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
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A Fine Line Between...
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.

January 3, 2015 (permalink)

A flourish of trumpets from The Man in the Moon, Volume V.

December 12, 2014 (permalink)

From The Nightingale by Richard André, 1899.

November 15, 2014 (permalink)

"The goslings of melody," from The New Hyperion by Edward Strahan, 1875.

September 27, 2014 (permalink)

"The Eldest Generosity girl bounces about a good deal on the music stool and plays wrong notes maliciously."  From The Money-Spinner by Henry Seton Merriman and illustrated by Arthur Rackham, 1896.

September 12, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from The Nightingale Dished Up on China Plates by Richard Andre (1899).

September 9, 2014 (permalink)

Sometimes folderol can use a good whack, as we see in this line from 1823.

August 6, 2014 (permalink)

Voice talent Jonathan Caws-Elwitt (of Silly Pillows fame) offers this mad-as-a-hatter rendition of our song about one-letter words (along with a few clever verses of his own). Give it a listen and we can compare laughs!

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt as the Statue of Frivolity.
"One-Letter Words”

One-letter words,
oh what I'd give for
a de-cluttered phrase.

To hear those
one letter words,
that's all I'd live for
the rest of my days.

And the feelings in my heart,
they tell sincerely.
No other words can tell it
half so clearly.

One-letter words,
twenty-six letters
which simply mean 'I love you.'

One-letter words.
Though I may stutter
or sound quite verbose,

I use those
one letter words,
lest I should utter
a phrase grandiose.

And the feelings in my heart,
they tell sincerely.
No other words can tell it
half so clearly.

One-letter words,
six vowels for vowing
my unfettered love for you.

One-letter words:
Compact concordance
To passions so strong

I can find no better words
Hence the importance
Of singing along!

And though the lingo of my love
Is alphabetic
Don’t ever think that I am

One-letter words
Words of one letter
That spell out my love for you!

June 30, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from Past, Present and Future by James E. White (1909).

June 29, 2014 (permalink)

"The Real Music of the Future": an illustration from an 1888 issue of Punch magazine.  The caption reads: "Signor Fohhorni, the Great Hibernian Basso-Tenore Robusto-Profondo, is so disgusted at the frivolity of contemporary musical taste (which is not ripe enough to appreciate him), that he gives up all attempts to please the present generation: he buys a phonograph instead, and devotes his energies to singing for posterity.  By applying his ear to this marvellous instrument immediately after signing into it, he not only hears his song echoed back to him out of the dim future, but he also hears the rapturous applause of Unborn Millions!"

June 27, 2014 (permalink)

"The Reciter's Motto": an illustration from The Aldine Reciter by Alfred Henry Miles (1888).

June 25, 2014 (permalink)

You've heard of whistling the face of adversity, but here's what to do in an encounter with cannibals, from Among Cannibals: An Account of Four Years' Travels in Australia by Carl Lumholtz (1889).

May 1, 2014 (permalink)

In the Medieval English, "Sumer is icumen in!"  In the dialect of P.D.Q. Bach, "Summer is a cumin seed."

April 26, 2014 (permalink)

Closing his ears to the Demon's Dirge, from Youth December (1904).

April 12, 2014 (permalink)

"Lyrics no longer have the power they used to." —Shindō Kazuma

Nor did they in 1891.  Or did they?  You be the judge:

From Dramatic Works and Minor Poems by Henry John Smith, 1891.

April 4, 2014 (permalink)

Our resident organ grinder, of Music Box Moment fame, has a brand new set of compositions for all who deserve a nostalgic breather. Also, he now takes requests: listeners may select from the 807-track repertoire.  Here's the link again:

Fans of mechanized music may also enjoy our exclusive clockwork recordings of Silly Pillows' euphoric Come in the Evening, Story of the Running Wolf's transcendent Stratospheric, and Abbi Spinner's timeless Die and Be Reborn.

Meanwhile, here's the music box from the Sound Art Module at Berlin's Theater Kapelle:

February 21, 2014 (permalink)

We are excited to transcribe for you the sound of shish kebab, as revealed in William Castle's The Night Walker.
Indeed, as few have ever suspected, each roasted piece on the skewer is a musical note!  The final uplifting tone is, of course, the end-piece being plucked.

Barbara Stanwyck contemplates musical shish kebab in The Night Walker.

Our transcription of the world's most accurate shish kebab theme.

February 20, 2014 (permalink)

Here's our visual tribute to the song "My Canary Plays Canasta in Canarsie" by Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.

The lyrics:

My canary plays canasta in Canarsie
She scoffs at those who favor crazy eights
She won't deal five-card stud
And, oh, your name is mud
If you should try to tempt her with charades.

Yes, my canary plays canasta in Canarsie
Although she never brings a deck of cards
She isn't one for rummy
And she complains to Mummy
If ever you suggest a round of hearts.

Oh, my canary plays canasta in Canarsie
(And this is where you'll hear some different chords)
We hope we've raised a smile
Tin Pan Alley style
With avians who sneer at checkerboards

[J. Caws-Elwitt] © 2014 Strangest Songs (ASCAP)

January 9, 2014 (permalink)

Father Time [Signature] dictates how many beats are in each measure from The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle (1887).

January 8, 2014 (permalink)

Here's the quietest instrument in all of Florida, at the Saint Augustine cathedral.  Recording artist Ken Clinger notes that it would be an elegant setting for performing John Cage's silent composition 4′33″.  Ken adds, "The fact that it still has a piano stool makes it seem to invite use for contemplation."

Molto Pianissimo.

November 14, 2013 (permalink)

Too few pick up a cornet, and fewer still seize it.  "Norman seized his cornet": To-Day magazine, 1873.

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Original Content Copyright © 2015 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.