I got some news yesterday afternoon. Oh, boy.
There’s been a restructuring in the Style section, and after several years as pretty much separate operations, both the daily Style section and the Sunday Style and Arts sections are once again under the charge of a single editor, Frances Stead Sellers.
Lynn Medford gets to spend full time as the editor of The Washington Post Magazine, something she was doing along with supervising the two Sunday sections.
Since Frances came to Style well after I retired as an editor, I haven’t worked with her directly. But I had a long chat with her a while back, and she’s a delightful and spirited Englishwoman who’s very well regarded at The Post both in Style and, before that, in the Outlook section and elsewhere. We’re going to sit down next Tuesday and I’ll explain to her how the Invite works and what I do every week.
Pop culture editor David Malitz, who’s been handling most of Sunday Style lately, perhaps will be working with me as well, or entirely. Details still need to be worked out.
The restructuring, Lynn told me last night, was something she had asked for: Because the same arts writers work on both the daily and Sunday sections (Sunday Style focuses of on TV and pop music, Arts on classical music, art, dance, etc.), it was awkward to have two different top editors in charge: “Style needs to be one department,” Lynn said.
It goes without saying that we’re very sad to lose Lynn, who in January 2011 moved the Invite off Page 2 of the Saturday paper (the one with the smallest circulation of the week) to showcase it on the back page of the then-new Sunday Style tabloid. (I can’t believe it’s just been two years!) Like no Style editor before her in the 20 years of the Invite, Lynn took a huge interest in the column, reading the page proof herself every week and offering her famed North Carolinian “HAW” for her favorite entry of the week.
And as the 50-odd (also 50 odd) people who attended last weekend’s Flushies awards can attest, Lynn drove in from her home in the Annapolis area to join us and to thank the Loser Community for its continuing enthusiasm and deluded insanity. She even readily posed in the future Invite prize pictured above: a prim red sweater set. (No, really, it’s the hat.)
We certainly all have Lynn to thank for the space and resources devoted to our 20th-anniversary retrospective this past March. Lynn had multiple goals in giving such lavish play to the Invite: to celebrate to feature and its staying power; to introduce it to new readers; and to tell about the amazing phenomenon of the Losers, a media-driven social network long before such terms existed.
Last night Lynn sent me this: “I am going to miss you and your colorful crew. . . . Tell them I love them and hope I can still come to the Flushies!”
We’ve done so many contests over the years to compare or contrast any two items on a list we supply that it’s hard to think you need any guidance; Bob Staake even wanted to do away with the example and just draw an even-wackier-than-usual generic cartoon: “Maybe a drawing of Michelle with bangs working her guns by pumping a solar powered butter churn as two Amish guys look on?”
But we’ve definitely had lots of newcomers to the Invite since Week 972, when we put up our last version. For that one, I pulled the items from a list of “trending topics” listed at the top of the washingtonpost.com pages. (The results are here; scroll down past the Week 976 contest.) This time, I gave another go to the method I used in Week 934: solicit topics from the Losers, in return for no credit whatsoever. About half in the list are my own — the 23-year-old Geo Prizm is my mother-in-law’s car — and the rest were offered up last weekend in response to my call on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook. (That thread progressed into quotes from songs that contained lists of oddball things, such as “Things You Left Behind” by the Nails, and “eBay” by Weird Al Yankovic. Maybe next time!)
When I judge the Invite’s neologism contests, I often mark up my printout with “BD” — i.e., it should have a better definition, one that’s as interesting as the word that the entrant came up with. And when I’m as organized as I should be, I save those words to be used in a “reologism” contest like Week 1018. This one included entries from both Week 1014, which combined parts of two words in the same Post story, and Week 1000, which changed one letter in a term beginning with T through Z.
Most of the 40 or so words I offered up for definitional improvement paid off handsomely. As usual, when dozens or hundreds of people are sending ideas for the same word, there’s going to be a lot of duplication, and so it was often a clever description or a funny sentence used as an example that got the ink. For example, lots of people defined “fedative” as a boring federal document, but Michael Reinemer turned his entry into an entertaining ad for this soporific medicine.
It’s the second win and 44th (and 45th and 46th and 47th!) ink for Rob Huffman down in Fredericksburg, Va., midway between Washington and Richmond. Rob got into the Invite just a couple of years ago in Week 918, and we’re still looking forward to meeting him in person. Perhaps the next Loser brunch that’s held in Virginia?
Chris Doyle, who sent his entries from his condo in Hawaii, snarfs up even more detritus this week (I hope he finds a curvaceous Cornhusker for the “Not Everything Is Flat in Nebraska” T-shirt). A “Cup Punneth Over” mug or Grossery Bag is bound for Tim Livengood of Columbia, Md., who gets his first “above-the-fold” ink, and fourth overall. Tim also had a number of almost-made-it entries this week; I hope he sends lots more in the future. And fourth goes to Kevin Dopart, who gets so much stuff that he forgot to take home the Inkin’ Memorial I brought in for him at the Flushies.
And late-breaking news: The page proof of this weekend’s print edition was read by David Malitz, who reports that he especially enjoyed both “Zomba” entries: by Rob Huffman, playing off Zumba, and Gary Crockett, who went with Roomba.
For this week’s Scarlet Letter and other unprintable neologisms, see the bottom section of this week’s Conversational — but only if you don’t mind gross-out humor and nasty epithets.
Leave it to the organizers of the Losers’ Flushies awards “banquet” to find a venue with a stage whose back wall featured the restaurant’s two loudly flushing toilets!
It turned out to be one of the great running gags of Saturday afternoon’s lunch in the basement “Boiler Room” at Jake’s American Grille, in Washington’s Chevy Chase D.C. neighborhood: It seemed that whenever emcee Kyle Hendrickson would introduce some Loser who was getting one award or another, some hapless restaurant patron would emerge from the john to a hearty round of applause from the four dozen Losers and their attendants.
Even more entertaining, though, were the festivities themselves: Loser of the Year Robert Schechter — he earned the honor by earning more ink last year than anyone else who hadn’t won before — came down from New York for the day to receive not only his plaque (he has to return it next year) but also a song parody written in his honor by Loser Mae Scanlan and performed, as Mae accompanied on keyboard, by a ragtag ensemble consisting of Nan Reiner, Elden Carnahan, Pie Snelson, me (holding odd finger puppets) and the entirely imitable Dave Prevar on triangle, wooden smack-thing and, of course, More Cowbell.
There were several other parodies as well, and plaques given out for Rookie of the Year (also to Le Schechter), Most “Imporved” (Beverley Sharp) and even Least Imporved (Judy Blanchard, who sent in a funny acceptance speech from Michigan.
It was great fun finally to meet several people I’d known only through their entries: Robert, of course, but also Matt Monitto, who drove up from college in North Carolina, complete with his “Sympathy for the Empress” parody; and local Losers Steve Honley and Seth Tucker.
At the end of the festivities — the food was surprisingly good, by the way — a number of Losers posed with various future prizes in hope of gaining humiliation-fame for wearing a basketball hoop on one’s head, or little Jockey-shorts-like Handerpants gloves. Theresa Kowal’s whoopee cushion modeling is on display today; you’ll see others in the future, or you can see them now, along with lots of other photos and videos from the day, on the Devotees page.
Thanks again to those who pitched in to put the event together: Elden Carnahan, Dave Prevar, Pie Snelson, Nan Reiner, Mae Scanlan, Kyle Hendrickson, and whomever I forgot. And also to Roy Ashley, who suggested Jake’s, which just happens to be an easy distance from his house.
With words like “farticle,” it’s to be expected we’ll get some graphic definitions. We let in the ones about “dark matter” and “puon,” but drew the line at this one from Rob Huffman and a similar one from Jeff Hazle: “The cosmological residue that results when big bangs issue from black holes.”
Then there was this one for “testosteroni,” by Roy Ashley: “I hate to tell you this, friend, but that’s not Alfredo sauce.”
But the Scarlet Letter this week, for the entry that’s inkworthily clever but something The Post just can’t run, goes to Kevin Dopart: “Yaho: Someone who screws her employees for profit.”