the ER!)
T-O-R . . .Are you free on Friday night?)
H-O-U-S-E.
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

2. “The Sean Hannity Show”
Who’s the reader of the news who makes the pundits sigh?
S-E-A, N-H-A, N-N-I-T-Y!
Who’s so fair and balanced you can’t tip him if you try?
S-E-A, N-H-A, N-N-I-T-Y!
Hannity, Hannity,
He’s never wrong because he’s always right! (Right! Right!! Right!!!)
He’ll turn off your microphone and leave you high and dry,
S-E-A, (A class act?)
N-H-A, (More like class warfare!)
N-N-I-T-Y!
(Joe Neff, Warrington, Pa.)

Obama at His Press Conference (to “I Gotta Feeling”; start at 0:27)

I got a ceiling, and the Right’s gonna make a big fight,
Grover Norquist won’t give ’em the green light,
He says taxes on rich folks are out of sight.
I got a ceiling, and when Fox replays each Boehner sound bite,
It gives all the world’s markets a big fright,
A bad dream of default on a midsummer’s night. . . .
[skip to 3:15] Dump that Tea cup, you’ve had enough;
Now, Mr. Speaker, just ante up!
Don’t kick the can on down the road —
Just raise the “roof”
And then we’ll do it again.
Let’s do it, let’s do it, let’s do it . . .
(Dave Zarrow, Reston, Va.)

“Gilligan’s Island” (to the “Brady Bunch” theme)
It’s a story, but you won’t believe it
Of some castaways upon a desert shore;
Not a one of them has libido,
They never try to score.
You keep waiting for some slap and tickle,
But they sleep in gender-segregated huts.
After seven years with hot young women
Are these guys gay, or nuts?
While the nation’s boys ask, “Mary Anne or Ginger?”
The Professor works his coconuts, the fool
And the Skipper and his pal fare no better
It is clear that they are all asexu-ool.
Asexu-ool, asexu-ool,
Yes I fear, they are all asexu-ool. (Jeff Brechlin)

The various “Real Housewives” (to “Carolina in the Morning”)
Nothing could be dumber than to spend your time this summer
Watching “Housewives”;
Washington or N.Y.C., really bad reality is “Housewives.”
Buncha ditsy women carry on with pals;
This show is no persimmon — these wives are boring gals.

Paying close attention to each little thing they mention
Is a no-no;
Caring what they do or think just means that you’ve begun to sink
So low.
If, in spite of all I’ve said, you’re still gonna watch,
I’ll hafta rate your brain down a notch,
’Cause nothing could be stupider than watching it, by Jupiter,
“Real Housewives”! (Mae Scanlan, Washington)

It takes so long to read and appreciate song parodies that we have too many good ones that wouldn’t get their due at the bottom of the list. So more TV theme songs will run in future weeks as “bonus tracks” in the online Invitational.

Visit the online discussion group The Style Conversational, where the Empress discusses today’s new contest and results along with news about the Loser Community — and you can vote for your favorite among the inking entries, since you no doubt figured the Empress chose the wrong winner. If you’d like an e-mail notification each week when the Invitational and Conversational are posted online, write to the Empress at losers@washpost.com (note that in the subject line) and she’ll add you to the mailing list. And on Facebook, join the lively group Style Invitational Devotees and chime in.

Next week: How dare we, or The Huffiness Post

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