The Invitational Week 48: Well, the Good News Is ...
Put positive spin on a bad-news headline. Plus AN"TIP"ATHY and more winning "air quotes."
Hello. Welcome to the Thursday Invitational Gene Pool, for which you have all been waiting, and do not want to waste your time with a tedious Gene Pool Gene Poll.
Gene Pool Gene Poll:
This week’s Invitational: Be nice!
Original line from a Washington Post article:
Maine’s governor told critics Friday to “kiss my butt” over
his decision not to attend the state NAACP’s annual Martin Luther King
Jr. Day celebrations.
The same news with positive spin:
Maine’s governor found it in his heart to turn the other cheek. (Dixon Wragg)
Original: Tom DeLay, former U.S. House leader, sentenced to 3 years in prison
Spin: Government again calls DeLay to serve (Roy Ashley)
Oh, we in the news media (ahem, we who used to be in the news media) are always so mean, so cynical, interpreting every action and comment in the worst possible light. Just ask Donald Trump — so unfair! But we could have ended up with careers in “communications,” a.k.a. PR, which requires a different talent, one we’ll try to evince today: For Invitational Week 48: Take any sentence (or substantive part of a sentence) or a headline, from an article or ad published in print or online from Nov. 28 through Dec. 9, and make it sound more upbeat (or not so bad), as in the classic examples above from a 2011 Style Invitational. (Complete results here.)
Obviously you need to give us the original quote, followed by your sugarcoated revision, along with a link to the article if it’s online, or the name, date, and page number of the publication if it’s in print. Don’t worry about getting everything on a single line, our usual request.
Click here for this week’s entry form. Or go to bit.ly/inv-form-48. Please see formatting instructions on the form. As usual, you can submit up to 25 entries for this week’s contest, preferably all on the same form.
Deadline is Saturday, Dec. 9, at 9 p.m. ET. Results will run here in The Gene Pool on Thursday, Dec. 14.
And totally apropos of this contest, the winner receives a truly amazing device that will instantly take inches off your waistline with no dieting, exercise, or even corsetry: It’s a shoelace-thin tape measure that arrived last week from China along with a bathroom scale that the Empress ordered. On one side, it’s in perfectly normal centimeters. But on the other it’s inches — or “inches.” Each “inch” is about 1.3 of the real ones, and so the tape measured the E’s waist at a Barbie-like 21. It’ll be hard to give this baby up, but we sacrifice for the good of The Invitational. (The bathroom scale, alas, doesn’t cheat.)
Runners-up get autographed fake money featuring the Czar or Empress, in one of ten nifty designs. Honorable mentions get bupkis, except for a personal email from the E, plus the Fir Stink for First Ink for First Offenders.
Meanwhile, we need questions / observations / reactions. Send ’em to this tasteful orange button:
New Mean‘in’gs: The ‘air quotes’ of Week 46
In Week 46 we asked you to put part of a word or phrase into “air quotes” and then define the word in the context of that highlighted part.
Third runner-up: “MUSK”M“ELON”: Fruit that’s quickly rotted on the vine. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)
Second runner-up: AN“TIP”ATHY: Why no, I do NOT wish to add a 20 percent gratuity — hellooo, this is a self-service kiosk! (Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)
First runner-up: AM“BRO”SIA: Beer. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)
And the winner of the Word Nerd socks:
THU“MBS”CREW: Saudi peacekeeping tool. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, D.C.)
MUC‘HO HUM’OR: Honorable mentions
“FU”NNY: What you call a joke you find amusing and to hell with anyone who is offended by it. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)
A“POL”OGY: “I’m truly sorry if anyone might have been offended by my innocuous, inadvertent, well-meaning comment that in no way reflects who I am or what I believe.” (Karen Lambert)
“NO”TIFY: Don’t call us, we’ll call you. (Gary Crockett)
C“HARDON”NAY: Something cold that gets me hot. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)
NI“TP”ICKING: “Honey, how many times do I have to tell you to put the roll on the right way?” (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)
RO“UGH”ING IT: For many people, camping. (Neil Kurland, Elkridge, Md.)
“AMEN”ITIES: Televangelists’ private jets. (Gary Crockett)
“APP”REHENSION: The sudden feeling you've just downloaded malware. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)
“BAM”BI: The inspiration behind Emeril Lagasse’s venison chili. (Neil Kurland)
“GEORGE-SAN”TOS: “Did I mention that I’m also a sumo champion?” (Neil Kurland)
AMUSE-B“OUCH”E: “They charged me $24 for that little dab of sherbet they brought out after the soup?” (Roy Ashley, Washington, D.C.)
AN“XI”ETY: Did China just offer to help Russia build a tunnel into Crimea? (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)
BA“T MI”TZVAH: When you’re at the same table as Bubbe at the reception and she won’t stop talking about her urinary problems. (Gregory Koch, Falls Church, Va.)
BEN“EDICT”ION: Now go forth in peace, thankful for the Lord’s blessings, love one another, serving others with meekness, tenderness, mercy, and humility, AND THAT’S AN ORDER! (Roy Ashley)
LUNCH“EON”: For the love of God, please no more speeches! (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)
DRUN“KEN”NESS: Party time at the Mojo Dojo Casa House! (Karen Lambert)
EX“CELL”ENT: Trump’s prospects for 2024 — Fani Willis (Judy Freed, Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
F“AU”X: What pyrite is. (Chris Doyle)
F“AI”L: The result when they discover how you “wrote" your term paper. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)
SAM H“O”“WELL”: Another Commanders quarterback, another lost year … (Mark Raffman)
MIKE J“OH”NSON: Okay, now I see how we could do worse than Kevin. (Gary Crockett)
NE“W HAM”PSHIRE: A place that’s dealt a knockout blow to many a presidential hopeful. (Jonathan Jensen)
P“OWE”RBALL: Not the best strategy for personal debt reduction. (Judy Freed)
P“UTI”N: Maybe that’s why he’s so ornery. (Neil Kurland)
P“ARENT”S-TO-BE: A high school couple who seem awfully relieved. (Frank Osen)
SAC“RAMEN”T: A divine rite of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Tokyo Branch. (Kevin Dopart)
SU“BS”IDIES: Important government expenditures for things like coal, private jets, and football stadiums. (Jesse Frankovich)
T“ANGER”INE: An orange-hued complexion associated with fury. (Jeff Contompasis; Kevin Dopart)
T“HER”MOSTAT: “Is it just fifty-year-old me, or does it suddenly feel like an oven in here?” (Karen Lambert)
U“NDE”RWIRE BRA: “To say this thing is killing me is only a slight exaggeration.” (Judy Freed)
“MANIC”URE: What nervous nail-biters give themselves. (Frank Osen)
C“HIT”CHAT: Gossip about a contract to make Louie the Fink disappear. (Pam Shermeyer)
“NAP”OLEON: Ridley Scott’s new 2 ½-hour epic snoozefest. (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.; Mark Raffman)
And Last: RE“GENE”RATE: To post decades-old columns within live chats to entice new subscribers. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)
And Even Laster: “AI”R QUOTES: Hopefully, they weren’t used in this contest. (Neil Kurland)
And Lastest of All: EX“CREME”NT: The best of the worst. “Rob’s entry was the excrement of the honorable mentions.” (Rob Cohen)
The headline “New Mean‘in’gs” is by Jeff Contompasis; Jon Gearhart wrote the honorable-mentions subhead.
Still running — deadline 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Dec. 2: Our Week 47 contest to compare two people with a shared part of their names. Click here for details.
Last, if you are a free subscriber and can afford a paid subscription, please consider supporting The Gene Pool. Our paying subscribers let us continue to expand and experiment while keeping most of this newsletter free and open to all. It’s $50 a year or $5 a month.
We will see you at the famous Weekend Gene Pool, and then on Tuesday. Please send your questions / observations here, to this tasteful orange button:
Speaking of questions / observations, which we have always allowed to be anonymous, if you wish it to be, on an honor system. But some ENORMOUS jackass ruined everything yesterday, sending in questions but signing them with the names of Invitational regulars. The Invitational regulars did not write them. Apologies to Tom Witte, Chris Doyle, and Jonathan Paul. The jackass will be hunted down like a hyena and eliminated with prejudice. In the meantime, because of the ENORMOUS jackass, we will no longer allow signed entries unless you also include your email in the body of the text, when you send in your questions / observations to the tasteful orange button, which we hope you will, because they are answered thoughtfully in real time. Here it is again:
Now we begin the vaunted real-time question and answer and observation segment of the Gene Pool, much of which continues the theme of things you did that you wish you hadn’t. If you are reading this in real time, please remember to refresh your screen, to get new stuff.
But first, regarding the poll, gloriously from the grave, here is Anthony Bourdain on Henry Kissinger:
“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia — the fruits of his genius for statesmanship — and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls and remaki at A-List parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg. ”
Speaking of Elon Musk, which we did yesterday, I would be remiss in not presenting to you Tesla’s new cybertruck, of which one critic correctly says “It looks like something lowered from the lunar module to collect rocks on the moon.”
This vehicle will be less successful than “X.”
Here come the Q’s and A’s and O’s.
Q: Regarding bad decisions: I once swam in a river in Ecuador. I only later learned it has tiny candiru fish, which are notorious – a possibly apocryphal tale – for swimming up a pee stream, entering your penis, and stubbornly remaining there until your penis must be amputated. I don’t happen to have a penis, but I would not have done this had I known. I remained unbitten but it was a reckless choice.
A: Thank you for sharing.
TIMELY TIP: If you’re reading this right now, on an email: Click here to get to my webpage, then click on the top headline (In this case, “ The Invitational… ” for the full column, and comments, and real-time questions and answers. And you can refresh and see new questions and answers that appear as I regularly update the post from about noon to roughly 1 p.m. ET today.
Q: My thing that seemed like a good idea that I regret is being too nervous to try anything that I thought I might regret in the future.
A: I was never afflicted by this sort of cautiousness. To my benefit, and otherwise. It’s a double-edged sword. It never occurred to me NOT to quit college with three credits to go, to write for New York magazine. That worked out. But it also never occurred to me NOT to shoot heroin, something I came to regret 20 years later when I got Hep C.
Q: I once decided that it was a good idea to tell a professor at Penn that she had misinterpreted Kierkegaard. It turns out she was an expert in Kierkegaard – he was her doctoral thesis – and also that I was thinking of Kant, not Kierkegaard, and had totally misinterpreted even that.
A: This makes me wince because in a conversation I fairly recently offered a disquisition on “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” attributing it to Rembrandt.
Q: The breaking news that I just saw reminded me of a headline that once ran in the Everett (Mass.) Eagle, “Hirohito Dies, Joins Hitler, Burns In Hell.”
A: Thank you for sharing this. You are referring to Henry K, yes?
Q: Regarding your question about a Darwinian reason why crabs have a pull-tab that allows for humans to have easier access to their meat:
A crab's apron (that's what the pull tab is called) is used by female crabs to carry around their eggs. A bit like a pouch. A male crab's apron is somewhat vestigial, like Donald Trump's corpulent teats. That's why a female's apron is wide and a male's narrow. The fact that the apron is useful for popping them open to eat is so far removed from evolutionary survival that its nothing more than a happy (for us) accident.
Also, that's not how evolution works. Evolution is survival, not dominance. As long as a creature's genetics are good enough to keep it alive, they'll survive. Clearly not everything needs to exist at the top of the food chain. If a particular trait helps an animal to survive long enough to reproduce then it will, theoretically, pass along that trait to its offspring and help them to survive as well. Great! But reproduction passes along all sorts of other things to the next generation as well. Plenty of things end up in a creature's genetic code that have basically nothing to do with their survival one way or the other.
A: I appreciate the science. Inasmuch as I was trying to be funny, I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking it through, evolutionarily, which is a word, apparently. Google did not autocorrect it.
Q: Re the story of incorrect assumption of pregnancy. Here is the apotheosis thereof.
Q: Your putdown experience — “I don’t know, how is it?” was funny. Recalls an honest article I read, written by a gay woman, about her experience with ignorant men. One said, “What do you make love with?” She replied, “Anything I got.” Another asked “How do you know you don’t like ___k if you’ve never had it?” Her reply? “How did you like it during YOUR experimentation period?”
A: I also once got informed by a young reporter that she was very comfortable in my presence, even being edited alone with me, and not at all nervous or threatened because I was like a gay uncle.
Q: Agree that the press leans over backwards not to appear biased towards liberals, but it’s at least in part the result of a directed campaign by the right. They constantly refer to “the liberal media” in order to intimidate reporters, and it works. Eric Alterman, in his excellent book “What Liberal Media?” refers to this as “working the refs”. — Sean Clinchy
A: Agreed. And “working the refs” is a great metaphor.
Q: Regarding the pop-top tabs on crabs, and your question about whether it is an evolutionary development: People have eveolutionarily adapted to be able to take advantage of the crab tabs. -- Steve Langer
A: This is an excellent observation.
Q: God is testing those of us who are told not to eat crabs (they are treif, i.e. forbidden food) by making them so very easy to open. Not to mention so TASTY.
A: Well, there are so many things in life like that. Tasty, easy temptations scattered everywhere. Voyeurism. Heroin. Putting on shoe-mirrors. Isn’t it spelled ‘treyf”?
Q: On crabs, what are your thoughts on how everything eventually evolves to crabs? It’s an actual scientific thing. Even HG Wells knew it. There’s that scene in the Time Machine where the traveler travels far into the future, the red sun hanging low on the horizon, while crab monsters crawl the beach. That is the future of earth. Everything is a crab monster. Maybe not for millions or billions of years but it will Happen.
A: The Hitchhiker’s Guide postulates it will be ants, though.
Q: There was supposed to be a spectacular meteor shower one summer night, so I drove way out into the rural countryside to get the best view. Where, despite a forecast of clear skies, I was surrounded by fog - I could barely see in front of me, much less anything astrological. And then, searching for a clear spot that never materialized on those deserted backroads I began overshooting stop signs and realized my brakes were failing, worsening as the night progressed.
These were pre cellphone days; I managed to use a combination of downshifting and the parking brake to limp my car in the by then early morning hours to a gas station. I left my keys and a note, and called home for a ride. A hour or so later when they picked me up I was told they’d gotten quite a show over at the parking lot of the elementary school near my house.
A: Thank you.
Q: I'm a sucker for technology and gadgets, and I think my husband is the same. Our house is full of techno toys that turned out to be unnecessary. One example: a Bluetooth keyboard for my Kindle, which I have never actually used. I've recently ordered several kitchen gadgets of dubious usefulness that are taking up precious drawer/counter space. My mistakes, however, are primarily mail-order clothing---always too much trouble (and expense) to return even when it doesn't fit or is unbecoming.
My husband, on the other hand, searched exhaustively for a portable manual typewriter till he identified just the right one; it is still sitting in the living room, where it has been since it was delivered a year or more ago. And the enlarger (similar to one he had in our salad days and let go of) that he bought because he supposedly plans to get back into wet photography (despite the fact that our house has no room suitable for a darkroom) is now in a storage locker to get it out of the dining room (where mail accumulates).
A: I accumulate clocks I will never get around to repairing. There is one room in our house that is basically broken clocks and old computers that no longer work. I have five of them. One is from 2002.
Q: Just curious….who is more worthy of your regard: a pediatric oncologist with a Trump yard sign or , say, Andrew Cuomo, Bob Menendez, Hunter Biden or any of the millions of other shitheels whose politics align closely with yours?
A: Difficult question, but I reject it. It postulates that there might be a pediatric oncologist with a Trump yard sign. A person who has chosen such a career MIGHT choose to support Trump, but would never have the lamentable judgment to bare his shame to the world, PLUS jeopardize his ability to attract patients.
Q: A few years ago, at the suggestion of a neighbor’s child, I determined to place a 6’ artificial Christmas tree in a window alcove above the front door of our vaulted entranceway. The sill of the alcove was 15’ above ceramic flooring that was covered by a large Oriental rug. My wife had ordered me, in that spousal patois of no room for misunderstanding, to absolutely not do anything so stupid.
Immediately after her departure one morning, I ran next door and borrowed an extension ladder which I positioned quite securely atop the Oriental which had a fine slip resistant pad underneath. I grabbed the tree and scooted up the ladder. Just as I got to the alcove, the Oriental started sliding backward, slip resistant pad notwithstanding. I was about to discover that Archimedes was correct about leveraging and Newton was spot on about gravity. I screamed like Faye Wray as I rode the ladder down onto the now exposed ceramic.
My ladder lending neighbor heard my entreaties, hustled over, called an ambulance and my wife. As soon as the ambulance arrived, he took off with his ladder and my tree. I had a minorly cut forehead, my fall absorbed mostly by the ladder, but the ambulance folks carted my ass away. On the ride to the ER, they ascertained that I was over 65 and had fallen more than 12’. This constituted a “trauma” in the arcane score-keeping of ambulance services and top priority at the ER. High fives all around.
When our neighbor called her, my wife was having breakfast with a buddy whose husband was chief pathologist at the hospital. He greeted me at the ER, gave me a quick once over and diagnosed that I was not going to require one of his toe tags. He left me in the splendid care of the ER crew, who stitched up my forehead and sent me home with my wife, an unamused woman very ambivalent about her near widowhood.
A: I am frankly amazed by your derring-do. Not at attempting the feat, which was merely unwise, but at Defying The Woman, which was suicidal.
Q: I was in the Army and just assigned to work in Amarillo, Texas and I needed a car. I wanted the solid reliability of a VW Bug with the ubiquity of a USA brand and dealer network. So, I looked at all the magazines and Consumer Reports and picked a Chevrolet that was the USA version of the Bug.
How could they mess up the Corvair?
Q: In 2000 in the dot com boom I left my well-paying job for a startup, at a lower salary. I had 15000 stock options and the stock went up $8 in my first week… but I couldn’t sell for 18 months, and by then it was worth peanuts!
It did end well. I got laid off with 3 months pay and then got a job I liked, and I’m still there 20 years later.
A: Ah, work-related screwups. I once shamefully admitted I did not like Indian food.
Q: Regarding Rachel’s observation about writing: Lewis Carroll was well aware of the minuscule difference between writing and writhing. His Mock Turtle had been taught reeling, writhing, and branches of arithmetic: ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision. Not to mention mystery, as well as drawling, stretching, and fainting in coils.
A: As lovely as Jabberwocky.
Q: Aside from hearing TV commentators and others pronouncing “particularly” as “partickelarly,” I have a beef with the misuse of “at least” as in: “We can expect AT LEAST four to six inches of snow,” when I would think the correct wording should stop at “four inches.” The six inches is implied by the preceding “at least”. More concerning is the dosing on a bottle of pills I recently purchased. The instructions say “take AT LEAST two to three hours after a meal.” So, it’s up to me to decide whether three hours is better than two because apparently the pill makers don’t really want to commit. I find this partickelarly troublesome.
A: This is quite wonky, but correct.
Q: Seemed like a good idea: our prior house had an 8’x16’ balcony off the master bedroom. It was covered, so the previous owner had thought painted wood would be sufficient flooring to keep water out. It wasn’t. My wife and I went all in on a DIY tile job. We read up and learned about everything that we needed to do, put in a lot of elbow grease and voila, we had a beautiful tiled balcony, fully sealed and watertight. Except… we had covered but not sealed the very edges of the underlayment, so the wood fibers acted like wicks and within a year we had water damage all over again. We paid a contractor to fix it, and he had to rip out all our hard work and start over. It was cold comfort, as he complimented us on having done a really good job, except for that one small thing.
A: Speaking of “wicking,” is anyone out there old enough to remember “The Dalkon Shield”? It was a popular IUD in the 1970s, lauded as a “safer alternative” to birth control pills. I became an expert in this for a story I was writing. The designers were geniuses except they made a small mistake in for some reason using a horse suture as the string. The suture conducted bacteria up the vagina into the uterus. The results were catastrophic.
Q: A word that has always bothered me is behave. The way it is pronounced, wouldn't spelling it "behaive" make more sense? (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)
A: An unusual observation, but also correct.
Q: As a young boy, I told my parents that when I died I wanted to be buried with one walkie-talkie, so that I could report back after death on whether Heaven existed. I’ve since lost my parents and the walkie-talkies, and in hindsight, the whole thing feels like a fool’s errand.
A: This is a very valuable contribution.
Q: A normal week might have led to Truck Nutsos (better than Nut jobs?) calling in to complain , but at the bottom of the Wikipedia entry was this, which might have provoked your fan club, given its accompanying picture. Hafada Piercing. Mind you I’m observing, neither complaining or praising. But what a picture to pop up (hahaha) at the bottom (hahaha). Not sure how to show you the impact without a screen cap, but there it is, so to speak.
A: Wow, this is horrifying.
THIS IS GENE. I am declaring us down, but not before declaring that I have learned, exclusively, that the owner of the New York Jets is named “Woody Johnson.”
Please keep sending in stuff to:
Also, you might wish to go to your parents’ wallets and find pictures of Ulysses S. Grant and send them to me, right here.