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 Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
I Found a Penny Today, So Here’s a Thought

Today — March 3, 2015 (permalink)

"Greeks enjoying themselves."  And if the boat begins to sink, would they need to be bailed out?  (Ooh!  Topical!)  From Around the World on a Bicycle by Thomas Stevens, 1887.

February 27, 2015 (permalink)

When I learned that Andy died, I knew I'd quite literally lost a part of my heart.  It was at a grand bonfire in the Nevada desert that a magus once arranged Andy, me, and three others (whose identities I'm not at liberty to divulge) into a pentacle, intertwining our arms in a special way so that when we squeezed hands a heartbeat pulsed around and around the circle.  For some timeless moments, we five were a single beating heart.  (There's a Sufi doctrine that the heart has five faces, each pointed, in turn, toward the divine, the world of pure spirits, formal exemplars, the visible world, and the synthesis of the inwardly hidden and outwardly manifest.)  Even before that ritual, Andy had been hanging around me a bit, shyly or perhaps covertly seeking to get a grasp on what exactly was going on with me.  I know I let down some masks, but he never let on whether I revealed my true self.  He was a witch masking as a magician, and he knew I was something, at the very least a fellow outsider hovering at the edge of a gathering of eccentrics in the middle of the desert.  We briefly commiserated on our respective dark nights of the soul, but only later, secondhand, did I learn that Andy had recently been exiled from his coven.  Andy had a maxim for how not to drown in an overwhelming flood of language: "Don't trip over the fall of letters."  My own Muse took that and twisted "fall" into "Autumn":  And so, my heart skipped a beat when I learned that Andy died.  I didn't really know him, or didn't allow myself to.  As the ancient Egyptian proverb goes, "He who knows his own heart, the fate knows him."

February 19, 2015 (permalink)

We're honored that the renowned philosopher of magic Robert E. Neale (author of The Sense of Wonder) thinks we've stumbled upon the secret to world peace with our Seance Parlor Feng Shui project: 

Prof. Oddfellow has carried the logical approach to nonsense to even greater heights than before. The logic of two absurd systems logically joined into a masterpiece of faith for fools that could stop us from killing each other. My delight lies in making up meaning, but his talent in this is unsurpassed. This treatise will lurk about on our coffee table waiting to preside over a promising guest. In the meantime, I might play with feng shui myself.


February 10, 2015 (permalink)

We're pleased to offer an Internet first, having painstakingly transcribed a subtitle track for the brilliant absurdist comedy stage show Birdstrike (2000) by the incomparable Harry Hill.  The show is not currently available on DVD (only VHS), and the YouTube upload does not feature accurate subtitles (only very garbled captioning).  If you download the file, play it on your computer via VLC or Plex and put the .srt file in the same folder with the same name as the video file.

Download SRT subtitles for Harry Hill's Birdstrike (2000) »

February 8, 2015 (permalink)

If it's true that "it is not we who guide the unfolding of the game of experience; it is experience that leads us; our task is that of corresponding to such continuous opening of truth" (Between Nihilism and Politics, 2010), then we humbly suggest the only way to meet that task is to employ a continuous doorway (as seen in The Southern Planter, 1882).

January 24, 2015 (permalink)

The Paper St. Journal reviews our imaginary Kafka parables, Franzlations.  "Sometimes maudlin, but always wise, Conley, Barwin, and Thomas induce you into a willing hypnosis as you ponder over the pithy blocked letters, scattered scraps of sentences, and gothic illustrations."  The reviewer, James Puntillo, credits us with constructing within the book "a firewall to protect against readers who won't delight so easily" in aphorisms*, and if it's indeed true that we did that then we'll figure out how to reverse-engineer our previous works, too.  Whew—it'll be a relief!

*This is what Jonathan Caws-Elwitt might call a Retroactive Lifetime Goal.

January 13, 2015 (permalink)

The internet is a haven for misattributed quotations, but all quotations attributed to Buddha are, due to a technicality, accurate.

We know you've speculated, so here's what might be.  From A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain.

January 12, 2015 (permalink)

Prof. Oddfellow received a mysterious bottle in the mail, with a note explaining that the cord is tied to whatever is inside and that the bottle must never, ever be shaken or opened.  It's been said that the spirits that move the world are not the kind that come out of a bottle.  We'll see about that.

January 9, 2015 (permalink)

What's weird about this signature of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew?  Too many letters!  (See more about this signature over at Futility Closet.)

December 30, 2014 (permalink)

Some of the many tools we use to create Abecedarian (in honor of Teresa Burritt), from Fra Det Moderne Frankrig by Richard Kaufmann, 1882.

December 22, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

This anagram is in honor of Gary Barwin's The Porcupinity of the Stars.

This elf below was returned back in 1896, but the things he learned while away!

Speaking of elves, see our unbelievably elf-centered publication, How to Believe in Your Elf. Its first review comes from G. Struijker Boudier in the Netherlands:

My ratings are always based on how much energy a product generates in me. Sometimes the trigger is usefulness, at other times it's the production quality or other things. That means that I ignore aspects of the product that aren't relevant to my focus.

In this case, the four stars are based on the fact that this book makes me muse about myself and my life and makes me smile at the same time.

I'm a nut for off beat playfulness that balances between nonsense and seriousness. This book (as well as most book by Prof. Oddfellow) does just that. Obviously the 'One's elf/Oneself' is the running theme here. I can see how you can look at it as lame wordplay. To me it isn't. Something weird happens if you place your personality traits, ego and whatnot in the elf of your choice. One separates one's elf from oneself. Distancing yourself from yourself is always a good way to see bigger pictures and wonder about why you're behaving the way you're behaving. It opens up new possibilities and ideas.

Some examples:
What you do not wish done to your elf, do not to another.
Maturity consists of no longer being taken in by one’s elf.
If you be not pleased, put your hand in your pocket and please your elf.
Listen at the key hole, and you’ll hear news of your elf.

Can't help it, I just like this kind of lighthearted play with words, sense and nonsense that sometimes strikes an unexpected chord.

Meanwhile, allow us to recall this timely joke by scalawag Jonathan Caws-Elwitt:

Q: What do you call an urban elf?
A: A metrognome.

December 21, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

This anagram is in honor of Jonathan Caws-Elwitt's The Can of Yams.

December 20, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

This anagram is in honor of Martha Brockenbrough's The Game of Love and Death.

December 19, 2014 (permalink)

From the Dept. of Life Lessons in David Lynch Films:

While fever-dreaming down your own Lost Highway, if you encounter a Mr. Eddy/Dick Laurent equivalent who offers you pornographic material, don't politely decline, because then you might learn that the Alice Wakefield in your life doubles as a Renee Madison, and you'll save yourself a headache of epic proportions.

December 18, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

This anagram is in honor of recording artist extraordinaire Ken Clinger's Bovine Productions.  Ken is profiled here as "one of the most distinctive and identifiable" underground musicians ever.

December 17, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

Our anagram is in honor of Gordon Meyer's delightful book of photographs, Las Vegas: Underfoot.

December 16, 2014 (permalink)

We designed this plate with a vintage map of Saint Augustine, Florida, complete with mischievous mermaid.  Our map is meticulously accurate, but (forbid!) not in a literal way.  Though you can navigate by it, it’s not to what la-di-da cartographers would call "scale."

December 11, 2014 (permalink)

We laud so many discoverers, but the discoverer of grapes surely deserves rhapsodies.  From Our Country by Benson John Lossing, 1875.

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