Phyllis Sherman 2008
Phyllis Sherman photo

Phyllis' Findings

OBAMAMANIA has really struck the country and the world. Finally a bright, articulate, vital president with no discernable negatives. They’re calling it Camelot with a Tan...Stories abound about previous presidents.John Quincy Adams sought relief from the presidency by sneaking away from the White House for nude dips in the Potomac. Warren G. Harding who presided over the most inept administrations in history, was such a lousy poker player he once gambled away the White House china.

And after a tough day in the Oval Office, Andrew Jackson liked to unwind behind the executive mansion watching cockfights. Every American president has brought his own style to the world’s most unusual home office and the inauguration of Barack Obama is expected to bring an extreme makeover to the style regime at the White House. George Bush is sneaking out of the Oval Office with the most abysmal style. Obama will surely be bringing a jolt of vitality...it’s going to be fascinating to see how that spins off in terms of movies that people watch, music that becomes more fashionable, even the clothes that people wear. His pick of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State is historic and she’ll probably be an enormous asset despite what some are saying, that she’ll be forced to give up some independence Bill is willing to do whatever is necessary to make sure she gets the slot. We’ll see how that evolves, but in the interim Obama is surrounding himself with an extraordinarily creative and competent team. “O-phoria” is truly sweeping the nation and he’s off to a glorious start.

The one I felt sorry for was Elizabeth Dole who lost her Congressional seat to a Democrat. First, her husband, Bob, goes on television to complain about his problem with E.D., and then she loses her election bid. Oh...the ignominy of it all!

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“How about that Sarah Palin? A lot of people said what will happen to her when she goes back to being Governor of Alaska?’”Don’t worry”, according to David Letterman...’”she has a 7 million dollar book deal. She got it through a guy named, Joe, the Publisher”

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A friend of mine held a garage sale recently. One Sunday evening she put some leftover pieces of furniture on the sidewalk. Inadvertently, a price tag was left on a small shelf. On Monday morning she discovered this note slipped through the male slot:” I came across the shelf you set on the street last night. Here’s the $10. That’s what the sticker said. Thank you. Betty.” Wrapped in the note was a $10 bill.

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The local police asked recently in a note in their police blotter.....”What year was Real Estate John Barbagelata first elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors? The first correct answer will result in ten Police Stickers for the lucky winner.” And what exactly does the winner do with 10 police stickers? Can they be used to pay for a parking ticket?

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Theater and movie-wise, there are some pretty good ones around and also some not-so-hot. The KEY SUNDAY CINEMA CLUB at the Kabuki offered SLUMLORD MILLIONAIRE....which has too many flashbacks between a television contestant attempting to make big bucks illegally, and then back to the slums of Mombai....colorful and dismayingly graphic and fascinating, but ultimately a bore.SHALL WE KISS is a French which begins in Nantes, where a chance encounter between a Parisian fabric designer and a local art restorer leads to dinner ,drinks, and nearly to the titular meeting of the lips. It was cute, light, some smart dialogue but too long at 102 minutes and ultimately a drag.

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Theatrically speaking, the Berkeley Rep’s latest production, JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE is probably the best of August Wilson’s ten-play cycle. Set in 1911, the play relates the story of Set and Bertha Holly who operate a boarding house that serves as a temporary home to those wo are trying to find a new beginning. Their oddest tenant is Bynum, a shaman who’s song has the power to bind people to new destinies, and to each other. Into the boarding house wanders Herald Loomis, a man with a dark and violent past in search of his wife, torn from him before he left the South. Author August Wilson, the product of a black father and a white mother, completed the play in 1988 and it will be at the Rep through December 14. Directed by Delroy at the Roda Theater.

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The economy has been so bad, Americans have been sneaking into Mexico.

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A secretary walks into her boss’s office and said, “I’m afraid I’ve some bad news for you.” “Why do you always have to give me bad news? Give me some good news for once.” “Alright..here’s some good news.” said the secretary, “You’re not sterile.”

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Two Irish men are in a bar and one said to the other, “Hey, can you tell me what the date is in the paper?” “I’ve no idea.” “But you’ve got a newspaper in your pocket.”

“Sorry, Mate. It’s yesterday’s paper.”

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John was telling his pal at work why he has a black eye.... and he explains...

“My wife and I were talking and she asked, “Tell me, will you still love me when I’m old, fat and ugly?” “I should have said, “Of course I will, but I said, “of course I do.”

December 2008

Soon it will be TURKEY TIME and time to indulge big time in all the food that will put on at least five pounds. Sooner however, will be ELECTION TIME and we’ll worry about that first. I can’t believe that there’ll be a McCain/Palin ticket but the Republicans are carrying on like they have a chance...and I worried a bit about that yesterday when I had a crazy dream. I was married to John McCain in the dream and we were shopping for peaches at a farmer’s market. It probably had to do to the fact that the previous day I’d attempted to buy peaches at Safeway and they said they had “no peaches. Will probably have to wait til the come in from Chile.” Anyway, in the crazy dream, John McCain and I were arguing with them at the farmer’s market that they wanted too much for the peaches! I remember thinking that with all his $$$$ he shouldn’t have to worry about the price of peaches. Wondered what happened to Cindy in the dream. She was no where to be seen...probably had enough Chilean peaches in her eight houses.

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It was especially encouraging to hear Colin Powell endorsing Obama on SIXTY MINUTES. Apparently, the endorsement had been in the works for a while, despite a request by President Bush to hold the endorsement back. Powell said Gov Palin wasn’t fit for the job and although he was a good friend of John McCain, could not endorse him for president...that he was erratic...and he denied that he was endorsing Obama because they were both black. As a result of the endorsement the Democratis party got a further infusion of funds.

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ENTERTAINMENT-From the mundane to the ridiculous...let’s talk about some films that I found OK and some not so OK. You can easily skip DeCaprio and Crowe in BODY OF LIES...lots of shoot-em-up terrorist, lifeless action thriller-type movie Bill Maher’s RELIGOLOUS was better, but not much. Outspoken , irreverent, witty, non-believer Bill travels around the world interviewing Christians, Jews, and Muslims about their beliefs which he views as dangerous nonsense. Some pretty good laughs. It’s currently entertaining all non-believers at that house of false idols, Stonestown Cinema. THE DUCHESS is a portrait of the life of a cosseted, tightly corseted life of Georgiana Spencer, the Duchess of Devonshire. Keira Knightly as the wife and Ralph Fiennes (as her husband) star in an an unhappy triangle (with a live-in mistress). I enjoyed this one very much...well acted, sexy and lively! The best film around currently is still Woody Allen’s VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA. a must for film buffs. Take your kids or grandkids to “BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA” an adorable film...fun for adults too. Also, “W”, about the boozing, spoiled son of George H.W. Bush is an authentic, effective, fascinating film by Director Oliver Stone about the Bush years with Josh Brolin as Geo.W .Richard Dreyfus’ depiction of Dick Cheney speaks volumes....Don’t miss this one...Academy Award potential. I managed to catch the final performance at the MAGIC THEATER of THE K OF D...An Urban Legend, with Maya Lawson..a young girl who embodies the entire population of a small town to spin the story of young Charlotte McGrew and the summer that inexplicably changed her life. This lone performer plays 18 characters and does it with great panache...an exceptionally talented performance that drew sustained applause. Coming up in November is a new play, EVIE’S Waltz by Carter W. Lewis and directed by Loretta Greco about every parent’s nightmare...their son has been expelled for bringing a gun to school. Call the Magic at 415-441-8822 for dates and performances.

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For the theater buffs out there....ACT is presenting THE QUALITY OF LIFE, written and directed by Jane Anderson, from Oct. 24 to Nov. 23.. The play is described as a daring, star-studded riveting new tour-de-force, exploring hot-button issues of life and death. Starring Laurie Metcalf, Caroline Lagerfelt, JoBeth Williams, Steven Culp and Dennis Boutsikaris. The play explores what happens when a religious Midwestern couple, Bill and DInah, visit free-spirited cousin, Jeannette and her husband in their Northern California home. Both couples confront loss and survival in the face of explosive circumstance. An unforgetable, brave work of heart and humor. The QUALITY OF LIFE was nominated for four 2007 Los Angeles Drama Critics CIrcle Awards. Make sure you check out the two new shows coming to the BERKELEY REPERTORY THEATER...August Wilson’s memorable JOE TURNERS COME AND GONE begins Oct. 31st and ARABIAN NIGHTS, Nov. 13. Info: 510-647-2949.

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P.S. In response to Sara Palin’s contention that she can see Russia from her house... across the Bering Strait in Provideniya Bay, sits the town of Providentiya, and Mayor Dimitri Andropov says he can see Sara Palin in the shower...”And it’s very nice.” More information that needs to be verified...rumor has it JOE THE PLUMBER is being considered for Secretary of Labor.

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A man goes to a shrink and says, “Doctor, my wife is unfaithful to me. Every evening she goes to Larry’s bar and picks up men. In fact, she sleeps with anybody who asks her. I’m going crazy. What do you think I should do? “ “Relax,” says the Doctor. “Take a deep breath and calm down. Now, tell me, exactly, where is Larry’s bar?” ONE NIGHT ONLY,” HOYLE AND HOYLE”...Geoff and Dan...at the NOE VALLEY MINISTRY, 23rd & Sanchez Street Saturday, NOVEMBER !,.8:15 PM. This father and son team are the greatest!!!!

November 08


TO BEGIN...This will inform all and sundry that I am no longer Editor and Publisher of the WEST OF TWIN PEAKS OBSERVER. It’s been a glorious, memorable, unforgettable, significant, outstanding twenty years of interesting people, places and things. Decades go by fast when you’re having fun...and most of it’s been fun and jollification. Sometimes hectic, occasionally frantic...but I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it. I appreciate the wonderful writers and advertisers whom I’ve met along the way. The managing editor, printer, delivery people have all been helpful in getting the paper to you on time with minimal problems...and I appreciate their efforts in sometimes trying times.

I also appreciated the hard work of deceased sales assistant, Billie Lowe and the very-much-alive camaraderie of my friend and sales helper Marjorie Leet Ford. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the paper along with my spirited column, PHYLLIS’ FINDINGS (which I hope to continue writing) and will embrace the new publishers, Alice and Mitch Bull, who’ve renamed the paper WESTSIDE OBSERVER, with the same enthusiasm and devotion you’ve offered me. They’re an energetic team.

We alway appreciate your Letters to the Editor, so please write soon and often, with your pithy comments and remember... VOTE OBAMA!

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California Academy of Sciences

This dazzling, airy new home explores education and entertainment. If you’ve been to the old location of the Academy on Howard Street, you have some idea of what to expect....except, you still don’t. This multi-story rectangle is unbelievably fascinating through out. There’s a 2.5 acre green roof planted with native California species that provides habitat for birds and butterflies. Skylights, sunlight, native plants are just the beginning. A 90 foot diameter dome encases a living rain forest (85 degree temperature and humidity) complete with exotic birds and butterflies. Below ground level is the Steinhart Aquarium with more than 100 tanks filled with fish, reptiles, sharks, amphibians and invertebrates. Underwater views into the Swamp (complete with a rare white alligator, snapping turtles, frogs, snakes and sea turtles) and the Philippine Coral Reef are must sees. The state-of-the-art digital projection system of the Morrison Planetarium immerses visitors in a wraparound visual experience. The guided shows give visitors the sensation of flying through apace.You’ll see scientists at work in their research lab and there’s an unusually creative children’s area. Wait til they see the colony of African penguins! The cost of this monumental project? 334 million or so....worth it? Visit it and see. One especially happy idea is the 800-car underground parking garage...very user friendly!

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It looks like the holiday season will be a bit of downer this year..especially when it comes to high-end merchandise...so-long Prada...welcome Target, Walmart and Goodwill.

Many hospitals have stepped up efforts to encourage regular hand washing by doctors...but what about their clothes? Amid growing concerns about hospital infections and a rise in drug-resistant bacteria, the attire of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers -worn both inside and outside the hospital - is getting more attention. “Bare below the elbows” is what’s being discussed. Doctor ties, white coats, long sleeves and soiled scrubs play in the spread of bacteria. Sooo....if your doctor wears a tie when you’re visiting....get another doctor!

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On the film front, BURN AFTER READING by Ethan and Joel Coen, has some hilarious moments. Brad Pitt (who appears to be having a ball, George Clooney, Frances McDormand and John Malkovitch will keep you in stitches and it’s worth seeing for the hilarious spots.

The Sunday Cinema Club shows films once per month at the Kabuki Theater. It’s at 10 AM (and it’s a bit hard on Sunday to make it) and you never know what the movie is but it’s always a brand new screening. You have to be a member. The current movie was RACHEL GETTING MARRIED directed by Jonathan Demme and starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin and Debra Winger. It concerns the wedding of a Jewish girl from a dysfunctional family with a long history of personal crisis, family conflict and tragedy to an African American man. Compelling people, stellar acting, perceptive portrait...most of the audience could relate, but the accolades were mixed...OK film, but too long, unnecessary noise and music. It’s a 5 or maybe 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. To be a member of the Sunday Cinema Club (part of Sundance Kabuki Cinemas) write to POB 29156 in LA, 90029 or call 1-888-467-0404 for information on joining. The next film is on October 12 and there’s a discussion after each film.

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Two young men up from Minnesota were looking at a Sears catalog and admiring some models.

Ole says to Sven, “have you seen the beautiful girls in this catalog?” Svan replies, “Yes, they’re very beautiful and look at the price!” Ole looks with wide eyes, “Wow, they aren’t very expensive. At this price I’m buying one.”

Sven smiles and pats him on the back, “good decision, order one and if she’s as beautiful as she is in the catalog, I’ll get one too.”

Three weeks later, Sven asks Ole “Did you ever receive the girl ordered from the Sears catalog?”

Ole replies, “No, but it shouldn’t be long now. I got her clothes yesterday!”


October 2008

I was excited to hear Barack Obama’s dynamic speech last week accepting the Democratic nomination for President..(it cost the Dems 50 million to rent that stadium) .I know I’m preaching to the choir...but that was quite an impressive and historic speech, even though chances are he’ll never be able to achieve ALL he’s promised...we’ll see...it’s a start. What was flabbergasting was McCain’s pick of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate. He’s obviously hoping to energize all the women who loved and voted for Hillary for President. I can’t imagine women who were pro-Hillary, embracing this unknown woman as Republican V.P. They have already said it was an “insulting gesture.” If McCain dies in office, what can Governor Palin, with very limited experience offer the government? She hasn’t been “vetted” (examined...as other potential candidates were) and rumor has she’s being investigated for unknown malfeasance. People have wondered why if he wanted a woman, he didn’t pick EBay’s Meg Whitman, for example, who’s more experienced... and the answer is that Palin is NOT pro-choice and to attract his Conservative base, McCain felt it incumbent upon him to pick a woman (with a bevy of children) who’s against abortion.


The internet had a Media Advisory on August 23rd and it included a McCain Campaign Conference call with Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring and former Secretary State Chairman, Bill Jones to discuss why Obama’s pick of Joe Biden would be bad for California’s economy. It included the remark by Biden, while he was hoping to be nominated as President, that Obama “is not ready for the Presidency.” They opened a phone # to readers to call in and spout their views and opinions. I called the number, added the pass code they requested and they had me speak my mind which included my erstwhile opinion that a “72 year old forgetful man with a violent temper who abused and cheated on Carol, his first wife, was hardly a role model.” I further suggested that it might not be wise to put such an intense man in a position with his finger on a button in such a powerful position. I further added a bit about his cursing Cindy, his current wife, with reporters present. At which point the moderator told the operator to cease my call and to continue to the next caller. They asked for my name at the beginning of the calling session, so who knows what could happen next? I may just be on the RNC list of noxious callers and banned forever from stating my provocative remarks...Tyranny will out! God Bless America!

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I’ve read that although fewer and fewer aspiring doctors are choosing “Geriatrics” as a profession, reports have it that the Geriatric physicians are happy with their specialty. Young residents deem it “depressing.” Wall Street Journal recently had an article on people and their biases. Apparently, there’s not too much bias these days towards blacks and gays as formerly....the predominant bias that persists today is “ageism.” Even “old” people are biased against the”old.” Now that’s depressing.

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Atkins diets are still in vogue, apparently. People are said to lose more weight on it than on any of the other popular diets. That’s all carnivorous me had to hear, I headed straight for the nearest charcuterie and bought a pound of boneless rib...(methinks a good place for boneless rib or any steak is still MOLLIE STONE’s) although didn’t eat it all at once. However, neither was it the size of a deck of cards, as the diet gurus recommend...it was quite thin cut, so if I stacked it, it might be the size of a deck of cards, but spread out it probably resembled a royal flush...(of cards.) The other alternative to weight loss is Bariatric surgery which is getting more popular day by day...not quite as popular as ATKINS...but if you need to lose a great deal of weight... check it out.

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In the Entertainment Arena...lots of goodies abound. If you like Woody Allen films, VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA is your cup of tea. Seductive, delightful, funny with Penelope Cruz, Scarlette Johansson,Javier Bardem and lots of other sexy, handsome people....set in lovely Barcelona, luminously photographed, and directed by Woody, it’s totally enjoyable. At the Stonestown Cinema, an attractive, remodeled variation of the old mystery train trip movies...TRANSSIBERIAN has Ben Kingsley and Woody Harrelson in an exciting film with glowering foreigners, erotic intrigues,conspiracies, duplicity...some excessive violence (R rated) but it’s definitely worth seeing. Opening at the Berkely Rep is YELLOW JACKET and at ACT Tom Stoppard’s ROCK AND ROLL (directed by Carey Perloff and running through October 12. (NY Times calls it “Stoppard’s ‘finest’) I’ll keep you posted.

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NEW YORK IS STILL WHERE IT’S AT... A few tips if you’re heading to NYC anytime soon...Patti LuPone is sensational in GYPSY..a Tony Winner; and make sure to see the 2008 Pulitzer Prize drama AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, by Tracy Letts. It’s not-to-be missed if you enjoy REAL drama. ( it helps to sit in the orchestra.) Unbelievable 80 year old Estelle Parsons has the lead (Violet) and she only has a 6 month contract...so better hurry. It’s said to be coming to SF but right now it’s at the Music Box Theater on 45th Street in NY and worth a trip. Also reportedly the play is being adapted for a film.

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I can’t speak highly enough about the new NEWSEUM in Washington, D.C. There are 14 main galleries, 15 theaters and it’s an opportunity to explore the history of news and meet the men and women of the mediat who report it .In the NBC News Intereactive Newsroom you can shoot photosof a dramatic river rescue or email your friends a video of your turn as a TV reporter. You’ll find a Pulitzer Prize Photographic Gallery with stories that experience the sadness and artisty of the world’s greatest news photographs and then in the Berlin War Gallery you’ll see 83 ton sections of the graffiti-covered concrete barriers..one of the largest displays outside Germany. There are so many fascinating, unique things to see at the NEWSEUM, you’ll wish you could stay for days. And you’ll enjoy it even if you never pick up a newspaper.

Sept. 2008


Ladies...have you been to SEX AND THE CITY? Go, you’ll love it! Smart, sexy, funny, clothes to die for! Mick LaSalle of the Chron agrees. The NY Times and New Yorker disagreed. But what do they know?
A few shows that are worth your attention: The Eureka Theater has ended its delightful run of Cole Porter’s OUT OF THIS WORLD but will begin its new season on September 27th with IRMA La DOUCE. The 42nd Street Moon on Jackson Street usually shows old musicals that at their time were not necessarily block-busters, but, as performed at the Eureka, are always lively and exuberant. They’re usually presented as staged concerts with stellar casts. Call 255-8207 for information on their upcoming season.


Included in the 2008-2009 season at Eureka is Gershwin’s GIRL CRAZY, BEN FRANKLIN IN PARIS; the BAKER’s WIFE and WILDCAT.
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“What good is sitting alone in your room, come hear the music play!”” Come to the CABARET, my friend”...while it’s at the S.F. PLAYHOUSE through September 30th. This legendary landmark musical turns Weimar Berlin of 1931 into a dark and sexually charged haven of decadence where its extraordinary and morally ambiguous inhabitants are determined to keep up appearances as the real world-outside the comfortable sanctuary of the cabaret-prepares for the nightmarish chaos of war. Sally Bowles performs nightly at the infamous Kit-Kat club...and she’s a wonder to see. The musical was turned into an eight-time Oscar-winning movie starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. Don’t miss the decadence! Music is by John Kander and direction is by Bill English. You’ll love it!
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I was fortunate recently to see Jeff Greenwald, a prolific traveler and writer, recently at the Marsh on Valencia Street, regale us with his “Strange Travel Suggestions.” Jeff explains the difference between a tourist (which most of us are) and a traveler, who explores unusual towns, villages and countries in a myriad of ways.He tells riveting stories of his visits to Iran, India, Nepal and other places that most of us have never been to. He begins his stories by having audience members spin a wheel covered with hieroglyphic-like symbols for 30 topics until they land on stops that trigger an improvised and usually hilarious monologue culled from a lifetime of trotting the globe. He’s an accomplished stage performer and suggested that the rest of us can learn from his storytelling techniques.”People generally want to hear travel stories if there’s something they can identify with - an episode( a stolen passport or transportation nightmare...or food poisoning.”) There should be a beginning, a middle an end as opposed to an anecdote.There’s a setup, a situation and a resolution .Kind of like telling a joke, in that timing is almost as important as content.The only other monologist I enjoyed as much as Jeff Greenwald was the legendary and neurotic New Yorker, the late Spalding Gray. Also born in New York City, Jeff is the consummate story-teller and while you may have missed him this time at the Marsh..I’m sure he’ll be back again, and his many travel books are available through Amazon.
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Act’s latest...and final for the season, is “TIS PITY SHE’S a WHORE.” It rages with enough, blood, lust and retribution to make any dictator look like a saint. Siblings have sex, poison flows, a sweet old lady forfeits her eyes to the sharp end of a poker...and strangely enough, I thought this heavy show was quite interesting. The plot follows the disastrous fallout of an illicit sexual union between a wealthy Italian citizen’s son and daughter..(played by Rene Augesen and Michael Hayden).What follows leads to pregnancy and the mother-to-be reluctantly marries a rakish nobleman(played by Michael Earle Fajardo). Written in the 17th Century by John Ford and directed by Carey Perloff, this theatrical and ferocious dramaturgy takes place in Parma, Italy and is best seen by those stout of spirit. The large and animated ensemble worked very hard and afterwards at the cast party, Rene (Annabella..the sister) said that “every morning when I get up, I feel as though a roller coaster has gone over me.” See it...it’s worth your time.

 

We were all given small buttons that said “WHORE” on them....”Tis Pity.” Get there before July 6.

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I’ve been on a diet since I was born. Pablum, Mother’s milk, Heinz baby food was alright for a while but then came fattening stuff. No one spoke about the need for exercise. Up and down on the seesaw was supposed to be enough for a kid...a tricycle helped a bit...but so it went. I never realized then that losing weight was a lifetime effort if you didn’t have “skinny” genes. So I was able to commiserate when I read the drama following the 2004 dismissal of the soprano Deborah Voigt from a production of Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos” at the Royal Opera house in Covent Garden, London. The story had many elements of the work itself: an opera within an opera that blends comic and tragic aspects and caricatures the lofty ideals of high art. Ms. Voigt’s dismissal, because she was too large to wear the cocktail dress stipulated by the director or adhere to his staging concepts, prompted an avalanche of international interest that ranged from buffa laughs about fat ladies singing to ponderous editorials about the meaning of “sacred art” versus Hollywood ideals of beauty.


In the end, as in “Ariadne,” the little-black-dress saga also became a story of transformation:in Ms.Voigt’s case, a verr literal one. After gastric bypass surgery in 2004 and considerable weight loss, a much slimmer and more agile Ms. Voigt was re-engaged by the Royal Opera to sing the title role in the second revival of Christof Loy’s production.


One day on the television screen was an ad for LAP BAND SURGERY...sounded less ominous and involved than BY-PASS SURGERY..so I figured, “why-not?” A phone call later, I got the sad news...I was asked my height and weight and other essentials and the distressing news followed...you have to be OVER 100 lbs. to be eligible...lap-band OR by-pass.Back to the treadmill, the weight machines, the NutriSystem diet...maybe ALLI... one day maybe BAY TO BREAKERS...and while I never planned to be a Diva at the Royal Opera, a lap-band operation sounded real easy...so, anyway, thank heaven for pantsuits...the late, great fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent made them fashionable for stylistic fittings and wearings for the “zoftics” among us! Chic and acceptable everywhere.....ask Hillary!
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OH MY GODMOTHER! is one of the most adorable musicals you’ve seen in a long time. It’s a campy, toe-tapping take on the classic Cinderella tale, but with a fabulous San Francisco twist! The outrageous award-winning original production sold out every performance. It will play Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. It’s written and directed by Ron Lytle. Originally produced at a staged reading of it at the Attarena Playhouse in Alameda.Ca. the response was overwhelming and the production went on to win six Dean Goodman Choice Awards. It may join Beach Blanket Babylon as a San Francisco theatrical icon and it would not be surprising to see this show reach Broadway. To purchase tickets, call Brett Conner at 415-867-3911 at the Zeum Theater. A fun play for all!
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Take a minute to go to Taraval Street Rag YouTube Video since we seldom see this part of San Francisco celebrated in any way. Go to the www.youtube.com and type in Taraval Street Rag and enjoy!

 

July August 2008


 

The story of the 55,000 dead in the Chinese earthquake is sickening. There are five million homeless people, most of them poor laborers who represent the muscle behind China’s economic boom. Most of them come from poor remote villages and spend months or years separated from their children, who are often left behind in the care of their grandparents or other relatives. It was China’s biggest quake in 3 decades and the worksite was full of laborers from Sichuan province...the construction site in suburban Bejing came to a standstill. The sad story continues that the male/female ratio in the home village is three-quarters men.They say women find it easier to get jobs in the city and this is a serious problem all across rural China, and it leaves men of a marrying age with very few options alone and frequently destitute.


In a moment of unusual levity, the story was recounted of a man in a village who last year took the step of actually buying a bride, because of the women shortage. He paid almost $3,000, a huge sum, representing a half-decade of farm income...only to have his wife run away with the money soon after.


All of China has offered to adopt the many homeless children but there are many problems in connection with this and there are also numerous offers of adoption from Americans but this is an even more insurmountable problem. Apparently, China refuses to allow American adoptions if the American is single, or obese or has any emotional problems.And because of the prevalence of the one-child rule in China, and the abortion of female fetuses, there are only boys available..but that’s another story.
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I was happy to hear that the 400+ Polygamous children in Texas are being sent home. Something is wrong with a state that would separate young children from their parents...especially since there’s scant evidence of wrong doing. According to one of the Mothers, when asked why she’s willing to allow her husband to have several wives...she responded that “there’s a shortage of men!” .Makes sense to me!
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And did you hear about that lost parrot in Japan that was taken to a vet and was able to recite his name and address so he could go home ...and in the interim, he sang songs to amuse his finders.
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ON THE ENTERTAINMENT FRONT: Alfred Hitchcock (who died in 1980) once said. “For me the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.” Occasionally I hear someone say that they rarely (if ever) go to the movies.. I believe there’s something missing in their lives but they don’t know it. It reminds me of the people who say, usually with an air of superiority or snobbishness.”I never watch television!”


I usually try to check reviews before I’ll see a film myself and there were 2 excellent movies at the Stonestown Cinema recently. “FLAWLESS” is a hilarious French comedy which is currently at the Opera Plaza and “YOUNG AT HEART”, an uplifting story about a group of singing seniors who perform in shows around the world is now playing at the Four Star Theater. Both worth a visit.
Theater-wise, try to get to the SF Playhouse for “ BUG”...Read Annette Lust’s column which will fill you in on this delightful play. “NO CHILD” at the Berkeley Rep has been held over...this one woman show is written and performed by Nilaja Sun and opened to enormous acclaim. A drama entitled “THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL OF GEORGE W. BUSH AND RICHARD B.CHENEY” had a short 3 weekend run but was fascinating. The audience was the Congress and we watched transfixed as the apparently incontrovertible evidence of Bush and Cheneys’ guilt piles up from witness after impassioned witness.The excellent actors played Bush, Cheney, George Tenet, Rumsfeld, Valerie Plame, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the ignominious crowd... intriguing theater.. Hopefully, it will play far and wide. On July 11th, “TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE” begins its run at ACT. This should be a knockout production!
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We have a new client...an Electrical Contractor..if you need any electrical work done, let Jim Frost come to your home or business...he brings his talented son, Josh, along and together they’ll take care of your electrical problems at reasonable rates. He’s at 626-7210 in San Francisco.

June 2008

 


 

 

LESS IS MORE!

 

I recently saw a button that said, "If you had it all, where would you put it?"  Now that would definitely be a problem. Even in a large house there's a point of no return.

 

Many years ago the slogan "Less is More" was popular.  I could never really understand that "Less" is NOT "more."   "More" is "More."

 

Mother always said, "Never throw anything away.  It will always come back."  But how long must one wait?  Even if a peplum skirt becomes the rage again, the odds are you will have outgrown it.  In my last life I used to square dance (back in Connecticut.)  There were lace "pettie" pants that you wore under your colorful soaring skirts...for some reason, it's still in my drawer. Remembrance of things past? Yearning for what was?  Of what use can I put white lacy knee length underpants that are still in good condition?  Any square dancers out there who want to inherit them? Put them on EBAY?  Remember snoods, harlequin glasses (Dame Edna-type) and bell-bottom trousers?  The trousers have come back or at least they're now called "over- the-shoe denims" for the local guys who think it's "hip." Women can also now buy pants that are "slim", "normal" or "wide-bottom"  Too many choices...Saddle shoes have come back a bit and maybe even girdles and all-in-ones...with different names..."stretchees", 'flexees"and "tummy controllers." Any way your look at it, bulging bellies are definitely out!

 

Some years back, Philip Roth wrote "Letting Go," in which he describes the frenetic contest between one's sympathies for others and one's instinct for self-protection. Only at the end of the novel are we able to see the hero "letting go" and plunging headlong into the confusion of human life.  Most people "hang on" too long and are dreadfully fearful of letting go.  That goes for more than just old clothes.  It also concerns outmoded attitudes and ideas...and papers...there' s just no end to the paper wars.

 

Several years ago in an attempt to attack the paper wars, I hired an Organization Maven,  who showed me how to file, organize papers, throw out stuff and generally simplify my life.  Now I know I could and should, do this on my own, but didn't I need someone to show me the how, what and where to put things and which things to discard?  And I discovered that, yes, less IS absolutely More.  Things are easier to find because there aren't so many of them.  I'm able to perform tasks more efficiently and able to make the most of my time....most of the time. I'll never miss that polka dot dress is which was two sizes too small.  I also try to pay attention to William James' adage, "the art of being wise is knowing what to overlook." There are very few documents that can't be retrieved from the original source, if absolutely necessary.

 

All that stuff you file, how much of it do you ever go back to?  That doesn't mean that a cluttered desk for me is totally a thing of the past...not in this business...but it's fixable whenever I've a spare minute and if worse comes to worse and I can't handle it myself, there's always an Organization Maven to call upon.  Remember, Mother doesn't always know best.  Now what about those lace square dance pants??

 

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Once called “The Pink Palace” and later, the Scott Street Residence Club which included 23 guest rooms, the current 2008 Decorator Showcase at 2820 Scott Street is a place fit for visiting royalty. When the visitor steps into the inlaid marble floored reception hall of this elegant Italianate-style mansion, the eye is immediately drawn to its gorgeous architectural details: the carved and painted ceiling, the elaborate wrought iron railings surrounding the majestic staircase, above which arches a multi colored Tiffany skylight, and the intricately tiled fountain. It is surprising to discover that several hundred people have lived here at various times. Of course, every house has a story, but this house seems to have more than its share of legend and mystery, including a connection to European royalty. Many residents may have come and gone, but its gracious dignity has endured for over a century. A must see for all ... the San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2008 sponsored by the Financial Aid program of the San Francisco University High School is open through May 26 at 2820 Scott Street. General Admission is $30; Seniors $25. Information at (415)447-5830 . www.decoratorshowcase.org
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There are a few good films out there. The COUNTERFEITERS is at the Stonestown Cinema. This is a true story of Salomon Sorowitsch, counterfeiter extraordiinaire and bohemian. After getting arrested in a German concentration camp in 1944 he agrees to help the Nazis in an organized counterfeit operation set up to help finance the war effort.
It was the biggest counterfeit money scam of all time. Professional printers, fastidious bank officials and simple craftsmen all became members of the top secret counterfeiter commando. If they cooperated with the enemy, they had a chance to survive, as first-class prisoners in a “golden cage” with enough to eat and bed to sleep in. If they sabotaged the operation, a sure death awaited them.
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NIM’S ISLAND with twelve year old Abigal Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Jody Foster will appeal to the entire family...both adults and children... and concerns a girl stranded on a tropical island with her father and some pelicans and sea lions. It’s a fun and exhilarating
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Next time you’re on West Portal, visit ROTI Indian Bistro for the best Indian food you’ve ever tasted. Open for both lunch and dinner with very reasonable prices, you’ll find delicious mouth-watering Indian delicacies. Interesting Naan, Kulcha, and rice dishes plus a lot more...all worth savoring.
On my last visit to Roti, i enjoyed a savory chicken dish in a delicate cream sauce (Tikka Masalla) and a tasty yogurt drink, Mango Lassi.
My vegan companion loved the Aloo Gobi dish...spicy and satisfying. Try their wonderful curries.

 

May 2008

 


 

APRIL 2008

Considering all the hoopla about the Presidential candidates ... I thought you might be interested in some information about some of our past presidents:

Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President saved 77 people from drowning as a lifeguard in his youth at a riverside beach near Illinois.

 

20th President, John Garfield could write Greek with one hand while writing Latin with the other.

Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, carried letters, bills, and notes in his notorious black top hat.

First President George Washington rejected a movement among army officers to make him a King of the United States.

 

William Taft, our 27th President, weighted more than 300 lbs. and had a special oversized bathtub installed in the White House.

 

Gerald Ford, our 38th President turned down an offer to play professional football with the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.

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Here are some opinions about the candidates from a local blog:

“I prefer Clinton because she has become the candidate of both women and working people (now that Edwards is out.)

Obama represents a coalition of subversive liberals and black people...white women and beer vs. red wine and malt liquor. But looking forward to the general election, it is urgent that a Democratic candidate be someone who can mop the floor with McCain. McCain’s liabilities:

a) He’s no debater.  He could barely out-debate a Mitt like Mitt Romney.

b) He has or is being forced into indefinable positions.

c)  He’s unlikeable.   

Clinton’s liabilities: 

a) She’s not as good a speaker as Obama.

b) She has a longer record and more to defend than Obama.

c) She’s less likable than Obama.

It would be frustrating beyond bearing if the Democrats, facing an unpopular President, an unpopular war, a failing economy and weak Republican candidate, should still manage to lose the election.

Mario Como has suggested that the two Democrats should join forces...continue the debating and the winner becomes the President and the loser agrees to become Vice President. I feel it’s probably too much to ask, with the egotistical mindset of both candidates, but it’s an idea that merits consideration for those who want to guarantee a McCain loss.

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ENTERTAINMENT: A.C.T.’s latest...Nikolai Gogol’s GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR plays out in a tiny Russian town, where the local government cronies are falling all over themselves to bribe the visiting official with money, women, and whatever else he wants. One part political parody, one part “Waiting for Guttman,” The Government Inspector is packed with sizzling scandal, local favor, and politicians behaving very, very badly.  The play was first produced in Russia in 1836, and was thought to be a realistic satire on governmental corruption, but the satire bit too deeply and, despite the czar’s endorsement, the play was viciously attacked by the reactionary press and officialdom. Gogol, already broken in health, left Russia again, complaining that his work was universally misunderstood.

Beautifully directed by Carey Perloff, translated and adapted by Alistair Beaton, with a stellar cast that includes my four favorites, Geoff Hoyle, Sharon Lockwood, Joan Mankin and Graham Beckel...this is one you’ll enjoy. It didn’t hurt that Opening Nighters were each served some Russian Vodka at intermission!

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Over at the BERKELEY REP, for another few weeks, at their Roda Theater, you can still catch the indomitable Carey Fisher in her hilarious “Wishful Drinking.”  A hilarious one-woman show which I wrote about last month is certainly worth seeing if you get there in time.

At the Main Stage, Will Eno’s TRAGEDY, directed by Les Waters is playing until April 13th.The cast of five is competent, and the TRAGEDY is called a “comedy” but it reminded me a bit of an existential Becket...with no intermission.

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  The 51st SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL  will feature a broad mix of local, domestic and international films, with a particularly strong slate of documentaries and a few big name honorees --including director Mike Leigh, screenwriter Robert Towne, Actress Maria Bello and documentarian Errol Morris.  The festival begins April 24 with a screening of Catherine Breillat’s “The Last Mistress.”

     At a press conference last Tuesday, organizers also announced a partnership with the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, which will allow the San Francisco Film Society to program one of the renovated San Francisco art house’s theaters year-round. And the magazine Vanity Fair is a new sponsor of the festival and will host this year’s closing-night screening of “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson,” a documentary about the onetime Bay Area journalist.

With 105 films or programs, the dates are April 24 to May 8 and showings will be at the Castro Theater, Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, Landmark’s Clay Theater and other venues. For tickets, call  (925) 866- 9559.  For the full schedule and show times, go to sffs.org.

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A brief note...if you’re looking for some good films to see BEFORE the film festival, check out STOP-LOSS (about the Iraq war), THE BAND’S VISIT, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, UNDER THE SAME MOON. All worthwhile viewing.

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A woman goes to the fortune teller and has her palm read, “your husband will die a violent death.” She says, “will I be acquitted?”

 

April 2008


 

MARCH 2008

 

In 1957 actress Joan Crawford said “I think the most important thing a woman can have - next to talent, of course—is her hairdresser.” She was right...even over fifty years later. I found this out a few weeks ago when I decided what I needed was some highlights in my hair. I decided to visit DePietro Todd’s School of Hairdressing on Post Street...highly recommended by a friend. Oy vay! There was a bevy of patrons, students, and supervisors. I was sent to a young man who said he’d been there for 8 months...but he seemed confident and I was confident (why, I don’t know) that he knew what he was doing. He said at the moment they were doing cuts..”. is that okay?” I figured a trim would be fine as my hair was a bit longish at the moment...assuming that it would be followed by a beautiful frosting. He began cutting around and about and above the forehead and in back of the ears and below the nape while I watched in trepidation...what was he doing? It took an hour and a half of what seemed like “cut and paste” to make me look like a chrysanthemum. A mohel could not have done a worse job. A supervisor came over and only commented that he had forgotten to cut a loose strand. My tresses were no more. He followed the horror with some blown heat from a dryer and was finished. I should have punched him then and there. But I didn’t. I was sufficiently distraught to go through a red light on the way home which is another story entirely for another time.

Phyllis in Spanish Hat
Fortunately, I have an assortment of caps, berets, scarfs to hide the hideous result. It’s now a month later and Michael, at Alexander Collections on West Portal, who sells vintage clothing decided to dress me up in some of his wigs and hats....you can see the results. Menander, a Greek playwright in 291 B.C. remarked “a chaste woman ought not to die her hair yellow.”


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I was invited to tour the construction of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center recently and was reasonably impressed with all that’s going on there. After donning heavy boots, a hard hat, an orange vest and sloshing through the mud I observed scores of busy hard hatted workers installing lots of windows. The installation of the interior wall framing continues in the Link and South Residence Buildings and the mechanical, electric and plumbing installation is also under way. It’s beginning to look like a hospital despite the various delays. Furniture, fixtures and equipment consultants’ contract has been approved and together with the replacement team, they will purchase the new equipment necessary. They are hoping to open the doors to the new building in late 2009. If you wish to learn more about the Hospital and Replacement Program, there will be COMMUNITY MEETINGS at the Hat with long brimLaguna Honda Hospital Main Library on Wednesday, May 14, 7:00 p.m.(Construction tour starts at 5:45 p.m.) Again on Wednesday Sept. 24, 7:00 p.m. (Construction tour starts at 5:45 p.m.) and then on Wednesday, November 12 at 7:00 p.m. To schedule a construction site tour, call Arla Escontrias, Director of Community Affairs (415) 759-4597.


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One of the most amusing shows you’ll see for a while is the hilarious WISHFUL DRINKING with the sparkling, solo performance of Carrie Fisher(who was assisted by director Tony Taccone in reworking the premiere version of the show done in LA 2 years ago). Carrie is the..daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher and both parents were at the opening night performance...along with George Lucas(Star Wars) who came with his daughter. Carrie has had small roles in some good films(e.g. Hannah and Her Sisters) but we don’t hear much about her. Her writing is very funny. She’s nimble with language and has a vivid imagination and also totally delivers on the juicy details of what rich and famous people are really like. Her first novel was POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, which won her a L.A. Pen Award for Best Novel in 1987. (The film version starred Meryl Streep) She tells you about her bipolar disorder, what it’s like to have Elizabeth Taylor briefly as a step-mother, how after her Dad’s 4th marriage to an Asian lady he continued his series of face-lifts til he finally looked Asian himself. You’ll hear about Mike and Liza Todd, Karl Marx, Richard Burton, Richard Wilding and an assortment of other overdosed celebrities involved in Carrie’s life. I saw Eddie Fisher after the show in a wheelchair. He seems quite frail but quite affable and talkative. He said he was 79, had 4 marriages, and I asked if he wanted to make it five. He smiled and said he lives in Nob Hill. (Was that a hint to contact him?)


There are some terrific films out there at the moment. THERE WILL BE BLOOD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, as well as JUNO are all worth seeing...as is THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY. My most recent viewing was THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL which was surprisingly enjoyable. It tells the salacious story of two hot blue bloods who ran amok and partly unclothed in the court of Henry VIII. Best known for losing her head to the king, first metaphorically, then literally, Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman, saucy), along with her sister, Mary (Scarlett Johansson, sedate) entered the court of the king (Eric Bana, brooding and glowering) when he was still wed to Catherine of Aragon (Ana Torrent- a talented Spanish actress).) A man of considerable and changeable appetites, the king yearned for a male heir and anything in a frock who wasn’t the queen. His sexual wish was their command. Bodice-ripping entertainment ensues...also galloping horses, rolling heads, bustling gowns and rampaging royals. There’s lots of frenetic action, wordless gestures and poses, but ultimately, it’s a fun ride!


Antol Fugard’s BLOOD KNOT is currently showing at ACT...where the two man show is performing to standing ovations. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright with original music composed and recorded by Tracy Chapman, you can catch it before March 9th. Call 749-2ACT.


Over at Theater 39, at Pier 39, is INSIGNIFICANT OTHERS...an “Only in San Francisco Musical” that is playing with an extended Open Run. It concerns a group of young people who move to San Francisco and the fun and foibles that ensue.Read more about it in Annette Lust’s theater column.


For tickets call 415-433-3939....an ideal show for you and your out-of-town visitors. Ken Valencia, manager of the FOG HARBOR FISH HOUSE at Pier 39 hosted a delectable outstanding buffet for the opening night visitors.

 

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A few months ago, SF Chronicle’s Michael Bauer reviewed a restaurant at 1708 Church St...PESCHERIA...The owners subsequently had it reprinted in the Chronicle’s magazine section. Sounded great so we decide to try it. The bread served at the start came with a dish of olive oil that tasted exceptionally strange.

 

Different restaurants add various spices but this was like nothing I’d ever tried before. We returned it and asked for butter. The subsequent entrees of fish were OK, but they were the size of a deck of cards with no accompaniments....and were $25 and $27 each...somewhat excessive we thought for such skimpy seafood. Michael Bauer called it possibly the best casual seafood haunt in the Bay Area. Maybe they knew he was coming!


Thinking about the election? I don’t think I’ve missed any of the debates and while I’d probably be happy with either of the Democratic nominees, I’m leaning towards Obama. He’s bright, articulate, knowledgeable, charismatic and hopefully the primary winner should be determined in a week or so. If not, there’s trouble in River City! I anticipate John Edwards will endorse him sooner or later, as it is said he hopes to become Attorney General (or so the scuttlebut goes). The big problem will be defeating McCain. I thought it would be easy, finally eliminating the Republican party in power, but apparently there are more headaches than meets the eye.


McCain is a war hero and the macho Republicans are overlooking his nasty temper and the fact that he punches people when he doesn’t like them. I think his age is also against him. It will be interesting to see what happens in the months to come.


READERS...a short suggestion: Very soon you’ll be getting “free” money from the government. They’re hoping you’ll spend it like crazy to help avert further recession, problems..fool them....pay down your credit card debt and save the rest. Good advice from Susie Orman.

 

March 2008

 



 

February 2008

 

While I sympathize with the striking writers who are attempting to deal with the penurious higher-ups who don’t want to give them a living wage­—looks like the strike will finally be over shortly, I can’t say that I missed their work on the usual sitcoms. Many of the sitcoms are amusing but if you don’t watch them (with or without their writers) you haven’t missed much. SEINFELD and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND were the exceptions. The few programs I watch lately are Bill Maher on HBO, Jay Leno on Channels 3 or 11, occasionally The View and/or the Ellen DeGeneres show. I’m tuned mostly to CNN during the debate season and was enthralled with the goings-on of the Clintons and Obama recently. I was all in favor of a woman President until I read Obama’s book and heard him speak. I hear he has a brilliant 28 year old speech writer (obviously not on strike!) I haven’t sent in an absentee ballot but right now I’m leaning toward him. As of this writing, John Edwards has dropped out and chances are it will shortly be announced that he’ll give his votes to Obama—they’re good friends. And, in an Obama presidency, he’s vying for a position as Attorney General. What everyone is waiting for is who is Al Gore going to back? Al Gore once said he wouldn’t mind running again if he was SURE he’d win. It’s one horrendous job and while McCain has a lot going for him, I think his age and his “Republicanism” will doom him.

 

moving sting rays at aquarium


I heard from one of the CNN announcers that before the President’s State of the Union address, George Bush whispered to Nancy Pelosi, “Sorry, I tried with the Immigration stuff.” She responded, “Poor Baby.”

Just read that Madeline Albright who’s an avid supporter of Hillary said “There’s must be a special place in hell for women who won’t vote for another woman!” A few of the blurbs on the internet are referring to Bill’s wife with a first name of “Bruno.” I hear that the campaign workers for Guiliani and the other nominees who quit, are going home depressed and disheartened. That’s why I’ve decided not to run for anything. I hate sad endings.
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Some weeks ago the press was invited to visit the CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCE on Howard Street before the GREAT MIGRATION. They’ve been constructing a dynamic new facility in Golden Gate Park. The new Academy will combine innovative green architecture with inventive exhibitions to inspire its visitors to explore and protect the natural world. The new Academy will house Steinhart Aquarium, Morrison Planetarium, and the Kimball Natural History Museum. On January 7 the massive move began transporting millions of priceless treasures across the city into their new home in Golden Gate Park. The monumental move includes penguins, parrots, pythons, butterfly collectionpiranhas and thousands of other live aquarium animals. The move will take approximately eight months. Participants will range from two million fish specimens stored in jars of alcohol (including some species that are now extinct) to Methuselah, the Australian lungfish — the oldest living fish in captivity. There are 14.5 million insects and arachnids, including more than 874,789 flies, bugs, beetles, butterflies, and moths. You’ll find precious gems, meteorites that are billions of years old, 12th Century Persian ceramics, Native Alaskan kayaks,500 Japanese folk toys. Didn’t you always want to see hoppers, slitherers and crawlers? There are more than a quarter of a million reptiles from 166 countries including the largest collection from the Galapagos.

There will be a new Auditorium, an expanded early childhood education center and a new hands-on Naturalist Center staffed by education specialists with labs and classrooms.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until September to enjoy your visit — but it will be worth it. 100,000 square feet to explore — at a cost of approximately $484 million. WOW! There will probably be a Grand Opening that will be announced in the newspapers.
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ALICE’S HOUSE is just what a director’s first film should be – full of both flaws and promise. Several things are wonderful about the movie, foremost among them the luminous lead, Carla Ribas. She gives us a Brazilian reprise of Ann Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson, a compellingly sexually attractive woman of 40-something. The other actors are equally well-cast, well-directed, and persuasive. The writing and filming give us what seems an authentic feel of the daily life of ordinary people in Brazil.

Sadly the editing, and filming are not of the same quality as the casting and acting. The story, a tale of the decay and collapse of a dysfunctional family, may also be a metaphor of Brazilian society. But it is presented as one damned thing after another, with no development of any of the themes or issues raised, like a soap opera, which it eventually comes to resemble. The filming starts with closeup face shots, stays with closeup face shots, and ends with them. When they are shots of Carla Ribas it is hard to object but one soon says, “Enough already!”

Another difficulty is that most of the men are seen as mindless S.O.Bs while most of the women are seen sympathetically though all are equally adulterous and self-seeking. Another reviewer said that if the movie had been made by a woman it would have been dismissed as “shrill”. But political correctness is tedious no matter who the perpetrator is.

Alice’s House shows the downside of making movies with a miniscule budget – the second tier semi-technical people like editors, cinematographers, lighting people, were just not up to the level of the actors and director. For Chico Texeira to have done this good a film with so little support makes me look forward to his next film, which presumably will have more. And if Carla Ribas is reading this, please call me.

The David Mamet play, SPEED-THE-PLOW with a cast of three, Matthew Del Negro, Andrew Polk and Jessi Campbell was terrific Hollywood satire at ACT. If you missed it and you’re a Mamet fan, you can go to New York and see Mamet’s latest hit, NOVEMBER with Nathan Lane, directed by Joe Mantello at the Barrymore Theater. Purported to be “A Laugh Machine.” Through February 16, at ACT you can enjoy the world-premiere of BRAINPEOPLE directed by Jose Rivera at the Zeum Theater and on Wednesday, February 13, ACT will have BLOOD KNOT as their latest offering on Geary St. CURVY WIDOW also sounds like a must-see comedy about a middle-age widow’s misadventures in online dating. Starring Cybill Shepherd, the show is playing through March 9th at the POST STREET THEATER.

Also recommended highly is THE SCENE at the San Francisco Playhouse on Sutter Street. Theresa Rebeck’s The Scene, a thoroughly modern, sharply-written black comedy, was the scene-stealer at the 2006 Humana Theater Festival in Louisville. It is full of people in “the scene,” on “the scene,” and desperate for “the scene.” If you have ever done something despite your better judgment, maybe chose to follow the crowd instead of following your gut, then you will understand Charlie, the provocative and complex protagonist in this fierce, edgy, raw, and scathing new comedy. West Coast Premiere! Bill English and his highly creative crew can do no wrong.

 

February 2008

 


 

December 2007 -January 2008

 

Lots of bits and pieces to report ... Craigslist is one of the best things that ever happened in the Bay Area. (And the rest of the world.) I recently got a brochure from the Diamond Certified Directory ... actually they sent me three for April! In it they list everyone from Auto Body people to Window Contractors. I don’t know what the advertisers in there pay for the listings, but it must be pretty hefty because when I called one of the plumbers in there he also quoted a very high rate to do the work. When you need a handyman or any other service person, check out craigslist.org and you’ll have a great variety of options.

It’s also useful and lots of fun if you’re single and looking for a date or a companion or a lover or whatever or whomever. Reading the guys and gals available is fascinating. I thought that seeking a mate this way was a comparatively new phenomena. However, I recently read that in 1727, Helen Morrison, a lonely spinster, became the first spinster to place a lonely hearts ad. It appeared in the Manchester Weekly Journal. The mayor promptly committed her to a lunatic asylum for nine weeks. We’ve sure come a long way.

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Elderhostel is a travel organization for the “over 55 crowd.” We recently joined a group of 30 who registered for a 5 day Napa Valley excursion. Elderhostel features trips worldwide and you can join train trips, boat trips, bus trips everywhere. A year ago I joined a group in Palm Springs for a film festival. There were a few canceled films and some disappointed movie buffs but generally it was considered a success. ( I especially enjoyed THE FOLLIES where lithe and nubile Seniors danced, cavorted, and otherwise entertained the crowds.) The Follies were NOT part of the Elderhostel experience! Not to digress ... for just under $900 we spent 5 days in the luxurious Embassy Suites Hotel (including 15 meals!) and listened to lectures on Art in Tuscany and the Music of George Gershwin. The art lecture was delivered by a very knowledgeable University Professor but after 2 1/2 hours of learning everything you ever wanted to know about Italian frescoes, we skipped the next day’s lecture on Italian art and took off and drove to Calistoga which is a charming town (although we never partook of any mud baths.) Another day we drove to Sonoma which is lovely with chic shops to peruse ... and spent time at COPIA in the Napa Valley. Copia is a museum that offers speakers on wine, exhibitions of old kitchen utensils, videos of the Napa Valley and a delightful gift shop where you can buy anything you ever (or never) needed related to wine. Downtown Napa has some great outlet shops for the diehard shoppers. Actually, you can take a few delightful days in Napa without an organized tour...only about an hour North. Get with it!



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James GandolfiniROMANCE & CIGARETTES (My movie pick) is a down-and-dirty musical love story. Nick (James Gandolfini) Is a New York Ironworker married to Kitty (Susan Sarandon), a strong but gentle woman who has three grown daughters. He is secretly carrying on a torrid affair with flame-haired Tula (Kate Winslet.) When his wife catches him and Tula wants a commitment, Nick finds himself a prisoner of his primal urges. A good man at heart, he must find his way back to his family before he runs out of chances. The film was a big hit at the Venice Film Festival. If you want to see a trailer, Google Romance & Cigarettes. Written and directed by John Turturro, this is one you won’t want to miss. Landmark Theater.


Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge If you really want to see a fun play during this usual chaotic holiday season...you won’t do any better than viewing this wild, hilarious performance at the San Francisco Playhouse. This zany play turns Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol on its ear, systematically and hilariously deconstructing the turgid holiday rituals that stand in the way of true connections. Director, Joy Carlin, a veteran of Christmas Carols at ACT, brings her vast experience to this affectionate send-up of the Dickens masterpiece .Joan Mankin stars as Mrs. Bob Cratchit and VIctor Talmadge as Scrooge and they join an extensive, accomplished cast in this playful, cracked look at the perennial DIckens Christmas classes about mean Ebenezer Scrooge and his discovering the true meaning of Christmas through the visitation of Three Ghosts.There are also parodies of Oliver Twist, “The Gift of the Magi” and It’s a Wonderful Life. Artistic Director, Bill English and Producing Director Susi Damilano have done it again. The cast is obviously having a great time and so will you. It’s playing through January 12 at 588 Sutter St. 677-9596.

 

December 2007

 


 

NOVEMBER 2007

For the smug, comfortable, well-off Americans, it doesn’t seem to matter how long the war in Iraq goes on—as long as others endure the agony. If the network coverage gets too grim, viewers can always switch to another channel and follow the hilarious antics of Paris, Britney, et al. The war is depressing and denial is the antidote. Why should ordinary citizens consider their role in and responsibility for the thunderous unending carnage? Enough with this introspection. Let’s go to the ballpark, get drunk and boo the Red Sox.

The nation is in deep denial about Iraq. For years the president and his supporting cast of arrogant, bullying characters have tried to put the best face on this war. They had no idea what they were doing when they ordered the invasion of Iraq, and they still don’t. Many of the troops who were assured that the Iraqis would welcome them with open arms are now dead. And there’s still no plan. We were originally told that Iraqi oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. That’s not happening. It was as big a mistake as President Bush’s assertion that there were weapons of mass destruction. Dick Cheney stated over a year ago that the insurgency was in its last throes. The war so recklessly launched by the amateurs in the Bush White house has already taken scores or thousands of lives and will ultimately cost the U.S. trillions of dollars. Most people agree, as was the case with Vietnam, the war in Iraq is a fool’s errand. There is no clear, discernible mission for American troops in Iraq. No one can really say what the dead have died for. And yet the dying continues. What in the world is the Bush White House thinking?

Afghanistan remains in a quagmire...other countries are withdrawing their troops ... and now it looks like we’re going to have some new fun in Iran. Good luck boys.
Some movies that are worth your time include:

DEATH AT A FUNERAL.
When friends and family gather at a stately home in the English countryside, all hell breaks loose. Director Frank Oz does a terrific job with this extremely funny satire. The mourners try to behave with propriety and dignity and then circumstances change and make that impossible. A superb ensemble British eccentrics will keep you enthralled in the hilarious situations. Don’t miss this if you have penchant for comedy.


THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB

is a “nice” movie. Six friends agree to meet to discuss Austen’s complete works and how the various stories relate to them.The director (Robin Swicord) tries hard to make the references about the classics understandable to those who haven’t read the books, but I found many of the scenes draggy and not especially compelling.If you’ve read Austen, you may love it.


LUST, CAUTION
left me cold. It’s the story of China during the Japanese occupation during World War 11 and if you’re able to follow it, it tells of a young woman who falls in with a band of Resistance fighters and is recruited to seduce and set up for assassination a traitorous Chinese official. It was quite long and received an NC-17 rating because of some intense sex scenes which I didn’t hang around for. It did win several awards, however...so go find out for yourself.

MICHAEL CLAYTON
was very well received by all the critics and George Clooney does a yeoman job as a fixer for a high powered legal firm, who find himself in the middle of several difficulties. He owes money to the mob and an important case of the firm’s is about to collapse because a senior partner is working for the other side. Sometimes, a bit confusing, but ultimately worth your viewing . A real suspenseful drama.

INTO THE WILD

I loved this one that Sean Penn wrote and directed. It’s an adaption of Jon Crakauer’s 1996 book about Christoper Johnson McCandless, an Emory University graduate, who, at the age of twenty-two, cut all ties with his family and friends, tramped around the country and then headed north into the wilds of Alaska, where he died alone, in August, 1992. Emile Hirsch plays the young man who travels about and attracts the interest of a variety of people enroute. They’re all interesting folks and want him to put down his backpack and stay. He never does and continues in his ultimately self-destructive behavior.
RENDITION. An extremely interesting drama centered on Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a C.I.A. agent stationed in North Africa who becomes a reluctant overseer of a clandestine interrogation. When an Egyptian-American chemical engineer doesn’t return home from South Africa, his pregnant wife, Isabella, (Reese Witherspoon) sets out to find him, with the help of a senator’s aide and no help at all from Corrine Whitman (Meryl Streep), the C.I.A.’s head of anti-terrorism. Some hard to watch torture scenes but ultimately the performances are strong.

 

November 2007

Phyllis Sherman articles February '11 - December '11
Phyllis Sherman articles February '09 - December '10
Phyllis Sherman articles February '10 - December '09
Phyllis Sherman articles November '07 - December '08