Rabbit Stew at the University of Maine
In my many, many years as a college undergraduate, I sat through a lot of excruciatingly dull classes. In part, this was because I selected my courses each semester based not on some vague goal of graduating and getting a job, but on when and where classes were held.
My rules were simple: nothing before 10 a.m., nothing after 2 p.m., and nothing above the second floor in buildings with no elevator.
As a result, I often ended up in strange hybrid seminars, such “The Physics of Economics” or maybe it was “The Economics of Physics” or “Oral Interpretations of Monks Who Take Vows of Silence.” In any case, I got to sleep late, drink at happy hour, and avoid strenuous climbs. It came as quite a shock when I discovered that after several years of this idyllic lifestyle, I had accidentally graduated.
If I had it to do over again, I’d take a different approach. No more taking whatever was offered at random, so long as it didn’t interfere with my social life. Instead, I’d sign up for the really weird courses.
Like bunny slaughtering.
Technically, there is no such class at the University of Maine, even though learning how to butcher rabbits and other small mammals would be a useful skill to acquire if you wanted to reduce your grocery bills. But I suppose that sort of thing is more appropriately taught at the state’s community colleges, freeing university classrooms for such advanced material as “Global Warming and the Transsexual Psyche” or “Inter-modal Transportation Alternatives Suggested by the Later Writings of Stephen King.”
But back to killing Thumper. Last Saturday in Orono, there was a UMaine class on documentary film. Several things went wrong, starting with it being a Saturday class. In my extensive post-secondary school experience, I have learned that Saturday is a day devoted to: A. recovering from Friday night and B. preparing for Saturday night. It is no more a day for classes than, say, Thursday. But I suppose times have changed, and today’s goal-oriented students are willing to sacrifice their weekends to further their eventual earning potential.
They’ll regret that some day when they’re older and leading dull lives. In fact, a lot of documentary film students are already regretting it. That’s because Dane Bolding (with a name like that, shouldn’t he be starring in bodice-ripping romance novels?), a senior English major, showed up to give a demonstration that involved a tarp, a knife, and a cute little bunny rabbit.
Bolding intended to show his classmates how to skin and cut up the critter for use as chops and stews.
I’m unclear from published reports what any of this had to do with making a documentary film, although I suppose, documentary filmmakers have to eat like everybody else, so it might be helpful if they knew how to butcher bunnies. Bolding (“Genevieve cast aside her aristocratic heritage, her high church upbringing and her bosom-suppressing girdle to thrust herself into Dane’s arms, which were still slightly damp with the entrails of the rabbit harvest”) told the Bangor Daily News that he did it because “I feel like documentary films often put a lot in front of us. I guess my intention was to really put something in front of the class.”
Also, he said he was planning on bunny burgers for dinner.
When Bolding’s intentions became obvious to his fellow students – right after he put the knife up against the fuzzy fellow’s throat – there was chaos in the classroom. Students ran for the door, lest they be subjected to the sort of mayhem they’d paid good money to see in “Saw V.”
Others confronted Bolding (“Fear not, sweet Genevieve, for I need no sword to dispatch with villains of this ilk”) and convinced him to halt his demonstration while the rabbit was intact. Still others called the campus cops, who notified the dean of students, who eventually determined it’s not against the law to kill animals for food, but it might violate some kind of student-conduct rule.
“I’m feeling betrayed by this,” one of the course’s teachers told the Bangor paper. “This has shaken us all incredibly. I’ve taught for 25 years. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Neither have I, but I have heard of something remarkably similar. Several people swear that in the late 1950s or early ‘60s, a student at Orono, who was raised in a remote unorganized territory, showed up for a public-speaking class with a sack containing a live chicken. He proceeded to fulfill his assignment of giving a speech demonstrating an activity by whacking off the fowl’s head.
According to this possibly apocryphal tale, he completed the task in a deft manner. Even so, he was later informed by the instructor that he’d flunked the course because he’d failed to consider his audience’s feelings.
Not to mention the chicken’s.
This seems like an appropriate place to offer some sort of moral conclusion on the matter of sacrificing live animals on the altar of education, but I have to admit to mixed feelings. While I wouldn’t want to have arrived for this particular class hung over and sleep-deprived, only to be confronted with bunny blood and guts, I have to admit it would have been way more interesting than listening to some boring professor drone on about “Quantum Mechanics and the Evolving Science of Bodice-Ripping.”
There’s another consideration, as well. Rabbit happens to be one of my favorite foods, so I’d be something of a hypocrite if I criticized Bolding (“Dane leaned back from the table, his hunger sated, but not his lust for the lovely Genevieve”) for advocating the creature’s demise, preparation and consumption. And even if I wasn’t crazy about bunny for dinner, I’d still choose it over the week’s other food innovation:
As in seaweed.
A Portland company called Ocean Approved has introduced Dilly Kelp, which it claims can be used anywhere you’d ordinarily employ pickles (“Dane crushed the kelp into the barbarian’s eyeballs, blinding his foe”). These entrepreneurs are also preparing something called Calendar Islands Cocktail Garnish, which is being promoted as a kelp alternative to olives in martinis. According to the company, when kelp is substituted for olives, the drink is transformed into a “seatini.”
Or a tide pool.
Ocean Approved is promoting its products with the slogan, “Kelp, the virtuous vegetable.”
I guess that means it’s the kind of plant that, confronted with the pending knifing of a cute little bunny, would extend its tendrils to halt the execution, strangling the perpetrator in a manner no mere pickle could emulate. Then it would grab the rabbit and drag it underwater to its doom. I learned all about that stuff in a college class I took called “Ethical Dilemmas in Cheesy 1950s Monster Movies Such as ‘Attack of the Giant Pickled Kelp.’”
Al Diamon is concerned that once kelp develop a taste for alcohol, they’ll attack the surface world and enslave the human population. If you have a plan to prevent this disaster, e-mail it to him at email@example.com.