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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Staycation 2016, Day 2

I'm nearing the end of the second day of my 2016 "staycation" (what an ugly word), and I have accomplished nothing. I guess that's what holidays are for, but I feel like I should at least clean up my office. Today I slept in until 11, ran some errands with Sylvia, then napped from 4 until 8. I think I'll turn in early; maybe tomorrow will be a more fruitful day. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Palpable Hit

Good enough to get to first base! From 2010, when I was playing baseball with the Alberta Liberal Caucus. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Newton Place

I lived in Newton Place, on the University of Alberta campus, for about a year. This is one of only three or photos I have of that time. I have only a few memories of Newton Place: it was where I watched the finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I once dropped a glass in the laundry room and stepped on a sliver of it, leaving bloody footprints on the floor, and Pat and Leslie dropped in for an impromptu visit one night. We don't do impromptu visits in our culture very often. I think they're kind of nice, but on the other hand, I'm not brave enough to drop in unannounced myself, and I understand why they don't happen regularly. Or is it just a matter of age? Is it the sort of thing people in their 20s do, then stop as they enter middle age?

What a shame that we only get one go-round to figure out all of these little mysteries. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Last Book

The novel died
10,000 years from now
When no one reads anymore
But the books will take
Aeons to dissipate
Atomic shells at last letting go
One last book rests
On the last shelf
In the last library
One million years from now
Not even wind exists to turn the pages
Much less man
But the words remain
For now

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Paste Land

Bottle of LePage
Red and white
Cap twisted off
White glue stink
Disgusting yet you inhale
The hard translucent flows of dried glue
Stuck to your desk
So satisfying to peel or chip them off
But then the day comes when
The glue runs so thick and hard that
The cap won't come off and you
Are stuck with
Nothing but memories

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Astride the Clutter

When I lived in my parents' basement, I was fortunate enough to have a study alongside my bedroom. Within this study lived my computer and as many books as I could cram into the narrow space. When I went to university my brother moved into the space; years later, once both of us had moved on, Mom and Dad turned the room into a storage space, as seen here.

Today, Mom and Dad are deep into renovating the basement, including this space, which they have now opened up into a much larger space. It looks much better now! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Baywood Office, 2002

Here's what my home office looked like back in July, 2002. You can see my then-new Toyota through the window. It seems far less cluttered than my current office...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Star Trek Discovery

So, the Bryan Fuller/Nick Meyer Star Trek show will be Star Trek: Discovery, and it looks like the ship design may be the one that Star Wars illustrator Ralph McQuarrie originally designed for the abandoned Planet of the Titans film. Frankly, I hardly know what to make of this; surely they can't be making a show in the vein of 1970s science fiction, can they? Because that would be...amazing.

If nothing else, I love the title; discovery is exactly what Star Trek is all about. Between this and season 3 of Twin Peaks, it's going to be a long 2016 for me...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Star Trek Beyond Expectations

Beware: SPOILERS follow for Star Trek Beyond

At their best, Star Trek stories explore how the human species might one day mature into a civilization worthy of the name. This idea is what drew me to the original series, and what has sustained my love of the various shows and films, to lesser or greater degrees, for nearly half a century now.

Star Trek Beyond, the third and latest film in the so-called "Kelvin timeline" spun off from the continuity of the original show and its sequels, isn't the best of Star Trek stories, but it is the best of the three Kelvin films. And considered on its own merits, it's a solid, if not classic, episode. If its reach exceeds its grasp, then I at least salute the efforts of director Justin Lin and screenwriters Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. Star Trek Beyond is, first and foremost, a summer action blockbuster, with all that genre entails, but this time around fans also get a half-decent story to go along with the whiz-bang setpieces.

The film's opening act welcomes the audience to year three of the five year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Captain Kirk and his crew have been exploring the universe for nearly 1,000 days now, and Kirk is starting to feel the vastness of the cosmos closing in on him. He's starting to wonder if he's taken on a task that can never be truly accomplished, and to make matters worse, in a couple of days he'll be older than his father ever was. We learn that Kirk may leave the Enterprise behind for a desk job.

We're shown this information via a number of well-used Star Trek tropes: the Captain's Log and a quiet conversation between Kirk and his number one confidante, Dr. McCoy. We also see that Spock and Uhura are having relationship troubles, and that some troubling news is serving as a catalyst for Spock to reconsider his life choices.

In the midst of this personal drama comes the chance to rest and recuperate at Starbase Yorktown. In perhaps my favourite sequence of the film, the Enterprise arrives at what looks like, as Dr. McCoy puts it, a giant snow globe in space. Cities, lakes, rivers, causeways, gardens and mass transit are stacked on wheels and spokes within a gravity-defying civilization of millions, a multicultural miasma of humans and alien species greater in scale and scope than anything we've seen in the Star Trek universe to this point. There's a gorgeous extended sequence of the Enterprise docking within this gigantic space city, flying into it via transparent tubes, visible to the denizens of Yorktown. It's a gorgeous piece of cinematic invention, and it truly makes the audience realize that the future humans depicted in Star Trek really are different than us; they can manipulate the fundamental forces of the universe, and with that knowledge they build wonders for the betterment not just of humanity, but for anyone around.

After this promising opening the film proceeds as summer blockbusters must, with a series of explosive action sequences. Fortunately, the action is well-choreographed and makes sense in the context of the story; aside from a couple of minor quibbles (and one major one), nothing feels forced. And through it all, we're treated to a lot of great character moments from all of the regulars and a very cool alien guest star.

The villain's motivations are murky at first, but the third-act reveal is interesting and even a little bold; I can't say more without spoiling the story. For once, instead of revenge, the villain is lashing out because of his own sense of loss and dislocation, and his actions make sense in his context - even if we and the protagonists must disagree with his chosen direction.

There's one moment in the film that had both my brother and I groaning, though much of the audience reacted positively. To be honest, I hated this sequence less than Sean, and there's one thing I do like about it quite a bit: essentially, Kirk and company use culture to fight the final ship-to-ship(s) battle. It's cheesy, but it came within a hair's breadth of being really cool - at least in my mind. Perhaps a different song might have made the difference...but I've said too much.

The film ends with a perfectly charming coda that turns Captain Kirk's birthday from something to be ignored to something to be celebrated - literally - and because of that we get a few minutes of the original series crew (millennium iteration) gathering and bonding in a way we never saw on the original show. And there is, of course, the promise of more adventure ahead.

If I sound effusive in my praise, it may be because Star Trek Into Darkness lowered my expectations to nearly zero. Make no mistake - this isn't a great film. But I think it's a pretty good one, and perhaps most importantly, it's sincere, and that's a quality I value very highly.

A digression: the film is dedicated to recently deceased young actor Anton Yelchin, who played Mr. Chekov in all three Kelvin timeline films. To my disappointment, Yelchin is underutilized in this film, though he is a consistent presence and has a couple of fun moments. I was hoping for more from Chekov this time around, both because that may have served as some comfort to Mr. Yelchin's parents and other loved ones, and because I've always had a fondness for Chekov all out of proportion to the character's prominence. In fact, in many ways he's my favourite of the original crew: he's eager, clever, dependable, but a little bit goofy and naive, as played by Yelchin and the character's original actor, Walter Koenig. I suppose I projected myself a little bit onto Chekov; I could never imagine myself as a Captain Kirk, but I could imagine myself as a Chekov, the dependable, affable guy who made sure the Kirk got what he or she needed to get the job done. To honour Yelchin, the film's producers say the role of Chekov won't be recast. I think that's the right decision, but it also means we've probably seen the last of the Chekov character for many, many years to come.

End of tangent. In summary, Star Trek Beyond is a reasonably smart summer action blockbuster with almost enough social commentary to make it feel like a good episode of the original series. Recommended for fans of clever action movies and Star Trek fans who can relax a little about the direction of these reboot films.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Shuttle Smash Animation

I built this model with my bare hands, paint and glue, and by gum I had a right to smash it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

B.A. Day

I only just realized that 25 years ago this summer I picked up my degree from the University of Alberta. Here I am in front of Main Kelsey, where I lived during my university years. It doesn't seem like 25 years, but the math checks out...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Alternate Staple Accident

Who would have believed that there are TWO photographs of my bloodied fingers in a stapler. This image was shot (for some reason) in 620 SUB on the University of Alberta campus; it was the office of the University of Alberta Star Trek Club. It is probably no surprise that I served a term as President. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Tonight on Nightmare Channel

Seeing this makes me realize I should have been a late-night low-budget cable channel host...Igor's Theatre of the Mad and Macabre or something. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Stooge Defence Pattern Alpha

Here is a photo of Jeff and Susan from the mid-1990s. In this dramatic image, Jeff uses the only known maneuver that foils the dreaded Stooge form eyeball assault. I'm still amazed that I had the reflexes to get this shot. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Worst Pictures

Because it seems only fair - or perhaps because I've simply gone mad - I've decided that in addition to tracking my progress in working through the Best Picture nominees, I should also monitor my viewing of the Worst Pictures, as determined by the Golden Raspberry Awards.

While there are more than a few painful Best Picture nominees, working through that list is far less painful than the spectre of enduring all 185 (to date) Razzie nominees. Indeed, bad enough that I've already seen 42 of those nominees, as seen below...

Can’t Stop the Music
The Formula
Friday the 13th
The Nude Bomb
The Jazz Singer
Raise the Titanic
Saturn 3

Mommie Dearest
Endless Love
Heaven’s Gate
The Legend of the Lone Ranger
Tarzan, the Ape Man

The Pirate Movie

The Lonely Lady
Jaws 3-D
Stroker Ace
Two of a Kind

Cannonball Run II
Where the Boys Are ‘84

Rambo: First Blood Part II
Fever Pitch
Rocky IV
Year of the Dragon
Howard the Duck
Under the Cherry Moon
Blue City
Shanghai Surprise

Leonard Part 6
Jaws: The Revenge
Tough Guys Don’t Dance
Who’s That Girl

Caddyshack II
Hot to Trot
Mac and Me
Rambo III

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
The Karate Kid, Part III
Lock Up
Road House
Speed Zone

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane
Ghosts Can’t Do It
The Bonfire of the Vanities
Graffiti Bridge
Rocky V

Hudson Hawk
Cool as Ice
Dice Rules
Nothing But Trouble
Return to the Blue Lagoon

Shining Through
The Bodyguard
Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
Final Analysis

Indecent Proposal
Body of Evidence
Last Action Hero

Color of Night
On Deadly Ground
The Specialist
Wyatt Earp

It’s Pat: The Movie
The Scarlet Letter

Barb Wire
The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Stupids

The Postman
Batman & Robin
Fire Down Below
Speed 2: Cruise Control

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn
The Avengers
Spice World

Wild Wild West
Big Daddy
The Blair Witch Project
The Haunting
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Battlefield Earth
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas
Little Nicky
The Next Best Thing

Freddy Got Fingered
3000 Miles to Graceland
Pearl Harbor

Swept Away
The Adventures of Pluto Nash
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The Cat in the Hat
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
From Justin to Kelly
The Real Cancun

Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2
Surviving Christmas
White Chicks

Dirty Love
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo
The Dukes of Hazzard
House of Wax
Son of the Mask

Basic Instinct 2
Lady in the Water
Little Man
The Wicker Man

I Know Who Killed Me
Daddy Day Camp
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

The Love Guru
Disaster Movie
The Happening
The Hottie & the Nottie
In the Name of the King

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
All About Steve
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Land of the Lost
Old Dogs

The Last Airbender
The Bounty Hunter
Sex and the City 2
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Vampires Suck

Jack and Jill
Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star
New Year’s Eve
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
The Oogieloves in Big Balloon Adventure
That’s My Boy
A Thousand Words

Movie 43
After Earth
Grown Ups 2
The Lone Ranger
A Madea Christmas

Saving Christmas
Left Behind
The Legend of Hercules
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Transformers: Age of Extinction

Fantastic Four
Fifty Shades of Grey
Jupiter Ascending
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

In all honesty, I doubt I'll attempt to complete this list with the same dedication I'm trying to see all the Best Picture nominees. Just look at the horrors on this list: a slew of Transformers and Twilight movies, terrible Jaws sequels, legendary losers such as Leonard Part 6, From Justin to KellyCatwoman and The Last Airbender...shudder. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Return to Lister Hall

For a brief week sometime in...1994, I think, I rented a room in Lister Hall because Dad was out of town and I couldn't commute with him from Leduc to Edmonton for work at the Western Board of Music. I wound up staying in the Main Kelsey Dungeon, which was part of the Main Kelsey floor I'd lived on for four years while earning my B.A.

I'm not sure what I'm lamenting here, but I'm amused by the dot-matrix printer and its full box of tractor feed paper, as well as the ancient Windows PC, which may have been my first or second computer after retiring my last Atari. Note the box of 3.5" floppy disks on the shelf to my right.

I find it kind of amazing that I dragged all that hardware from Leduc to Edmonton for a week. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Baffled at the Raffles

Here is a pretty terrible picture of me at the famous Raffles hotel in Singapore in late 1996 or early 1997. It's a pretty nice hotel, although I could not afford to stay there at the time. Actually, I wonder if I could afford to stay now...probably not. I wish I'd been wearing a pith helmet and a bomber jacket. Parvesh was kind enough to take the photo.

This was over 20 years ago now! Good heavens. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Film Achievements Unlocked

Modern video games in the age of social media often award tiny graphical badges when players complete certain goals. These badges, often given whimsical names, are then posted on the player's gamer identity on the social media platform of their choice.

Setting the bar low for personal goals, I've started creating my own little achievements for filmographies completed. Here's what I have so far:

Achievement Unlocked: Retcon-Futurism
You have seen all the films of George Lucas.

Achievement Unlocked: I'm King of the World
You have seen all the films of James Cameron.

Achievement Unlocked: Laugh So You Won't Cry
You have seen all the films of Wes Anderson.

Achievement Unlocked: That Gum You Like is Coming Back in Style
You have watched all the films of David Lynch.

Achievement Unlocked: Captain Quirk
You have watched all the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.

I'm pretty close to finishing the works of John Carpenter, Robert Zemeckis, Ed Wood, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Sergio Leone, David Cronenberg, John Glen, Peter Jackson and the Coen brothers. It should be fun coming up with cute names for those achievements. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Forest Gossip

A whispering oak
Shares its secrets no more than
A babbling brook

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer Haiku

Hobby-horse rocking
Its springs squeaking out a song
For melting ice cream

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Another Birthday for Mom

Mom is still going strong in her retirement, and today we joined her and Dad for lunch to celebrate. I didn't take any pictures at the restaurant, so here's a shot Dad took of Mom and Sean and me back in 1976 or 1977; I'm terrible at guessing ages, but Sean look pretty new. As you can see, I haven't finished repairing this damaged scan yet, but even so I think it's a great shot of Mom. I could only get away with a suit like that in the 70s, though...

Friday, July 08, 2016

A Tale of Two Sulus

With all the terrible things happening in the world today, it's often hard to forget how far we've come (while of course recognizing how far we have yet to go). This thought was on my mind when the mini-kerfuffle over Star Trek character Hikaru Sulu's sexual orientation hit the news.

In case you haven't heard, in the next Star Trek film we'll find out that Mr. Sulu, played in the new films by John Cho, has a same sex partner. Somewhat surprisingly, George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu in the original television show upon which this rebooted series of films is based, doesn't approve, even though he himself is gay.

According to Takei, he played Sulu as a straight man back in the 60s (and in the first six Star Trek films in which he appeared, presumably). This is because according to Takei, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned Sulu as heterosexual (although considering the time one wonders if even the famously progressive Roddenberry ever gave a passing thought that any of his characters would be anything but hetero).

This has led to some polite but firm chatter through the media between Takei, Cho, and various other actors involved in the franchise.

Frankly, I don't see the problem; it's easy enough to imagine that the Sulu played by Takei is/was heterosexual, while the one played by Cho is gay; after all, Cho's Sulu is from an alternate timeline, so this can read as merely one of many differences between the original crew and their alternate counterparts.

But even if you don't accept this hair-splitting, how nice is it that we can have this discussion and it's about the show and the characters, and not about whether or not homosexuality is okay? Clearly it's okay, and we're reaching a point where sexual orientation is growing less and less controversial among more and more people.

I'm also encouraged by how the reveal will apparently be handled: in passing and as a matter of course, because by the 23rd century sexual orientation won't be a big deal at all, to anyone. Oh my! 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

2058 Films

Ever since Bruce and Leslie asked me how many books I thought I read in a year, I've felt an increasingly overwhelming urge to catalogue not just what I'm reading now, but everything I've ever read. This mild obsession has extended to cataloguing every film I've seen and television series I've completed.

I've been using Letterboxd to log the films I've seen, and tonight I crossed the 2,000 film mark; indeed, I've catalogued 2,058 films, and I know that doesn't cover every film I've ever seen because I keep remembering more. Only tonight did I realize I'd forgotten to log Zero Effect, Xanadu, Vamp, Stripes, The Mummy, Red Dawn and many others. Remembering which films I've seen recently is relatively easy compared to digging out memories of movie nights from decades ago.

Letterboxd has a wide range of cool features, but I discovered one tonight that I really like a lot: it will sort your list of films by decade or even year. It's easy to see how many films you've watched from each of the dozen or so decades of the art.

So here's my list - at least as it stands today:

1900s: 4
1910s: 15
1920s: 22
1930s: 96
1940s: 109
1950s: 179
1960s: 207
1970s: 245
1980s: 335
1990s: 347
2000s: 300
2010s: 196

It's an almost disappointingly linear increase through the decades, with the exception of a small dropoff from the 1990s to the 2000s and a bigger drop from the 2000s to the 2010s (although to be fair, this decade is only a little half over).

As for individual years, the winner is 1998; I've seen 44 films released from that year. They are: The Thin Red Line, Shakespeare in Love, A Simple Plan, Star Trek: Insurrection, Babe: Pig in the City, Enemy of the State, American History X, Apt Pupil, Soldier, What Dreams May Come, Antz, Pleasantville, Rushmore, Elizabeth, Ronin, Run Lola Run, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Avengers, Ever After (which I reviewed in The Peak), Saving Private Ryan, The Mark of Zorro, Pi, Armageddon, The X Files, Free Enterprise, The Truman Show, Godzilla, Bulworth, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Deep Impact, Tarzan and the Lost City, The Big Hit, From the Earth to the Moon (HBO miniseries), Lost in Space, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Dark City, Burn Hollywood Burn, The Big Lebowski, The Replacement Killers, Zero Effect, Gods and Monsters, and Great Expectations. Of these, of course, I caught most on DVD or Blu-Ray or movie channels after their initial release; but I did catch a few of these films in theatres, including Shakespeare in Love (with Leslie, maybe, or do I just associate her with Shakespeare?), A Simple Plan (with Allan, I think), Star Trek: Insurrection, Soldier, What Dreams May Come, Antz, Pleasantville (with Kim, I think), How Stella Got Her Groove Back (with Parvesh in California), The Mark of Zorro, The X Files, The Truman Show (with Allan and Leslie, I think), Godzilla (with Sean?), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Tarzan and the Lost City (in St. Albert's theatre for some reason), Lost in Space (again with Allan, I think), Dark City, The Big Lebowski, and The Replacement Killers (maybe with Pete, Mike and Jeff Pitts?). Quite a year.

Several years are only represented by one film: 1900 (Cyrano de Bergerac), 1903 (The Great Train Robbery), 1917 (Bucking Broadway), 1918 (Take a Chance), 1921 (The Kid), 1922 (Nosferatu), and 1926 (The General). And of course, there are several years from the 1900s and 1910s from which I've seen zero films. But not for long - thanks, YouTube!

So there's my pitifully small sampling of the world of film as it stands today. As I continue to pore over my records and memories, I'll improve the list's fidelity. Let's see how many I've racked up by the end of the year...

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

She's Got Bette Avis Eyes

I spotted this on the west side of Edmonton this afternoon. Amusing. 

Monday, July 04, 2016

Zack Snyder's Justice League Plot

Based on clues dropped in the terrible Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, here's how I think the Justice League movie will go:

  • Darkseid and his minions will invade Earth. Luckily Batman will have gathered the Justice League to fight them off, saving the day but only after tremendous destruction and vast loss of life. 
  • During the battle Lois Lane's life will be endangered. Any one of the League members could save her, but Batman reluctantly orders them to focus on the fight against Darkseid. As a result, Lois dies tragically. 
  • Superman comes back to life just in time to turn the tide and help the Justice League defeat the bad guys. But he finds a world in ruins, and with Lois dead, he becomes unhinged. 
  • Superman sets himself up as a dictator, saying the universe is too dangerous for freedom (or some such nonsense) and that only he can take care of humans. 
  • Batman sends the Flash back in time to warn his younger self, which we see in Batman v Superman when the Flash's apparition tells Bruce Wayne "Lois is the key! You were right to fear him!" 
  • The movie ends with Batman and the Flash and maybe Cyborg forming an underground resistance, with Wonder Woman and Aquaman returning to their respective homes, withdrawing from messed-up human civilization. 
  • In a cliffhanger ending, Superman and his stormtroopers rule the world with an iron fist, for its own good. 
Naturally, Zack Snyder will promote this character assassination as unexpected, edgy and bold, saying no one could have expected such a dramatic reversal of expectations (except any one of a zillion comic fans who've already put these pieces together). 

I hope this doesn't actually happen. But it seems pretty obvious given the dream sequences. 

You know what would actually be bold and unexpected? If they're going to continue making movies in this genre, make a movie where the good guy doesn't fight the bad guy. Just have the hero (or heroine) save people from disasters, muggings, accidents and so on, and show how the demands on his time make it difficult to live an ordinary life - but show that it's all worth it, don't make it dour and depressing. Comic books were huge in the mid-20th century because they were, above all, fun - which doesn't necessarily mean simple or unsophisticated. 

Or serve up something like Dredd, which has a simple, linear plot, but one that's executed with believable world-building, style and intelligence. 

Or just go back to any one of hundreds of legitimately great comic stories in the medium's decades-long history and adapt it faithfully. Think how bananas it would be to watch a film based on the Composite Superman story...

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Viral Video Predictions

Sometime in the next ten years, we'll see the following viral videos:

1. Two farmers get into a combine fight, one driving a John Deere, the other an International Harvester.
2. A man will blow up a prizewinning pumpkin with a rocket launcher.
3. A member of the one percent, an insider, will speak truth to power in the ultimate "the hell with it" moment, even against his or her own interests. People may or may not actually listen.
4. Unfortunately, someone will die violently on a major reality show.
5. A major scientific discovery will be shown to change the life of someone in an astounding and positive way. 

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Sean in the Red Lodge

I was barely able to rescue this badly deteriorated negative from 1982. Eventually Sean emerged from the murk, looking somewhat like Killer BOB from Twin Peaks, lurking in Laura Palmer's bedroom. Creepy.