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.
[Note that our answer might be considered offensive, so please reveal it at your own risk.]
Q: Why have fighter pilots historically paint naked women on the sides of their craft? (A seafaring vessel is more appropriate for a womanly mascot, as water/the ocean and the containment of a ship are age-old symbols of femininity. The phallic missiles of a war jet are wholly masculine in nature.)
A: [Highlight to view.] In the male-dominated military, the pilots wish to be able to say that they were "inside a woman."
What we love about the "Mandela Effect" phenomenon (have you been following it?) is that it's sweeping the masses into wonderment in ways that might approximate the rise of Spiritualism. The average person is instantly swept into an alternate universe when he or she ponders things such as: "I remember the phrase being 'Mirror, mirror on the wall' and not 'Magic mirror on the wall'" or "Didn't the Statue of Liberty used to be on Ellis Island?" How very brilliant to frame collective "false" memories as artifacts of parallel universes bleeding into one another. We took great pleasure in working up a little video about the phenomenon, relating it to Heidegger's perspective on the Uncanny and encouraging folks to use the Mandela Effect for personal empowerment. We suggest forgetting the old motto, "Be the change you wish to see" -- instead, "Free the strange you wish to flee." (That's a Googlewhack in this universe.)
Do you detect a coded meaning to this ad from the turn of the century? Though early for the use of "Mary Jane" as slang for marijuana, the "Maria Jane" reference here is paired with the unusual name "Blifkins" ("bliff" rhyming with "spliff," suggesting a cigarette of cannabis and tobacco), in the psychedelic context of "a change [coming] o'er his dreams." When we include the hallucinatory portrait in which two figures emerge from the man's face, the ad seems to be suggesting that this particular tobacco combines happily with cannabis.
Lines and Lions: A Bridge that Roars in Four Directions
Vancouver's iconic Lions Gate Bridge sports two colossal lion statues at its entrance. Or so most folks think. There are actually six lions, if you know where to look. That's because, like some sort of Möbius surface, the bridge improbably crosses itself from above. The other four lions don't sit so tall, though they command a higher vantage as they guard the lesser-known, non-identical twin of the Lions Gate Bridge. This lesser bridge offers the perfect view of the greater one. Standing upon either structure and gazing upon the other, one can say with certainty that Vancouver's most famous bridge spans four directions: N.N.E. to S.S.W and E.S.E to W.N.W.
Studying a map of the Lions Gate Bridge[s], things begin to get mysterious. A leonine determination seems to be at play, and it's not a mere trick of the eye or a figment of one's imagination. We see lines on the map seemingly declaring their own will, and this is in fact a curious phenomenon studied by scholars of art. When a line crosses itself, it "becomes more than a means toward an end," as acclaimed art historian David Rosand explains. "[I]t insists upon its own role as protagonist ... even asserting its own creative independence. ... As Matisse recognized, 'One must always search for the desire of the line, where it wishes to enter or where to die away'" ("Time Lines," Moving Imagination, 2013, p. 210). And so we're left with the sense that even if the bridge architects had intended upon just two guardian statues, the lions yet dictated their own story -- a story with twists and turns and with six of their species.
A book that is conscious of its own existence? Not only is that possible, but there's more than one of them.
Tic Tac Tome: The Autonomous Tic Tac Toe Playing Book not only knows your next move as you play a game with it, but when asked in the introduction if it's aware of its own existence, the book asserts its consciousness and then eerily tells the reader that the real question is whether the reader truly exists or is merely a manifestation of its paper-based imagination. With every round of the game, the reader feels increasingly certain of the book's sentience.
The Young Wizard's Hexopedia reads the mind of its reader throughout, again and again predicting the reader's very next thought or opinion about the information. In the first chapter the book divines whether or not the reader has begun reading in lieu of a pressing responsibility.
Clive Barker's demon-narrated novel Mister B. Gone, which increasingly damns the reader's soul with every word read, begs its reader to close its pages and knows if the reader is still there. The demon explains that this book will do the reader harm beyond description unless the reader does as asked and simply stops reading. The book can tell whether the reader has trusted the demon and stopped reading.
More subtly, but of special interest to literary critics, in Tom Robbins' Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the omniscient narrator weaves the reader's consciousness into the novel's by craftily using first-person plural pronouns to transform monologues into dialogues, thus uniting author and reader. As one analyst has noted, "Suddenly the omniscient narrator reads the mind of the reader, moving beyond the limits of the facade of so-called reality and reminding readers that they too are part of the illusion of truth that a story pretends. The alienation from the text as truth keeps them aware of the illusion. The reader colludes with the writer/narrator in the success of the fiction" (Tom Robbins: A Critical Companion).
text and illustrations by Prof. Oddfellow (for Red Column magazine)
William Gibson's cyberpunk vision was prophetic: the fuzzy gray sky above us is "the color of television, tuned to a dead channel" (Neuromancer, 1984, p. 1). Technology woven into the fabric of the heavens? As in the Hermetic maxim, "That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above," and vice versa (The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus). Just as there are weather patterns in the atmosphere, there are weather patterns in what Teilhard de Chardin dubbed the noosphere. Life, like the sky and "like the sea, has its storms and calms, its uproar and great vistas" (pseudo-Fourier, quoted in Maurice Halbwachs' The Psychology of Social Class, 1958, p. 9). Indeed, there are many types of storms on many dimensions: "psychological, emotional, winds of afflictions, and winds of adversity" (Herbert C. Gabhart, The Name Above Every Name, 1986, p. 72). We speak of "cloud computing," but a cloud can have any number of shapes, determined by the principal quantum number (Edward Edelson, Parents' Guide to Science, 1966, p. 63). Looking up to the Neuromantic sky, we realize that we lack a language for prognosticating the climate of our cloudy computing. The earliest records of weather among every culture are to be found in myths and folklore, which describe clouds and other natural phenomena in highly figurative language, referring them to supernatural agencies or astrological influences by way of explanation (Ralph Abercromby, Weather: A Popular Exposition of the Nature of Weather Changes from Day to Day, 1887, p. 3). Over the centuries, the premonitory signs of good or bad weather became formulated into short sayings. In the spirit of this tradition, we offer ten immemorial proverbs translated for Second Memory:
If the crow speak by night and the jackal by day, a torrent there'll be in an unusual way.
Flash memory never strikes the same address twice.
A rainbow at night is the admin's delight.
If latency 'fore seven, 'twill cease by eleven.
On St. Michaelmas Day, the devil puts his foot on the Blackberry.
If an Apple has a worm, the day lengthens.
The flapping of an Amazon butterfly's wings may set in motion a chain of events that culminates in a midwest outage.
If the sky beyond the iCloud is blue, be glad; there's a picnic for you.
What goes up in a FLOP comes down in a drop.
The full moon has the power to drive away the cloud.
We've been reading a history of how alchemical secrets were passed down via various coded messages woven into different philosophies and religions through the ages. In The Mysteries of the Great Cross of Hendaye: Alchemy and the End of Time (a companion to Fulcanelli's Les Mystère des Cathèdrales, about how the cathedrals of Europe aren't churches but rather stone books hiding the wisdom of alchemy in plain view), we learn on page 214 that the esoteric motive behind cathedral building was to make living grails that house the spirit of the (Mary precursor) black madonna/goddess Isis as a tangible "mystereion" designed to last through the centuries. We took a photo at Exeter Cathedral two years ago, and back then we didn't have eyes to see the holy grail. We've lately been ruminating on how a third party might be able to experience the grail-ness of a cathedral without having to read in advance a 200-page explanation, and it occurred to us that lens flares can distill the gnostic light that cathedral windows channel. Then we remembered the Exeter Cathedral photo, and sure enough — there was the grail! (We did an overlay of a chalice to clarify what we're seeing in our photo.)
Hotels are places people come to sleep, and thereby hotels are imbued with the dreamtime. A recent study sought to explain why it's difficult to sleep that first night in a hotel -- it's apparently quite a widespread phenomenon, "sleeping with one eye open" -- but the study didn't mention what seems most obvious, that a hotel is saturated with dreams, and as we all know it's difficult to re-enter a dream that has been interrupted. Plus, hotels are places with many, many rooms, which is significant. We're reminded of a snippet (a passage we didn't already know but which we went searching for just the same, as one does), from Wild Nights by David Deida.
From Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping: "There is so little to remember of anyone—an anecdote, a conversation at table. But every memory is tured over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long."
(According to the internet, Buddha really did say this!) "What's all this? There's a path, so just go and find it! What's with you guys? You want me to solve all your problems?" From The Hero Yoshihiko and the Key of the Evil Spirits (Yuusha Yoshihiko to Akuryou no Kagi, 勇者ヨシヒコと悪霊の鍵). The scolding Buddha is played by comedian Sato Jiro.
You've seen people at a table, all looking at their phones. This isn’t a new phenomenon. As Pamela Taylor has said, "We keep looking at all of the ways that technology pulls us apart from one another—we should start thinking about ways it can bring us together." (Photo via KULTÚRA.)