Archive for February, 2010

Huckleberry Hound Tells the Uncle Remus Stories


Written on February 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm, by Amelia

Lately we’ve been showing you all manner of greatness influenced by Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus (1,2,3).  Eventually, we were bound to run out of impressive, possibly life-changing material.

Luckily, now is the opposite of that time.

(Thanks to Gasoline Alley Antiques for the picture)

Allow me to introduce you to “Huckleberry Hound Tells Stories of Uncle Remus.”  First, a primer on Uncle Remus himself:

Uncle Remus

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Just lays it right out there, doesn’t it?  If there’s anything Huckleberry Hound hates, it’s ambiguity.

Next, a story with language so rich, all I can do to prepare you is to say that the phrase “snitchin’ my goobers!” is featured. Strengthening my point?  Someone is “caught red-headed” in this tale.  This guy knows what I’m talking about.

Dollar a Minute

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HI-sterical!

I think this last one sounds like The Rascals’ never-released surf jam:

Brer Rabbit

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And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  It seemed a little excessive to post the entire album, but after listening further — well, it may just have to be done.  We owe it to Huckleberry.

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Wax n’ Facts for giving us a copy of this album and piquing our interest.  It took us a while to track down the, uh, tracks, but man alive am I glad we did.

New Writing and Publishing Project with KIPP STRIVE — Volunteers Needed!


Written on February 19, 2010 at 10:03 am, by Lain Shakespeare

I’m pleased to announce that next month the Wren’s Nest Publishing Company is starting a new program with the help of the Decatur Book Festival.

It’s like StoryCorps826 Valencia + the kids in our neighborhood.  Y’all with me?

KIPP STRIVE Academy is the new APS charter school just around the corner in the old J.C. Harris Elementary building.  Starting in late March, each week the Wren’s Nest Publishing Company will bring volunteers with significant writing experience to work 1-on-1 with about 25 KIPP STRIVE 5th graders. The goal is to help improve and broaden their writing skills.

We’ll be working on a creative nonfiction project — the students will identify a great story told to them by a significant adult in their life, be it a parent, grandparent, neighbor, whomever.  Volunteers will guide the students, helping them craft the story to the best of their abilities.

The stories will be compiled for a book to be released at the Decatur Book Festival.  We’ll have a big book release party to celebrate at the DBF.

Our mission boils down to the fact that everyday people have remarkable stories, and that these stories deserve to be heard. We’ve got an opportunity to tell the stories of our community, and you have the opportunity to help these students find their voices.

StoryCorps and 826 Valencia in particular have been inspirations in demonstrating the power of story and the power of 1-on-1 tutoring.  See for yourself —

We’re looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join us in this venture, starting… now.  Interested?

Check out the details below and then email Amelia (amelia@wrensnestonline.com) with “Writing! Woo!” in the subject line before March 12th. She’ll send you a (very brief) application form.

  • Orientation sessions (2 hours maximum; beers to follow) will begin in mid-March
  • Tutoring sessions will be held Tuesday afternoons from 3 – 4 pm, April – early June
  • Volunteers must be willing to commit to 10 hours of service over a 2 month span.
  • Volunteers must have experience in some sort of writing (you need not have written a book, mind you! We’re merely looking for good writers. If you think you qualify, you probably do. Amelia, for example, wrote a lot of literature papers in college and now writes this blog. She counts!)

Finally, we would deeply appreciate it if you would forward this opportunity to anyone you feel would be great for this project, but isn’t smart enough to regularly read our blog.  Assembling 20 – 25 volunteers is no small feat, but with your help, we feel up to the task.

Loudon Wainwright — “Black Uncle Remus” Lyrics


Written on February 16, 2010 at 11:52 am, by Lain Shakespeare

On Thursday I was listening to Loudon Wainwright on Fresh Air. He was talking about his new album that pays tribute to Charlie Poole.

All of a sudden I remembered — “Oh! Loudon Wainwright wrote a song called ‘Black Uncle Remus!’ Let’s see if I can embed that into a blog post.”

Turns out I can’t embed it just yet.  For now, the best I can do is send you to the Yep Roc label for a refreshingly substantial preview of the song.  You can also buy it for all of 99 cents. It’s the first track.

Of all the Uncle Remus-inspired music (see: Miley Cyrus’s “Zip-a-dee-do-dah,” Van Dyke Parks’s Jump!, Henry F. Gilbert’s unfinished Uncle Remus Opera, Devin the Dude’s NSFW “Briarpatch,” etc), this track is the most jammable as Amelia and I have proved all week.  The lyrics are below.

Black Uncle Remus in central square,
Somebody took the rocker off the rocking chair.
When you got the whiskey habit
You don't talk about Brer Rabbit.
Black Uncle Remus got the death letter blues,
The hellhound says it time to pay the dues.
You rarely recall the catfish catchin'
When you're living in the Briar Patches.
Black Uncle Remus, he moans and he sings,
His tears have rusted his banjo strings.
You start calling for Jesus or your Mama maybe
When your life's gummed up in the old Tar Baby.
Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do,
Whatcha gonna do when you're black and blue?.
Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do,
Whatcha gonna do when you're black and blue?

Elephants in Atlanta — Then and Now


Written on February 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm, by Amelia

Jamie Gumbrecht has a thoughtful and concise post up at the AJC’s Inside Access page about the controversy surrounding the elephants in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Show.  It opened Friday night in Atlanta.

Two animal rights groups have appealed to Mayor Reed to keep the elephants out of the show, and PETA made an unusually tasteful protest last week with a sad pachyderm statue in Woodruff Park.

Now, I’m not here to use this space to argue either way — though it should be noted that, all PETA disparaging aside (and believe me, I had to curb it), I LOVE elephants.  I went through a pachyderm phase circa 1991 that was unparalleled, featuring an evolutionary pictograph (thank you, Kids Discover magazine) and a barf-green sweatshirt with an African elephant standing in purple grass.  Note: I hate purple and should never, ever wear olive green, but the elephant on the front triumphed over good sense.

Nope, I’m here to talk about the elephant tooth we have here at the Wren’s Nest.

Once upon a time Clio the Elephant was the biggest attraction at Atlanta’s Grant Park zoo.  When Clio died, parts of her body were gifted to noteworthy people, including our very own Joel Chandler Harris.  He kept her molar on his desk at the Atlanta Constitution.  We like to have kids guess what it is as part of the tour.

Kind of a horrifying practice, right?  But also a product of the times.  We use this example a lot when people deride Harris for being insensitive or un-PC — also known as “a person who lived 100 years ago.”  As usual, our argument remains: present judgement should be reserved for present situations.

That said, you may believe that circus elephants are a relic of an ignorant time gone by, and I don’t think I disagree.

1937 Uncle Remus Illustrations by Fritz Eichenberg


Written on February 12, 2010 at 9:06 am, by Lain Shakespeare

This 1937 Uncle Remus book illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg is quite handsome.  Apparently, the Peter Pauper Press only made 1100 of ’em.

The Lil’ Rabs on the cover caught my eye, and the illustrations inside didn’t disappoint.  I’ve included nine of them below. For some, I’ve added the audio from our storytellers that corresponds to the illustration.

Donald Griffin – The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story

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Woodie Persons — Brer Rabbit’s Riding Horse

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Akbar Imhotep – Mr. Fox Goes Hunting, But Brer Rabbit Bags the Meat

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I love how innocent yet entirely malicious Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox look.

The next illustration is also deliciously evil — the Lil Rabs look on with glee as their father steams Brer Wolf alive.  Yippee!  Everyone in the back — throw ya hands up!

I love everything about Brer Wolf in this picture!  Just look at him!  Is this picture exactly like Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver or what?!

MARTA’s Controversial Yellow Line


Written on February 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

Photo courtesy of Hyku / CC BY 2.0

Yesterday the AJC reported that MARTA is in some hot water with the Center for Pan Asian Community Services regarding its (relatively) new “yellow” line that terminates in Doraville. Since part of the yellow line runs through an area with a sizable Asian population, some have taken offense.  Here’s MARTA’s rail map, for reference.

Creative Loafing contributor Andisheh Nouraee has taken the opportunity to tweet about the controversy (1, 2, 3):

This reminds me of two things —

1. The time my friend criticized this blog for use of the phrase “calling a spade a spade.”
2. The time that “tar baby” has been appropriated as a racial slur.

Did you know that “spade” is derogatory in some circumstances?  I didn’t.  Did you know that “tar baby” is derogatory in some circumstances?   Probably so.   Does that mean I’m insensitive for calling “a spade a spade” or retelling the most famous African-American folk tale or riding the yellow line to Doraville?

Unless my token asian friends tell me differently, I’m just going to assume this is being blown way out of proportion.  As the article points out, MARTA isn’t exactly blameless here and had some warning about potential unease, but let’s be reasonable: does this mean the stop lights along that same corridor are red, racist, and green?

What about when we tell “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” in our (predominately African-American) neighborhood — is it more racist here than if we told it in (mostly white) Avondale?  No — that’d be like saying the crackers at Kroger in Alpharetta are more racist than the crackers at Kroger on Cascade Road.

Yellow is a primary color, y’all.  It’s also a Coldplay song.  And, yes, it’s also a slur.  But just because a word is sometimes hurtful doesn’t mean we should banish it to the depths of the Disney vault, never to see the light of day again. It’s a slippery slope, folks.

Related: Tar Baby in Classic Saturday Night Live Sketch

Arthur Miller’s 1941 Radio Play — “Joel Chandler Harris”


Written on February 1, 2010 at 9:30 am, by Lain Shakespeare

In 1941 Arthur Miller wrote a radio play for Cavalcade of America called “Joel Chandler Harris.” Karl Swenson, he of Little House on the Prairie fame, plays the lead role.

The play runs about 26 minutes and is sort of an “aw shucks!” biography. Still, the writing is well done. The accents, however, are questionable.

“Joel Chandler Harris” by Arthur Miller

The play is based in fact but it isn’t entirely factual. For example, there’s a scene where Harris meets Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain at the White House.  In reality the incident in question did occur, but with only Mark Twain and in New Orleans.

Compared with many of the historical inaccuracies we usually deal with, however, this feels like a case of tomato/tomato.

Related: More episodes of Cavalcade of America (presented by DuPont!), Disney’s 1956 “aw shucks!” biography of young Joel Chandler Harris