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

Yesterday — September 20, 2017 (permalink)

"The ghost of a ghost."  From Popular Science Monthly, 1921.
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September 19, 2017 (permalink)

From The Crimson Cryptogram by Fergus Hume, 1902.
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You've heard of the "music of the spheres," and indeed, "piano wire helps astronomy."  From Popular Science Monthly, 1921.
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September 18, 2017 (permalink)

We spotted Tom, Dick and Harry in the wild.  From A Psychic Vigil in Three Watches, 1896.
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September 16, 2017 (permalink)

We love this decription of different types of library books.  From the sublime novel The Demi-gods by James Stephens, 1921.
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September 14, 2017 (permalink)

"As for the graveyard, we never saw it; we closed our eyes as we passed it."  From The Haunted Pool by George Sand and translated by Frank Hunter Potter, 1800.
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September 11, 2017 (permalink)

You've heard of taking one step forward and two steps back.  If you take two steps forward, it's into a hole.  From New York County court records, 1918.
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It's been said (if only once, according to Google) that no one can read a blank book.  Donna proves the lie in that.  Here she is, reading our blank book entitled Let's Do and Say We Didn't.
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September 10, 2017 (permalink)

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September 7, 2017 (permalink)

Though the "ungodly hour" gets 300,000 times the Google results, the "godlike hour" is also on the clock.  This lettering is from The Godlike Hour by Francis T. Leahy, 1918.
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September 5, 2017 (permalink)

If you, too, wish you were a fairy cat that could speak, there are actually two books that will show you how to achieve this very thing.  See How to Be Your Own Cat and How to Believe in Your Elf.  They make a lovely gift pairing, too.  (Our quoted snippet is from In the Old Herrick House by Ellen Douglas Deland, 1897.)
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From "Surgical Judgment" by J. M. T. Finney, Transactions of the Southern Surgical and Gynecological Association, 1913.  The text reads, "The idealist, the dreamer of dreams, while not always, indeed, perhaps rarely, of a practical turn, is the one who of all other can penetrate deeper into the unknown, can see further into the mists of uncertainty and doubt, can make lighter the dark places of ignorance and uncertainty with the illuminating power of his imagination."
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September 3, 2017 (permalink)

If you must be commanded to publish, let it be by Her Bright Dazzlingness.  From Fairy Tales Published by Command of Her Bright Dazzlingness, Gloriana, Queen of Fairyland by A Soldier of the Queen, 1879.
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September 2, 2017 (permalink)

From "Reminiscences of 'Big Ravine' by William K. McGrew, The Overland Monthly, 1900.  The text reads, "Tom focused his eyes somewhere between the point of his nose and an indefinite point in space, and twisting his whole countenance into a hieroglyphic puzzle, replied, 'Until Heaven's last thunder shakes the world below.'"
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August 31, 2017 (permalink)

Ioiohekate writes: "I am intrigued by your crusade against vintage Popular Mechanics. I tried to follow your trail, but couldn't find anything explaining in detail. Do you have a manifesto or more information somewhere?"
Thanks for asking!  Beyond horrors like vintage Popular Mechanics' role in the extinction of animals (which we'll address below), and beyond the nauseating smugness of the magazine as mouthpiece for fundamentalist Big Science, our spiritual quest begins with a phenomenon in the early 20th century, in which the white-coats (whom Robert Anton Wilson dubbed the New Inquisitionbegan systematically destroying the deep truths of mythology, bricking over, as it were, stained glass windows with reinforced concrete.  The physicicst Mathis explains:
At the same time that the new intellectuals were smashing the old idols, they were setting up new idols in their place. Top physicists became the new gods, and the rank-and-file physicists and science readers were idolators par excellence, never questioning the dogma from above. The more superstition and paradox and idolatry it contained, the more they liked it. The less rigor it contained the more they liked it. But whereas the old pre-20th century dogma was at least rich and poetic, the new dogma was bare and prosaic. Whereas the old dogma at least told a good story, the new dogma told no story or a poor story. Whereas the old dogma was a clever and complex myth, giving meaning, the new dogma was a tattered and transparent lie, denying meaning. The small and pinched thinkers of the 20th century replaced large and beautiful idols with small ugly idols, to no real purpose. If all is but a conversation, as Bohr maintained, why not have a bright and varied conversation, full of meaning and content and bold creativity, rather than a dreary and one-dimensional conversation, empty and warning off future creativity?
After having studied thousands upon thousands of pages of vintage Popular Mechanics, it's difficult for me to communicate the breadth of toxicity that permeates every issue.  Granted, my purpose in going through the magazine was to find amusing gems to post on my various blogs.  So I ignored the most offensive material along the way.  Yet several disgusting items still managed to get through, and I've collected some of the worst below, to help illustrate the poisonous mindset.
This headline reads: "Modern flying carpet visits city of Bagdad" (1932).  Turns out that the flying carpet is just an airplane, but here's the crucial question: why call an airplane a flying carpet?  Why, as vintage Popular Mechanics did in every issue, refer to scientists as "wizards" and their work as "magical"?  The answer is simple: they co-opt mythology and magical lore so as to demystify the world into a very cold place, devoid of metaphor.  Sad, colorless, and shallow.

Here's an article that actually says wild birds are "anxious" to join their captive brethren in zoos.  The second article is about deer and elk who escape but then voluntarily return to a fenced area.  These are great examples of why we rag on vintage Popular Mechanics.  The undisgused fascism is terrifying.  The first article is from 1929, and the second is from 1931.  As an offensive bonus, note the article about how a hunted wolf commits suicide by shooting itself, from 1932.
The next article is utter bullshit and the perfect example of my horror (not too strong a word) of the cold, soulless mentality of white-coat scientists.  From 1924.
The magazine that glamorized big game hunting and the clubbing of seals for their fur (not to mention poaching eggs from critically endangered species—for merely one example, see "Youth Fights Condor to Win Thousand-Dollar Egg" from the Nov. '29 issue, in which the condor's near-extinction is noted), promoted smoking, considered rainforests to have "no practical purpose," and predicted that blimps would end of war and disease by the year 2000 ... this same magazine was smugly skeptical of physiognomy.  Hence, we're less skeptical of physiognomy than ever before.  From 1928.
This is as good an example as any of why vintage Popular Mechanics horrifies us.  The story isn't about how this glass-blowing maniac seals kittens into prison globes.  Rather, it glorifies his so-called "expertise."  Utterly disgusting, as per usual.  From 1932.
We can affirm that a headache weighs almost nothing compared to the smug bullshit in every issue of vintage Popular Mechanics.  (We haven't dared to look in more recent issues.)  "Science to weigh headaches."  From 1928.
Q: "Is this monster locomotive a 'he' or a 'she'?"  (From 1930.)
A: Where's the cure for cancer, eh?
"Feather-covered dirigibles predicted for the future."  From 1930.  Big Science back then (as now) can't see the forest for the trees.  The naiveté would almost be charming, if not for the smugness behind everything in vintage Popular Mechanics.

Ditto, from 1931.  "Noiseless city is predicted within ten years."
This sort of embarrassing hubris spans the centuries.  There are no "new" types of prehistoric Indians in Texas, only types new to the so-called discoverer who is merely extraordinarly behind the times.  From 1931.
Here's Big Science telling you not to trust your intuition.  There's one phrase here that we actually do agree with -- "it pays to be dubious," to which we would add "of everything published in vintage Popular Mechanics."  It's all hogwash!  From 1931.
"Fashion requires zoo to clothe woman."  From 1931.  Popular Mechanics very often glamorized and actively encouraged the poaching of endangered animals; utterly disgusting.
This is typical of the "New Inquisition" mindset behind vintage Popular Mechanics: "Poison gas guards 'health' of art treasures."  If only Big Science could gas all the arts, this toxic sentiment suggests.  The headline is a variation of the old witch test -- if she sinks, she's not a witch, and if the art survives the poison gas, it's "healthy."  Yikes.  From 1932.
Still no cancer cure, but "Milk not soured by thunder."  From 1932.
We're finally beginning to understand the preposterous number of giant object illustrations in Popular Mechanics.  The message is that things are bigger (more important) than people.  This example is from 1925.
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This sounds like our last 2 years: "The candle went out—and— * * * * * *"  From New Adventures of Alice by John Rae, 1917.
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August 28, 2017 (permalink)

You knew that Warhol's success wasn't based on talent.  He bought a lucky soup can.  From One Hundred Easy Window Trims, 1913.
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August 19, 2017 (permalink)

"Death and life … one thread broken" -- two chapter titles from Strange Threads by J. Douglas, 1888.  [In memory of my magic teacher, Eugene Burger.]
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August 17, 2017 (permalink)

"In the end, it's just fun to think about it and wonder,

and in the end, do we require any more than that?"

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August 15, 2017 (permalink)

We're honored that the luscious Fiddler's Green journal asked to reprint a section of our Young Wizard's Hexopediaabout how to learn a new magic word from a wishing well.  We're also honored that the journal described our book as, "highly recommended practical word magic from a thoughtful and prolific publisher of same." 
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Original Content Copyright © 2017 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.