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.
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This May Surprise You

Today — March 28, 2017 (permalink)

"Noiseless city is predicted within ten years."  From 1931.  The naiveté would be quaint were Popular Mechanics not so excruciatingly, sickeningly smug about the religion it makes of Big Science.
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Yesterday — March 27, 2017 (permalink)

Just imagine all of your ambitions coming true via the Hawaiian guitar!  From Popular Mechanics, 1930.
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"Twin thermometers reveal why one is uncomfortable."  From Popular Mechanics, 1921.
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Here's proof that General Dynamics Astronautics discovered the secrets of time travel.  Courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
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Did you know that every Monday is Job's birthday [observed]?  The text reads, "Job's birthday—the date be cursed!  You'd better celebrate the death of the day."  From an 1896 ad for laundry soap in The Ladies' Home Journal.
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March 26, 2017 (permalink)

They didn't mention how these dishes will shrink in the wash (but, as a side effect, they're good for portion control).  "Dishes that will not break made of cotton."  From Popular Mechanics, 1930.
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March 25, 2017 (permalink)

We were delighted to receive a photo from someone who got two copies of our guide to writing Cursive Numbers.  Why write numbers in cursive?  Because "it's important to do what others are not doing" (Kristin M. White, It's the Student, Not the College).  Plus, cursive adds more than a little flair to a numerical sequence.  It's been wisely said that "flair is crucial" (Joseph Needham, The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China), and even though Taoists believe flair cannot be taught or transferred but rather attained only by minute concentration, this guide to cursive numbers will, without a doubt, instill flair into your every integer.  Let us never forget that "Embellishment with flair is crucial to provide something that people will remember" (H. J. M. Claessen, Time Past, Time Present, Time Future).  
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"Concert in a lion's den."  From Popular Mechanics, 1911.
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March 23, 2017 (permalink)

Just shoot me -- "'Mercy' bullet brings sleep instead of death."  From Popular Mechanics, 1930.
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If you ever wondered about the workings of Dali's melting timepieces, here's a droopy gear from Popular Mechanics, 1908.

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March 22, 2017 (permalink)

The magazine that scoffed at the time-honored conception of Earth-Air-Fire-Water-Spirit being the Five Elements actually suggested that the "mysterious realms" of Rock, Water, and Gas harbor strange creatures.  From Popular Mechanics, 1929.
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March 21, 2017 (permalink)

This sort of embarrassing hubris spans the centuries.  There are no "new" types of prehistoric Indians in Texas, only types new to the so-called discoverer who is merely extraordinarly behind the times.  From Popular Mechanics, 1931.
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March 20, 2017 (permalink)

Here's one of the few headlines in Popular Mechanics that we've actually believed.  "Artists in butterfly wings do their work backward."  From 1929.
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March 19, 2017 (permalink)

Yes, the first article here actually says that wild birds are "anxious" to join their captive brethren in zoos.  The second article is about deer and elk who escape but then voluntarily return to a fenced area.  These are great examples of why we rag on vintage Popular Mechanics.  The undisgused fascism is terrifying.  The first article is from 1929, and the second is from 1931.  As an offensive bonus, note the article about how a hunted wolf commits suicide by shooting itself, from 1932.
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March 18, 2017 (permalink)

"Electric knife is used to restore lost sanity."  From Popular Mechanics, 1927.
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March 17, 2017 (permalink)

Here's an ad that actually promotes Stendhal Syndrome, a psychosomatic disorder in which you hallucinate that you are within a work of art.  The text reads, "Are you inside or outside this picture?  Something to think about!"  From Popular Mechanics, 1930.
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March 16, 2017 (permalink)

Here's a surprising bit of occultism in the world of Big Science.  We daren't ask why, but scientists pointed a tadpole's head at a plant to see if it would encourage growth.  And it did.  The so-called scientific explanation was that invisible radiations from the tadpole's head made it happen.  (We aren't making this up.)  What's hilarious is that Big Science's explanation is along the lines of what Big Magic thinks is going on.  And so this item goes in our very, very slim file of articles in Popular Mechanics that we actually believe.  From 1931.
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Doing the impossible requires a short-distance rangefinder.  From Popular Mechanics, 1925.
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March 15, 2017 (permalink)

We're not alone in owing success to the prophecies of ancient cat cults.  From the Boston Post, December 4, 1920.
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March 14, 2017 (permalink)

"It may surprise you to hear that humans, by comparison with other species, are conspicuously cooperative and helpful to each other." —Origins of Language: A Slim Guide

 

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Original Content Copyright © 2017 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.