It’s been a hard week for the Loser Community. Last week on Wednesday night, my Style Invitational Devotees co-admin, Alex Blackwood, and another Loser, Chuck Salerno, met at a Houston area restaurant and awaited the other guest: Doug Frank, whom each had befriended closely through Facebook for years and years. Chuck had never met Doug in person, Alex just a couple of times. They’d all touched base a couple of days previously.
Doug didn’t show.
Alex, who’s extraordinarily sensitive to the feelings and actions of others, knew she couldn’t just roll her eyes and shrug off the no-show. Through online research, she quickly tracked down Doug’s sister Amy, who also lives in the area. Amy went to check on him.
Devotee Tara Haelle epitomized many of the comments in the Devotees group on Facebook: “Doug is one of those good FB friends that I’ve ‘known’ for years even if we haven’t met in person, and I’m deeply sad that we never will.”
Doug was only 62.
As I note in this week’s Style Invitational introduction, to Week 1493, Doug was one of the great personalities of the Devotees, as well as a leading light of Loserdom especially in the mid-2000s. For example, out of nowhere he posted this random fictoid a few years ago: “In Estonia, the phrase is rendered, “He’s a few beets short of a Happy Meal.' ” And this writing lesson: “Sample of an incomplete sentence: ‘I cooked a pound and a half of bacon so I’d have some to add to sandwiches. I had five slices.’ The corrected sentence: ‘I cooked a pound and a half of bacon so I’d have some to add to sandwiches. I had five slices left.’ ”
But there was also the Doug who truly bared his soul to our social community: a series of health problems, including diabetes, and most painful of all, the terrible stroke suffered by his wife, Diann, whom Doug nursed and advocated for in a devastating series of ups and downs and ups and downs and downs and downs until her death. He was simultaneously knocked back, as someone who worked in the science side of the oil industry, by the blows to that industry through the recession.
He surely was buoyed by both the diversion of the Invite’s and Losers’ humor and by the heartfelt support of the Devotees themselves.
Chuck and Tara and so many of us have missed that chance to meet him in person, but we have his jokes from the Invite — 85 of them. In his memory, let’s laugh. Here’s a sampling of Doug’s Invite ink over the years.
New college courses (Week 626, 2005): The winner of the Inker: LANG 238: Ancient Voices. Who were the Ink Spots? Country Joe and the Fish? What does “nanu-nanu” mean? Intense immersion into the language and culture of 15 to 50 years ago will enable the student to understand and converse with older relatives and prospective employers. Prerequisite for all INTN (Internship) classes.
Plus this honorable mention:
WORK 1601: McJob Practicum. Prerequisite for LIFE. Perform mindless, pointless and degrading tasks all day while taking guff from perfect strangers and feckless idiots. Try to find meaning and maintain your basic human dignity, especially after you get your first paycheck. Imagine doing this the rest of your life and suddenly finals week seems like Club Med. NOW are you ready to pick a major?
Week 632, “backronyms”: Seattle Tycoon Accumulates Riches Because Upscale Consumers Keep Sipping.
Week 640, state mottoes: Hawaii: We’ve Got a Word That Means Both “Tourist” and “Sucker,” Too
Week 644, new Winter Olympic events: Blobsledding: The 275-pound weight class.
Week 648, calls to companies’ help lines: Lysol: “Your label says your product kills 99.9 percent of germs in 30 seconds — but what about that 0.1 percent? Isn’t that tough little booger the one I should really be worried about? What do I use to kill HIM?”
Week 654, environmentally friendly ideas: Surely those elementary school long-division problems have all been done many times before, so why continue to create reams of waste paper? Put them all in a database so kids can just look them up.
Week 666, evidence of work of the Devil: How devious is the Trickster! He beckons to our gluttony with lures of Extra Value! He coddles our avarice with specials and prizes! Is not his masked servant Ronald garbed in the very colors of blood and brimstone? Does he not brazenly display the giant golden “M” of Mephistopheles? Beware, brethren: Wide is the service counter to Hades, and easy the way through the drive-thru!
Week 925, 2011, new definitions for words: Indigo: Harrison Ford’s epitaph.
Week 941, unlikely quotations: “I’m of the opinion that those who question American hegemony are being either disingenuous or facetious.” — Snooki
Week 965, foal names: Flashy Sunrise x Alpha = Greet the Nude A
Week 966, word ladder (change each word by one letter): And Last: LOSER, loner, boner, bone, bore, sore, swore, sworn, worn, morn, MORON.
Week 1058, good/bad/ugly jokes:
Good: Your state is raising taxes — but only on the 1 percent!
Bad: You are part of that 1 percent.
Ugly: It’s the bottom 1 percent.
Week 1138, 2015: Snarky insults about celebrities: On Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press”: When Todd talks, people listen. To George Stephanopoulos.
Week 1142: Twitter accounts combining two people: @GenPaulMacArthurny: I shall go back! Go back! Go back to where I once belonged!
Our hearts go out to Doug’s sister Amy, to the rest of his family, and to so many people who’d grown close to him online.
Pun & Ink: This week’s feghoot contest
Online, Doug delighted in sharing stories with ridiculously contrived scenarios ending in groaner puns. Last time the Invite did a contest for them, in 2014, we called them feghoots.
The name “Feghoot” for the genre comes from “Through Time and Space With Ferdinand Feghoot,” a series of whimsical science fiction stories, beginning in the 1950s, by “Grendel Briarton” (an anagram of the author’s name, Reginald Bretnor). Here’s selected ink from Week 1100; read the whole set here. They should give you a good idea of what we’re looking for in this week’s contest, Week 1493.
GAME OF GROANS: STORY PUNS FROM WEEK 1100
In Week 1100 we asked for feghoots — little stories that end in a pun on some well-known line or expression. The format of the Invitational demands very little stories; perhaps we’ll call them fhts. Warning: These puns are outrageous groaners. It’s part of the genre.
The winner of the Inkin’ Memorial:
Despite trying and trying and trying and not getting any early action on WMDs, Operation Iraqi Freedom did ultimately nab Hussein and many of his henchmen. But after the former Iraqi president was hanged, Dubya nixed the plan to transfer the rest of the inner circle to Guantánamo. “Political opposition is too great,” he said. “I can’t Gitmo Saddam’s faction.” (Kevin Dopart, Washington)
2nd place and the tiny rubbery brain and plastic nose: The famed businessman Victor Kiam told a story about his service in World War II: “At the Battle of the Bulge, a colonel kept ordering waves of grunts like me out of the trench we were in, only to see them cut down by cannon fire. So I shouted, “Hey, why are you doing that?” He replied, “Look, Kiam, you’re fodder.” (Chris Doyle, Ponder, Tex.)
3rd place: Yet another reason for Americans’ expanding waistlines — this time it’s the recent craze of adding fatty fish to your diet. They may be getting lots of omega-3 and all that, but still, their butts for the grease of cod go wide. (Marc Shapiro, Alexandria, Va.)
4th place: The place: Heaven. The event: the annual cook-off. This year, Chinese. The team: the inventor of the sewing machine, the grande dame of the Grand Ole Opry, the founder of what is now Zimbabwe, and Charles Gulden of condiment fame. The group was just about to complete its pièce de résistance when in flew the Angel in Charge to announce that time was up: “Howe, Minnie, Rhodes, Mustard Man — wok down!” (Nan Reiner, Alexandria, Va.)
THIN PUN ALLEY: HONORABLE MENTIONS
Methane released by livestock is a major contributor to global warming. For several years, climatologists have been working with the tea industry to develop crops that thrive on these greenhouse gases. It doesn’t look promising, though; they’ve been trying for fart-oolong. (Brian Cohen, Norfolk, Va.)
When I arrived for a three-month stay on Olympus, Mercury told me he would rent his house to me while I was there, at a very low cost. There was only one restriction: I could not remove the carcass of a songbird from his freezer, because Zeus had promised to restore it to life when he returned. When I entered the house I went straight to the refrigerator and looked in: Yep. Chilled wren of a lessor god. (Ted Remington, Marion, N.C., a First Offender)
A mystic from the East came to visit a small Nebraska town and received quite a welcome in the town hall. But a Native American man made a joke about “real Indians,” which confused the visitor and embarrassed the other townspeople. The joker then felt terrible, as no slight had been intended. You see, things like this weigh down a Pawnee swami-ribber. (Mae Scanlan)
The tribal council wanted to hold an event for married couples only, so it decided to require each couple to display wedding rings at the door. As the sign read: “A band on all Hopi who enter here.” (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)
Down on his luck, Sylvester Stallone was appearing off-off-Broadway in a production of “Hair,” for which he had to let his locks grow long and tangled. But he wouldn’t even tidy himself on his off days — even though his friends pleaded: “There’s no play, Sly! Comb!” (Ann Martin, Falls Church, Va.)
Young romance could be risky in the old days in the mountains. During one 19th-century family feud, a young Romeo tried to elope with his Juliet. But the girl’s daddy hunted them down, shot the boy in the ankles and dragged his daughter home — leaving him footless and fiancee-free. (Jeff Contompasis)
And from Week 347, our first contest of this sort (not termed feghoots), posted by my predecessor, the Czar, in 2000: (Plain-text file of the complete results here; scroll down past that week’s new contest.)
Report from Week 347, in which you were asked to contrive elaborate scenarios that end in painful puns:
As usual for a contest such as this, the Steal Invitationalists were out in force, submitting anciently unoriginal jokes as their own: You can’t heat your kayak and have it, too; with fronds like that, who needs anemones; I can see Claire Lee now, Lorraine has gone; transporting gulls over a staid lion for immortal porpoises; only Hugh can prevent florist friars; picking bunions on a Sesame Street bus; repaint and thin no more; making an obscene clone fall; and of course, the creakiest, rheumiest granddaddy of them all: No pun in ten did. We are pretty sure those below are original.
Second Runner-Up: Maggie Thatcher went to see the doctor about a painful boil. The doctor told his nurse to administer a local anesthetic and let him know when she was ready for treatment. When the nurse returned, the doctor said: “Is Thatcher Fine? I’ll Lance Her.” (Chris Doyle, Burke)
First Runner-Up: Lithuania’s King Lothar loved golf. Competing in a tournament at the famed Pair of Dice golf course in Las Vegas, Lothar and his partner finished the 18th hole leading the field at one stroke over par. Waiting nervously in the clubhouse, however, he received bad news about his rivals’ results: “They played Pair of Dice and put up a par, King Lot.”(Sue Lin Chong, Washington)
And the winner of the huge men’s underpants: Two park rangers are making their rounds in the Rockies when they discover a guy named Nathan erecting an oil rig on the side of a mountain. He explains that he has been inspired by those ads on the radio, and has decided to drill for beer. The rangers are going to issue a citation, but decide to do something crueler: let him try. Winking to his partner, one ranger observes that since the mountain won’t really be injured, “Why don’t we just let Nate here take its Coors?” (Bill Strider, Gaithersburg)
After a series of box office failures, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career was in trouble. Then he made a comeback with a triumphant performance on Broadway as the lead in a production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” with background music based on the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. When asked the secret of his newfound success, Arnold said: “Albee-Bach.” (Joseph Romm, Washington)
Intrigued by rumors that a group of Tennessee Jews has been successfully marketing a brand of chewing tobacco, kosher food giant Manischewitz sends someone to investigate. He approaches a group of men loitering outside a Baptist church, spitting into cans, and he asks: “Pardon me, goys, is that the Chattanooga Jews’ chew?” (Charles Frick, Kensington)
A man is trying to decide between two careers in journalism: He wants either to be an investigative reporter, spending much of his time digging through files like a mole, or to write an advice column. He consults an editor friend, who cautions him against both paths, with the immortal advice: “Neither a burrower nor Ann Landers be.” (Meg Sullivan, Potomac)
It is a little-known fact that Golda Meir’s fierce nationalism was forged when she was a young woman. Golda had a waitressing job on the Haifa ferry, serving smoked-salmon snacks to travelers. She was deeply moved when, one day, the ferry had to transport for burial the bodies of three civilians killed by terrorists. To this day Israeli children are told “the ferry tale of Golda, lox and the three biers.” (Chris Doyle, Burke)
Animal activist Bo Derek was horrified to learn that the queen of England wears antique sable coats. When she confronted the queen at a recent London affair, Elizabeth responded haughtily: “Some wear old fur to reign, Bo.” (Chris Doyle, Burke)
Yes, Chris Doyle still enters The Style Invitational. He’s cleverer than you are. Sorry! But I promise I’ll give ink to other people as well, so go ahead and enter anyway.
Hollywood Shuffle*: The rearranged movie titles of Week 1489
*Non-inking headline — just a little too long this week for print — by both Tom Witte and Kevin Dopart
As I’d predicted, there was plenty of life left in a twice-done contest to rearrange the words in a movie title and describe the new movie. And plenty of interest: I received just about 2,000 entries for Week 1489 from more than 250 people — well more than the grandfoal contest, for example. My “shortlist” ran 11 single-spaced pages; keeping this week’s results to 36 entries wasn’t as painful as usual, given that I’ll have a chance to run some more at the end of July when I’m on vacation (first one in three years!).
As often happens when there are more entries and entrants than usual, the ink tends to be spread around more. This week’s four top winners, while all Invite veterans, aren’t the Usual Suspects in the Losers’ Circle, but their entries may all be heading for instant-classicdom. While Right — Do the Thing — story of an absent-minded yes-man — is Don Norum’s second Clowning Achievement, he’s been Inviting for less than a year. San Diegan Susan Geariety gets the “Office” characters Pez dispenser for 2-Toy Story: “Ungrateful grandkids get an earful about what it was like to grow up with just a jump rope and a Mr. Potato Head that was an actual potato.” Greater (or at least Great) Bostonian Mark Calandra played the D.C. angle anyway with his dig at the Commanders, Bad News: The Bears; and the only local Loser in the top four this week, Ryan Martinez, with one of the relatively few political entries this week, Rush Fools In, the story of how the GOP got those Trump judicial nominees confirmed so quickly.
There were lots more inkworthy entries than the 36 that ran today. Which is good because I can run some (along with extras from other contests) at the end of July, the week I’ll be up in Niagara Falls for our Loserfest vacation adventure.
What Pleased Ponch: Now that Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood’s retired from The Post after 30 pun-heady years, we’ll be featuring the faves of Still Here Ace Copy Editor Panfilo “Ponch” Garcia. While Ponch reports finding this week’s ink “uniformly witty,” he did single out several honorable mentions: Thou Art Where? O Brother! (Ed Neveleff, in just his second week ink), an Elizabethan having to bail out his wastrel brother from the stocks; Lesser Children of a God (Steve Smith), Don Jr.'s look at “Marla’s and Melania’s kids.”; Miller and Mrs. McCabe, Joel Cockrell’s clever tie-in with Trump administration figures Stephen Miller and Andrew McCabe; Andre With My Dinner (Terri Berg Smith), a rich kid settles for cheap champagne; and Home Spider? No Way, Man (John Klayman), putting the kibosh on a roommate’s pet.
Plus an Annabeth’s Best Bet: “Slot” editor Annabeth Carlson, who gave the second read, gave an unsolicited shout-out to First, 50 Dates (Leif Picoult), the Dried-Fruit Preliminary Round of the hot-dog-eating contest. “This is just so clever and unexpected!”
What didn’t work? I ruled out a number of entries for various reasons other than my usual “just not as funny as the ones I chose.” First there were the ones that had already gotten ink in our previous title rearrangement contests, which I’d directed readers to; they include “The Presidents: All Men” and “Wonderful? It’s a Life.” Then there were ones that misspelled or misquoted the name of the movie, or used homonyms instead of the actual word, like “Lady, My Fare”: Eliza Doolittle tries to stiff her cabbie; or “Rein In the Singin': A bar owner reconsiders karaoke night.” Or “The Right Are All Kids: Michael Moore looks into arrested development to explain Jan. 6″; the title is “The Kids Are Alright,” and that wouldn’t have worked. Or “Gates’ Heaven: every computer runs Windows and searches with Bing,” The movie was “Heaven’s Gate,” not Gates. (It could have worked, however, as “Heaven of Gates,” a play on the movie “Gates of Heaven.”)
Finally, I tended not to go with descriptions that would have worked fine with the real title; the rearrangement of the words wasn’t necessary to the joke. Such as “12 Men, Angry: When the pizza is delivered cold to the jury room, watch out.” (Frank Mann instead got ink with “Angry Men 12,” the 11th sequel and they still can’t come to a verdict.) Or “With Love From Russia: A new perfume with the latest nerve agents from Vladimir Putin.” (Also, the latter would have required a big tweak to be a description of a movie plot.)
Finally, your unprintable of the week, submitted by both Tom Witte and Teddy Weitzman (who used to be allowed to use the pseudonym Paul Styrene): Bang Bang Kiss Kiss: An ill-advised comedy about a serial necrophiliac. Sorry, guys, but our quota for serial-necrophiliac jokes has already been reached. It is zero.
Join us in Baltimore July 17 to see Jonathan Jensen’s musical!
The Royal Consort and I, along with others in the Loser Community, are heading up to Baltimore’s Fells Point Corner Theatre on Sunday afternoon, July 17, to see “Do It Now,” a musical about the city’s legendarily colorful mayor William Donald Schaefer. Its music and lyrics are by Loser Jonathan Jensen — well known for his Invite song parodies as well as buckets of other ink. After the show, we can get something to eat in the lively Fells Point neighborhood near the water, and Jonathan should be able to join us. You can get $20 tickets here for that show (or others; it runs Friday-Sunday from July 15 through 31) at the theater’s website. If you’re joining us, drop me a line to let me know. No word on whether we’ll be sitting on one of the city’s 3.2 zillion park benches labeled with the 1970s-'80s mayor’s name.