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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I Found a Penny Today, So Here’s a Thought

January 24, 2015 (permalink)


The Paper St. Journal reviews our imaginary Kafka parables, Franzlations.  "Sometimes maudlin, but always wise, Conley, Barwin, and Thomas induce you into a willing hypnosis as you ponder over the pithy blocked letters, scattered scraps of sentences, and gothic illustrations."  The reviewer, James Puntillo, credits us with constructing within the book "a firewall to protect against readers who won't delight so easily" in aphorisms*, and if it's indeed true that we did that then we'll figure out how to reverse-engineer our previous works, too.  Whew—it'll be a relief!

*This is what Jonathan Caws-Elwitt might call a Retroactive Lifetime Goal.

January 13, 2015 (permalink)

The internet is a haven for misattributed quotations, but all quotations attributed to Buddha are, due to a technicality, accurate.




We know you've speculated, so here's what might be.  From A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain.



January 12, 2015 (permalink)

Prof. Oddfellow received a mysterious bottle in the mail, with a note explaining that the cord is tied to whatever is inside and that the bottle must never, ever be shaken or opened.  It's been said that the spirits that move the world are not the kind that come out of a bottle.  We'll see about that.



January 9, 2015 (permalink)

What's weird about this signature of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew?  Too many letters!  (See more about this signature over at Futility Closet.)



December 30, 2014 (permalink)

Some of the many tools we use to create Abecedarian (in honor of Teresa Burritt), from Fra Det Moderne Frankrig by Richard Kaufmann, 1882.



December 22, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

This anagram is in honor of Gary Barwin's The Porcupinity of the Stars.




This elf below was returned back in 1896, but the things he learned while away!

Speaking of elves, see our unbelievably elf-centered publication, How to Believe in Your Elf. Its first review comes from G. Struijker Boudier in the Netherlands:

My ratings are always based on how much energy a product generates in me. Sometimes the trigger is usefulness, at other times it's the production quality or other things. That means that I ignore aspects of the product that aren't relevant to my focus.

In this case, the four stars are based on the fact that this book makes me muse about myself and my life and makes me smile at the same time.

I'm a nut for off beat playfulness that balances between nonsense and seriousness. This book (as well as most book by Prof. Oddfellow) does just that. Obviously the 'One's elf/Oneself' is the running theme here. I can see how you can look at it as lame wordplay. To me it isn't. Something weird happens if you place your personality traits, ego and whatnot in the elf of your choice. One separates one's elf from oneself. Distancing yourself from yourself is always a good way to see bigger pictures and wonder about why you're behaving the way you're behaving. It opens up new possibilities and ideas.

Some examples:
What you do not wish done to your elf, do not to another.
Maturity consists of no longer being taken in by one’s elf.
If you be not pleased, put your hand in your pocket and please your elf.
Listen at the key hole, and you’ll hear news of your elf.

Can't help it, I just like this kind of lighthearted play with words, sense and nonsense that sometimes strikes an unexpected chord.

Meanwhile, allow us to recall this timely joke by scalawag Jonathan Caws-Elwitt:

Q: What do you call an urban elf?
A: A metrognome.



December 21, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

This anagram is in honor of Jonathan Caws-Elwitt's The Can of Yams.



December 20, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

This anagram is in honor of Martha Brockenbrough's The Game of Love and Death.



December 19, 2014 (permalink)

From the Dept. of Life Lessons in David Lynch Films:

While fever-dreaming down your own Lost Highway, if you encounter a Mr. Eddy/Dick Laurent equivalent who offers you pornographic material, don't politely decline, because then you might learn that the Alice Wakefield in your life doubles as a Renee Madison, and you'll save yourself a headache of epic proportions.



December 18, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

This anagram is in honor of recording artist extraordinaire Ken Clinger's Bovine Productions.  Ken is profiled here as "one of the most distinctive and identifiable" underground musicians ever.



December 17, 2014 (permalink)

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

Our anagram is in honor of Gordon Meyer's delightful book of photographs, Las Vegas: Underfoot.



December 16, 2014 (permalink)

We designed this plate with a vintage map of Saint Augustine, Florida, complete with mischievous mermaid.  Our map is meticulously accurate, but (forbid!) not in a literal way.  Though you can navigate by it, it’s not to what la-di-da cartographers would call "scale."





December 11, 2014 (permalink)

We laud so many discoverers, but the discoverer of grapes surely deserves rhapsodies.  From Our Country by Benson John Lossing, 1875.



December 8, 2014 (permalink)

The sublime absurdist playwright N. F. Simpson offers the best explanation we've encountered for how there are no rational grounds for rationalism and how belief in reason is pure superstition.  The following non-tweetable magnificence comes to us from If So, Then Yes:

The idolatry of reason indeed has a lot to answer for.  In the interests of reason, and pursuant on an enthusiastic and cocksure gullibility so fathomlessly idiotic that only the witlessly sophisticated can succumb to it, the world has been handed over irreversibly, lock, stock and barrel, to the sorcerer's apprentice.  For we belong, ladies and gentlemen, whether we like it or not, to a species so idiotically infatuated with itself as to act in perpetual disregard of its own fallibility.  In religion, in philosophy, in politics and now in science, together with its handmaiden, technology — which, both in themselves and in the ethos to which they give rise, combine all the fatuities of the other three with even grosser ones of their own — we luxuriate in abject folly.  A word for this folly already, as you must know, exists.  It is hubris.  But hubris is built into the human psyche, and there is no escape from it for any of us.  The fool, fixed in his folly, may think he can turn the wheel on which he turns, as it has been well expressed.  The best that in the light of this any of us can do is to turn aside from time to time as occasion offers from the brash and mindless pursuit of progress, and light a small candle to doubt and uncertainty, to mystery and awe and wonder and humility.  Or, if that should seem a wanton waste of good candle-grease, then to one or other of those more unassuming little certainties which, equally daft though they may be, are so much less stultifyingly dreary and destructive than the grandiose banalities behind which we all go marching, with bands playing and Professor Dawkins leading the way with boyish enthusiasm, faster and faster towards the abyss.

It was Wittgenstein, was it not, ladies and gentlemen, who remarked that to be religious is to know that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter.  There are, as John Cooper Powys among others so clearly saw, abysses of being and reality totally outside this "pinfold", in which, as Milton says, we are confined, adding that all the great urges of our spirit come nearest to the secret of the universe when they enjoy nature with the detachment of the pilgrim rather than analyse her with the curiosity of a scientist.  Any imaginative illusion, he goes on, by which a person half lives, any mythology in which a person half believes, is truer in the only sense in which truth matters, than the most authenticated scientific facts.  For scientific facts are the pabulum of the rational mind.  But the rational mind, ladies and gentlemen, is so irrational as to proceed with bland confidence on the basis of the unprovable, and therefore rationally untenable, assumption that the human brain is fully equipped to handle whatever the cosmos can throw at it.  The concept of unknowability, for which God has always been a convenient shorthand term, does not, even as a concept, begin to come within its remit.  But there are no rational grounds for the assumption that a consciousness which functions in such and such a way prevents a more valid picture of the universe than one which, functioning in some other, radically different, way, gives a correspondingly different picture.  Or that the brain of a man, though certainly larger and seemingly more complex than that of those other organisms, such as, let us say, the octopus, the slow-worm and the chimpanzee, with which he happens by chance to have become acquainted, vulnerable as it is to all manner of substances and other influences by which its functioning can be, and frequently is, radically altered, is necessarily presenting him at any given time with a uniquely definitive interpretation of the phenomena seemingly confronting it.  Or that what by virtue of it we perceive as the truth today is of more or less validity than what was perceived as the truth yesterday, or two thousand years ago; or than what will be perceived as the truth tomorrow, or in two thousand years' time.  The temporal parochialism in which we are all cribbed, cabined and confined blinds us to the fact that, as Kant has pointed out to us, space and time mark the limits of our human minds rather than those of the universe.  It is to the eminent biometrist, the late J.B.S. Haldane, that we are indebted for the observation that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but, in his own words, "queerer than we can suppose."  For, as we learn from Holy Writ, God is not merely unknown, but unknowable.  A concept expressed in a slightly different form by Nietzsche, whose contention it was that all we can know of the world is the world as it appears to us.  H.P.G. Wells, likewise, reminds us that neither the pig's snout nor the human brain have been evolved for the purpose of discerning the ultimate truth of things.  It is well that it be borne in mind, however, that the arguments I and they have so persuasively deployed, together with those of others who take a contrary view, have been arrived at by means of the very instrument we are showing to be an unreliable one.  There are, in short, no rational grounds for reliance on the rational.  Belief in the paramountcy of reason is purest superstition.


December 7, 2014 (permalink)

"The most awful thing is that we become resigned to everything."

November 22, 2014 (permalink)

The Cabinet of Gems of Books (1875) reminds us of a gem of a book:



November 17, 2014 (permalink)

Even back in 1878, folks longed for simpler times.  From The National and Domestic History of England by William Hickman Smith Aubrey.  The caption reads, "Bucklersbury in 'simple time.'"



November 10, 2014 (permalink)



"Can we be no more?"  From The White Cat by Ernest Warren, 1882.



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