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

October 1, 2015 (permalink)

A detailed explanation of our play-creating "Mimetic Oracle" is over at Thematic Tarot.  


"In the book business, you can't even trust the index."

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

September 28, 2015 (permalink)

We once tried to buy a photograph of Woody Allen.  We called the photographer to ask about availability, and he laughed at us.  "That's not Woody Allen," he explained condescendingly.  "That's a wax figure of Woody Allen."  Then he began hemming and hawing, talking about how much trouble it would be to find the negative and make a print.  (Artists, bless 'em, can be real pieces of work themselves.)  Flustered by the entire conversation, we politely told him not to put himself out and decided not to pursue the acquisition.  But here's the lingering question: had the photo been of Woody Allen himself and not an uncannily lifelike wax figure, might we have worked past the photographer's primadonna attitude and secured a print?  I mean, we loved the photo, but did it feel somehow less authentic in its waxy afterglow?  Here's what we do know about wax figures:
  • "Every day a wax figure is taken for a live man, and live people are mistaken for wax." —Richard Panchyk, New York City History for Kids, 2012
  • "The complexion of a wax figure is indeed a work of art."American Cloak and Suit Review, 1918
  • "A wax figure is not cheap, especially a good one." —Dry Goods Reporter, 1906
  • "A wax figure is a material thing." —L. W. Forguson, "Has Ayer Vindicated the Sense-Datum Theory?"
  • "A wax figure is understood by us as something constructed by an intelligent mind." —Jehangir Nasserwanji Chubb, Faith Possesses Understanding, 1983
And yet:
Meanwhile, here's someone else's photo of a Woody Allen wax figure:

September 24, 2015 (permalink)

"Cheerup [sic] the worst is yet to come": a message from a defaced copy of The Siberian Exiles by Thomas Wallace Knox, 1893.

September 23, 2015 (permalink)

Thanks to acclaimed author Clint Marsh (of Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop fame) for calling our collected works "rare and wondrous treasures."  

Our diagram of Clint Marsh is based upon a photo by The Slow Poisoner (used with permission).

September 20, 2015 (permalink)

We're delighted to have contributed a bit of our research to Long Forgotten's post about an overlap of the Rich Fool traditions, the Faust legend, and Spontaneous Human Combustion.
We're also delighted to have consulted with Gary Barwin on his participation as a "Non-Psychic" in an art installation/performance in Hamilton, Ontario.

September 15, 2015 (permalink)

We're honored to have our new piece on "The Five Norths of the Left-Hand Path" featured in Wonderella's Fiddler's Green: Art and Magic for Tea-Drinking Anarchists, Convival Conjurors & Closeted Optimists.  Our piece is for those who feel pulled by a force (a love interest, a job opportunity, a future prospect), and we explain how to use the fingers of one hand to determine exactly which of the five norths* aligns one's compass so as to best navigate toward a goal.
* True north, magnetic north, celestial or astronomical north, grid north, and terrestrial north.  The truer our alignment, the more efficient our arrival.

Well, they can't all be mesmerizing.  Hypnotic Tales and Other Tales by James Lauren Ford, 1891.

September 12, 2015 (permalink)


"There's no such thing as dead languages, only dormant minds."

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

September 11, 2015 (permalink)

"We almost always want to listen to a song we love to the very end.  And yet there are many people in this world who naively believe that hypnotism is not real." —William Keckler

September 7, 2015 (permalink)

In this graph from Advanced Calculus by Edwin Bidwell Wilson (1911), we learn a lot about how stationery is related.  A1, A2, and A3 are, of course, paper sizes.  The X and O at the bottom of the graph stand for kisses and hugs.

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

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