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 latest review of our Field Guide to Identifying Unicorns by Sound is a must-read, even if the critic (who didn't buy the book and who self-identifies as mentally ill) rated the book with a single star. We've identified that single star as the one Sappho called "the fairest of all the stars":
I have rented this book from my local library, and attempted to read it. I was expecting some semblance of argument for the reality of Unicorns as a species, or at the very least salient information on Unicorns. Instead, it should be said that this book is a work of esoterica, and could be classified alongside books of spells or psychic channeling. The entire book consists of instructions of various places and ways to sit down in the quiet of nature, and listen. According to the author, the reader is supposed to be listening for singing unicorns, anyone availed of folkloric or mythological knowledge, will find a distinct absence of singing unicorns from the works of Pliny, the Bible, and other books considered primary sources on unicorns (unless one counts the Shadavar, which undoubtedly sings, but whose nature as a true unicorn is tenuous). I'll give you an example of my own, one night in bed, I was convinced that my tinnitus was actually the result of me hearing radio waves, needless to say I was actually mentally ill at the time. I am not accusing the author of being crazy, but I will willingly accuse him of being very separated from skepticism and reality. If you obey this book, you would be sitting out in nature meditating, which is fine, but I doubt you will hear any singing unicorns unless you mistakenly convince yourself that you are hearing them. What is wrong with communing with nature via meditation, to simply experience nature and commune with it? You need no new age or esoteric beliefs to do THAT, in fact, even Atheists often admit a reverence for nature. In the words of Carl Sagan, the garden is just as wonderful, even if it does not have fairies at the bottom of it.
You may recall our 5-minute canoe journey on a frozen lake in search of unicorn sounds, but we just added subtitles to the video (four years late, but who's counting?). Be sure to click on YouTube's "Subtitles/CC" button, because the audio is often somewhat murky due to environmental sounds as well as mumbling:
I send you this email. I am no unicorn. You ask the number of my horns. A hundred? A thousand? Perhaps they are uncountable, considering body surface area and thickness. Needle-like, perhaps they mirror flesh in slivers, a silver aura of pixels or data points, a fiber optic network of breath or light. Perhaps they are beams sent from the cemeteries of distant stars, or broad as trees, root you to the ground while reaching toward a rhizomatic sun.
I reply: No, I have no horn. Unscrewed from my forehead, I keep it in my desk at work, my mother, father, sister, son. Springtime a shopping cart or unicorn, moving air and light in its chrome matrix. Soft familiar music from everywhere, winter, its white pelt & warm skin now also in a desk. I am no unicorn, but send this email. I am a spammer of friends and of feelings that bud like sticky leaves now unfolding.
To paraphrase José Ortega Y Gasset, when we hear a unicorn, it is the unicorn that is present and evident, not our hearing it. We do not hear our hearing when we are listening. In order to realize that there is such a thing as our hearing, we have to stop listening and remember that a moment ago we were hearing. We hear our hearing when we are outside it, when it is not immediate to us, when the reality with which it had to do -- hearing the unicorn -- is reality no longer, but rather we are in another reality which we call 'remembering a past event': recalling that we heard a unicorn. To those who think that unicorns are not real, we reply that what we think is never reality; a thought doesn't and can't think itself -- a thought, far from being fundamental reality, is no more than an invention -- something hypothetical or theoretical. To truly know unicorns, it is necessary to subtract all of that which has been thought, to realize that the reality of unicorns is always different from that which is thought. In a nutshell, the pre-intellectual executive act consists in the coexistence of oneself with unicorns.
Speaking of castles in the air, we spotted the immaterial tower below within the world of Google Maps. This castle "exists" in the town of Warwick, England. But get this: we spent so much quality time bi-locating to England that Google defaulted our browser to the U.K. version. No kidding: we're automatically redirected to Google.co.uk, even when we explicitly type "google.com." Can't make this stuff up.
Followers of our unicorn research might be intrigued by our latest collaboration with the living legend of magic and mentalism, Kenton Knepper. We developed a novel system for determining how one's personality type aligns with nine historical unicorns. We also include another world exclusive: a system for identifying one's totem mythological hybrid beastie. Secret symbolism, shamanism, mythology and psychology — it's all part of what we call Myth Logic Readings.
Though we have raised the price of our field guide to identifying unicorns by sound so as to discourage the general public from seeing its contents, exceptional people are reviewing it. This review is by someone who previously reviewed only two other items at Amazon: a window fan and a Wi-Fi connector of some sort:
I've always been inclined to assume that I have never seen a unicorn, but I hadn't even finished reading the introduction when my assumption was challenged by a simple question: "How many bird watchers have spied a warbler perched upon a tapered branch, never dreaming that the selfsame branch is, in actuality, a unicorn's horn?"
It's a problem. Vision is an unreliable tool under the best conditions, and as the author points out, "there are great odds that a unicorn will approach from one of your many blind spots." This, of course, to remind us that the most troublesome blind spot of all — in the center of our field of vision, where the optic nerve is connected — is filled in by the brain. Thus, the mind that rejects the existence of unicorns is unlikely to fill that empty optical space with a unicorn.
This leaves sound as the only reliable ally. More than a collection of unicorn-sound waveforms and beyond its value as a compendium of unicorn knowledge, the book calls on us to stare with our ears, as Ken Nordine intended.
We're astonished to receive, in spite of an omission of biblical proportions, a five-star review of our unicorn field guide:
The book is nothing if not thorough in reproducing what seems to be everything ever said anywhere in literature pertaining to the sounds made by unicorns. Listening for all of these will charge your humdrum, everyday reality with magic, or at least give it some zip. Conley's omission of the many references to the unicorn in the King James Bible, however, is a puzzler (see Nu 23:22; 24:8; Dt 33:17; Job 39: 9-12; Pss 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isa 34:7). Surely Conley knows that fundamentalist champions of the KJV in their millions would find themselves theologically bound to agree with him in presuming the existence of unicorns. Was this deliberate? And if so, was the omission a contemptuous snub or a gesture of respect? I'm almost tempted to deduct a star, but I'm going to take this as a refusal to divide his audience by religion, seeing as how fundamentalist bashers are at least as vocal and nasty as the worst of their targets, and it would be difficult to hear even the clumsiest unicorn over the cantankerous clatter that could result. —Dan Olson