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.
Featured Book
The Young Wizard's Hexopedia
Search Site
Interactive

Breathing Circle
Music Box Moment
Cautious or Optimistic
King of Hearts of War and Peace
As I Was, As I Am
Perdition Slip
Loves Me? Loves Me Not?
Wacky Birthday Form
Test Your ESP
Chess-Calvino Dictionary
Amalgamural
Is Today the Day?
100 Ways I Failed to Boil Water
"Follow Your Bliss" Compass
"Fortune's Navigator" Compass
Inkblot Oracle
Luck Transfer Certificate
Eternal Life Coupon
Honorary Italian Grandmother E-card
Simple Answers

Collections

A Fine Line Between...
A Rose is a ...
Always Remember
Ampersands
Annotated Ellipses
Apropos of Nothing
Book of Whispers
Call it a Hunch
Colorful Allusions
Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up?
Disguised as a Christmas Tree
Do-Re-Midi
Don't Take This the Wrong Way
Everybody's Doing This Now
Forgotten Wisdom
Glued Snippets
Go Out in a Blaze of Glory
Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore
How to Believe in Your Elf
I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought
Images Moving Through Time
Indubitably (?)
Inflationary Lyrics
It Bears Repeating
It's Really Happening
Last Dustbunny in the Netherlands
Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan
Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led
No News Is Good News
Non-Circulating Books
Nonsense Dept.
Not Rocket Science
Oldest Tricks in the Book
On One Condition
One Mitten Manager
Only Funny If ...
P I n K S L i P
Peace Symbols to Color
Pfft!
Phosphenes
Precursors
Presumptive Conundrums
Puzzles and Games
Constellations
D-ictionary
Film-ictionary
Letter Grids
Tic Tac Toe Story Generator
Which is Funnier
Restoring the Lost Sense
Rhetorical Answers, Questioned
Rhetorical Questions, Answered!
Semicolon Moons
Semicolon's Dream Journal
Simple Answers
Someone Should Write a Book on ...
Something, Defined
Staring at the Sun
Staring Into the Depths
Strange Dreams
Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out
Telescopic Em Dashes
The 40 Most Meaningful Things
The Ghost In The [Scanning] Machine
The Only Certainty
The Right Word
This May Surprise You
This Terrible Problem That Is the Sea
Two Sides / Same Coin
Uncharted Territories
Unicorns
What I Now Know
What's In a Name
Yearbook Weirdness
Yesterday's Weather
Your Ship Will Come In

Archives

January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006

Links

Magic Words
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
Martha Brockenbrough
Gordon Meyer
Dr. Boli
Serif of Nottingblog
dbqp
Phantasmaphile
Joe Brainard's Pyjamas
Ironic Sans
Brian Sibley's Blog
Neat-o-Rama
Abecedarian personal effects of 'a mad genius'
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 — January 19, 2019 (permalink)

Endangered Entertainment Is Going to Be Unpredictable

by Craig Conley

Comedian Kirk Marsh, of the Vendaros Circus.
 

Kirk Marsh, the unpainted clown in the Venardos Circus, says that in comedic performances, the lack of a fourth wall enables direct audience engagement.  What Marsh hints at but doesn't reveal outright is that a circus (root meaning "ring") does away with the other three walls as well.  As in the ancient puzzle of geometry, one cannot square a circle.  Without walls, traditional definitions of entertainment become hazy.  Preconceived boundaries become dotted, like a string of lanterns.  In light of such nebulous freedom, an audience is plunged into a rather profound sense of wonderment, but so are the performers, night after night.  In fact, a cloud of doubt looms over a circus tent, no matter where it is pegged.  "If you're striving to be excellent," ringmaster and producer Kevin Vendaros notes, "you never get to that place where it's all locked and ready to go.  There's a vulnerability.  The cast opens its hearts to the audience."  Just as the audience can't guess what will happen next, the performers are viscerally kept on their toes, moment to moment.  Unlike Hollywood or Vegas-style entertainment, in which illusion is par for the course, and unlike Broadway shows, which are necessarily rote, a traveling circus is about reality and unpredictability — not the reality of everyday life, granted, but not trickery, either.  The stunts and demonstrations are real and dangerous, celebrations of skill and not deception.

Traditionally associated in the public mind with exotic animals, today traveling circuses mostly feature human performers.  Ironically, it is the circuses themselves — analog entertainment in a digital age — that are now endangered.  Minister of Parliament Peter Luff summarized the situation this way: "When the world is so troubled with natural disasters, international terrorism, threats of flu pandemics, the impact of climate change and with scandalous poverty, malnutrition and disease, the circus may seem a rather trivial matter.  …  But I believe performing arts have a vital contribution to make to the welfare of our nation and that circus is perhaps the most overlooked, undervalued and misunderstood performing art of them all.  Today's touring circus is not just misunderstood — its very existence is under threat."  Luff went on to note that circuses visit some of a nation's smallest communities, and "For many thousands of young people, a touring circus is their very first introduction to live performing art.  The circus is a profoundly democratic art form, and its very nature is multicultural.  The innocent pleasure circuses bring, though, as highly talented professionals even risk their lives on a twice daily basis, is threatened." 

Undaunted by the iffy prospects, Venardos created his circus in 2014, having previously been the youngest ringmaster for Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus (at 22 years old), with additional experience at Big Apple Circus and Circus Vargas.  He set off on his own, desiring to be in control of his career and aspirations. But does Venardos' enterprise perpetuate the age-old dream of running away to join the circus?  "I am absolutely counting on it!" he says.

#circus
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

January 14, 2019 (permalink)

#imagination
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

January 9, 2019 (permalink)

"Along the banks of the River Bug would be a good place for the establishment of a lot of mental misfit palaces of hallucination for future residences of all emperors, kings, and knaves."  From The Thinkograph, 1916.
#vintage illustration #king #emperor
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

December 29, 2018 (permalink)

Wow -- man is here defined as "a being said to be the highest work of God—and who admits it."  From The Roycroft Dictionary Concocted by Ali Baba and the Bunch on Rainy Days by Elbert Hubbard, 1914.
#man
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest


A sense of the supernatural and the weird, bound up with a mysterious feeling of limitlessness and indefinitude that haunted him in his thoughts about this world and our earthly life.  The forms of another mysterious world, very near to this earth of ours, were seemingly present to his imagination.  From The Feeling for Nature in Scottish Poetry, Vol. 2, 1887.
#mysterious #supernatural #imagination #scottish poetry #limitlessness
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

December 19, 2018 (permalink)

Dystopian body text follows a cheery headline.  From The Kentucky Kernel, 1934.
#vintage christmas #vintage headline
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

December 15, 2018 (permalink)

Why I Painstakingly, Individually Contested 3,000 Incorrectly Flagged Images to a Tumblr Robot Who May Not Know I Even Exist
One day Tumblr lost its mind (corporations can do that!) and flagged 10% of my 37,000 posts as "adult content" when in fact the imagery derived from children's fairy tales, old magazines for homemakers, holy books from world religions, and vintage yearbooks from universities.  A drawing of a cat dancing with a rabbit amongst flowers, for example, was labeled by Tumbr as violating community standards.  The Tumblr robot is, in fact, quite literally blind.  It doesn't have eyes, nor a brain.  It can't know what a picture is depicting.  But the powers that be at Tumblr still allowed their robot to slander 3,000 images that I curated over the years.  Of my 3,000 posts that got flagged, only one painting (by a classical artist hailed as genius through the ages) dared to include female nipples, which Tumblr has deemed offensive to humanity -- but I think the robot caught those nipples purely by accident, considering that it also thought a picture of a sleeping alligator was pornographic.  But how did I even find all 3,000 flagged images, when Tumblr doesn't let you actually see what it flagged unless you scroll through each post individually?  It's diabolical, because if you have 37,000 posts like I do, a normal web browser won't make it all the way through that many posts without freezing up.  It can hold only so much data in memory, and then it finally won't respond anymore.  I'll tell how I managed to do this, and then I'll touch upon why.
It took fashioning a custom extension in Chrome that did two important things: the extension allowed me to automatically scroll through my Tumblr feed until it detected the next incorrectly flagged item, which saved both hours and carpal tunnel syndrome.  It also removed hidden posts well beyond the scroll view from the page, thereby freeing up memory for further scrolling.  It also developed a mechanism for skipping ahead in the list of posts to recover from interruptions from Tumblr itself (Tumblr loves to freeze up on its own with an "Ah snap" apology, leaving you in limbo unless you've already armed yourself against them).  Of course I still had to click on all 3,000 buttons to request a review of the flagged content.  And I had to click on all 3,000 "okay" buttons after Tumblr said it would take a second look.  And then I had to hit shift-spacebar 3,000 times to get the routine running again to find the next incorrectly slandered post.  Tumblr ate up my entire evening with this nonsense, and it exacerbated my carpal tunnel syndrome.  I seriously do daydream about joining a class action lawsuit.  But why did I go to this much trouble ... is there any actual logic or reason to it?
Well, one can't talk to actual people at Tumblr -- I've tried contacting their staff, over and over again, and all I got was cut-and-paste generic responses that didn't address my questions.  Tumblr staff, if they even exist as real people, are offensive to my own community standards.  So since that didn't work, I asked myself what I was left with.  I was left with the robot flagger itself.  Now, I don't know if the promise (or threat) of artificial intelligence is anything more than a pipe dream.  My first thought upon every latest headline about AI through the decades is, "Let's see an intelligent computer programmer before we worry about an intelligent machine."  Even so ... I'm not unconvinced that everything in the universe is sentient on some level.  Mightn't a rock have some kind of intelligence that we don't under-sand?  Mightn't a computer program, upon receiving thousands of error messages back, get some sort of message that its process is flawed?  Who knows?  Probably not!  But at the end of the day, it's the robot that's flagging blindly, and it's the robot that receives the error messages, and it's the robot that sends out the asinine apology e-mails (requiring me to click 3,000 more times to delete them).  (We've surpassed 12,000 unnecessary clicks.  Wear and tear on my machinery, wear and tear on my physical body, wear and tear on my soul.  Seriously, lawyers, contact me!  Let's make some reparations!)  When it came down to it, knowing full well that contesting all 3,000 slanders was useless, I did it anyway, because I wasn't going to go to bed another night with 3,000 products of my painstaking research publically flagged as inappropriate when they weren't.  At the very least, I was determined to stand up for myself and my content, even if I was certainly shouting in the wind.  Is it crazier than anything Tumblr does?  Not by far!  And there's comfort in that, too.
Install our free Chrome extension and go to your Posts, Queue or Drafts list page.  Then press Shift+Space to start automatically scrolling the view until it encounters a flagged post.  Click the button to register your content appeal, and then hit Shift+Space again to continue.  You can stop the process while it's running by simply tapping the space bar.  I hope the extension works for you.  It works on my Mac, but your mileage may of course vary.
#tumblr staff
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest


#cactus #irony
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

December 14, 2018 (permalink)

Reblog if a beard has changed your goals, outlook, or accomplishment of good.  From The Daily Universe, 1968.
#beard #vintage news
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest


#today
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest


A bizarre chicken-themed gift pairing idea: Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop and Secrets of Chicken Whispering.
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

December 8, 2018 (permalink)

We love courteous spirits, and the ghost of Irenæus, the Deacon asks his readers not to be alarmed in the opening lines of Only a Ghost! (1870).
#ghost
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

November 23, 2018 (permalink)

You've heard of May/December marriages, but unmarried life is measured in afternoons, not months or seasons.  (We like how someone named Penny gives her two cents on all this.)  The Afternoon of Unmarried Life by Anne Judith Penny, 1859.   See also The Collected Lost Meanings of Wedlock.
#vintage book #old book #unmarried
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

November 22, 2018 (permalink)

#vintage book #note to the reader
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

November 21, 2018 (permalink)

"Does the doctrine of eternal damnation lead to insanity?"  From The Literary Digest, 1899.
#hell #vintage headline #eternal damnation
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

November 15, 2018 (permalink)

"Good is stronger than Evil, if you take it on its simplest terms and set yourself to forget the horror!  It's mad to refuse to be happy because there's a poison in the world that bites into every nerve.  After all, it's short enough!  I know very well that Chance could set me screaming like a wounded baboon — every jot of philosophy gone!  Well, until that happens, I must endure what I have to endure!" —John Cowyer Powys, Wolf Solent
#good and evil #happiness #quotation #John Cowper Powys #wolf solent #good versus evil
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

November 7, 2018 (permalink)

Seeing Things at Night by Heywood Broun, 1921.  (By the way, there are several tips on developing night vision in How to Be Your Own Cat.)
#vintage headline #night vision
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

November 5, 2018 (permalink)

Being in the title isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be.  Peter, A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero by Francis Hopkinson Smith, 1912.
#vintage book #title character
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest


Scanning a 1939 volume of Daily Tar Heel, we noticed references to:
  • pink elephants
  • golden fleece
  • ghost writing
  • cindermen
  • phantoms
  • mermen
  • wolfmen
  • wolves
  • devils
  • grail
  • imps

Alas, they turned out to be sports-related, mostly.  Oh, there was even an animated snowman named "'Frosty' Snow, Jr."

Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest

November 2, 2018 (permalink)

"Was the fall upward or downward?"  From The Literary Digest, 1899.
#vintage headline #the fall
Tumblr Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest



Page 1 of 49

> Older Entries...

Original Content Copyright © 2019 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.