Tuesday, August 30, 2005

You Spin Me Right Round

I’ve recently taken to going to spinning classes on my Thursday lunch hour--or I should say “cycling,” because “spinning" is apparently a copyrighted term that my gym does not pony up the cash to use. It is actually really hard--hard as in there comes a point during each class where either fainting or vomiting seems imminent. But despite the level of difficulty, I can’t shake the feeling that the cycling room is the habitat of bored, rich housewives and pampered, self-obsessed celebrities. Logically, I know that those women quit spinning five years ago and have moved on to yoga and Pilates and now the bodywedge workout and lifting weights on a giant inflatable ball. And I also understand that it really doesn’t matter who takes the class if it kicks my cardiovascular health up a notch. But I just can’t shake the image of the dreaded Joan Rivers, on the Oscar or Emmy red carpet a few years ago, asking the equally dreaded Helen Hunt how she brought about “her total body makeover.” Hunt’s answer: “Spinning.”

Friday, August 26, 2005

Elvis in the House

As Kym intimated in her last post, I have a big cat named Elvis. A really big cat--18 pounds the last time I checked. Now he is big boned (don’t laugh--its true). He has the shoulders of a bulldog or a linebacker and is taller than my IMac. He is actually quite slim these days, as, when I got him in July 2000, he weighed closer to 23 pounds. At that time, he was already at least five years old and seemed to have been through the wringer. He had a huge scar on the left side of his face, stretching from his eye back to his ear, almost as long and wide as my pinkie. Clearly no one had taken him to the vet to have it properly stitched up, leaving me to wonder if someone was abusing him or if he lived on the street. The scar still bothers him in the winter, when the dry heat causes it to itch--I try to moisturize it with a Burt’s Bees salve that smells like lavender. I think all his kittenhood traumas and abandonment issues cause him to focus on food as a sign of security. He is, as they say, an emotional eater. And he isn’t just greedy about food--he wants constant affection, often sitting on my chest or sometimes even my head to ensure he gets it.

About the name. It was not my idea and I’m always a little embarrassed that I have a cat named Elvis. The sweet but slightly crazy cat rescue people who go through the pounds adopting cats about to be put to sleep came up with the moniker, inspired by his amble girth. But it really fit him, so I kept it. Oddly, another cat named Elvis lives in my building. He a sleek, cool Abyssinian whose owners got him from Christopher Walken. So we have ‘70s Elvis and a ‘50s Elvis together at last.

I also have a little sweet cat named Audrey, who I will write about later.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sometimes You Just Want to Throw Something Through a Window

For instance, when you call your graduate advisor and he tells you that you need to extend your leave of absence, further delaying the already tragically slow and expensive process, because he is retiring and will not be advising any more, you might want to wreak a little havoc. This means you (and yes, I am talking about myself, but currently am too upset to write about this in the first person) will miss this year's grant cycle and in fact may need to switch schools, which can only mean re-doing coursework that you are pretty sure will only bore you more the second time around. And then the aforementioned advisor suggests switching your entire topic from borders to the education system so that you can become an education consultant because you enjoyed a brief stint as an after school program director and somehow he has gleaned from this that you have found your life's work. And then, to top it off, provides you with the wrong citation for a book that is supposed to help you decide whether you should abandon years of work on borders to write an ethnography on the consequences of No Child Left Behind or the tensions between schools and after school programming. Now I hate No Child Left Behind and the Bush administration's education policy almost as much as, well there is no almost. It is enough to say that this country will be cleaning up that mess for decades to come. But none of that means that I want to spend my life working on that particular mess. Frankly, the thought of having to wade through book after book after article after policy piece on current theories of education makes my head want to explode. This to me, seems a slight glitch in my advisor's plan and the whole thing makes me want to run screaming from the proverbial room. How I wish this year's TV season had already started.

Oh, and by the way, Kate, Weese has decided to challenge Elvis to the Biggest Cat in the World Title. It is somewhat disturbing as her face remains small.

The American Republic Before the World

By day, I am the associate editor of the Harriet Jacobs Papers. Jacobs was a nineteenth-century woman who was born a slave. After her escape, she became involved with the abolitionist community in the Northeast and wrote a book about her experiences, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. One of the things I find most interesting--and, honestly, most disturbing--about my job is the way in which the concerns and rhetoric of the abolitionists sound so relevant today.

The following was published 15th Annual Report of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1847 in response to the Mexican-American War:

"The attitude of the American Republic before the world is signally changed since we last attempted to describe it. It has outstripped our swiftest prophecies in its career in crime. What we then only ventured to forebode as distant contingencies, have become part of our national history.”

Sound familiar?

Monday, August 22, 2005

1st day of school

I guess that I am officially a law student now. Considering that all of orientation was about how hard school was it doesn't seem that bad except of course that they want me to read and understand stuff. The highlights so far have been a girl announcing that she is a stripper in class, meeting someone from DC and being so excited I didn't care that he was a Republican (this will change I am sure), and of course the 100 + heat of Texas.

Onto important things. I really liked the end of SFU. I won't go into detail untill I am sure that everyone has seen it but I thought it was fitting. My DVR is working nicely and I am gearing up for the new tv season, even if I do have to watch it all delayed.

Most importantly my old boss Michael Stoops is going to be interviewed for the Daily Show, I will let you all know when it is going to be on.

The Debut Continued

Don't forget to warn them about potential rants concerning the horrors of grad school, the potentially disturbing ramifications of fleeing D.C. for the dubious pursuit of a law degree, random complaints about training for a marathon, analysis of America's relationship with its own borders and the countries on either side, as well as observations on the hilarious nature of middle school students and the dangerous obsession with local football that eats away at small town Texas in the fall. I think it has something to do with the lack of interesting autumn foliage.


The Debut of Red Peonies

Welcome to Red Peonies, a blog created by the women of the Culkin family. You should expect to find a wide variety of topics covered here, from rants against the Bush administration to cooking and knitting tips to analysis of the upcoming TV season to discussion of the current art scene in New York and the work of nineteenth-century abolitionists. And there will also be family news, including updates on the two latest members, Aiden Johnson (born March 27, 2005) and Anders Finn Mengshol (born August 19, 2005--Bill Clinton's birthday!)