Archive for September, 2009

Twitter Updates from the Wren’s Nest #3


Written on September 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm, by Amelia

Since no one has cried or thrown a tantrum, we’ve decided to continue posting select Twitter updates here.  Follow @thewrensnest for the complete experience.  There’s a whole chunk of fun that simply wouldn’t make any sense here, and I know how you hate to miss out.

  • The Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta are meeting in my backyard to — as I understand it — haze their incoming class. Bring on the paddles!
  • I won’t name names (ahem @scadivyhall) but there used to be only 1 Queen Anne Victorian open to the public near a Krispy Kreme in this town.

Front Porch with guests

  • Businessfolks on the porch. I prefer to mix business, pleasure, and periwinkle ceilings.

Dining Room Hillyer

  • Wanna see what my dining room looks like?  Seriously, y’all: grown and sexy.

More to come soon!  Seriously, this house won’t shut up.

The Great Deluge in Atlanta and in the Uncle Remus Tales


Written on September 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

I’m relieved to report that the Wren’s Nest did not suffer any damage from the torrential downpours of last week.

Thank you to the wonderful foundations that allowed us to patch up our roof earlier this year.  Thanks also to Arborguard, for recently taking out the huge tree limb that hung over us worse than Jägermeister on New Year’s.

The recent flooding here reminds me of one of my favorite moments in the Uncle Remus tales — when Uncle Remus tells the little boy about the Great Deluge.  You know, the story where angry crawfish bore holes in the ground and flood the earth.

“Where was the ark, Uncle Remus?” the little boy inquired, presently.

Uncle Remus tells the story of the Great Deluge

“W’ich ark’s dat?” asked the old man, in the tone of well-feigned curiosity.

“Noah’s ark,” replied the child.

“Don’t you pester wid ole man Noah, honey. I boun’ he tuck keer er dat ark. Dat’s w’at he wuz dar fer, en dat’s w’at he done. Leas’ways, dat’s w’at dey tells me. But don’t you bodder longer dat ar, ceppin’ your mammy fetches it up. Dey mought er bin two deloojes, en den agin dey moughtent. Ef dey wuz enny ark in [my story], I ain’t heern tell un it, en w’en dey ain’t no arks ‘roun’, I ain’t got no time fer ter make en put em in dar.”

Instead of telling the Sunday School version of the story, Remus sticks with the story from his own tradition.

The choice that Harris made here — to let Remus tell his own story and introduce the little white boy to a vastly different perspective — is one reason why it’s so easy for me to get excited about our mission.  Harris lent the African-American tradition a legitimacy that was practically nonexistent in American literature at the time.

Thank you to the crawfish for not boring (too many) holes around the Wren’s Nest this past week.  Not everyone was so lucky.

Music from Jump! by Van Dyke Parks


Written on September 26, 2009 at 10:42 am, by Lain Shakespeare

A while back, I mentioned  Van Dyke Parks’ adaptations of the Brer Rabbit stories. Parks published three books (with beautiful illustrations by Barry Moser), plus one album — Jump! — based on the stories.

I finally got around to embedding the (quite impressive and catchy as all get out) album below.

If you’re pressed for time, the Wren’s Nest Staff recommends “Opportunity for Two,” “Come Along,” “Home,” and “Hominey Grove.”

In the words of one astute Amazon reviewer

“Jump! must be the best score in the history of Broadway rejects. A gifted melodist and arranger, Parks digs deep into his Southern roots and pulls out this Brer Rabbit of a bouncy, melancholy masterpiece. Not for those who like their pop predictable, ironic or cynical, I predict that Jump! will be Van Dyke Parks greatest legacy, the truest reflection of his extraordinary grasp of the heart of American music.”

Indeed.  Parks has toured for this album before, and he told me that he’d be into playing at the Wren’s Nest.

Previously: Illustrations and Music from Jump!, That Time Van Dyke Parks Left an Amazing Comment on This Blog


Decatur Book Festival Pictures and a Happy Blog


Written on September 25, 2009 at 2:10 pm, by Amelia

Hey look at this!  I mean, for real, this.  Our blog.  Look at it.  Looking better, right?

Thanks for your patience with our blog; there was many a kink to be ironed out, but now everyone can be happy again.  Especially since we have Decatur Book Festival pictures for you!

Lain and Amelia at the DBF

This is what Lain and I look like when we’re not in front of our computers.  You know, uneasy.

As a reminder, though the pictures are posted on Facebook, you do NOT need a facebook account to view them.  Just click on this link, sit back, and enjoy.

Muppets Sing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah with Alan Arkin


Written on September 11, 2009 at 10:59 am, by Lain Shakespeare
YouTube Preview Image

David sends along this oddly violent clip of Alan Arkin on the Muppet Show.  The Muppets sing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah, and Alan Arkin goes bonkers, terrorizing the animals.

Maybe we can reenact this when the Center for Puppetry Arts builds their Jim Henson wing.

The Wren’s Nest Updated Its Site Design and Now Our Blog Looks a Little Goofy


Written on September 4, 2009 at 4:33 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

We’ll fix the goofiness soon, promise.

In the mean time, do you have any questions, comments, or concerns?

Support Our Student Editors at the Decatur Book Festival!


Written on September 3, 2009 at 4:06 pm, by Amelia

As you all well know by now, Lain and I have big plans for this weekend — it’s the Decatur Book Festival!

DBF Bookzilla

(I especially love the DBF's graphic design this year)

We’re getting pumped about the opportunity to meet hundreds of visitors and say things like, “Yes, the Wren’s Nest does still exist.  We can’t believe it either.”

Furthermore, we’ll be debuting something big — our new banner!  Worth the (non-existent) price of admission alone, it will surely help you locate our tent between the Children’s Stage and the Gazebo.

But that’s not all that’s in store for us, no sir.  On Sunday afternoon our Wren’s Nest Publishing Co. student editors will be hosting a salon/cofeehouse to celebrate their literary journal, Wayfarer’s Diary.  Hey! You should come!

Wayfarer's Front Cover Only

Not only will the students and authors be reading their pieces, but there will be live music, free food, and most importantly, board games!  Oh, and you can buy the journal there too. (5 bucks – cheap!)

So join me and the students — a charming group, if I do say so — at Several Dancer’s Core between 2 and 5pm on the Decatur Square, right above the MARTA station.  See you there!

Disney Buys Marvel, Crossover Speculation Ensues


Written on September 1, 2009 at 1:04 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Yesterday Disney announced that it will buy Marvel Entertainment, famous for its comic book superheroes, for $4 billion.

Immediately folks began hypothesizing the potential crossovers between the worlds of Marvel and Disney.  Two of the most compelling Song of the South-related suggestions came from the Woot Blog:

Br’er Rabbit vs. Cyclops: Two brilliant tactical minds, fighting for the future of their outcast friends! They’re ready for anything – are you?

Power Man vs. Uncle Remus: The righteous fists of Luke Cage stand ready to drop a slaveship’s worth of pain on The Man’s favorite sharecropper – until a wise bluebird reminds him that we’re all brothers under the skin.

Luke Cage (a.k.a Power Man), a vestige of early 70s blaxploitation, is kind of a jive-talkin’ hero for hire.   He’s also one of the first African-American characters in the Marvel universe.  According to IMDB,  John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, Shaft (2000)) is set to direct the film version, now being scripted.

Sounds familiar!

When the Uncle Remus stories debuted in 1880, Brer Rabbit revolutionized children’s literature.  Not only did the characters introduce children to animals that walked and talked with sass, but Harris created a fictional universe along the Big Road, where the critters co-existed in an often violent and amoral world.

Uncle Remus became one of the first fully-realized black characters in American fiction, unique in a subversive portrayal that bucked the minstrel tradition and gave a voice to the African-American oral tradition.

For the next 60 years, the Uncle Remus stories captured the imaginations of children around the world.  By 1939 Walt Disney, who had long dreamed to bring the stories to the big screen, bought the rights to the Brer Rabbit franchise for a whopping $10,000.

The rest is history.  Song of the South debuted in 1946 with great commercial success and ambivalent critical reviews.  The film has been perceived as more and more racist with each passing year, and Disney has neglected to release the film for home consumption in the United States.

The Disney Brer Rabbit and the Brer Rabbit of the African-American oral tradition are continually conflated.  And by “conflated,” I mean that “the Disney film is so iconic that many folks assume that the Disney version is the same as the stories written 60 years earlier, for better or worse.”  Usually worse.

It’s a shame, since Brer Rabbit serves as such a tremendous building block in our popular culture.  I’d hate to see Marvel’s characters suffer a similar fate if Disney ever deems them too controversial.

Previously: