CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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Go Out in a Blaze of Glory

January 29, 2015 (permalink)

From In the Forbidden Land by Arnold Henry Savage Landor, 1898.



January 21, 2015 (permalink)

"Sarah Terwilligar's attempt to fly to heaven [as] the world [is] to come to an end," from Upper Canada Sketches by Thomas Conant, 1898.



December 23, 2014 (permalink)

"Seven or eight times they passed through the fire," from The Dacoit's Treasure by Henry Charles Moore, 1897.



December 22, 2014 (permalink)

From Poets' Wit and Humour by William Henry Wills, 1882.


There's a macabre old fairy tale about an animated fireplace poker entitled "The Cinder King."  The story's syntax is antiquated, but the plot is simple (if fantastic).  A sobbing woman named Betty watches the fireplace, expecting either purses of money or coffins to fly out.  It seems that Betty had recently been jilted by her lover, a tailor named Bob Scott.  He took another bride to the altar, so Betty has resolved to woo the dark Cinder King for his riches.  The clock is about to chime the hour of one, and the moment is described very evocatively: spent tallow-candle grease is seeping into the floor, a blue-burning lamp has wasted half its oil, a black beetle comes crawling from afar, and the red coals of the fire are sinking beneath their grate.  Betty's life is clearly descending to the Underworld.  When the clock strikes "one," it's not the cuckoo bird who sings but rather a grim raven.  Betty's cat wakes up but keeps its claws retracted.  The jack [which we here interpret as the figure of the man striking the bell on the clock] falls into a bowl as if it's time to dine.  The earth trembles, and as if empowered by the fuel of Hell, the fireplace poker animates in a burst of flame.  It shoots forth an enormous cinder that hisses three times like a serpent.  Where the cinder lands there appears a large coffin containing a "nondescript thing."  The thing croaks for Betty to embrace her true Cinder King, noting that three more kings (his brothers) are also waiting to greet her and will, at four o'clock, eat her.  He explains that he and his "element brothers" have a feast and a wedding every night and that they devour each other's new wives.  Betty begs not to wed, but cinders crunch in her mouth and cascade upon her head.  She sinks into the coffin, strewn with cinders, never to be seen again.


THE CINDER KING
by Anon., c. 1801

Who is it that sits in the kitchen and weeps,
While tick goes the clock, and the tabby-cat sleeps, —
That watches the grate, without ceasing to spy,
Whether purses or coffins will out of it fly?

'Tis Betty; who saw the false tailor, Bob Scott,
Lead a bride to the altar; which bride she was not.
'Tis Betty; determined, love from her to fling,
And woo, for his riches, the dark Cinder-King.

Now spent tallow-candle-grease fattened the soil,
And the blue-burning lamp had half wasted its oil,
And the black-beetle boldly came crawling from far,
And the red coals were sinking beneath the third bar;

When "one!" struck the clock — and instead of the bird
Who used to sing cuckoo whene'er the clock stirred,
Out burst a grim raven, and uttered "caw! caw!"
While Puss, though she woke, durst not put forth a claw.

Then the jack fell a-going as if one should sup,
Then the earth rocked as though it would swallow one up;
With fuel from Hell, a strange coal-scuttle came,
And a self-handled poker made fearful the flame.

A cinder shot from it, of size to amaze,
(With a bounce, such as Betty ne'er heard in her days,)
Thrice, serpent-like, hissed as its heat fled away,
And, lo! something dark in a vast coffin lay!

"Come, Betty," quoth croaking that nondescript thing,
"Come, bless the fond arms of your true Cinder-King!
Three more Kings, my brothers, are waiting to greet ye,
Who — don't take it ill — must at four o'clock eat ye.

"My darling, it must be! do make up your mind;
We element brothers, united, and kind,
Have a feast and a wedding, each night of our lives,
So constantly sup on each other's new wives."

In vain squalled the cook-maid, and prayed not to wed;
Cinder crunched in her mouth, cinder rained on her head.
She sank in the coffin with cinders strewn o'er,
And coffin nor Betty saw man any more.

December 21, 2014 (permalink)

"You see the light spread," from Gilbert Light Experiments for Boys, 1920.



December 20, 2014 (permalink)



A candle from The Baby's Museum by Uncle Charlie, 1882.

November 22, 2014 (permalink)



A self-portrait by Prof. Oddfellow.

November 11, 2014 (permalink)

From Lavengro; The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest by George Henry Borrow, 1896.  The caption reads, "There is nothing like flinging the bones!"



October 24, 2014 (permalink)



The text reads:

If this little world to-night
  Suddenly should fall through space
In a hissing, headlong flight,
   Shrivelling from off its face,
As it falls into the sun,
   In an instant every trace
Of the little crawling things—
   Ants, philosophers, and lice,
Cattle, cockroaches, and kings,
   Beggars, millionaires, and mice,
Men and maggots all as one
   As it falls into the sun—
Who can say but at the same
   Instant from some planet far
A child may watch us and exclaim:
   "See the pretty shooting star!"

September 5, 2014 (permalink)

"[At the] centre of the dark vault of heaven this glittered," from It Is Never Too Late to Mend by Charles Reade, 1856.



September 2, 2014 (permalink)




August 7, 2014 (permalink)

Thanks to USA TODAY's 10Best for featuring two of our photographs of La Cañada's Descanso Gardens.  (See larger versions of the shots here and here.)

May 3, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from an 1844 issue of Punch magazine.



March 15, 2014 (permalink)

It's a Retroactive Lifetime Goal* for us to have captured in a single photograph the look and feel of California environmental quality. Thanks, Los Angeles Conservancy, for featuring our wide-angle view of Los Feliz as your masthead.


 
*The phrase "Retroactive Lifetime Goal" appears courtesy of Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.

February 23, 2014 (permalink)

Thanks to Geeks2point0 for featuring our photo of our books arranged by color in a piece about how "geeks hatch from bookworms."



February 22, 2014 (permalink)

We're honored by this piece by Gary Barwin.



February 16, 2014 (permalink)

Thanks to the Working Harbor Committee of NY/NJ for featuring our photo of the tall ship El Galeón.



February 15, 2014 (permalink)

From our former outpost at Twitter:

A pro said the children's book I'm writing is 130 pages too long (& nearly referred me to a shrink), unaware I specialize in the impossible.

January 14, 2014 (permalink)

Here we are catching some rays in a tucked-away little place some folks will recognize.


A self portrait of Prof. Oddfellow.

October 25, 2013 (permalink)

To our utter delight, Dr. Menachem Feuer analyzes our Franzlations according to Schlemiel Theory.  Here's just a snippet:

They have created a book that speaks to anyone who is interested not just in reading Kafka but in, so to speak, taking his work as the basis for new texts, images, and interpretations that "open” up the text to play and new meaning. Moreover, this book speaks to people who are well versed in what is called "intertextuality.” And by this I mean the textual practice of moving between texts which, in effect, offers new meanings (I will return to this below).

But I would argue that since Franzlations also includes images, one text doesn’t simply translate into another; it also translates a text into another image (or rather a set of images which harken back to the early 20th century). By doing this, this book takes the work of Kafka into a wholly other sphere of meaning with an entirely different register of connotations. And for someone like myself, who loves textual play, this is doubly exciting. It brings us into the zone where Walter Benjamin, in his book Berlin Childhood around 1900, wanted to go; namely, to a space where the imagination can be freed by virtue of the play of images, text, and history. In this space, one becomes like a man-child, interpreting text, images, and history while at the same time playing with them. This touches on depths by way of traveling across different surfaces.

I’d like to take a look at the interplay between text and text and text and (historical) image to illustrate how these texts open up horizons that I have not experienced in any previous academic readings or fictional plays on Kafka’s novels, short stories, or parables (as in Phillip Roth, Paul Celan, or Aharon Appelfeld’s work—to mention only a few examples of writers who engage in intertextuality with Kafka’s work).




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