Phyllis Sherman 2010
Phyllis Sherman photo

Phyllis' Findings

Squeeze an Extra Hour into Your Day

Latest reports say that if you only sleep six or seven hours per night you'll live longer than if you sleep eight or more hours. The findings are only preliminary, so if you're a late sleeper, don't worry until we know for sure. What we do know is that there's a way to squeeze an extra hour into your busy day.

You wonder how you can do it all, right? Well, actually you can't. There's always something else vying for your attention. And when you put off something, until something else gets done, chances are you won't get any projects completed.

Well, there is one way to squeeze an extra hour into your busy day. I did it and it works. In the morning, whenever you awaken, don't lie there and vaguely think about all the useless or pointless things you did yesterday or should have done or will do when the time is right. Nor should you think about all the nefarious things that have happened in the past week...what your kids or what your wife or husband or significant other intimated...just GET UP!!! If you're a morning newspaper reader you'll finish it an hour earlier! If your spouse isn't up yet, make breakfast and surprise him or will gain you important points. That's my tip for the New Year approaching. Try it.

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Some good things and some horrendous things happened recently. First the good thing, or maybe we could also call it a calamitous thing. I had a car accident and Alioto's Body Shop on Folsom spent some time replacing a headlight and fender that was severely damaged. When it was returned it seemed drivable, but when I attempted to drive up one of SF's many steep hills, the car wouldn't make it. I carefully (with some trepidation) backed the car down the hill...fortunately it was midday and few cars approaching. I attempted a less steep hill and it still wasn't working. I thought perhaps the gas was low so Alioto sent someone with a can of gas and it still didn't do what I hope it would do. (I believe that even with an empty tank, a car can go another 20 miles or so.) The next thing that occurred is that my car was stalled at the intersection of Clipper and Portola with cars whizzing by. One of the nearby drivers called the police, who eventually showed up, raised the hood to indicate that I was disabled and proceeded to call a tow company. That took another 3/4 of an hour and the car was towed to Twin Peaks Gas Station where Ed is proceeding to figure out what the problem is (and apparently there are several.) Ed couldn't figure out how Alioto could have returned the car without checking it out more thoroughly. It was freezing cold and rainy and darkness was now approaching and what I wanted to inform you is that the policeman, Calvin Chow, could not have been more helpful and guided me through several hours of anxiety and apprehension. I have since called the San Francisco Police Department to report Officer Chow's good deeds to the Captain. It was an unfortunate calamity but fortunately no injuries.

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A few things to look forward to:

Rumor has it that in short order a Jewish delicatessen will be opening on 24th Street. More lox, whitefish, kreplach, and other New York-type favorites will be available locally. It's about time.

Another happy interesting happening...."The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier" displays around 140 ensembles from the French designer, including costumes from the movie "The Fifth Element" and Madonna's famous cone bra. Next stop: San Francisco's de Young Museum in March.

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Some Things You Should Get To:

At the Contemporary Jewish Museum"Houdini: Art & Magic" is an interesting exhibition with pictures and videos of the magician in action. Also some fun magic gifts in the Museum store for the magician kids in your life. Til January.

ANNAPURNA is not about the mountain but an absorbing drama at the Magic Theater by Sharr White and directed ably by Loretta Greco. This two character play concerns a terminally ill cowboy and his Eastern seaboard ex-wife who tracked him to a remote part of the Rockies for the final resolution of an incident that drove them apart 20 years ago. Thru Dec 441-8822

The Marsh on Valencia Street is featuring a very funny solo show with Marga Gomez in "NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER." It's a hilarious mix of childhood memories, lying about her age, reflections about her childhood and some social satire.that will keep you laughing. Thru Dec 17 unless it's extended. 282-3055.

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The Best Things Anybody Ever Said:

Roses are reddish

Violets are bluish

If it weren't for Christmas

We'd all be Jewish ...

Benny Hill

Santa Claus has the right idea...visit people once a year...

Victor Borge

I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph...

Shirley Temple

My parents had only one argument in forty-five years. It lasted forty-three years...

Cathy Ladman

Tell your boss what you think of him and the truth shall set you free...


Formula for success: Rise early, work hard, strike oil...

J. Paul Getty

Eternity is two people and a roast turkey...

James Dent

Avoid fruits and nuts, you are what you eat...

Garfield (Jim Davis)

I asked the clothing store clerk if she had anything to make me look thinner and she said "How about a week in Bangladesh?.."

Roseanne Barr

December 2011



The telephone rang some weeks ago and a somewhat inarticulate man asked me if I was at least 50. I said, "Why do you want to know that?" He said, "Because you sound like a younger woman and we're looking for women over 50, 60, or 70 who have at least $30,000 in assets and would like to know how to preserve their funds and add to them." I wasn't about to give him any information but was curious as to his game. "OK, so I'm over 50 with assets. Now what? And what's your name?" "My name is Will, and I represent the Gentry Group...we're authorized by Congress and have an 800 number. Next Friday at 10AM, Ms. Ardena Terry would like to visit you and explain what we do. You can check us out on our 800 number. It's 800-735-2898. By the way what's your favorite color?" "My favorite color, Will? Mauve." "What, I never heard of that. Will obviously not a Kelly-Moore customer or into the newest hues for decorating design. "OK, my favorite color is blue. Why is that important?" "Well, Andrena Terry will come to see you with something 'blue' so you'll know she's Friday at 10 AM." I subsequently called the 800 number and a woman reiterated that Ardena would show up Friday to show me how to increase my bottom line. I said, "That way we'll both make more money?" "Right," she said. I told her I'd rather skip the whole thing and immediately called the San Francisco Fraud Division. Inspector Gregory Ovanessian at 533-9073 was very helpful and said I did the right thing, and said they would send me material regarding telemarketing scams and investment fraud and abuse.

If you call him, he'll send you any information you like. I recently dialed the Gentry Group's 800 number again on a Saturday, inasmuch as Ardena never did show up, and it rang and rang and the operator said it was not in service. Perhaps they were out checking on the newest paint shades.


A labor problem is stalking parts of the U.S. economy, and it's not the awful 9.1% unemployment rate. It's a labor shortage, and major cause is the crackdown on illegal immigration. Even with the high joblessness overall, shortages exist at both the high-and low-skilled ends of the labor market. At the high end, tech companies have trouble finding computer scientists and engineers. They need more visas for foreigners who study science and math in the U.S. And at the low end, many employers can't find enough hands to pick their crops, bus tables, or in some places do construction. That's because thousands of laborers from south of the border have been scared away by U.S. immigration laws, leaving unfilled tens of thousand of jobs that few Americans seem to want. Hardest hit here are farmers. Most of the 1.6 million agricultural laborers in America are Hispanic, and a majority of them are assumed to be undocumented immigrants. Without a steady pool of migrant labor during harvest season, farms have lost millions of dollars as crops have needlessly rotted. In Washington state, apple orchards are running a radio recruitment campaign offering jobs that pay $100 to $150 per day, but so far with little success. California avocado growers and Texas vegetable farmers are also desperate for help. Similar stories come from Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, Vermont and more. Many states are resorting to desperate measures to find labor. Idaho and Arizona use incarcerated criminals to work the fields and Georgia and Alabama are looking into it. Georgia initially tried to get people on probation into those jobs but found few takers. The work is strenuous and experience matters, which is why farmers prefer to see the same immigrant employees coming back each year. Migrant labor is highly sensitive to market signals. When the economic or political climate sours, they choose not to come or to avoid certain states. Over time, food producers can make a similar decision and move their operations overseas. Peaches don't have to be grown in Georgia, or lettuce in Yuma.

Republicans have made immigration control one of their main passions, yet they continue to ignore the economic costs. They claim to champion deregulation and business-led growth, but then they impose new hiring and enforcement on any business's most important assets — its workers.

There's a better way. At the state level, stop treating Mexican fruit pickers like alien invaders. In Congress, overhaul the guest worker program to widen avenues for legal immigration, and offer those in the country without papers a way to become legal. The result would be fewer crops rotting in the fields, more jobs for Americans, faster economic growth, and fewer farmers taking their production overseas. And President Obama should do less campaigning and more job solving and soul searching.

(The previous information was extrapolated from a variety of national newspaper editorials.)


On the movie front you can skip"50-50" despite some reasonably good reviews. A 27 year old becomes a cancer victim and although reviews cited some good laughs, we found it not laughable, and a merely depressing film. "THE WAY" was well acted by the four characters, on a pilgrimage to Pamplona to distribute some ashes belonging to the son of one of the characters, but the film was moribund and easily skipped.


November 2011


On Wednesday and Fridays the New York Times includes stories relating to the Bay Area. Recently they wrote that organic-produce buyers who think they are striking a blow against a chemical-heavy industrial food system may be surprised when it comes to one of California's signature fruits: those "organic" strawberries that overflow from baskets at local farmers' markets are not nearly as organic as they may think. Apparently they say that there are very vague federal regulations that allow millions of pounds of toxic chemicals to be used to grow plants that eventually produce strawberries that are labeled as organic.

National regulations require that organic produce be grown for three years without synthetic pesticides. Strawberries in California are grown over a five-year cycle, often starting as nursery plants in the fields of Southern California before being transplanted to the sandy soils of Northern California. Before they begin bearing fruit, virtually all plants - whether they will go on to produce conventional berries or organic ones - are treated with fumigants and other synthetic pesticides.

The National Organic Program is in the process of reviewing its standards for seeds and planting stock. The standards have not been updated since they were created in 2002, and they allow conventional stock be used wherever organic stock is not "commercially available." Therefore, the farmers say, most fruit growers will still interpret the rule as an excuse not to seek out organic stock, which they consider to be at higher risk for pests and disease. Apparently, more than a million pounds of methyl bromide was applied to strawberry nursery fields around the world in 2011, according to Environmental Protection Agency reports. Despite a worldwide phase-out, the fumigant continues to be used on crops in the United States, including on peppers and tomatoes, to prevent a "significant market disruption." (The Pesticide Action Network is worried that methyl -bromide will ultimately be replaced with methyliodid, which is toxic too.) Driscoll Strawberry Associates in Monterey is the largest berry distributor in the world. Perhaps a complaint or query to them would prove helpful because, apparently, the word is that an organic strawberry is possible...but when and how?


On the entertainment front, some of the current performances are worth your attention. NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER, is a one-woman show by Margo Gomez who comes out about lying about her age, growing older, and other resentments in her thoroughly hilarious 85 minute wild mix of childhood memories, social satire, reflections on aging, denial of same, confession, evasion and laugh riot of sharply limned characters, It's playing through October 25th at The Marsh at 1062 Valencia St. San Francisco. (415) 282-3055. You're guaranteed to laugh a lot.


In a more serious vein, director Susi Damilano is ably directing the West Coast premiere of HONEY BROWN EYES by Stefanie Zadravec. Inspired by actual events, Honey Brown Eyes contrasts the everydayness of domestic settings with the ravages of the Bosnian War. Set in two kitchens, the play follows two soldiers that were once in a rock band together caught on opposite sides of the war - one who has to face the consequences of his own brutality, and another who comes to terms with his own cowardice. Unlikely partnerships emerge in this play of horror, humanity and stunning relevance. Honey Brown Eyes was produced originally in a regional theater in Washington, DC and then again in NYC. A brief synopsis by the author, Zadravec, explains that set in Bosnia in 1991, it is the story of two former band mates who are forever changed by two women the war has stranded in their kitchens. One, a Serbian paramilitary, faces the consequences of his own brutality, while in Sarajevo a Bosnian resistance fighter faces the limits of his own courage. It is not so much a play about war as it is a play that examines the value of a simple act of human kindness. The show won the Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play in 2009. It is extremely engrossing with outstanding acting.


October 2011


A few bits and pieces to report...looked on Craigslist to find a plumber/handyman who could install a new food waste disposer after my good friends at Glen Park Hardware suggested I call Cole Hardware on Mission Street. The folks at Cole Hardware couldn't have been nicer. They had a large selection of ACE Disposers and suggested I get one that's guaranteed for 5 years. (3/4 horsepower) and said that they give senior citizens 10% discount on most purchases. When I told them that last Tuesday was my birthday, they said that in that case, it would be 40% discount! What a deal! They sent me their interesting newsletter and the variety of items they offer are worth considering when you're planning to make a hardware purchase.

They suggested I call O'Grady Plumbing, who were also quite nice, but when I asked about charges for installation was told, "we never quote prices over the phone but we'll tell you when we get there." That seemed counterproductive, but they sent someone over and the plumber told me it would cost $238 to install the disposal, about 3X the price of the disposal. When I asked why it costs so much, he responded, "Do you realize that you live in one of the most expensive cities in the country?" Like I didn't know...but that's a reason? Needless to say I promptly contacted plumbers on Craigslist and a less pricey individual is due to show up tomorrow. That Craigslist is one of the best things that ever happened in the Bay Area (and the rest of the world.) I recently received a brochure from the Diamond Certified Directory. In it they list everyone from Auto Body people to Window Contractors. I don't know what the advertisers in there pay for the listing, but it must be pretty hefty because when I called one of the plumbers listed in there, they also quoted a very high rate to do the work. When you need a handyman or any other service person, check out CL and you'll have a great variety of options.


Some unsettling news on the Geriatric front. Report has it that fewer medical students are going into Geriatrics as their specialty; it's seen as a depressing field and not "glamorous." A recent survey of physicians, however, said that Geriatric doctors are more satisfied with their work than other specialists. The JAMA said that more standard training is needed across all medical specialties. Residency requires little or no specific training in Geriatrics and there needs to be more to incorporate this training into all areas of medicine. I wonder what medical specialty is considered more "glamorous?" Obstetrics? Pediatrics? In-Vitro Specialty? At least it's the "beginning" of something. Got any ideas? Let me know...maybe I'll switch careers.

On the entertainment front, I ordered the Chronicle's new TV WEEKLY and have had nothing but problems receiving it. It didn't show up in the Sunday SF Chronicle for several weeks and when I called, they said they'd put one in the never made it for over a week. I don't get the Chronicle every day so if I want to know what's on TV on a particular night, I'm out of luck. The SF Chronicle in general leaves much to be desired. I do subscribe to the NY Times daily and to the Wall Street Journal (which has the largest circulation in the world) but neither publication lists the San Francisco TV programs. So if I want to know what's on TV on a special night or time, I just have to forget about television and read a REAL paper, or even better, a book.


I went to see BILLY ELLIOT at the Orpheum Theatre before it ended and was somewhat disappointed. The dancing was impressive, especially by five young "Billys" who take turns being the lead, and also are understudies for the role. All the other children in the cast were also exceptional dancers. The sound was a bit of a problem as the cockney accents were mostly difficult to follow and with the blaring orchestra and the pounding dancing, I was glad when the full three hours were over.


September 2011



Here's something I'll bet you didn't know. In the 18th century England straight, white teeth were a sign of beauty, affluence and moral fortitude, perhaps because tooth loss was a common result of venereal disease and the treatment with mercury. Wealthy and fashionable citizens engaged in a fad known as live-tooth transplantation similar to the way today"s socialites and celebrities purchase foreign substances, like injections and saline implants to augment their bodies.

At a time when dentistry was still new, ladies and gentlemen had their damaged or rotten teeth pulled and quickly replaced with teeth taken from the mouths of live donors—indigents who were forced to sell their teeth for cash. Fear of disease transmittal and criticism of the exploitative nature of the practice contributed to its disappearance in the l9th century.

This bizarre and short-lived dental procedure provides insight into many aspects of late 18th century life, including divisions between the rich and poor, changing standards of beauty and the rise of consumer culture. In our culture people's bodies play a key role in their personal and social identities, and body parts are viewed as commodities that can be bought and sold. Many contemporary trends such as cosmetic surgery, tattooing, body piercing and the sale of organs on the black market, can be traced to this strange and largely unknown fad.

I gleaned this information from Professor Mark Blackwell, chair of the Department of English in the University of Hartford College of Arts and Sciences. The article entitled "Extraneous Bodies." The Contagion of Live Tooth Transplantation on Late Eighteenth-Century England," earned Blackwell the prestigious James L. Clifford Prize, conferred by the American Society of 18th Century Studies on an outstanding study of 18th century culture.

I'll guess your dentist never heard of this mouth enhancing improvement.



For just $3.95 (for postage and handling) I can get a sample of RADIALABS INSTANT WRINKLE REDUCER After cleaning your face, apply to wrinkles around your mouth, forehead or any other fine line or wrinkle. After one minute to absorb completely, continue with whatever skin care regimen you usually do.(Product said to contain 20 or so indecipherable ingredients.) Each month you'll receive for $79 another container of this product charged to the credit card you used for the sample.

What a deal! The tiny container..Lot #B2210RL (only readable with a strong magnifying glass also listed a phone # in Ft.Lauderdale, Fla. 877-309-3491. I called the number and let it ring for an interminably long time to no avail. Checking the blogs on the internet were other callers with similar complaints. Opening the container I found the contents, with no applicator, and consistency of a thick creamy viscous product similar to Crisco or Instant Glue. Someone in Florida is cleaning up!


Isaac Asimov; "If my doctor told me I had only 6 minutes to live...I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster." (Author of 289 books.)

July-August 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Everything

I read a lot and I'm constantly reading that manufacturers are surreptitiously shrinking the size of their products as a sneaky way to avoid raising prices (although their not adverse to do that also.) So many half-gallon containers of orange juice now hold 59 ounces, not 64. And many bags of sugar are now 4 pounds, not 5. Although I haven't actually gone out and measured them, I suspect that many foot-long subs now log in at a demure 10 inches.

The shrinkage problem applies to many things. The sum of $24,000 used to pay for a huge van or a flashy sedan. Now it gets you a dinky Prius. The world of culture is no exception to this gimmick. Concerts at Carnegie Hall used to last 2 1/2 hours...sometimes three. Now they last an hour and three quarters, including a late start, and a long intermission. Encores used to be freebies, now forget it, they're things of the past.

Surreptitious product shrinkage also applies to the world of politics, the world of academe, the world of travel. Six hundred dollars used to be good for a round trip to Venice, Italy, plus space for your coat in the overhead bin, plus a hot meal, plus a couple of drinks, plus a movie, plus room for your legs, plus friendly staff. Now it will just get you the round-trip to Venice, California. Think it ends there? For $150,000 kids used to get a degree in physics, prestige and a future. Now, if the kid is lucky, it will get a degree in gender studies and an unpaid internship at a nonprofit Romanian alternative think tank that only exists on Twitter.

Then there's the world of politics. As recently as the Clinton administration, $100,000 would buy you a politician lock, stock and barrel. If you were a crooked labor union or a shady real estate developer, you plunked down a hundred grand and you had that pol locked up for life. Now a hundred G's won't keep your average pol on the payroll till Flag Day.

Underhanded tactics by cereal companies, car manufacturers and travel agencies, I don't mind, and have to live with, but if politicians are suddenly going to dilute value without warning the rest of us, this society has had it. It's high time this country passed a Truth in Deceptive Advertising law to curtail such abuses. If only to keep politicians dishonest. (If you pay attention to news reports, advertising ads and small print on everything, you'll find your own shortages abound.)


It's really hard to see them all...but if you try hard you can get to several of the winners. A few must-sees include EAST 14th: TRUE TALES OF A RELUCTANT PLAYER.. Don Reed creates his world on Oakland's East 14th Street in the 1970's. It's a hilarious 100 minute coming-of-age tale that's scheduled to close June 18th but probably will continue at the Marsh Berkeley.800-838-3006. Very worth while. Of equal value is LOVELAND..a tightly written, compelling and hilarious solo-show by Ann Randolph regaling her misadventures and musings on a long flight home..also schedule to end soon, but probably will continue at the Marsh on Valencia St. in San Francisco..800-838-3006. Check her out. The SF PLAYHOUSE on Sutter Street is currently showing REBORNING by Zayd Dohrn. This dark, unusual comedy takes an unsettling look at work, latex, and the power of creation. A young artist who crafts custom made dolls begins to suspect that a demanding client may be the mother who abandoned her at birth. As she tries to unravel the mystery, she discovers the path to her own "Reborning."

Movies...If you enjoy French cinema, you'll thoroughly enjoy POTICHE directed by Francois Ozon. Set in a provincial French town in 1977, Catherine Deneuve stars as a submissive, housebound "trophy wife", married to a selfish factory owner. When he is kidnapped by his workers, she comes into her own, a journey from a sheltered pet to a figure of national importance. Gerard Depardieu plays the ex-beau with great verve. English subtitles.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is Woody Allen's latest venture. It tells the story of a family that travels to the picturesque French capital on business. The party includes two young people (Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams) who are engaged to be married in the fall and have experiences there that change their lives forever. It's about a young man's great love for a great city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better. It's smart, sweet and very funny with beautiful photography of a wonderful city.

June 2011

There's a Way to Squeeze an Extra Hour Into Your Day

Latest reports say that if you only sleep six or seven hours per night you'll live longer than if you sleep eight or more hours.The findings are only preliminary so if you're a late sleeper, don't worry until we know for sure.  What we do know is that there's a way to squeeze an extra hour into your busy day.

You wonder how you can do it all, right? Well, actually you can't. There's always something else crying for your attention. And when you put off something, and something else gets done...chances are you won't get any projects completed.

Well, there is one way to squeeze an extra hour into your busy day.  I did it and it works. In the morning, whenever you awaken..don't lie there and vaguely think about all the useless or pointless things you did yesterday or should have done or will do when the time is right. Nor should you think about all the nefarious things that have happened in the past week..what your kids or what your wife or husband or significant other intimated...just GET UP!!!  If you're a morning newspaper reader, you'll finish it an hour earlier!  If your spouse isn't up yet, making breakfast and surprise him or will gain you important points. That's my tip for April. Try it.


Speaking of sleep problems, we all know that doctors hand out samples every day to grateful patients ( or used to.) This is merely the drug user's system of promoting new medicines...through professional articles ad at medical conferences And what they astonish even the most jaded critics of ethically challenged pharmaceutical marketing, makers of sleeping pills are now paying doctors to publish bad things about competing drugs. The market for sleeping pills is huge...42 million prescriptions were filled last year...and it's more competitive than ever due to the recent introduction of Sepracor's Lunesta (the one with butterfly commecials.)  Ambien CR (controlled release version of Ambien) and Takeda Pharmaceuticals' Rozerem. Ads have made most of these drugs household names.  Yet many people have never heard of one of the most widely prescribed hypnotics in the United States: Trazadone.  First approved by the Food and Drug Administration 25 years ago, Trazadone is categorized as an anti-depressant. Nonetheless, psychiatrist prescribes is off label to treat insomnia, because it works so well, its half- life  has no risk of addiction and the half-life is long enough to keep patients asleep all night, it has a long safety record, and it is cheap, costing (at last count)as little as 10 cents a pill. Ambien and Lunesta cost much more.

Several states now insist that drug makers report the gifts they give doctors. The companies should also disclose how much they pay doctors to prepare sponsored articles. It would be the rare doctor who would want such information to come to the public.(I  believer UCSF has forbade physicians to give samples to patients.) This information was extrapolated from an article is the NY Times by Daniel Carlat.


April 2011

Mother Teresa once said that "Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty." Several weeks ago I was invited to a lovely luncheon celebrating the Chinese New Year at a local Senior Facility. I was seated with three elderly women. I tried to make reasonably interesting conversation with two of them and was continually asked to repeat myself. They were both hard of hearing. Being hard of hearing is certainly a good recipe for loneliness.

The third lady in our little group was seated in a wheelchair and was definitely not hard of hearing nor hard of speaking coherently. She identified herself as "Lenore" and began talking about her various ailments. She said she'd had a mastectomy, has macular degeneration in one eye, and has polyps in her vagina. I said "don't you mean polyps in your colon?" She insisted, " is in the vagina." She also added that she is 100 years old. I was taken aback. One hundred years old and still so lucid! She went on reiterating that all her friends and associated had died and she has no one. She obviously was happy to have a live one to talk to. She said her last boyfriend had died at 103 and said he was a wonderful lover and they had daily sex when in their prime. She reiterated how difficult it was to speak to any contemporaries in the Senior Facility because most of them had mental problems and couldn't hear her. I'm not sure how the other ladies at the table would have reacted to Lenore's sexual proclivities were they able to hear about them. Nevertheless, she continued speaking about her lack of contemporaries to commiserate with until an aide came over and wheeled her away with nary a glance.


In the entertainment department, I've seen very few movies that are worthy of your attention. CEDAR RAPIDS is about life in the Midwestern USA at an insurance convention and it received reasonably good reviews from the reviewers... and while there were some funny and tender bits, I found it basically contrived and not worth 1 + hours of your time. It's at the local Empire Theater on West Portal and I'd give it a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. In general, insurance conventions are kind of mundane anyway, so don't waste your time or money. The sound system in the Empire Theater could use some fine tuning, On the other hand, the foreign film, BIUTIFUL, is from Spain and although a somewhat depressing mortality story of sin and redemption, it's done well. Actor Javier Barden is terrific in the lead role. THE FIGHTER is also a very worthy movie for a surprisingly prickly boxing film.


I read somewhere that dogs make good poker players. Whenever they get a good hand, they wag their tail. I was thinking a bit about getting a dog. They're supposed to be wonderful companions and dog lovers are forever extolling the benefits of having a dog. I was especially interested when I watched the recent popular Westminster Dog Show. One lady trotted out with a Pekinese collie that the breeder called "ideal for apartment living or a palatial home." There was an adorable Portuguese Water Dog and a Fox Terrier that was described as "having a lively disposition and a smooth coat". There was a cute Chinese Shai-Pei which is a dog that dates back two centuries.. which can't always be said about the rest of us. Then I started to think about the care involved in ANY dog...the vet visits, the cost of needed shots, the amount of food that gets consumed, the price of dog walkers and dog hostels if you go on vacation...and decided to wait a bit before I get a dog. While it's nice to be treated with adoration, have someone who'll be kind and faithful when times are hard, someone who will share your joys and sorrows. Time, then, to buy a puppy,


ADDENDUM: Better to have loved and lost a short person than never to have loved a tall...David Chambless

March 2011


The news out of Tucson last week about the horrendous activities of the schizophrenic murderer was hard to take. Jared Lee Loughner was a troubled youngster from the get-go apparently, and the world was stunned at such unbelievable mayhem. I learned a new word from all the talk about the killings...the word, which you won't find in your local Webster's dictionary, is ANOSOGNOSIA. Medical dictionaries would probably rule it as belonging to a person who is unaware of what he has done. I was especially chilled about the murder of the nine-year-old Caroline Green because my beautiful granddaughter is the same age as Caroline was, and I was able to relate only too well to the tragedy. Her parents thoughtfully donated Caroline's corneas to two children in Boston. It's been said that the loss of a child is the worst possible thing for parents to handle and I don't doubt that for a moment.


During our respite from newspaper publishing, I visited my son and family in Bethesda, Maryland. It was bitter cold but we didn't have such balmy weather here in S.F., so I didn't feel I was missing much and survived the frigid Northeast. Among our activities we saw the film '127 HOURS,' which is the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who was trapped in a canyon with his arm pinned against a boulder. It was a wildly funny and bracing film, at once visceral and thought provoking. Many of the movie viewers covered their eyes when James Franco, alone on the screen for awhile, takes a knife to remove his arm from its captivity. In 'TRUE GRIT' Jeffrey Bridges and Heilee Steinfeld adapt an old John Wayne western into a fine film by Ethan and Joel Coen. 'The KING'S SPEECH' is based on the true story of the Queen of England's father and his remarkable friendship with maverick Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. Colin Firth as King George VI, who unexpectedly becomes King when his brother Edward abdicates the throne, will undoubtedly win an Academy Award for his role (as a stutterer). His improved voice helps the King lead the nation into war. 'BLUE VALENTINE,' which has won accolades from all over, is the story of love found and love lost told in past and present moments in time. Dean and Cindy use one night to try and save their marriage. It's an honest portrait of a relationship on the rocks that entails lots of sex and lots of heartbreaking detail and emotions. One play I went to see in Washington DC was a new one by Tracy Letts called SUPERIOR DONUTS, from which I expected a great deal as Letts won a Pulitzer Prize for his last show, 'AUGUST, OSAGE COUNTY.' I found DONUTS much of a bore and was surprised that he's planning to bring it to Broadway. Maybe there'll be a rewrite. The current New Yorker just arrived and they have a long agonizing review of 'GREEN HORNET,' the jist of which states that the writers and director have turned this hundred-million dollar movie into the first out-and-out bore of the year. Be advised. One theater that rarely disappoints is the New Conservatory Theater on Market Street. 'DIRTY LITTLE SHOWTUNES' with lyrics by Tom Orr was top notch. Conceived and Directed by F.Allen Sawyer, this satirical parody was a tremendous amount of fun...perhaps not everyone's cup of tea...irresistible irreverence..but we laughed a lot at the naughty bits. Over at the Jewish Community Center, LOST IN YONKERS by Neil Simon and directed by Nancy Carlin had a brief but successful run. Simon has won 17 Tony nominations and in 1991 won a Pulitzer for Lost in Yonkers. I found the show very nostalgic and it made me search my bookcases where one of Neil Simon's early books REWRITES was hiding and I started reading this deeply touching memoir, with amusing anecdotes of his writing life. Much of his work is autobiographical and I can easily relate. Neil Simon was born July 4, 1927. STRANGE TRAVEL SUGGESTIONS: Jeff Greenwald's Improvised monologue inspired by the joys of wanderlust. Great show...thru Feb. 19,.MARSH, BERKELEY...2120 Allston Way, Berkeley (800-838-3006)


A few political items that may prove of interest: Now that the rogue dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier has put in an appearance in Haiti, former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a onetime priest of the slums who became Haiti's first democratically-elected president said he was prepared to return home "today, tomorrow, or anytime." He was ousted in 2004 in the midst of growing unrest and under intense pressure from the United States. He said his doctors had recommended that he not spend another winter in South Africa where he has lived because he has a serious eye condition. Just what Haiti needs amid earthquake recovery, cholera epidemics and total squalor..two disturbed no-goodniks to add to their misery.


The Human Price of Technology

Master storyteller, Mike Daisey, has just returned to Berkeley Rep in The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. With his wry eye and eccentric intellect, Daisey examines how the Apple CEO and his obsessions profoundly shape our everyday lives; and he travels to China to investigate the factories where millions toil making iPhones and iPods. His journey shines a brilliant light on our love affair with our devices and the human cost of creating them. All throughout Daisey's scintillating two-hour nonstop monologue, he is seated behind his little table flanked by Seth Reiser's impressive lighting design on the back wall of the theatre. According to Berkeley Rep's Artistic Director Tony Taccone, Daisey "combines the hysteria of a comedian, the intelligence of an essayist, the intensity of an actor and the desperation of a raconteur." In the Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Mike Daisey takes us on a tour of three cities in China where workers in the tech industry literally put their lives on the line for the privilege of having a job. This storyteller comes equipped with his tools of emphasis and tone with metaphor and irony, and with much embellishment and humor, to get us to see things in a new light. This newest monologue directed by his wife, Jean-Michele Gregory, has as its main focus, the rise and fall, and rise of Steve Jobs, Apple, industrial design and the human price we are willing to pay for our technology, woven together in a complex narrative. According to Daisey, this monologue is a perfect example of years of journalism, travel, research, investigation, sweat and tears. It examines our technology through a personal lens. Mike Daisey share his experiences in Hong Kong and Shen Zhen and Apple's labor practices. However, Apple is hardly alone--every major electronics manufacturer uses the same inhumane labor practices in the creation of their products. Daisey's main concern is to make people aware of labor conditions in China and the systems we have created to feed it. The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs will alternate in repertory with his other monologue, The Last Cargo Cult. Performances will take place through February 27 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley. Performances are held Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 p.m.; Wednesday and Sunday at 7 p.m.; and Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, call 510-647-2949 or go online at


On a happier note, the carefully constructed guest list for President Obama's state dinner for President Hu Jintao of China included Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the heads of Microsoft, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Walt Disney. Also singer Barbra Streisand, ice skater Michelle Kwan, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the architect Maya Lin and fashion Designer Vera Wang. Trade was a major theme of the day. Later, as she walked into the White House for the dinner, Barbra Streisand was asked what accounted for her invitation. Her reply was deadpan: "I worked in a Chinese restaurant."

END QUOTE: The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks

Which practically conceals its sex

I think its clever of the turtle

In such a fix to be so fertile ......Ogden Nash,1931


Febuary 2011

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