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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Some of them try to rhyme but they can't rhyme like this.

Have you ever wondered what I do on my days off?



Here I am singing "Jump" by Kriss Kross with Toffee, one of my guinea pigs. Notice that my dog gets up and leaves at 1:20. I guess she doesn't like my flow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Emotional Muppets

Floyd of "Muppet" fame sings "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." To quote one of the youtube comments, "I can't believe I'm saying this... but this muppet performance is actually touching."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In which all I do is talk about Death Cab for Cutie

I don't think it's any secret that I really like the band Death Cab for Cutie, a four-member band from Washington state whose new album, "Codes and Keys," came out in May. I saw them on Palladia's Storytellers last night and the lead singer reminds me of one of my ex-boyfriends, the one who could have been tolerable if he wasn't still living with his parents at the age of thirty-five. Anyhow, ignore that, let's talk about some of these videos. Instead of saying things like, "Here is a video that was well-done" I'm going to say what I personally feel about all three of them.

This first clip is their video from the new album, "Codes and Keys," called "You Are A Tourist." The guitar is pretty catchy, but my primary observation can only be understood once you listen to the chorus.



I also really like the confetti because my Mom used to send me these greeting cards and you'd open them up and a bunch of "funfetti" would fall out of the card and get all over the floor and on your clothes and I'd be like, "WTF MOM." She was getting me back because at one of my birthday parties one year when I was a kid we got a magician with a name like Franny or Frodo or something and he had a giant balloon and said rhetorically to my mother, "I hope you have a good vacuum cleaner" and then popped it and all of this crap fell everywhere. I was still finding pieces of confetti when I was home for the weekend after I left for college. She was pretty livid, but looking back on it I think Mom must have done something to piss him off. At least it wasn't the clown who arrived at my 5th birthday party drunk and spent the whole time on our house phone cursing out his wife.

Now let's observe another song, this from their 2005 album "Plans." According to lead singer Ben Gibbard, this song is about a couple who move to South Florida and really hate it. Those of you who know me understand how relevant this is, and the song is just really catchy to boot. If you put The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on mute and play this song it's pretty much the most hilarious thing you'll see this summer other than The Green Lantern. "There were churches, theme parks and malls, but there was nothing there all along."



Lastly, this is from the same album as above and is called "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." There are two versions of the same video, but this animated version with the rabbits is pretty hard to track down. As an animal lover, I fall to pieces when I see this video, and there's something about prey animals that have really healed me - I have a hamster and 2 guinea pigs that helped comfort me after Mom's death in December, and I also love rabbits - in fact, the first book I read after Mom died was David Lindsay-Abaire's play "Rabbit Hole." Prey animals are always on the lookout, always anxious, like me. But to win their trust is monumental.

I am getting my first and last tattoo this September, on my hip. It is going to be the drawing you see at 3:02 seconds into this video. I feel lonely a lot. When I'm lonely I can always look at it and remember that there is someone, whether it's in heaven or here on earth, looking out for me and protecting me, and that we will meet again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's Doomsday, Doomsday, gotta get down on Doomsday. Everybody's looking forward to the Rapture.

When people ask me when I'm gonna start having kids, I point out that I don't want to start raising children in a world where people like Rebecca Black are running around loose and getting down without any supervision.

My husband and I went to church today for the first time in years, and it was the first Protestant Christian service I've ever attended (I was raised Catholic). I had this strange feeling that we were going to walk in and our skin would start to simmer and we'd be smited, even though I'm not exactly sure what "smited" means. I am a descendant of Mary Queen of Scots, the Catholic cousin of Elizabeth who failed to restore Catholicism to the United Kingdom and may or may not have killed some people. And my husband was born in Ireland where they're so Catholic that it's improper to slap a baby on its ass if it's born without crying, so instead they just tap you on the shoulder repeatedly until you start to show signs of being vaguely annoyed.

In any case, the service was interesting and I enjoyed it a lot. I was both relieved and disappointed that the pastor didn't prepare a sermon on that 5/21/11 End of the World thing, and wondered how many pastors DID. Now, I kind of want to get one of those "May 21, 2011: Judgement Day" shirts because now they're collector's items, like the Super Bowl memorabilia they make with the losing team's name on it. I guess everyone stockpiling groceries has amassed another twenty years of toilet paper and Chicken of the Sea. It's always touching when I see perishable people eating nonperishable meals. And thanks to you all, the canning industry has seen no plummet in its rates of unemployment during the recession.

The end of the world doesn't bother me because there isn't necessarily anything we can do about it. I would also be thinking selfishly for saying it would be any worse than what the earthquake victims in Japan experienced, or the farmers in the American South and Midwest whose homes are floating on the Mississippi or blowing in the wind. After all, some of them must feel like it's the end of the world, especially if their family and friends have lost something, too. In the same way, the end of times will only be the end of the world as we understand our relationships within a materialistic dimension. It would be on a bigger scale, but I didn't see any ad campaigns in Vicksburg, Louisiana. Nobody in Reading, Kansas was on the news talking about May 21, they were talking about losing all of their belongings on May 22nd. The world's not over, and we can smile. We act as if something other than tragedy can make us just as grateful to be alive.

Not everyone was laughing.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Gulf of Mexico, Trademark BP

Since I was on the subject of governors the other day, my own governor, Florida's Charlie Crist, declared a state of emergency in Florida for that, you know, HUMONGOUS OIL SPILL that's destroying the Gulf of Mexico and threatening to be more damaging than Exxon Valdez (I originally typed "Juan Valdez," the Colombian coffee cartoon. Which probably means that if *I'm* too young to remember the details of Exxon Valdez's spill at 27 years old, then a lot of you probably need to review your history on this disaster too). Although it looks like the majority of the damage will occur to the Louisiana coastline (which, thank God, has never ever had anything horrible at all happen to it, especially in September 2005), other states will be affected.

I live on the Gulf of Mexico. I love my gulf, the warm water, the animals.

Most of you are sick of seeing the CNN reports or constant updates and are probably becoming aggravated by the spill, so some writer from the South like me doesn't need to inundate you with any more information. Instead here's a video I took of dolphins at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City during a boat ride among the 10,000 islands. These are real, wild dolphins from that Gulf of Mexico you see on your TV with the big black oil spill graphic.



I can't help but look at them and wonder where God is in all of this and why we need this oil. Obama was in Arcadia months ago praising them for their effective use of green energy. Now we can't think of the word "hybrid" without thinking of "sticky gas pedal." We don't need any natural disasters in this country. We seem to be doing a great job destroying things ourselves.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am

Now that I live in a swing state, I'm much more cognizant of the political climate than I was as a New Yorker. When you're in the largely Democratic Northeast, if you are a Democrat, everything seems to be coming up roses, and you live your life like that guy with the golf club in the KGB commercial with his head up his butt.

My friend Natalie M. posted a link on her facebook with Alabama's Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James's new commercial promising that if he is elected, driver's license exams will only be available in English. Think Tim James is some Jim Bob-come-lately? Think again. His father, Fob James, was Alabama's 48th governor. And, adhering to Tim's driving theme, I affectionately and erroneously refer to him as "Key Fob." Watch KFJ's son's campaign video as he follows his father's legacy from patriotism to noticeably limp hair.



How far we have "driven" past Father Fob's terms as governor; Fob James who promised Alabamanians "a New Beginning free from racism and discrimination."

So imagine this. Mr. Pedro Mexicano rides his bike 45 miles through Alabama to get to his English classes so that he can learn the language and get a driver's license. Until he gets a car he can't get a job. He can't get a car because he can't get a license. He can't get a license because he can't afford the classes because he can't get a job. But that's okay, he's perfectly content with mowing your lawn for another couple of years. It's a good thing he didn't get that driver's license and take away your job as Associate Marketing Consultant.

I'll let it be known that my philosophy on learning or not learning English is that, if you live in the United States and hope to be successful, you must. You deprive yourself of opportunities unavailable to a non-English speaking American. Something positive arises from lack of knowledge of the English language and that is that my fiance's sister makes more money as a bilingual nurse.

Since I went to school in Scotland, have Scottish friends and a Scottish last name, I rarely discuss the other half of my heritage, which is Eastern European. My mother's side of the family originated in the northern Polish region sometimes referred to as Kashubia, with Gdansk its capital. My great-grandmother was sixteen in 1912, when she left Poland and hung around England with a third-class ticket in her hand to board this boat called the Titanic, but once she got to England, she spent too much time goofing off with her friend, probably flirting with scrawny, limey-skinned British men. My great-grandmother instead got a ticket for the next boat with no more fanfare than a woman who missed the 9:52 bus being forced to take the 11:05. Clearly, Anna Piontek did not possess psychic powers. Neither did her father, my great-great grandfather, who was living in New York City and sending money for the children to arrive (Anna, the oldest, was first). He read the newspaper and Anna wasn't on the survivor's list. He cursed America as bad luck and left New York just as his very much alive eldest daughter was arriving unaware of the fact that had she boarded that ship, as a third-class passenger knowing no English, she would be dead. Anna arrived in New York City after schlepping around western Europe for a while, and her father was already gone.

My great-grandmother decided to stay in the Big Apple and eventually after learning of the Titanic she wrote to her family and said, "Surprise, I'm alive! I've been here a while so I'm going to let this America thing pan out. Don't worry about me. Send pierogis." (I take liberties with this letter. Sorry Babcia.) She was young and unmarried and knew no English and obviously, there was no way in hell she could pay for a tutor or classes.

My great-grandmother died on February 20, 1992, the day after my ninth birthday (and while I was, ironically, on vacation in Florida where I now live). She was ninety-three years old and buried at St. Bridget's cemetery with her husband John and son Stanley, both of whom died in their fifties. The town closed its post office. Anna lived seventy-seven more years than she might have if the pendulum had swung in a contradictory direction.

Have you ever wondered where everyone got that stereotype that Polish people are stupid? It was because the Polish language, above almost all other European languages, is radically different from English and as such, it took many Polish immigrants a much longer time to speak English with fluidity than their Italian, German and French counterparts. More Polish people have won the Nobel Prize than any other nationality, the first being awarded to Marie Curie, whose maiden name was Sklodowska!

I am, however, diverting from the purpose of relaying the story of my great-grandmother's life which I am using in this context as an example of a practically orphaned, poor, sixteen-year-old Polish girl learning English without the aid of the Internet, television or the "for Dummies" series, so, arguably, so could anyone. I'm not saying that I could, simply because I have never been in a situation in which I must. When I spoke, my French professor in Scotland laughed at me in my face. I got an 80-something on the Spanish 3 Regents exam twelve years ago but can't form a blessed phrase of Spanish unless I've seen it on a sign recently. As for Polish, I can say, "Dzien dobry," which means hello, which means I'd do fantastically in Poland if I limited myself to animals and those with laryngitis. Respond to my "hello," and you and I are both screwed. Kiss your ass "goodbye." Babcia took night courses with my mother's cousin Chris's 3rd grade teacher, and dedicated herself to speaking English and only English to her family. My mother knows perhaps five phrases in Polish; I know less. I want to learn Polish so I can speak the language of my relatives - after all, Scottish is English, despite the Glaswegian accent's attempts to make you believe the contrary.

But while Europe is filled with languages that are not only helpful to know but often necessary and in all countries required, as most students in the European Union study two or more languages concurrently with their own from a very young age, our children are lucky to have a Spanish class and unless their work directly involves conversing and speaking in a language other than Spanish (i.e., French, Italian or German classes for an opera singer), the ability to read, speak and comprehend is lost almost automatically. Have Americans forgotten how hard it is to learn another language as a result of generations of living in our monolingual bubble? If we had to study Spanish, French, Russian and Latin in our schools would we recall the vulnerability of being completely clueless in the exercise of communication, the fundamental method of human interaction?

Ironically, the state slogan of Alabama is, "Where America finds its voice." The article which accompanied Tim James's campaign video states, "Exams are currently given in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese, according to AOL News." According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Alabama has approximately 4,708,000 residents in a 2009 estimate. "Foreign born persons" encompassed 2.0% of Alabama's citizens in 2000, with 3.9% of citizens speaking a language other than English at home. Sound like a lot? Well, let's take our much-beloved northern swing state, Pennsylvania, and observe those percentages: of a population of approximately 12,605,000 (2009 estimate), 4.1% were born in a country other than the United States and 8.4% speak a language other than English at home. (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/42000.html)

I don't think I'd offend that many people by saying that if I were emigrating to the United States, my first stop would not be Alabama. The census seems to agree (although, to Tim James's chagrin, I can access the U.S. Census information in English and Spanish). Unlike Arizona with its new "if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be an illegal immigrant" law, Alabama does not border Mexico. Nor do Georgia or Florida on its right, nor Mississippi or Louisiana on its left. You cross three states to reach the Rio Grande, and in this case it seems the only thing close to Mexico in Alabama's line of sight is the Gulf of Mexico itself. Aside from a Latino population unable to read enough English to pass a driver's test, the aforementioned languages in the proposed ban are laughably archaic. When is the last time you saw a wave of Chinese, Russians and Greeks moving to Alabama? Perhaps some Louisiana Cajuns would request the test in French, but you'd have to cross that pesky thing called the state of Mississippi first. And for that, you'd need a driver's license.

Since we're romanticizing Southern values, let's turn to that precious Civil War epic, Gone with the Wind. Rhett Butler told Scarlett O'Hara, "What most people don't seem to realize is that there is just as much money to be made out of the wreckage of a civilization as from the upbuilding of one." Candidate James says that cutting down the languages available on the Alabama driver's license exam to one "saves money, and it makes sense. Does it to you?" There's a pregnant pause and, confused over whether I am watching Saturday Night Live, a political campaign, or taking an exam, I make like I'm on Dora the Explorer and vamanos.

Anna M. Piontek Lesniak


Saturday, March 6, 2010

comfortable: no need to bend down

Finally, a solution for those of us who despise the simple act of removing our shoes, and want to waste more plastic than we already do, there is the GaloMat, a shoe cover dispenser so that you can lose all of your friends by your total disregard for their comfort. Why cover just your couch in plastic when you can shrink-wrap the human body?



Too busy to watch the instructional video? Here's an eight-second, uncomfortably to-the-point clip of the Step-O-Matic.



I wonder if it works for dogs.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Crazy Cavies Pignic!

On Saturday February 27th we attended the Crazy Cavies' 2nd Annual South Florida Pignic, held in Coconut Creek, FL, in Broward County, about an hour and 45 minutes from Naples. After waiting in a long line of cars there for a rugby game (why play rugby when you can play with piggies? I'll never understand sports) we found the Elfin Shelter, where a good amount of guinea pigs (also known as "cavies") and cavy slaves (also known as "humans") met to meet other owners, play with guinea pigs, and most importantly, support the Crazy Cavies Guinea Pig Rescue, a non-profit, no-kill guinea pig rescue run by Jeremy and Tracy Henle. This is the first time I've met other guinea pig owners "in the flesh," after being on some of the online forums, and the first time my guinea pigs, Toffee and Tribble, have met other guinea pigs since we got them in September. It was pretty cool to meet other people who are as much in love with cavies as I am, to ask questions, to meet other pigs, and to see mine interact with them. We arrived around 1 p.m. with our piggies, a towel, and the hope that Toffee and Tribble would enjoy finding out that they weren't the only 2 guinea pigs in the world, as they originally thought!
After Tracy made sure Toffee and Tribble were in fact female (since there was a pen for females and neutered males, and a pen for males, as one Toffee and Tribble is enough for us!) and were okay, we placed them in the pen you see here, pink for girls, of course. Our piggies got to eat real grass for the first time ever, since I've been nervous about letting them out to eat River Reach's probably pesticide-treated grass. Not to mention, uh, lizards. After Toffee and Tribble sat in the corner glued to one another for about five minutes, they slowly moved out to meet the other piggies. Strangely enough, Tribble (who is Abyssinian - or, to those who don't know cavy-speak, basically means "crazy, poufy hair") hung around other long-haired guinea pigs, and Toffee stayed with the short-haired guinea pigs. I think they were in shock that other piggies looked like them! "She has short hair like me!" "I thought I was the only one with rosettes!"

Above, you'll see Toffee (on the right) happily chomping on grass with her new short-haired friend.


And Tribble meeting some fellow Abbys. Tribble is the one on the left looking right at me as if to say, "Hey, my Mom's taking a photo! Hi Mom!"



After an hour or so, the guinea pig conversations turned to current events. Toffee (3rd from left) grabs the microphone as the Guinea Pig Panel addresses the Toyota company about their Hybrid recalls. "We want answers! And then we want hay!"


But the girls weren't the only ones having fun. This is the boys' pen, if you can't tell from the blue grids. I was able to grab a few photos of the boys as the day was ending and Toffee and Tribble were the only girls left in the Female pen. As I told Tracy, "These are mine, so I don't think I have to worry about them getting along!"

What made me very happy was that every guinea pig there was obviously very loved and very well taken care of, since our society has become so inundated with movies like G-Force and shows like Wonder Pets where a guinea pig in a cage too small for a hamster hangs out with a duck and a turtle. There were a lot of kids there with moms and dads who were more knowledgeable about guinea pigs than they were when it's usually, sadly, the other way around.

Once it neared 4 p.m., Ed looked up at the sky and Jeremy agreed that it was time to take the pens and tents down as it was about to pour. I joked with Ed (who was born in Ireland) that you can always trust an Irishman to know when rain is coming! Little did we know that the winds were about to blow almost everything off of this table, as we all floundered to put things away before they went flying.


Some of the raffle prizes which, had it not been for the remaining attendees, would have gone flying like a rugby ball in the wind! I tried to help, but mostly panicked saying "Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod" over and over again.

Toffee, Tribble, Ed, and I had a wonderful day at the Crazy Cavies pignic and we wished we came earlier! We met some fabulous people who I'm looking forward to keeping in touch with through facebook.

Now, it doesn't matter if you're in Florida or France, this guinea pig rescue is wonderful and deserves all of the publicity it can get, because what Tracy and Jeremy are doing is amazing and many of the guinea pigs they rescue would be long-dead without their selfless love and dedication. But what many people who don't have guinea pigs don't realize is how expensive it is to keep them: bedding, hay, pellets, veggies, medication, and time: it all adds up. Please donate to the Crazy Cavies Rescue by clicking here. Even something as small as $5 can make a difference and help keep this rescue running. If you live in Florida, and have been thinking of adopting a guinea pig, please do it through Crazy Cavies and not through a pet store! Although mine came through a pet store there is no question in my mind now that I'm more educated on guinea pigs than I was when we got them that if I could do it again, I'd go rescue all the way. But you live and you learn. These are healthy, happy pigs fostered in a loving environment, and they deserve it!

Thank you to rescue runners Tracy and Jeremy for a fabulous day and thanks to those like Jeff, Jessica, Anna, and other attendees whose names I'm forgetting (but it goes to show what a good turnout they had!). You were all fabulous and I hope to see you at next year's Pignic! Wheek wheek!