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

Today — January 20, 2017 (permalink)

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.
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January 16, 2017 (permalink)

Here's our 3-minute proof that you are related to Merlin.
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January 15, 2017 (permalink)

Given the "fake news" controversies, how can one tell if a newspaper dress is a designer imposter?  From Mocca, 1932.
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The anonymous author of Whose Poems? (1850) asks his possibly phantasmagorical reader to be kind.  He would have benefitted from How to Believe in Your Elf.
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January 14, 2017 (permalink)

You may take a chance and get lucky in a library, but note the red sticker: serendipities that happen in the library must stay in the library.
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January 12, 2017 (permalink)

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.

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December 31, 2016 (permalink)

"A tear-off calendar has just as much time as a perpetual calendar, although the time in question is not the same." —Deleuze & Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus
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December 26, 2016 (permalink)

Here's an example of anticipating criticism and beating the reviewers with their own weapons.  From 1810.
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December 24, 2016 (permalink)

You know how folks with birthdays near big holidays tend to get combined gifts?  Well, the year 1831 got a book as a combined gift for Christmas, New Year's, and its birthday.
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December 18, 2016 (permalink)

Given our own 2016, we don't need to read Proof-Texts of Endless Punishment, Examined and Explained by D. P. Livermore, 1864.
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December 15, 2016 (permalink)

Today is The Day of Small Things (Isabel Fry, 1901).
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December 12, 2016 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook (in collaboration with Gary Barwin):
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December 1, 2016 (permalink)

The year in review -- "rowing in a boat that does not move."  From Popular Mechanics, 1908.
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November 30, 2016 (permalink)

Physicist Miles Mathis on the only way to acquire "luck": 

As a mathematician, I obviously believe in the importance of numbers. But as a human being living in this strange world, I also recognize the significance of number in the physical world. That is to say, I believe in numerology in a way, just not in the way these people seem to. In short, they seem to believe they can use numbers to force the universe to give them things they want. For instance, they appear to believe that if they do things on certain dates, at certain times, in certain multiples, they can influence the Fates in their favor. But this is just wishful thinking. What they don't seem to comprehend is that number is used by higher powers to order lower powers, not the reverse. In other words, if you believe in gods of some sort, the gods use number to order and influence you. You do not use number to order or influence the gods. If you don't believe in gods, substitute your own system or semantics here: my point is the same. To put it another way, you either have lucky numbers assigned to you or you don't. Say you think the number 33 is lucky. Well, that number either appears in your life naturally or it doesn't. You can't manufacture it. You can't assign the number 33 to yourself.

Let me give you a different example. I have seen people have pencils made up that say lucky things on them, like “failure is impossible” or “blessed” or something. Well, printing up your luck or blessing won't work. On the other hand, if you were just walking along, minding your own business, and you looked down and picked up a pencil that said “lucky man” on it, you could take that as a sign from somewhere that you have a bit of luck. But buying a lucky-man pencil won't help you.

You can't finesse the Gods or Fates or Muses, however you conceive them to be. They either like you or they don't. If they don't, your trying to finesse them will only piss them off further. If you find yourself on the wrong side of your Fates, don't get involved in numerology to try to force their hand. Rather, your best bet is to work to become the sort of person they will like better. You won't do that with numerology. You will do it most efficiently by understanding more about your assigned place in this world. And you will understand more by listening. There are signs to be read, but your job is to read them, not write them and post them.

I will be told that numerology seems to work for these people, since the mighty of this earth often seem to dabble in it. Money and power does seem to come to these folks. Yes, but that isn't because of numerology. These folks get money and power because they are ruthless bastards who spend every waking hour chasing money and power. And they feed off one another and off of the masses. There is a longstanding network in place for these climbers, and most of them were born on it. So you don't need numerology to explain their success. Numerology actually explains why they are miserable despite all that. They are miserable because they are off the numbers, and they are off the numbers because they are not in sync with the powers of this earth. The earth doesn't like them, to put it personal terms. As the natives would say, “They do not know where the center of the earth is.”

They think the earth likes them because they have a lot of money, but the earth doesn't care a flip about money. The Gods, Fates, Muses, or any other powers or influences you could name care nothing for money. Money doesn't put you in sync with the numbers, it puts you out of sync with the numbers. Why? Because large amounts of money are a sign of lying and thieving, and lying and thieving are out-of-sync. If you are out-of-sync with the earth, you cannot have lucky numbers assigned to you, since they are the same thing.

The only way to be in-sync and on-the-numbers is to be on the proper path—the path you were born to walk. I assure you, you were not born to walk a path of lying or thieving or making huge sums of dirty money. No one was. No matter what some religions have said, the earth does not create evil people just to make things interesting. These people got where they are not by being the children of some devil, but by making bad decisions—decisions they can reverse any time they like. Some of them do reverse these decisions, which proves my point. If they were the spawn of some evil force, they could not remake themselves no matter what. A cat can not remake itself into a dog. But a person out-of- sync can get back on the numbers.

[from Mathis' paper on breaking the cryptogram in the Zodiac Murders.  PDF link.]

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November 26, 2016 (permalink)

We're delighted to see our How to Be Your Own Cat rising to the top at Quimby's Bookstore.  (Photo via the Quimby's instagram.)  Looks like we're in fine company alongside the Twin Peaks recipe book (Damn Fine Cherry Pie), as well as guitarist Johnny Marr and some Ancient Aliens.
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We're often asked how we relax after a long night of time traveling through old books.  Here's a hint: it involves the horse mask we acquired from Archie McPhee.  (As to the feline guardian also pictured, he somehow acquired us along the way.)
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November 25, 2016 (permalink)

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November 20, 2016 (permalink)

"If only I knew how to locate the trouble."  From Popular Mechanics, 1919.
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November 18, 2016 (permalink)

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Original Content Copyright © 2017 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.