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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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

October 28, 2014 (permalink)

"Doctors differ," from On a Mexican Mustang Through Texas by Alexander Sweet, 1884.



October 23, 2014 (permalink)

"Einstein’s space is no closer to reality than Van Gogh’s sky.  The glory of science is not in a truth more absolute than the truth of Bach or Tolstoy, but in the act of creation itself.  The scientist’s discoveries impose his own order on chaos, as the composer or painter imposes his; an order that always refers to limited aspects of reality, and is based on the observer’s frame of reference, which differs from period to period as a Rembrandt nude differs from a nude by Manet."



October 19, 2014 (permalink)

We're delighted to learn that the Mechanics' Institute Library and Chess Room has acquired our dictionary of one-letter words.  In a lovely bit of time warping, it's on the third floor with "new books."  Meanwhile, pictured below is the logic alphabet and chess pieces exhibit from the Museum of Jurassic Technology, courtesy of Moira Clunie.



September 27, 2014 (permalink)

"Brutal assault upon Mrs. ———."  The caption itself has the wind knocked out of it.  From Wife No. 19 by Ann Eliza Young, 1876.



September 25, 2014 (permalink)

In the famous nursery rhyme, the little lamb gets all the credit for following Mary everywhere, but this 1896 illustration sets the record straight: Mary's sheepdog deserves some acclaim for directing the action.



September 7, 2014 (permalink)

An illustration from The Man in the Moon, February (1848).



August 27, 2014 (permalink)

There are several theories concerning why the British Empire failed.  We suggest adding this illustration to the set.   From Around the World on a Bicycle by Thomas Stevens (1888).



August 22, 2014 (permalink)

We're pleased to offer an Internet first, having painstakingly transcribed a subtitle track for the brilliant absurdist comedy film One-Way Pendulum by N. F. Simpson.  The film is not currently available on DVD, though gray market copies are available.  (The YouTube upload of the film does not feature subtitles.)  If you procure a gray market DVD, 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.


August 15, 2014 (permalink)


August 8, 2014 (permalink)

We offered Dutch wonderworker George Parker a sneak peek at our latest (yet-to-be-published) book project, and he tickled us with this summation: "fun, pun, and profundity."  Our book is tentatively titled The Hexopedia, and here's George's take on it:

Craig Conley is a word-goldsmith. Or a word-alchemist. He mixes fun, pun and profundity in an imaginative way, thereby opening your mind like nasal spray opens up your sinuses. In this book he guides young wizards through the initial chaos of magic with amazing clarity and coherency. You won't read this book cover to cover. You will dive in wherever you like and be sure you will learn a little something that you won't forget for the rest of your life, simply because you will put it to use. Whatever that use may be. Lie down in your hammock and gently sway between the magic of imagination and reality while you utter magic words to prevent yourself from falling out when your world is rocked by this book. —George Parker, author of The Big Book of Creativity (2004)




August 2, 2014 (permalink)


We do believe this bit of Twin Peaks trivia is an internet first:

Using a secret technique of stage magic, we have determined the phone number for Black Rose O'Reilly, the madam of One-Eyed Jacks, and it doesn't follow the Hollywood cliché of beginning with 555.  Blackie's number is 613-2639.

(Our illustration of Blackie is from the Twin Peaks tarot deck, which we own and recommend highly.)

July 31, 2014 (permalink)

We contributed this item to Futility Closet.

July 7, 2014 (permalink)


From our blog on Magic Words & Symbols Spotted in the Wild:

"Where is truth to shelter, where is it to find asylum if not in a place where nobody is looking for it: . . . stamp albums?" —Bruno Schulz

Can a stamp album serve as a mystical guidebook to the entire universe? The visionary Polish writer and fine artist Bruno Schulz certainly believed it could, as he explains in Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass. His ruminations on postage stamps as "handy amulets" forming "a book of truth and splendor" inspired us to piece together a Tarot deck of stamps from around the world. We reveal and explain the work in progress here:

The Stamp Album Tarot


June 11, 2014 (permalink)

It's been said that war is not a comfortable subject, General Pillow notwithstanding.  From The History of Mexico and Its Wars by John Frost, 1882.  [For The Silly Pillows.]



June 10, 2014 (permalink)

Though we don't exactly sit on a coffin waiting for someone to support our creative endeavors, we actually have on more than one occasion sensed the earth yawning beneath our feet.

May 27, 2014 (permalink)

Is Francophobia a voluntary condition?  Consider this illustration from The Quiver, 1872.  The caption reads: "I shall hate everything French."



April 9, 2014 (permalink)

Pollen was once considered fairy gold.  "Did you ever wish with it?  Just touch your finger to the pollen, and then wish.  After you wish, blow hard twice to get the pollen off.  If it goes, your wish will come true, but if not, you will not have your wish" (E. M. J., "A March Ramble," Primary Education 1906).  Our illustration of the pollen fairy appears in Blossoms by the Way by Carrie Adelaide Cooke, 1882.



April 7, 2014 (permalink)

We've looked at tens of thousands of vintage illustrations in the course of our research, but this is the very first portrait we've encountered that identifies what the portrayed is doing!  The caption puts this portrait ... ahem ... head-and-shoulders above the rest!  Luckily, we can mentally search and replace all the captions we've seen to date with "sight-seeing."  So very much of what our beleaguered eyes have seen makes better sense now!  Whew!



From New York's Chinatown by Louis J. Bock, 1898.

March 6, 2014 (permalink)

Suspense is overrated.  Sometimes it's lovely to have questions answered immediately.  Take the story "Julia's Little Weakness" (from The Lady's Realm, 1900).  What's Julia's little weakness?  The very first sentence illuminates us forthwith: "It was for 'stars.'"  Belated thanks, Philippa Trent, for getting right to it!  (And for beginning her story with a long dash!)



March 3, 2014 (permalink)

They say that disasters always come in threes.  And we're the first to prove it.  Take, for example, this record of railway accidents.  We show that they do, uncannily, group into threes.





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