Art Redefined


“I view meat cutting as an art”

In my online humanities class I ask students at the beginning of each semester to introduce themselves, and in so doing to comment on their relationship to and/or how much their values have been influenced by art, music, religion, philosophy, and literature – i.e., the ‘humanities’.

Occasionally I receive a response too precious not to share.

“I moved to Florida eight years ago this November and I am currently a Meat Cutter Apprentice at _____. Personally I view meat cutting as an art if it is done in a respectful way to the animal you are cutting apart. Any person with a knife can cut meat; however, not everyone does it respectfully instead they do it as if they’re going through the motions of their job. Rather than view the pieces they cut as a living animal that was killed to feed others they view it as a slab of beef. This isn’t untrue but there is no respect for the fact that a living animal was killed and processed for our own survival. My personal goal in that field is to move away from the Grocery meat cutters and more towards the traditional Butcher’s Shops that have that respect for the animals they kill and process.”

I don’t dispute his view but I can’t help but wonder if he really needs to tackle Plato and Dante and The Book of Job to further his career.

Then again, I’m reminded of our go-to supplier of beer & deli sandwiches (me) and dog bones (Tzuri) out in Livingston a couple of summers ago.

‘Montana Matt’ I called him. He went to Montana State University and was good at cuttin’ meat. Probably took a humanities course or two.

elk butchering20140529_0683 as Smart Object-1

This is actually a very practical solution to the ever-present road kill problem in the West.  Montana passed a law that lets drivers who have hit deer or elk go online and immediately obtain a license for that animal, regardless of season.

Then you haul the carcass to your local butcher and the bloodletting begins.

It’s an art form, I now know – if you have the right respect and the gumption to see more than just a slab of beef.

🙂 🙂 🙂




Dear Mom,

I know you were expecting a report card but for an Independent Study project I hopped a train and have been riding the rails for the past several months.


It’s a great education, living by the seat of your pants.  I hooked up with a foxy gypsy chic who has taught me some priceless skills: grifts, bunkos, gaffles.

I’m just a shill right now, an apprentice, but will receive my certificate as a full-fledged bamboozle artist as soon as I pass my final scam.

Don’t worry, when not on the lam I found a great place to live. Top left, room with a view.


BTW, please send next semester’s tuition as soon as possible so I can graduate.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Barbra Streisand, Flim Flam Man

The Horse & The Fiancé

I’m grading mid-term essays right now. What a bummer!

I provide students with several topics to choose from, including this one:

The Book of Job asks why bad things happen to good people. He doesn’t receive a direct answer other than that divine wisdom is beyond human comprehension. How might you answer a little child who wants to know why innocent people have to suffer?

I was grading on auto-pilot, having at one time or another seen just about every conceivable answer to this question. Until I got to this response, which really made my day!

So if a child came up to me and asked me why innocent people have to suffer, I would tell the child that everything happens for a reason. Even though some things that happen are absolutely horrible, you need to take all of the bad things and just put them aside and remember all of the good things that you can put into that situation. For instance, I used to always get really depressed especially for my pacemaker surgery when I was only 12 years of age, and I would ask my parents why I was stuck with my heart problems and they would always tell me that everything will get better soon. It may have taken me a few years after that to realize that everything does happen for a reason! If I did not get so sick and depressed, I would have never met my horse and my fiancé.

Any suggestions as to what comment I should put on this girl’s paper?

😀 😀 😀

classroom header

Jehovah’s Witness Coed Cheats On Exam, Pastafarian Professor Forgives Her

It’s difficult to cheat on an open-book multiple choice test.  But yesterday an online student accidentally emailed me prima facia evidence of just such a snafu, prompting the following conversational thread.

INSTRUCTOR: Please tell me how you happen to be in possession of the Instructor’s Test Bank with all the test questions and correct answers?

STUDENT: What’s the Instructor’s Test Bank???

INSTRUCTOR: Open your last journal submission and look at what you sent me. You included the Instructor’s Test Bank questions for Ch. 13 along with your journal paragraph. To have the answers to the test is cheating.

STUDENT: Oh my goodness!!! Wow! …. I guess any apologies now should not even be taken into consideration or accepted. I take all of the blame. If you fail me then that would be okay, or should I withdraw from the class? I guess I just wanted to get my courses over with; I was hurrying so much that night to get my work done that I decided to search the answers up, because I’m always in a rush. That is no way for me to act in such a way. That shows so much disrespect to your teaching on my part, and I apologize dearly. Please do not accept my apology, I do not deserve it. I should be ashamed of myself. Thank you for pointing out what I had done. I don’t deserve the grade I have now. I don’t even know what to do now…. I considered myself as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and yet I lie and cheat behind someones back… I have put a serious and bad reputation on God’s name. I don’t think I can ever live this down… I have no excuses…. I truly am sorry professor.

What did I do?  Well, I ain’t watched all those cop shows for nothin’.  I flipped her, got her to name names, rat out her sources.

INSTRUCTOR:  Thank you for accepting responsibility. Before I decide what to do, please help me understand something… Is it possible to google online somehow and find those answers? Is there a particular site that sells them, perhaps?

STUDENT:  Yes! I usually refer to the text book when I’m stuck on something, but once in a while I will google the question. But I rarely ever get an answer. For some reason, when I googled a question for this quiz, it came up as a word documented link and had almost all of the answers on the quiz.

I have sent an attachment of a jpeg image of where I found the answers. Here is the link…

The website underneath the highlighted one, called quizlet, is also a good source for students to get answers! Not sure how much is on that site, but that is one I would definitely check out as well.

I’m so very sorry professor!!

INSTRUCTOR:  Okay, thanks. I am only going to give you a zero for that one test, so it won’t affect your overall grade too much, particularly if you do well on the final essay.

STUDENT:  Again, I am sorry professor, but I am glad that it happened. I guess my conscience became nulled when it came to cheating on the quizzes. Perhaps this would reawaken my conscience. I am very sorry.

Thank you so much for being merciful!

Should I tell her that I forgave her in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?


😉 😉 😉

Alley (oops!) Abstracts

As a teacher I never backed away from a fight. My job was to provoke, to engage, to strike a match & kindle the G-Spot in a virgin intellect.

So – with something like Dadaism or Surrealism or Abstract Expressionism, for example – I would shove the seemingly incomprehensible and/or outrageous right up in a student’s face.

“My kid sister has finger-painting better than that taped to our refrigerator!” was an oft-repeated remark when I showed a Pollock or a de Kooning or a Rothko to a class.

Game on!

Continue reading

The Burning Bush

– belated letter of appreciation to a former teacher & mentor –

Behind his back we called him the “Burning Bush.” Partly because of his wavy reddish brown hair, but mostly because he was dynamic and profound. No one who wandered into his orbit was ever the same again.

1963 FPC Student ID50 years ago a squeaky-clean teenager who didn’t even shave yet watched in utter fascination as Dr. John Bevan strode up to the podium of an Introductory Psychology class.

How to sum up and describe his influence on my life has haunted me for decades now. Time after time, through thick & thin, I have scrolled a blank sheet of paper into the typewriter and just let it sit there, pondering what to say.

Dear Dr. Bevan:

February, 2000

You may not remember me. I majored in psychology and graduated from Florida Presbyterian College in 1965.

A burning bush in the biblical sense is something continually on fire but which is never actually consumed. Out of such a revelatory experience is generated new knowledge, new insights. It was this noetic quality I was for so many years having such trouble describing. Words of praise and appreciation for my former professor seemed to effloresce and go ‘poof’ before I could get them on paper.

Where to start?

After reading the recent feature article on you in the Eckerd College* alumni magazine, Vision, I wanted to take this long overdue opportunity to thank you for being such a significant influence in my life.

I was not a very good student my first couple of years at FPC. I had a tendency to spend more time on the tennis court than in the classroom. Until, that is, I encountered your dynamic presence in an Introductory Psychology course. You made an immediate and lasting difference in my life. It wasn’t any one thing you said or did that tipped the scales for me. It was just the incredible whirlwind of passion and brilliance and enthusiasm which constantly emanated from your presence.

*Florida Presbyterian College was renamed Eckerd College in 1972

That sophomore semester in Dr. Bevan’s class I turned myself around, so to speak. I latched onto him like a barnacle and immediately declared my new major to be Psychology. I took every psychology course ever offered. Overnight I went from a flunkie to an “A” student. [At that time FPC was a brand new experimental avant-garde school which did not give conventional grades, only Honors, Satisfactory, and Unsatisfactory.] I eventually even wrangled a full scholarship to Vanderbilt Graduate School in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D program.

Although, to be sure, those were tough times. The Vietnam War, the draft, the end of student deferments. I only lasted a few months at Vanderbilt, and never did successfully become a psychologist.

In fact, truth be known, I was always prone to backsliding. Even in Dr. Bevan’s classes I would sometimes just for the hell of it play hooky weeks at a time, barely even showing up for exams.

Once, late in my senior year, I walked up on stage to receive an outstanding “multiple-athlete” award – [varsity golf, tennis, baseball, basketball] – at a college-wide ceremony that Dean Bevan was hosting. As he handed me my plaque and shook my hand he stared at me in a way which made me shamefully avert my eyes. (I had skipped way too many of his classes that semester.) But all he said was, referring to my athletic prowess, “so this is where you spend your time.”

Today I am a Professor of Humanities at Edison State College in Naples, Florida. Recently I attended a workshop on effective teaching, and each of us was asked to get up and give a short impromptu speech on the most influential teacher in our lives. I chose unhesitatingly to talk about you.

I don’t remember exactly what I said up in front of my colleagues that day. But as I write this letter, many vivid recollections come back to me. For some reason I particularly remember the physiological psychology course you taught. At the beginning of each class you would open a big file of notes and silently thumb through them for a minute or two. My impression was that you were actively wearing so many diverse hats for that brand-new & understaffed college that you probably had not taken much advance time to preview your lecture. But you would quickly focus your mind and refresh your memory, and then launch into a “performance” – pacing, whirling, breathing fire. “Cortico-Rubo-Tecto-spinal” this, and “Babinsky-Reflex” that. The terms that came wafting out over rows of spell-bound students were as poetically delightful as they were overwhelming. I couldn’t take notes fast enough.

To an impressionable young kid, you were awe-inspiring. My course notes from those days are long lost. But not for a minute have I ever forgotten your passionate commitment to the spirit of inquiry. Walker Percy once said that “to be aware of the possibility of the search is to be on to something. Not to be on to something is to be in despair.”

You put me on to something – something good, something life-affirming.

Someone, maybe it was B. F. Skinner, who was a dominant player in the world of behavioral psychology back in the day, said that education is what remains after we have forgotten everything we learned. Well, I forgot all that formal psychology stuff. What I remember, however, is what counts. The magnetic force of Dr. Bevan’s personality: the warmth, the vitality, the joy, the passion – all contributing to a radiance which was contagious.

What also stuck to my ribs over the years is the sense that education is a process. A ceaseless process of self-exploration, of self-discovery. It is a continuing drama kindled by those rare individuals who accept the frailty of words; they communicate more effectively by their effulgence – the sparkle in their eyes, the resonance in their voice, the humility of their actions.

And once this note of vibrancy strikes a responsive chord, the walls come tumbling down. Sooner or later you grow a new soul, for one truly does not pour new wine into old skins.

I still regularly get together with various FPC alumni. We talk about the good times. Your name always comes up in hushed, reverent tones.

Oh, yes, I also remember your final exam in that physiological psychology class. It was only one short brutal sentence: Expiate on everything between the ears, and their interconnections!

Thirty-five years after I last saw my secret mentor, Dr. Bevan, and with no real assurance that he would have any inkling who I was, I mailed him this long overdue letter of appreciation.

I just wanted to convey to you my sincere appreciation for all you have meant to me over the years.

John Hayes, ‘65

I dropped the letter in the mail on Wednesday, February 2, twelve years ago. Two days later, on February 4th, I read on the alumni chat board that Dr. Bevan, who was not quite eighty, died of respiratory failure after having spent about a month in the hospital.

My tribute obviously never reached him. It was probably still in his letter carrier’s pouch when Dr. John M. (Jack) Bevan drew his last breath.

Dr. Bevan

Three weeks later, in March of 2000, I received in the mail a small thank-you sized envelope neatly addressed in scratchy black ink to “Prof. John Hayes.” On the back side was a pre-printed stickum-type return address. The “Dr.” in front of “John Bevan” had been crossed out, and “Mrs.” was superimposed over it, again in ominous black ink.

Out of guilt and a sense of fair play I refuse to open that return letter. I tacked it still sealed up over my desk. It stares at me and for the past twelve years I have stared back at it.