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Poem for April

Cicada

There’s a principle we should be proud of in Biology
That explains why we’re so brilliant... called neoteny,
Which says prolonged infancy and adolescence in any creature
Allows for more complexity in brain or body. It’s a feature
Of all things living, that they grow faster while not yet mature
So that 17 years of human adolescence means that you’re
Possessed of a bigger brain and better prepared to reason
Than some dumb beast who must mature in just one season
Prepared to fend off predators as an adult,
Though with a smaller brain... as a result.
But as our infancy and adolescence is 17 times longer,
It means we grow a brain that’s way way stronger.
But 17 years slowly maturing at home with mum and dad
Is a mere 20% of our life span. Now suppose we had
90% of life to spend in long infancy and slow adolescence.
If neoteny is such a blessing, wouldn’t that make good sense?
So consider the cicada who spends 17 years underground
In an adolescent larval stage, and only then is found
Above ground just one summer in full cicada maturation,
A 90% jolt of good neoteny... by my calculation.
Then why aren’t cicadas doing Einstein work, you say?
Is that a human prejudice you have? You may
Be thinking brains the only feature favored by neoteny
And smarts are all that count in bio-destiny.
WRONG! Might not the cicada... so long there underground...
Be working on some other specialty and so be found
Marvelous, unique, and far advanced in some other feature?
Are brains all you can think of, you egotistic creature?
Study the cicada a little further, and you’ll find
Neoteny has gifted her in quite another kind.
Though we build brain complexity above all other things,
In 17 years of larval stage, cicadas work on wings...
Not wings unique for flying, as you might suppose,
But wings like no other bug or beetle grows.
Cicada wings develop a special skill and purpose
By tiny, tiny nano-spikes grown on their surface,
Microscopic spears so keen and razor sharp,
That even bacteria landing there are torn apart.
If a summertime bacterium isn’t careful where he’s headed
And lands on a cicada, his membranes instantly get shredded.
These wings are the only bio-material known
That can kill bacteria at a touch. And that alone
Should make cicada neoteny.. the 90% kind...
Better than any brain advantage you can find.
I mean... what has big brain size done for me?
Nothing but anxiety and fret... that I can see.
The bad half of my brain makes each day a giant cock-up;
Then the other half exhausts itself in frantic daily mop-up.
Meanwhile, bacteria rain down upon me every hour!
And my surfaces have not one nano-spike... no power
To shred a single microbe, germ, or spore.
“Come in!” my surface says and opens every pore,
“Send us your flu, your plague, your meningitis!
The foul bacilli of your gingivitis,
The lyme and fever of your ticks and mites,
The staph and typhus of your parasites
The wretched refuse of hepatitis B.
Send these, your blood-born pathogens, to me.
I lift my lamp where no nano-spike will be.”

Oh, for cicada surfaces from head to toe!
How fearlessly we then might come and go,
And live perhaps forever, canker-free,
Thanks to the miracles of wing-neoteny.
Then who would give a fig for giant brains?
Not young, healthy, happy Dicks and Janes,
Gay or straight, single or wedded,
All their nasty microbes shredded.
Oh, if sweet neoteny had only made a
Man with surfaces like a cicada.

                     No!
               I’ve nothing nano.
               Nada! Oh, to be a
               Never sick cicada.

 


 

To Order

"Teeny and the Whale" Acclaimed

"The Teeny stories are remarkable tales, both funny and intellectual. Slade is a very understanding man and captures the reader with humor and art. I give it ten stars."
Maggie Osterbauer, '03

"Schuster's work is amazing! He is wise beyond his years, and that's high praise."
Eric Vidrine, '03

"Teeny and the Whale" is a masterpiece plumbing the ocean-depths of the human psyche."
James Byron, '03

"Mr. Schuster's droll wit and Mike Sooy's artistry make for a raucous romp through adolescence and the unconscious."
Ars Azam, '03

"Slade's combination of wry humor and sound moral instruction make his volume worth twice what I paid for it!"
Brian Libby, History Dept.




To Order

Critical Reviews of Teeny's Travels

"This fantastical world of Zander-snitches, horrid harpies, and blimple stones will be a source of pride to heroic teenagers everywhere . . . as long as they have a dead ear for irony."
Sonja Johnson '88

"Oh, the droll, drooling days of adolescence! What exactly are these minds we are concerned to mold? Slade lays it all before us. Here you have it, Dude!"
Molly Gilbert, Admissions

"A terrific poem describing a typical, modern teenager (I think it's Brett Wallnutt) on the symbolic journey of life, the same journey we have read this year in ancient tales."
Samira Abu-Ghazaleh '01

"Teeny's Travel's" is an exhilarating, verse tale delving into the adventures of an average, nutty teenager, probably Brett Wallnutt."
Chad Mayfield '01

"This is one of the greatest works of our times. Teeny is a complex, intricate, fascinating hero . . . as am I."
Brett Wallnutt '01


To Order

Readers Rave for "Teeny!"

Teeny is an hilarious character, portrayed perfectly to relate to young adults. Well worth reading! Very clever! Very funny!
- Ruthie Sudderth, '02

Finally, a story that lays open the truth about adolescence: materialism, power, and sloth. Things come to closure, Chaucer. The curtain is closing, Shakespeare. Move over, Freud. Slade is here!
- Lars Jensen, '02

This is why Schuster's Teeny Series is so critically acclaimed.
- Stephen Van Pelt, '02

A comical tale of teenhood and the complete idiot's guide to Christian selflessness.
- Erik Thunem, '02

An exemplary tale that warns teens of the "hockey" generation to be cautious when touching "pastry." It will grate the nerves of the boorish adolescent, but touch the heart strings of "special" students who interest themselves in literature.
- Mary Stenson, '02

The Legends

Teeny's Travels reprises the "wasteland theme" which informs so many ancient, medieval, and modern tales, including Oedipus and Hamlet. In this story line, a youthful hero on a spiritual quest enters a strange land wasted by a plague afflicting vegetal, animal, and human vitality. The hero visits the castle of the doomed country where he finds an ailing king. The king's infirmity is the source of the plague (king and country being magically one vitality), and it is the hero's task to restore the king's vigor by curing or replacing the ailing king. The king, though infirm, is wise and can grant the hero a vision of the spiritual truth if he judges the young man's heart to be pure. In medieval versions, the vision often involves the mystic grail or sword (inverted cross) of Christian import. At the moment of revelation, the hero must make a correct response, often by asking the right question. Quests imply a climactic question. The hero fails to cure the wasteland as often as he succeeds, but the moral lesson is imparted as forcefully in either case. "By men who won't be taught by other men, shall other men be taught."

Teeny and the Green Knight satirizes a long, 14th-century poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," written in Middle English by an unknown author, a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer. In it an untested, young hero is confronted by a giant, green horse and rider. The menacing figure challenges Gawain to cut off the green man's head with an axe. However, Gawain must first agree to visit the green giant's domain within a year and have his own head hewn off. Fair is fair. Gawain accepts, seizes the ax, and chops off the man's head. The adventure that follows is marvelous, ominous, full of Christian lore, but not without its humorous implications. Gawain's honor, bravery, and chastity are sorely tested by several trials, most but not all of which he passes. Narrowly escaping death, Gawain returns home, as spiritual heroes must, with a boon, prize, elixir, symbol, or code to enrich his society. Gawain's prize is a simple, green garter, the meaning of which, were it imparted, would benefit young men in any society, especially our own. The Gawain story is the source of a knightly order still revered in England and awarded by her monarchs, the order of the garter.

Teeny and the Whale, like most whale, great fish, or monster-of-the-deep stories (Jonah, Leviathan, Pinocchio, Moby Dick), has a symbolic interpretation. Read psychologically, water (the deep) represents the unconscious, dark regions of the hero's psyche, from which the monster rises to menace him. The monster, of course, is the unmastered excess of the hero's own ego (hubris). Male hubris is the tragic flaw that again and again these tales are concerned to render. As long as the hero remains unaware of the danger his own desires pose (as human desires have no bounds), he will be dragged under and devoured. When he masters fully his own nature, he will rise up and walk upon the flood unhindered. As Thomas a Kempis says, "Know that the love of thyself doth hurt thee more than anything in the world. Forsake and resign thyself, and thou shalt enjoy much inward peace." Teeny is a failed hero in all three adventures.



To Order

Alumni Review

"Straight River Anthology is an insight into the heart and mind of the great Slade. We all wondered what was going on in his head during high school. This is your chance to find out."
Sara Huntley, class of '94

"Slade captures the sublime in everyday occurrences. I enjoy his poetry immensely."
Bob Irby, class of '60

"Slade's poetry isn't Classical...or Romantic...or even Modern (thank God), but it often makes me laugh, sometimes cry (a bitter tear...no loud boo-hooing) and mostly reminds me that the Grim Reaper lurks behind every tree like a boogie-man in the park. Jus'skidding! You must have this book!"
Sonja Johnson, class of '88

"I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of poems, a glimpse at the quirky yet intriguing Mr. Schuster. My favorite,"Violins," perfectly shares the unique and amazing experiences this school offers; the emotion this poem conveys is truly touching."
Katie Simonson, class of '01

"I don't read poetry, and if Slade's mortgage is indeed twice his monthly pay, you'd be a fool to feed that monkey. Nevertheless, I bought some copies of his book. One levels the game table in my basement; the other is shimming the bar fridge."
Tim Gillin, class of '68



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Rare!
Samuel Johnson Collection

For Sale (16 volumes total): $19,900.00


A Dictionary of the English Language
by Samuel Johnson
London
printed by W. Strahan
MDCCLV (1755)

FIRST EDITION, with contemporary boards (1755), restored spines and a double signature at 19K, considered the most pristine copy one book dealer had seen in his career of selling Johnsonalia.


Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, to the
WORKS OF THE ENGLISH POETS
by Samuel Johnson
London
Printed by J. Nichols (in ten volumes)
MDCCLXXIX (1779)


The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.
by James Boswell, Esq.
The third edition, Revised and Augmented,
in Four Volumes
London
Printed by H. Baldwin and Son
MDCCXCIX (1799)