Monday, December 15, 2014

Embracing Fakelore

Having seeing the old Stewart Holbrook chestnut, “How the Flying Prince Got its Crew” treated like authentic history by people who should know better, I decided to get into this “fakelore” business myself. For those unfamiliar with the word, the neologism was invented for a 1950 article in the American Mercury by an American collector of real folklore, Richard Dorson. He spends much of the article skewering the likes of one Paul Bunyan as being mostly the invention of a writer hired by a lumber corporation.

There is another interesting article on the subject by Alan Dundes with the overdone title: Nationalistic Inferiority Complexes and the Fabrication of Fakelore: A Reconsideration of Ossian, the Kinder- und Hausmarchen, the Kalevala, and Paul Bunyan. Dundes doesn’t seem to get the picture that lots of fakelore is invented to make some money—to sell a story to a magazine, create a tourist trap with some ghostly tale of evil deeds, or to land an episode on the History Channel.

As most of my readers know by now, I am of the opinion that the city fathers and mothers of an older Portland, Oregon were so ashamed of the wide open past, corrupt cops, and teeming red light districts that they allowed for none of the old tales to take root. Until Stewart Holdbrook Portland history was a collection of bearded and boring men, doing boring deeds, while stealing the public blind (as in the case of the large section of land belonging to the Stevens family) and slapping each other on the back as jolly good fellows.

Holbrook unashamedly rewrote the city’s history in ways that would not be easy to forget. In Holbrook’s little booklet, The Portland Story (written for the Lippman & Wolfe 50th birthday celebration) he starts with the earliest pioneers, rolls in the railroads and the 20th century, and gives his imaginary nutshell history. Holbrook was awarded financial well-being and national notoriety, and all for being an ex-logger who could tell a good tale about the old Northwest.

When I think of all the places around the country—especially the “Wild West”—that increase the tourist income in their area by cashing in on a good piece of fakelore, it appears that this fakelore lark is a good cash cow. So I, not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to fatten my wallet, am sticking my toe in the Portland fakelore business.

Awhile back I penned a bit of verse (whether good or bad, you be the judge) called, “The Ballad of the Flying Prince,” which I foisted on the gentle readers of this blog. I sent the verse to my multitalented friend, J.D. Chandler, to see if he could make it into a song (my own banjolele fingering arm being busted up). He graciously sent me an MP3 of his mouth harp version. As soon as my fingers could caress the strings of my antique banjolele I set to work making the lyric into a song. I was planning to overtrack harmonies and all sorts of fancy things, but upon completion of the first track I saw, to my dismay, the song was too long for my purpose—almost 8 minutes.

I wanted a nice, compact piece of fakelore, which I could turn into a cartoon through the magic of graphics and animation software. The various sections of the cartoon are finished, all I need is song to narrate the story so I can edit the parts to fit—but the song was too long, If I can ever stop blogging, or working on my new book, or taking care of other business long enough I will narrate a Holbrook style version of the tale to go with the images and make a little, 4 minute cartoon for the attention-deprived Youtube generation.

At least that is the plan.

Below are a few stills from the coming cartoon to whet your desire to devote 4 minutes of your life for a little uplifting fakelore.

Bunko Kelly ponders his dilemma

Bunko Kelly leaves the Snug Harbor Saloon to look for the source of the moaning sound

What they were drinking
Bunko Kelly almost steps on a dying wino

The time in the train station tower shows that the tide is high

Bunko Kelly finds the lads at the livery stables ready to help

Coming Soon! How the Flying Prince Got Its Crew