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

February 11, 2017 (permalink)

Even if the Loch Ness Monster is an automaton, as Ure's Dictionary of 1846 suggests, "Does it then follow that the automaton possesses a freedom of action, a freedom of will?  Yes, we should think that it has a certain freedom of action (the freedom of will we had better leave aside because here the analogy is doubtful at present)" (I. G. Makarov, Cybernetics Today, 1984).
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February 7, 2017 (permalink)

Perhaps for each and every doomsayer throughout history there has been a J. G. Broughton Pegg to remind us of The Improbability of the Destruction of the Earth (1829).
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February 3, 2017 (permalink)

Can you make out the Dickens quotation that serves at the motto?  There was a time when even so-called pseudo-science sought nothing but "facts, facts, facts."  Today, we're hard pressed to name any institution that could in good faith adopt such a motto.  The media?  Political pollsters?  Climatologists?  Any other white-coat wearer of what Robert Anton Wilson dubbed the New Inquisition?  Selections from the Papers of the Phasmatological Society, 1882.
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January 30, 2017 (permalink)

If there's a skull lock and you forgot your skeleton key, try working a beam of light into the mechanism.  Recall how "She springs a light, / Unlocks the door" (Dryden).  Similarly, "Morning with its key of light / Unlocks the dusky portals of the night" (Albert Laighton, Poems, 1878).  And "My light unlocks the stalls, / two dozen and one windows open— / all, except the window of the moon, / already painted on as shining" (Jane Shore, Eye Level, 1977).
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January 26, 2017 (permalink)

"Science would go completely mad if left to its own devices." —Deleuze & Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus
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January 22, 2017 (permalink)

"Golf is like billiards.  Do not confuse it with baseball." —Charles Evans, Jr., "My Daily Dozen," Golfers Magazine, 1922

Photo by Leslie Jones.
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January 21, 2017 (permalink)

"Queer houseboat propelled by engine and air screw."  (Aren't they all?)  A headline from Popular Mechanics, 1920.
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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)

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