Archive for December, 2007

Joel Chandler Harris’ Favorite Things

Written on December 29, 2007 at 2:59 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Inevitably, you’ve read quite a few “Best of 2007” lists already in the past few weeks. The staff at the Wren’s Nest has recently uncovered one of Joel Chandler Harris’ “Best of” lists, originally published over 100 years ago in a publication called “The Critic.”

Joel Chandler Harris at the Wren's Nest

I can’t say that this one is any less boring than those you’ve already read nor does it even list Harris’ favorite bloggers.

At least it doesn’t mention Kanye West’s Graduation album. No matter how often Miss Nannie makes me watch the video for “Good Life,” I just don’t think it measures up to his earlier work. Anyway–



My favorite authors of prose:
Hawthorne, Thackery, Lauder

My favorite poets:
Shakespeare, Burns

My favorite painters:
The Four Seasons

My favorite composers:
The People

My favorite book:
Vicar of Wakefield

My favorite play:
[King] Lear

My favorite heroes in fiction:

My favorite heroines in fiction:
They are all ______ from any mind except ____ Touchett(?)

My favorite heroes in real life:
Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, Father Damien

My favorite heroines in real life:
[More or less unreadable, sorry]

What I enjoy most:
A whirl at Kalamazoo Whist

What I detest most:
Applications for autographs

The historic event at which I should like most to have been present:
I give it up.

The quality which I admire most in men:

The quality which I admire most in women:

Where I should like to live:
At home

My ideal state of happiness:
A cold night, a hot fire, and ___ in ___ ashes.

The occupation that I prefer:
That which I can never engage in.

What gift of nature I should like to have most:
The gift of gab.

My motto:
Wait for the wagon.

I can’t say I’m surprised that Harris enjoyed Shakespeare, but somehow I doubt he was talking about me.

Harris’ favorite composer is my favorite answer, and it’s cool how he admires both Lincoln and Stonewall Jackson.

But really, Kalamazoo Whist? There’s nothing better than Kalamazoo Whist? Come on.

Atlanta’s Joel Chandler Harris Streetcar in 1939

Written on December 26, 2007 at 12:43 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Our neighbors at Westview Atlanta stumbled across this picture of a Joel Chandler Harris streetcar from 1939.

Joel Chandler Harris Railcar in Atlanta in 1939

With all the hullaballoo ’round these here parts about a new streetcar, isn’t it funny that Atlanta once had a fairly comprehensive system?

Many of the Marta bus routes follow the same path as the old streetcar lines. Every once in a while you can spot some old track where the pavement has run thin.

I guess it’s like they say–there’s nothing new under the sun. How fitting that this nearly-forgotten streetcar bears the name of Joel Chandler Harris. I’m glad that the legacy of each is being reconsidered.

Speaking of old streetcars and Joel Chandler Harris, has anyone watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit lately?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Incidentally, not only is the film a direct descendant of Song of the South, but it’s also very much about the demolition of Los Angeles’ public streetcar system in the 1940s.

Maybe that’s a stretch and maybe it’s a little random, but maybe the film is next on my Netflix queue.

Even more of a stretch–the film was produced by Steven Spielberg, who is batting 1.000% in terms of being mentioned on our blog over the last two posts. I wonder if he knows anything about Br’er Rabbit.

Alice Walker’s Papers to Go to Emory

Written on December 21, 2007 at 8:36 am, by Lain Shakespeare

So, Emory scored Alice Walker’s papers earlier this week. That’s great news.

Alice Walker, Eatonton Native

You remember Alice Walker–author of The Color Purple, native of Eatonton, GA.

She and Joel Chandler Harris have led somewhat parallel lives–growing up in Eatonton, acheiving serious literary success early in their careers, having their work adapted into controversial films, having their papers housed at Emory, and so on.

You might be interested to know that Alice Walker didn’t (or doesn’t) think too highly of Joel Chandler Harris. In a speech delivered at the Atlanta History Center some twenty five years ago, she questioned his conscience:

I think I know why [Harris] did not read or tell these stories to his own children. I think I know why he never said them aloud to an audience. I think he understood what he was taking when he took those stories and when he created a creature to tell those stories.

I wonder if she still feels this way. After all, though they might have led parallel lives, her experience in Eatonton must have been vastly different than his.

In a somewhat similar vein, Steven Spielberg was, at the time, accused of not being qualified to relate the story of an African American woman for his adaptation of The Color Purple. His perspective wasn’t authentic enough for many people. Walker has since come to terms with it.

Another fairly recent edition to Emory’s Special Archives is Salman Rushdie, pictured below with Br’er Rabbit in Eatonton.

Rushdie and Brer Rabbit

Wouldn’t it be cool to host Sir Rushdie and Ms. Walker at the Wren’s Nest to talk about the Uncle Remus stories? Does anyone know how to do that?

Welcome, Br’er Lion! And Your Fishing Pole Too.

Written on December 20, 2007 at 8:12 am, by Amelia

I am happy to officially announce that we have received the fourth, and final, Wren’s Nest Critter T-Shirt. Brer Lion, welcome to the club.

Brer Lion t-shirt on a professional model

(Look at our professional model!)

Sporting a lovely shade of tangerine, with Brer Lion’s call of “Warrah Yarrah Garrah Tarrah” prominently displayed on the back, the newest t-shirt is perfect for all types of shirt-wearers. Though especially fishermen and basket carriers, who can best identify with Brer Lion’s accessories.

Brer Lion t-shirt on a professional model, back

(Professional! Models!)

We’ve got a lot of these lovely shirts. Which is great, because we like selling things to visitors that have made-up words on the back.

But lately we’ve noticed a bit of an issue with our visitors: we don’t have any.

When we were getting plenty of visitors, the shirts were flying off the figurative shelves. But no visitors means no buyers, which leads to us considering asking our docents Jeri and Nannie to make a celebratory quilt out of the shirts (it would be so vibrant!), just so they have something to do.

If you know any folks (or perhaps are a folk yourself) who have said, “Man! I really need to get over to the Wren’s Nest!”, I say this: tell them do it already. Come on. Please?

Plus (unless this works way better than I could have ever hoped for), odds are, you’ll have the place to yourself. Like a famous person!

Do I sound pitiful? Sad? Like a weenie? I hope so; pity visits are totally what I’m shooting for. See you soon!

Nonprofit Salaries and Transparency

Written on December 19, 2007 at 11:05 am, by Lain Shakespeare

This morning the AJC reports that former United Way executive Mark O’Connell receives over $100,000 a year in retirement, plus a lump sum payout of $1.6 million.

Mark O'Connel, of United Way
(there’s the lucky guy! photo courtesy of the ajc)

‘Tis the season, I suppose, for journalists and donors alike.

Just last week the Wall Street Journal had a section devoted to philanthropy. The primary article, How Charities Can Make Themselves More Open, discusses why and how nonprofit organizations should report their financial information to the public.

It’s time to make sure our gifts are being used as intelligently as possible. Instead of showering hard-earned dollars on charities and hoping for the best, we need to demand clear, detailed information on the results of their efforts. We ask the government and public corporations to be transparent and accountable. Charities should meet the same standard.

According to that logic, however, O’Connell probably should receive a large payout. After all, the Atlanta United Way is one of the largest in the nation, and large public corporations often give ridiculous payouts to their executives.

In the spirit of transparency, the United Way website has been Johnny-on-the-spot, with two .pdfs front and center explaining Mr. O’Connell’s retirement package. Good work.

This issue looks tough on paper. Throw out the words “$1.6 million” and that’s a lot of money to almost everyone. Though when you’re raising over $1 billion dollars, I guess it’s a little easier to see why this may not be so ridiculous.

At the center of the problem lies the difference between businesses and nonprofit organizations who compete from the same pool of talent. Nonprofits don’t just respond to their customers or their shareholders, they must respond to the entire community. That’s a heck of a lot more people wagging their fingers at you.

What’s worse, having to pay a couple million up front for an effective executive? Or risking the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars because you didn’t hire the right person?

So, how can someone like the United Way avoid front page news like this at a time when they’re expecting a lot of end-of-year donations?

I think there’s a solution, and it’s called transparency through technology. Specifically, social media (like this blog) is a great way to expose your weaknesses and strengths. Even better, social media allows you to do so before anyone else can.

The folks at What a Concept! know this better than anyone, and their latest blog post about belief in one’s business is particularly timely.

Being up front, honest, and public about your business (and especially your nonprofit!) is so crucial because folks are going to find out about it eventually. And they’re going to gossip about it before they do. There’s just too much information and chatter on the internet already not to enter the fray.

By publishing your own strengths and weaknesses, not only do you keep your constituents informed and safeguard yourself against criticism, but you also establish a trust with your readers. Heck, maybe they’d go to bat for you when they wake up to read your retirement package is front page news.

Since I work for a nonprofit at an “executive” position (ha), I don’t feel weird about telling folks my salary ($36,000*) or how we spend our money. It’s kind of our debt to the citizens of this state, something a regular business doesn’t have. In fact, after our fiscal year ends later this month, we plan to publish our financial information online so you can easily see how we’ve spent our money.

In the mean time, you’re just going to have to trust me. But please don’t get your hopes up–we spend way more than 9% on operating costs. Not everyone’s as efficient as the United Way.

* as for benefits, I get a free Marta card, though usually I forget.

Joel Chandler Harris Wikipedia Page Vandalized: Yes!

Written on December 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm, by Amelia

As Lain was trolling the interweb today, he decided to take a detour to Wikipedia’s Joel Chandler Harris page. What followed were some “historical details” that seem to have escaped our history books.

See if you can find the items that caught our eye (note: this may not be appropriate for our readers under the age of, oh, let’s say 13).

Joel Chandler Harris' iffy Wikipedia Page #2


But it doesn’t end there, folks, oh no! The bit below is simply rife with inaccuracies.

Joel Chandler Harris' iffy Wikipedia Page #2

I mean, come on. Humping pictures rarely bring in enough money to buy a home. And I’m going to need to check that source.

Joel Chandler Harris was a Wikipedia Stripper

Don’t they mean “burlesque performer”? Let’s not be crass.

The way we figure it, there are at least three reasons why this is not just comic gold, but a little great:

1. We’re completely flattered that a 12-year-old boy somewhere took the time to vandalize OUR page! We’re practically blushing!

2. I never thought I would get to use the word “hump” on the blog. Victory!

3. All of my chums in Higher Education who have to convince students that Wikipedia is not legitimate primary source material can now point here and high-five.

So thanks, random “hump”-loving person, for choosing us and ensuring that our day started off with a hearty guffaw.

West End Press Notes

Written on December 17, 2007 at 9:52 am, by Lain Shakespeare

West End is a neighborhood that’s traditionally gotten the short end of the public relations stick.

Much of the bad press stems from stale perceptions of crime and decay that folks haven’t bothered to update over the past couple of decades. After that, it’s reinforced with every news report you hear about southwest Atlanta.

In fact, most people think the Wren’s Nest is in a real bad neighborhood. There are a few positives that come out of this–for example, people tend to assume the staff of the Wren’s Nest is tough. Real tough.

But while our reputation for cracking skulls is awesome, it’s about as factual as West End is a bad neighborhood.

A West End Christmas

(photo by Jenny Girtman, plus you can see Amelia if you squint real hard.)

This morning I was so glad to wake up and read West End Embraces Community’s History in the AJC. It’s a cool change of pace for the media, and while it may not seem there’s anything particularly interesting about a holiday party, simply the fact that West End is being portrayed positively is a major victory.

For a while now, it seemed like Our West End Newsletter was our sole resource for positive press. It’s great that we have a newspaper, but to say it’s biased is a bit of an understatement–the beauty of OWEN is that it’s created by the community itself. It’s written, published, and distributed by volunteers, and is usually quite well done.

They just launched a new website the other day, and I’m still blown away by how great it looks.

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Welcome, Eduardo! Now get to work.

Written on December 14, 2007 at 11:56 am, by Amelia

Dear reader, I am excited to announce the newest addition to the Wren’s Nest family: Businessman Eduardo.

Eduardo, Wren's Nest Businessman

Though this picture makes him look half good, half evil, he’s been nothing short of delightful on this, his second day of work.

We set Eduardo up for a pretty grueling interview yesterday, and he passed with flying colors. It took place at the Best of Atlanta party, so Eduardo’s first challenge was to coolly order a free beer while being congratulated for his success. He didn’t even flinch. In fact, he was able to approach this task repeatedly.

Eduardo and our Best of Atlanta Sign

(Feel the intensity of our victory!)

Eduardo’s second task was to eat very small foods, all delicious, while mingling with other triumphant Atlantans. He especially liked some sort of coconut contraption and the treats from another Best of winner, The Chocolate Bar, in little old Decatur, and once again impressed us with his skill.

Eduardo’s third task was to have the last name is Rodriguez, which he did effortlessly. Man, can you feel our diversity skyrocket? I can.

So, we think we’re going to keep him. Welcome, Eduardo. We promise there will be fewer glamour photoshoots tomorrow.

Shakespeare Gives Uncle Remus a Hand

Written on December 12, 2007 at 5:22 pm, by Lain Shakespeare
Shakespeare gives Uncle Remus a Hand

This is approximately where I threw out my back. Note the rain drops–it had to be done.

Anyway, like I mentioned in the comments of the last post. We’re looking into restoring these at about $2,000 a pop. Any takers?

Thanks for the picture, Josh.

Victorian Christmas Recap

Written on December 11, 2007 at 2:41 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

For those of you not from the south, it may come as a surprise to you that it actually gets pretty chilly here in the winter. Sunday, however, was a little different.

Bright, sunny, 75 degrees, and we hosted a Christmas party. Bizarre.

Even more bizarre is that at one point it started raining. For those of you not from the south, it may come as a surprise to you that it still rains here, too. Who knew?

Anyway, we planned for about 75 people, and more than twice that showed up. It was a great success, a little circus-like, and certainly light on pictures since the staff was running hither and thither.

Here’s what we did capture–

Uncle Remus and the Little Boy on the Lawn of the Wren's Nest

In keeping with the day’s weirdness, we brought some crazy stuff out of the attic.

Here sit Uncle Remus and the Little Boy, part of a “diorama” donated by Disney for the premier of Song of the South.

Watch Out, Uncle Remus!

Admittedly, they’re terrifying. I guess that’s what happens when you sit up in the attic for a few decades.

Mrs. Shakespeare and Asian Cajun Lauren

We have my mom to thank for a wonderful afternoon. Well, her and the unflappable Lee twins.

Hey, check out that ye olde Victorian punche.

Woodie on the Porch

Miss Woodie told stories for a little while as a crowd gathered ’round.

By the time she was done, there wasn’t much room to sit on either side of the porch.

Happy birthday, Joel Chandler Harris

It happened to be Joel Chandler Harris’ birthday. I cut the cake into the smallest squares imaginable.

Lauren, looking nervous

It went quick. Lauren, you can thank me later for including this picture.

That’s all we got, unfortunately!

If anyone wants to send in some pictures, I’d be happy to forward it to our team of editors. It may just make it on the blog.