Month: December 2009

Our architectural photographer Jonathan Hillyer just sent in the second batch of Wren’s Nest shots.  These are slightly better than the first crop because I served as photographer’s assistant.

The Wren's Nest at Night

See those lights in the upstairs windows?  See how they make all the difference?  Yep, that was me.

The Wren's Nest during the day

One of the stupid things that Joel Chandler Harris did when he built this house was face it due north.  The sun never really hits the front of the house, so it’s tough to get a truly spectacular daytime shot.  That said, I think this one turned out splendid.

Wren's Nest Porch Detail

My contribution to this photo was neglecting to call the leaf guy to get the leaves off the roof before the shot was taken.

Also, now might be a good time to mention that all of these photos are copyright Jonathan Hillyer.  Please be sure to credit him if you use ’em.

Finally, here’s the last of our interior shots that I wasn’t able to post the first time around:

So with this post on the last day of 2009, I’m officially wrapping up our conservation project.

Thanks again to the readers who followed our progress, the donors who allowed us to continue operating the whole time, and the foundations who paid for it all.  Happy New Year.

Yesterday Vic Chesnutt died in Athens, GA at the age of 45.

Chesnutt was a prolific, influential songwriter and musician who collaborated with a whole mess of folks over a twenty year career — from Michael Stipe to Widespread Panic to our friend Van Dyke Parks.

This Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross from earlier this month discusses his music, his life, the accident that left him a quadriplegic, and his flirtation with suicide.

I mention his passing because in 2003 Chesnutt wrote and recorded a song called “Wren’s Nest” that also refers to plenty of other Georgia heritage sites.

While I know we have yet to share all the pictures from our Victorian Christmas celebration (which is not to say we don’t have any pictures*), the house has been looking holiday-ready for weeks.

When visitors compliment the beautiful decorations, Lain and I truthfully reply, “Thanks!  But I had nothing to do with it.”

Volunteers Decorating the Wren's Nest Tree

It’s not just false humility, no sir.

We’re lucky enough to have a wonderful team of volunteers here every year to decorate the Wren’s Nest who, most amazingly, get the job done by lunch.  It’s nuts.  All Lain and I are essentially responsible for is locating scissors and telling folks what they can (nothing) and cannot (everything) touch.

Catherine decorating for Christmas at the Wren's Nest

Knowing the house will be in good and talented hands is a huge relief to us every year during this busy time.  We wanted to make sure to give a hearty “thank  you!” to everyone who helped out, whether their generosity was court-ordered or of their own volition.

For the last few years, we’ve been lucky enough to benefit from Lauren and Catherine’s design sense. This year we got a bonus in their mom, Jackie, responsible for these much-lauded dictionary-critter ornaments.


That’s Catherine up top and Lauren below with her mom and volunteer and Christmas-decorator-extraordinaire-and-lady-in-charge-Ida Beth.

Lauren, Jackie, and Ida Beth Decorating for Christmas at the Wren's Nest

So thank you, everyone.  Super special thanks to Marshall Thomas for wrangling all of the folks who have never been here before and Annette Shakespeare for regaling those same folks with a history of the house that, most importantly, didn’t disturb their t-shirt folding output.

If you still haven’t seen the decorations, we’ll be closed Christmas day, but open again (with storytelling at 1pm!) on Saturday the 26th.  Come on by!

*Wait, no, that’s exactly what I’m saying.  We are without pictures, totally.

Have you seen Fantastic Mr. Fox yet?

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I did the other night, and boy was it great.

I’ll confess: I haven’t read Roald Dahl’s book.  But, I couldn’t help thinking that the aesthetic and the animal realm of the movie owed plenty to illustrator A.B. Frost and the Uncle Remus tales.

Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit

In 1881 Uncle Remus changed children’s literature forever by forging a community of walking, talking critters living out their lives in a world that runs parallel to ours.

Sound familiar?  (You watched the trailer, right?)

You don’t even have to read the Uncle Remus tales to see that Brer Fox (and the rest of the critters) paved the way for his fantastic descendant.  Just look at how Frost depicts Brer Wolf and Brer Fox  —

Brer Wolf and Brer Fox, discussing the day's matters.

Their scruffy, bespoke get-ups would be right at home in Fantastic Mr. Fox, as would their serious demeanor.

It sounds crazy, but snappy-dressing, wise-cracking, vivid animal personages like this simply hadn’t happened before Uncle Remus came on the scene in 1881.  Nor had anything existed like the critter community situated along Brer Rabbit’s “Big Road.”

Brer Possum and Brer Badger

Weird, right?  It’s sort of like how chocolate chip cookies were really invented in the 1930s, but as far as my assumptions are concerned, they predate metallurgy.

All that said, director Wes Anderson has reinvented the genre with the arresting stop-motion community in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Mr. Fox and Rabbit in Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox

Anderson’s movie is just as much for adults as it is for kids, mixing over-the-top shenanigans and existential questions.

For example, much of the movie revolves around the importance of Mr. Fox sticking to his day job (newspaper columnist) and repressing his urge to steal chickens.   The situation allows Anderson to touch on serious questions like: “Can animals outwit their instincts?” and “Is it possible for humans to escape their nature?”  Ralph Ellison, the author of Invisible Man, notes this is the perfect time for such inquiry: “Aesop and Uncle Remus had taught us that comedy is a disguised form of philosophical instruction.”

At one point, when Mr. Fox kills a chicken in one bite, his trusty sidekick Kylie notes just how violent and bloody the incident was.

The same violence and bestial instinct demonstrated in the movie is ever-present in the Brer Rabbit stories, like in “The Awful Fate of Mr. Wolf,” where Brer Rabbit locks Brer Wolf in a trunk.

Brer Rabbit, locking Brer Wolf in before he pours hot liquid inside

As his little rabbits look on with glee, Brer Rabbit bores holes in the trunk so he can pour boiling water inside.

So maybe rabbits don’t instinctually boil their enemies alive in locked trunks.  But Brer Rabbit does do what it takes to protect and feed his family, only with a little diabolical finesse.

The parallels between Fantastic Mr. Fox and the Uncle Remus tales go on and on.   While most critics have been blowin’ up my Google Alerts with comparisons of Uncle Remus and Princess Tiana (as in, they’re both African-American characters in a Disney movie), they’re missing the much more substantial connections in Wes Anderson’s latest.

I’ll stop here, but I have included a few more of Frost’s illustrations, below.  If you see the movie, let me know what you think!

Brer Rabbit and the Lil Rabs

Brer Fox a-knocking

Lil Fox and Mr. Wolf

Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, sittin'.

Brer Rabbit, looking very put together

Twitter round-ups are back!

Take a gander at who the Wren’s Nest (as in, the house itself) has been verbally assaulting lately.  Be sure to follow @thewrensnest on Twitter for the full experience.  You won’t be disappointed.  Unless, of course, you hate hilarity.


  • For the record, I found TYLER PERRY’S HOUSE OF PAYNE to be terribly misleading.

Decorating the Tree, Volunteers

  • Maybe y’all call it Christmas decorating, but I call it gilding the lily.
  • A 1977 city guide classified me as “other things” and called my docents “pleasant ladies.”  I give a C+ for effort.
  • What’s the proper protocol on a child left here? Is she mine now? Because I could really use an extra set of opposable thumbs.

Bathroom pic of toilet

  • Folks may poo-poo elective surgeries, but my bathroom remodel is DIVINE. I haven’t felt this good since 1932!
  • I feel a little violated every time a gaggle of English professors visits. What with their drooling and their penetrating eyes.
  • The children in my east parlor have never heard anything as hilarious as our storyteller. I’m worried one of them is going to soil my floor.
  • Good news: my bathroom’s finally getting re-done. Bad news: the painter says “this place” is full of ghosts. Uh, I have a name, okay guy?

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  • If Briar Patch cigars wasn’t filled with flammable cigars, I would want to be best friends.  I, too, feel like home!
  • There’s a canine beast in my office. Its name appears to be Captain. As a pacifist and non-seaman, I object on principle.
  • I’m in a podcast! I think that means an alien version of me will emerge when I fall asleep. Not worried. I don’t sleep.

Paul Blart, Mall Cop

  • Do you lie awake at night wondering what PAUL BLART: MALL COP would look like in my backyard? Feast your eyes!

  • There’s a wedding in my yard today. They better not disturb the delicate equilibrium I’ve established with the woodland creatures.
  • If George Thorogood preferred Brer Rabbit to bourbon, scotch, and beer, he mighta sung this song instead:

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  • To the man who seriously asked, “How did people live in the South before air conditioning?” — your answer.
  • Miss Nannie, one of the docents, brought her remote control today instead of her keys. What the hell is a remote control?
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