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.
This May Surprise You

December 18, 2014 (permalink)

You've heard it said that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, but—as we see in this plan of the original Glass House, they can safely throw lumps of coal.  (Note the "Coal Hole" door facing the river.)  From Local Collections; or Records of Remarkable Events Connected with the Borough of Gateshead, 1837-1839.

December 17, 2014 (permalink)

Here's King Arthur's round table, from The Book of South Wales, the Wye, and the Coast by Samuel Carter Hall, 1861.

December 13, 2014 (permalink)

"Have you noticed that in some books flocks of swallows are flying between the verses?  Stanzas of swallows.  You should learn to read from the flight of these birds."  This we learn in The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973, Poland), a dreamy film about bending time, the nature of death, eternal recurrence, and the atrocities of World War II.

Compare this to Gary Barwin's piece, below.

December 9, 2014 (permalink)

In this still from The Heart, She Holler (season three), we learn that "the impossible is possible if the reality that you are in creates another reality where the reality created in that reality creates that very reality that in and of itself created that first reality.  If they create each other then anything can happen."

December 2, 2014 (permalink)

"This may surprise you, but something else I believe is essential in this battle is humor."

November 30, 2014 (permalink)

"This may surprise you, but I use a yellow crayon." —Phil Robinson, Tai Chi: the Way of Balance in an Unbalanced World

November 27, 2014 (permalink)

Campfires and hearth fires are connected through what physicists now call "quantum entanglement," as we see in The Hudson by Wallace Bruce and illustrated by Alfred Fredericks, 1894.

November 23, 2014 (permalink)

Forget trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  Here's how to fit a starlike peg in a round hole.

Prof. Oddfellow (right).

November 20, 2014 (permalink)

It's not that cats were bigger in 1882; it's the people who were tiny.

November 11, 2014 (permalink)

Heraldic animals do not have rights, but the inhumane treatment of heraldic animals is inconsistent with armorial morality.  [Or something.]  Our illustration of an apparent heraldic animal farm appears in Berlin Under the New Empire by Henry Vizetelly, 1879.

October 29, 2014 (permalink)

"George Washington could not tell a lie, but he was sometimes remarkably dexterous with the truth." —Dr. Boli

October 27, 2014 (permalink)

Many have speculated about the origin of the alphabet, but the truth is quite literally far-flung: like meteorites, the letters were excavated from the highest mountain peaks, as we see in The Marvellous Adventures of Sir John Maundevile, 1895.  The caption reads, "And they found the same letters."

October 26, 2014 (permalink)

"There are some things that can't fully happen.  They are too grand and magnificent to fit into an event." —The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973, Poland)

October 23, 2014 (permalink)

"The inside dog generally starts it," as we learn in While the Billy Boils by Henry Archibald Hertzberg Lawson, 1897.

October 21, 2014 (permalink)

Are such genealogical searches for foundations themselves evidence of the proverbial nonsense on stilts? —William Rasch

Genealogical research has some mysteries and paradoxes that nobody really likes to talk about. (We merely hint at them in our controversial Heirs to the Queen of Hearts: Tracing Magical Genealogy.) But we were delighted to encounter Scottish playwright N. F. Simpson's revelation that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes, in his precursor to Get Smart, The Cresta Run. The vital passage runs as follows:

Harker: Claims to have had two parents, I see.

Cask: That's right, sir.

Harker: One father, one mother. Seems as if they both had two, as well.

Cask: That's what he maintains, sir. Four grandparents.

Harker: And eight great-grandparents, by the look of it.

Cask: Yes sir.

Harker: The further you go back, the more people seem to have been involved. Eight, sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four, a hundred and twenty-eight. Goes on doubling up indefinitely, as far as I can see.

Cask: We did work it out, actually, sir. On the computer.

Harker: And what did you arrive at?

Cask: Well — the figure we were left with was somewhere in the region of eighteen million at the time of the Norman Conquest.

Harker: Eighteen million? But that's completely and utterly ridiculous, Cask. In 1066 the entire population of the British Isles couldn't have amounted to much more than a million and a half. At the very most.

Cask: That's rather how it struck us, sir, too.

Harker: Just doesn't add up, does it?

Cask: It's just possible that the other sixteen million or so were out of the country at the time, sir.

Harker: If they were, I'm not sure that it doesn't raise more issues than it settles, Cask.

Cask: I know what you mean, sir. . . . Eighteen million at the Norman Conquest — what must it have been at the time of Christ?

Harker: Astronomical, I should think, Cask.

Cask: Let alone the Garden of Eden.

Harker: How many people do you understand there to have been in the Garden of Eden, Cask?

Cask: Well — just the two, sir. So far as I've always understood.

Harker: Yes. That's what I thought. Discrepancy somewhere.

Indeed, the math simply doesn't work out, and one must confront a mind-blowing possibility. The thing is, when we trace our predecessors back, we invariably run into dead ends: thrice-great grandparents who seem not to have had two parents, to put it bluntly. There are so many folks in the tangled branches of the tree who defy further investigation. Were they not who they said they were? or where they extraterrestrials? or did they suddenly pop into existence like the virtual particles of quantum physics? These dead ends suddenly begin to make sense, mathematically. They can't all keep doubling, because world population surely diminishes in Prospero's "dark backward and abysm of time." For the math to work out, a whole, whole lot of our predecessors must have no origin. One can't help but to think of particle-antiparticle pairs. (Note that even allowing for postmodern interpersonal relationships and non-nuclear ["No nukes!"] family models, the data still tends toward exponential growth of predecessors by generation.) (As my co-researcher concludes, the walls are there for a reason, to protect us from what's on the other side.)

October 20, 2014 (permalink)

"This may surprise you, but exercise undoubtedly has its drawbacks and precautions." —Naheed Ali, Diabetes and You

October 18, 2014 (permalink)

The original modular shelving was designed for storage of ancestors.  From A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain.

October 17, 2014 (permalink)

"On the far side of words there is a poem writing us." —Stein Mehren, Fire & Ice: Nine Poets from Scandinavia and the North

October 12, 2014 (permalink)

You've heard of waifs and strays, but here's what they look like.  From Waif and Stray: The Adventures of Two Tricycles by Chilosà, 1896.

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Original Content Copyright © 2014 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.