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Archive for October, 2009

Erin McKeown, The Rascal, and the Briar Patch


Written on October 30, 2009 at 11:51 am, by Amelia

I know we talk about the influence of Brer Rabbit all the time.  And all the time you guys are like, “Okay, crazy.  I’m sure he’s all over the place, just like I’m sure the groundhog’s winter predictions are 100% reliable.  Idiots.”

But!  Today we have (more) proof.  Behold Erin McKeown’s song “The Rascal”–

The Rascal – Erin McKeown

Lain and I had the privilege of seeing Erin the other night at Eddie’s Attic, and she was absolutely terrific.  When she played “The Rascal” — hey!  That’s similar in meaning to “trickster!” — there was some firm under-the-table kicking.  Yay for references!

When Legends Gather


Written on October 29, 2009 at 8:48 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Jake Harris, Bobby Driscoll, Richard B. Russell, Ruth Warrick, Luana Patten gathered for the Song of the South premier

Luana Patten, Ruth Warrick, and Bobby Driscoll join Joel Chandler Harris, Jr. and Richard B. Russell for the premier of Disney’s Song of the South.

Apologies to If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats.

Emily Dickinson Homestead Lives Out My Historic House Nightmare


Written on October 28, 2009 at 10:40 am, by Amelia

On Sunday, October 25th, a chunk of the ceiling collapsed inside the Emily Dickinson Homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts.  This is my worst nightmare.

The Emily Dickinson Homestead Amherst, Massachusetts.  The ceiling collapsed.

The New York Times devoted one paragraph to the news, and I gasped no less than two times while reading it.

While it’s true I’m a big baby and easily scared, this is like a timely, direct line to what frightens me.  Happy Halloween!  (Perhaps I’ll go as a piece of front parlor plaster this year and pretend to fall on unsuspecting “guests of the museum.”  Topical costumes are always crowd pleasers.)

But for real, this hits a tad too close to home.  As part of our tour of the Wren’s Nest, we point out the huge gap in the floor between the “new” (1884) addition to the house and the original structure.  We chuckle!  It’s breezy in winter!  Brrr!  Haha, structural inadequacies!

And let’s not forget this doozie.

That is a piece of wood, holding up our hallway.  Now it’s an enforced piece of wood, which is only slightly more comforting.

Remember that time part of the foundation was missing?  Me too!  It was terrifying!

In short, as much as I empathize with the Emily Dickinson House and wish them the best, most of my thoughts can be summed up here — thank goodness our restoration took care of 97% of our issues, because otherwise I would have just peed myself.

Emily Dicksinon Homestead Photo: Nealy-J

Associated Press — Uncle Remus Museum Still Grapples with Race Issues


Written on October 27, 2009 at 11:02 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Yesterday the Associated Press ran a travel story on the Wren’s Nest.  Read it here on ABC News.  Or on Yahoo! News.  Or in the Chicago Tribune.

Curtis Richardson performs the Brer Rabbit stories at the Wren's Nest for the Associated Press (Photo: Dorie Turner)

One of the cool things about an Associated Press article is that you don’t really know where it’ll end up.  In the El Paso Times?  Sure.  What about the Monterey County Herald?  Why not!  Say, the York Daily Record?  Hell yes.

Please tell us what you think about the article.  Keep in mind I have already heard every possible joke about being “spunky.”

Photo: Dorie Turner for the Associated Press

The Wren’s Nest is a Radio Celebrity! Thanks, B-Side Radio.


Written on October 23, 2009 at 1:54 pm, by Amelia

B-Side Radio interviewed our fearless leader and (equally not-threatened-by-fear) docent Jeri for their latest show, “Found.”  Listen to the podcast here — our story comes in at the 21:30 mark…

Little Girl Listening to Radio

…and is great.

Because of our location, we weren’t able to curl up and listen to this chat when it first aired.  Sadly, that privilege was only for the highfalutin’ city folks of Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Austin, and Syracuse.  (Dandies listening to XM/Sirius were also entitled to the honor.)

In fact, we don’t even know when it did air, though our educated guess is “recently.”  Luckily for us, the podcast works just as well and our listening experience was a delight.  Hope yours is too!

P.S. Thanks to Katy Shrout for being a great interviewer, as well as the mother of the 4-year-old who generously lent us her red wagon for the Decatur Book Festival.  It had cup holders!

Photo: Trebor Scholz

Capitalizing on History — Mark Twain and Walt Disney Boyhood Homes


Written on October 20, 2009 at 10:23 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Mark Twain Boyhood Home

Keith Eggener of Design Observer gives us this thoughtful post on capitalizing on the historic homes of the famous, focusing on the Missouri homes of Mark Twain and Walt Disney —

“People go to Hannibal to walk the streets where the real children who inspired Huck and Becky walked; they go there ready to believe that an otherwise unexceptional white wood fence is the one Tom painted, or, at least, the one that inspired Twain to invent his story. Disney’s stories, on the other hand, are pure fantasy….”

Items discussed: history’s exploitation vs. its preservation, marketing dead public figures vs. live ones, how the Mark Twain Boyhood Home is like a snow globe.

Items not discussed: how Walt Disney’s recreated boyhood home — called “The Happy Place” — is not all so different from the story, “Brother Rabbit’s Laughing-Place.” Coincidence?

Last Thanksgiving I had the opportunity visit several great historic homes in Missouri (1, 2, 3, 4) on a

house museum road trip.  I’m sorry I missed these two, especially given their unique relationships with Joel Chandler Harris (Twain, Disney).

Photo: Keith Eggener

Brer Wear — Now Featured at the Wren’s Nest Online Store


Written on October 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm, by Amelia

Have you taken a gander at our online store yet?  It’s new, up, and running, and we’re pretty proud of it.

But hey, what’s that?  Local celebrity bloggers the Asian Cajuns are in our store too?  How did they get there?!  Answer: THE MAGIC OF THE INTERNET!

Catherine in Brer Terrapin Tee

While our friends Lauren and Catherine are not for sale, the shirts they’re wearing sure are.  We asked them to model the critter tees for a few reasons:

a. They are far more photogenic than old Closed Eyes McGee over here and her boss, Vermilion-Pate.  Plus they do things like use professional photographers.

b. They have a fashion blog!  A popular one at that.  If their endorsement of the tees isn’t a ringing one, I don’t know what is.  Their endorsement is especially helpful since we’re shy in a 7th grade wallflower kind of way — we’re sure there are people out there who would like us, if only they knew we existed.  Maybe now a few new folks will find their way to our land of tricky rabbits and surprise machetes.

c. Sometimes we just get sick of seeing our faces all over this thing.  Just kidding!  We’re totally self-obsessed!  But we still like variety.

Even if you’re not in the mood to shop, I encourage you to hop on over to the store.  You might just enjoy our descriptions of the items.  They took hours — hours! — to compose, and the effort shows.  I think.

Writing (and Righting) History on Wikipedia


Written on October 13, 2009 at 3:29 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

A few weeks ago I was inspired to start editing the Joel Chandler Harris Wikipedia page when I read an article based on erroneous facts about Harris quite obviously culled from Wikipedia, everyone’s favorite encyclopedic punching bag.

Wren’s Nest Blog Original Gangstas might recall this is not our first encounter with the Joel Chandler Harris Wikipedia page.  Way back in 2007, one ambitious editor included some, uh, fan fiction —

Harris’ page hasn’t been vandalized again, but it has remained far from complete.  The criticism and praise of Harris were irrelevant, and the actual information on his life was minimal.

So, I decided to edit and expand the Joel Chandler Harris Wikipedia page as judiciously as possible, drawing from diverse, respected sources.

Joel Chandler Harris Wikipedia Article

For a long time I felt uncomfortable editing Wikipedia on a topic where I have such an inherent, genetic bias.  But, I realized a few things once I started editing:

Please take a look at the article and let me know what you think.  If you’re feeling limber, I encourage you to help edit the article where you see fit.

I’m not quite done — particularly with the journalism section — but it’s a start at least.

Nicknames for Joel Chandler Harris — Redhead — by His Colleagues at the Savannah Morning News


Written on October 7, 2009 at 12:26 pm, by Amelia

Joel Chandler Harris, 1873

  • Pink-Top
  • Red-Top
  • Our friend of the ensanguined fore-top
  • Molasses-Haired Humorist
  • Vermilion-Pate
  • Naughty Boy of the Savannah Morning News

Amazing insight into JCH’s life courtesy of Stella Brewer Brookes and her tome of greatness, Joel Chandler Harris: Folklorist.

I’m pretty sure this also serves as a list of sweet nothings the Pecanne Log ladies whisper into Thomas Wheatley’s ears.

Joel Chandler Harris — Big in Russia, Russian Magazines


Written on October 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Today when I opened our mail, the first thing I saw was this advertisement on the back of a magazine:

Sova Russian American Magazine

My first thought was, “OMG!  This must be a Russian Mail Order Bride catalog!”  The glee that filled me at this prospect was, in truth, unnerving.

Fortunately, no — this was a copy of Sova Russian-American Magazine, which is not a Russian Mail Order Bride Catalog, but instead a magazine for Russians living in the United States.

Writer Michael Borovsky had sent along his (quite substantial) article on the Wren’s Nest.

Interior of Sova Russian American Magazine article on the Wren's Nest

And that’s just page 2 of 8.  I even made the cut on page 6.  Good thing I showered that day.

Sova Russian American Magazine features The Wren's Nest and Lain Shakespeare

Brer Rabbit has been quite popular in Russia for at least a few decades.  Award winning artist Latif Kazbekov published a version of the Brer Rabbit stories in 1992 with beautiful illustrations.

Brer Rabbit Russian Illustrations by Latif Kazbekov

Now, if only someone could translate the article for me.  In eight pages my dimples must be mentioned, right guys?  Guys?

Previously: Brer Rabbit in Translation, Illustrations from Jump! — the Brer Rabbit Adaptation by Van Dyke Parks and Barry Moser