Sunday, January 06, 2008

There's Hope in their Voices

Feeling like I am rising from the ashes of this horrible cold or flu, two wonderful voices have greeted me with hope. The first was Mark Bittner in the acclaimed documentary The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I don't remember where I first read of Bittner and this film but the rental arrived over the past week and we decided to watch it last night. Wild Parrots was like a warm blanket and cup of (just the right temperature) herbal tea, a soothing look at how one man has found his calling in life caring for these non-native birds in a leafy hill corner of a bustling American city (San Francisco). The main characters in the film are not human (well, yes, Bittner is but he is also a co-narrator) but they nevertheless have names, like Connor, and Mingus. In his folksy voice, Bittner tells how he was introduced to the parrots, how he became so attached to some of them, and that he had names for all of them as well (at least while he was living there). But there's a point in the movie where he reflects on the whole experience and on whether he was being anthropomorphic, that really allowed us, the audience, a view into the soul of this gentle man. It was a beautiful point in the film. There is also a book by the same name. See the film as it is Bittner's voice throughout that helps carry this wonderful story.

The other voice, written not spoken in this case, is that of Andy Brouwer, an expat Brit living in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. I was unable to keep up my reading pace through the past week due to this cold, and Andy has a tendency to become extremely prolific in his blog postings over a short period of time. Fortunately, today I have felt well enough to flee the home for a coffee shop and get some uninterrupted reading in. I had over twenty unread entries in Andy's blog going back to December 30th, so I decided to start there. And am I happy I did. The mix of travelogue, history, humor and humanity that Andy weaves in his writings is truly remarkable. My heart was warmed by the pictures of Khmer children he met at temple visits or along the road, then it is wrenched from my chest as I observed the piles of skulls at the genocide memorial at Sala Trapeang Sva. Then the "three sreys" restored my hope and the painted pagoda at Wat Kork Ksang made me yearn to visit. I felt myself being very thankful that I had been introduced to Andy's blog (thanks Kilong) for his light-hearted as well as his serious jaunts around that beautiful country have been a joy to follow. And finally, he has recommended a book that I am looking forward to reading: The Judas Strain by James Rollins. Andy's recommendation mentions that he's a Robert Ludlum fan. I devoured the Bourne series and am looking forward to reading another author of a similar vein.

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