Monday, March 31, 2008


A well intentioned young man smashed our handy point and shoot camera against a stone wall a few months ago, and this week we decided to replace it. We got ourselves a nifty little Cannon that has twice as many features as our old camera, and costs about half of what we paid in 2001.
Anxious to try out the new toy, I went and woke the boys up from their afternoon nap. I was able to snap some groggy photos of Will...

And a few of Nate as well...While this new camera looks quite different from the old one, they still know it's something worth grabbing..And Will still knows what to do when that little light starts flashing.He may have human DNA, but deep down inside, he's pure, "Grade A" ham.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008


Several years ago, I was waiting for a table at the Crab Cooker in Newport Beach with some friends. A taxi drove up and asked us a question, and a silly exchange followed. (I don't remember what about, it was five years ago, after all.) Then he drove off.

About 10 minutes later, he returned and this happened... (sorry about the dark video)

This little clip makes me a bit homesick for southern California. Believe it or not, silly little moments like this weren't all that out of the ordinary when I lived there. I don't exactly know why this was so, but I miss the surreal and whimsical little asides SoCal offers. I miss it every day.

Glad I'll be seeing the place, if only for a day or two, next month.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008


This was supposed to be a primary election that nobody cares about, but the heavy hitters keep rolling through town.

Barack Obama was in town last week, and Hillary Clinton is scheduled to be in town in a week or two. Then late Friday, word came that Bill Clinton will make a campaign stop here on Sunday.

The announcement comes during a week where Hillary was wrapped up in a controversy over her recollections of a trip to Bosnia and some prominent Democrats are calling for her to withdraw from the race. Obama came following controversy surrounding his pastor, so perhaps there's a pattern here.

Obama is expected to win Oregon by a pretty substantial margin, but the fact that both sides are making a play for the state is a pretty good indication of just how tight this race is.

As a reporter, this is as fun as it gets. Wonderful, newsworthy events blow through town on the weekend and the weekend posse gets to cover the whole thing. Bill is even thoughtful enough to show up on a Sunday, the slowest news day of the week. Thanks Bill.

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Friday, March 28, 2008


I know it may feel like this blog is stalking my friend, Thomas, but it's just a coincidence.

While Thomas was traveling to Norway, he had a connection in Copenhagen. And when he looked at the departure board, he saw this...

That's right, a flight to the Faroe Islands was departing at a nearby terminal. So he took a short journey to see if he could snap a photo of an Atlantic Airways plane. Turns out, he could...

And wouldn't you know it, a flight attendant at the departure gate had a message for me...Of course, Thomas put her up to writing the note, but I look forward to accepting similar invitation from the Faroese Tourism Board one day.In keeping with the aviation theme of this week's post, our Faroe photo comes from Sørvágur, the village closest to the airport. It's a village of about 950 people and there have been buildings on this site since the year 1000. It even has its own soccer team. They play here...Looks like you have to bring your own chair if you're interested in watching.

Just up the road is Vatnsoyrar, it's unique because it is the only Faroese village not located on the sea.

It's population is only 56, and by the looks of it, that may be a liberal estimate. It doesn't look like a very happening place, but there is reportedly a popular "camp school for young people" there.

The island where both villages are located was once occupied by 9,000 British troops. During that time, it was legal to drive on the left side of the road in some areas. Who knew?


Thursday, March 27, 2008


Thomas is back from Norway and he has brought back a Scandinavian bounty...
Soon they will be mine! (The Crispos, not Thomas.)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


My dear friend Thomas is back in his homeland of Norway, and I’ve given him an assignment: get me some Crispo bars. The Crispo is essentially a Nestle Crunch bar… but so much better. The Belgians and Swiss get all the credit for great chocolate, but the Norwegians are no slouches.

In 1999, Thomas and his family hosted me in Norway for two weeks and I immediately fell in love with the place. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people and after a day I was convinced I had died and gone to heaven. Then I walked into a convenience store looking for a snack and encountered the Crispo. The Chocolate was rich and very creamy, the crisped rice was in the proper proportion, and there was even a hint of malt. It was like seeing the face of God… as manifest through crispy chocolate.

I stocked up on Crispo bars during that trip, and again when I visited Norway in 2005, but the supply I’d bring home would rarely last a week.

And so I’ve been Crispo-less for more than three years, but a visit from my dealer (Thomas) will change all that. He’s promised to bring some back for me and I’m so excited I could pee.

The handoff will likely happen while I’m in Los Angeles during an extended layover before continuing on to Turkey. I’ve been thinking a lot about those little chocolate bars, and what an odd existence they’ll have. They’ve likely already started their lives in a factory outside Oslo. Then they’ll find their way to the western portion of the country.

But what happens next will set these Crispos apart from their brethren. They’ll be plucked from their homes and flown halfway around the world to Los Angeles. Yes, these humble hunks of Norwegian chocolate will see the Pacific Ocean. (Assuming they can see, which they can’t.)

Then they’ll be loaded onto a plane and carried to Turkey. That’s right, within the course of a few days, they’ll have been in Scandinavia, North America, and the Ottoman Empire. Then, assuming, they survive Turkey, they’ll be taken back on a plane and transported back to Los Angeles, then on to Oregon… by way of Arizona.

By the time they arrive in Oregon, they may well be the best traveled pieces of chocolate ever. If they have frequent flyer accounts, they certainly will have earned a free flight. If nothing else, they will earn a place in my heart… right before they find a place in my stomach.

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Monday, March 24, 2008


I've worked an insane number of hours over the past two days and I don't have enough brain power to produce anything truly thoughtful right now. So instead, please enjoy 15 of the silliest seconds you'll likely ever see. I give you... Fish Slapping Dance...


Friday, March 21, 2008


Faroese group "Boys in a Band" played the South by Southwest festival in Austin last week, and were met with favorable reviews. They also played at Canadian Music Week in Toronto where a news report identified them as... a Swedish band? Shame on you, Toronto Star. Shame on you.

Alas, the lads did not travel to the Pacific northwest, so we didn't get to see them up here. Maybe some other time. My friend heard an interview with them on Norwegian radio a few months ago and thought they sounded pretty fun. Only two band members were interviewed, however. One was too hung over, the other had to be at his day job back on the Faroe Islands.

(Note: The above photo was not taken at SXSW, instead, it was found on this guy's Flickr Photostream. The picture was most likely taken at the Iceland Airwaves festival last year, but I'm not 100% sure.)
In keeping with our musical theme, this week's Faroe photo comes from a singer/songwriter called Elio Pace. A few years ago he played a concert there, and he took some pictures as well. Having never heard any of his music, I can't vouch for him musically one way or another, but he's a pretty decent photographer.


Thursday, March 20, 2008


Hillary Clinton's campaign has announced their candidate is coming to southern Oregon! Bill Clinton may be stopping by as well.

There are no details as of yet, and the timing of the announcement is most likely designed to nudge into what has been almost non-stop local coverage of Obama's upcoming visit. But no matter what the reason, it looks like both Democratic candidates will be paying us a visit before the May primaries. This will give us (both in the media and in the general voting public) a valuable chance to compare and contrast Clinton and Obama's message and style.

Meanwhile, anticipation of Obama's visit Saturday morning is running high. I've had tons of people asking me how they can get tickets to the rally, but tickets sold out in a matter of minutes.

This is one of these moments where it's really cool to be a member of the media. I get to go inside. Of course, I'll be working. But it's still pretty cool.

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I was getting ready to have some more fun with the Church Sign Generator when I came across this person's Flickr Photostream. It was then I realized that my fertile imagination was no match for reality...
Indeed, he did.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I won't even try to hide my excitement on this one. Barack Obama is coming to Medford, Oregon! More accurately, Barack Obama is probably coming to Medford. He's announced a campaign swing through Oregon starting on Friday and wrapping up on Saturday. Medford is on the list of cities he's planning to stop in. Details on his stops in Portland and Eugene have already been announced, but nothing on Medford just yet. But Medford police confirm that they've been contacted by the Secret Service about a visit this week.

As a political nerd and a journalist, this is just about the coolest thing ever. I've been following presidential politics since Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford in 1976 and I've been working as a journalist (in one form or another) for about six years. Yet I have never seen a presidential candidate on the campaign trail. Well, here we go.

I may get to cover the event depending on what day it happens, but I'm going either way. I'm fascinated by the craft of the campaign stop... how teams of workers blow into town, set up shop, put on a show, and are gone within hours. The music, the lights, and the location all are coordinated to work the crowd and underline the candidate's message. By all indications, Obama's people are the best at putting on a show like this.

This news is mos unexpected here. Just a few weeks ago I was complaining about how lonely it is to live in a state that holds a late primary. Now the tables have turned and we're actually important for once. And for for that, I have the people of Texas, Ohio, Florida, and Michigan to thank. But most importantly, I must thank the Democratic party for coming up with a nominating system so complicated that it's impossible for anyone to actually win. Without your help, none of this would have ever been possible.

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Monday, March 17, 2008


Best day yet.

I stood in front of the mirror this morning and accomplished something approaching a 3/4 smile (pictures soon). You can actually see some teeth on the right side now. If you didn't know any better, you'd not know about the palsy but simply think I have a crooked smile (which was actually true before any of this happened). The blinking is coming back as well, but my eyes can still get a bit irritated at night. So my point is I'm still wearing safety glasses around town. They're doing to become an essential fashion accessory one of these days.

Better still, my sense of taste is rapidly coming back (meaning I can taste things... I still have horrible taste). The whole "tasting again" thing is actually a little tricky to navigate. I ate some jelly beans tonight, and the experience of actually tasting them again led me to eat much more than I should have. I'm actually a little sick tonight as a result.

More updates soon, and perhaps a sexy safety glasses photo shoot.


Sunday, March 16, 2008


Ever since we changed Nate and Will's sleep schedule to include only a single nap per day, they can sometimes have a hard time staying awake for the entire morning. This is especially true when they've had a very active morning. This is one such morning.
Lunch was abbreviated by a nap taken a few minutes too early. Perhaps Nate needed time to recuperate from a morning of running around the back yard.Will was most likely worn out by his unsuccessful (and very loud) attempt to compel an encore performance of Elmo before lunch.Perhaps they're already dreaming of the busy weeks ahead.They'll be basking in the attentions of two sets of grandparents in about three weeks. That means another trip on an airplane.I was 23 before I had been on as many flights as these two. With the prospect of another one coming up soon, I think I need a nap, too.Perhaps we can all behave like this when the next trip begins. Dare to dream. Dare to dream.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008


This Saturday night I'll be back on the air for the first time since the right side of my face froze up. Hopefully, my face will look more natural than the two zombies in this particular clip...

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Friday, March 14, 2008


More and more motion is slowly coming back to the right side of my face. I can sort of squint and pretty much blink now. There's nothing approaching symmetry in my face and especially my smile, but that's pretty much to be expected at this point. I'm still wearing safety glasses, but mostly because I like looking like Bono.

I went to work today to blink and smile to my boss and co-workers and the consensus was I looked normal enough to go back on the air this weekend. I'll be nice to resume my normal duties, but I may be a little self conscious for the next few weeks.

A lot of people have asked me what exactly it feels like to have some type of facial paralysis. A lot of people wonder if it might hurt. It doesn't really. It feels a little numb. Now that motion is coming back, it feels a little bit sore... kind of like I got punched hard in the face three or four days ago.

So, to recap: things are recovering nicely, but there's still a way to go yet. And the post-palsy debut of the still-thawing face will happen tomorrow at 6. I'll post some pictures of my recovering smile when I get some time.



News this week that the Faroe Islands are among the world's top ten per capita spam producers. (And we're talking about the junk email, not the canned meat.)

While the U.S. is by far the biggest overall producer of spam (21%), small island nations produce much more per head. Number one on the spam list was Pitcarin Island, a small rock in the south Pacific that's home to the descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers. Only 50 people live on the island. I seems unlikely there would be more than a dozen or so computers there, so either one of them has a bad virus, or there's a guy on a small Pacific island that has a lot of herbal Viagra he needs to unload.
Now I'd expect this kind of behavior from the descendants of criminals, but from the Faroes? It does seem a bit out of character. But the area was settled by vikings, and they can be a pretty tough bunch. Plus, I just got an unsolicited email offering great deals on whale meat, dried herring, and stuffed puffins. So maybe there is something to it.

(By the way, the other nations on the per capita spam top ten are: Niue, Tokelau, Anguilla, Monaco, Bermuda, Falkland Islands, Andorra, and Aruba. Most of them seem pretty nice.)

This week's Faroe photo is from the old town in the capitol Torshavn. Hopefully there is no spam lurking behind those turf roofed buildings.


Thursday, March 13, 2008


A former co-worker and fellow church sign appreciator chimed in on the comments section about a church sign near where she lives in Minnesota, which I have lovingly recreated with the help of the Church Sign Generator.
Oh, how I love the pop culture ones. That means the pastor is doing his own writing instead of cribbing off some cheat sheet. And using popular music can open up lots of great church sign ideas.Which, of course, leads to a similarly bad pun that's not based on a popular song, but so obvious it's hard to resist...Oh, how I love the Church Sign Generator!


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Time to stop obsessing over my mysterious facial paralysis and get back to the reason why a lot of people come to this site, to look at pictures of the little guys. The batch is a little thin this week, but here we go:

That's Nate playing in the backyard during a lovely Sunday afternoon.And that's Will sitting on his mom's lap while she tries to take his picture.

Most of the pictures you see on this site and taken by Julie. She's got access to them when the lighting is good and, quite frankly, she's a better photographer than me. We're both noticing that it's getting harder and harder to take pictures of the little guys.

Every since they could move around, they've been obsessed with cameras, both still and video. As a result, we've got endless hours of video of the guys trying to grab our little camcorder. Obviously, that's not the footage we were trying to get. We wanted to get them doing their little yelps or impersonating animal sounds or doing that amusing high-stepping dance/run they've been doing lately. Alas, once you turn the camera on, all that stops and it's all about the camera.

Oddly enough, I have this exact same problem at work. I'll be trying to shoot some footage or a story, and people will immediately change what they were doing because I got a camera out. Of course, the difference at home is that I don't have to turn a story out of my footage. I'm free to put the camera down and start having fun with my former subjects. And luckily for me, my two favorite little subjects are a lot of fun.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Every once in a while, the Internet throws you a wonderful gift that you didn't even know you were looking for. So it was that I found my newest online love.

Those familiar with my short but queasy stay in the Confederacy know that I left the region with a disdain of grits, and an odd affection for the many church signs that dot the landscape. You know, the kind that feature goofy slogans like...

During my early blogging months, I used to collect these little sayings and post them in this space. Once I left the South, the material dried up and that was the end of that.

But several months ago I heard about a book for pastors that contained hundreds (thousands?) of these little sayings. I decided to look for the book and simply post my own church sign message every week... just without the church.

During my online search for the book, I stumbled upon the greatest thing ever: the Church Sign Generator. This site allows you to take any message at all, and put it onto a photo of a church sign. Imagine the possibilities...

All those church slogans I've always wanted to try out could become a reality...And the Church Sign Generator is no respecter of persons. You can come after Catholics...Or the Pentecostals...Alas, there isn't a Mormon template on the site, which isn't all that surprising. We really don't have message boards outside our churches, just a sign that says "visitors welcome." And if we did have a message board, it would most likely contain information about Jell-O. But who knows, perhaps we'll get a sign one day.

Until then, I encourage everyone to make their own church signs. If you have any good ones, please post a link in the comments section. That should help tide me over until my book arrives.


Monday, March 10, 2008


While things aren't progressing as quickly as I'd like, I am getting a little more movement on the right side of my face. I can flex the right side of my mouth a little bit and almost manage a squint around my right eye. Ok, not so much a squint as a light twitch, but you take your victories where you can.

A co-worker said he was sure he almost saw a blink out of my right eye today, but I have yet to replicate it in front of a mirror. But at least I don't have to tape my eye shut anymore. That's no fun at all.


Saturday, March 08, 2008


Avid readers of this blog (hi, mom!) will doubtless be aware that I'm a big fan of absurdist humor. It's the toughest type of humor to get right. It's a very fine line between comic brilliance and utter stupidity. Furthermore the type of creative mind that can do absurdism a rare, rare thing.

About five years ago, my friend Sam Tivo-ed and episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast called "Kentucky Nightmare." It features a dying shark, a jive talking worm, Willie Nelson, a poorly made documentary, and a large sandwich. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. And it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen.

If you have 9 minutes to kill this weekend, I highly recommend you check it out...


Friday, March 07, 2008


"Last night I dreamt/that somebody loved me/no hope no harm/just another false alarm."

That pathetic line penned by Morrisey some 20 years ago pretty much sums up this morning. I just woke up from a dream where I woke up (in the pretend dream world) and my face was working perfectly. The rest of the dream was spent calling parents and friends and bosses explaining the amazing turnaround.

Then I woke up , and it certainly knocked the smile off my face... mostly because I still couldn't smile properly. But there is some good news. If I concentrate really hard, I can kind of move the right side of a my mouth a little bit. Also, if I walk into a brightly lit place, the right side of my face actually tries to grimace a bit. The movement is barely noticeable, but it's more than was there yesterday.

I can now also get my right eye shut completely on its own. As I lay down to sleep last night, my eye slowly drooped shut without the use of tape. And it stayed shut, which is nice because sleeping with tape on your face is no picnic. But alas, no blinking yet.

More reports as they arrive.



Back in September, we told you about that Icelandic pixie, Bjork and her song "Declare Independence." Bjork wrote the song and dedicated it to Greenland and the Faroe Islands hoping that they would eventually follow Iceland's lead and break away from Denmark.

But now the song has her in hot water with the Chinese. Bjork sang the song at a concert in Shanghai this week and shouted out "Tibet" several times during the performance. Chinese officials say they will crack down harshly on any artist who tries to sing in favor of Tibetan independence. If Bjork does it again, she will never be allowed in China again.

China's culture minister said in a statement: "Some artist deliberately turned a commercial show into a political performance, which not only broke Chinese law, but also hurt Chinese audiences' feelings."

Hurt the Chinese audiences' feelings? What about the people of the Faroe Islands? Bjork writes a song for them, then she just gives it away to Tibet without asking permission. That's just not right. The Faroese seem like reasonable people. I'm sure they would have allowed Tibet to use the song as long as they gave it back when they were done. But no... Bjork just made that decision on her own.

This week's Faroe Photo comes from this guy's Flickr Photostream. It's a set of turf roofed homes in Saksun, a village of about 30 on the island of Streymoy. The village is a popular day trip destination for residents of the capitol Torshavn.


Thursday, March 06, 2008


Woke up this morning, un-taped my right eye, and found that I could close it with a bit of effort. I can't blink it yet, but it's more control than I've had over the thing since Sunday. I'm also able to move the right corner of my mouth about 1/4 inch. Again, it's not much, but it's a small move in the right direction... literally, now that I think about it.

Also, the steroids are making me hyper. Tuesday night I didn't get to sleep until 4:30 AM. Last night I turned in at 3:30 AM. So I guess that's a little better, too.

More news as it arrives.

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Just one month ago, I was whining about how my state of Oregon was voting too late in the presidential primary process to be a player this year, but that may have just changed.

The folks in Texas and Ohio have voted and really nothing has changed with the results. Hillary won three of four states but, once the Texas caucus results are tallied, Obama will likely come away with more delegates. Hillary now has the momentum narrative, but Obama's lead in delegates makes the math all but impossible for Clinton.

So what does that mean? We're back, baby! We're back! The late states actually matter! We may actually get candidates visiting us ahead of the election. Slate has this great tool for political nerds. You can predict the results of the remaining primaries and the program will spit out each candidate's delegates number. What you learn from messing around on the site is that both candidates are going to have to compete in every remaining state and territory. That includes Guam, that includes Puerto Rico, that even includes Oregon.

I can't wait for the campaign to come to our state (not least because of the ad dollars it will mean for my employer), but I do have one complaint. Puerto Rico gets 55 delegates? 55? Really? They don't get to vote in the presidential election and the Democrats give them 55 delegates? Oregon only gets 52, and we're actually located in America.

But that's a minor trifle. Bring on the candidates. Let them pander to the weirdos in the northwest. It's high time somebody did.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Normally I would write about the Ohio and Texas primaries today, but the goalposts didn’t move much, so I’ll let it slide. Although somebody really needs to talk about the Saturday Night Life effect one of these days. But I’ve got other fish to fry right now.

It started last night. I was doing a newsroom live shot and my left eye was blinking furiously, but my right eye stayed completely open. It looked quite freaky. Afterwards I noticed that I was unable to completely shut my right eye.

When I awoke this morning, the whole right side of my face was pretty much paralyzed. Toothpaste dripped out of my mouth as I tried to brush my teeth. Attempts to smile resulted in an odd looking facial contortion worthy of The Penguin. Furthermore, my right ear was extremely sensitive to sound and all food I attempted to eat tasted like cardboard.

Idiot that I am, I actually showed up to work today. My boss said, “How are you doing today?”

I answered, “I think the right side of my face is paralyzed.”

“Then what are you doing here? Go to a doctor.”

I turned around and walked out the door, and thus ended my shortest day of work in recent memory.

A few hours later I was in a doctor’s office. She told me I had Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy is an inflammation of the facial nerve that leaves portions of the face paralyzed. The diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy is basically the medical equivalent of shrugged shoulders. They do a bunch of tests, and if they can’t prove any other cause, you’ve got Bell’s Palsy. Nobody knows what causes it. Nobody knows how to cure it. And it most likely will just go away even if you do nothing.

So I left the doctor’s office with a prescription for some powerful steroids and some tape. The drugs are to try to get the nerve less irritated, and the tape is for my eye. Really, my eye. I can’t shut my eye, and that can damage it when I sleep. So now I have to tape it shut before I go to bed. For further protection, I have to wear sunglasses anytime I go outside and, wait for it, wear safety glasses at all other times.

Oh I do cut a rather ridiculous character right now. I’m wandering around in public, drooling, while wearing safety glasses. And there’s all this crap on my face. That happened while trying to eat at my local Subway Sandwich location earlier today.

Eating is extremely hard when you have access to only half your mouth. Food kept on getting stuck in the paralyzed side. I actually had to dig huge uneaten chunks of the sandwich out of my mouth with my fingers. It was completely disgusting. Then there was the issue of the mayo. It kept getting smeared all over my face as I tried to eat. The whole time I kept praying nobody in the store recognized me.

But let’s move on to the steroids for a moment. They have a lot of side effects, but none of them include playing left field for the San Francisco Giants. That’s a different kind of steroids, I’m afraid.

Nope these steroids make you sleepless and insane. With today’s sandwich, I washed down eight of these steroid pills. I’m told they may make me manic, or depressed. I’m likely to lose sleep and be aggressive and quick to anger. Did I mention fat? A lot of people who take this drug begin having an insatiable appetite. One guy gained 60 pounds during treatment. I'm hoping to get the rare side effect of what's described as a severe case of "extreme sense of well being."

Apart from drugs and silly glasses, I have to start doing facial exercises. I’m still looking for directions on what exactly I’m supposed to do, but I’m told it involves making a lot of silly faces. I’m hoping to invite one of our news photographers over while I do these exercises and turn them into a moving sweeps piece called “My Left Face: Matthew Workman’s Heroic Recovery From Bell’s Palsy.” (My right face is the one that’s paralyzed, but the title sounds better this way.)

Being diagnosed with a palsy raises many issues. First off, I never really pictured myself as a “palsy” kind of guy. Palsies seem so Old Testament. Furthermore, having a partially paralyzed face means that the classic schoolyard taunt, “your face is broken,” is actually medically accurate for me right now.

I’ve done a little snooping online, and found that George Clooney suffered from Bell’s Palsy while in junior high (it earned him the nickname “Frankenstein”). So perhaps a side effect of this illness will be excessive handsomeness. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien also had the palsy… so the illness clearly has different effects on different people.

The most comforting thing about all this is that all symptoms usually go away in a week or two. So this odd state of affairs won’t go on forever… hopefully. In the meantime, if you see a drooling man wearing safety glasses while acting aggressively and making weird facial gestures, be kind to him. He’s had a rough week.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I can't believe I've let Romancing Singapore month pass without comment. But February is the shortest month of the year, so these things can happen. So from the archives, allow me to present a newspaper column I wrote on the subject in March 2004...

When Singapore is mentioned in polite conversation, the average, ignorant, non-reader of this column would likely make the following two comments. 1) “That snotty American kid got caned there, right?” 2) “Did you know that gum is illegal in Singapore?” While snotty-American Michael Fey did get several whacks in the butt about a decade ago (not even President Clinton could save him from the cane), gum is now legal, you just have to get it at a pharmacy. If you want to come off as more savvy next time you and your friends are discussing Singapore at a cocktail party, try this: Singapore isn’t romantic. I’ll explain.

Singapore is a city-state on an island at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula. The city is considered one of the cleanest and safest in the world. Some consider the laws and punishments in Singapore a bit cruel. While the government is dressed up like a British parliamentary system, it’s pretty much a dictatorship.

But it’s an odd sort of dictatorship. Imagine if your grumpy Uncle Joe, the one who is always complaining about things and listening to talk radio, ran his own country. Singapore is what his country would be like. “Those stupid j-walkers! They should fine those people $1,000 for being so stupid.” Done. “Have you seen the public toilets lately? As far as I’m concerned, they should have people monitor the public toilets. If anyone doesn’t flush, fine ‘em $1,500! Then they’ll pay attention.” No problem. “Drug problem? I’ll solve your drug problem! If you got drugs, you should get killed. There, no drug problem.” Done.

Amazingly enough, most of these policies work. I spent about a week in Singapore last month and didn’t encounter one jay-walker, unflushed toilet, or drug dealer. I also didn’t see anyone peeing in the elevators. Singapore has cameras in their elevators to keep such a thing from happening. (I guess not every country can keep their elevators urine-free on the honor system.) The government has gone to great trouble to make their country clean, modern, and efficient. But romance is another matter. It’s not a very romantic place, and now it’s affecting the birthrate.

Singapore’s birthrate has plummeted in the last few years. As a matter of fact, most industrialized nations don’t have a birthrate sufficient to replace the population that dies each year. The notable exception to this is America, and we have our plucky teenagers to thank for that (way to go, kids!)

But Singapore is not the kind of country to take a problem like this lying down. They’ve offered cash incentives to couples to have kids, something on the order of $40,000 for the second child. But that didn’t seem to help. So Singapore decided to work on the romance problem the only way they knew how: by starting another government program.

Romancing Singapore 2004 is designed to send citizens the message that “Love is in the little things.” To make the city more romantic, the government has designed a new fragrance and is sponsoring events throughout the city. The events range from tango lessons to mass marriages. There’s even a jingle. In a rare act of journalism, I actually downloaded the song from Romancing Singapore’s web site. The song is, well, what you might expect if your grumpy Uncle Joe were asked to write a hip-hop song to make the kids feel romantic. It is, quite likely, the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Dumb or not, the real question is if it will make reserved Singaporeans any more randy. I honestly doubt it. If you ask me, the government isn’t really serious about increasing the country’s birthrate. If Singapore really wanted people making babies, they’d simply pump Barry White music into every citizen’s home. The problem would solve itself in about nine months.

UPDATE: The government has turned over control of the website to a private company, but still pumps a lot of public money into the project. Alas, the 2004 jingle has long since been pulled. Oh well, I guess you had to be there.

The Singapore skyline photo can be found on this Flikr photostream.

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Monday, March 03, 2008


As soon as babies can control their arms, they begin shoving stuff into their mouths. Doctors call this "exploring their world through their mouths." I call it "marking their territory using drool."

Whatever the case, this phase is supposed to end at some point. But our guys have been stuck in their oral phase. Observe Nate "playing" with a Magna Doodle...

Will is more partial to wooden stuff...But Nate is most undiscriminating. He'll chew on storage chests...And just about anything else he can find. But he's most interested in plastic cubes...He won't stop for a ride on his favorite toy...Or for a good book...He won't even stop while trying to take the camera away from his parents...Perhaps I should be concerned, but I'm just too tired right now.

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