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.
Even if the Loch Ness Monster is an automaton, as Ure's Dictionary of 1846 suggests, "Does it then follow that the automaton possesses a freedom of action, a freedom of will? Yes, we should think that it has a certain freedom of action (the freedom of will we had better leave aside because here the analogy is doubtful at present)" (I. G. Makarov, Cybernetics Today, 1984).
Can you make out the Dickens quotation that serves at the motto? There was a time when even so-called pseudo-science sought nothing but "facts, facts, facts." Today, we're hard pressed to name any institution that could in good faith adopt such a motto. The media? Political pollsters? Climatologists? Any other white-coat wearer of what Robert Anton Wilson dubbed the New Inquisition? Selections from the Papers of the Phasmatological Society, 1882.
If there's a skull lock and you forgot your skeleton key, try working a beam of light into the mechanism. Recall how "She springs a light, / Unlocks the door" (Dryden). Similarly, "Morning with its key of light / Unlocks the dusky portals of the night" (Albert Laighton, Poems, 1878). And "My light unlocks the stalls, / two dozen and one windows open— / all, except the window of the moon, / already painted on as shining" (Jane Shore, Eye Level, 1977).
Here we learn where a ghost's true reception chamber is, where a ghost draws its nectar, as well as why a sanitary engineer is your only exorcist: "There are many houses in Great Britain which have inherited evil reputations; there is a 'ghost's room,' or 'a ghost's corridor,' or 'a ghost's tower,' or 'a ghost's terrace.' The true ghost's walk is, however, in the basement; amongst and through foetid drains and foul sewers, the ghost's reception-chambers are ancient cesspools, and the ghost's nectar is drawn from tainted wells and neglected water cicterns. There are British ghosts; but there are also continental ghosts, if possible, more terrible: the chilling palaces of Italy, the gilded splendours of Paris, are alike ghost-haunted. Your only exorcist is the sanitary engineer." From All the Year Round, 1861.
Comedian Harry Hill weaves his live shows out of a seeming confetti of disparate threads, charming his audiences with unexpected callbacks to various themes, often offering surprise zingers to subtle set-ups that were funny enough in themselves before he seemingly left them along the way. Initially, one might guess that Hill writes the sentences of his various comedic anecdotes and storylines onto cards and then shuffles them up to create a random mosaic, but we suggest that his technique is better described by a wholly different game: chess. A chess game progresses as many very different pieces move in carefully calculated turns, some incrementally, some zigging and zagging and even changing direction. But here's the real twist: Hill's comedic chess game is played in reverse. He begins with his checkmate move, hooking the audience from the very get-go, and only when the show is complete does the grand arrangement of Hill's material reveal itself. In the show "Harry Hill in Hooves" (2005), it's the knight piece that wins the game, as revealed when Harry makes his grand entrance by riding piggyback on someone in a funny horse costume. (This entrance is actually a subtle visual joke in itself, as Hill often wears costumes that give the illusion of someone riding a beast, in which the animal's legs are in fact the performer's. Here, he surprises the audience by leaping off the horse and proving that his own legs were not in fact the horse's.) Hill's scripts, by design, are not decodable as highly structured until the very end, when the many pieces of his game board finally line up in the audience's minds, ready to be played forward in memory.