Deep Space Nine: s07 e04 – Take Me Out to the Holosuite


Who da man?

After the heavily intense episodes of the past few weeks, it was obvious that we’d get a lightweight story for a change of pace. There’s usually one quite early in every season of DS9. And ‘Take me out to the Holosuite’, which was all about having a game of baseball, was as lightweight as they come, despite the attempt to back it up with a psychological angle. In fact, it was so lightweight, you practically had to tie an iron onto it to keep it from floating away. I was prepared to be rather bored, but in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The set-up is that the Vulcan-manned Federation ship T’Kundra has docked at DS9 for two weeks of overhaul and upgrade. It’s commanded by Captain Solok who is a hate figure for Benjamin Sisko, and indeed he’s a right snotty superior pain-in-the-arse from the get-go, niggling all the time about not so much Vulcaan superiority as human inadequacy.

Solok’s done this since the pair were cadets and a drunk Sisko challenged him to a wrestling match and got whupped. For a supposedly emotionless Vulcan, Solok is a seriously vindictive shit, endlessly rubbing it in on Sisko, and now he’s brought a baseball holosuite game to challenge the Captain at his own personal sport. Sisko immediately orders the senior staff – which now appears to include Nog (?!) – to form a team and win.

That’s basically it, really. The team is swelled out by Rom, Leeta, Quark and Kasidy Yates. Rom is completely inept, which is a laugh because Max Grodenchik was a semi-professional baseball player and had to play left-handed to look authentically crap. Sisko throws him off the team, which causes the others to threaten a strike unless he’s reinstated. But there’s one of those little scenes that remind us, fourteen carat klutz that he may be, Rom is a truly good bloke: he only wants to be in the team on merit and he recognises he clearly hasn’t got any, so he won’t accept a false position.

Now, you’re all expecting that, on the day, the ‘Niners’ will pull off a victory all the more stunning for being so completely unexpected, and so did I. But this episode is more subtle than that. Basically, the DS9 team get thoroughly and deservedly whupped, 10-1, and Sisko gets thrown out for touching the umpire (Odo). But the episode shapes itself around that one, consolation run, which comes about through Sisko chucking Rom in as a pinch-hitter, his accidentally ‘hitting’ the perfect bunt and Nog stealing home, producing an ecstatic response from his team that carries over into Quark’s.

Solok doesn’t get it. He blames human emotionality (Ezri pipes up with ‘Did I forget to wear my spots today? He doesn’t even know what humans look like!’), suspects an artificial attempt to turn abject defeat into moral victory, but has to exit as everyone taunts him over his emotional investment in getting one over Sisko, but really they’re just celebrating having had fun, lots of fun, and that’s what makes this episode delightful, the copious amount of fun everyone’s clearly and genuinely having.

It still doesn’t turn me into a baseball enthusiast, cricket will always be a far more subtle, complex and involving game for me (and you couldn’t fake that onscreen as easily as DS9 does), but this was fun with its boots off, and I loved it.

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Film 2018: To Kill a Mockingbird


They say that Great Books cannot be adapted into Great Films, that the latter come from average books at best. Given the difference between the two forms, and that Film necessarily involves a simplification and streamlining of a story whose greatness lies in its complexity, it’s a workable rule of thumb. But it isn’t a universal rule: To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful example of a film that is as great as the book it adapts. The two stand side by side.

Harper Lee’s novel, which most people believe to be autobiographical, was published in 1960 and filmed only two years later, with Gregory Peck in the leading role of Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer in the Alabama town of Maycomb in 1932.

Atticus is a good man, a decent man. He’s a widower bringing up two children, Jem, aged about 12, and Jean Louise (known as Scout) aged 6. Both book and film are seen through the eyes and understanding of Scout, though neither shies away from plain and often painful recounting of the adult events that are its story.

Atticus is asked to defend a black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), who is accused of raping and beating a white woman, Mayella Ewell. In the South, in 1932, the outcome is foregone. Justice is only for White Folks. Atticus is taking on a cause, whether he will or no, in demanding equal treatment, equal justice for a black man, especially one who has lusted after a white woman.

Peck accepted the role the moment he was asked, and many people have said afterwards that he is, in a sense, not acting in this film because he was Atticus Finch, that Atticus Finch was who Peck was in real life. If that’s so, then the highest of credit to him: Finch is not angry, aggressive or idealised. He is simply what I said above, a Good Man, honest, straightforward, realistic but committed to what he believes is right.

His is the leading role – there are no other ‘stars’ in the film though Robert Duvall makes his debut in a minor yet crucial role – but the film is seen from Scout’s viewpoint, a little girl growing up in a tired, hot Southern town, in the Great Depression, with nothing to do all day but play, and slowly learn. Scout’s straightforward in her own way, often disastrously, having yet to learn any of the filters adulthood places on us. She, Jem and Dill, the boy visitor they befriend (who, astonishingly enough, was in real life the boy Truman Capote) are fascinated with the nearby Radley property, and the reclusive Boo Radley, about whom so many wild stories revolve.

The film lets itself revolve around this three and their gallivanting for its first hour, with Tom Robinson and the case impinging only at moments. The film changes, though, on the eve of the trial, when Robinson is brought back from the jail in another town where he’s been incarcerated for his own safety. Immediately, a lynch mob gathers. Atticus has put himself on guard, in front of the jail, refusing the mob, about twenty strong, to take Tom and hang him, but he is only one man, whose principles are not enough to hold off the bigoted.

However, in the only scene that rings a little of wish-fulfillment rather than the truth of small southern towns in this are and this frame of mind, the appearance of the three children, throwing Atticus into fear for them, weakening his stance fatally, proves to be the save. Oblivious to what is around her, Scout recognises and addresses one of the leaders, the father of one of her classmates, and her insistence on his replying to her turns the tension into embarrassment, kills the momentum and has the mob turn and go home.

Now the film turns to the trial. The Courtroom is crowded, and segregated, whites downstairs, coloureds upstairs. The children insist on watching: they go in with the blacks. And Peck performs the role of his life, quietly, gentlemanly, ruthlessly drawing out the lack of any forensic evidence that Mayella was sexually assaulted, and the heavy implication that she was beaten by a left-handed man. Her father, Bob Ewell, a bitter, vicious, drunken stereotypical bigot, evil for what he is out of no conscious choice, is left-handed: Tom Robinson cannot use his left arm at all.

On the stand, the truth plays out. Bob Ewell expects his word to be taken because he’s white and Robinson’s a n****r (the word is used three times in the film, twice by Ewell, once in innocence by Scout, who is instantly and strictly forbidden its use in a manner that reminds me of the one time I used that word in childhood, little older than her, and how I was firmly put in my place). He’s sneery and snide, an ignorant poor white who’s going to put one over on a jumped-up, well-mannered, fancy dressed lawyer with his tricks and twistings.

Mayella, in contrast, soon shows herself as lording over the negro – who, naturally, she calls ‘Boy’ – but is clearly telling a story she’s been told to say. The sharp-eyed will notice that when she’s told to put her hand on the Bible and swear to tell the truth, she doesn’t touch the book, just holds her hand above it and nods the ‘oath’. And when Atticus has trapped her into knowing, she starts screaming at the jury in expectation, refuses to speak more and tries to run, rather than tell another lie.

In complete contrast, Brock Peters invests Tom Robinson with an immense natural dignity, and a degree of pain. He knows his place, knows better than to be uppity, is not in any way uppity, but he is honest and truthful, and this is plain as can be.

But it’s not enough. It probably would never have been enough, given the where and the when, but in cross-examination (the prosecutor is played by William Windom, his debut, and a far cry from his role in My World – and Welcome to it!) he kills his case when he begins to say that he had helped Mayella Ewell because he felt sorry for her.

The verdict is as we have expected all along. Atticus is hopeful: there are good grounds for appeal, which won’t be heard here. Robinson is silent when he is led out: later that night, Sheriff Heck Tate brings Atticus the news that Tom is dead, that he broke away and ran, that the Deputy shot to wound but missed his aim.

The film never suggests there is anything doubtful at this account, but it doesn’t need to: it knows that we who are aware of this time and place will automatically suspect worse things than despair. The film was produced on the edge of the civil rights era in the States, when far worse did happen and is still in many cases unpunished: like M.A.S.H. being set in the Korean war to be a commentary on Vietnam, To Kill a Mockingbird comments on the forthcoming struggle.

But before this, we have my favourite moment of the film, at the end of the trial. Once the verdict is rendered, the white folks start streaming out, the Court clears itself, Atticus is left alone downstairs, collecting his papers. On the balcony, the blacks have not moved. They sit in silence, overlooking all, until Atticus closes his case. Then, from the edges to the centre, they all come to their feet, stand in respect. The Reverend Sykes, who has appointed himself guardian to Scout, Dill and Jem, admonishes the little girl: “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”

But Tom is dead. Atticus drives out to his widow’s home to break the news. Jem, who we can see visibly growing up throughout these later events, who we can see growing in admiration of his father, and determination to be like him, insists on going with him. Thus Jem is there to see Bob Ewell, drunk and sour, convinced of a superiority over the black people because of his skin when he is no better than dirt in the highway, spit in Atticus’s face, and to see Atticus’s long, slow response, which is to wipe his face and leave.

Even here, Bob Ewell’s viciousness is fueled. At Halloween, as Jem escorts Scout, still wearing her parade costume of a rigid ham, through the woods at night, the pair are followed and attacked. Both are flung down, Jem to a broken arm, Scout protected by her costume. We see what happens indirectly, not through Scout’s eyes, but as brokenly and incomplete as she sees.

A strange figure carries Jem home. Scout is embraced by her scared but relieved father. Heck Tate finds the body of Bob Ewell, with a kitchen knife under his ribs. The man who intervened, who carried Jem hope, hides behind the bedroom door. Scout looks at him a long time, our eyes on her face, as she slowly works out who the stranger is, and softly says, “Hey, Boo.” Mr Arthur Radley, her father confirms.

Now she sees him, despite his wild yet shy appearance, Scout has no fears of Boo Radley, the monster. She takes his hand, encourages him to stroke Jem’s hair, then leads him outside to rock on the porch chair-swing. Atticus is preparing for Jem’s charging, though it’s a clear case of self-defence, but for once Heck Tate is ahead of him. Jem didn’t kill Bob Ewell: he fell on his own knife.

That’s as much a lie as Tom Robinson’s guilt: we all know who saved Jem and Scout, who relieved Atticus of fear. And the shy Mr Arthur Radley cannot stand the spotlight of being the hero. So, Bob Ewell fell on his own knife: a life for a life. And Scout summons up the metaphor, that to expose Mr Arthur like that would be like shooting a Mockingbird, a bird that doesn’t raid or harm, and only sings. Scout walks Boo Radley home to his door and he goes inside. Her adult narration accompanies her run back to her house. Though it’s unsaid, we understand that she will never see him again in her life.

To Kill a Mockingbird affects me deeply. It’s a story of a great wrong, avenged but not punished, and it presents as its hero a good, decent man of a kind I would always hope to be. It’s been criticised for perpetuating the cliche of the white man helping the poor, stricken blacks, which I suppose is true but which I cannot accept as diminishing the film.

Looking back over the past six months, and ahead over the six months to come, I don’t think I have any other Great Films, not in the sense of this. I would argue that La Dentelliere is a Great Film, but it is a private and a personal film. To Kill a Mockingbird is a statement, one that we need all the more as the gains of the last sixty years start to slide away from us. But it’s also a film about people, and in the end that’s the only way that statements can be properly seen: in the people they are about.

 

Steve Ditko R.I.P.


And then there was one.

Without wishing to slight the contributions of those others who were there in thee beginning, it’s inarguable that the success of Marvel Comics, and everything that has followed on from the extraordinary period of creativity, rests on the work of three men. You may dispute the order of importance on another day when such things can once again be debated, but these men were Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. ‘King’ Kirby died long ago, in 1994, and now Steve Ditko has been found dead, in his apartment, aged 90. Only Stan Lee remains of that essential trio.

Ditko, who was famously private, indeed reclusive, was far less productive than Kirby, but was every bit his equal. It was Ditko who, when Lee was dissatisfied with Kirby’s first designs, took over the project, bringing to it his unique perspective, his odd, almost angular art and the sense of brooding and misery that Kirby, the boundlessly positive and elemental force could not provide. Stan Lee supplied the words, but it was Ditko who showed us Peter Parker, and turned him into the Amazing Spider-Man.

If that was not enough, and for the average creative person it would be a crowning glory, Ditko also created Marvel’s master of magic, Dr Strange, and the whole otherwordly realm of the fantastic that the Doctor occupied.

For all that the decades and countless contributors have added to the story, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange remain what Steve Ditko created them to be.

Many looked at Doctor Strange in the Sixties and concluded that Steve Ditko was one cool cat, and obviously familiar with the effects of such things as Lysergic Acid. But Ditko was the epitome of a conservative gentleman, short-haired, short-sleeved, personally abstemious. Some imaginations don’t need chemical stimulation and Ditko’s was as weird as they came, naturally.

In that, however, lay the seeds of the breach with Marvel. Ditko was a man of firm thought and principles, deeply committed to Objectivism, the philosophy spawned by Ayn Rand. The relationship with Stan Lee rapidly became untenable. Ditko started to plot and draw Spider-Man on his own. When he was due to deliver the completed pages to Marvel, Lee would take care not to be seen. It would be the first he knew of this month’s issue, and now he would add the words.

Then, one day, Ditko left Marvel. Delivered his latest Spider-Man, announced he wouldn’t be doing any more, left. He would return, much later, do other series for Marvel, create the cult favourite, Squirrel Girl, but never again enjoy the prominence and influence he had in those half-dozen years. There were stints at other companies, other creations. For Charlton comics (who may have paid the lowest rates but who didn’t interfere with his work to any appreciable extent) he created Captain Atom, the new Blue Beetle and another cult favourite, The Question, all of whom now belong to DC, for whom he created The Creeper and Hawk and Dove.

All of these would distinguish the record of a lesser man, though they were none of them Spidey or Doc Strange.

Much of Ditko’s work, and he remained prolific throughout his life, ended up self-published. He remained a master cartoonist, but devoted his time to things that expressed his opinions and his Objectivism, a philosophy that remains attractive only to a minority. It limited him, but it was Ditko is his most pure and refine, and at the end of the day it was the artist being true to himself at all costs.

Steve Ditko stayed away from fame and public exposure. He would not allow himself to be interviewed or even photographed. He was ‘featured’ in a Jonathan Ross documentary on comics for the BBC, but that meant that he agreed to meet Ross, alone, without cameras or recording equipment, and that Ross agree not to repeat anything Ditko said! True to his word, Ross disappeared into a Manhattan building, reappeared visibly thrilled, and gave nothing away.

And now there is only one, only the writer/editor/figure of some controversy, Stan Lee. But Marvel, and everything else, all across the field of comics, is a legacy with three pillars, and Steve Ditko will live in memory forever for being one of those pillars.

Treme: s02 e04 – Santa Claus, Do You Ever Get The Blues?


Her week

Though they’ve otherwise nothing in common, Treme and The Bridge share one characteristic common to great shows, that there is always so much in each episode that you cannot be believe it has lasted only an hour. And that this abundance of event and story has been conveyed to you without once your feeling short-changed: that a scene has been too brief, or underplayed, or made less than clear.

As the episode title makes plain, this week was set in the very immediate run-up to Christmas Day, though for a Brit the perpetual hot blue skies of the south made it impossible to get my head round that idea. The New York scenes might have made that more credible, but since we’re not filming in New York (are we?), these all took place indoors.

This was an episode that felt as if it concentrated upon the music more directly than usual. There was a weirdly funny West Wing-esque open, as Antoine got dragged back to school, interviewed on the fly, did his best to talk himself out of it and still got the job of Assistant Band Director to a school band short of any instrument more musical than castanets.

But Antoine’s heart is in his Soul Apostles. Sonny rehearses on guitar but frankly is no better than adequate, and this Japanese cat blows him out of the water. The Soul Apostles debut at LaDonna’s bar, to great acclaim but the Japanese cat has a gig so Sonny gets a chance, and you can sure tell the difference. Maybe his story will take a turn, as Antoine sends one of his cronies to warn Sonny about blowing his chance, and his reputation, over his drug habit.

In New York, Delmond Lambreaux is listening to old-time New Orleans jazz, over his grlfriend’s disgust. He’s leaning towards making a New Orleans album, and he’s starting to sew an Indian costume, of sorts. He also crosses paths with Janette, but we’ll get back to her story shortly.

The biggest bonus for me was an appearance by Shawn Colvin, playing live and bringing up on stage this wonderful local violinist she’s seen, and wanted to play with. This is, naturally, the lovely Annie T, who adds some superb, sweet tones to a song I’ve never heard Shawn Colvin sing (want, want!). And at the after-party, Shawn introduces Annie to her manager. But Annie is too shy, too unpushy to go for this chance, especially as the guy a) specialises in Austin and b) isn’t as enthusiastic about her as Ms Colvin. Sigh.

There’s a lovely little additional cameo from Annie, near the end, on Xmas day, jumping out of bed with Davis to dress up in robes and tinsel and play him a Xmas solo. Lucky sod.

Ah, and he’s getting back to being annoying is our Davis, unable to cope with the painful traumas of being born white and into a rich family. You see, in his soul he’s really a 22 year old thug n***a and he’s persuading Aunt Mimi to drop $5,000 to set up a label that will basically try to be Def Jam, and you knoooooow how that’sgoing to work.

Elsewhere in our pack, Nelson’s spreading the cream around quite effectively, whilst LaDonna is showing a brave face to Antoine about not letting last week’s attack defeat her, and maybe in time she’ll get back to her old self, but there’ll be no unrealistically fast TV recoveries. LaDonna has been seriously cracked, if not broken, and Khandi Alexander is playing her part superbly.

Toni’s still investigating the increasingly suspicious death of her now-departed client’s son and sneaking her way towards a more clearly defined but still undetailed outline. There’s a few moments of mother-daughter bonding with Sofia, interrupted by a text-message telling Sofia that one of her teachers has committed suicide, the first very veiled threat from the Police about putting the past behind everyone which Toni’s just going to ignore, and Sofia sneaking out to go clubbing with her friends on the Day.

It’s also a quiet, isolated Xmas for Terry Colson, who’s left it too late to post his Xmas presents.

Which leads us back to Janette, in the kitchen at Chef Brulard’s. Our girl is still feeling the strain of the great man’s stares and glares when a special job comes in: critic in the house. This is Alan Kingsman, a real-life critic nobly playing himself. He’s the one who, a week or two earlier, had written a notorious article slamming New Orleans cuisine as, amongst other things, completely passe. Chef keeps looking at Jeanette, it’s freaking her out, he wanders over, sees some fine, left-over herb dustings (?) on the counter. He grinds them into the heel of his hand, holds the resulting spatter up to Jeanette and tells her that this is her mind.

It is the eventual last straw we’ve been expecting but Jeanette’s response is fantastic. She doffs her apron, goes out to the bar and orders an expansive drink which I didn’t recognise, insisting it be made correctly. When it arrives, she tastes it and approves. She then walks over to Kingsman’s table and, having attracted his attention, throws it in his face. Gloriously, Kingsman’s first response, after the splutter, is to complain that this is a Sesurac (?): nobody throws a Sesurac.

So our girl wakes up an Internet hero, but out of a job. Then she gets put on the guest list after bumping into Delmond in a bar watching the game, New Orleans vs New York.

That’s Xmas Eve and Xmas Day Del flies down to N’Awleans to take the grumpy and self-righteous Albert out fora meal that Albert complains about. It takes a joint hit to cool the Big Chief down, which is where we close. Sixty minutes? Time warps around great shows, I tell you.

Welcome Back Mardale Green


In 1935, the village of Mardale Green in Mardale, Westmorland, was drowned when Haweswater dam was completed and the former High Water and Low Water rose up to create the modern day Haweswater reservoir, one of the two main suppliers of Manchester water.

Twice at least in the last century, in the drought summers of 1976 and 1984, the water level in Haweswater has dropped so much that the ruins of the village have reappeared. In 1976, I remember Stuart Hall reporting from the foot of Haweswater Dam – on the reservoir side! – and in 1984, in September, I walked some of the old lanes of the village myself. My mother, holidaying the previous week, had also visited Mardale, and crossed the bridge over the beck, but the levels were rising by now, and though the bridge was clearly visible – and safe and intact after all those years – the rising water had closed it off and both ends and the western part of the village could only be looked upon.

The current hot spell has exposed Mardale Green’s remains again. It is, I believe, the earliest in the year that this has happened.

Like a ghost from the waters

Deep Space Nine: s07 e03 – Afterimage


Note the obvious symbolism

After the last couple of weeks, with their irritating predictability (not to mention my own, stress-related issues), it was nice to settle back with a much better, and more enjoyable, character-led episode, with the full-scale introduction of Ezri Dax to DS9.

Until last week, I’d never seen anything of Ezri, or Nicole deBeor. I’d heard of her, of course, and most of what little I’d heard wasn’t complimentary. She was described as a weak character, unimpressive, dull. More recently, I’ve also heard that Ezri – who is here as a Counsellor – has a lot of her supposed role usurped by the constant reappearances of Vic Fontaine in exactly that role, which doesn’t need any of my antipathy to Mr Fontaine to call that completely stupid.

So my pre-impressions were all negative and it’s therefore a pleasure to admit that I liked both this episode and the character, not to mention that, like Jake Sisko, I find her cute. deBeor is fresh-faced and perky in appearance, looking significantly younger than the rest of the cast, and she brings that into her performance. Despite having eight lifetimes behind her, as Sisko keeps reminding her, Ezri is still a kid, and whilst that means nervousness – especially at being in a place and among people she knows so well without having met them, and feeling burdened by their expectations of ‘her’ – and eagerness.

The episode was designed to play around Ezri, present her up front as what she is, to be swallowed in one gulp. As this was the last season, time was at a premium and a gradual introduction would have wasted the character. So we see everyone react: Sisko’s almost casual assumption that nothing has changed, Quark’s mercenary belief that this is his second chance, Bashir’s reflexive flirting. And Worf’s pain.

This is the most complex relationship of all, and it’s because Ezri knows him so well that she’s insistent on returning to the USS Destiny: she won’t inflict on him the pain of a reminder of Jardzia.

This is well-handled. Worf initially is offensive, refusing to acknowledge her. Then he attacks Bashir andQuark, warning them to stay away from Ezri. Finally, O’Brien reminds him to think how Jardzia would have wanted him to treat Ezri, which leads to an awkward quasi-acceptance.

There is a sort-of-B story, about Garak suffering from increasingly debilitating claustrophobia-induced panic attacks, but this is integrated into the main story, because Sisko asks Ezri to counsel him. An early breakdown doesn’t, however, get to the root of things and merely results in a tirade from Garak, tearing the novice Ezri down. Now, instead of leaving DS9, she’s going to leave Starfleet, completely abdicate the responsibility of being host to the Dax symbiont.

A predictable beat – the episode is not without its predictability – but when Ezri manages, more by luck than good judgement but still, to get at the real root of Garak’s issue (that in aiding the Federation he is being a traitor to Cardassia, causing untold deaths), it validates her self-conscience. She retracts her resignation, agrees to stay on DS9, gets promoted to Lieutenant, and even gets a stiff smile from Worf. Job done.

I like Ezri Dax. Now to see what role she can play in the march to the finale.

Peter Firmin R.I.P.


Farewell a true genius

I wish I didn’t have to write so many of these.

Peter Firmin, one half of Smallfilms with Oliver Postgate, has died in his sleep at the age of 80, after a short illness. I really shouldn’t need to tell you this, but Firmin was the co-creator of Bagpuss and The Clangers, along with his late partner, Oliver Postgate. It would be crude to call Postgate the conceptual genius and Firmin the practical genius, for both men were part of  a greater whole, but Firmin it was who mostly constructed genius out of materials no-one else would even consider trying to use for animation.

Yet the very simplicity, the compression of both men’s artistic genius into such tiny and worn and obviously hand-made things, was an essential element of what made Smallfilms magic. Only a frame was needed to demonstrate clearly that this was the work of complete individuals, whose work came from inspiration without commercial consideration of any kind.

But children never thought that way. Children just watched and loved, like I did, almost sixty years ago, in black-and-white on a small set in the corner of our living room, enthralled by the adventures of Noggin the Nog, in the lands of the north, where the cold winds blow.

This is another day when a piece of what makes this world worth living in has been taken away. Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, Old Fat Furry Catpuss, Wake up and look at this thing that I bring. Wake up, be bright, be golden and light, Bagpuss, oh hear what I sing. Can Professor Yaffle and the mice from the Mouse Organ please fix this into something new again, for us all?