Category Archives: Journalism

Quick links: sticks, stones, busted bones

By Bob Hicks

Mr. Scatter has never been able to talk Mrs. Scatter into chucking it all and building a little log cabin in the woods. And, truth to tell, he’s not all that good at the log-splitting thing. Plus, there’s the indoor-plumbing issue: In general, he’s in favor of it.

The dome of Patrick Dougherty's stick-structure in Ketchum, Idaho.Still, he’s fascinated by the rustic stick constructions of North Carolina-based artist Patrick Dougherty — so much so that he wrote in this recent post about one that Dougherty built in Ketchum, Idaho. So he highly recommends Penelope Green’s lavishly illustrated story Of Sticks and Stones in Thursday’s New York Times, about Dougherty’s little-cabin-that-grew that he shares, during his rare down times, with his teenage son and museum-curator wife.

Old and new meet both in Dougherty’s North Carolina compound and the stick sculptures he’s installed worldwide: they speak to something arduous, provisional and soothing in humans’ relationship to the natural world.


We could all use a dose of Dougherty’s soothing sticks after taking in the next couple of recommendations. Both stories depress and exasperate and anger Mr. Scatter. Yet he still considers them must-reads.

The first: Steve Duin’s maddeningly excellent column in Thursday’s Oregonian, Terrified of an unguarded moment, about how today’s politicians are increasingly ducking even the most facile of encounters with reporters, which means, essentially, that they want nothing to do with anything resembling a give-and-take with the public they supposedly are vying to serve. Duin’s immediate case in point is Oregon’s two major-party gubernatorial candidates, John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley, although he makes clear they’re far from the only ones playing this little game. Everything’s scripted, everyone’s handled, nothing’s real. Is it arrogance, or fear? Or is it just that, in a climate where money pours in very big buckets, the sort of ordinary voters who reporters work for just don’t count?

The second: David Carr’s morbidly fascinating report At Sam Zell’s Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture in Wednesday’s Times. If true — and it smells right — it’s a shocking if weirdly unsurprising tale of the arrogance, hubris and venality driving far too much of the contemporary corporate world, in which a small group of top-management Visigoths feed at the trough while disdaining not just the common good but also the future and stability of their own organization. That all of this has happened in Mr. Scatter’s own industry — the Tribune Company publishes such once-great newspapers as the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun — only angers him more deeply.

Put together the arrogance of our corporations and the isolated, money-baggish timidity of our political leaders, and maybe Mr. and Mrs. Scatter will build that cabin in the woods, after all. Can’t be that hard. Right?


PHOTO: The dome of Patrick Dougherty’s stick-structure in Ketchum, Idaho.

The state of support for history in Oregon

Tom Fehrer, skulls, from "In the Navel of the Moon" at Camerwork Gallery, Portland.

By Bob Hicks

It’s pretty grim, according to Steve Law’s report, Historical Society may ask voters for tax levy, in The Portland Tribune, and Sarah Mirk’s followup, State History Museum Will Run Out of Cash in 2011, Pitches Tax To Stay Afloat, in The Mercury’s Blogtown.

Things are skeletal right now. Oregon Historical Society boss George Vogt says that Oregon ranks No. 50 in state support of its history museum. Not sure, but that sounds like dead last, unless they’re counting the likes of Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Washington, D.C. in the rankings.

The state of Oregon, strapped for funds like every other state, has basically thrown its hands up and surrendered. The Historical Society is so far down the list of its priorities, it’s probably looking up at the likes of funding for bicycle lanes on logging roads in the Tillamook Forest (where something called the Tillamook Burn once happened, but looks like that’s, well, history now).

Vogt says the society will run out of cash next year. His solution? A five-year, $10 million levy on the November ballot that would add about $10 a year to the property-tax bill on a $200,000 home. The catch? It’s not a statewide levy — it’s just for Multnomah County. One of the undertold stories of Oregon politics is that greater Portland and the Willamette Valley have been paying a big share of the bills for most of the rest of the state for decades (urban Oregonians pay much more into the state coffers than they get back in services, and the “extra” money helps underwrite rural and small-town Oregon) but you rarely see it spelled out as baldly as this. The payoff: Multnomah County residents would get free admission to the museum, which ordinarily costs $11 for adults.

Portlanders tend to believe in their cultural organizations, and in ordinary times this would probably stand a fair chance of passing. But these aren’t ordinary times, and I’m guessing this levy, if it hits the ballot, will face a steep uphill challenge.

Thoughts on this? Hit that comment button, please.


The picture at top, by Seattle photographer Tom Feher, is just one of his many images of Oaxaca, Mexico, on view Aug. 21-Sept. 24 at Portland’s Camerawork Gallery. There’ll be an artist’s reception 1-4 p.m. on Saturday the 21st. Feher’s exhibit, In the Navel of the Moon, is all about history, and the ways that history persists into the present, subtly and sometimes not so subtly shaping what we think of as contemporary life.

Feher has been photographing life in Oaxaca for a dozen years, and lives there half of every year. Here are some of his thoughts on what’s become something of a life work:

Life, in all its aspects, is multilayered in Mexico generally, and especially so in Oaxaca. At its most superficial there is what the tourist sees: the color, the festivities, the unsettling chaos of the markets, streets and traffic. But it goes deeper than that. The countless churches built upon the remains of ancient temples; the religious services and celebrations, an admixture of the orthodox and the older native practices. City names, often a combination of the indigenous name with a post-conquest Saint’s name tacked on. Contemporary art frequently contains pre-Hispanic imagery. Even the food has its origin in the indigenous dishes that existed before the Spaniards came. It becomes evident that even as they live in an ever more contemporary world, there are people of today’s Mexico who still dream the dreams of the ancients and evidence it in their daily lives, as well as events that only thinly disguise their connection to rituals of pre-history.

Ah, but then again, history: Who needs it, anyway?


Intriguingly, Northeast Portland’s 23 Sandy Gallery has a show coming up in September that seems to dovetail in interesting ways with Feher’s exhibit at Camerawork. Portland photographer Stewart Harvey‘s I Am What I Need To Be, on view Sept. 3-18, is subtitled A Photo Essay on the Odyssey of Identity in New Orleans. It’s about the nature of creativity in the Crescent City, which seems to have a lot to do not just with the whims and brainstorms of young creatives but more importantly with the ways that the past weaves into the present and the future. In other words: History lives.

Compared to Portland, which “shares much of the same liberal spirit,” Harvey says:

… the Crescent City seems more enamored by cultural movements than the rabid individuals who create them. I was charmed by the willingness of New Orleanians to not only give sanctuary to the expressive oddball, but to provide a platform for their development.

Like Oaxaca, New Orleans has a deep and long-running history with bones: See Harvey’s photograph below. Unlike Oregon, it seems to think that history has a place in the present and future.

Stewart Harvey photographs skeletal revelry in New Orleans, at 23 Sandy Gallery in September.


PHOTOS, from top:

  • Tom Fehrer, skulls, from “In the Navel of the Moon” at Camerwork Gallery, Portland.
  • Stewart Harvey photographs skeletal revelry in New Orleans, at 23 Sandy Gallery in September.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll darn near die

What's holding things up? Jamey Hampton in "BloodyVox." Photo: Michael Shay, Polara Studios

By Bob Hicks

Actors have a parlor trick they like to pull out to amaze and amuse their non-thespian friends. I’m not sure if it has an accepted given name, but I sometimes call it the “laugh-cry game.” It’s simple, really: They cover their faces, start making an odd guttural sound, and challenge you to tell whether they’re laughing or crying. In terms of technique, both actions come out of the same place.

It’s fitting that the art of acting is so often depicted with drawings of the tragic and comic masks, because the comic and tragic are so often barely a whisker’s width separated from each other. Tragedy gets the respect. Comedy gets the love, if often reluctantly. But really, the balance is a lot closer. Remember, Chekhov insisted his mournful plays were comedies.

Robyn Nevin and William Hurt in "Long Day's Journey Into Night." Photo: Brett BoardmanI think of this because the big deal in Puddletown this weekend is Saturday night’s opening of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Eugene O’Neill‘s imperial American classic, at Artists Repertory Theatre. This production has Serious written all over it. A co-production with Australia’s Sydney Theatre Company, it stars occasional Oregonian William Hurt as the destructive Tyrone family patriarch, and it drew sparkling reviews in its recently closed Sydney run. I look forward to it not just because it arrives with stellar recommendations but also because O’Neill was in a very real sense the father of American theater, our first true genius. That he was such a morose son of a bitch was the luck of the draw. France got Moliere, the satiric comedian. England got Shakespeare, the astonishing Everyman. We got Old Bleak House, and few writers have ever done bleak better: O’Neill paints loss in despairingly seductive strokes of love.

Good laughs are nothing to sniff at.

Continue reading You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll darn near die

Two good places to put your money

Blanket Dance, 2005, 3' x 4', Arches black and white cover stock and Strathmore Red and gold and silver Japanese. (Availalbe through the Stonington Gallery, Seattle.)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the world is overflowing with causes deserving of our support. It is a truth personally declared that Mr. Scatter, on occasion, will spotlight certain of these causes in the hope that his friends and readers will give them a second look.

Two such possibilities have presented themselves of late.

The first arrived with news, via Lillian Pitt, that the fine Northwest poet, visual artist and thinker Gail Tremblay needs as many helping hands as she can get. Tremblay, a prominent figure in contemporary Native American art circles and an artist who has been exceptionally generous with her own time and talent, has dealt for several years with a rare disease called lipedema.

Indian Princess in a White Dress, 2006, 9 x 7 x 7, 16 mm film, metallic braid.  This work is currently including in the exhibit, Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit, curated by Rickie Solinger, and traveling throughout the United States until April 2012.The condition causes a great deal of pain and makes it difficult for her to handle basic daily tasks. Surgical procedures can help immensely, but her American insurance plan has denied coverage. Without insurance, treatment in the U.S. would cost $30,000 a week or more. She can get four weeks of treatment in Germany for between $12,000 and $19,000 plus travel expenses, and has been accepted for treatment to begin Oct. 5. She’s paid 4,000 Euros on account, but because she’s needed to pay caregivers for the past three years, her savings are wiped out.

Any sort of help, of course, is welcome. But this might be the ideal time to pick up a good piece of Gail Tremblay art. (The piece at top is one of her series of paper weavings inspired by traditional basketry, the basket in the inset photo is made of old film stock from Hollywood depictions of Indian life.) She’s set aside several notable pieces — ones that have traveled the country in various exhibitions — for sale to help pay for her surgery, including some from her fascinating series of film baskets. You can learn more about available pieces and prices here.

Tremblay, who lives in Olympia, Wash., and teaches at The Evergreen State College, is represented in Portland by Froelick Gallery.


Opportunity No. 2 comes via Dmae Roberts, the Portland playwright and Peabody Award-winning radio producer, who hosts and produces the weekly arts show Stage and Studio at 11 a.m. Tuesdays on listener-sponsored radio KBOO 90.7 FM.

Mr. Scatter spent a couple of hours at Dmae’s studio/office the other day, taping comments for her upcoming “Oregon Treasures” segment on Artists Repertory Theatre‘s Allen Nause (it’ll air Aug. 17) and in the process talking about her hopes for Stage and Studio.

Dmae Roberts/Stage and StudioIn a nutshell, Roberts would like to turn Stage and Studio into an online hub and radio show covering arts in the Pacific Northwest. She’s made a good beginning, and has the chops and smarts to follow through. As print sources of arts news and comment become slimmer and slimmer, we need as many good alternative sources as we can get. You can read about her project here.

To get the project kick-started (it’s independent from KBOO), Roberts is trying to raise $6,000 in donations. She has until Aug. 26 to hit her target, and it’s all or nothing: If she doesn’t get the whole $6,000 in pledges, she won’t take any of it. You can make your pledge here. Think of it as consumer-funded media. And of course, anything you give is tax-deductible.

From the Web site Stage and Studio



  • Gail Tremblay, “Blanket Dance,” 2005, 3′ x 4′, Arches black and white cover stock and Strathmore Red and gold and silver Japanese. Available through the Stonington Gallery, Seattle.
  • Gail Tremblay, “Indian Princess in a White Dress,” 2006, 9 x 7 x 7, 16 mm film, metallic braid. Included in the exhibit “Reimagining the Distaff Toolkit,” traveling throughout the United States until April 2012.
  • Dmae Roberts in the radio booth.
  • From Dmae Roberts’ “Stage and Studio” Web site.

It’s raining on our parade — bring it on

Sweepstakes Float, Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade, 1971

By Laura Grimes

You’re stuck with me. Sorry about that, but it can’t be helped. Mr. Scatter had a wee bit of oral surgery and he’s either high or sleeping. Either condition would produce an interesting blog post, but it ain’t happening.

Like that wasn’t enough, the Small Large Smelly Boy came home from school smelling like squid. Something about biology. He was especially happy to report that he got to pop the eyeballs.

Continue reading It’s raining on our parade — bring it on

Journalism and poetry: Is a new romance in the air?

By Laura Grimes
Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my last day at a large daily news organization. So it seems only fitting to reimagine a new, inspiring era of journalism … that incorporates poetry.


For more than half my life I was a journalist. At least that’s the occupation I wrote on insurance applications and medical forms. But in the beginning it just seemed like one paycheck away from my real occupation: a big liberal arts question mark.

When I was fresh out of college and looking for work I vowed I would never work for a newspaper. I hated being pressed to finish term papers, why would I subject myself to deadlines every day? But I loved the whole messy process of publishing and had ever since I walked into Mrs. Wallis’ yearbook class my junior year of high school. The pull was still strong. After college, a quick accounting of publishing job options revealed:

  1. Literary magazines, tops on my list at the time, had no paycheck.
  2. Glossy magazines meant moving to New York.
  3. Book publishing ditto.
  4. Leaving the idea of working for a large daily newspaper really appealing.

So at a once-large publishing company in Portland, Oregon, my love affair with newspapering began, slowly at first, but eventually growing into a deep passion. The job taught me to work with speed and economy.

Continue reading Journalism and poetry: Is a new romance in the air?

It’s spring break: Scatter hits the links

CarlosAlexis Cruz and Mayra Acevedo as Pedro and his militant wife on an attempt to confront a human in "A Suicide Note from a Cockroach." Photo: Drew Foster

No, not the golf course. Mr. and Mrs. Scatter do not do the Scottish thing. (Maybe the Scotch thing, but that’s different.) This morning the Scattermobile is heckbent for the Oregon coast to take the salty waters for a few days, Large Smelly Boys in tow and hoping that some Susan Cooper on tape will quell the teen and pre-teen insurrections.

The Scatter notebooks will be included among the various baggage for this trek into the semi-wild, and yet we cannot guarantee that anything will emerge from them. Perhaps. Perhaps not. But the ingestion of clam chowder and fresh oysters is a better bet.

In the meantime, let’s do the links. Here are a few things from other places we think you might like to read:

COCKROACHES BITE THE BIG ONE. On Saturday night Mr. Scatter went to Imago Theatre to catch Pelu Theatre‘s circus-skill performance of A Suicide Note from a Cockroach …, an hour-long spectacle based on Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri‘s 1979 piece A Suicide Note from a Cockroach in a Low Income Housing Project. It’s good, utterly nonrealistic stuff. A brief review is in this morning’s Oregonian, and you can read the the longer Oregon Live version here.

Melody Owen, "Drought in Kenya -- Buffalo," Elizabeth Leach GalleryMELODY FOR THE MEEK. Portland artist Melody Owen has a pair of shows up in town, one at Elizabeth Leach Gallery and one in The Art Gym at Marylhurst University.

They are both elegant exhibitions, and both consider, to one degree or another, the position in our midst of the meek — specifically, of the members of the animal kingdom, who have no say in the decisions that humans make about the world in which they live. Mr. Scatter reviewed the shows on Friday in A&E; you can read it here.

PBS UNPLUGS THE ARTS. Scatter friend Holly Sanders relayed this column from the always provocative Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal.

Continue reading It’s spring break: Scatter hits the links

Art Scatter officially runs off at mouth


Here at Art Scatter World Headquarters we’re identifying proudly these days with the good townswomen of River City, Iowa, in The Music Man: “Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more.”

With emphasis on the “talk a lot.”

Thanks to the silver-tongued Mead Hunter of Blogorrhea and The Editing Room, who generously passed this honor along to us, we are now recipients of the coveted Prolific Blogger Award, a sort of Oscar for best supporting prattler. In other words: You can’t shut us up. Mrs. Scatter made passing reference to this blogospheric milestone in this post, in which she got all sentimental and teary-eyed over Mr. Mead’s enshrining of her with the honorific “retinue.”

But we blather.

Here’s what it’s all about. Adhering to the biblical code of sevens (like Joseph and his dream-interpretations), the Prolific Blogger Award moves in waves. Each recipient must in turn pay it forward to seven other bloggers who feed the beast regularly. They must also link to the original PBA post (we did that above; it’s on the blog Advance Booking) and, most confoundingly, hook up with the mysteriously named Mister Linky.

Our friend and benefactor Mr. Mead has noted the dismaying phenomenon of once-prolific bloggers who have fallen by the wayside, some no doubt waylaid by the strumpet sirens of Twitter, Buzz and Facebook; others perhaps realizing that there is Life on the Other Side. Yet we found many good and noble blogs worthy of this award. Without further ado ….


Noble Viola
. Charles Noble, assistant principal violist for the Oregon Symphony, subtitles his blog Life on the Working End of the Viola, and that’s the view he gives you: the world of art music from the inside. It’s smart, provocative, sometimes funny, and almost always illuminating. A good musician isn’t always a good writer. Noble is. Like Lenny Bernstein, he knows how to use words to get inside sounds.

Rose City Reader. You’d think RCR would already own the franchising rights to the Prolific Blogger Award. A busy lawyer by day, she’s a compulsive reader, list-maker and blogger by night (or maybe early morning). Her reading is catholic, roaming from classics to contemporary lit to arcane food-and-drink books to history, politics, and the occasional P.G. Wodehouse caper. And she writes about her literary adventures with wit and savvy independence.

Portland Through My Lens. Having completed (with occasional additions) the terrific Fifty Two Pieces, in which she and a friend spent a year writing about art and artists connected to the Portland Art Museum, LaValle Linn has picked up her camera and embarked on this visual adventure, recording life and images around and about Portland’s streetcar line. Following it is like taking your morning coffee in a different little hangout every day.

Portland Architecture. If you build it, they will argue. Brian Libby’s ambitious blog serves the dual purpose of keeping up with the city’s maze of architectural news and providing a platform for architects and planners and citizen-advocates to vent on issues as broad-ranging as neighborhood design and the fates of Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Quarter.

Powell’s Books Blog. We aren’t sure who actually puts this together, but Portland’s iconic bookstore runs an excellent blog. It’s wide-ranging, with lots of topics and lots of guest bloggers, often writers with fresh books on the market. Sure, it’s a commercial blog, but it pops with good writing and stimulating ideas. You can never keep up with what’s going on in the publishing biz, but this is a good start.

Splattworks. Playwright Steve Patterson’s blog begins with matters theatrical but often veers sharply into other obsessions, from photography to guitars to the inanities of the political world (on which he can be witheringly caustic). Smart, funny, passionate; a blog of admirable exasperations.

Eva Lake. A lively checking-point for gallery hoppers. The artist and journalist Eva Lake, whose Art Focus program on KBOO-FM features often fascinating interviews with Portland artists and curators, tracks what’s happening on the city’s art scene.

Let the great world spin in its grave

“When I see three oranges, I juggle,” the then 24-year-old highwire daredevil Philippe Petit is supposed to have said in 1974 after his 110-story-high prance between the two unfinished towers of the World Trade Center. “When I see two towers, I walk.”

Glenn Beck. Photo: Gage Skidmore, Feb. 20, 2010. Wikimedia CommonsWhen Glenn Beck sees his foot, he inserts it in his mouth, and then brags about the taste.

Mr. Scatter hesitates to write about the ubiquitous Mr. Beck. He looks back fondly on his days of innocence, just last summer, when he was able to ask, with all seriousness, “Who’s Glenn Beck?” How he’d managed to cocoon himself for so long he doesn’t know, but he misses those warm and fuzzy days.

letworldspinTwo recent events, conjoined by accident, have brought Mr. Beck unfortunately to mind.

First, Mr. Scatter attended his monthly book group, where the topic of discussion was Let the Great World Spin, last year’s National Book Award-winning novel by Colum McCann, in which Petit’s act of acrobatic bravado is the springboard to a grand contemplation of chance, hope and grace.

Second, Mr. Scatter read Laurie Goodstein’s report in the New York Times, Outraged by Glenn Beck’s Salvo, Christians Fire Back. It seems that Mr. Beck, on his radio program, urged his followers to “run as fast as you can” if they see or hear anything in their churches referring to “social justice” or “economic justice.” Those are code words, he said, for Communism and Nazism and should be shunned like, well, the devil. It’s an odd pairing, at any rate: Was Mr. Beck down at the pool hall or out stoning adulteresses the day his high school history class covered the Siege of Leningrad? “If you have a priest that is pushing social justice,” he intoned, “go find another parish. Go alert your bishop.”

Continue reading Let the great world spin in its grave

To the lighthouse, Mrs. Woolf (and pay as you go)

This afternoon, while shuffling idly through the File of Unfinished and Rejected Posts — it’s true, not everything we write ends up in virtual print — we found this piece from last August, initially rejected on the grounds that maybe it was a little off-topic and too much of a downer. But in light of our continuing national baring of the teeth and difficulties in coming up with a simple, rational health-care plan, let alone any apparent impulse to talk civilly and sanely with one another across the artificial divide of our go-for-the-jugular political discourse, we’re publishing it now. After all, arts and culture can’t exist without an honest sense of shared responsibility and experience, and that is what this seaside idyll is about. Read on, and argue with it if you wish.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Newport, Oregon. Photo: Rebecca Kennison, 2005, Wikimedia Commons

Newport, Oregon, has two lighthouses. The original, on the south side of town and decommissioned for most of its 138 years, has been turned into an agreeably nostalgic tourist lure complete with resident ghost story. The larger and younger lighthouse (by two years) has been working continuously since the day it was completed. This light, its beacon visible for miles out to sea, stands 93 feet tall on a narrow peninsula at the city’s northern edge.

While it’s not precisely true that once you’ve seen one lovelorn ghost you’ve see ’em all — the tales of tragic circumstance and details of costume have their specificities — it IS true that once you’ve toured a particular location of purported ectoplasmic activity you can go a good long time before repeating the experience. (I make an exception for re-readings of James Thurber‘s story The Night the Ghost Got In, which should be frequent and preferably aloud, to an intimate audience.)

So while I enjoy outside glimpses of the southside Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (active from 1871 to 1874, brought to light again in 1996, haunted since the city’s promoters realized the commercial possibilities) I haven’t taken the tour in several years.

It’s been a while since I’ve visited the north side lighthouse, too (although I can see it as I’m writing this from the sands of Nye Beach), but for different reasons.

I’ve always liked this lighthouse — it’s called simply the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, for the rock on which it stands — and for many years I made a point of calling on it whenever I was in the vicinity. A twisty, usually lonely drive west from U.S. 101, past the concave of an old rock quarry, to the spare grounds around the tower. Not too many tourists. Not much of anybody; the few besides me mostly people who had actual work to do. On almost any day the wind was stiff, and on stormy days it was enough to almost knock you down. I like standing against that kind of force, feeling the swift air push against my chest and ripple in unseen waves around me. It’s challenging yet also somehow calming. It re-sets my rhythm to the rhythm around me.

Somewhere along the line I stopped visiting.
Continue reading To the lighthouse, Mrs. Woolf (and pay as you go)