Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Ted and Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama helped clarify something for me.

For some time I’ve been conscious that I am responding positively to Obama’s candidacy. And I’ve asked myself “why?” I know it isn’t his position on issues, since among the Democrats there’s not much difference between them. And I know it isn’t his oratorical skills, although he certainly has them in abundance. And it isn’t because he’s black, although it would be great for us to prove to ourselves and the world that we are willing to elect a black president.

So – why? It has to do with history, my history, and how it unfolded. I was 27 in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was running for president. I’d embarked on a promising film career. As a filmmaker I admired Edward R. Murrow because he so powerfully used films and television to confront the major issues of our time. As a news and politics junkie and a California resident who’d disliked Richard Nixon for as long as I could remember, I was inspired by Kennedy.

After 8 years of tired and conservative leadership I was inspired by the possibility that my country could be different. I was convinced that JFK could make it happen. I’d never thought seriously about joining the government and taking an active part in making that vision a reality. But Jack Kennedy inspired me do just that, and on October 30, 1961 I was sworn in as a Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Information Agency. Who administered the oath? Ed Murrow, who’d also been inspired by what Kennedy represented and had become head of USIA.

In Barack Obama I see similar leadership qualities and commitments. And I see that he is inspiring a new young generation to get involved, to believe that change is possible, to cast aside the cynicism and selfishness that has characterized our leaders for much too long.

Until the Kennedys endorsed Obama and likened what was happening now with what happened way back when, I hadn’t put it together. I hadn’t seen that it is personal for me. It’s about a time when I was young and idealistic and willing to live my life consistent with my ideals and what I thought was possible. It’s not about a yearning for the past. It is about having the present represent a new possibility.

I’ve only got one problem with all this. In his recent column on Ted Kennedy’s fiery and effective endorsement speech David Brooks wrote, “The old guy stole the show.” In three weeks I’ll be the same age as the ‘old guy.’

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In Competition With Myself

Like many/most of us, over the years I’ve resolved to lose weight. Sometimes an articulated resolution to welcome in a new year, sometimes just a quiet decision that I will shed a few pounds. And like many/most of us, my resolution or decision resulted in minimal or no weight loss. In the face of this historical reality I concluded that the whole conversation was a waste of time. The brilliance of my conclusion paved the way for a new (silent) resolution: don’t make resolutions about losing weight.

This has been my basic operating principle on the subject for a long time. Just shut up about it. Accept the fact that my belly and waist are not on speaking terms with my clothes. Don’t worry that if I place today’s image in the mirror next to yesterday’s photograph I don’t like what I see. Tell myself it is the aging process. My metabolism is slow. It has to do with genetics. Blame my parents.

Then, about five months ago I bounced up to an all-time high. The scale read 198, four pounds more than what had been my norm. I was annoyed at what I saw but didn’t realize until later that I’d crossed a line I didn’t know was there. I had entered the “Excuses are Bullshit” zone. I had entered “Who’s in Charge Here Anyway” territory. I had blown the starting whistle for a game called “Dan Against Dan.”

The context for the game was not about losing weight. Yes, if I were successful that would be a result on the scoreboard. What this really was about was whether I could compete with myself and win. Not because my doctor said so. Not because I ‘should’ do it. Not even because I didn’t like the way my clothes fit. But just because I said so. Just because I said I had what it takes to do what seemed to be impossible.

I didn’t begin with a timeframe or a specific target. And I didn’t want to fundamentally alter my lifestyle or eating habits. And I didn’t want to suffer or feel deprived. And I didn’t want to go on a diet someone was promoting. Okay, so what did I want to do? I would eat less and see what happened.

I would eat and drink exactly what I’d been eating and drinking. However, instead of continuing until I felt full I’d stop while I still was a little hungry and see how I felt a half hour or 45 minutes later. We’re not talking about a unique, world-shaking weight loss process here. Just portion control. Usually after some time had passed I felt satisfied. If I didn’t I’d have something else – a little bit of something else.

A miracle happened. I began to lose weight. There were ups and downs to be sure, but week after week I continued to lose. So I was encouraged to stay with it. As of today I’m at 178 – 20 pounds off my max. Yesterday I even hit 177.8. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen 177.

I still don’t have a timeframe or a target. I know that usually people who lose weight gain it back. I’m not making any predictions about that. I also know that I’m stubborn enough and competitive enough to want to continue to win the game.

One final word that I think is funny. Except for Sandra, no one has noticed that I’m thinner. Not one person. Go figure . . .

Friday, January 18, 2008

Havant & Waterlooville

I am an avid follower of English football (soccer.) These days, thanks to satellite TV and the Internet, I have countless ways to feed my passion for the game.

In England most attention is paid to the top level Premier League. A close second is the FA Cup, a competition open to hundreds of teams at all levels that play in virtually every village and borough across the land. This year 731 teams have participated in FA Cup games, including some of your favorites such as Almondsbury Town, Holmer Green and Tividale.

Teams from the top two levels, the Premier League and the Championship, receive byes until the Third Round. Before that, in a series of qualifying rounds and Rounds One and Two, lower ranked teams from Levels 3-8 (the bottom) knock each other off in what is a single elimination tournament.

Which brings us to Havant & Waterlooville. Havant and Waterlooville are small towns in Hampshire on England’s Southeast coast. Until 1998 when their football clubs merged, each had been home to a team, Havant since 1883 and Waterlooville since 1905. They are called the Hawks.

Havant & Waterlooville is presently in 12th place in the 22-team Conference South, a Level 6 league. At Level 6 we’re talking about semi-pro teams. The players and staff all have day jobs. They are teachers or beekeepers or policemen or farmers – you name it. These guys play for fun, usually in front of crowds that number in the hundreds.

On January 26, the Hawks will travel to Liverpool to play at Anfield in a 4th Round FA Cup game. Liverpool, a storied team that has won more trophies than any English club, a perennial Premier League powerhouse, winners of the European championship in 2005 and runners-up in 2007, will play host to Havant & Waterlooville. If Anfield is full, and it likely will be, more than 45,000 people will watch this David and Goliath contest.

The Hawks had to work hard to get this far. They had to win five games just to get to the 3rd Round. They confronted a veritable Who’s Who of opponents:
9/21/07: Bognor Regis Town
10/13/07: Fleet Town
10/27/07: Leighton Town
11/10/07: York City
12/1/07: Notts County

These victories qualified them for a 3rd Round match against Swansea, the top team in League One (Level 3). Nobody gave them a chance, especially since they were playing the game in Swansea. But lo and behold, the final score was 1-1. This meant there would be a replay, this time at West Leigh Park in Havant.

4,400 ecstatic true believers, by far the largest crowd in West Leigh Park history, watched the unbelievable happen. The impossible dream became reality. Havant & Waterlooville beat Swansea 4-2. As the British would say, the Hawks had booked their place in the 4th Round. Of the 731 teams that began, 32 remain in the competition.

Does it matter what the final score is at Anfield on the 26th? A little, but not much. For Havant & Waterlooville, what matters has already happened.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Looking for the Silver Lining

I’ve been on a mission to find good news rather than focus on the bad. It isn’t going too well today:

The economy is in the toilet and it’s being flushed.

The market has tanked.

Yesterday people were blown up in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The Israelis killed 18 Palestinians in Gaza.

Kenya is sinking deeper into violence.

The writers are still on strike – maybe more a ‘who cares’ than bad news.

Romney won in Michigan – good news if you like him, which I don’t.

Huckabee said the Constitution should be changed to reflect God’s word, not ours – good news I guess if you like this God of his, which I don’t.

At a Congressional hearing Bud Selig said he’d take care of baseball’s problems. Sure he will. Mostly he’ll point fingers at others rather than take responsibility himself.

Studies show that taking Zetia, which I’ve been doing for two years, may be bad for my health.

OK, enough. Now some good news:

The sun is shining.

An earthquake hasn’t destroyed our home.

I made a delicious chicken dish for dinner last night.

Every day is a gift.

I am blessed with love and friendship and happiness.

When I step back and think about it, the Silver Lining isn’t hard to find after all.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I Wish I Had Been Wrong

My election predictions last week before the Iowa caucuses were mostly accurate.

On the Republican side, in Iowa I underestimated Huckabee’s popularity and overestimated Romney’s, but corrected that in New Hampshire where I said McCain would win. No big deal. I still feel that no matter how much money he spends Romney is history and Huckabee will not last the course.

Regrettably, on the Democratic side I was 100% right in both Iowa and New Hampshire. First Clinton got beat. Then, despite the fact that she was declared all but dead by the experts, she turned around and won. I wish I had been wrong.

Obama’s way of being and speaking in Iowa got me excited about a candidate and the election process for the first time in a long while. I now had a clear favorite and moved from negative to actively negative about Clinton. So the New Hampshire results were disappointing.

I now think Obama has a good chance of winning the nomination. Should it go to Clinton I’m still sure I’ll vote for her against any Republican that emerges from this sorry lot. But I won’t be nearly as happy about it as I’d like to be.

So now, on to Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina, etc.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Finally . . .

Finally, beginning tonight people can start voting. So since you are dying to know, here’s what I think:

In Iowa Romney will beat Huckabee. The bumbler from Arkansas peaked a few weeks ago and will fade from now on. The others will be out of the picture, although McCain will exceed expectations.

I agree with the experts that it will be close for the Dems. For the sake of hoping to upset the apple cart (or I guess hay wagon would be more appropriate) I’m saying it’ll be a close 1-2-3 finish in this order: Obama, Edwards and Clinton.

Romney’s glow will fade in less than a week when McCain kicks his butt in New Hampshire. That will kick-start McCain’s momentum and he’ll go on to be the nominee.

On the Democratic side, Clinton will win big in New Hampshire. So those who will say after Iowa that she’s in trouble will be wrong. And, I regret to predict, she’ll go on to be the nominee.

Of the sorry lot put forward by the GOP, McCain is the best. Even though I don’t like or trust Clinton I’ll have no problem voting for her against any of the Republicans. It would be a bigger disaster than I can confront if the Executive Branch should continue to be in the hands of the bad guys, irrespective of who is at the head of the ticket.

I’m not sure if Bloomberg will mount an independent campaign. If he does run he won’t do well and his appeal will be to the already disaffected in both parties, so his candidacy will not be crucial in terms of who will win.

In the California primary I will vote for Obama. I’m not a passionate supporter but I appreciate the quality of his thinking and his integrity, i.e., being true to himself.