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

December 1, 2016 (permalink)

The year in review -- "rowing in a boat that does not move."  From Popular Mechanics, 1908.
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November 30, 2016 (permalink)

Physicist Miles Mathis on the only way to acquire "luck": 

As a mathematician, I obviously believe in the importance of numbers. But as a human being living in this strange world, I also recognize the significance of number in the physical world. That is to say, I believe in numerology in a way, just not in the way these people seem to. In short, they seem to believe they can use numbers to force the universe to give them things they want. For instance, they appear to believe that if they do things on certain dates, at certain times, in certain multiples, they can influence the Fates in their favor. But this is just wishful thinking. What they don't seem to comprehend is that number is used by higher powers to order lower powers, not the reverse. In other words, if you believe in gods of some sort, the gods use number to order and influence you. You do not use number to order or influence the gods. If you don't believe in gods, substitute your own system or semantics here: my point is the same. To put it another way, you either have lucky numbers assigned to you or you don't. Say you think the number 33 is lucky. Well, that number either appears in your life naturally or it doesn't. You can't manufacture it. You can't assign the number 33 to yourself.

Let me give you a different example. I have seen people have pencils made up that say lucky things on them, like “failure is impossible” or “blessed” or something. Well, printing up your luck or blessing won't work. On the other hand, if you were just walking along, minding your own business, and you looked down and picked up a pencil that said “lucky man” on it, you could take that as a sign from somewhere that you have a bit of luck. But buying a lucky-man pencil won't help you.

You can't finesse the Gods or Fates or Muses, however you conceive them to be. They either like you or they don't. If they don't, your trying to finesse them will only piss them off further. If you find yourself on the wrong side of your Fates, don't get involved in numerology to try to force their hand. Rather, your best bet is to work to become the sort of person they will like better. You won't do that with numerology. You will do it most efficiently by understanding more about your assigned place in this world. And you will understand more by listening. There are signs to be read, but your job is to read them, not write them and post them.

I will be told that numerology seems to work for these people, since the mighty of this earth often seem to dabble in it. Money and power does seem to come to these folks. Yes, but that isn't because of numerology. These folks get money and power because they are ruthless bastards who spend every waking hour chasing money and power. And they feed off one another and off of the masses. There is a longstanding network in place for these climbers, and most of them were born on it. So you don't need numerology to explain their success. Numerology actually explains why they are miserable despite all that. They are miserable because they are off the numbers, and they are off the numbers because they are not in sync with the powers of this earth. The earth doesn't like them, to put it personal terms. As the natives would say, “They do not know where the center of the earth is.”

They think the earth likes them because they have a lot of money, but the earth doesn't care a flip about money. The Gods, Fates, Muses, or any other powers or influences you could name care nothing for money. Money doesn't put you in sync with the numbers, it puts you out of sync with the numbers. Why? Because large amounts of money are a sign of lying and thieving, and lying and thieving are out-of-sync. If you are out-of-sync with the earth, you cannot have lucky numbers assigned to you, since they are the same thing.

The only way to be in-sync and on-the-numbers is to be on the proper path—the path you were born to walk. I assure you, you were not born to walk a path of lying or thieving or making huge sums of dirty money. No one was. No matter what some religions have said, the earth does not create evil people just to make things interesting. These people got where they are not by being the children of some devil, but by making bad decisions—decisions they can reverse any time they like. Some of them do reverse these decisions, which proves my point. If they were the spawn of some evil force, they could not remake themselves no matter what. A cat can not remake itself into a dog. But a person out-of- sync can get back on the numbers.

[from Mathis' paper on breaking the cryptogram in the Zodiac Murders.  PDF link.]

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November 26, 2016 (permalink)

We're delighted to see our How to Be Your Own Cat rising to the top at Quimby's Bookstore.  (Photo via the Quimby's instagram.)  Looks like we're in fine company alongside the Twin Peaks recipe book (Damn Fine Cherry Pie), as well as guitarist Johnny Marr and some Ancient Aliens.
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We're often asked how we relax after a long night of time traveling through old books.  Here's a hint: it involves the horse mask we acquired from Archie McPhee.  (As to the feline guardian also pictured, he somehow acquired us along the way.)
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November 25, 2016 (permalink)

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November 20, 2016 (permalink)

"If only I knew how to locate the trouble."  From Popular Mechanics, 1919.
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November 18, 2016 (permalink)

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November 14, 2016 (permalink)

Thanks to author W. D. Clarke for calling us "encyclopedic."
Speaking of walking encyclopedias, a few years ago we noted how we too often forget that even zombies were once better read than dead.  A crucial example is an article in a 1905 issue of Windsor magazine, in which the first example of a "walking encyclopaedia" is technically deceased.  Over the years, ravenousness for knowledge, even from beyond the grave, became equated with a base hunger for brains.  Alas, it's all indicative of the "dumbing down" of popular culture.

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November 11, 2016 (permalink)

Imagine seeing headlines like these, today.  Vestiges of another age.  "City eyesore transformed into Greek theater" (Popular Mechanics, 1917).  "Sunken-garden beauty spot made from ugly gully" (Popular Mechanics, 1920).
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November 3, 2016 (permalink)

Isn't it disconcerting when your book reads you back?  From The Actress of Padua by Richard Penn Smith, 1836.
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November 1, 2016 (permalink)

Given our 2016, we don't need to read The True Meaning of the Eternity of Hell-Torments by William Dawes, 1707.
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October 29, 2016 (permalink)

As Harry Hill would have put it on TV Burp, "I like the moon considered as a planet; I like the moon considered as a world; then again, I like the moon considered as a satellite.  But which is better?  There's only one way to find out—fight!"  From The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite by James Nasmyth & James Carpenter, 1885.
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October 28, 2016 (permalink)

"A Saint Louis scientist has discovered that we shall all be crazy by the year 2016.  This, alas, is not the worst of it.  We shall also be dead."  From The Ottawa Evening Herald, January 27, 1902.
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October 24, 2016 (permalink)

Here's the age-old Chinese science of what makes a ghost, from the works of Wen-Chang Ti-Kyüin, 1876, as quoted in The Chinese Recorder and Missionary Journal.
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October 4, 2016 (permalink)

This is the symbol left in the crib after the Lindbergh baby was famously taken away.  "There has been no genuinely convincing analytic work done on [this symbol] with respect to the Lindberg story" (Jerry Kroth, The Lindbergh Kidnapping, 2011).  [Note that the three black rectangles are actually holes that were punched in the paper and are not technically part of the design.]  The shaded object in the center is, of course, the "black egg" of alchemy, symbolizing the nigredo (a stage of putrefaction; the final step toward the "philosopher's stone" of enlightenment) and expressing "the precarious balance of the hermaphrodite, exalted by a [threatened] equilibrium" (Johannes Fabricius, Alchemy: The Medieval Alchemists and Their Royal Art, 1994).

This 1932 photo of the symbol is courtesy of the Boston Public Library.
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September 26, 2016 (permalink)

Clive Bell suggested that "Art transports us from the world of man's activity to a world of aesthetic exaltation.  For a moment we are shut off from human interests; our anticipations and memories are arrested; we are lifted above the stream of life" (Art, 1914).  Our photo is courtesy of the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives.
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September 17, 2016 (permalink)

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"Some declare that the photographer is trying to imitate the painter, and the result is something between a photograph and a painting — a spurious art, neither photography nor painting. ... This means that everything that tends to make photography 'pictorial' is effected by painters' methods." —Dr. W. Warstat, "Photography and Painting," Photo-Era Magazine, 1916
Our illustration is a Portrait of King Olav V in the studio of painter Agnes Hiorth.
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September 14, 2016 (permalink)

"We must make the best of that which is, and must believe it best for the present, and accommodate ourselves to it" (Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testament, 1839).  (Photo courtesy of the San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives.)
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September 13, 2016 (permalink)

Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.
—Tom Robbins (via Jeff McBride)
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Original Content Copyright © 2016 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.