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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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

Yesterday — April 24, 2015 (permalink)

April 23, 2015 (permalink)

We found what sounds like the perfect summation of what magicians are ultimately striving to do.  All a magician wants is for someone to come "Face to face with the crowning wonder of his series of mysteries."  Put that way, it sounds so simple, so reasonable.  From The Mystery of Hall-in-the-Wood by Rosa Mulholland, 1893.

April 21, 2015 (permalink)

Here's acclaimed poet and photographer William Keckler's delightful take on our Hexopedia:
This manual seems to titularly announce its target demographic, but don't let that fool you. It's like reading Lewis Carroll. No matter how much weariness there is in your bones, the sprite of your mind will fly with and to these words.
It's lavishly illustrated by the author with all sorts of abraxases and magic squares and mystical beasts whose mix-and-match bodies were the precursors of today's recombinant, genetic portmanteaux.
How much ... a delight it is ... to simply enjoy the uncommon truths of these eldritch spells coiled upon themselves and their secrets like wonderful chambered nautiluses. 
The book elevates sound (and its magical properties) to the same level the Theosophists did, but in a much more playful way.  It is a preposterous work, in the best sense of that word.

April 18, 2015 (permalink)

Anonymous asks, "If I may, I was told I have to find my voice.  Any ideas?  Suggestions?"

This vintage diagram explains all.  [Its context is technically unrelated (you may or may not recognize its original purpose), but no matter.]  We see the form of a lower-case i, and that's crucial.  Note that the lower-case i has a head on its shoulders, unlike the capital I, which is merely a construct (a girder and two beams, eh?).  And so the capital I/ego decapitates the genuine expression of the little i.  The dot of the i makes this diagram a universal "You are here" map.  One's voice can never to be "found," for it's impossible for it to go missing.  It's always here, at ground zero.  The question can only be, what has been overlaid and is hiding that dot?  Is it a respected voice one has been emulating?  Is it an artificial attempt to meet perceived requirements or expectations?  Emulations refer to the past, and expectations allude to the future.  It's only in the eternal present moment that one's unique voice resonates.  In terms of writing projects, it's perhaps most difficult to express one's true voice in an assignment or an homage.  The key is to work on a project so idiosyncratic that there are no precedents.  (For example, we recently challenged ourselves to come up with a guide to The Care and Feeding of a Spirit Board.  Nothing even remotely like it had ever been written, so it was unexplored territory where no other voices echoed.)  That's the key, but it's a trick key, and the trick is to allow yourself to get so caught up in the current of writing that your capital I gets left behind.  But forget all that -- the vintage diagram says it better.

April 15, 2015 (permalink)

"Thinking should be finer than the thinnest gas in the world, so that it can seep through the gaps in this so-called reality and reach the unknown.  For that's where true reality begins, in the world of dwarfs and dragons.  We knew that as children without having to understand it.  Only when we lost the ability to act unreasonably did we lose the true, that is the unreal, reality.  There is no return.  There is also no progress.  No going forwards or backwards.  Cheers.  In each case it's only a superficial impression we can make on this hard-boiled reality of ours.  For at very best it's only an optical illusion.  If a drunkard sees a row of houses swaying, that's serious.  Not for the drunkard, but for the houses.  They just won't stand up if one's vision methodically sets out to bring them down.  Isn't the whole world based on vision?  A long look into one's glass and one's vision rocks and sways.  But that's all by the way.  It's possible to make the world dissolve without the help of a bottle of schnaps.  It's all a matter of practice." —Ernst Kreuder, The Attic Pretenders

April 13, 2015 (permalink)

Thanks to magic experience designer Ferdinando Buscema (who shares the final secret of the Illuminati in this Boing Boing presentation) for tweeting that our Young Wizard's Hexopedia is "an enthralling book, offering a uniquely participatory reading experience."

April 12, 2015 (permalink)

Thanks to acclaimed illusionist and fastest-fingers-in-the-world record holder Jeff McBride for tweeting about our Young Wizard's Hexopedia.  He tweets, "Writer Craig Conley, his books re-enchant our world!"

The background photo of our Jeff McBride collage is a black-and-white version of a still from the movie Demo.  Our overlay says that in the eye of the beholder is the overlapping of one's intention, focus, and action.

April 11, 2015 (permalink)

We're honored that Gordon Meyer (of Smart Home Hacks fame and a creator of haunted bells and genie bottles) likens our Hexopedia to what Harry Potter might have been had that series been carefully considered:

Hexopedia: A review

I was fortunate to see an advance copy of The Young Wizard's Hexopedia: A Guide to Magical Words & Phrases. It's a terrifically fun book, and a peek at what Harry Potter might have been like if it were a little more, well, thoughtful. Here's the reviewer's blurb I provided:

"Craig Conley's Hexopedia not only surprised and delighted me, it changed my opinion about what young adult books could be. What a treat!"
If you have a young person in your life who might enjoy it, please do check it out.

Gordon Meyer and his scissors of mysterious power.

April 10, 2015 (permalink)

 It popped into our head that the celebrated poet Gary Barwin can write both of his names in one go, if he employs the bee-gee and the double-y.  The top half of the letters read "gary" and the bottom half read "barwin."

April 8, 2015 (permalink)

If it's true that a lack of specificity in characterization creates the stereotypes that evoke the intuitive knowledge upon which a work relies for its emotional effect and thematic meaning (as per Erich Segal: A Critical Companion), then these stills from Kamen Rider Kuuga speak for themselves.

Or, to quote from the Gervase Fen mystery we're currently reading, "Characterisation seems to me a very over-rated element in fiction.  I can never see why one should be obliged to have any of it at all, if one doesn't want to.  It limits the form so." —Buried for Pleasure by Edmund Crispin

April 3, 2015 (permalink)

We're honored that acclaimed poet Gary Barwin has offered a foreword to our new guide to The Care and Feeding of a Spirit Board.

March 31, 2015 (permalink)

On the basis of two bits of evidence (but please send us more examples), we've determined that British humo[u]r can move any mountain (to the tune of The Shamen's "Move Any Mountain" or not).  Exhibit A: In Maurice Dolbier's Nowhere Near Everest: An Ascent to the Height of the Ridiculous, we find a character who boldly "contrived the removal of Mount Everest and the substitution of a smaller peak, in an attempt to create an international incident."  Exhibit B: In the series one, episode two of Absolutely Fabulous, a character is sued by British Heritage for shifting some ancient standing stones out of the way:

Eddie: Sued?  Why are being sued, darling?
Bubble: Well, that last fashion shoot you organised.  Apparently, someone moved a couple of rocks, or something.
Patsy: Moved a couple of old rocks?  My God!
Eddie: Stonehenge, Pats.  Anyway...
Patsy: So?  They should be glad of the publicity.

Britain's effortless ability to move any mountain through humo[u]r is unmistakable.


March 29, 2015 (permalink)

"Every evening at seven I ask myself: what are we to do?"
—Ernst Kreuder, The Attic Pretenders

Photo courtesy of Jürg Stuker.

March 28, 2015 (permalink)

See our piece on "Prometheus Found" (as well as a bonus anagram involving a learned owl) in the premier issue of Fiddler's Green, a magazine of "art and magic for tea-drinking anarchists, convivial conjurors, and closeted optimists."

March 27, 2015 (permalink)

Can one judge a book by its first page?  (Spoiler: we do.)  We bought Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant after reading John Pistelli's piece about it, and we'll probably try to get through it, but page one sure did leave us cold.  (That's not counting Ishiguro's blatantly misused semicolon in the second line.)  We're initially astonished over the banquet of praise the book has received.  In fairness, one can't help but to draw comparisons to John Cowper Powys' astonishing Porius, which similarly explores ancient Wales and its mythology (only Powys, under the spell of Merlin, writes sublime sentences from the get-go).  Almost more so, we're still staggering from the utter brilliance of The Attic Pretenders, which presents itself as an actual artifact of the Otherworld (and may be the only one of its kind: the phrase "artifact of the Otherworld" delivers zero Google results).  (And thanks to Writers No One Reads for putting us onto The Attic Pretenders.)  Compared to the visceral Otherworld that Attic Pretenders captures, the first page of The Buried Giant feels like a child's chalk drawing.  While we'd love for page two of The Buried Giant not to disappoint, we have entire color-coded bookshelves of vastly better-written prose.

March 26, 2015 (permalink)

On the edge of understanding
Below, above our reason's sway
Is a ghostly world extending
Into cool infinity.
Hosts invisible protect
The path beyond the intellect.
Theodor Däubler, "The Sleep-Walker," quoted in Ernst Kreuder's The Attic Pretenders

March 23, 2015 (permalink)

On being bogged down in the superstition of our so-called scientific age:

"'Does anyone know how to tell fortunes?' asked Waldemar.  Nobody did.  'Or read a horoscope?  No?  How extremely backward.  How deeply we're all bogged in the superstition of enlightenment.'" —Ernst Kreuder, The Attic Pretenders (and thanks to Writers No One Reads for directing us toward this delightful book!)

March 20, 2015 (permalink)

(This is our submission to Writers No One Reads, which is where we first learned about our very beloved The Secret Service by Wendy Walker.)

No one reads fine artist Rhea Sanders' guidebook to the fictional Fire Gardens of Maylandia or Sweetwilliam's Folly (The Tradd Street Press, Charleston, SC, 1980).  The author respectfully dedicates this wryly humorous, meticulously envisioned oddity to "the virus which gave me the fever which gave me the hallucination which gave me the idea for this book."  The reader of the deadpan guidebook is presumed to be a tourist to the state of Maylandia, in possession of a working knowledge of local attractions, so the mysterious nature of the fantastical fire gardens is revealed in subtle tidbits as the site's colorful and often controversial history is explored.  We learn that the gardens were conceived in 1720 by the first royal governor, Ferdinand Mayland, "during one of his annual bouts with a local fever."  The author dryly recounts how the governor persuaded the indigenous Changapod tribe to relinquish their sacred plains of flaming shale at the foot of the mountain they called "He Who Waits": "Since all objected, all were done away with.  This is indeed a sad episode, but it is well to remember that the Changapods had owned this territory for centuries, and had done nothing with it, whereas Governor Mayland imagined a work of art.  There were in any case only 370 Changapods."  As the history progresses, we become privy to intimations of "fireworkers" in possession of "the knowledge" -- carefully guarded secrets of controlling the shape, movement, and color of fireballs, handed down from father to son over generations.  We learn of figures with oddly Francophilic inclinations, such as the Governor's London-born wife Marguerite, who "spoke only in French, for reasons which have not come down to us."  We learn of the possibly addictive tea leaves that grow near the fire gardens and seem to treat the blue skin condition resulting from exposure to the natural gasses.  ("And why should everyone be either black, white, red, or yellow?")  We learn of several possible murders along the way, all unsolved, including one in 1927 -- the winner of a contest to name a new garden to express the spirit of the age.  A certain Billy Jackson's entry, "Jazz Baby," earned him a $5,000 check, though he was shot and killed on his way home and the check stolen.  "We in Maylandia often point to Mr. Jackson's Jazz Baby Garden when outsiders ask us about the minorities in our midst.  For what could be a more beautiful testimonial to our treatment of minorities than this Garden?"  We learn of tea plantation heiress Angela Longleaf MacDowell, who stood six feet tall and boasted, "No man on earth or beneath the sod has ever kissed the lips of Angela Longleaf MacDowell."  It was she who envisioned, in a dream, the memorial fire garden for famed local poet Cassius Augustus Robertson ("the story of Robertson's mysterious death at the age of 99 is too well known to be recounted here").  Profusely illustrated by the author, The Fire Gardens of Maylandia is a charming, deeply funny, and thought-provoking relic from an alternate reality just a little bit more smoldering than ours.  (Profuse thanks to Hilary Caws-Elwitt for recommending this book.)

March 7, 2015 (permalink)

There's a longstanding rumor that Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" hails Satan when played backwards.  What could be more natural?  A fall from heaven is the equal and opposite reaction to an ascent to heaven, as we see in this (as yet unpublished) card from a magic deck that the eminent mentalist Kenton Knepper commissioned of us.

March 3, 2015 (permalink)

"Greeks enjoying themselves."  And if the boat begins to sink, would they need to be bailed out?  (Ooh!  Topical!)  From Around the World on a Bicycle by Thomas Stevens, 1887.

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