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Winning and losering 

Loyal readers will recall that last year Shred was a touch big headed on learning this column won second place in the national Association of Alternative Newsweeklies contest. This year, I won second place again. And … hell yes, I’m still impressed with myself! Second place is exactly where you want to be: You’re one of the best, a real great, but nobody bugs you in restaurants and TMZ never breaks the news of your death.

Celebrating the losers

Being an egotistical loser is why I have a special warm place in my craw for people who don’t get the glory. Second place isn’t bad. Just ask Susan Boyle, Adam Lambert or Carrie Prejean. Let’s remember those great unforgettable fighters who fought Ali for the title and lost (Editor: Can you please look up the names of some of these people? I can’t remember any.)

Maybe this lust for losers is why I make a tradition of wandering through the judging room after the winners of the 55 fiction contest are chosen. That contest has lots of losers. More than 1,000 entries and just two dozen winners. The losers just litter the judging room floor. That’s not right. Since the only prize in that contest is getting printed, I can accomplish a total end-run around the entire contest by selecting some of my favorites.

An aside: This is a note to SLO’s own Michael Chambers, who entered hundreds of entries. Some were pretty good, many weren’t, and the end result is the judges felt so abused at having to read all of them that I think they’re considering imposing an entry fee next year. Nice work, Michael. That fee will be your legacy.

Here, then are some of my favorite losers:

Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter

I was walking in the woods one day, in the merry scary month of May. I went number one on the ground, then all of a sudden there’s a clown, he grabbed my noodle and I said, “Hey, No Way!”  (I had a bowl of Campbell’s Low Socium chicken noodle soup, it was epic.)

That was from Dan Lamb, of Delafield, Wisconsin. I liked it because it had all the logic and continuity of an Internet search return. Plus, it rhymed and featured a nasty clown. That’s a winner for me.

Here’s another I liked, it’s from Pat Woodland:

Not From Wisconsin

A familiar curve of throat caught my eye as she stepped off the elevator.

Trapped in back, I glimpsed a small bottle tattooed on her ankle, delivering its message over an ocean of time.

“Sam?” I called, thirty years too late.

She turned with that smile, “Rick?”

And the doors closed on us once again.

What’s not to like about that one? It’s got a scene, intrigue, nice writing, a surprise ending.

And here’s another winner-in-my-book from SLO’s Linnaea Phillips.

Crumpled Bones

What do observations bring? Crumpled bones under a house. A baby? Who, when, why? Calls to neighbors, questions. Quickness and intensity of an investigator reveal no lost babies. Forensic investigations, teeth, fingerprints, DNA; nothing. Under the crawl space the police detail went for the removal. A neighborhood wild monkey dead. Probable cause: lemon pie.

I had to read that a couple times, but it’s worth it.

As we’re on the subject of losers, it’s time to reveal the winners of my latest contest. If you’ll recall, it was a contest to name the best places to place surveillance cameras in SLO.

So, here are some of the good ones:

Aaron Ashenfelder
writes to say: “There are only two obvious places where these cameras would be any good: 1: Sheriff Patrick Hedges’ ass. 2: Their [presumably the city officials’] own asses. Maybe they can link some type of monitor to the camera that they can wear on their head, much like the tiny rear view mirrors bicyclists use, so they can finally see the shit they are spewing all over the city.”

Great suggestions, Aaron. With a cheery attitude like that, you might want to join the Rotarians.

Glenn Goodman of Los Osos writes to suggest a camera for Bubble Gum Alley. “They could sell pictures upon exit like at Splash Mountain in Disneyland. Budgets being what they are ...”

But the winner, and future owner of a free copy of Nammah’s Kiss, a fantasy romance featuring witches and magic dragons, is John Farhar of Atascadero. The best place to put cameras?

“Up the butt of everyone that thinks we really need that kind of expensive and invasive monitoring of the public. Ever notice there are never any big problems with events like the Mardi Gras parade UNTIL they send in way too many police looking for something to do with all that fancy new riot gear they got from Homeland Security grants?  I suppose parades must incite the terrorists to greater deeds of evil so we have to stop them by stopping parades!”

Nicely ranted. If you want your book, I’ll need your address. Until then, just know that, for today, at least, you’re not a loser.

Shredder can be reached at

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