Friday, June 23, 2006

Tampa Outlook

Story today about a potential tropical storm in the Bahamas, likely to be named Beryl. This has been showing up in the weather forecasts for some time now, with different forecasts about its strength, but there hasn't been any indication from anybody that it will head for Florida. Instead, it's like to drift north over open water, making a feint towards the Virginia/North Carolina coasts, then heading north again.

Of greater concern is a potential tropical storm developing over the Bay of Campeche, in the western Gulf of Mexico, around, June 28th, and heading NNE, perhaps toward Louisiana, or the northern Gulf of Mexico, reaching there around the 30th. Tampa may feel some effects from this, shortly after July 1st. We'll need to keep our eyes on this storm, which is forecast right now to be weaker than Beryl, but closer, and therefore more of a threat.
Another Ancient Tortoise Bites The Dust

In March, it was that 250-yr-old Calcutta tortoise that passed on. Now, one of Charles Darwin's pets passes on, just north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia:
THE world's oldest animal in captivity has died on the Sunshine Coast at the ripe old age of 176.

Giant Galapagos tortoise Harriet has died of a suspected heart attack.
She was a star attraction at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo since the 1980s and even features in the Guinness Book of Records for her longevity.

Her history is as colourful as the hibiscus flowers she lovingly munched on.

It is believed Harriet was one of three animals naturalist Charles Darwin brought back from his trip to the Galapagos Islands in 1835 and which led to his theories of evolution and natural selection.
More Navel-Gazing From Vegas

Why doesn't Broadway do better there?:
Broadway is sizzling. Broadway-in-Vegas is fizzling. Even as the Great White Way is seeing record attendance and its boffo-est box office ever ($862 million this season), it's a different story out here. Attempts to transplant the Broadway musical to the Las Vegas Strip have found the soil infertile and the tilling arduous.

...The latest attempt to consummate the Vegas-Broadway marriage occurs Saturday, when Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, an adapted-for-the-Strip edition of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, is rolled out at the Venetian. If it's a success, the timing will be fortuitous indeed.

On June 11, Broadway was throwing itself a party, in the form of the annual Tony Awards. That same night, over at Luxor, the curtain was descending for the last time on Hairspray, the John Waters musical that arrived on a wave of ballyhoo and lasted less than four months.

..."Broadway is becoming more and more like Las Vegas," contends New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley, but the reverse equation doesn't compute. For casino consultant Jeffrey Compton, "We're talking about such different animals. You'll occasionally get a crossover, but it's few and far between.

"There's so much to do in Las Vegas that is free," adds Compton, echoing observations made by Avenue Q executive producer Kevin McCollum. "There isn't a real demand that every night we have to go to a show. You can watch the fountains [or] whatever they do in front of Treasure Island."

...The news isn't entirely grim. Down at Mandalay Bay, Mamma Mia! keeps the Broadway brand going through good times and bad, but it's an exception to so many Sin City rules that few useful conclusions can be drawn. In a town where the intermission-less, 90-minute spectacle is God, Mamma Mia! runs 2 1/2 hours with an interval. Avenue Q had Tony Award buzz and exclusivity west of the Mississippi. Mamma Mia! has played around the globe, lacks critical approval and is buoyed by songs that were the subject of ridicule not so many years ago (before Bono made it safe to like ABBA again). Its appeal transcends languages, though, a (near) guarantor of success.

There's a Mamma Mia!-like boomlet taking place over at the Las Vegas Hilton, where the similarly estrogen-intensive, Los Angeles import Menopause: The Musical has become a pint-sized blockbuster, enough to justify double casting and an expanded performance schedule. Of course, the Hilton isn't trying to fill 1,800 seats with the show, but it's flourishing while nearby Dragapella withered on the vine. "This show has a dynamic of its own," says the Hilton's Ira David Sternberg, of Menopause. "You can't couple it with any other trend."

On the other hand, Harrah's answer to We Will Rock You was, "No, you won't." Having unplugged the Queen-themed musical, it now puts its eggs in the basket of The Producers, bowing at Paris Las Vegas late this summer. If the early buzz is optimistic on Phantom is and guardedly pessimistic on The Producers, the wild card is Spamalot. For good or ill, the handwriting will already be on the wall for both of its predecessors when Spamalot begins rehearsals in November for a spring 2007 Vegas debut, climaxing the second wave of the Broadway invasion. While we wait for the Killer Rabbit and Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, what lessons can be learned from the Great Musical Massacre of 2006?

Sometimes you're just stuck with a lemon. Hairspray has been losing money on the road, and on Broadway it's only number eight among the top 10 shows. Spamalot, Mamma Mia!, The Producers and venerable Phantom are all drawing better -- and box office champ Wicked is rumored to have been spurned by Vegas.

"Harvey [Fierstein] is a very good actor and he's a very hard worker," says Compton, "but he's not a name that translates well in Las Vegas."

Friess agrees: "Don and Mary from Des Moines didn't know who he was and it didn't sell any tickets." Nor did it generate positive word of mouth, which Sternberg cites as central to the continued hot streak of Menopause and to which Compton credits some of the staying power of Mamma Mia!

Friess thinks part of the problem boils down to matching the show with the property. In other words, beehive hairdos and Egyptian pyramids make an odd fit. "The brilliant match of a show and a property is O at Bellagio," he explains. "The elegance, the beauty, even the name fits that property like a glove." He cites Cirque's pan-sexual, envelope-pushing Zumanity as a show that actually redefined its host casino, New York-New York. The Gotham-themed resort had always planned to reach for an urban demographic, Friess says, and Zumanity has "got a cutting edge to it and the rest of the property followed suit." By contrast, the earlier Madhattan offered too much rap and hip-hop for tourists' taste.

Phantom's producers appear to buy Friess' theory. "The Venetian fit best in marrying the themes of the show plus the scenery, the elegance and the architecture," co-producer Scott Zeiger told Variety. Ironically, Paris-set Phantom isn't playing Paris-Las Vegas, which even replicates the show's central location, the Palais Garnier. Friess cites Paris as a casino that's really struggled to find a show to fit its image. In addition to We Will Rock You, inauspicious predecessors to The Producers include Notre Dame de Paris, a notoriously ill-fated show Review-Journal theater critic Anthony Del Valle sums up as "two hours of whining."

Avenue Q, according to Friess, suffered from a disconnect between its young-urbanite subject matter and Wynn's aging-urbanite customer base. Shirty comments to, like "revolted ... we could only stomach the political leftist agenda for 20 minutes," conjure up the vision of so many Eustace Tillys and Margaret Dumonts storming out of Wynn Las Vegas in high plutocratic dudgeon.

...The Gray Lady's Brantley speaks for many when he says, "The ideal shows for Vegas would be things that don't demand your unconditional attention -- or else they're splashy enough to command your unconditional attention," a point Del Valle seconds. Or, in the words of Variety correspondent Phil Gallo, "Las Vegas audiences have little patience for story and characters." But spectacle never goes out of style. The proliferation of Cirque du Soleil shows on the Strip is nowhere near saturation point. Cirque's newest, the Beatles-themed Love, is universally expected to do blockbuster business, and Cirque already has an Elvis-centric follow-up on the drawing boards.

Cirque Lite, however, is a brand for which Vegas consumers have less appetite. Imitations like Storm are already half-forgotten and Dragone's Le Reve has been dogged by negative buzz from its opening. "Only Cirque doing Cirque will work. There's just something Cirque knows how to do," says Friess, and part of that is to have more going on than can be digested in one sitting, practically forcing repeat business. So too Phantom, which is being re-tooled into a sort-of theme park attraction.

...Even before the expensive lesson of Hairspray, its producer, Michael Gill, was contemplating bringing Broadway's The Wedding Singer (from the Adam Sandler movie) and a Riverdance knockoff to Vegas. After all, if there is one point of overwhelming consensus on the cul de sac that was Avenue Q, it's that Vegas customers cleave to the comfort of familiarity. "People feel safer with things they know," says the Avenue's McCollum. Kranes seconds the notion: Vegas audiences are uncomfortable with "things that are funky and quirky, unless they are un-narrative like Cirque du Soleil. It's not enough to know this won a Tony Award if you haven't seen it."

What that almost certainly means is more "jukebox musicals," which Friess describes as "a fancy version of the low-rent tribute concerts that are all over the Strip." It's no longer enough that people leave singing the tunes -- they have to be humming them on the way in. Even Phantom, thanks to 18 years on Broadway, a steadily selling album and more touring companies than you can shake a chandelier at, has the kind of pre-sold cachet that keeps Mamma Mia! rolling, even at less-than-sellout numbers in Las Vegas.

Pointing to the niche-market success of Menopause, Compton says it shows there's a theater audience in Las Vegas -- just not a big one. Del Valle thinks productions like Avenue Q will eventually survive, but only when eight or nine Broadway shows are running on the Strip: "At least it's a question mark now. Maybe in a few years it'll be an exclamation point."

For the moment, though, everything is riding on the man in the mask. "If Phantom doesn't work {here}, then nothing will work," proclaims Friess. "Period. End of story."

Kranes proposes another solution, elegant in its brutal simplicity: "Somebody should write a musical about the Chippendales."
Bev's Review of "Oklahoma!"

Here it is! She seems to have liked it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Polite New York City

This rings true - I've only been there once, but I was really struck at how nice everyone was, at how people said 'excuse me' even when I was at fault, not them:
New Yorkers are a polite bunch.

No, really, they are. So says Reader's Digest.

The magazine sent reporters "undercover" to 36 cities, in 35 countries, to measure courtesy. New York was the only American city on the list.

...The reporters walked into buildings to see whether the people in front of them would hold the door open; bought small items in stores and recorded whether the salespeople said, "Thank you"; and dropped a folder full of papers in busy locations to see whether anyone would help pick them up.

New Yorkers turned out to be the most polite: 90 percent held the door open; 19 out of 20 store clerks said, "Thank you"; and 63 percent of men and 47 percent of women helped with the flying papers.

...The rudest continent is Asia, Readers Digest said. Eight out of nine cities tested there - including last place Mumbai, India - finished in the bottom 11. In Europe, Moscow and Bucharest ranked as the least polite.

Reader's Digest, which has editions in 21 languages, is publishing the results in its July issue.
Tough Year In The Desert

John visits Chaco Canyon, the intriguing archaeological ruin in NW New Mexico, and reports about the worrisome effects of the drought:
Chaco was interesting as always but exceedingly hot. We made the mistake of looking at ruins immediately after arriving around noon--I would have known better than that 30 years ago. The next day we did our exploring in the morning before the heat of the day became too overpowering and that definitely worked better. I was struck by the seriousness of the drought there. Even the desert plants are dying. Though they never look like particularly healthy things now most of them are literally half or even completely dead. And what I particularly noticed was that the lichens seem to by dying. Those things grow at a rate of millimeters per decade and can survive most anything--or so I assumed. I can't say positively that the large areas of dead lichens are actually recent but they seemed to be.
Interesting! I'm sure it can get hot there at Chaco Canyon, but I'm saddened to hear it's been so brutal. And glad to hear you didn't fall victim either!

The Southwest has been kicked around pretty hard this last year. I hope the monsoons get started soon - I guess they already have in NM, but AZ is still pretty dry. And fires. Too many fires!
Age Before Beauty, I Suppose

MADONNA reportedly laughed "hysterically" after being told her pop rival Mariah Carey had to cancel several tour dates due to poor ticket sales.

The Hung Up singer is said to have gleefully welcomed the news that Mariah had to shelve a host of US shows because of a lack of interest.

A source told America's New York Daily News newspaper: "Madonna laughed hysterically. She has been asking her tour promoters to email her Mariah's sales."

It is believed Madonna still holds a grudge against the Butterfly singer because of something she said in an interview years ago.

The 47-year-old star is believed to be irked that Mariah, 36, once said she "grew up" listening to her music.
James Visited Seattle

And all I got was this postcard.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Wayfarer At Solstice

(Left) Recent publicity photo of "The Hobbit", American River College April 28 - May 7, 2006.

O! Where are you going?
With beards all a-wagging?
No knowing, no knowing,
What brings Mister Baggins,
And Balin and Dwalin
down into the valley
in June
ha! ha!

O! Will you be staying,
Or will you be flying?
Your ponies are straying!
The daylight is dying!

To fly would be folly,
To stay would be jolly
And listen and hark
Till the end of the dark
to our tune
ha! ha!
Tired as he was, Bilbo would have liked to stay awhile. Elvish singing is not a thing to miss, in June under the stars, not if you care for such things...Elves know a lot and are wondrous folk for news, and know what is going on among the peoples of the land, as quick as water flows, or quicker.
Solstice Day

Feel it! :
STONEHENGE, England -- Thousands of dancing and drumming revelers cheered the summer solstice at Stonehenge as an orange sliver of sun rose Wednesday.

Cloudy skies, dense fog and spurts of rain did not seem to dampen the energy of those who bobbed and swayed to cheerful beats with arms outstretched and shouts of "Feel the solstice!"

About 19,000 New Agers, present-day druids and partygoers gathered inside and around the ancient circle of towering stones to greet the longest day in the northern hemisphere as the sun struggled to peek out against a smoky gray sky.

"This is the nearest thing I've got to religion," said Ray Meadows, 34, of Bristol, England. The solstice "is a way of giving thanks to the earth and the universe."

Meadows, wearing a wreath of pink carnations over long pink hair-wrapped braids, identified herself as a fairy of the Tribe of Frog.

Stonehenge, on the Salisbury Plain 80 miles southwest of London, was built between 3000 B.C. and 1600 B.C. The lichen-covered rocks are a major tourist attraction and have spiritual significance for thousands of druids and New Age followers.
Frontier Touring Company Announcement

11:00 a.m. Melbourne NSW (6:00 p.m. PDT) Thursday.

Listening on Nova Radio.

[Update: Here are the dates]
Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Saturday 04 June 2005 now valid for Friday 17 November 2006
Sunday 05 June 2005 now valid for Saturday 18 November 2006
Monday 06 June 2005 now valid for Monday 20 November 2006

Kylie's back!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cluster Analysis

Who says figures lie? I wonder where that country song would hit, the surprisingly endearing one developed on '60 Minutes' to include every possible country cliche, the one about 'my mama got run over by a freight train the day they let me out of prison?':
IT will come as no surprise to anyone with an ear for music, but Abba's Eurovision-winning song Waterloo has all the characteristics of a surefire hit while this year's winner, Hard Rock Hallelujah by the outlandish Finnish band Lordi, doesn't.

The verdict was delivered by a computer running software developed for record companies to help them predict which songs will be hits and which will flop.
And it seems to work. Last week, Hard Rock Hallelujah was at number 25 on the British charts; Waterloo went to number one in 1974.

The developers claim the software can identify a potential Top 30 hit within 20 seconds and has an accuracy rate of at least 80 per cent.

Critics argue that the technology could stifle creativity and promote dull uniformity. But its backers say record labels may be encouraged to take more risks because the likely appeal of unusual songs can be judged in advance.

The program analyses 30 criteria including melody, beat, tempo, chord progression and cadence, and cross-refers them to a database of three million songs. It spots mathematical similarities even though songs might not sound the same or even be from the same genre.

It gives each piece of music a hit grading from zero to 1000. A score of 700 or more indicates the song falls into a cluster of existing hits on the database and, theoretically, has got what it takes to succeed. The software is also capable of scoring a new song on its longevity - its "classic grade".

The catchy Waterloo generated a hit rating of 722 and a classic grade of 764, justifying its enduring popularity. The software placed it in the same hit cluster as Keane's Is It Any Wonder? and Elton John's I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues.

Lordi's song received a hit rating of just 368, way below the threshold for big-sellers.
Earth Surrounded by Giant Fizzy Bubbles

Science! Discover strange things you never expected (but somehow always suspected):
The space above you is fizzing with activity as bubbles of superhot gas constantly grow and pop around Earth, scientists announced today.

Astronomers found the activity up where Earth's magnetic field meets a constant stream of particles flowing out from the Sun.

While space is commonly called a vacuum, in fact there is gas everywhere, albeit not as dense as the air you breathe.

The newfound bubbles are technically called density holes. In them, gas density is 10 times lower. The gas in the bubbles is 18,000,000 Fahrenheit (10,000,000 Celsius) instead of the 180,000 degrees Fahrenheit of the surrounding hot gas, which is known as plasma.

The bubbles were found in data collected by the European Space Agency's Cluster mission, a flotilla of four spacecraft. ... The bubbles expand to about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) and probably last about 10 seconds before bursting and being replaced by the cooler, denser solar wind, Parks and his colleagues say.
Presto! John Hancock Moves!

Message from Juan Ramos today:
John was finally and very suddenly transferred from Kaiser to Eskaton in Greenhaven once a bed became available last Friday (June 16th). So he is no longer in a hospital environment, which although I am grateful for the care/treatment he received at UCD and Kaiser, is a good thing. All his tubes have been removed and although he still requires skilled nursing, he is there primarily to mend and rehabilitate. It is a nice facility and is only a five minute drive from our home. The address of Eskaton is 455 Florin Rd about two blocks from Pocket Road, where Florin Road ends. Take I-5 South to LA, take the 43rd Street exit and turn right. Stay on this street until you hit Florin Road (which is a stoplight with a strip mall & Shell Gas station on your left and the Elks Lodge on your right) and take a left. Eskaton will be about two blocks on the left. He is in room B-5. It is not a very large room and he does share a room with another patient named Richard. Visiting hours are basically from 9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. Please check with John first before you bring him any food. He is still not able to eat very much and I usually have to bring excess food home when I visit him after work. He has more than enough plants/flowers than the space in his room will allow. Cards are fine, but what he appreciates the most is your visits. We both thank you again for your continued support.

Monday, June 19, 2006


This morning, I finally finished shredding all of Katherine Arthur's law papers, some 30+ boxes of densely-packed legal documentation that she stored at my house prior to her Peace Corps journey to Ukraine in 2002, and the discovery of her breast cancer in 2003, subsequent retirement, illness, and death on March 4th of this year. The project took three months, on and off. I destroyed one shredder, and have worn down another in the process. The hours of paper shredding have been a fine opportunity to bond with my rabbit Cloudy, but otherwise, what a drag!

Katherine had a family-law practice, and she was keen that her papers had to be destroyed in the event of her death. There were plenty of identity theft opportunities there, with photocopies of driver's licenses, Social Security cards, and credit card information for hundreds of clients. The documentation also gave detailed, intrusive information on the private lives of many hundreds of people: paternity tests, drug tests, interviews with hostile and vindictive people. There were also detailed clinical diagrams of bite marks, rope burns and cigarette burns. There was also plenty of information about childhood sexual abuse.

There was a class of confessional letters to family law judges that seemed like a minor literary form after awhile. The letters always seemed to start in the same way, suggesting that tired lawyers and social workers were pushing the same basic letter structure onto their clients, regardless of differences between cases. I never read more than the first line of these heart-breaking letters, but I read dozens of first lines. The letters would always start something like: Your honor, I'm sorry I:
  • let my child use drugs;
  • abandoned my children on a road side;
  • bathed my baby in scalding water;
  • spanked my daughters so hard they bled;
  • etc., etc., etc.
I suppose if I were a novelist, this information might have been a gold mine of dysfunction ripe for exploitation, but I was never tempted. Instead, after many hours of shredding, I began imagining that by destroying all this potentially-damaging information, I was actually purifying the world. Once everyone's identities were made safe again, people's memories could fog up and blur from the healing effects of time. Life could start again, fresh and new. After all, nothing can bring back an ugly past like a legal document, so .... do away with the document!

I just hope I'm right.....
...The Harder They Fall

Last night, while walking Sparky at 3:00 a.m. near 21st Street and Markham Way, two blocks south of my house in Curtis Park, we stumbled across a chaotic scene with firetrucks and chain saws and rattled people meandering in the street in the dark.

At about 1:30 a.m., a giant branch apparently fell out of a giant tree into the street. "Wow, that white sedan looks pretty bad," I told the Community Services Officer. "That's nothing," she said, "take a look at the camper shell!" Sure enough, the tree had flattened the camper shell on the back of a Datsun pickup truck across the street from the smashed-up white sedan.

It's late spring, nearly summer, the season when sap-loaded tree branches sometimes exceed the structural capacity of the tree itself.

I remember once seeing a tree limb give way, and crash down on 16th Street in Sacramento, just north of J St., fortuitously just after a pulse of traffic had passed by. And once, in 1994, while gazing at my car from a breakfast nook, while eating breakfast on a beautiful windless morning about 7:30 a.m., a limb fell out of a tree and smashed my windshield into a million pieces.

Chicken Little was right, the sky is falling!
"Oklahoma!" Opens At DMTC

(Left) 'Many A New Day,' Sunday afternoon, June 18th. Lavender (Claire Lawrence), Sun Yellow (Tawny Hansen), Strawberry (Dian Hoel), Powder Blue (Ashley Lowe), Lime Green (Bethany Pedersen), Royal Blue (Marissa Casillas). Seated on floor, Maya Rothman and Kristi Avila. Seated and standing in back, Dannette Vassar, Monique McKisson, Audrey Pan, Chelsea Beatty, Eva Cher. (Funny how it's the same pose, from a different angle, as the one I posted on Friday.)

A good opening weekend, overall. Opening night went unusually well for a DMTC show. A few light problems, and after wrassling inconclusively with the wobbly picket fence, the lights came up on Dannette while she was still onstage, but other than that, few big issues. One possible big stumbling point went well: we rechoreographed part of "Kansas City," the part prior to catching Will Parker (Brad Bong) in mid-air, but we didn't actually run through it, but just discussed it amongst ourselves, like civilized people do, but fortunately everyone got the memo, and so (mercifully for Brad) it worked.

(Left) Noel Bruening and Melissa Hasty at the concessions counter June 16th, opening night for "Oklahoma!"

On Saturday night, Steve's knee gave out on him, so stunt Ike Skidmore, Ryan Favorite, took control. Ryan had been cast in the part originally, but was replaced by Steve Isaacson when Ryan signed up to be a brutish Russian soldier in Music Circus' upcoming 'Fiddler on the Roof,' but Ryan was still available since Fiddler rehearsals haven't started yet. We didn't actually provide Ryan with page 40.5 of the script, however, so Ryan wasn't really in complete control, but more like a pawn in a pageant beyond his complete understanding, as if he were parachuted into some yahoo version of "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead." A couple of lines got dropped during the show, and some weird stuff happened. Jamie banged his knee, and, at one point, Brad apparently sang 'Oh! Glaucoma!' instead of 'Oklahoma!'. Still, basically OK....

Sunday also went well, but a few problems there too. Monique McKisson's toe got smacked during the scene change into Jud's Smokehouse, and Claudia was ill.

Pretty successful weekend, overall, though.

Spirited and friendly cast. My favorite story of the rehearsal period involved Buffee Gillihan's struggle to master her costume for the Dream Ballet 'can-can' sequence. Amply-endowed Buffee needs a boostiere like the Pacific Ocean needs water, and she grew concerned at one point: "I'm afraid!" soprano Buffee exclaimed. In spontaneous bass unison, Andy Hyun and myself intoned, "I'm not."

Backstage humor seems to be more sophisticated than during "Titanic," an evolution that has more to do with Steven Ross' changing tastes than any particular development among the rest of us. There are fewer of the grisly, but ever-popular dead-baby jokes, and more jokes along the lines of AOL's 'you've got mail' slogan:
What did King Arthur's computer tell him? You've got grail.
Cleverness with these jokes is limited by the number of words rhyming with 'mail.' My favorite creation so far:
What did the gold miner's computer tell him? You've got shale.
The cast is struggling to keep 'Family-Guy' humor out of the show. Colorado-inspired humor is a different matter, though, namely humor inspired by the animated television show "South Park." In the auction scene one night, instead of a bid for "three fifty" for Laurie's basket, Michael McElroy actually bid "tree fitty", which derives from South Park episode number 303, Chef's Mama:

Chef's dad: Well, aren't you crackers just cute as the dickens?
Stan: You're Chef's parents?
Chef's mom: Yes, all his life.
Kyle: We have to talk to him!
Chef's dad: Well, he should be out now directly.
Chef's mom: Oh, he's so excited about the wedding now.
Chef's dad: Say, would you crackers like to hear about the time we saw the Loch Ness monster?
Stan: No, that's okay.
Chef's dad: Ooh, it must've been about seven, eight years ago. Me and the little lady was out on this boat, you see, all alone at night, when all of a sudden this huge creature, this giant crustacean from the paleolithic era, comes out of the water.
Chef's mom: We was so scared, Lord have mercy, I jumped up in the boat and I said "Thomas, what on earth is that creature?!"
Thomas: It stood above us looking down with these big red eyes,-
Chef's mom: Oh, it was so scary!
Thomas: -and I yelled. I said, "What do you want from us, monster?!" And the monster bent down and said, "…Uh I need about tree-fitty." [a long silence follows]
Kyle: What's tree-fitty?
Thomas: Three dollars and fifty cents.
Chef's mom: Tree-fitty.
Stan: He wanted money?
Thomas: That's right. I said "I ain't giving you no tree-fitty you goddamn Loch Ness monster! Get your own goddamn money!"
Chef's mom: I gave him a dollar.
Thomas: She gave him a dollar.
Chef's mom: I thought he'd go away if I gave him a dollar.
Thomas: Well of course he's not gonna go away, Nellie! You gave him a dollar, he's gonna assume you got more!


[Chef's house. Thomas is still telling the story…]
Thomas: And that was the third time we saw the Loch Ness monster. Then one time, I believe it was July-
Nellie: August.
Thomas: -August. There's a knock on the door. I open it, and there's this cute little girl scout-
Nellie: And she was so adorable, with the little pig tails and all.
Thomas: -And she says to me, "How would you like to buy some cookies?" And I said "Well, what kind do you have?" She had thin mints, graham crunchy things-
Nellie: Raisin oatmeal.
Thomas: -Raisin oatmeal, and I said "We'll take a graham crunch. How much will that be?" And she looks at me and she says, "…Uh I need about tree-fitty."
Nellie: …Tree-fitty.
Thomas: Well, it was about that time that I notice that girl scout was about eight stories tall and was a crustacean from the protozoic era.
Nellie: The Loch Ness monster.
Thomas: I said, "Dammit monster! Get off my lawn! I ain't giving you no tree-fitty!" It said, "how about just two-fitty?" I said, "Oh, now it's only two-fitty!! What?! Is there a sale on Loch Ness munchies or something?!"
Nellie: Lord, he was angry.
Thomas: Damn right, I was angry!
Nellie: Not you, the monster. He was about to kick your ass.
Thomas: Aah, shut your mouth, woman!
Stan: Uh, could you just tell Chef we were here?
Thomas: Sure. That crazy old monster [Stan, Kyle, and Kenny walk out] Now, then the fourth time I saw the…


Thomas: Oh, I remember when Chef was just a three-year-old little man. He came running up to me with a big smile and his little chef's hat on, and he said, "Poppa, poppa!" I said "What do you need, Chef, my boy?", and he said, "…I need about tree-fitty."
Nellie: …Tree-fitty.
Thomas: Well, it was about that time I got suspicious. I said, "Chef, why do you need tree-fitty?" He said, "My imaginary friend Goo-Goo the dinosaur wants it." I went to my son's room, and sure enough, there was the Loch Ness monster!
Nellie: Oh, it was scary!
Thomas: I said, "Dammit monster! You stop bugging my children now! We work for our money in this house and we don't give money away!"
Thomas: So I chased the monster down the street, you see…

Thomas: [telling his tale to Randy and Sharon] …And then these aliens had me up on their ship, right? They was probing me and all that.
Nellie: We had taco salad that night.
Thomas: Don't matter what we had for dinner woman! Now this alien had a big head and big black eyes, and it was all bent over me. I said, "What do you want from me, alien?!" and do you know what he said?
Nellie: Tree-fitty.
Thomas: Uh. Let me tell the damn story now! He said, "tree-fitty." And so I realized I that it wasn't no alien, it was that God-damned Loch Ness monster again, trying to trick me into giving him tree-fitty by dressing up like an alien. Don't that just beat all?!
Nellie: I had just given him tree-fitty the week before.
Thomas: What?! You gave that monster another damn tree-fitty?!
Nellie: [somewhat defensive] He tricked me.
Thomas: Well no wonder the damn monster keeps coming back to our house! You keep giving it tree-fitty!

[The optometrist's office. Cartman walks in with a large ice box. His bandages are off. Now we know why he wasn't at school with Stan and Kyle.]
Dr. Lott: Oh, hello, piggy. How are your eyes doing?
Cartman: After today they're gonna be fine, and I'll never have to see you ever again!
Dr. Lott: I don't think that's possible, piggy, not with your eyes.
Cartman: No, not with my eyes. With these! [takes Kenny's frozen head out of the box to show the eyes] Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Dr. Lott: Was he an organ donor?
Cartman: Eh-sure.
Dr. Lott: All right, then let's get to work. [Cartman gets in the chair, and the optometrist pulls out Kenny's left eye] Say, you don't have three dollars and fifty cents on you, do you?
Little did I know that Michael McElroy (and not Ryan Favorite) is an eight-story tall crustacean from the Proterozoic Era!