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

February 21, 2015 (permalink)

"The piano is a wonder box," from St. Nicholas magazine.

February 17, 2015 (permalink)

You know the finger game "Here's the church, here's the steeple," in which hands are clasped to represent a church, then pointer fingers are raised to form a spire, then the remaining fingers are revealed as a congregation?  Well, it's not just a game.  From Blasts from The Ram's Horn, 1902.

February 16, 2015 (permalink)

If you've never heard of Epitical Bychology [sic] or Trigonomety [sic], it may be because they both died in May, 1897.  From the Agnes Scott Institute's Aurora yearbook.

February 15, 2015 (permalink)

This vintage Colgate ad (from 1873) reminds us that we know our own teeth only through the looking glass!

February 12, 2015 (permalink)

Here's how to properly propose a toast to many happy returns, from Canadian Grocer, July-December 1896.

February 9, 2015 (permalink)

The world is always ending.  Here's what the apocalypse looked like when it occurred in 1833.  From Upper Canada Sketches by Thomas Conant, 1898.

February 7, 2015 (permalink)

Animals have horns "to introduce to an element of strangeness into their lives, a whimsical or irrational joke.  An idée fixe, transgressing the limits of their being, reaching high above their heads and emerging suddenly into light, frozen into matter palpable and hard." —Bruno Schulz, Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass

February 3, 2015 (permalink)

"Do you know, sir, that most of the people you see in the street are dead?"  From La Belle Captive, 1983, directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet.

February 2, 2015 (permalink)

Separated at birth: Concrete pottery and concrete poetry.

Concrete PotteryConcrete Poetry
formed by handxx
the visual element is importantxx
exhibited in 1956xx
some were designed as decoration for religious artworksxx
some are in the shapes of their subjectsxx
can be decorated before or after firingxx
developed once humans achieved a sedentary lifexx
can provide an insight into past culturesxx
essential for dating non-literate culturesx

January 30, 2015 (permalink)

Asclepius [Aesculapius] originated as a sideshow attraction.  This we find documented in The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott A'Beckett, 1897.

January 27, 2015 (permalink)

Clouds are named after bird formations, as we learn in Aide-mémoire du Voyageur by D. Kaltbrunner, 1881.  [For Gary Barwin.]

January 26, 2015 (permalink)

You've heard of sticking inhuman pins into a voodoo doll, but the old-school sticks human pins into a pseudo doll.  From The Baby's Museum by Uncle Charlie, 1882.

January 13, 2015 (permalink)

"Colon and Semi-colon," from Buffalo Land by W. E. Webb, 1873.

January 2, 2015 (permalink)

"Old comics would be even more cluttered with tin cans if comic-strip goats didn’t keep their numbers down." —Christoher Miller, American Cornball

December 25, 2014 (permalink)

"Yuletide" is an anagram of "Yeti duel."

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."

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