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

Yesterday — September 4, 2015 (permalink)

Given that most people we see on the street are dead (as we learned here), it sure would be handy if they chose to identify themselves.  Our illustration appears in The Teaching Problem by James Wickleff Axtell, 1902.  The sign says, "I am late."

August 27, 2015 (permalink)

Here is explained why we should behave as unreally as possible:
"We must accept the so-called reality around us, the woodlouse in the cellar no less than the evening star.  It's only we ourselves who are unreal—partly just because we are aware of the fact.  And as a result we contradict ourselves.  Would you try to build a house of sand?  You wouldn't move a finger to do so.  Because you know that the house would collapse at once.  And all that we do here is equally pointless.  It drifts away like writing in the sky.  We come from the unknown, linger a lifetime, and drift away again.  Better not to act as if we were real.  We should behave as unreally as it is possible to behave in reality. ... [I]t is we on earth who are really on the Other Side.  Because we are still on the wrong side of reality, even though it surrounds us.  That means that fundamentally we are capable of everything except being real." —Ernst Kreuder, The Attic Pretenders

August 20, 2015 (permalink)

"There's always something real in what happens, no avoiding that." —César Aira (as translated by Katherine Silver), The Literary Conference

August 16, 2015 (permalink)

As the BBC didn't caption this hilarious Scottish comedy sketch for the hard of hearing, we transcribed the script below:
You know, I never even saw his Snapchat. It was her that saw his Snapchat. He says it’s on my Snapchat, but I’d never even done a Snapchat that night. It was him that did the Snapchat, and she saw it. She took a screen grab of her Snapchat, and he tried to deny it. He was like, “I didnae like her Instagram,” and I was like, “Oh, you did like her Instagram.” And he was like, “No, I just liked the Facebook post. It was a screen grab of her Instagram. It wasnae her actual Instagram.” But Amy... Amy... a like’s a like.

Amy: A like’s a like.

I was raging! I was like, “You favorited her tweet, and you liked her Instagram by proxy by liking her Facebook post that was a screen grab of her Instagram... You shared her Tumblr, and she saw your Snapchat, she took a screen grab of your Snapchat, and she tweeted it and you favorited it.” And he was like, “No, no, listen... I only favorited her tweet because it was a screen grab of my Snapchat, no’ because it was her that took the screen grab. And I only liked her Facebook post because it was a screen grab of Instagram, and I like Instagram, no’ because I like her Instagram. I only shared her Tumblr because I like that meme, that thing frae Twitter that she’d Tumbled about.” Because earlier that day on Facebook, apparently somebody had posted a screen grab frae Instagram, and he liked it. “No’ because I like her,” ’e said. “No’ because I like her.” But Amy, what am I always sayin’?

Amy: A like’s a like.

A like is a like. Ugh! Amy, listen... Never fall in love with a liker.

July 31, 2015 (permalink)

Getting from A to B in Katsuhito Ishii's The Taste of Tea 

In the sublime film The Taste of Tea (茶の味, 2004), each family member depicts a distinctive way to go from A to B.  (This binary perspective is of course reinforced through the many games of Go throughout the film.)
We see the son running after a bus, biking with all his might, and riding a train between home and school, always seeking to bridge the gap between the A of himself and an external goal on the horizon, B.  Whether it's his education, the gaming club after school, or pursuit of a love interest, he's trying to get somewhere.
The daughter's quest for B is quite the opposite of her brother's.  Her B is within herself, symbolized by her persistence in teaching herself to perform her first flip.  Instead of an arrow between her A and an external B, the daughter follows an inward spiral.  Indeed, she has such a horror of externalized consciousness that her own personal demon is an enormous version of herself that she disconcertingly sees through the corner of her eye.
The uncle is visiting on a break from work and seeks no B whatsoever.  Yet as he strolls and minds his own business, fascinating B's pop up unexpectedly all around him, in the form of a lost love, a yakuza playing baseball with river rocks, and a camping interpretive dancer.  So instead of seeking a B within himself or in the external world, he passively becomes a magnet that attracts the B's toward him.
The mother is trying to find a way to preserve her career in anime even as she raises her children.  She works from home and seeks to be at the center of an encircling world of B's.  This image is reinforced in a vision she has during a hypnotic trance, in which colored streams of light burst outward from her head.
The grandfather overlaps his A with whatever B he encounters.  As his daughter-in-law draws in the kitchen, he strikes fighting poses as her model.  He records an album with one of his sons.  He plays ninja with his grandson.  He improvises a song about his granddaughter when she forms herself into a pink triangle within her nightgown.  Like the tentacles of the squid he begs for at dinner, he reaches out to and connects with every B in his path.  Indeed, he makes no obvious distinction between himself and others.

July 28, 2015 (permalink)

"The alphabet is all around us—not only in books." —My ABC's  

July 23, 2015 (permalink)


(courtesy of Jonathan Caws-Elwitt)

The Early One That's Out of Print, and Good Luck Getting Your Hands On It

The One Everybody Has Read

The One No One Ever Reads

The One You'll Read If You Absolutely Have to Read More Than One

The One That's Pretty Good, But It's Nonfiction / A Story Collection / Co-Written with Another Author, So It Doesn't Really Count

The Later Work That You've Tried to Get Through But Just Can't

The Posthumously Published One That We're Not Sure Was Completed to the Author's Satisfaction

The Lost Manuscript That Showed Up Later (But We'd All Lost Interest By Then)

July 22, 2015 (permalink)

July 21, 2015 (permalink)

"The aim of our secret society must be to scare.  Not evil, because that's necessary for producing good (evil is, so to speak, the midwife of good)—no, we want to scare away stupidity.  Is the devil stupid?  Certainly not.  The devil is evil, evil is creative.  Stupidity, on the other hand, is the death of all creativeness.  The worst of all sins!  And it's all-powerful.  Accident and crime can both be laid to its account.  Stupidity means a lack of the most important quality of all—not reason, because stupid people are quite capable of being reasonable—no, stupidity means a complete lack of imagination." —Ernst Kreuder, The Attic Pretenders

July 20, 2015 (permalink)

On a lark, we tried reading Silence and Other Stories aloud, though the results were nothing to shout about.

July 15, 2015 (permalink)

We were accused of writing fairy tales this week, which was the basis of a hearty laugh, for "Fairy tales tell the truth" as Italo Calvino reminds us in his 1967 essay "Cibernetica e Fantasmi." Their narrative construction and plot weaving are "the irreducible essence of all epistemological activity and therefore the ground for whatever truth may be available to man.  Fairy tales 'tell the truth'" (Lucia Re, Calvino and the Age of Neorealism: Fables of Estrangement, 1990).

July 14, 2015 (permalink)

From the wise-dome of Gary Barwin (whose 2016 novel Yiddish for Pirates casts everything in a new light [and things do seem mysteriously different lately, don't they?  That's because, to paraphrase Powys, if a book's illumination precedes, the unknown future into which it advances will luminesce]):

Q: Is two spaces after a period standard?

A: Thoughe suche standerds dost applye as have inne truthe beene borne from these oure moderne tymes withe its interynettes and wordly processores, I beliefe thate in one's owne hande and indeede in the londe of one's owne paypr, one canne scribe and thinke and write as thou doste wish. No dominione shalte have the grande hyghe worde auto correcte. The space tween fulle stoppe and firste letter whene the wordes againe beginne ist its owne a to izzard, ist thate bryghte espace tween sheepe and field, between star and earthe, thougyhte and possibilitie, bodye, soule, beloved, and tongue. Ist thate sweete silence when we holde our breathe in thee stilleness of wonder, inspiration, glee, or joye or greate sadnesse. In oure owne booke let thynges bee as we most wish, and damn thee the house style or moderne conventione. If I shalte desyre my bluebirds shalle have three winges in mine owne garden.

July 10, 2015 (permalink)

"People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels." —the great Charles Fort, whose legacy is examined over at The Secret Sun.

July 8, 2015 (permalink)

They say money doesn't grow on trees, but if time is money, then … From Mechanics for Young America, 1905.

July 1, 2015 (permalink)

We're delighted to have provided a vintage illustration of a tiny ghost fairy for Long-Forgotten's research into the "Little Leota" figure at Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.

June 21, 2015 (permalink)

From our outpost at Tumblr:

This is a nifty 8-page satirical story by Jonny Chance about a fictionalized doppelgänger of comedian Paul Lynde who is not an alcoholic but rather "save[s] alcohol for occasions catered by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."  At first I thought the book was presented as a Burroughs-style cut-up, but the top of each page features commentary by the author about what inspired the story, trying to handle the delicate balance of mocking Christianity when religion isn't technically the subject, and the goal of shattering illusions in a truly challenging way without merely congratulating the already-converted (à la The Matrix and Fight Club).  At the bottom of each page is the Paul Lynde story itself.  The Clarion Journal will take you to a page with a link to the pdf, which is here:

June 10, 2015 (permalink)

I'm nearing the point of obsession.  I can’t look away, and don’t want to.  Like Tarot cards, but with built-in illumination, and much more fun. Brilliant, says I! —Jeff Hawkins 

A few years ago, we collaborated on a deck of "wide-awake dreaming" cards for the celebrated mentalist Kenton Knepper.  Kenton occasionally demonstrated this deck at gatherings of the magical underground in Las Vegas, and that's how the cards got the street names of "Waking Dream Cards," "Metaphor Cards," "Subconscious Communication Cards," "Transformation Cards," and "K-Kards."  But their official name is "[Self-Intuiting] Polarity Cards."  The deck long-remained one of Kenton's best-kept secrets, but we can now reveal that they're finally available to anyone who wishes to experience a mind-blowing insight that they verifiably didn't have before.  Unlike Tarot cards or other well-known reading decks, Polarity Cards are wholly free of dogma and therefore allow for fresh, intuitive understandings that are neither influenced nor hindered by preconceptions.  Deeply rooted in coded principles from the Mystery traditions, the cards also work as powerful meditational tools, unlocking a greater sense of harmony and well-being.  Lots more information about the deck is at TheGameCrafter.

June 4, 2015 (permalink)

How's this for a concept: the book of Genesis turned the past into a mental construct.  "If not for its intercession, today we would perhaps be dealing with the past as simply one more reality, like any other object of perception" (César Aira, The Literary Conference).  Airia also says of Genesis: "The mere idea of Adam and Eve's existence, of humanity (the species) retroactively reduced to a single couple, gives rise to genetics.  I would even say that it is as far as the imagination can go in this field.  Genetics is the genesis of diversity.  But if diversity has nobody on whom to spread itself out, it turns on itself, gets tangled up in its own general particularity, and therein the imagination is born."

June 3, 2015 (permalink)

Here are two classic Egyptian symbols as letters (from Un Tour de Méditerranée, de Venise à Tunis, par Athènes, Constantinople et le Caire by Paul Jousset, 1893), but did you know we uncovered a way to decode Egyptian symbols in the letters of any name?  We share the discovery in the "Egyptian Name Reading System" (described in detail over at Wonder Wizards).  Our system includes an exclusive technique for automatically reciting an Egyptian poem as you gaze upon the letters of anyone's name (seriously), as if channeling a spirit from antiquity.  We only belatedly learned that our system was hailed as one of the top mentalism innovations of 2012 ... but you don't have to be a magician to use it, and it's actually not a trick.

May 31, 2015 (permalink)

"A simple example taken from the world of culture (and what other world should we take it from?) ..." —César Aira (as translated by Katherine Silver), The Literary Conference

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Original Content Copyright © 2015 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.