the on-line diary of
ralph robert moore


the official website for the writings of
ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Robert Moore.

Print in HTML format.

Return to lately 2007.

humble as a bumblebee
january 1, 2007

Joe, Mary's Dad, flies down each year to spend Christmas and New Years with us.

Here are the dinners we ate:

Shrimp and Artichoke Dip with Garlic Bread Croutons

Short Ribs Braised with Root Vegetables, Served with Horseradish Sauce

Live Maine Lobsters with Drawn Butter, Corn on the Cob

Steamed Little-Neck and Manila Clams with Drawn Butter and Clam Broth; Shrimp Cocktail; Fresh Asparagus

Chicken Fried Steak, Pan Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans Simmered with Bacon, Garlic, Onion and Chicken Stock

Mary's Sea Scallops in Fresh Basil and Cream Sauce, Bread Round, Avocadoes with Make-Your-Own Blue Cheese Dressing

Prime Rib Roast, Pan-Roasted Vegetables, Horseradish Sauce, Assorted Wild Mushrooms Flambéed with Sherry and Brandy

Mexican Take-Out

Pork Ragout Served with Imported Italian Noodles, Carrots Cooked in Butter and Honey

Lobster Thermidor on Toast Points

Veal and Chicken Cannelloni Alla Bona; Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic

Mexican Take-Out

Spaghetti Carbonara with Cesar Salad

Shrimp Etouffee, Steamed White Rice, Brussel Sprouts, Red Beans and Rice

Chicken and Dumplings Cooked with Carrots, Onions, Celery in a Lemon and Chicken Broth

Brunch included Eggs Benedict, Quiche Lorraine, Steak and Pepper Sandwiches, Breakfast Burritos, Mary McMuffins, Club Sandwiches, and much, much more.

Movies we saw were:

Akeelah and the Bee
This is Spinal Tap
Just Like Heaven
Beau Geste
Dear Frankie
Take the Lead
Black Dahlia
Gunga Din
Snake Eyes
Little Miss Sunshine
Inside Man
The Devil Wears Prada
Match Point
Femme Fatale
16 Blocks
The Lake House

The day Joe arrives, the three of us sit around the black table in our breakfast nook, drinking, talking, laughing. We generally want something easy to prepare and eat for dinner that first evening. That's where the Romano's Macaroni Grill Shrimp and Artichoke Dip comes in. After picking it up earlier in the day, before we drive out to DFW airport to meet Joe, it's effortless to heat it up in the oven while we catch up, cheese and cream bubbling. The dish comes with long garlic croutons for dipping.

All three of us agree Eggs Benedict is the breakfast dish that will be served your first day in Heaven. That's why we have it on the menu three times during Joe's stay. Mary handles the difficult part, poaching the eggs just right, while I make the Hollandaise sauce, and cottage fries.

Joe's favorite meal is Mary's Seas Scallops in Cream and Basil Sauce, given here. I agree. Mary does this one on her own, me acting as her Suisse chef.

So far as movies go, we try to focus mostly on heart-warming films, given the season, although after Christmas we expand the range.

Part of getting ready for Joe's visit is cleaning, Winter Cleaning as opposed to Spring Cleaning.

We use those weird red oval brushes on the ends of long, extendable poles, hole in the middle like a stretched doughnut, to simultaneously wipe clean the tops and undersides of all the tilted blades of our ceiling fans.

In our bedroom, opposite our bed, on the same wall as our television, we have a Pulaski Accentrics chair with black and gold-gilded wood, very elegant. The seat was originally a subtle small-checked pattern of white and ivory, but a cat threw up on it, so Mary replaced the seat covering with a leopard animal print, which looks even better.

Sheba, one of our cats, likes to hop up onto the seat, orange head switching left, right, big paws sliding the shed fur of his previous hop-ups around sideways, so that this thin pile of fur, arranged and rearranged over the stripe and spot pattern of the leopard design, creates new patterns, Sheba creating his own visual hallucinations, which his head rears back from, astonished. What is it like, to get high from your own past?

At some point during the movies we viewed over the holidays, it's possible we heard the Wilhelm Scream.

Foley artists, meaning people who create sound effects for movies, everything from a falling body hitting pavement (usually duplicated climbing up a stepladder, letting go of a watermelon), to a fire crackling (popping plastic wrapping or, alternatively, slowly crushing potato chips). (Go to A HREF=>DAVELAB'S.COM Guide to Sound Effects for more examples.)

If a Foley artist comes up with a particularly good sound effect, they'll archive it on tape, using the same effect over and over in other movies.

So it is with the Wilhelm Scream.

The scream originated in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River, filmed in 3-D, when actor Ralph Brooke, playing a character named Wilhelm, lets out a heart-rending scream (other film buffs believe the scream actually first occurred as an overdub in the 1951 movie Distant Drums, directed by Raoul Walsh).

Whatever its origin, the same exact scream has since been used in dozens of movies, including The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Willow, Howard the Duck, There's Something About Mary, Lord of the Rings, and, on TV, The X Files, Angel, and The Family Guy. There are probably a large number of movies and TV shows where the scream has not yet been identified.

Want to hear it?

Click here.

Recognize it?

The Wilhelm Scream kind of ties in with the fact that this year we had a Brian DePalma festival. One of DePalma's films (not shown at the festival) is Blow Out, clearly inspired by Julio Cortazar's short story Blow Up, later made into the Antonioni movie of the same name, in which a photographer shoots a picture at a park, takes it back to his darkroom to develop, notices something odd, and blows up the picture, magnifying one section over and over again, until he discovers evidence of a crime (Cortazar is a favorite author of mine, although he's virtually unknown nowadays, which I cannot understand. He was born in Brussels, raised in Argentina (his parents were Argentinean), and spent most of his adult life in Paris. His most famous work is the short story collection End of the Game and Other Stories, which included Blow Up as well as two of my favorite short stories of all time, House Taken Over, and A Yellow Flower. He wrote several novels, including Hopscotch, the first part of which is told in conventional, chapter 5 is followed by chapter 6 sequencing, but which then, about a third of the way through the novel, allows you several choices as to which of the book's remaining chapters should be next, essentially forks in the novel. Depending upon which fork you chose at the end of each chapter, and then at the end of that chapter, etc., there were dozens of different outcomes to the novel.)

Anyway, in DePalma's Blow Out, a Foley artist, John Travolta, is out recording sounds in the night, an owl's hoot, etc., when he hears a car driving on the road across the valley from him. He points the microphone at that sound, records it. Later, back in his apartment, listening to the sound, he thinks he hears another sound within the tire sounds, blows it up, etc. How this ties into the Wilhelm Scream is that at the end, he inadvertently tapes the sound of his girlfriend's dying scream, and uses that as a Foley sound in a cheesy horror film he's working on for the scream of a stabbed co-ed, immortalizing his girlfriend.

DePalma is one of the most interesting directors working in cinema today. His movies are often dismissed as derivative or hard to follow the plot of, but in fact he's doing great work. When he does perform a homage, it's clever and creative. Take, for example, the allusion to the shower scene in Psycho that DePalma films in Dressed to Kill, his scene taking place in a cubicle different from a shower stall, an elevator car, with the circular security mirror at the top of the car substituting for the circular showerhead in the Hitchcock film.

Earlier in December, NASA held a press conference to announce they now had photographic evidence to strongly suggest surface water is currently flowing on Mars.

Mary and I watched the announcement on NASA TV, which comes with our satellite TV provider.

Like with most NASA press conferences, the first thing that struck me is that here is an agency that can precisely place a probe millions of miles away in space, having to contend with multiple gravitational pulls and all sorts of other outer space factors, and yet they give the most primitive press conferences imaginable.

This press conference was no exception. After the scientists had made their announcement, which could mean that biology currently exists on Mars, they took questions from the gathered news media, via one microphone that was passed hand to hand, like a collections basket at a Catholic church, to each reporter. Most of the questions from the West Coast were marred by the signal cutting in and out, so that NASA TV viewers got only a hopscotch of what the actual question was.

But it was great news. We know already (it's a confirmed, scientific fact, as they say) that ice water and water vapor exist on Mars. Liquid water may exist in aquifers beneath the Martian surface. Everywhere on Earth there is liquid water, no matter how hostile the environment, there is life. If indeed there is some form of life on another planet, that is the most significant discovery of the past two thousand years.

On our 25th wedding anniversary, January 19, 2006, NASA launched New Horizons, its first mission to Pluto, 3.7 billion miles from the sun. It'll arrive on July 14, 2015, about the time of my retirement. After studying Pluto's surface composition and temperature, the probe will push on to the Kuiper belt, just inside the Oort Cloud that surrounds our solar system.

We live in outer space.

We forget that, because land appears flat, going on greenly forever, but we're on the surface a sphere, a sphere so large, nearly 8,000 miles in diameter, it appears, to us, flat.

We forget our yellow sun, humble as a bumblebee, is in fact a star. No different from all the other tiny white stars we see twinkling in the cold night sky.

For no reason other than the fact I can, here's my list of the best television series of 2006:

Best series of 2006:

Dexter (Showtime)


The Office (NBC)

Other Series of Note (in alphabetical order):

Friday Night Lights (NBC)
The Sopranos (HBO)
The Wire (HBO)

Honorable Mention:

Big Love (HBO)

I loved the first season of Showtime's Sleeper Cell, but the scheduling for the second season is so bizarre I haven't been able to watch the series. The new season consists of eight shows. The first episode was shown on December 10. Episodes seven and eight were shown on December 17. Whatever happened to episodes two through six?