Life in the Real Desert: Hummingbirds

Hummingbird wikipedia I love hummingbirds. A lifelong fascination with these constantly moving tiny collectors of nectar has been around since the first one spied on my Grandmother’s honeysuckle bush. Since my new life in the real desert began this year, I’ve noticed a plethora of these nimble creatures.

These beautiful miniature birds, with their long needle-like beak, are as adept at avoiding the camera as the many lizards that populate this area of the world. Although the lizards are getting used to my presence. One who scampered by me two days ago stopped and turned around to look at this odd creature that it had zipped past.

Moving back toward my still form, the little chap slowly walked right between my legs. Demonstrating complete nonchalance about this huge thing that had initially startled it. My imagination had the scaly fellow thinking, “Ha! I’ll show you I’m not afraid of any giants or strange creatures.” In reality, since I was not moving and the day was incredibly still, the lizard with the long black tail just could not sense me. Still, it was…entertaining.

Equally entertaining has been watching the hummingbirds getting used to the feeder I put up two days ago. After finding the thing at the house, empty, I asked my mum about filling it. She was unsure about the recipe for homemade nectar. I looked it up on the Internet. (4 to 1, if you are interested; i.e. 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water, add to a pot and boil, but not too long as it weakens the sugar content. Let the mixture cool. Do not add food coloring to make the stuff look like the red store-bought stuff, trust me, the birds do not need it.)

On the first day, after I’d cleaned the thing thoroughly, I prepared the nectar and let it cool as per instructions. Later I filled the feeder and placed it in the shade of the porch. These was a larger hummingbird who was flitting about the front garden (yard) all week. I retired to the RV and watched his flight pattern throughout the day and he seemed bound and determined to ignore the nectar recently placed for his pleasure.

Speaking to a neighbor later the same day, I explained that I was worried about the recipe used. Perhaps the sugar to water ratio was off? I told him that if after another day the birds had not stopped by to have a drink, I’d take it down and find another formula to make the nectar.

The next morning, Mr. Large Hummingbird continued to flit about the small courtyard, but now he seemed to be looking for something. Flying up about the same height as the feeder but a good 20 to 30 feet away he hovered and floated this way and that, searching. A bit later he made a maneuver that can only be described as the hummingbird version of “sidling.”

He (or she) edged up to the feeder slowly and cautiously. Any noise, like my television or a car moving past frightened it off.  The creature was large for a hummingbird, but the constantly moving wings and tiny talons put him in that class of feathered friend.

Eventually, the thing approached the feeder and sat on the edge. Looking all around, it finally dipped its beak into one of the slots and after the first time, did so repeatedly. Funnily enough, this was like a signal to all the smaller hummingbirds in the garden. Presumably if the big chappy liked it, the stuff was considered okay and lots of the wee little, and colorful, birds stopped by for a drink. Before the sun went down around 9 came by for a leisurely drink.

As I sat on the porch, reading yet another Louis L’Amour book (this one about a female Sackett named Echo) several came up to drink. The sounds of their wings up close has the same effect of a wasp’s wings in one’s ear. Unlike a wasp, the tingly feeling was not one of alarm but just the start of gooseflesh which dissipated rapidly. The texture of the flappy wings was more leathery and not insectile and the sensation was odd, to say the least. It was, however, enjoyable.

More so because the little frantic creatures accepted me sitting there with my cup of green tea and western novel. It was very nice and calm, despite the leathery flapping.

There are a huge amount birds in the real desert. One, who obviously is not a friend to the hummingbird, attacked the large chap who first took a drink at my refilled feeder. The other creature was gorgeous. Yellow, with darker tones mixed in and much lager than the tinier bird. I have not looked up what sort of bird the yellow, and disagreeable, bird was, but will do so.

This morning, I laughed till tears rolled at a sparrow who was bound and determined to catch, and eat, a moth on the inside of the window where I sat working.  I had paused, taking my hands off the keyboard for moment and was surprised to see this small bird about a foot away from my face, pecking at the glass.

Beak open, he darted forward and smacked the window then, wings flapping, it backed up and tried again. I was puzzled at first and then saw the small beige colored moth on my side of the glass. The insect was moving slowly across the surface, completely unfazed by the predator on the other side who gave a few more hungry pecks at the glass before giving up.

Before coming to town, aka Burger King where I have coffee and Wi-Fi, the hummingbird was back at the feeder. This time he hovered at the side, dipping into the nectar repeatedly before flying off. As he zipped around the corner of the building, I was reminded of a story my mother told me when my cousins and I were playing around Gran’s honeysuckle bush and chasing the hummingbirds when we were little.

Mum said that she had an aunt (or cousin, it was a long time ago so I’m not sure which) who was terrified of these speedy little things. Apparently, at the same house and near the same bush, she was playing chase with someone else. As she rounded the corner one of the hummingbirds flew right into her hand, impaling the girl with that long nectar seeking beak. For the rest of her life she was scared to death of the tiny creatures.

Looking at the large hummingbirds beak, I can see why, that must have hurt like hell and must have been very shocking to boot. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for my lifelong fascination, this tale of a sudden involuntary attack and the phobia it spawned. I’ll ponder it later today while I watch the creatures collect more of my homemade nectar.

17 April 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Sick Nurses (2007): No Pills for These Ills

Written and directed by Piraphan Laoyont and Thodsapol Siriwiwat, Sick Nurses is an atypical Thai horror film. No nudity, poor special effects and a languid almost sleepy pace.

The film takes place in a deserted hospital that is manned by what appears to be a skeleton crew, while the rest of the staff are attending an award ceremony. The skeleton crew consists of six nurses and a doctor. While he goes to the award ceremony, the nurses start getting killed by a dark ghostly woman.

At the start of the film, we are helpfully told that seven days after someone dies they will return to their loved one. While the six nurses interact with one another, we get flashbacks to seven days previously when another nurse Tahwaan (Chon Wachananon) is murdered by all of them. She was “engaged” to Dr Taa (Wichan Jarujinda) who decided he liked her younger sister Nook (Chidjan Rujiphun) much more. So much more, in fact, that he has gotten Nook pregnant.

Tahwaan learning the hard way about when not to threaten to call the police.

Tahwaan is, understandably, upset. She threatens to tell the police about Dr Taa and the six nurses’ sideline of selling dead bodies. Once this threat leaves her lips, the nurses grab her and force her onto an operating table. With Tahwaan struggling and fighting for her life, one of the women gives her an injection and another stabs her.

Now that Tahwaan is dead, Dr Taa sells her body, only to be told that the client cannot take delivery for seven days. Wrapping the body in a black plastic bag and putting it in the boot (trunk) of his car with dry ice, Taa plans on dropping the body off after the award ceremony. Meanwhile, the remaining nurses get separated and killed by the vengeful spirit of Tahwaan.

This film, if it had gotten a bigger budget and been filmed in Japan versus Thailand, might just have been scary as hell. As it is, it falls into the “so bad it’s good” category of so many other low-budget horror films. Due to the restrictions placed on Thai actresses concerning nudity, one nurse, and the doctor in an earlier scene, takes a shower with her clothes on. The incongruity of showering in gym shorts, a bra and a t-shirt is never explained and makes no real sense.

There are other “touches” in the film that are just as puzzling and funny. Younger sister Nook goes to the toilet to use a pregnancy test. When she urinates on the tester, it changes instantaneously to show the result. The scene then becomes even funnier when she goes to put the used tester back in her purse and it is full of testers. She must have twenty or thirty of the things in her bag.

Nook, again, is cornered on a stairwell by nurses who have no face, just hair (with a bun, yet) and they attack her. She battles these faceless nurses (there appear to be 50 or more) with a pregnancy tester, which appears to help her win against these outlandish odds. Most of the funnier scenes seemed to deal with Nook, although, the other nurses had their fair share of silly moments.

I watched this film quite a few years ago and stupidly traded it in for another film. Sick Nurses is almost sophomoric in its attempts to scare the audience, but it is these very amateurish attempts that make the film so enjoyable. The title of the film seems to refer to the foibles of the nurses themselves.

Am and Orn, narcissism times two.

Tahwaan has a secret, two of the nurses Am and Orn are narcissistic and only have eyes for each other (they are twins), another nurse is Anorexic, another is Bulimic, yet another is obsessed with jewellery and expensive items; and Nook is promiscuous enough to steal Dr Taa from her big sister. They all have some sort of “sickness;” hence the title Sick Nurses.

Once Tahwaan comes back as a dark (greenish?) vengeful spirit, the film relies on the old Asian axiom of long hair over the face and an OBE *In case you are interested OBE stands for One-Big-Eye.* to create fear.

When the girls are being controlled by Tahwaan, their body parts become dark green and work against them or each other as in the case with the twins. There is a plot twist at the end of the film that is shown via Dr Taa’s flashbacks. But the twist is not blazingly original. In fact it is the same plot twist used in the 2004 Thai film Shutter.

It appears that this particular theme is something that weighs on the average Thai citizen or is perhaps a very serious taboo. I can’t tell you what the twist is, but if you are familiar with the film, Shutter you will know.

In some instances, Sick Nurses almost appears to be intended to be a black comedy/horror. But some of the unintentional laughs (like those inspired by some really dodgy CGI) make it obvious that comedy/horror was not the directors’ or the producer’s aim.

Still, it is a fun film to watch and the simultaneous timeline of the plot works well enough for the viewer to admire the directors intent if not their final product.

My final verdict is that this is an interesting film to watch and if you have seen earlier Thai horror films you can see the improvement that they’ve made with the genre. Certainly not as good or clever as Shutter or 4bia (Phobia) it is nonetheless better than The Ghost of Mae Nak, or some of their earlier efforts.

Whatever these nurses are suffering from there are no pills for their ills and the film is definitely worth a look and a giggle.

Tahwaan paying back little sister Nook for her treachery.
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