Saturday, January 31, 2009


Googled something last night. Can't even remember what. Everything behaved as normal. Found the info I was looking for, got out and on with my life.

This morning I had a particularly witty mot involving the Schrödinger's Cat paradox. (It was a peachamaroot!) Wonder Woman queried Schrödinger's Cat. I Googled it to send her a link. First return is from Wikipedia, natch. Click the link. I get this:
Warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer!
  • Return to the previous page and pick another result.
  • Try another search to find what you're looking for.
Or you can continue to's_cat at your own risk. For detailed information about the problems we found, visit Google's Safe Browsing diagnostic page for this site.

For more information about how to protect yourself from harmful software online, you can visit
I click back to the Google return page. Every single return is marked "This site may harm your computer." Every stinking one. I clicked through to "Google's Safe Browsing " page for enlightenment. The first three attempts to load the page failed. When I finally got through, what I was presented with was astonishingly uninformative.

It's been a few weeks since I worked in the Internet industry. Have I missed a memo or something? Did the Great Gazoogle decide that scaring the crap out of everybody with intrusive interstitial pages warning of malware at innocuous sites like Wikipedia on every single search return was some kind of ideal business model?

[Wavy lines representing Bloggie-Boy actually trying to do some research...]

Ah. It must have been a temporary bug, because I can't replicate it. But seriously, if Google can make a mistake of this magnitude -- even temporarily marking Amazon, eBay, etc., etc., etc., as containing malware -- there's gonna be some shit to pay.

Here's a discussion that, while also not particularly informative, at least proves I'm not crazy.

And perhaps most amusingly, if not surprisingly, a wingnut blogger leaps to the paranoid conclusion that the whole thing's a plot to prevent us from reading his pearls of wisdom...

Update: Google blames human error. Thanks, commenter Robert Z.

Update II: Commenter Reincheque observes that Google "boogered up them freds." Fuck, yeah!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Boogerin' Up the Freds

Last summer, my motorbike threw a nut. (What? A mid-Sixties British bike threw a nut? Unheard of!)

I was out in the field at the time, and as the nut in question held half of my handlebar on, I stopped in at a local garage to see what their mechanic could do. I know (oh, God, do I know!) that the standard of measurement for bikes of that era was the Whitworth standard, which was neither metric nor feet-and-inches, but rather something unique to British industry of the time. A Whitworth-standard nut is about as unlikely to be found in a modern American garage as a replacement carburetor for a Stutz Bearcat, but perhaps something could be done to help me limp home.

The mechanic, a very personable gentleman of the Southern persuasion, helped as much as he could. He found a nut that nearly (but of course not exactly) fit my handlebar. He put it in place carefully, torquing the thing so it would stay in place for a few miles, but not so forcefully that it would strip the bolt. He said, in his Virginia drawl, "Ah'm puttin' it on jes' so's you can git home. Couldn't tighten it too much, don't wanna booger up 'em freds."

(He meant "threads," of course.)

It's funny, isn't it, how a single utterance can stay with you. At first, it struck me only as a funny regional locution. But as the days wore on, it began to melt into my vocabulary and become a catch-all expression denoting pretty much any cock-up. Freddie trips and falls while defending at a soccer game: "Aw, man! He boogered up the freds!" Wonder Woman asks me for tech support on her computer: "Not having the latest Flash Player's gonna booger up the freds, every time. Let's download." Punt bounces off Antoine Randle-El's facemask -- again: "Jesus Christ, when are the Redskins gonna stop boogerin' up the goddamned freds?" The entire Bush administration seemed hell-bent on boogerin' up the freds with every thought, word and gesture.

I suppose the funniest thing about it is that I'm absolutely the only person on Earth to whom the phrase has the tiniest inkling of meaning. It was my motorbike, my hearing the phrase as funny, my brain applying it to every other life-circumstance, and if I were to come up to some stranger and warn this person that some contemplated action would be sure to booger up the freds, that person would be well justified in looking askance. Such is the fate of the linguistic solipsist.

But I do think the phrase deserves preservation. To that end, I have composed a hymn, to be sung in times when it seems the entire human race is intent on boogerin' up the freds. To the tune of "Gath'ring In the Sheaves" -- shall we, everybody?
Boog'rin' up the freds
Boog'rin' up the freds
We shall come rejoicing,
Boog'rin' up the freds!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

FireFox vs. FireKitteh

Crashes around on your desktop, gets into places it shouldn't, has lots of cute add-ons, consumes minimal resources, generally makes life easier.

Crashes around on your desktop, gets into places it shouldn't, has lots of cute add-ons, consumes minimal resources, generally makes life much more amusing. Plus FireKitteh sits on your lap and makes adorable noises.

FireKitteh: WINNER!


The town of Lovettsville, where I live a few miles outside town, is in the process of using an empty lot at the edge of town to erect a new post office. The old one, which has its funky mid-Fifties charms, has grown decrepit enough that a new facility is needed.

The lot on which the new office will go was the site of a home at least until 1944, and possibly later. I find the house on a 1910 USGS topographical map, but not on one (much less accurate) dated 1853. There's no visible evidence of the original structure (or at least none that we could find in our desultory search), but the spring-house remained on the lot, a reminder of what once had been there.

The town contracted with a friend of mine to disassemble the spring-house; the town's planning an educational park with a model nineteenth-century farm, and this structure is perfect for that purpose. A great deal of the lumber can't be recycled -- it's pretty weatherbeaten -- but the pieces can be used as patterns to cut new replacement parts. The parts of the frame that can be reused, we numbered carefully and stored.

Here's the building as we found it Friday morning. It might be a little over six feet tall at the peak of the roof.

Here's an interior shot. The foundation partly caved in some while ago, as these things will do if not maintained. There was standing water beneath the caved-in stones.

Here's the interior after half of the tin roof was removed. Some of the rafters were pretty badly rotted, and over the years an entire menagerie of different bugs -- mud-daubers, paper wasps, bees -- had built little civilizations between them.

Here Jeff risks life and limb removing tin roofing:

Getting down to rafters, now. I was Siding-Boy, working with a prybar to wrestle against square-profiled Victorian-era nails. I'd gotten three pieces off before breaking to take pictures.

I thought this discovery was pretty enchanting in its small way. There were two local sources for milled lumber in the late nineteenth century, and this builder had used both. One mill had a (for then) old-fashioned band saw that sawed in a linear, up-and-down motion. The siding came from that mill; see the saw-marks? Straight lines.

(The lumber used to make the loft in my cabin shows these straight saw-marks as well. I suppose there's a distinct possibility that that lumber came from that same mill. Likehood, even.)

The other mill, a more modern facility, used a circular saw. Note the curved saw-marks on this piece of framing:

Down to the framing, now. These are the parts that were numbered for later reuse. We found evidence of a window once having graced one of the now blank sides (the south side -- to the right in the photo -- which makes sense).

Good view here of the collapsed foundation:

When the frame was removed, the only wood structure left to dismantle was the foundation on which the frame rested. These logs were both hand-hewn and milled; we think they were roughed out where the tree was felled, and then cut to spec at the mill. The parts were lapped together -- and those laps were strong. Hardest bit to disassemble all day.

The ground was far too frozen to do any metal detecting, but we did find a few humdrum artifacts, the detritus of a hundred years ago. Here we have a suggestion that Paw might have liked to wander on down to the safety of the spring-house for a little nip of medicinal whiskey:

Now the foundation itself. The small front-loader you see here couldn't dig into the ground to get the lower stones; it could only deal with the above-ground parts you see here. They came back with a backhoe the next day to get at those. Everything we salvaged, down to the stones, is now safely in storage.

One note that bears making: Those stones were heavy. I was destroyed after lifting a few dozen into the front-loader. Now imagine that all day, every day, as a farmer, you had to plow those things out of the ground and hump them over to wherever you're piling them up. Then, when you've got enough to make the foundation of your spring-house, you hump them again. Every last single one of them, you and your sons (if you were lucky to have any).

"Paw, what are we doing today?"

"Humping stones."

"Uh-huh, and what're we doing tomorrow?

"Humping stones."

"What about Sunday?"

"Church. Then... humping stones."

What, did you think they had 'em delivered from Home Depot?

This wasn't quite the nearly mystical experience I wrote about in this post; this little springhouse is a good eighty years younger than the house we disassembled then. But it was a helluva way to spend a Friday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Someday far off in the distant future, some youngster somewhere, born after 2008, is going to say to you, "My history teacher's telling me that the Bush 43 Administration wasn't really all that bad. I think the man's being judged too harshly by history."

This is the point at which you pull out this link.

Jee-zis Christ!

I'm currently on item 210 -- out of 399 -- and I'm still thinking, Good God, they got away with that!

Breathe. In. Out.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

At Last...

After a full day of Inauguration festivities, I was all TV'd out, shut it off to make dinner and get on with my life, and missed this...

Aside from the indescribably delicious fact that the Obamas are the suavest, coolest, sexiest people on the planet; that Barack makes the rest of us men feel profoundly inadequate with one tiny lock of his knee in a slow dance (crap, why didn't I think of that?); and unless they're consummate, Oscar-worthy actors, these two beautiful people love each other very, very much, another observation suggests itself: Beyoncé can sing the living shit out of a standard. I like that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It Is a Good Day

I was born in 1960. John F. Kennedy was assassinated on my third birthday -- one of the earliest memories I have, my parents (Kennedy liberals if ever there were any) sorrowfully telling me that I'd have to be a brave little man and put up with the cancellation of my birthday party. My childhood was a jumble of confusing imagery of terrible war in some place I'd never see, and riots and killings at home. I had some firsthand experience of institutional racism, I knew what the riots were about. The idea that black people were treated as second-class citizens seemed utterly absurd to me on its face. But there seemed to be a notion floating around that progress toward justice was inevitable, that what we needed to do was simply put our backs to the collective wheel, and things would work out OK.

Ronald Reagan was elected within a few days of my 22nd birthday. I was even then too young to know the full implications of his rhetoric -- his declaration that liberalism was dead, that the notion that the government was a benign force for the common weal was outdated and extinct. I thought of this as just a swing of the pendulum, that it would swing back to the side of the good.

I just didn't know it would take 25 years. (And, for that matter, I don't know if the pendulum actually has swung back. This feels like a beginning, not an end.)

And I couldn't have known how much thoroughgoing, vile, clear-eyed, deliberate evil would have to be perpetrated by the opponents of the idea of benign government before people's eyes would be opened, and the agents repudiated.

This thing took my entire lifetime to happen. This cycle lasted nearly fifty years.

This is a very good day indeed.

As I was walkin' I saw a sign there
And that sign said, "No Tresspassin'"
But on the other side -- it didn't say nothin'!
Now that side was made for you and me!

(Did you know Woody Guthrie lifted that melody from an old black Pentecostalist hymn called "When the World's on Fire"? Well, now you do.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Color Commentary

If I never again hear Troy Goddamned Aikman use that extraneous "what" construction -- "McNabb is playing better than what he expected to" -- it'll be too soon. Just sayin'.

First quarter just over, and I'm picking Philly. We'll see if I have to eat my words.

Oh, and: In the car coming home from the grocery store, we listened to Springsteen's performance of "The Rising" at the Inaugural event at the Lincoln Memorial. I'm afraid I lost it a bit.

Update, 1:10 left in the first half... Boy, I sure can pick 'em, can't I?

Update, 25-24 Philly up... Boy, I sure can pick 'em, can't I?

Update, Arizona wins, 32-25... Boy, I sure can pick 'em, can't I?

Great game. Why I loves me some American Football.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You Can Talk to Me

I really don't mind this blog becoming a space for All Things Beatle. There are plenty worse obsessions. Really. I could be crowing about Joe the Plumber's faceplant in Gaza, say, or excoriating the Wingnut of the Week. Instead, lets relax with this video, shall we?

Their Fabuliciousnesses in-studio, just as things were beginning to go to hell in a handcart -- February 11, 1968, EMI Studios, between 4pm and 2am. According to The Complete Beatles Chronicle, this was the first promotional film made by the brand-new Apple Films.

I hadn't revisited "Hey Bulldog" in quite some time, and am struck anew by its brilliance. Check out those searching minor-key chords under the "you can talk to me" bridge (Bm - Bm+5 - Bm6 - Bm7 - Em - Em+5 - Em6 - Em7 -- basically, a climbing chromatic passing tone). Also, the guitar solo -- which this time I believe to be George and not Paul -- is mid-Sixties Vox-amp guitar oinkage par excellence. Good stuff indeed. (In the film, George is shown playing a Gibson SG into a Vox amp, but I'm not sure I trust the accuracy of the synchronization of film to performance. The Fabs were in the process of moving to Fender amps at this point of their career, and the bell-like tone George gets for the solo could easily have been a combination of Fender amp and Leslie speaker. The literature is ambiguous on this point.)

Oh! And Lennon's voice is particularly biting in this recording. What a rock and roller.

Many thanks to reader BreadBox, who hipped me to this vid.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vote Early, Vote Often

You could damage your karma-score worse than by voting for my X-Muss Song-Buddy Blue Girl for Best Diarist at that there Weblog Awards thing....

No One I Think Is in My Tree

John Lennon: The Life
Philip Norman
2008, Ecco, ISBN 978-0-06-075401-3

With several very large biographies of John Lennon in existence (most notably Ray Coleman's Lennon [1984] and Albert Goldman's The Lives of John Lennon* [1988]) and countless rehashings of the Beatles' collective career (perhaps the most informative being Barry Miles' Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now [1997], written with full cooperation from its principal subject, and Jonathan Gould's beyond-excellent Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America), it's difficult to believe that any crucial biographical insights remain to be revealed about this mercurial and endlessly fascinating man.

Yet, having read all of the foregoing and a great deal of other Beatle literature besides (the depth of my abjection may be gleaned from the fact that I have worn out three -- yes, three -- copies of Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head), I found myself in amazement at some of the further historical detail that Norman has managed to uncover. It is, for example, astonishing to learn that Lennon's paternal grandfather, also named John Lennon, emigrated to America for a period in the 1880s, where he joined Andrew Robertson's Colored Operatic Kentucky Minstrels. He was, put simply, an Anglo-Irish blackface minstrel, singing American music to American audiences fully 80 years before his grandson (whom he never saw) did more or less the same thing, if in less racially objectionable fashion.

Other myths are exploded, or clarified. Lennon's father Alf, while not completely rehabilitated into a loving father -- he could never be so described -- comes off rather better than previous accounts have suggested. His absences away at sea, later viewed by John as abandonment, are somewhat mitigated when placed in the context of World War II; and Alf's behavior upon his return from a long voyage to find his wife Julia Lennon in dalliance with a Welsh soldier is unexpectedly chivalrous. Fresh detail is added to the chaotic period during which the young Lennon was bounced around among relatives, finally ending up a ward of his aunt Mimi Smith and her husband George; the terrible scene in which the five-year-old was forced to choose between his father and his mother is fleshed out and given mitigating information, and is no less heartbreaking for it.

Anyone even remotely familiar with the Beatles will already know the rough outlines of the story told herein: The apprentice years of the Quarrymen, the trial by fire in the Hamburg clubs, the rise of Beatlemania, the endless touring that became more frightening to the band as it went on, the decision to end the torture that resulted in the studio-only band that provided us with some of the most innovative music ever committed to tape, the long, slow, acrimonious dissolution that left all four Beatles musically exhausted and emotionally beaten, and at last, the gut-punch to the world delivered by Lennon's bewilderingly meaningless assassination. Having witnessed these events scroll out through my own childhood and early youth, and having become obsessed occasionally to the point of madness with imbuing this nearly mythic tale with meaning and universal significance, I can say that it is enormously enjoyable to have a new retelling that adds so much fresh detail to the picture. Someone seeking interpretation of these events in Norman's biography, however, is in for disappointment, and is advised to look elsewhere. (I'd recommend beginning with Elizabeth Thompson and David Gutman's The Lennon Companion, a thoughtfully assembled collection of writings by journalists and intellectuals during and just after the Beatles' career; if you want to read, for example, the entire profile by the London Evening Standard's Maureen Cleave in which Lennon made his infamous "bigger than Jesus" remark, here is the place to look.)

The wealth of previously unrevealed details in The Life are the result of unprecedented access enjoyed by Norman to many of the players who have been unforthcoming until now, notably Neil Aspinall, who has refused to speak to writers or journalists since the Beatles' breakup, and Yoko Ono, who gave Norman extraordinary access not only to herself but also many primary-source materials in her archives. Norman also gained access to the letters of Mimi Smith, and the cooperation of Paul McCartney, George Martin, former Quarrymen, and various figures from the Liverpool beat scene of the early Sixties.

It is somewhat puzzling that Ono now disparages the biography as "mean to John," as the figure that emerges from it is entirely familiar: the angry, vulnerable, injured, sometimes tortured musical and verbal genius with a chip on his shoulder that's bigger than his head. The terrible misogynist whose mother-issues were subsumed in his bewilderingly complex relationship with a mystifyingly unlikely life-partner. The drug-addled mystic who somehow managed to express with razor clarity the confusions and contradictions of the psychedelic experience. The fierce rock-and-roller whose best-remembered song, "Imagine," contains not a whiff of Little Richard or Chuck Berry. The Janus who could be relentlessly cruel to friends and strangers alike, but who was capable of expressions of tenderness and love for exactly the same people. These are all things we have always known (or at least suspected) about Lennon, and things that we have almost entirely forgiven. It is not "mean" to render Lennon as a deeply complicated and conflicted man; it is simply the truth.

Any work of this size will contain flaws, and The Life is no exception. Norman, evidently not himself a musician, flounders a bit when discussing the detailed aspects, both musical and technical, of the Beatles' and Lennon's solo work. (Much better discussions of this are proffered by the aforementioned Ian MacDonald and in Geoff Emerick's Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. Perhaps forgivably, given the paucity of material on her, the figure of Julia Lennon, while more fully realized here than elsewhere, still remains a shrouded enigma. Later in life (it is revealed here), Lennon confessed to sexual feelings toward her; Norman, while struggling mightily with the information, cannot give us a clear picture of their relationship, or why Julia brought forth such a forbidden impulse in her son.

One niggling transatlantic point: Norman, an Englishman, misinterprets an American expression. Alan Klein, while courting the Beatles as clients during the slow and frustrating dissolution of their partnership, promises to improve their personal financial situations. In so doing, he assures them he will fill their pockets with what Norman renders as "fuck you, money." Most of us on this side of the pond will recognize this as "fuck-you money," a subtle but not insignificant distinction.

Perhaps because he is a rough contemporary of the Beatles, Norman is particularly good at evoking the grimy post-war atmosphere of Britain in which the Beatles formed and came to fame. The subtle social-class differences among the four are brought into sharp contrast -- Lennon was not, as he did not prevent people from thinking, from the working class, and Ringo's family were absolutely dirt-poor. Mimi Smith would be driven to distraction all through their fame by Lennon's occasionally boorish public behavior that she considered beneath the upbringing she had given him. Particularly good, too, is Norman's evocation of the stifling postwar British popular culture, which was as flummoxed by Elvis Presley's raucous sexuality as the young Lennon and his contemporaries were intoxicated. It is very difficult for us, today, dazed by a cultural landscape that has shattered into a million shards of competing ephemera, to understand the giant monolith of conformity against which Lennon chafed so desperately in his youth. Indeed, what Lennon and the Beatles and their contemporaries achieved was the completion of the destruction of that monolith -- for good or ill, we have yet to know.

It is capital fun watching it play out.

*In his Acknowledgments, Norman calls Goldman's work "malevolent, risibly ignorant," and I would tend to agree. The clear indicator for me that I was reading a hack-job was Goldman's disparagement of Lennon's guitar playing, claiming that the Beatles and George Martin conspired to place Lennon's rhythm guitar low in the mix to hide it. This assertion is precisely "malevolent" and "risibly ignorant." That triplet strumming in "All My Loving" wasn't played by some piker, buddy.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Words Fail Me...

Jokes: Not Getting

There were a lot of jokes I didn't get as a kid.

Hell, quite a few jokes sail over my head even now; spend a few minutes at Three Bulls, you'll see what I mean.

But the not-getting-jokes-as-a-kid thing, it's reasonably easy to explain. Jokes that refer to cultural events that preceded one's birth, that require familiarity with some artifact or term of art from long ago, these will guarantee lack of comprehension -- and when you're six years old, pretty much everything happened before you were born.

Thus it was that when watching a Looney Tunes cartoon in my jammies on a Saturday morning circa 1968, the musical introduction of a slack-jawed yokel character with "The Arkansas Traveler" (you may know it better as "I'm Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee") was a mystery. What the hell did a baby bumblebee -- the only lyric I might have been familiar with -- have to do with the clodhopper who just came onscreen? I couldn't possibly have known that "The Arkansas Traveler" was at the time of the cartoon's creation twenty or thirty years earlier, when vaudeville and traveling tent-shows were still very much a living memory, a common tune that was immediately known to its audience. Its lyric, which would have likewise been known to the audience (and which you can read here), details an encounter between a city slicker and a bumpkin fiddler whose roof leaks in the rain. Carl Stalling, the musical genius behind the Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes franchises, was a man of his time; the use of "The Arkansas Traveler," while slightly baffling to me decades later, was a perfect choice.

The memory of this bafflement has been cropping back up lately. The Jingo family spent part of New Year's Eve at the First Night event in Leesburg near us -- a town-wide, family-friendly series of entertainments. Most memorable for me was a performance by ragtime pianist "Perfessor" Bill Edwards, who projected a Buster Keaton short ("One Week," 1920) and accompanied the action as a contemporary silent-film pianist would have. The YouTube link I just provided shows the last minute or two of the film, an absolutely masterful use of comedic irony in which a speeding train just misses a house that has been accidentally left on the track. Just as Keaton and his bride think they've dodged a bullet, another train from the opposite direction smashes their house to flinders. Good stuff.

But after the film, the "Perfessor" had to explain one in-joke. As the train smashes into the house, he had played a snippet of a contemporary song called "The Middle of the House" that sported the lyric, "The trains all come through the middle of the house/Since the company bought the land."

See? Jokes we don't get!

I know it's late to be on about Christmas music (thank FSM!), but here's another one of those musical jokes I've heard all my life without understanding:

"'Zat You, Santa Claus?" (short clip; pops)

It's the second sung phrase from Satchmo that contains the mystery. You've heard that phrase in approximately eighteen godzillion soundtracks, and it is absolutely invariably used when someone is sneaking around. (And it's hilarious -- but entirely uncoincidental -- that ''Zat You?" is built on the "sneaky cat/Sixteen Tons" chord progression we've explored here before.) So how did that particular phrase -- and a few others like it -- come to universally signify sneaking around? And where did it come from?

My first instinct -- immediately obviously wrong -- was to suspect "'Zat You?" as the ur-source. Looked up Satchmo's discography, found that he'd recorded it with The Commanders in 1953:

Louis Armstrong With The Commanders
October 22, 1953, New York, NY

Zat You, Santa Claus? (Fox) [master 85419] -- Decca 28943
Cool Yule (Allen) [master 85420] -- Decca 28943
Someday You'll Be Sorry (Armstrong, Louis) [master 85421] -- Decca 29280
The Gypsy (Reid, Billy) [master 85422] -- Decca 28995

Nineteen fifty-three is clearly much too late. This thing is much, much older than that. Jack Fox, the composer of "'Zat You?" was simply repeating the musical joke, the telling cliché, for effect, to give the song -- which imagines a visit from Santa as a slightly creepy experience -- a horror-house kind of air. No -- this joke was already old in 1953.

Then Wonder Woman, rather than trolling around at dusty discographical and musicological sites, simply Googled "sneaky music from cartoons." Clever, clever girl! That path leads to a MetaFilter site that speculates, " My best guess is that it evolved out of Zamecnik's "Mysterioso - Burglar Music 1" in Sam Fox Moving Picture Music Volume 1 (scroll down for link to MIDI), which was published in 1913 and was apparently the first widely distributed collection of silent film music."


Here it is! All the way from 1913! (Well... Through the magic of MIDI and the ability to read music, at any rate.) (pops)

Some folks in a BroadwayWorld discussion forum were chatting about this little musical mystery last October, and commenter Best12Bars, a person of great wisdom and perspicacity, observed:
Before my grandfather went to work for the Warner brothers as their accountant (and later Exec. VP Treasurer), he played nickelodeon piano for silent films in New York. He played only for a short period of time but really well, and he couldn't read a note of music. Most of the silent movie piano players in the city would share and swap themes, learn from each other, steal from each other, etc.

That's why I'm guessing it was passed around during those early formative days, just like a folk song was passed around. A note was changed here, a melody line there, and eventually it crept into the public conscience as a "known ditty." Yet, nobody knows exactly where it came from or who wrote it.
Brother (or sister), you said a mouthful.