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

April 9, 2014 (permalink)

Pollen was once considered fairy gold.  "Did you ever wish with it?  Just touch your finger to the pollen, and then wish.  After you wish, blow hard twice to get the pollen off.  If it goes, your wish will come true, but if not, you will not have your wish" (E. M. J., "A March Ramble," Primary Education 1906).  Our illustration of the pollen fairy appears in Blossoms by the Way by Carrie Adelaide Cooke, 1882.



April 7, 2014 (permalink)

We've looked at tens of thousands of vintage illustrations in the course of our research, but this is the very first portrait we've encountered that identifies what the portrayed is doing!  The caption puts this portrait ... ahem ... head-and-shoulders above the rest!  Luckily, we can mentally search and replace all the captions we've seen to date with "sight-seeing."  So very much of what our beleaguered eyes have seen makes better sense now!  Whew!



From New York's Chinatown by Louis J. Bock, 1898.

March 6, 2014 (permalink)

Suspense is overrated.  Sometimes it's lovely to have questions answered immediately.  Take the story "Julia's Little Weakness" (from The Lady's Realm, 1900).  What's Julia's little weakness?  The very first sentence illuminates us forthwith: "It was for 'stars.'"  Belated thanks, Philippa Trent, for getting right to it!  (And for beginning her story with a long dash!)



March 3, 2014 (permalink)

They say that disasters always come in threes.  And we're the first to prove it.  Take, for example, this record of railway accidents.  We show that they do, uncannily, group into threes.



January 25, 2014 (permalink)

A glass half frozen
Never boils.

This we learn from Jeff Hawkins, and we wish we'd known it when we were compiling "One Hundred Ways I've Failed to Boil Water" (here's the interactive version, and here are all 100 ways in a concise grid.)

January 17, 2014 (permalink)

"It's a wise person who monotonizes existence because then each small incident, if one knows how to read it in a literary way, has a wondrous quality." —Enrique Vila-Matas, Dublinesque

January 16, 2014 (permalink)

From our former outpost at Twitter:

"Admittedly Don Quixote made a fool of himself with the windmills, but when all's said and done, there probably were giants about." —Edmund Crispin, Holy Disorders

January 1, 2014 (permalink)

Sean Tejaratchi notes that "In the future, everyone will be offended for 15 years," and it's a worthy addition to our ongoing contention that:

Perhaps Andy Warhol Was Wrong, For a Fascinating Variety of Reasons

(Click the title above for our surprising research.)

December 11, 2013 (permalink)


The genius behind Nein Quarterly noted that "In the future, we'll all have 15 minutes of future," and it's a worthy addition to our ongoing contention that:

Perhaps Andy Warhol Was Wrong, For a Fascinating Variety of Reasons

(Click the title above for our surprising research.)


We won't deny it: we were disappointed to learn that this introduction to zoology was not — literally — illustrated by an artful crayfish.



November 22, 2013 (permalink)

We bemoan the rampant demythologizing of our culture, yet the trend began with our founding fathers.  Originally, the immortal declaration was that all men are created eagle (a vestige endures in the word egalitarian).  "The entire conceptual castle of our mind relies on this creation of abstractions by metaphor from the foundations of our bodily experience in the world" (Piero Scaruffi, The Nature of Consciousness, 2006).  The eagle has landed as Apollo has fallen, leaving a hollow nest egg.

November 4, 2013 (permalink)


A detail from a clever centipede photo by Angela.
Here's a Kafkaesque retroactive lifetime goal: a centipede has been "temporarily waysided" from opening our dictionary of magic words.  Technically and poetically, it's a "human centipede with 2 legs for a hundred spines."  And the centipede's name is Pearl.  Here's the entire list of unopened books into which the centipede may or may not make headway.

October 10, 2013 (permalink)

To avoid performing an ordinary social duty or otherwise excuse a breach of civility, merely say:

I'm terribly sorry; I know it's wrong of me; but honestly I can't help it.  You see, I'm a bit mad.  [Then add, with a half-wistful, half-triumphant air,] There's madness in my family, you know.  —E. V. Lucas, Windfall's Eve (1930)

October 3, 2013 (permalink)

"Nothing is interesting save to see what happens next." —John Cowper Powys, Porius

September 25, 2013 (permalink)

This is just to confirm that every haunted chamber should feature at least one "ghost closet" (see upstage center).  Our diagram appears in Grace Griswold's The Haunted Chamber: A Romantic Comedy in One Act (1921).



September 20, 2013 (permalink)

"The skeleton key to getting to know ourselves is the discovery that we can get to know ourselves on many levels."
Jerry Stocking

Riding the skeleton key into the garden of forking paths, from Punch, 1852.



August 28, 2013 (permalink)

From our former outpost at Twitter:

Sagan said if we designed constellations today they'd be refrigerators & microwaves. Clearly no amount of weed can turn a left brain right.

To whatever extent Carl Sagan may have understood the cosmos, he was embarrassingly clueless about the artistic mind.  If you can hear us, Mr. Sagan, you were profoundly incorrect on two counts: people are still connecting the dots to form new constellations, and no, they most certainly aren't picturing refrigerators and microwaves.  We almost want to laugh, but this sort of insight into the left-brain universe is just so chilling.



August 21, 2013 (permalink)

From our former outpost at Twitter:

"Outsider art for insiders" delivers only 7 Google results. This explains a great many of my challenges with my [a]vocation.


The camera obscura allows insiders to enjoy outsider art, as illustrated above.

August 8, 2013 (permalink)

To those who praised me for not being the least bit affected by a U.K. reader's colorful broadside against one of my books ("STOP producing useless works of nothingness" and "The best use of this work would be to shred it for hamster bedding"), I must confess that I hadn't been aware of the review; I was frankly too busy working on useless nothingness!  However, the review is absolutely correct that my book (and, truth be told, my entire body of work) is marvelous for hamster bedding.  I challenge hamster caretakers worldwide to purchase any one of my books, shred it, and verify that it's the best hamster bedding nobody ever used.  Send photos and results to the e-mail address provided here.


Photo courtesy of Miss Shari.

August 4, 2013 (permalink)

"One of the saddest things in life is that the remark which one fails to catch the first time, and has to have repeated, is so seldom worth it." —E. V. Lucas, Down the Sky



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