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.

April 11, 2014 (permalink)

Before the cursed videotape that caused viewers to die seven days after watching it (in Hideo Nakata's Ring), it was a mere photograph that proved deadly (In the Forbidden Land by Arnold Henry Savage Landor, 1898).  Please view the image at your discretion.

April 9, 2014 (permalink)

[For Allan.]  Here's a precursor to Jerry Lee Lewis, from Paris Herself Again in 1878-9 by George Augustus Henry Fairfield, 1882.

April 7, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to Disneyland's submarine lagoon.  The Disney version appears to have been inspired by the Grande Cascade Waterfall at Bois de Bologne, Paris, created by Baron Haussmann in 1852.  Our illustration appears in Fra Det Moderne Frankrig by Richard Kaufmann, 1882.

Disneyland submarine photo via Jim Hill Media.

April 4, 2014 (permalink)

"I would that this dear path might type my way" (1870): a precursor to Charles Dizenzo:

"Imagine if I had an electric at my command: I could type my way around the world at jet speed!" (A Great Career: A One-Act Play, 1966).

An illustration from The Quiver, 1870.

March 31, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a prehistoric precursor to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, from Researches Into the Last Histories of America by W. S. Blacket, 1883.

March 24, 2014 (permalink)

A friend made a graph comparing how much folks talk nonstop about bacon to the number of damns the rest of us give about how much any of them like bacon.  He noted, "What really makes the bacon thing (and other such things) annoying to me is that by the time they attain 'thing' status, they no longer seem to be about loving whatever it is—it seems to be more of a fetishization and status marker (i.e., the status of someone duly participating in whatever the zeitgeist has determined his/her demographic should participate in). You and I love cheese because, well, we really love cheese—not because the concept of 'cheese' has become a totem or a meme!"

Flirting with bacon as a status marker goes back at least to the mid-1800s, as we see in this illustration from The Oxford Thackeray.

March 21, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to The Village People, from (what else?) Bachelor Ballads by Harry A. Spurr, 1899.

March 20, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the quotation craze — an author of "bits of books" from The Man in the Moon, 1847.

March 17, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to Prof. Henry Higgins and flower girl Eliza Doolittle of Pygmalion (1912), from an advertisement in A Lawful Crime by Edward Kent, 1899.  The illustration is by Phil May.

March 16, 2014 (permalink)

A precursor to 1958's hula hoop, from a 1900 issue of The Lady's Realm.

March 14, 2014 (permalink)

Here's what we might call a precursoral opposite.  In The Shining (1980), countless variations of the phrase "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" cover hundreds of typewritten pages, revealing that Jack Torrance is disturbed.  In a 1908 issue of The Windsor Magazine, the blankness of a page reveals that someone is disturbed.

The caption reads, "'You have been disturbed!' she cried sorrowfully, as she took in the blankness of the page."

March 12, 2014 (permalink)

Hundreds of years before the phenomenon of walking while texting, folks were glued to windows, insensible to the wonders around them.  We find proof in Arthur's Home Magazine, 1876.  The caption reads: "She stood leaning against a window, but not seeing the beauty that lay stretched before her."

March 11, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to comedian Steve Martin's arrow-through-the-head gag, from Bachelor Ballads and Other Lazy Lyrics by Harry A. Spurr and illustrated by J. Hassall (1899).  However, we understand that the gag technically traces back to the play The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607), with this stage direction: "Enter Rafe, with a forked arrow through his head."

March 10, 2014 (permalink)

The phenomenon of sunlight shining haloes through clouds of ice crystals helped to inspire John Dee's famous hieroglyphic monad.

March 8, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the Teletubbies sun, from Lilliput Lyrics by William Brighty Rands, 1899.

March 7, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the "unfollow" and "unfriend" phenomenon of social media, from Springhaven: A Tale of the Great War by Rochard Doddridge Blackmore, 1888.  The caption reads, "I am not at all happy at losing dear friends."

March 6, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to Edward Albee's title Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), from Frank Sullivan in a 1933 issue of The New Yorker.  Sullivan refers to reading a page "to the tune of 'Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?'"

March 5, 2014 (permalink)

A decade before Stanislavski's "system" and three decades before Strasberg's "method," we find "a modern method" for acting in The Lady's Realm (1901) by the mysterious M. M. M.  But mostly we just like the wonky font.

March 4, 2014 (permalink)

Here's a precursor to the animal print craze of the 1960s Bohemian movement, from Punch, 1867.

February 25, 2014 (permalink)

This bit by Frank Sullivan ...

If [Grandpa] was in a good humor when he awoke, he would take us youngsters up to Dick Canfield's to play games, but as he was never in a good humor when he awoke, we never went to Dick Canfield's to play games.

is a precursor to this bit by Jonathan Caws-Elwitt:

No family New Year’s get-together was complete without an appearance by Uncle Carlyle. Unfortunately, as there was no one named Carlyle anywhere in the extended family, we had to be content with a slightly incomplete New Year’s. Nevertheless, we had quite a good time.

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