Capn's Blog

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What a bird taught me

When I was growing up I lived on a farm. And being a boy, I was as curious then as I am now about the way things work. I guess that's why I'm an engineer.

One day I could hear an Australian magpie singing in a tree. I realised that I could see the nest of the magpie.

So I climbed that tree, probably about twenty metres above the ground, and found the nest. I couldn't believe it was so large, probably about 80cm cubed, made of masses of intertwined small twigs and grass. It must have taken the magpies weeks, if not months to build.

I was fascinated by how the magpies had put it together. So with my curious fingers, I started to unravel the nest. And once I started, I was just so fascinated that I couldn't stop. Several minutes later, there was no nest left.

I climbed down the tree and went onto something else. But later that day I was shocked by something. The two magpies were high up in the tree, and I swear, they were crying.

Australians love the songs of magpies, especially first thing in the morning when their warbling tumbling song greets the sun as it rises. But this time their song was nothing like it. I never heard an animal make such a sad, devasted noise like those birds.

I find it hard to describe now, but the sound and the realisation of what I'd done pierced my heart as surely as an arrow. With nothing but beaks, claws, and two hearts full of love, they had created a home. A home I'd destroyed.

That day their sad song cut straight through my heart and I felt like the lowest human on the planet. More than twenty years later, the memory is still fresh.

I know it doesn't change the badness of the thing I did, but I hope I have at least learned something from it. Certainly, I used that feeling to change myself, so that now I always try to consider the effect of my actions on others.

Those bird sang so sadly as their reaction to losing their nest. To me their song was and is a lesson I'll never forget.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Anime concert

A while back I bought a box set of the films of Ghibli Studios, featuring the work of Hayao Miyazaki. The set has fourteen beautiful animated cartoons, some of them of feature film length. The three best known films are probably Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. My kids love these films.

Recently I saw a poster for a youth orchestra performing selected works from Studio Ghibli films, plus music from the Final Fantasy series of computer games. The performance would be played simultaneously with footage from the films. (Concert information, have a look at the video).

I don't think my boys have the patience to sit through something of the length of a usual classical program, so I thought that seeing the films they know and love on a screen would make it more interesting, help them enjoy the experience of live classical music, and give them an idea of what they can do if they keep practising piano and music.

So on Sunday, the four of us went to see the concert. Tickets are very expensive even for the C class, so I arrived early - 12 noon, even though the concert started at 3pm. That meant I was first in line and I could choose the best seats - ones on the closest corner so my boys can clearly see the orchestra. Good thing I took a book and a fold-up chair!

The concert was good. The orchestra were very good, with a good balance, expression , accuracy and proficiency. The 1st violinist did a top job. The piano could have been a lot louder - I think it should have been miked. The editing of video for the screen could have been done more carefully and I think the idea would work better if the orchestra played in sync with the video, but it was still really enjoyable. I don't think it was quite worth the $180 we paid for tickets for four, but I hope it's one of those events which my boys will clearly remember later, when they think back about their childhood.