Monday, December 28, 2009

What Makes the White Man Blush?

If you're hoping that Cokesbury's Indian Party will be a nuanced exploration of Native American culture, I have to wonder if you've been paying attention. Plan on lots of stuff like this:

And this:

Truth be told, these presentations of the "red man" are, in fact, a bit more palatable to our politicially correct times than Cokesbury's party. But perhaps I should let you judge.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Week Thirty-Three: School Days Party

Now that Christmas is over but Christmas vacation still has its legs, the following party is meant to offer a bit of solace to all those parents who have spent their holiday in the bosom of their family but are now really, really ready for school to start again.

Here’s the invitation:

School days, school days,
Dear old Golden Rule days’
Readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic,
But without the sound of the hickory stick.
We will live all over again,
So don’t come like women and men;
But come like kids you used to be,
And we’ll have an evening of fun and glee.

More proof – as if we needed any – that some people will do anything for a rhyme.

As this is a costume extravaganza, Cokesbury advises thusly:

For the girls, play dresses with bloomers, sunbonnets, middies, and skirts. Some may care to go back to their grandmother’s day and wear the pantalet dresses of that day. The boys should wear overalls, knickers, short pants with old-fashioned waists, with round collars, and perhaps some come barefooted. A toe tied up with a rag would add to the effect.
So, basically, come like the kids from The Little Rascals:

Maybe folks back in the 1930s had it easy. I’ve got my 20th high school reunion coming up this summer and, as far as I can tell, we’re being encouraged to come dressed as we were in high school. And seeing that my high school was about seven years behind the times national trend-wise, that means we’ll be smack in the 1980s, so we’ll have to come dressed like this:

Complete with the Futura font. Eew.

Let’s move on to something less nauseating. Like Cokesbury’s School Days Party decorations:
If it is possible to use a room that can be transformed into one with the appearance of a classroom, this would be ideal. At any rate, try to create this atmosphere by the use of blackboards, globe, maps, etc. In a home, remove the lighter furniture and bring in a desk for the teacher. Borrow blackboards from a school or church to put around the walls.
Use the following dialogue when you ask your church or school for the loaner blackboards:

You: Hello, [principal or clergyman]. I’d like to borrow several blackboards for a school-themed party.

Principal/Clergyman: What?

You: Blackboards. You have them I presume?

P/C: Well, yes we do, but . . .
You: Loan them to me. I paid for them with my tax dollars/donations so by right of payment, they are, indeed, mine.

Let me know how that works for you.

Be sure to jolly it up with your atheist friends that you borrowed the stuff from “the church,” just to make them really antsy and make the more militant ones grumble about separation of church and state. Then explain to them that you’re not a “state,” and that if they really want to whine, what they ought to be whining about is the fact you used Holy Water from the church to make the post-party punch. Then once they’re really riled up, move them into head-explosion territory with the following Cokesbury activity:

Opening of School. School should be opened in the regular customary manner by the salute to the flat and the singing of “America.” Perhaps there might also be a good morning song.
If their heads fail to explode immediately, be sure to emphasize the “regular and customary” portion of Cokesbury’s description. Boom Boom!

A good morning song? Something like this?

In case your party is suddenly getting too artsy, assure your guests that the next game will have them using their mathematical brains. If that doesn’t glue them to their seats, nothing will.

Arithmetic. The fist class should be a class in arithmetic with the students reciting orally. Call one someone to recite the nines of the multiplication table and another to recite them backward. If one pupil makes a mistake, call on another to finish. Ask another pupil to count with Roman numerals to ten, and give the Roman characters to one thousand. Ask others to give some of the tables, such as the table for liquid measure, dry measure, and weights and measures. Those making mistakes should be put on the dunce stool and made to wear the dunce cap. Successful pupils should be given lollipops.
This is a game that separates the men from the boys, literally and metaphorically. You’ll soon find out whether any of your friends are smart enough to know that four gills equals a pint in liquid measure, or that 63 gallons equals one hogshead. Or that a rusty can of corn equals a moosehead, or three sick chickens equals a bag of potatoes. But that’s for barter. I get all confused.

So let’s move on to geography, in which Cokesbury immediately shows its, ahem, colors:

The next is to be a lesson in geography. Give each pupil a paper on which the following questions have been typed, making carbon copies, or mimeographed. Give each one a pencil. A definite time may be set for the completion of the lesson. The teacher should then collect the papers, grade them, and perhaps reward the pupils with lollipops.

(1) What state is the Negro state? Col.
(2) What is Noah’s state? Ark.
(3) What state is a girl’s name? Minn.
(4) What state is a Catholic Church service? Mass.
(5) What state is a physician? Md.
(6) What state is Coolidge’s state? Cal.
(7) What state is a letter of the alphabet? O.
(8) What state is a mineral substance containing metal? Ore.
(9) What state is a personal pronoun? Me.
This game, of course, won’t get past the first question. Maybe you’d best save it for last, and then only if the party is bombing so badly you want the guests to leave angry.

Let’s move on to something less controversial: Declamation.

Yes, there was a time, folks, when people had to memorize things. They couldn’t rely on the Internet to be their long-term memory. So here’s Cokesbury’s memorization game:

Mother Goose rhymes could be recited, and the pupils should use as much rhetorical display as possible.
You know, this kinda reminds me of something that happened to me in high school. A few friends and I were in a study room off the library when we heard what we thought was either an argument or a person having a nervous breakdown in the next room. One of our group ventured next door to see what was happening, only to find our resident Thespian with the capital T, Kenny, reciting a declamation for a drama competition he was heading to. We, the callow, shallow talentless souls that we were, thought it was really weird that he was making such a spectacle of himself. Now one of us is an artist-slash-mailman, the others have dropped off the face of the earth and I work at a dump. Kenny’s still out there:

So it’s time for refreshments – box lunches consisting of random sandwiches, cakes, fruit and the aforementioned Holy Water punch. The randomness is meant to afford the activity of lunchroom trading. Eat your lunch in peace, while I try to figure out how to recover my shattered hull of a life. And Kenny, I’m sorry we laughed at you.

Be sure to tune in next time for an enlightened Cokesbury look at the Native Americans in its Indian Party. Ugh, and How!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

No Hiatus for You!

Because of the sour economy, we here at Cokesbury Party Blog International Headquarters are working for extra-free over the holiday period in order to keep the bosses happy and all those eyeballs rolling. Rolling in, I mean. Because blogs, you know, depend on eyeballs for whatever revenue we . . .

Let's face it. Nobody comes here, except a few random people from, inexplicably, Belgium, according to our Google Analytics. So in 2010, don't be surprised if you find a more Belgium-slanted feel here at the blog, with more Walloon in-jokes and references to Tintin.

But back to the original intent of this post: A party! We're not taking a hiatus, according to our Soup Nazi boss, so in a few days expect to revel in a School Days Party, just in time to send your own rugrats back to the No Child Left Behind factory.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from the CPB!

Okay. The presents are all opened. The kids are napping with their zeppeleins or trying to snitch some of the Old Man's wine. But I'm sure somewhere in the family you can find someone still ready to party. So Cokesbury presents a few quirky science projects for you to wow and entertain your friends.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bonus Party: It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like, Well, Christmas

From its first sentence, you can tell Cokesbury’s Christmas Party was written in a more innocent, less politically-correct time:
Every group of young people, every Sunday school class, and every society expects to have a party for Christmas.
It’s actually kinda cute, reading that sentence these days. You wouldn’t dare write such a thing today, for fear of offending someone outside of the everys mentioned because the exceptions are no longer content – or mature – enough to brush off this innocent Judeo-Christian all-inclusiveness and instead scream not for inclusion of their belief or non-belief, but for the abolition of what was believed and celebrated by


Sorry. Feeling a little persecuted these days. But still, you have to agree that sentence today would either be replaced by this:
Non-progressive, easily-offended conservative Republican young people (all three of them, two of them named Biffy), conscripted enrollees in parochial, partiarchally-oppressive Jebus-schools, and societies embodied by the cranky, evil-looking old people taking the Pledge of Allegiance as they begin their Christopher Mott Society meeting at the beginning of the Dick van Dyke film Cold Turkey expect to have a Christmas party in which they can espouse their evil, monocultural beliefs in order to perpetuate oppression of atheists, progressives and other open-minded folks who see Jebusism for the crock and fraud that it is, so they may as well celebrate stupidly. Because they’re progressively and morally and ethically bankrupt individuals who will die and go to hell, that is, if there were such a place, you know, which really isn’t a progressive thought, so let’s not even go there. But we’ve got a urinating dog and Bob Newhart! What could be better?

Or this:
[Embarrassed silence, feet shuffling, um, let’s not offend anyone by suggesting, you know, anything about Christ -- ]

I know. I suppose I’m feeling a bit persecuted these days. But on to the party:

Three nights before Christmas,
When all through the town,
Wise men and wise women
Will be looking around
For evenings of fun
And places of cheer,
Don’t look any further,
Come right over here.
For Thursday at eight,
The time has been set;
Bring a gift for another,
And see what you get.

Then, Cokesbury advises, “Give the address of the place where the party is to be held.” Don’t want people wandering the town searching in vain for your party now, do you?

Here’s the first game, a real corker:
The Doll Shop. All the even numbers are placed on one side and the odd numbers on the other. Two persons are selected from the even number group to be the shopkeepers, and two persons are selected from the odd number group to be the doll shoppers. After the game has been played for five or six minutes, depending on how much time the leader wishes to take up with it, a change is made, and the odd group become the shopkeepers and the even group the doll shoppers, and an equal amount of time should be allowed the odd group. The object of the game is to see who can have the largest number on their side when the time is up. The game proceeds in the following manner: The buyers come to the doll shop and say they are interested in buying some dolls. They do not want dolls that are too serious. All the dolls that they take must be laughing, giggling dolls. The shopkeeper then demonstrates the dolls, which are the persons on his side. They walk with stiff legs and try to imitate dolls. The purchaser asks questions about them such as, “Will this doll go to sleep?” “Does this doll say Mama?” The shopkeeper must demonstrate by making the doll say “Mama.” Any other crazy question may be asked by the shopper, and if the doll laughs he gets it. If the doll remains serious, he goes back to his side and another is demonstrated. After sides have been changed and the odd side has had an equal amount of time, a prize may be given to the winning side, such as a small jar of candy, or a bag of peanuts, or something that can be divided among the players of the group.
Or, they could just pull a Dick Van Dyke/Sally Anne Howes (so you don’t think I’m down on Mr. Van Dyke):

Bonus points to the shopper who can bombast as much as Baron Bomburst.

Now it’s on to a more sophisticated game:
Hang Up the Christmas Stocking. A mantel has been drawn on a sheet with crayons or lamp black. A place is marked for the stocking. Each guest is blindfolded and turned around and must walk to the mantel and pin the stocking the first place he touches. Five a prize to the one who gets the stocking nearest to the right place.
And this is why the Jebus-lovers are so feared these days. They get to five a prize, you know. I’m sure it’s a typo. I’ve never fived a prize my entire life.

Here’s another game sure to offend the atheists on your non-denominational winter holiday list:
Christmas Stagecoach. This is played like the game of Stagecoach. One person reads the Christmas poem, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” as the other players sit in a circle with all chairs full. The players are given words in advance, for example, house, mouse, reindeer, stockings, toys, etc. As the poem is read, the one who has the word must get up and turn around. At any time the person who is reading may yell “Santa Claus,” and when he does so all must change seats. If the leader secures a seat, the one left over becomes the reader.
(Yes, yes, I know the poem by Clement Clarke Moore is really called “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” but “Twas” is an alternate title, so don’t get all knotted up about it. I guarantee there’ll be other stuff you can get knotted up about here. This is, after all, the main, central celebration of the Jebus-freakin’ capitalism-lovin’ hypocritical hypocritin’ booger-beings.)

Of course, there are three ways you can do this game. You can do it straight right out of the Cokesbury Bible (I hope I didn’t offend anyone by using that word – straight – because I suppose folks could use it queer right out of the Cokesbury Bible . . . what? Why are you all leaving? Was it something I said?). Or, alternatively, you could do it in a way that makes people move whenever they hear an offensive word or idea in the poem. Or you could substitute the Larry the Cable Guy version:

Uncle Jessee. Whooooooo.

And yet another game:
Christmas Presents. These have been brought by each guest and placed on the tree and numbered. The number should be concealed, or perhaps it would be better to have the presents put in a basket and numbered by the leader and then have the basket brought in just before time to give out the presents. Of course there will be a lot of crazy presents. Nothing should cost over ten or twenty-five cents. As the numbers are called, the one holding that number comes up and gets his package and opens it and plays with it. This will cause a lot of fun.
Confession time: My family, for years, played a similar game, but with white elephant gifts specifically chosen for hilarity. The most popular was a pair of Argentinian underwear – a pair of yellow briefs – that appeared from year to year. Once they were used to construct Noah’s Ark. Another year they were artfully folded into a rosette. They did cause a lot of fun. This game is actually worth doing, folks.

Now it’s refreshment time. You already know, of course, what Cokesbury’s first suggestion is. Say it with me:

Sandwiches and coffee.

Or, alternately, Christmas cookies cut in the shape of stars. Or coffee and fruit cake with red and green candies. Or whatever it is that Jebus-freaks like to eat this time of year. Babies or something.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week Thirty-Two: Hobo Party

Only 900 Miles to Go

So, let’s get right down to it, given the introductory stuff is out of the way:

A Hobo Party we’re having
Next Friday night at eight;
Come dressed like a vagabond
And bring along your “date.”

I have to agree that this is one of the snappiest invitations Cokesbury has come up with in nine months of trying. Short, sweet and to the point.

Decorations for the party, however, are pretty elaborate:
The social room or recreation room might be arranged to resemble the interior of a freight car. Sacks of straw or sand, old boxes and barrels, broken-down chairs and planks could be substituted for regular seats. Placards reading “No Loafing,” “No Tramps Allowed,” and “No Smoking” would also create the desired effect. If desired, an outdoor setting could be arranged for the party. Plants or green foliage brought in from the woods could be used profusely about the rooms. A camp fire, simulated by colored lights, with a battered pot or so, and from which place the refreshments might later be served, would add effective scenery.
You know, that’s putting me right in that good old Hobo spirit. Maybe a tune would help as well:

(Yes, I’ve used this song before. But this is more old-timey. And we all know we like old-timey. Be sure to consult your hobo nomenclature dictionary to identify the hobo code words used in the song.)

Best thing about the decorations? This final sentence:
The hobos should all be forced to gain admittance by a rear door.
You might also encourage come hamboning and eefing at your Hobo Party, just to add a bit of surreality to your old-timeyness.

This is old-timey for epileptics.

Costumes, of course, are encouraged, and I love how Cokesbury words their costume request:
Faded, patched, and much worn clothing, shoes and hats are certainly easily secured by all, and so everyone should make the most of the occasion to wear them.
This is from the era, of course, when nobody threw anything away, including tatty clothing.

On to the games:
Marathon Hobo Dance. On the floor draw a number of fairly large circles. (The circles should be numerous enough and large enough so that it is necessary to walk through them as the music plays.) As the piano plays a march all start marching around. The music suddenly stops, and all must stand right where they are. Those who are in a circle must drop out of the game. If either a boy or his partner are in a circle, both must drop out. The music is continued, and the marching begins again. Whenever it stops, those on circles must drop out. The couple remaining in the game the longest wins. A hamburger or hot dog sandwich might be awarded as a prize.
A hot dog sandwich. Really. Once again, Cokesbury trumps an odd game with an even odder prize. The game harks back to the hobo custom of suddenly dropping off the face of the earth due to some unforeseen, Grapes of Wrath-inspired tragedy, such as:

I know, it’s not really a Grapes of Wrath tragedy, but just try watching Steinbeck’s warped lips and visage in this “virtual movie” of the author speaking about the societal tragedies that led to some of the tragedies he wrote about in his great novel without squirming. I’d rather be a kitten in Lenny’s Of Mice and Men hands than ever watch this movie again.

Cokesbury suggests a few oddball games that really don’t match in with their hobo theme – a word-guessing game, a marble exchange, and such. No self-respecting hobo would be caught dead playing something called “Jenkins Up.” He’d be off with that handout quarter in a trice. So we move on to more hobo-appropriate games.
Hobos Seek a Hand-Out. Divide the guests into groups by counting off after the old army style, one, two, three, four, etc. Have about six players in each group. Give each group a name, such as rooster, cow, dog, or cat. Have each group choose a leader. Then tell the groups that they are to search for their food. The food might consist of animal crackers, small candy hearts, peanuts, or jelly beans, hidden about the room. At a given signal, all start hunting. No one is allowed to touch the hidden food except the leader of the group. When a member of the rooster team finds the food he must stand and crow like a rooster until his leader comes to pick it up. This rule, of course, must be observed by all the groups. The group finding the largest number should be rewarded by being allowed to eat all that the others have found also.
This game, of course, is more typical of tramps and bums, not of the noble prairie hobo, who of course would make a mulligan stew of the whole mess and invite everyone in the jungle to eat, not unlike in the tent village Steinbeck (for good hobo literature – for good literature, period – we always have to go back to Steinbeck) describes in In Dubous Battle. If you have never read the book, read it. It’ll make a communist bastard out of you.

Here’s another game:
Packing Time for the Hobos. Have everyone seated in a circle. The leader begins the game by saying, “I am going on a trip, and I am taking an umbrella.” Those in the circle do likewise, each one naming some article he is taking with him. The leader then tells what he is going to do with what he is taking, as “I am going on a trip and take my umbrella with me to keep the rain off.” Each of the players in turn must repeat the leader’s sentence, substituting his article for the word “umbrella.” Anyone who laughs while he is repeating the sentence must take the leader’s place in the center. This might go around the circle several times before it becomes tiresome. When the second round is started, the one who is leader then tells why he is taking his special article, and the others must repeat the words, with the exception that they always substitute the name of their article for the one the leader has mentioned.
This is of course the kinds of games hobos play when someone in the jungle puts a lot of spirits in the mulligan stew. And that Cokesbury doesn't mention "bindles" is a travesty to true hobos everywhere.

Only one thing to do now: Eat (except for the group that gorged during the “Hand Out” game; they’re busily puking up in the alley). Here’s the food. Any guesses?

If you guessed sandwiches and coffee, you’re right. Of course, However, Cokesbury does throw a loop:
The sandwiches should be of various sizes and shapes, and not the dainty, well-cut ones that we usually associate with party refreshments. Serve coffee in tin cups. Buns could also be used if they are served “hot dog” or “hamburger” style, and chocolate could be substituted for the coffee, if so desired. One group we know served at a Hobo Party potato salad in milk cans with cracker sandwiches. Later “Green River,” which was green punch, was served in the same can.
Hobos really do live the high life, don’t they? I’m having cracker sandwiches tonight.

Next time: We at Cokesbury Party blog International Headquarters will work double-time this week to present you with Cokesbury’s Christmas Party, after which we may be sorely tempted to take a hiatus until the New Year. We’ll see what the month presents. Thanks for tuning in.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Modern Cokesbury

It's so weird that I stumbled across this story during my morning perusal of our regional newspaper websites. Someone named Carma Wadley of the Salt Lake City, Utah, Deseret News has, in effect, created a latter-day Cokesbury Christmas Party, or at least the games for one. And the graphic artists at the DN have created the following Creepy Grandma art to go along with it. Maybe I'm glad Cokesbury skinted on the illustrations if they have to look like this:

Granny Needs a Shave, or so the Kids' Faces Say

Here are a few of the suggested games:
All I Want. Players sit in a circle. The first person says her first name and something that she would like for Christmas that begins with the same letter. For example, "My name is Mary, and I want a motorcycle." The next player says his name and what he wants, and then must repeat what the other person has said. And so one, with each one having to repeat the entire list. If someone messes up, he is out, and play starts over. Christmas gifts cannot be repeated by other players with the same letter. Go until only a few are left, and give them prizes.

Sock Match. Players sit in a circle. Find as many shapes, sizes, colors and styles of socks as you can. Mix them all up, and put them in a pile in the middle. When you say go, players must try to find as many pairs of socks as they can. The one with the most pairs wins.
And, last but not least:
Reindeer Art. Have each player wear a blindfold, and give them a piece of paper and a crayon. When you say, "go," have them each draw a reindeer. You can give a variety of prizes for such things as the one who finishes first, the one that looks the most like a reindeer, the one that is the funniest looking.
It's good to see that the Cokesbury party form survives today.

Truth be told, I have played a game similar to the Sock Match game, but this one involved trying to match shoes while blindfolded. It was rather boring until I decided, mid-game, to tackle my only opponent, steal the shoes he had, and then emerge victorious. That was a pretty good day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hobo Primer

NOTE: In preparing for this weekend’s Hobo Party, I decided I ought to do a bit of research, as I do for most of my posts on this blog. Little did I know, however, that the rich history of hobos would provide such interesting fodder and force me to write a Hobo Primer entry, so that those, like me, who are unfamiliar with the life of the hobo come to the Hobo Party prepared.

Oh the freedom of the hobo. Who wouldn’t want to emulate one of these toothless, smelly wanderers of the byways and railroads. Cokesbury, in promoting its Hobo Party, makes the life of wandering with a bindle over your shoulder sound damn right idyllic:

Every now and then, when our duties seem a little irksome, we are inclined to envy the freedom of the vagabond of the road and field. So for one evening let’s pretend that we are hobos and revel in the freedom of clothes and manners that they seem to enjoy. A hobo party would fit well into the Fall social program, because it is then that the southward migration of the hobo begins, or it would fit equally well into the Spring program, when the return to the north is made.
So, are they talking about hobos or monarch butterflies?

Before we continue with the ribbing, however, we’d best educate ourselves about the hobo. They’re more organized than you’d think, what with their annual Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa, and their Hobo Code.

Hoboistas are also wont to point out the subtle difference behind words that are interchangeably used to describe a hobo among the general, non-hobo population, to wit (and from Wikipedia):

A hobo is a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the western—probably northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike tramps, who worked only when they were forced to, and bums, who didn't work at all, hobos were workers who wandered.
I offer this bit of education here because Cokesbury seems to use these terms interchangeably, when obviously they are not meant to be used one for the other. Bear in mind, then, if in a quote from Cokesbury the term “tramp” or “bum” appears, it is a quotation only, not a slur on true hobos. Thus I hope to assuage any conflict or hurt feelings that may come from the world’s Hobo Community. Bottom line: don’t call a hobo a bum or a tramp. Bums and tramps probably wouldn’t mind a bit of hobo upward mobility, if it meant a change in title only, not in obligation.

Hobos also seem to have their own national anthem or theme song, namely the ever-popular Big Rock Candy Mountain.

I’ll close this entry with the cherubic face of Burl Ives. So until this weekend, keep singing!


Ah, yes, the carefree life of the hobo. Hopping trains. Eating sardines. Singing away until you annoy the hell out of the annoying guy who hopped the same train. Join Cokesbury's Hobo Celebration this weekend.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bonus: Who is the Chicken Boy?

By the way, can anyone out there in Cokesbury Land identify the young man with the chicken in this video?

If you can, meet me at Plassy's Candy Store. Bring your gun, because I saw some grizzly bears.

Week Thirty-One: Bean Party


Sometimes, to the satirist's joy, someone else does his work for him. That is indeed the case for Cokesbury's Bean Party. Their introduction:
The bean, in times past, was quite imporant and played a prominent role in the affairs of men.
It gets better. After prattling on about how the Greeks and Romans used beans in the election of magistrates, Cokesbury goes on with what really sounds like a lot of nonsense:
A white bean signified absolution and a black one condemnation.
For whom? Where? I'm not sure. (Nor do these folks, though they're pretty anxious to pass on that obscure bit of folklore.) And it doesn't end:
[Beans] were also used in a sort of ceremony in which the master of the family after washing his hands three times, threw a black bean over his head nine times, saying, "I redeem myself and my family by these beans."
I have a question about that one. Did he throw nine beans over his shoulder, one at a time, or did he have to toss the same bean over his shoulder nine times? If it's the latter, I'll bet the abjuration was more along the lines of "I'd redeem myself and my family by these bloody beans if I could find the stupid thing. Next time, watch where it lands!"

(And, just so you know, Veruca Salt knows exactly what she's talking about when she says she wants a "Bean Feast." They do exist. Or at least did. Today, we call them company parties, evidently.)

"So," Cokesbury asks. "Why not build a party around the bean?"

So while we're asking questions, here's another: Why not start off this party with a really lame invitation. Cokesbury, of course, is up to the challenge.

Bean porridge hot, bean porridge cold,
Bean porridge in the pot nine days old.
Some like 'em hot, some like 'em cold.
Some like 'em in a pot nine days old.
So we're having a Bean Party and want you sold
On the idea of coming. Like 'em hot or cold?

I have a story about beans nine days old. When I was a kid, we had a manx cat. We also had a father who occasionally liked to dabble in the kitchen. At one family feast, he created a kind of bean casserole that was kind of like chili but chili made by a Dutchman. They were good, but produced in their consumers terrible, bloating gas. When it came down to the last serving, nobody wanted it. So Mom put it in a bowl, heated it up, and offered it to the manx cat who sniffed it, got wide-eyed, then ran away. And this is the cat who would catch bunnies and pheasants and mice and bring them home to eat, so not a particularly picky eater. We called them the Beans that Went Bump in the Night. They sat in the cat's dish for a week. They did not go bad. Dad never used that recipe again.

But back to Cokesbury. Decorations for your Bean Feast are in order:

Use green and yellow crepe paper streamers for decorating. Green bean vines, if they are available at the time of the party, may also be used.
Yes, Abner, let's harvest the beans early and string the plants all over the parlor. That'll liven up ol' Veruca's Bean Party.

And of course since you're hosting a Bean Party, one of the first fairy tales that comes to mind is: Cinderella.

Cinderella Partners. Have each girl place one of her shoes in the middle of the room. The shoes are mixed up and piled in a heap. The boys stand in a circle or in two lines on either side of the room. When the leader's whistle is blown they all grab a shoe. The boy must then find the girl with the mate to his shoe, who becomes his partner during the party.
There are other games, of course. The ol' standby: Fill a jar with beans (count them first, natch) then have your guests guess how many beans are in the jar. Award a bag of jelly beans to the winner. Don't invite Monk.

The Bean Party also offers to professional technical writers a real stumper. Cokesbury suggests the game of Bean Bag Baseball for your Bean Party, but refers you to the index for the game. The index, int its helpful way, refers you first to the Bean Party on page 242. Only in the Athletic Party, on page 283 -- also mentioned in the index -- can you find instructions for Bean Bag Baseball. You professional (read anal retentive) writers out there like me are already twitching. Why not include Bean Bag Baseball in its first mention in the book, rather than the second? What amaterus put this book together? Well, the same amateurs who included a rather amusing and flatulence-implying typo in the Bean Party's opening sentence, which, in honor of the indexers of this book, I mention in my second reference to that opening sentence:
The bean, in times past, was quiet important and played a prominent part in the affairs of men.
So, only modern beans, it seems, have developed that flatulent-inducing quality. Explains the Beans that Went Bump in the Night. That manx cat certainly was a smart one.

On to another game, with another bag of jelly beans for the winner:
Circle Throw Relay. The groups that have been divided for the baseball game may not have a relay. Have five bean bags for each side. Draw a circle about eighteen inches in diameter on the floor in front of each line and about twelve feet away. The first player, when the signal is given, must throw the bean bags one at a time, attempting to throw them into the circle. They must bea ll the way in to count. Then this player must run up to the circle and pick up the bags and run back with them to the next man in line, taking his placea t the rear of the line. There should be a scorekeeper for this game, and he is to give one point for each time the bag is thrown into ther ing to the side whose player gets it in. Give a bag of jelly beans to the side that gets most points and another bag to the side that finishes first.
Now, in case you thought the people at Cokesbury are completely bean illiterate, comes the Jack and the Beanstalk-themed game.

Jack and the Bean Stalk. Lest the leader may have some difficulty in securing a copy of the children's story "Jack and the Bean Stalk," we are giving below the story. Name the characters after the objects mentioned in "Jack and the Bean Stalk," as: Jack, Mother, house, cow, food, beans, window, bed, sky, road, woman, kitchen, giant, Englishman, supper, moneybags, gold, magic hen, table, golden egg, money, magic harp, boy, hatchet, vine. As the story is told and of course elaborated on by the teller as he calls the names of the different things mentioned above, each guest who has the word called must get up and turn around. When the leader uses the words "Bean stalk," all must change places. The leader then tries to get a place, and if he succeeds, the one left out must continue the story.
Given that the story Cokesbury provides is three pages long and in small type, I'm not going to reproduce it entirely here. I will share this amusing little tidbit:

Jack just had time to jump into a big copper kettle beside the fireplace, when in came the Giant crying: "Fee, fi, fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!"

"No, no," said the giant's wife. "It is the crows who have brought raw meat and left it on top of the house Go wash yourself and get ready for supper."

When the giant had eaten his supper, he said to his wife, 'Bring me my magic hen!"

The wife went out and came back with a big, black hen with a shiny red comb.

The Giant put the hen on the table, and roared, "Lay!" and the hen laid an egg, all of gold.

"Lay another!" he cried; and the hen laid another.

The Giant played with the hen until he became tired . . .
There are several things wrong with this story. First of all, who plays with a hen? I grew up with about 60 chickens in our back yard, and I know hens to be fairly dumb, cranky, temperamental  animals not known for their companionability. I'm pretty sure the Giant played with his hen until it crapped on the table again or pecked the back of his hand repeatedly.

Second of all, how big was this hen? It had to have been a giant hen a la The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, else the hen would be laying golden eggs that, to the Giant, would appear to be little bigger than grains of sand. So with a bigger hen in mind -- a bigger, temperamental hen, part of a species known, at least in our back yard, for cannibalism -- how does Jack get the thing down the bean stalk without becoming chicken feed? I know. I'm analyzing a fairy tale. But still.

Since I'm too lazy to repeat the story here, I'd suggest using a few YouTube versions to create your own versions. Using this anime version of the story from Japan, for instance, you could call one of your friends "Character whose mouth animation consists of opening and closing its gob like a portal into another dimension." Be sure to pick a robust individual, because he or she will get a lot of exercise.
Here are a few others:

Muppet Style

1933 Musical Cartoon Style

Disney version

Now it's time to mause your friends with any number of bean-themed games. I'll sum up:
  • Bean Bag Jump. Trip your friends as they try to jump over a bitty bean bag tied to a string. Use a Beanie baby for this game to traumatize the more cute-prone female friends in your entourage.
  • Pass the Beans. Watch your friends try to suck beans up straws and into their lungs as they attempt to pass beans from one cup to the other.
  • And so on.
You're done. Just serve up your Boston Baked Beans with brown bread and butter. And coffee, because alliteration will only take you so far. Avoid the Beans that Went Bump in the Night.

And hold on to your leftovers, because they'll go with your next party like a hand with a glove. Beans and a Hobo Party? What could be a better combination?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bean Preview

If you're thinking next week's Bean Party will be as fun as this, you don't know Cokesbury very well. It may well be as bizarre, however, so chins up.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Week Thirty: Old-Fashioned Party

Underwires by Carl Sagan

First of all, who wouldn’t want to wear an outfit that, if set up under the right conditions and attached to a car battery, could be used to track satellite telemetry or to search for extraterrestrial life?

Well, okay, I wouldn’t. Unless, of course, I was headed to Cokesbury’s Old-Fashioned Party, which kicks off with this invitation:

Twenty-year endowments,
We hear of every day;
They’re always in the future –
Let’s look the other way,
Twenty years behind us
And maybe twenty more
And practice all the pleasures
They liked so much of yore
So borrow grandma’s petticoat
(Grandpa’s flannel underwear for boys)
And find yourself a mate
And come to 14 Macy Street
On Friday night at eight.

So, twenty years from 1932 puts us at 1912, the year Arizona and New Mexico became states, Road Admunsen successfully reaches the South Pole, the Boston Red Sox play their first baseball game at Fenway Park and the Titanic sinks. So a good year for James Cameron.

Another twenty years puts us at 1892, the year in which Ellis Island opened in the United States, James Naismith published his rules for the new game of basketball, Rudolf Diesel patented his eponymous engine, and the Limelight Department, one of the world’s first film studios, is founded in Australia. So, again, another good year for James Cameron.

But that’s enough history. Let’s move on to costumes a la Cokesbury:

Hoop skirts and tiny hats would be appropriate for the girls. They might wear their pompadore with rats in it. Men wear the most antiquated cut of clothing that can be obtained. Costumes should be judged, and the one having the best or funniest costume should receive an appropriate prize. There should be prizes for both men and women costumes.
For an authentic pompadore, I’m told, you can’t use hair gel or hairspray to keep the hair in place. You have to use the pomades common with the original hairstyle, meaning beef tallow or bear grease. These hairdos have the additional advantage, then of attracting wildlife. So you may as well roll your pompadore in nuts and seeds so the birds have something to eat along with their suet.

Remember, the larger the hair, the smaller the lips.

Cokesbury, in its approach to planning games for this party, is evidently taking a page from the Jane Austen Playbook, as one of the first games suggested is this:

Shouting Proverbs. One person or couple is sent out of the room. The group decides on a proverb that they are going to shout. Suppose they decide on the proverb “All that is not gold that glitters.” This is given out one word at a time to the circle; the first one is to shout “All,” the second, “is,” and the third, “not,” and so on around. The proverb may go around three or four times – that is, three or four in the group may have the same word. When the person or couple that has been sent out returns, at the signal from the leader, all shout their words at the same time. If it is not guessed the first time, two other trials may be allowed. If not guessed in three trials, the proverb is told and another person sent out.
Cokesbury is kind enough to suggest some proverbs, including some real tongue-twisters:

There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip.
A bad workman quarrels with his tools.
A creaking door hangs long on the hinges.
After dinner sit awhile, after supper walk a mile.
Plow deep while sluggers sleep, and you’ll have corn to sell and keep.
When angry count ten before you speak; if very angry, count a hundred.

Be sure not to shout these kinds of things at your more timid or paranoiac friends. You don’t want your party to devolve into a guilt or panic attack.

Here’s another game:

Clap In, Clap Out. All the boys retire into another room, and the girls place before themselves chairs. The boys are brought in one at a time. They take a seat. If everybody claps, they are in the wrong seat. That means that the girl who asked for him was not the girl in whose chair he seated himself. If desired, two trials may be given each one. If he gets the right chair, he remains in the room and is privileged to sit in the chair. After the boys have all come in, the girls may go into the adjoining room and be brought in one at a time in the same manner.
Can’t you just see Col. Brandon playing this game? And being absolutely bored with it?

Here’s another game that’s even more exciting. Even the name gives me goosebumps:

Thimble. The leader takes a thimble and stands in the center of the room. All the guests are seated around the room and are told to put the palms of their hands together. The leader then passes around and makes a motion as if she leaves the thimble with each one. When she has finished, she starts asking each one, “Who has the thimble?” They all guess who has it. When all have guessed (of course the one who has it has to guess someone else, and does not have to pay a forfeit for so doing), the leader says “Rise up, thimbler.” The one who ahs the thimble then rises, and all who guessed wrongly pay a forfeit. The one who has the thimble then passes it around again, and the game continues as before.
To make the game more exciting for our modern times, one might capitalize “Thimbler” and treat him or her as a superhero; the forfeits in question might be each guest suggesting a superpower for the Thimbler to possess. A few examples:

The ability to prevent needles from entering fingers.
The ability to expand his/her thimble to use it as a life raft, cooking pot, et cetera.

I’m sure you can do better than I.

Now get your pencils and notepaper ready folks, for the next game is even more exciting than the shouting proverbs one:

Old Sayings. Give each guest paper and pencil and ask him to write as many old saying as he can think of. Give two or three examples out of the following list of old sayings. Also the leader may read the first part of the old saying and see who can give the last part quickest.
According to Cokesbury, all old saying are similes. Observe:

As busy as a bee.
As green as grass.
As bitter as gall.
As sly as a fox.
As fat as a pig.
As neat as a pin.

And so on. Man, those people of twenty to forty years ago (circa 1932) were boring.

All that’s lest is refreshments. And it might be a stretch (pun intended) to put them together:

If sorghum can be obtained, have an old-fashioned candy pulling and use some of the candy for refreshments. Another suggestion would be hot biscuits and honey. Pop pop corn by the fire. Apple or berry pie.
And use fewer verbs and nouns as the evening continues. Conservation, that’s the old-fashioned byword.

So that’s over, and thank goodness. But next week, be on the lookout for one of the oddest parties Cokesbury suggests: The Bean Party. Rooty-toot.