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.
The true origin of Bibendum, the Michelin Man, is shrouded in mystery. Even Wikipedia (always the second to acknowledge when it's wrong) admits that it's unclear when the word "Bibendum" came to be the name of the character himself. But now we can finally reveal all. Contrary to popular rumors, the name obviously has nothing to do with Horace's phrase "Nunc est bibendum" ("now is the time for drinking"), as that would encourage drunk driving. In fact, Bibendum's genesis is a footnote in history, quite literally. In footnotes, an asterisk (*) is followed by a dagger (†), then a double dagger (‡), and then a section sign (§). It was a section sign followed by the textual reference abbreviation "ibid" that engendered the Michelin Man. Note how the section sign looks like a circle (tire) with two arms, as seen from above. André Michelin, confronted by that footnote, equated the symbol with the mysterious abbreviation "ibid." Upon looking up the meaning of "ibid," the horror of that sign and its occult label only increased, for André was told that it meant "ibidem." (Spoiler: "ibidem" means "in the same place," "in the previously referenced source"). He had fallen into recursiveness, a tunnel of appendaged tires that eternally rolled back into itself. This is the horror William Gibson described as a stomach-churningly creepy, "weird, jaded, cigar-smoking elder creature suggesting a mummy with elephantiasis ... the rolls of his pallid, rubbery flesh like the folds of a partially deflated blimp, greasy and vile" (Pattern Recognition). When André regained consciousness and realized, practically retching, that he knew what his company's mascot was ordained to be, he remembered "ibidem" as "Bibendum," the addition of that initial B serving as a pictogram of the Michelin Man as seen from the front (a round head over a larger round body). As anyone can see, combining the overhead-view section sign with the front-view capital B brings the figure into three dimensions. Indeed, it was André's seemingly accidental addition of that B that brought the Michelin Man to life as one of the world's most recognized corporate symbols.
What is the Venn overlap between radios and Southern Californians? Thomas Pynchon reveals all in The Crying of Lot 49: both "outward patterns [have] a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate."
I carry this book everywhere. On my iPad, sure, but I still carry it around and read from it every once in a while. To get that whack against the side of my head and wake up from the sometimes numbing and increasingly one-dimensional world of news, politics and chores. Great to see some of it animated with nice visuals and a great voice over! Thanks.
Our planet's spokeswizard, Cyril the Sorcerer, honored us with an invitation to formulate a magical coin. We jumped at the prospect of alchemical metallurgy, but this wizard added the twist that he wished to work with precious woods, not metals. He sought something less silver than sylvan. For his coin design, I was inspired by the wizard's remarkable eyeglasses. They have marvelous loops at the ends of the ear pieces. I overlapped those loops, like linking rings, to form a third eye of wizardly wisdom. The lens pieces are emblazoned with the two heavenly luminaries most associated with our planet. The coin's other side depicts an open hand reaching for a star, surrounded by Cyril's teaching that "the magic is in your hand." What a privilege to be a part of our planetary spokeswizard's enchantment!