Tag Archives: Mr. Scatter

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

Mr. Scatter speaks. In front of a crowd.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Johan Inger's "Walking Mad." Photo: Tom Rosenberg

Today Mr. Scatter is putting the finishing touches on a little talk he’ll be giving Tuesday evening before Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‘s performance at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

His charge from White Bird, the dance presenting folks, is simple. Speak for 20 minutes, try to say something interesting about the performance coming up, don’t put the audience to sleep.

Mr. Scatter will do his best. Yes, scattering will be involved. Mr. Scatter suspects it might even be sort of fun. For the audience, too. On the program Tuesday night: Jorma Elo‘s Bitter Suite, Ohad Naharin‘s Tabula Rasa, Johan Inger‘s Walking Mad.

The talk, part of the White Bird Words series, will be downstairs at the Schnitz. It starts at 6:45, giving everyone ample time to settle into their seats upstairs before the 7:30 curtain. The talk is free, but you need a ticket to the performance to get in. After all, much as Mr. Scatter might suffer from occasional delusions of grandeur, the performance is the main attraction.

PICTURED: Johan Inger’s “Walking Mad.” Photo: Tom Rosenberg

First comes love, then comes marriage …

... then comes baby in the baby carriage.

Mr. and Mrs. Scatter know all about the sacred naming process.

In a recent post, Mr. Scatter waxed beautifully about William Faulkner and H.L. Mencken, Sir Toby Belch and some guy named Flem. As Mr. Scatter put it:

“Naming was a serious and sometimes flowery business. … Naming is an almost mystical occasion, an assigning of an intensely personal yet communally meaningful identification for life.”

Mr. Scatter is not kidding. This is a seriously important matter to him. And he’s serious when he says that his grandfather’s name was Virgil Homer Hicks (who married Lizzie Lou Willingham).

Before Mr. and Mrs. Scatter’s firstborn came kicking and bleating into the world they had to wrangle with the Little Matter of Naming.

They began to notice the name tags on waiters and to sit through the entire credits at movie theaters, straining to catch every name that scrolled up. They yelled out road signs. Vader Ryderwood! They suddenly remembered long-lost relatives.

One day while Mrs. Scatter reached over her big belly
and rummaged in a cupboard for Maalox, Mr. Scatter got a far-off gleam in his eye and said, much too sprightly, “How about Virgil Homer Hicks?”

Mrs. Scatter, cursing the child-proof cap on the container, was surprised and a bit proud of her husband’s wry humor and was about to cut loose a big loud snort of approval when Mr. Scatter sighed and said, all too wistfully, “It’s too bad my grandfather already has that name.”

Mrs. Scatter was still smiling, thinking the follow-up was a nice touch and her clever husband was playing this one beautifully with just the right tone of mock seriousness. She finally flipped the lid off the container, poured a few chalky tablets into her hand and put one on her tongue. She was about to reward Mr. Scatter and let out one of those long carefree chortles when Mr. Scatter said, with a genuine note of lament, “It just wouldn’t be right to take the same name.”

Mrs. Scatter stopped and stared at her husband. She popped another Maalox. “You’re serious!”

“Of course. The great Greek writer and the great Latin writer.”

All at once Mrs. Scatter:

  1. Desperately wanted a do-over.
  2. Was immensely relieved her husband insisted on being original.
  3. Didn’t want to think about what would happen if the name hadn’t already been taken.
  4. Prayed there was still a joke in there somewhere.
  5. Worried for her husband’s safety.
  6. Wondered why she didn’t vet her partner’s naming process before the house and furniture and marriage and, oh yeah, FAT SWOLLEN BELLY.


Friends recommended trying out names, as in imagine yelling them at the top of your lungs in a crowded grocery store. Everyone now. Try it with me:


Hmm. I’m not sure that does it for me. Let’s try this one:


Still no luck? You get my point.


Dear Aunt Janet,

Thanks loads for the baby name book. It will join the fray to come up with The Perfect Name. I can’t wait to find out how Bob will use this latest weapon to good – and devastating – advantage. He still thinks Homer Horatio Hicks will look great on that first book. I think he’s equally excited that the initials would make a great cow brand. Maybe God will deliver me before I deliver this baby.



Mr. Scatter couldn’t help but read out loud not only every name but also every meaning of every name. He read name after name, meaning after meaning, page after page.

“Charlotte. Little and womanly.” What do you think about “Charmaine. A Latin clan name?”

“It’s not bad, but it sounds like a brand of toilet paper.”

He wasn’t daunted. “Chloe. Greek. Young, green shoot. Cynthia. Greek. Goddess from Mount Cynthos. Cleva. Middle English. Hilldweller.”

“What do you think about Jessica?” I dared burst in.

“I’m not there yet.” He didn’t even turn his nose.

“What do you mean you’re not there yet? Can’t you turn a few pages?”

“I’m only on the C’s right now. Did you know that Claudia, a Latin word, was a clan name that probably meant ‘lame’?”


“Hadden. Old English. Hill of Heather. Hadwin. Old English. Friend in War. What do you think about Hadwin?”

“No, Honey.”

“Haig. Old English. Enclosed with hedges. Harden. Old English. Valley of the hares.” Harden Hicks. Or maybe Harden Hadwin Hicks. Hadwin Harden Hicks? I know. Harden Haig Hicks: Valley of the hares enclosed with hedges.”

“Honey, I’m trying to watch the pregame show.”

“Heathcliff! Middle English. A cliff near a heath.” Heathcliff! What do you think about that?”

“It sounds too much like ‘Wuthering Heights.'”

“People this day and age probably think it’s a cartoon cat. You don’t like Heathcliff?”

“Honey, the game’s on.”

“What game?”

“You know. The game we paid for? The game we rushed to finish dinner so we’d be able to watch?”

“You don’t like Heathcliff?”


The alarm clock blasted its nasty beep, and Mrs. Scatter groggily staggered to the shower. The comforting water began to lift her haze. She felt secure, assured in her little space, her senses cocooned by the pelting water, the warm steam and the whir of the ceiling fan. She turned off the shower and wrapped a big, fuzzy towel around herself.

“PRUNELLA!” A voice boomed through the door. “A small plum! That ought to be a good one for when the kid’s old and wrinkled!”

Mrs. Scatter shook her head and breathed deeply. “What’s the difference between a plum and a prune?”

“I’m not sure. I always thought a prune was a dried plum, just like raisins are made from grapes. But then those long skinny plums are called Italian prunes.”

“Look it up!”

“I’m not there yet.”


Of course we finally came up with The Perfect Name. In fact we liked it so much the first time, we used it again. You don’t have to imagine yelling it in a crowded grocery store. We did one better than that. We just quietly hit publish and told it to the world.

Large Smelly Boys.

Heaven help them if they ever find out what their dad really wanted to name them.

My fellow Scatterers: the state of the blog

English: Lithograph by Edward W. Clay. Praises Andrew Jackson for his destroying the Second Bank of the United States with his "Removal Notice" (removal of federal deposits). Nicolas Biddle portrayed as The Devil, along with several speculators and hirelings, flee as the bank collapses while Jackson's supporters cheer.

On this very day two years ago — on February 8, 2008 — a fine strapping lad was loosed upon the world, and immediately started yawping. Yes, its name was Art Scatter, and it was born right here in river city: in Puddletown, Oregon, brave bubble of liberality, Do It Yourself center of the universe, fearless exposer of itself to art, curious keeper of the weird.

Call us sentimental, but we’ve been thinking a lot about our friend Art, this thing we call a blog. For one thing, why is it still here?

A lot of blogs burn bright for a while and then flame out. Many are simply places to vent steam, or casual public diaries, or vanity projects. Well, almost all, including this one, are the latter at least to a certain degree. After all, nobody’s making any money out of this thing.

English: Father Time and Baby New Year from Frolic & Fun, 1897Art Scatter has changed a lot over its two years. It was the brainchild of Barry Johnson, my friend and longtime arts section compatriot at The Oregonian, who was looking for a way to explore new approaches to journalism outside of the print world. Barry brought me and his friend Vernon Peterson, a lawyer and talented literary critic, into the project, which was planned to be not too taxing on anyone because there would be three people to fill the virtual space.

Life moved on, and both Barry and Vernon departed for other projects. That left me wondering what to do with the thing, and wondering, sometimes, whether I was letting it eat up far too much of my time. In a very real sense my wife, Laura Grimes, saved the blog when she began to post her own witty and moving observations, eventually under the nom de plume of Mrs. Scatter. How could I not keep Art Scatter going? I was fascinated by how Mrs. Scatter’s adventures were going to turn out. Besides, she injected a bracing shot of humor into the blog, the humor that I have known and loved for more than twenty years.

Martha Ullman West, the noted dance critic who had written a couple of pieces for us, began to contribute more, and that added to the conversation. But I realized that if the thing was going to keep going, it was going to be largely up to me.

So. Why was I doing this?

  • First, writing’s a habit. I do it reflexively, if not always reflectively. Just can’t seem to help myself.
  • Second, it’s fun.
  • Third, it allows me scope to write about a lot of things in a lot of ways that were rarely possible during my years in daily journalism.
  • Fourth, it keeps me connected to my community and allows me to have a voice in a few things that go on in this little corner of the world. Good lord, I’ve made friends through this thing!
  • Fifth, it helps me discover my post-newspaper writing voice. I can feel that voice waking up inside me, gradually realizing that it’s no longer bound by the newspaper straitjacket unless it chooses to be. I can hear it trying out new things, even whooping it up now and again. Good for you, voice. Let ‘er rip.

Slowly, mostly accidentally, the blog has developed its own personality. The characters of Mr. and Mrs. Scatter just sort of announced themselves. The Large Smelly Boys pushed their way into the mix. OED, the Older Educated Daughter, made brief visits. We talked about word games and secret societies and oysters on the half-shell. The League of Tough-Guy Arts Observers had its brief day in the sunshine and then wandered off to sleep in a cave: perhaps it’ll wake up and elbow back into the action again. We found we were able to be serious, and flip, and amused, and reflective, and serious and amused again, and somehow get away with it. We began to take a very broad view of just what the word “culture” means.

I’m sure Art Scatter will continue to evolve. It’s already changed in surprising and often delightful ways. It’s opened doors. I know people will drop in and out. Mrs. Scatter’s day job has been busy lately, and I’ve been missing her brilliant reports. (I’m sure you have, too.) Can’t wait for them to return.

And I’ve become convinced of one thing: The blog has to work with my writing career, not against it. I love the freedom and scope that Art Scatter gives me, and I love that it lets me try things out with a regular and forgiving readership. But I also need to make a living, and I do that by writing. This is not a hobby. It’s what I do. So if Art Scatter is my professional exploratory laboratory (and also the locus of a great deal of my pro bono work) I want it to look professional.

Which brings us to Modern, the new design theme that we’ve adopted, yes, today. And which wraps up this semi-impromptu State of the Blog address. Thank you, my fellow Scatterers. Good night, and God bless.


Illustrations, from top:

  • Not Mr. Scatter delivering his State of the Blog address. Edward W. Clay’s lithograph celebrates President Andrew Jackson’s destruction of the Second Bank of the United States with his “Removal Notice” (removal of federal deposits). Well done, Andy! Wikimedia Commons.
  • Not Baby Art Scatter. Father Time and Baby New Year from Frolic & Fun, 1897. Wikimedia Commons.

Missing blogger found in woods near Obscurity, Oregon

St. Serafim of Sarov and a bear in a fragment from the 1903 lithograph "Way to Sarov." Wikimedia Commons

Yes, it’s true. Mr. Scatter has been missing from action for some time now. Perhaps you’ve noticed. He doesn’t go out, he never calls his friends, he ignores his children, he lets the dirty dishes sit in the sink, he NEVER WRITES. Yada yada yada.

Truth is, he did not go to meditate in the woods, and the bears didn’t eat him. It’s just that he’s been carrying this thing on his back — let’s call it the Modestly Big Project, or MBP — that’s been screaming for his attention and keeping him from his normal rounds. Or at least, keeping him from writing about his normal rounds.

So let’s catch up.

Yesterday Mr. Scatter tucked the MBP’s head on a pillow for a much-needed rest and took a whirl in his modest white automobile to the grocery emporium. On the way he realized he wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee — a nice cafe au lait crossed his mind — and maybe a little pastry-ish thingie to go with it. He spotted a likely-looking spot in a Neighborhood of Aspiring Hipness and swung in.

Almost immediately Mr. Scatter realized he did not meet the establishment’s cool-factor code. Despite his flannel-lined jeans and disintegrating shoes, he was insufficiently slack. His head was conspicuously neat from a two-day-old haircut, and not only was the shirt he happened to be wearing tucked in, it also had a collar with little brown buttons at the tips. They were actually buttoned.

“You gonna have that for here?” the whelp at the counter inquired, in a tone that conveyed his sincere hope otherwise. Mr. Scatter stood his ground, and found a table, and picked up a copy of a small local publication called Willamette Week. Soon he found himself chuckling.

He was reading a review by Aaron Mesh of the new Harrison Ford/Brendan Fraser movie Extraordinary Measures, which was apparently filmed in Portland, and Mr. Mesh had struck an exquisite balance between gentle appreciation and the art of poking fun. He noted with approval Mr. Ford’s tendency to shout in irritation at pretty much any and everything. Mr. Scatter had already witnessed Mr. Ford doing just that, in television commercials for the movie, and it was a pretty scary sight. Reading about it was probably more fun than actually sitting through the film. And a whole lot more fun than the little coffee shop Mr. Scatter will not be visiting again.

Mr. Mesh’s review made Mr. Scatter feel a little better about the fate of dead trees, a gloomy topic that had come to mind earlier in the morning when he picked up his Oregonian and discovered, for the second time in four days, a front-page wraparound (it’s called a spadea in the biz) trumpeting the newspaper’s editorial-page objections to state Measures 66 and 67. We’re getting used to this form of advertising. If it’s a Fred Meyer ad, Mr. Scatter checks to see if there are any sales on things he usually buys, then dutifully deposits the thing in the recycling bin.

But this ad, featuring headlines and copy from The Oregonian itself, looked at first and even second glance not like an advertisement at all but like a front-page editorial endorsement. Mr. Scatter was actually shocked, if far from awed.

Wednesday’s version put the words “Paid Advertisement” in bigger and bolder print at the top, but it didn’t amount to much more than a better grade of wallpaper over the gaping hole in the newspaper’s ethical wall. The publisher’s argument that the spadea space was just as available to proponents as to opponents of the measures was disingenuous. Newspapers make qualitative decisions every day about what is and is not acceptable in advertising copy. At least, they used to. Nothing is more important to a newspaper than its reputation for integrity, which must be guarded zealously.

Mr. Scatter understands that these are difficult times for newspapers, but what these wraparounds cost The Oregonian in reputation was not worth the quick paycheck.

The answer is simple. Keep the spadea, but for commercial advertisers. Make the front-page wraparound unavailable for any political advertising, of any stripe, on any issue, from any source, at any time. Just say no.


Since we last talked at any length Mr. Scatter has spent a little time in a town some miles south of Portland known to locals as “San Francisco.”

A small corner of curliques at the Queen Anne HotelHe found it a pretty little place, with lots of hills and a pleasant small-town feel, and he particularly enjoyed a local delicacy of deep-fried crabmeat shaped into something like a drumstick and attached to a claw. Rumor has it that the dish has Chinese origins, although the crab itself was definitely Dungeness. In the evenings Mr. Scatter found himself shacked up in the shabby-chic splendor of the Queen Anne Hotel, near the crest of Sutter Street. The interior is like a giant overstuffed spangly cat toy that’s been knocked around a bit, and in its own way it’s really quite splendid. Mr. Scatter took a few shaky snapshots with his cell phone and sent them to Mrs. Scatter, who was amazed and envious.


Several evenings ago Mr. Scatter escorted himself to the Newmark Theatre to see iChange, the latest show by the lively Polaris Dance Theatre. Polaris has been around quite a while but this was the first time Mr. Scatter had seen the company perform, and all in all it was a pleasant experience. Polaris has some good dancers who are dedicated to what they do, which is a highly accessible, very pop culture-oriented contemporary style of dancing, a little sexy but not raunchy, and just the sort of thing to attract enthusiastic initiates. Sort of like Fame a few years after graduation. Before and between performances the audience was invited to whip out its cell phones and send Tweets and other instant text messages, which were then posted on a large screen on the stage. Mr. Scatter refrained, but he didn’t mind the activity, which seemed quite popular in other seats.

Last night Mr. Scatter attended a meeting of the board of Portland Taiko, the excellent performing organization with which he is associated, and spoke with other august personages of Important Things.

This very evening, Thursday, he will motor to the World Forestry Center for White Bird‘s dance presentation by two of Portland’s finest, the cerebral Tere Mathern and the sinuous Minh Tran, who reveals to The Oregonian that these performances, through Sunday, will be his final as a dancer; he’ll move full-time into dancemaking instead.

On Friday night Mr. Scatter’s destination is Kaul Auditorium at Reed College for the latest show by Third Angle New Music Ensemble, the splendid troupe for whom Mrs. Scatter toils night and day. This will be an evening of mostly new works by several Northwest composers, and it has a literary theme: Narrators include the actors David Loftus and Michele Mariana, plus the distinguished Ursula K. LeGuin, reading her own story A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back to a score by Bryan Johanson. This is what’s known as the payoff.

Sunday afternoon, Mr. Scatter scampers to Artists Repertory Theatre to take in the premiere production of Susan Banyas‘s performance piece The Hillsboro Story, which hurtles us back to 1954 and a key moment — one that Ms. Banyas, as a third-grader in her Ohio home town, witnessed — in America’s civil rights movement.

If you happen to be at any of these events and spot Mr. Scatter wandering about, do say hello. He promises to leave the bear in the woods.

Up against the wall: Polaris prepares to scale the heights. Photo: Brian McDonnell/BMAC Photography

Photos, from top:

  • Not Mr. Scatter, who actually never was lost in the woods. Not in recent years, anyway. This is a fragment of a 1903 lithograph, “Way to Sarov,” that depicts St. Serafim of Sarov communing with a friendly bear. Mr. Scatter would not do this thing. Wikimedia Commons.
  • One curlicued corner from the spacious lobby of San Francisco’s Queen Anne Hotel, which is curly from its overstuffed stem to its overstuffed stern.
  • Up against the wall: Polaris prepares to scale the heights. Photo: Brian McDonnell/BMAC Photography

Blogging by the seat of our pants: Part One

It’s a little after 3 on Sunday afternoon, and Mr. Scatter is wearing pants.

U.S. Government Printing Office/Northwestern University Library. Wikimedia CommonsI mention this because apparently several people in Portland aren’t wearing pants at the moment, and what’s more, they’re riding around town on public transit.

As Scatter friend Peter Ames Carlin reported in Saturday’s Oregonian, a carefully calculated event called the No Pants on Max Ride shed its inhibitions at 3 this afternoon, allowing “all local pranksters to let their freak flags, and boxers or bloomers, fly in public.”

Evidently those canny policy wonks at MAX, Portland’s light-rail system, have decided this is A-OK, as long as everyone follows the rules of decorum and keeps their privates private with suitable swaths of undergarment.

This could actually be an improvement on the cheeky low-rider revelations of some of the transit system’s sloppier regular customers. Still, Mr. Scatter detects a whiff of desperation in the whole knock-kneed enterprise. Surely this is a product of those KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD folks on the prowl again.

I’m all for weirdness, I suppose, but I wonder: Can it truly be weird if it feels compelled to announce itself? Shouldn’t weirdness simply … happen? If weirdness arrives with a press release, is it nothing but marketing?

A couple of points about No Pants on Max:

  • First, it isn’t original. In its third year, it mimics a similar, older and much bigger trousers-free event on New York’s subway system. How weird is copycat weird?
  • Second, Portland’s pants-free pioneers GOT PERMISSION. How anarchic can it be if you don’t doff your trousers until the authorities give you the green light? How can you twit the system when the system says it’s OK?

Imagine the No Pants scene in one of those recruits-and-a-drill-sergeant movies. (Mr. Scatter imagines a young Richard Gere as the rebel-with-a-permit-clause and Louis Gossett Jr. as the contemptuous sarge):

Sir! Permission to drop trou, sir!

Stand up straight, soldier! You’re a disgrace!

Yes, sir! Standing up straight, sir!

You disgust me, soldier. If I had my way dropping trou in public would never be tolerated. What if the enemy saw this display? But the politicians at the Pentagon say we have to put up with this sort of perversion in the New Army. Permission granted. But wait until I’ve turned my eyes away.

Thank you, sir! Sorry about your disgust, sir!

Dismissed, maggot.

All in all, Mr. Scatter prefers to keep his pants in place. But then, Mr. Scatter is also aware that he doesn’t possess the prettiest legs in town, and he feels a certain social responsibility to protect the visual sensibilities of his fellow citizens.

Yet everything about No Pants on Max appears to be legit. Too legit. Conspiracy theorists are wrong about this one: It’s definitely not part of a vast cover-up.

That would be just weird.


  • ILLUSTRATION: World War II poster, United States Government Office. Collection Northwestern University Library. Wikimedia Commons.

Why Storm Large signs autographs and Mr. Scatter doesn’t

While Mr. Scatter lowers his head to the task, Ms. Large is charming and gracious with her fan base. Photo: CaroleZoom

It’s called, I think, charisma. The dress doesn’t hurt, either. One of the pleasures of being part of Friday night’s blogathon at the opening of Portland Opera’s Orphee was meeting artist and photographer CaroleZoom, who after chatting for a bit zoomed in with her camera (unobtrusively, I might add: good photographers have a way of being there but disappearing, creating a calm zone around their subjects) and later sent the results along. It’s not quite like looking through the mirror and spying Hell, as Orpheus does in the opera, but you can’t help noticing a certain physical disparity.

Mr. Scatter, lips pursed and head bowed to the task. Photo: CaroleZoom

Sitting between rock diva Storm and man-about-town Byron Beck was a little like being the shuttlecock in a game of friendly scatological badminton. The match had speed and competitive edge and affability: It was like David Mamet with a sense of humor.

You can see Byron’s wristwatch (a retrograde physical adornment, used as a timekeeping device in the days before cell phones) immediately behind Mr. Scatter, who’s the one in the retro green vest sweater. Leaning against the wall, in the even more retro argyle sweater, is PICA blogger Jim Withington, and that’s Portland Opera’s Julia Sheridan at the far end of the table in classic black. Portland Center Stage’s always elegant and always witty Cynthia Fuhrman flanks Ms. Large in the left (or stage right) foreground.

Years of sitting in the midst of ultra-noisy newsrooms allowed Mr. Scatter to absorb what was going on around him while simultaneously attending to his task. I was impressed by Storm’s graciousness as fans young and old, several of them starstruck, vied for her attention. Yes, she signed autographs. And she had a way of homing in on each person, asking questions, engaging them, knowing that you don’t talk the same way to a teenager as to a septuagenarian. This is celebrity, Portland-style.

Carole also snapped the inset photo of Mr. Scatter, which she labeled “Concentration.” When Mrs. Scatter saw it, she laughed. “That’s the way you always look when you’re writing,” she said. “Head down, lips pursed.” Mrs. Scatter concentrates at the keyboard, too, and every now and again breaks up in laughter over something she’s just wrought.

Enough for now. Mr. Scatter must hunker over his keyboard and write a review for his friendly neighborhood largish urban newspaper.


Photos: CaroleZoom

Mr. Scatter becomes a lobbyist (with a laptop)

As the old joke goes, tonight’s the night!

This is not Mr. Scatter. Not by a long shot. It's Storm Large.
Art Scatter regulars might have noted that it’s been Philip Glass Week in Portland, and tonight at Keller Auditorium his 1993 opera Orphee opens in its West Coast premiere, performed by Portland Opera. Reports are promising: Glass liked the dress rehearsal so much that he whipped up a deal to have all four performances recorded and turned into a CD for Orange Mountain Music. It’ll be this opera’s first full recording.

And sitting in the lobby, along with his laptop and four other local members of the blogospheric chattering class, will be Mr. Scatter, there to file a continuing stream of instant analysis, much like a pontificating television face on a national election night:

“Orpheus has been caught on camera looking over his shoulder, and that could spell serious trouble for Eurydice’s chances in the tensely fought Afterlife race. At stake is control of a sprawling district that runs from the far shores of the River Styx to the lush meadows on the surface end of the cave opening. We’ll update you as we learn more. But this could be bye-bye to a once-promising career. Over to you, Storm.”

Here are my owlish teammates, and where you can follow their instamusings:

Storm Large. The rock diva and musical-theater star of Cabaret and Crazy Enough will post at www.stormlarge.com. You’ll recognize her. She’s the tall good-looking one, and her posts will probably be littered with Words Not Ordinarily Associated With Art Scatter.

Byron Beck. If Portland’s a town, Byron’s the man about it. He knows just about everybody, and just about everything, and dishes it out when and where the mood strikes. www.byronbeck.com

Jim Withington. The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art has been one of Glass Week’s sponsors (it has a long relationship with Glass) and Jim will be blogging on PICA’s Urban Honking.

Cynthia Fuhrman. Portland Center Stage’s resident marketing genius is very smart and very funny and no doubt will be a lot of fun to read. She’ll be posting on the PCS blog. Rumor has it that while the other bloggers will be sipping beer as they type feverishly away, la Fuhrman will be pampered with cocktails, no doubt with colorful little paper umbrellas to pretty them up. It’s rigged. Florida election here, folks.

Marc Acito. BONUS PICK. The witty Portland novelist (How I Paid for College; Attack of the Theatre People) and playwright (Holidazed) actually has a role in the opera. But when he’s backstage he’ll be blogging on the show at The Gospel According to Marc. Amazing exploit!

That’s all, folks. Until tonight. News at … oh, 6:30, 7, 7:15, 8, 8:30 ….


PHOTO: This is not Mr. Scatter. Not by a long shot. It’s Storm Large. Credit: Laura Domela

Scatter’s Halloween/Day of the Dead rotogravure edition

Mr. Scatter anticipates an evening of answering doorbells and dispensing mass quantities of solidified high fructose corn syrup when the lights go down tonight. But there are other, possibly better, ways to celebrate Fright Night. A visual selection, not one of which has to do with overturning outhouses:

"Canta y no Llores" at Miracle Theatre. Photo: Russell Young

Miracle Theatre Group’s original Day of the Dead play “Canta y no Llores” continues through Nov. 15 at Teatro Milagro. Performed in Spanish and English, it looks back on the trials of the Great Depression. Ticket information here. Photo: Russell Young

Halloween at Disjecta: a night of the living dead

Disjecta, the big barn of an art and performance center just a swing of the ax from the Paul Bunyan statue in Kenton, has a Halloween two-fer. Kid-and-family-friendly stuff rules from noon to 4 on Saturday, with proceeds going to benefit Chief Joseph Elementary School. Then, starting at 9 in the evening and continuing ’til the graveyards empty, all inhibitions are off for a dance party of ghoulish proportions. Details here.

At Onda Gallery, a photograph by Paulina Hermosillo

In the Alberta Art District, Allan Oliver’s Onda Gallery specializes in the art and craft of Latin America. His Day of the Dead exhibit, continuing through Nov. 22, gathers work from nine Hispanic artists from Portland and the Willamette Valley, plus several others exploring similar ideas. The photo above is by Paulina Hermosillo. More information here.

Schlepping high culture in the Large Smelly Boymobile

Haiqiong Deng, zheng (but not Dungeons & Dragons) virtuoso

Haiqiong Deng, zheng (but not Dungeons & Dragons) virtuoso.

While my brain has been on sizzle
in other realms of the arts world, apparently a blog has been going on in my own house. The entire world can check in on what my current first husband has been up to, but I’m afraid to say I’ve been rather ignorant about it.

I feel a little sheepish about writing, actually. Recently, Mr. Scatter wisely and broadly covered America’s current fascination with Chinese culture, Martha Ullman West (otherwise known as Art Scatter’s highest paid correspondent) boldly encompassed the week’s vast dance scene and … me? Well, let me tell you about Cheez-Its.


A week ago Monday, Haiqiong Deng took a break from her concert tour to fly in from Boston and perform in Third Angle‘s China Music Now concerts.

United Airlines Boieng 767-300/Wikimedia CommonsHaiqiong (hiCHONG) is a virtuoso on the zheng (chung), an ancient Chinese instrument similar to a zither. Hers has 21 strings, each with a bridge that can be moved. For weeks it had been the big mystery instrument to me. I knew it was big, but I didn’t know how big. I couldn’t wait to hear what it sounded like.

When the Third Angle staff (I’m the managing director) were figuring who could pick her up from the airport, we had two questions to consider: Who wasn’t playing in the symphony that night, and who has a vehicle long enough to fit a zheng in it.

Guess what? I won.

A prime example of low cultureI was thrilled. And then panic set in. Did I have enough time to clean up the Cheez-Its?

Once a week, Mr. Scatter picks up six Large Smelly Sixth-Graders and schleps them to Dungeons and Dragons. You’ve heard of Soccer Moms? He’s a D&D Dad.

The boys pile in and then immediately grab for snacks and juice boxes. They’re usually pretty good about stuffing the trash into the garbage sack, but it’s six boisterous boys and crumbs fly.

A few hours before I was to meet Haiqiong at the airport, I realized I wouldn’t have time to get the van cleaned, but I had a few minutes to give it a once-over and open up the cargo hold. It was dusk and getting hard to see, but as soon as I plunked the back seat down one brilliant-orange square Cheez-It practically glowed.

I picked it up, noticed the van’s bulging trash sack and then threw it all in a garbage can. I took note that I didn’t have a replacement bag, but I told myself I’d worry about it later.


The baggage claim area at Portland International Airport has a sign: “Many bags look alike, please check tags.”

Haiqiong and I were chatty nonstop. People were everywhere, lots of luggage was going around the conveyer belt and we were chatty chatty chatty. She stopped at one point and grabbed a big suitcase off the belt and then we went on chatting. I occasionally eyed the conveyer belt for what I knew must be a hard-to-miss large something. I was curious. This was an important piece of Third Angle’s program. We flew her in specially to play it. What did it look like?

The crowd got thinner and thinner. The luggage disappeared bit by bit. And we continued to chat.

Dungeons & Dragons miniatures: NOT high culture/Wikimedia CommonsAnd then after a while, I got this eerie feeling. I looked around. Nobody was there and not a single piece of luggage was going around the belt. Where was it?

As I tried to quell this horribly unsettled feeling, I looked everywhere and then looked some more. I finally noticed a corral of luggage in a restricted area in a far corner. I got closer. No weird overlarge bag. I got closer. Nothing but rising panic. I got closer. And finally … it came into view: Behind a mound of luggage one really long green bag sat by itself. Relief washed over me.

When I told a uniformed worker the green bag was ours, she pointed to a green suitcase and said, “You mean that one?”

“No,” I said, pointing, “THAT one.” She took one look at the bag — about one foot by two feet by six feet plus — and waved me around the barrier to get it myself.

The zheng was surprisingly light.


On Thursday morning I fired up the van, started to pull out of the driveway and then hit the brakes. I pulled back into the driveway, walked into the house and stood in front of Mr. Scatter. He looked up.

The Large Smelly Boymobile (or reasonable facsimile)“You need the van. It’s D&D day. And by the way, it doesn’t have any gas. Sorry. Gotta go.”

But early in the afternoon in the office it hit me. The van had a bunch of boxes in it that I needed, including one very important sign for the concert that night. Mr. Scatter probably wouldn’t be back from D&D in time for me to get it. And I had left the back seat folded down so that there weren’t enough seats for the Large Smelly D&D Boys.

I made a phone call. How to get the boxes? Mr. Scatter had just filled the van with gas, he had put the back seat up and would drop by the office. Gawd, I love this man.


This is not Haiqiong Deng's zheng. It's the one on Wikimedia Commons.“Can you schlep the zheng?” the Not-So-Mysterious Jane said after the concert late Friday night. “It needs to get back to the hotel.”

“Schlep the zheng? Sure.”

I walked to get the van, my heels clicking on the sidewalk. When I opened it and looked around I suddenly remembered I had never replaced the garbage sack and the whole D&D gang had been in the van the day before. The back seat was littered with empty Cheez-It bags and juice cartons. I quickly stuffed it all in the snack bag and stashed it under a console.

It would have to do. It was time to schlep the zheng and one world-class virtuoso.

— Laura Grimes