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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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
October 31, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
"Thomas forgot the alphabet when he made the ouija board.  Somehow, he forgot that V came after U, and instead put B.  We laughed quite hard when he announced that he spelled a letter wrong.  How do you spell a letter wrong when you’re just writing the alphabet?"
Happy Villain
> read more from The Right Word . . .


I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)

Photo from Power Tool Pumpkins.
"Halloween is indeed a Pagan festival, as severe Christians declare.... It's Pagan not because of witches but because of pumpkins, whose faces flicker with an inner light.  Animism: character in the nonhuman, soul in vegetables." --James Hillman, The Force of Character

When I recite this quotation, I add a very pregnant pause before the word pumpkins, to build the suspense, and I pronounce pumpkins so as to maximize its spookiness, blowing it up in size with that initial syllabic "pump" of air.  It's great fun to utter pumpkin as if it's the vegetable equivalent of the boogey man!  With the right intonations (i.e., dead seriousness with an undertone of insanity, like you're "out of your gourd"), the word pumpkin can sound like a curse.  Spooky graveyards are so passé -- imagine the terror of having to cross through a frightening pumpkin patch on the way home at midnight!  The sound to dread, of course, is the *snap* of the vine (or "tendril," to those initiated), for then the ominous orange fruit with demonic flesh has broken free of its umbilic tie to Hell.  (Movie announcer voice:) This Halloween, prepare to get squashed!  Or, This Halloween, we're all plucked!
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

October 30, 2006

Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)

Quarter stack photo by Checkered and aMUSEd.
SONG: Buicks to the Moon
LYRICS: Alan Jackson and Jim McBride

ORIGINAL LYRIC:

When a nickel's worth a dollar
And gold ain't worth a dime
When they build a ship on waters
That will take you back in time

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION:

When a nickel's worth a fiver
And gold ain't worth a quarter
When they build a ship on waters
That will make the trip seem shorter
* Payphones used to take dimes, but now they take quarters.  Isn't it time to update song lyrics to reflect the realities of inflation?  Alas, it's vastly easier to rhyme the word "dime" than the word "quarter," but here at Inflationary Lyrics Headquarters we have risen to the challenge.  Please join the fun and share your own inflationary lyrics, with both the "before" and "after" versions!
> read more from Inflationary Lyrics . . .

October 29, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Feigning Pain

[T]he oldest trick in the book is the one where, in a fist fight, you pretend you’re doubled over in pain but really you’re preparing to whip around and blind your enemy with a fistful of dirt.
—Micah, “Oldest Trick in the Book,” AmishRobot.com (2004)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

October 28, 2006

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"What's the big idea?"  Einstein's theory of relativity (1905) states that energy and mass are equivalent.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

October 27, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
Oohs and Ahhs and . . . .

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt asks:

Ever thought about how "ooh" and "aah" are ubiquitous backing vocal phonemes, but "ayy" and "eee" and short "a" (as in "hat") are rarely if ever heard? If you want to entertain yourself during a commute, try imagining '50s or '60s pop songs with some of these "alternate vowel sound" backing vocals. One particularly appealing image for me is a chorus of Fonzies singing "ayyy"s behind "Don't Worry Baby".

Literary humorist Jonathan Caws-Elwitt's plays, stories, essays, letters, parodies, wordplay, witticisms and miscellaneous tomfoolery can be found at Monkeys 1, Typewriters 0. Here you'll encounter frivolous, urbane writings about symbolic yams, pigs in bikinis, donut costumes, vacationing pikas, nonexistent movies, cross-continental peppermills, and other compelling subjects.
> read more from The Right Word . . .

October 26, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
False Testimony / False Witness

[I]t’s the oldest trick in the book to produce false testimony and false witnesses.
—James Clavell, Noble House (1986)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

October 25, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
I'm mad at my friend the veterinarian.  He only calls me when he's in the doghouse.  But I expect to hear from him again in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

What about the librarian?  Oh, he's in my good books.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 24, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Did you hear about the filmmaker who went in for Jungian analysis?  Yeah, he had some major *projection* issues.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 23, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Did you hear about the gourmet mystery writer who was surprised to find a spent citrus wedge garnishing his key lime pie?  He said: "This is an unexpected twist!"
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 22, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
False Signaling to a Non-Existent Relief Force

False signaling to a non-existent relief force was the oldest trick in the book.
—Max Adams, Trafalgar’s Lost Hero (2005)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

October 21, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
"I will praise [my friend Max Van Dusen] for the twenty-four letters of his alphabet.  Of all the writers I ever heard about, he uses the best alphabet." —Thomas Merton, Road To Joy: The Letters Of Thomas Merton To New And Old Friends
> read more from The Right Word . . .

October 20, 2006

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"When will you ever learn?"  Babies are born with mute wisdom.  Their infant spirits are equipped with awareness and feelings, and they must simply develop in strength and skill.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

October 19, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
I'm mad at my friend the yoga student.  He only calls when he's in over his head.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 18, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Faking a Limp

Oldest trick in the book, a limp.
—Ellen Perry Berkeley, Keith’s People (2003)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

October 17, 2006

Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)
SONG: Status Seeker
ARTIST: Dream Theater

ORIGINAL LYRIC:

Nothing's sacred...
You draw the bottom line
with a dollar sign
Change of opinion...
At the drop of a dime

ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION:

Nothing's sacred...
You draw and quarter
a would-be thwarter
Change of opinion...
At the flip of a quarter
* Payphones used to take dimes, but now they take quarters.  Isn't it time to update song lyrics to reflect the realities of inflation?  Alas, it's vastly easier to rhyme the word "dime" than the word "quarter," but here at Inflationary Lyrics Headquarters we have risen to the challenge.  Please join the fun and share your own inflationary lyrics, with both the "before" and "after" versions!
> read more from Inflationary Lyrics . . .

October 16, 2006

Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led (permalink)

Saint Pompa
Patron of Haughty Mystique.

Saint Pompa taught her followers to "Raise your eyebrows to Heaven and curl your lips in prayer to the High and Mighty."  Famous for wearing very tight-fitting pantaloons and children's footwear (for purposes of mortification), Saint Pompa inspired the phrases "too big for one's britches" and "too big for one's boots."  She is perhaps best-remembered for her ecstatic hymn, "La-Di-Da."
Who is your favorite imaginary saint?  Do share!
> read more from Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led . . .

October 15, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Did you hear about the wise little bunny they found in the Jewish temple?  They named him "Rabbite."
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 14, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Fake Phone Call

Security’s not coming, Susan.  We’ve got all the time in the world. . . . Oldest trick in the book.  I faked the call.
—Dan Brown, Digital Fortress (1998)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .


Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)
I went to bed feeling haunted by Kurt Vonnegut, whose hateful words echoed in my head: "I have never used semicolons.  They don't do anything, don't suggest anything."

When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed I was in college.  The class was Freshman Composition.  No one there knew how to use me.  But they liked me.  I was mysterious... I looked important and well-educated.  They used me over and over again.  Yes, I was in all the wrong places.  And yes, I would ultimately be circled or crossed out with red ink.  But there were so many of me!  I was EVERYWHERE!  I woke up refreshed.  I had glimpsed my own immortality.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

October 13, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
I'm mad at my friend the astrologer.  She only calls me once in a blue moon.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 12, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
I saw an amazing gallery of magic-themed linotypes (thanks, Gordon!).  My very favorites are:

the Vanishing Audience, who perhaps escaped through the door marked "Exit"

the Disappearing Rabbit, which takes the form of a playing card and animates if you can spin in the card in your mind

the Floating Finger, which promises the secret (of the optical illusion!) for $9.95.  (I find this hilarious!)

the Cups & Balls, in which the magician is depicted as a two-faced jester, with the bells on his cap resembling balls that he's juggling

the Linking Rings, where the magician's eyeglasses resemble a monocle, which (along with the curl of the mustache) mirror the rings

the Floating Sphere, which resembles an eyeball as the ring goes past it

And I especially love the ones that seemingly reveal a secret of magic:

the entire Card Table hidden in the magician's pocket

the comical Finger Trick, reminiscent of a Mad Magazine gag

the Coin Trick, revealing the secret slot in the magician's head

the Die Box, where the die is shown to dive into the hat

the magician's brain palmed in his hand during the Pencil Penetration

the trapdoor under the hat where the rabbit hides

the Vanishing Elephant who floats up into the stage curtains

and the secret of the Mind Reader, which hypnotizes the viewer to buy a print
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .


Pfft! (permalink)
My father slapped at the air and made a pfft sound.  —Claire Messud, The Last Life: A Novel.
* The British expression "noise stroke gesture" (in American parlance, "noise slash gesture" or "noise/gesture") refers to the intriguing fact that some vocal expressions seem to call for an accompanying hand gesture.  Take, for example, Pfft!  No matter what its intended meaning, it virtually demands to be echoed in sign language.  Have you noticed a pfft hand gesture in print?  Please share!

For a variety of surprising definitions of pfft, check out my Dictionary of All-Consonant Words at OneLetterWords.com.
> read more from Pfft! . . .

October 11, 2006

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)
The "stretch portraits" in the Haunted Mansions of various Disney theme parks tell intriguing stories that most viewers don't have time to decode.  As any visitor to the Haunted Mansion will tell you, the portraits grow in length as the ceiling of the gallery appears to stretch upward.  The portraits initially tell a three-part story, labeled in our illustration as A, B, and C (top, middle, bottom).  However, the story doesn't end there.  The viewer's eye must then go back up to A for a macabre and darkly humorous "epilogue."  Let's examine each portrait to decode their secrets.

On the far right of our illustration is a portrait of a distinguished gentleman with a beard.  In section A, we see the man striking a formal pose, one hand on a lapel of his jacket and the other holding a parchment.  Section B presents a gag: the man isn't wearing pants!  Section C holds a big surprise: not only is the man in his boxer shorts, but he's standing on a keg of dynamite, and a candle has just lit the fuse!  But the story doesn't end there.  Bringing our eyes back to the top, we see the man in a different light.  The man is obviously not surprised that he's standing upon explosives.  Indeed, he deliberately posed this way, for the portrait painter!  And that paper in his hand?  We now realize that he's holding his own suicide note.  His face is calm -- he is at peace with his own mortality and is ready to face the great unknown.

Now let's look at the portrait to the left of the bearded man.  In section A, we see a lovely young lady posing outdoors, holding a parasol.  Section B presents a gag: the woman is balanced on a tightrope, and it looks as if the rope might break at any moment!  Section C holds a big surprise: not only is the woman precariously balanced, but there is a crocodile below her, hungry jaws open wide!  Yet the story doesn't end there.  Bringing our eyes back to the top, we see the lady in a new light.  She is obviously not surprised that she's standing on a tightrope.  (Indeed, she wore pink slippers for the purpose!)  Her face is serene -- she is prepared to face the jaws of death, as the painter she hired hurries to finish his portrait!

Now let's look at the portrait to the left of the parasol lady.  In section A, we see a young businessman wearing a hat, his arms crossed in a posture of self-assuredness.  Section B presents a gag: the young man is sitting on the shoulders of an older man!  Perhaps he is climbing his way up the corporate ladder?  Section C holds a big surprise: the older man is sitting on the shoulders of yet another, and they're all sinking in quicksand!  But the story doesn't end there.  Bringing our eyes back to the top, we see the young man in a different light.  He is obviously not surprised that he's sinking in quicksand.  Has he struggled his way to the top to save his own life?  His calm face and crossed arms point to a different conclusion: he knows he's going down, and he is at peace with his imminent merger with Mother Earth.  

Finally, let's look at the portrait at the far left of our illustration.  In section A, we see an elderly woman wearing a shawl, posing with a red rose.  Section B presents a gag: the woman is sitting on a tombstone!  Section C holds a big surprise: the tombstone belongs to her husband George, and it appears that he was murdered with an axe to the head!  But the story doesn't end there.  Bringing our eyes back to the top, we see the woman in a different light.  The woman obviously killed her own husband.  Indeed, she appears almost proud as she sits atop his grave.  But is something else going on?  Why is she holding a rose?  If it's not for her unloved husband, could it be for herself?  Perhaps this portrait could be entitled "Arsenic and Old Lace."  The woman's own time has finally come, and she is calmly waiting for the poison to kick in.

Looking back at the top of each portrait, we see that the old woman, the businessman, the young lady, and the distinguished gentleman are all (in their own unique ways) "going out on top."  The point of all these portraits seems to be that death is inevitable, so why not take it in stride, have a little fun along the way, and go out with bang?  It's a darkly humorous philosophy that few guests to the Haunted Mansion have the time to decipher during their brief visit to the gallery.


Haunted Mansion portraits from my private collection.
> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .

October 10, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Exaggeration

We used the oldest ad trick in the book—exaggeration.
—Lazar Dzamic, No Copy Advertising (2001)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

October 9, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"I have a can of yams that I believe has been passed down from nomadic mother to nomadic daughter in my family for three or more generations." --ToastedSuzy's Posted Musings

Here's another mention of a can of yams dating back to the 1970s, still waiting to be opened.

The yam-shaped South Pacific island of Ambrym owes its name to Captain Cook, who anchored off there in 1774.  Ambrym means “here are yams” (ham rim in Ranon language).

Some yams are works of art:

Silence of the yams

A pregnant woman's "Self Portrait as a Yam"

I yam what I yam

Beached Yam

Beware the dragon, lest he eat your yams!

A still life with a yam, and another (including plant parts and dead animals)

New Guinea yam masks

Men carrying yams

Yams in a basket

Monochrome yams

Yam leaf collage

Yams in orange

Oiled yams

Pastel yams

Colored pencil yams

Little yams art collective

A one-act play entitled The Can of Yams was penned by the inimitable Jonathan Caws-Elwitt.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Did you hear about the yogi who came out of trance having written an entire holy book?  Doubters are calling the whole thing premeditated.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 8, 2006

Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary (permalink)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary . . .


Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed of "limpid creatures of limitless tact and tenderness who would discuss with me a semicolon as if it were a point of honor—which, indeed, a point of art often is," just as in THE FOREST FOR THE TREES by Betsy Lerner.

Then, in a state of half-sleep, I assembled a "mutual appreciation" list: Madeleine "I Love Semicolons" L'Engle, Anne Frank, John "We Love Semicolons for Tightness, Terseness, and Fast Pace" McPhee, Jorge Luis Borges, Walt Whitman.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

October 7, 2006

Phosphenes (permalink)

"Moonbow" by LizCrimson.  For a full description of the palette and its colors, see ColourLovers.
The moonbow color palette by artist LizCrimson.

A night rainbow glows on a starry night in Hawaii.

A night rainbow in the mountains.

Just as there are rainbows during the day, there can be moonbows at night.  It must be raining opposite the moon and the moon must be nearly full and it can't be any higher than 42 degrees in the sky.  It also has to be dark.  All those factors combined together make for this atmospheric phenomenon to be fairly rare.

A moonbow in the high desert of California.  "The requirements needed to form a 'moonbow' are similar to the requirements of the much more common rainbow -- moonlight rather than sunlight is the light source. Look very closely and perhaps you can see faint star trails between the clouds in this 30 second exposure."

A night rainbow (nachregenbogen in German) in Hammelburg, Germany. "Driving through the fog on this spring evening, my headlight beams created this high arching fogbow. Fogbows are more feebly colored than their Sun illuminated counterparts (rainbows) and usually appear whitish to the unaided eye."

A night rainbow over Waimea Canyon.

A moonbow stretching over Salt Pond Bay in St. John, Virgin Islands.

"It is December, winter in Egypt. Evening there comes early, at five o'clock the sun already slides for horizon. And right after a decline, especially in the winter, the sky is painted in gentle colors of a rainbow."

A night rainbow over South Anchorage.

A fiberoptic mural at the Phoenix Children's Hospital in Phoenix, illustrates a rare night rainbow emerging under a moonlit sky.

A moonbow by Kenna Graff.

Bringers of the night rainbow.

A moonbow over the trees.

A neon night rainbow, and an incandescent one.

Speaking of rainbows ... is this where they come from?
> read more from Phosphenes . . .

October 6, 2006

Go Out in a Blaze of Glory (permalink)

Robots on fire
(Anagrams: "son of orbiter," "strobe of iron," "reborn if soot," "borne of riots," "orbit for eons," "sin for reboot," "best iron roof")

A flaming robot device that is lit at night - BurningMan 2000

Why not light a robot candle with robot safety matches?

Sandman is an 850-lb fire shooting performance robot.

The airplane-tossing fire-breathing Robosaurus

Fire-breathing retro-robot comic figure, by Mr. Hooper of Nashville, TN

A robot using himself as a cigarette lighter

Christian Ristow's robots destroy each other with fire on a regular basis.

A two-headed fire-breathing robot bird

The robotic fire art of Heather Gallagher

A sub-genius robot on fire

Fire-spraying cyborgs

Christian Bale as a fiery, melting cyborg. (Worth 1000)

Flaming inferno

Eliot K Daughtry's Humanoid robot art

Moral of this story: when testing the shaving cream, take all the expensive electronics off the robot first. (With pictures!)

A new Japanese wine-tasting robot fires a beam of light into the wine, and then uses an infrared spectrometer to analyze the reflection. It studies the chemical composition of the wine and delivers an instant verdict about how good it is. (From Robots.net)

A robotic camera is taking a fish bowl for a swim

Murata Boy, the Robot that can Ride Bicycles, demonstrating gyro sensor technology

Crabfu miniature live steam engines

Also, How To Make Foil

This is a post that I am “co-blogging” with Hanan Levin of Grow-a-Brain. Thank you, Hanan, for the links you suggested!
> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .


Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Evolution

The oldest trick in the world: evolution!
—Olivier Arsac, “Darwersi (a Darwinian Reversi)” (1999)

> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

October 5, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:



Note: the Muse's mumbled expression is actually (albeit improbably) a word.  It is defined in Wye's Dictionary of Improbable Words, available both in print and online.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

October 4, 2006

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)
> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .

October 3, 2006

Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led (permalink)

Saint Deluda
Patron of Grievous Disappointments.

Saint Deluda oversees motion picture sequels, sofa beds, films adapted from novels, pot luck dinners, the third album released by any pop band, blind dates, the middle child, customer service, "the first time," Disney's California Adventure theme park, and mung beans.
Who is your favorite imaginary saint?  Do share!
> read more from Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led . . .

October 2, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)

Threshold is door, and it has a double significance: border and crossing over.  It indicates where one thing ends and another begins.  The border which marks the end of the old makes possible entry into the new. ... Threshold is not, however, only borderline; it is also crossing over.  One can step over it into the adjacent room, or, standing on it, receive him who comes from the other side.  It is something that unites, a place of contact and encounter.
—Romano Guardini, Preparing Yourself for Mass

Doorway to nowhere


This doorway was just carved into the face of the cliff at the monastery

One well-used hidden door and another

A Doorway to nowhere and another

Doorway to The Universe, located within the Hayu Marca mountain region of southern Peru and about 35 Km from Puno, has long been revered by local Indians as the "Place of the Gods"

A dappled sunset shades this almost invisible doorway

Death’s Door, as depicted by William Blake

The Lizard King on Rotten

Door Knockers in Florence, in Pau, France

A single stalk of bamboo framed by a highly unusual Chinese doorway

Cars with gullwing doors

Combo Kennel and Concealed Pet Door

The Traditional House Under Threat?

This is a post that I am “co-blogging” with Hanan Levin of Grow-a-Brain. Thank you, Hanan, for the links you suggested!
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

October 1, 2006

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Did you hear the one I just made up about the Shroud of Tourette?  This unholy relic doesn't depict a face as such -- more a defacement, with a slew of crude French words that, in their time, would have been considered rather obscene.
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