Tag Archives: Steve Duin

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.

Gil Kelley and the height of the Skidmore district

Many days, I find myself Max-ing along First Avenue, once we ramp down from the Steel Bridge, and I have come to enjoy it immensely. It’s the buildings. There’s nothing quite like them. Two or three stories, mostly, elegant and tastefully restored, they are an instant invitation to consider the very beginnings of Portland as a city, because First Avenue, and the rest of the 20 blocks north and south of Burnside as far as Third, was the heart of the city’s first downtown.

It’s now the heart of the Skidmore historic district (or the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood — they have overlapping, though not quite congruent, boundaries), far from the center of town and far from the major development activity that has re-made the Pearl and is now remaking the West End. Thanks to certain accidental economic forces and planning “failures”, around one-third of the original wonderful cast-iron facade buildings in the Skidmore district have been preserved, enough for it to have earned recognition as a national historic preservation district.

These aren’t the only old buildings in Portland, not by a long shot, but they are the greatest collection of cast-iron architecture still standing in the country. More importantly, they are beautiful — I love the human scale, the almost whimsical details, even the brickwork. And the renovations that have kept them “alive” as buildings have shown them to be deserving of more centuries of life, meaning simply that they can adapt to new circumstances, new technologies, new generations of tenants.

So, that’s how I enter the territory of two recent columns in The Oregonian, one by Steve Duin in ardent opposition (along with the preservationist community) to raising the height limits for new buildings in the district from 75 to 130 feet on five specific sites at the district’s edge, and one by Anna Griffin (online it inexplicably suggests that Renee Mitchell is the author; it’s Griffin) about how Mayor-elect Sam Adams’ reorganized planning director Gil Kelley out of a job and what this might mean. The two are related, because Kelley is the one who proposed changing the height restrictions, pending approval from the national historic district people.
Continue reading Gil Kelley and the height of the Skidmore district