Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Jukebox: Wild Wild Edition

Just felt like some serious boogie today.
Ella was truly brilliant and isn't this a great cover?

Dunno why this occurred to me; remember that awful "Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey" song I posted a year ago last December?

So, OK...if you watch, or hear, or read anything from the U.S. from about the turn of the 19th Century to sometime in the 1960's you can't get away from the "white ethnic" stuff.

By that I mean that it mattered - sometimes it REALLY mattered - whether you were a Yankee-type Yankee or whether your mom or grandpa got off the boat from Sweden or Italy or Greece. Ballplayers were "wops" or "squareheads" or "hebes", guys in the news had knicknamess like "Dago" or "Heinie", women were characterized as "fiery" if they had a name ending in "i" or "a" and "placid" if they looked like Heidi. And those goofy ethnic songs, they were all part of that.

And suddenly - within a decade - it all vanished. By the Seventies the whole "white ethnic" thing had dropped out of popular culture. It still pops up once in a while - the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" or "Moonstruck" sort of thing - but nothing like you'd have run across in the Thirties or Forties.

Bill James, writing about baseball (of course) said that it had much to do with the arrival of the African-Americans (and, probably to some extent, the Hispanics). When the civil rights era began and the blacks had semi-open entry into American society everyone else was just "white". At least, that was James' theory.

The other thing that occurs to me is that the early Forties was the end of the mass European migrations. The immigration window closed to Europeans as a group. By the Sixties the last first-generation Swedish-Americans and German-Americans and Italian-Americans had been here twenty years. They were, by the primary indicators that mattered; language, dress, tastes indistinguishable from the Yankees that had been here since 1790.

Not sure which was the most critical. But it's interesting that Ella and the Ink Spots and the bluesmen and rock-n-rollers and soul singers that followed them helped make all those wops and squareheads and hebes into "white people"...

One last bit of marginalia.

I enjoyed seeing a handful of magpies on my trips East this week (the one detailed in the post below as well as an even longer expedition just yesterday...).

Pica hudsoni has always been a favorite of mine, both for its gorgeous plumage as for its rude and intrusive intelligence.

But that wasn't what wandered across my mind. It's that the European cousin of our "Black-billed Magpie" (Pica pica) is just called a "magpie" and has a little doggerel associated with it. Are you familiar with it?

It's supposedly Scots and goes something like this:

"One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a wedding,
Four for a birth.
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
Eight for heaven,
Nine for hell,
And ten for the Devil's one self..."

That's really all. Hope you had a great week, and are looking forward to a great week-end...


Lisa said...

Dear FDC,

I am a bit behind in reading, but just popped over quickly tonight. Here's Ella, and I had just pulled up a You Tube to hear her singing, "'Taint What You Do, It's the Way that you Do It."

Also, I love Monet's stark yet stoic magpies, and you have magpies here.

basilbeast said...

hey Lisa!

A bit of news for you, and possible story, Mr. Geologist. My local paper had a story about Oregon and geothermal power.

IYO, good project to invest in?


FDChief said...

Lisa: I was a little concerned - hadn't heard from you in a while. Glad to hear you're well and enjoying the magpies.

Basil - saw that in the paper today. They've been poking around Newberry for some time with no success; not sure if this will work, either. The problem is the water - there's just not a lot there to work with. And the permitting issues make the possibility of turning this into a commercial generating plant - even assuming you solve the water problem - something of a pretty long crapshoot...

Lisa said...

Hi to bb and FDC -- just been away for a few days, but am back.