Sunday, April 18, 2010

Here at the End of All Things

I’ve pondered this entry for a while now. Thought about recapping my favorite Cokesbury Party Blog moments. Holding a contest to see which book to roast here next. But, like Plankton from SpongeBob Square Pants, I’m facing reality:

I am small.

The blog will take a hiatus after this post. I may indeed find a new book to skewer, but whether it’s continued as part of the Cokesbury Party Blog or not, I have no idea. That would require some retooling. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Here’s another bridge: Nobody comes here. Nobody cares. In nearly a year of busting my brains out on this blog, not a single comment.

But I’m not bitter.

I had fun.

So here at the end of all things, let me end, finally, with this:

Week Fifty: Bill Cosby

Ultimately, no.

I will not write about Cokesbury’s Minstrel Show here. Frankly, it’s embarrassing. The jokes are lame, first of all. Here’s a sample:

End Man No. 1: Mr. Interlocutor, you know Mr. Wise sure owes me some congratulations.
Interlocutor: Owes you some congratulations for what?
End: The other day I heard two boys arguing about him. They sure was arguing.
Interlocutor: What were they saying about him?
End: They said Mr. Wise wasn’t fit to live with a hog.
Interlocutor: What did you say?
End: I took up for him; I said he was.

Hyuck hyuck hyuck.
Then there was this one:

End No. 3 (addresses End No. 4): I’ll bet I can fix you so you will be just like one of Mr. Woolworth’s five-and-dime stores.
End No. 4: What you talkin’ about, Nigger? I’ll bet you can’t.
End No. 3 (lays a dime one the stage): Stand on that dime, Nigger. Now there you is. You is just like one of Mr. Woolworth’s stores.
End No. 4: What you talkin’ about? Why is I like one of Mr. Woolworth’s stores?
End No. 3: Nothing over ten cents.

It doesn’t get any better. In fact, it gets a lot worse.

So, no party. I’m sorry. I’m sure Cokesbury intended to have the book end on a high note. Changes – for the good – in entertainment and attitude make it not so today.

Maybe ending with this would be better:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

About that Minstrel Show . . .

Before we launch into Cokesbury’s final party, the Minstrel Show, pause and ask yourself. Do you want to be associated with the likes of this:

I’m not sure I do. On the one hand, talking about minstrel shows in general may be taken as offensive by African Americans, and for good reason. It’s true as Wikipedia says, “Minstrel shows lampooned black people in mostly disparaging ways: as ignorant, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, joyous, and musical.” Blackface continued long after minstrel shows fell out of fashion, most notably in film and in “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” one of the most popular radio shows of the first half of the 20th century. The show – and I’ve listened to plenty of them – was pretty degrading and, as evidenced by protests against the show, not universally liked.

Now I couch this next phrase carefully: Degrading if you recall these are white men performing in black face, or degrading if you believe the stereotypes. Amos 'n' Andy are no more buffoonish, superstitious, lazy or musical than, say, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton of The Honeymooners, who got up to some pretty stupid lower-class antics as well, as I recall.

So that brings in the other hand, shying away from such subjects limits our ability to discuss race openly. If we’re to understand the hurt, we, as a nation, ought to understand the reason behind the hurt. Or result in failing to point out to the oversensitive that in entertainment as in life, stupidity, cupidity, racism and buffoonery knows no racial boundary.

And on that ubiquitous third hand, there’s also stuff like this:

So is “Hee-Haw” a covert way of white liberal guilt getting back at all those who think minstrelsy is so entertaining? After all – and I watched “Hee-Haw” a lot as a kid – the show makes white folks look ignorant, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, joyous, and musical. I don’t know the answer to that.

I do know Cokesbury’s introduction to the party isn’t promising:

A good way to have a delightful evening of fun and at the same time make some money is to put on a Minstrel Show. A Minstrel Show is a typically American type of entertainment, and to most people thoroughly enjoyable.
I’m not sure I want to have the Cokesbury Party Blog conclude on this note. If anyone out there in Blogland is reading, let me know what you think.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bonus Party: The Vanishing Party

So, you want to raise some money. Cokesbury’s down with that; they’ve got plenty of ways and reasons to raise money as well. That’s why they’ve come up with the vanishing Party, which is best described as a multi-level marketing firm that sells tea and “social contacts,” whatever those may be.

Here’s the gist:

Let’s suppose that a group of women in a church, society, or club desires to raise $250. They decide to give a Vanishing Party. Five women meet for an afternoon tea, each of them bringing a donation of 25 cents. This will amount to $1.25. Each of these women decide s to give a tea on each Wednesday for the next four Wednesdays to which they will each be willing to contribute 25 cents. The next Wednesday afternoon there would be five women, each entertaining four other women. This would be twenty-five women each contributing 25 cents.
And so on and so forth until the group’s goal of $250 is made and the tea parties “vanish,” or long before that when the women figure it’ll just be cheaper and easier to fork over enough cash to make the Vanishing Parties vanish for good.

Or throw the parties and insist the attendees wear silly hats. Then sing these songs as they jabber:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week Forty-Eight: Street Carnival


Oh, what a joyful word to kids’ ears. Carnival. Cotton candy and scary carnies. The lure of winning a horridly ugly stuffed dog by throwing balls or tossing rings. The thrill of getting lost followed by the inexplicable joy of being found again. And a chance to watch Dad go ballistic when he has to pay $3.50 each when you and your two brothers want hot dogs.

Cokesbury, too, is in a carnival spirit. Behold:
A good way to make money for any worthy enterprise is to have a Street Carnival.
Yeah, making money again. I wasn’t aware that carnivals existed for any other purpose than paying for additional tattoos or having yet another excuse to avoid going to the dentist. But Cokesbury seems to think you can make money by hosting one, preferably indoors so you can filter out the riff-raff, especially when your advert for the carnival is so damned compelling:

Christian Endeavor Street Carnival
Friday Evening, October 10.
A lot of fun for all.
Admission, 25 cents.

Or, alternately:

Big Street Carnival
Tuesday night at eight o’clock.
Come one, come all.
Under the auspices of the Conference Club
Admission, 15 cents.

Kinda reminds me of this:

Wow. “Stimulant properties of the coca plant.” Yeah, before they changed the formula, Coca-Cola was basically liquid cocaine. But since it was a “Syrup*And*Extract,” that took the curse off it.

Anyway, back to the publicity. I love this gem:
The newspapers should have two or three stories about it.
Wow, they were pushovers for a good carnival story back then, were they? Of course, this is back when people actually did read newspapers. And back when folks like George Babbitt could manipulate a reporter at will. Such as:
When the Sunday School campaign was finished, Babbitt suggested to Kenneth Escott, "Say, how about doing a little boosting for Doc Drew personally?"

Escott grinned. "You trust the doc to do a little boosting for himself, Mr. Babbitt! There's hardly a week goes by without his ringing up the paper to say if we'll chase a reporter up to his Study, he'll let us in on the story about the swell sermon he's going to preach on the wickedness of short skirts, or the authorship of the Pentateuch. Don't you worry about him. There's just one better publicity-grabber in town, and that's this Dora Gibson Tucker that runs the Child Welfare and the Americanization League, and the only reason she's got Drew beaten is because she has got SOME brains!"

"Well, now Kenneth, I don't think you ought to talk that way about the doctor. A preacher has to watch his interests, hasn't he? You remember that in the Bible about—about being diligent in the Lord's business, or something?"

"All right, I'll get something in if you want me to, Mr. Babbitt, but I'll have to wait till the managing editor is out of town, and then blackjack the city editor."

Thus it came to pass that in the Sunday Advocate-Times, under a picture of Dr. Drew at his earnestest, with eyes alert, jaw as granite, and rustic lock flamboyant, appeared an inscription—a wood-pulp tablet conferring twenty-four hours' immortality:

The Rev. Dr. John Jennison Drew, M.A., pastor of the beautiful Chatham Road Presbyterian Church in lovely Floral Heights, is a wizard soul-winner. He holds the local record for conversions. During his shepherdhood an average of almost a hundred sin-weary persons per year have declared their resolve to lead a new life and have found a harbor of refuge and peace.

Everything zips at the Chatham Road Church. The subsidiary organizations are keyed to the top-notch of efficiency. Dr. Drew is especially keen on good congregational singing. Bright cheerful hymns are used at every meeting, and the special Sing Services attract lovers of music and professionals from all parts of the city.

On the popular lecture platform as well as in the pulpit Dr. Drew is a renowned word-painter, and during the course of the year he receives literally scores of invitations to speak at varied functions both here and elsewhere.
Yeah, your modern-day newspaper reporters love stuff like that. Call them. Several times. See how many times you’ll be completely ignored.

No matter. Your guests will be battering down your street carnival doors, two bits in hand, waiting for admission so they can see the attractions you’re going to nickel-and-dime them for. Better get going. Here are a few suggestions:
Museum. Have one booth arranged as a museum. A charge of admission of 5 or 10 cents should be made. Some of the following may be placed in the museum:
September Morn (a card bearing the date September 1, 5 am)
The light of the World (a box of matches)
A collection of marble (just some marbles)
Some things out of King Tut’s tomb (anything that has never been in King Tut’s tomb)
The Home of Burns (use a smoothing iron)
Portrait of Penn (a picture of a writing pen)
The Watch on the Rhine (a watch on an orange peel)
A twelve-carat ring (make this with a dozen carrots, placed in a circle)
The One-Eyed Monster (a sewing needle)
For Men Only. The booth for men only should be an attraction for the ladies. But it may be required that when women are admitted they have to go in pairs or be accompanied by a gentleman friend. The booth merely contains articles used exclusively by men. A razor, men’s trousers, leather belt, socks, tie, etc.

For Women Only. The men should be admitted only in pairs or with a lady. The booth contains articles used exclusively by women such as a dress, hose, high-heeled shoes, lip stick, corset, etc. A small admission should be charged.
Here, it’s not clear whether Cokesbury expects men to be the only sex willing to see what’s for women only, or if women are too smart to pay to see the crap their husbands or boyfriends leave lying all over the house or apartment. Either way, just try charging only for the Women’s Tent and see how well that goes over with your feminist friends.

There are more booths, however. Let’s continue:
Wild Animals and Birds. Select people with names of animals and birds for this booth, such as Mr. Fox, Miss Lyon, Mrs. Wolf, etc. Other names that are common are Hare, Bear, Beaver, Crabb. Names of birds are Crow, Drake, Sparrow, Hawk, and Martin. If it is not possible to get people with these names, pictures of people in the city with such names may be used and the names written under the picture.

It will add to the interest at this booth if there is someone on the inside, either with a musical instrument such as a trombone, or some apparatus contrived for that purpose, making noises to represent the roar of wild animals and the squawking of birds.
I tried to think, do I know anyone named after an animal? I know a Martin. I know a little dwarf-imp-girl named after a poison gas (I don’t know why; don’t ask). Maybe this would work where you live.

To continue:
Food Booths. Quite a good deal may be realized from the sale of candy, ice-cream cones, sandwiches, coffee, and cake. If this is donated, all money received will be profit.
To go with the food booth, Cokesbury suggests:
The Green Pig that Eats Human Food. Place a mirror in the bottom of a box about a foot square. Over this box have a large green light bulb and a yellow bulb on a double socket. Charge 5 cents admission to see this show. The person looks in the box and sees his reflection in the green mirror.
If that’s not enough of a money-maker, try this one:
Mystery Fish Pond. Use an ordinary fishing pole and attach for a hook a spring clothespin or other spring snap. Arrange a curtain in such a way that the hook may be thrown over. This may be done over a partition. The customer snaps a dime for bait onto the hook and throws it over. The one in charge on the other side takes the dime and fastens a package onto the snap. Some of these articles may be of value as bait for other customers, but most of them must be valueless to assume a good profit.
Sounds like a great way to clean out lint traps, garbage pails, sink traps and other rubbish bins for the valueless junk. For the rest, just give them their dime back.

This next one, I might actually do, because in a way it reminds me of the elementary school I attended. The fire escape from the second floor WAS A FREAKING SLIDE. WAHOOO! Never got to use it, and it was removed the year I actually got to attend class on the second floor:
A Trip to Mars. The customers are blindfolded and led into the entrance of the road to Mars. Along the route they are rocked and turned in chairs, swung in swings, made to climb out of a narrow window, pass through a narrow passage, climb a ladder, and come down a slide. This slide may be arranged from a window. Care should be taken to arrange such a trip so that it will not be dangerous.
As far as I’m concerned, come do it at Lincoln Elementary School. I’m sure some janitor still has that fire escape slide stashed somewhere.

Speaking of dangerous carnival attractions, why not build your own Ferris Wheel?
The Ferris Wheel. At a church carnival I saw the Ferris wheel which I shall describe. It was strongly constructed with upright posts extending about ten feet from the ground. On either side two pieces of timber two by six inches were crossed and brace together. A hole was bored through the intersection of these timbers, and they were arrange so that they would revolve on the two-inch pipe placed on the upright posts. These two by sizes should be sixteen feet long. At each of the four ends of the timbers seats are hung on three-fourth-inch pipes to that they will revolve. The wheel must be strongly constructed. It is operated by three or four boys, and particularly for the amusement of children. If strongly constructed, grown-ups may patronize it also.
If it were me, I’d stick with the mission to Mars. Remember, describing a home-made Ferris Wheel is a lot different than building such a wheel. Maybe you ought to wait for Popular Mechanics to come out with a set of plans.

Or just do it this way:

Be sure to play some appropriate 1930s music. Like this:

Next you need a sop to throw to the folks who are getting tired of digging into their pockets every time they wander up to a booth. Enter the Free Show:
Usually in every city there is someone who does acrobatic stunts, or tumbling stunts, or someone who performs on the horizontal bar, or trapeze, or plays a violin in some unusual way. Use any of such acts that can be secured for the free show.
Call Ned Flanders. He’s got that stupid sexy butt thing going:

And that’s it, folks. Show’s over, except for this newspaper article as reproduced by Cokesbury, describing such a fair, one which evidently went a long way in fostering improved race relations in the Greater Palm Beach, Florida, area:
It was Whoopee Night last night in the vicinity of the Northwood Church, when the great Whoopee Carnival being staged by the young people of the church was open to the public for the fist run. A huge crowd was there. Everybody was in gay spirits and took in everything that was offered, both in the way of entertainment and refreshments. The carnival runs again tonight. Besides the Main Show, which was a splendid program beginning at eight o’clock, there were two trapeze performers and side shows, including a ten-year-old negro boy weighing 450 pounds, fortune telling, a green pig, a reducing lady, a freak palm reading, and fish pond. Then the Ferris Wheel attracted old folks and young alike, while the watermelon booth, were you could get a slice for a nickel and all you could eat for a dime, the ice-cream stand, the hot dog counter, and so and so on, were busy places every minute of the evening.
Yes, my journalist friends, that is all one paragraph. Remember this the next time you criticize the Internet for being a vapid cesspool of poor journalistic endeavor.

And, frankly, speaking as a fat person, I've never understood why fat people are considered freaks or funny. As noted earlier on this blog, I never cared for the "Our Gang" character Chubbsy-Wubbsy, or the infinite other fatty derivatives out there meant to draw humor. I file fat kids in the same category I file monkeys -- and that is in the very narrow category of things that are considered amusing but really aren't, before you get any radical ideas. And having a fat negro kid? Yeah, Florida, really improving on the race relations thing, right?

So on that note, we leave the carnival and its freaks behind. Tune in next week when the party will vanish. Literally.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Cokesbury Successor?

For the past few months, I've been looking feverishly for a successor to the Cokesbury Party Book; a book worthy of continuing the fun at the Cokesbury Party Blog.

I may have found it. It's been on my bookshelf for years, and concerns, in part, this guy:

This is the illustrious Louis Untermeyer, fourteenth poet laureate of the Library of Congress, translator of Cyrano de Bergerac and compiler of humor. I'm going to have to do some more reading and research, but my feelings are optimistic. Copyright might be the biggest issue. I'll have to explore that a bit more.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What Is it With the Sandwiches, Really?

Regular readers of the Cokesbury Party Blog know that Cokesbury has a thing with sandwiches. For quite a while, I figured it was either a Florida thing, a Methodist thing or simply a Cokesbury thing. Then I read "When Worlds Collide," a seminal science fiction book published a year after the Cokesbury Party Book, and realized that this sandwich fetish transcends Floridianism, Methodism and Cokesburyism. Here's a report on that:

Ah, the simplicity and ubiquity of the humble sandwich.

From lonely Arthur Dent, great sandwich maker and carver of Perfectly Normal Beasts on Lumella, to the famished Bilbo Baggins, longing not for bits of meat toasted on sticks but for a loaf and butter, the human longing for a sandwich knows no earthly nor metaphorical bounds.

Thus it is fitting that the intrepid voyagers in Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s “When Worlds Collide” should share sandwiches, wrapped in waxed paper, as they voyage from the destroyed earth to their new home on Bronson Beta in this classic 1930s Science Fiction novel.

I capitalize science fiction because this was the era of true sci fi, unaided by technology and fueled only by the promise of technology to come and the human imagination. Thus, the vision of sandwiches unaffected by gravity:

Their habit of relying upon the attractive force of the Earth resulted in an increasing number of mishaps, some of them amusing and some of them painful. After what seemed like eons of time someone asked Tony for more food. Tony himself could not remember whether he was going to serve the fifth meal or the sixth, but he sprang to his feet with earnest willingness – promptly shot clear to the ceiling, against which he bumped his head. He fell back to the floor with a jar and rose laughing. The ceiling was also padded, so that he had not hurt himself.

The sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper, and when some one on the edge of the crowd asked that his sandwich be tossed, Tony flipped it toward him, only to see it pass high over the mans’ head and entirely out of reach, and strike against the opposite wall. The man himself stretched to catch the wrapped sandwich, and sat down again rubbing his arm, saying that he had almost throng his shoulder out of joint.
What a joyful cacophony of images: Ordinary human being experiencing weightlessness for the first time, and sharing that weightlessness not with paste glopped onto a tray and scraped out with a spoon, but with sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. Maybe the authors appreciated the familiarity, the portability of the sandwich, recognizing that here is sustenance that can be manufactured in bulk using simple ingredients, ingredients that can be cooked beforehand and thus not require fancy, open-flamed preparation on a great space ship. Or maybe they just like sandwiches. Either way, bravo, gentlemen.

The rest of the book, too, is most excellent, with the ubiquitous love story only getting in the way marginally. Politically-correct folk will notice the treatment of the main character’s valet, referred to in innocent passing as a “Jap” and identified as “inscrutable.” He does not, however, supply the sandwiches, but the coffee, so perhaps that can be forgiven.

I think the Fourth Earl of Sandwich would be pleased that his namesake food item is a mainstay in science fiction.