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
Featured Book
The Young Wizard's Hexopedia
Search Site

Breathing Circle
Music Box Moment
Perdition Slip
Loves Me? Loves Me Not?
Wacky Birthday Form
Test Your ESP
Chess-Calvino Dictionary
Is Today the Day?
100 Ways I Failed to Boil Water
"Follow Your Bliss" Compass
"Fortune's Navigator" Compass
Inkblot Oracle
Luck Transfer Certificate
Eternal Life Coupon
Honorary Italian Grandmother E-card
Simple Answers


A Fine Line Between...
A Rose is a ...
Always Remember
Annotated Ellipses
Apropos of Nothing
Book of Whispers
Call it a Hunch
Colorful Allusions
Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up?
Disguised as a Christmas Tree
Don't Take This the Wrong Way
Everybody's Doing This Now
Forgotten Wisdom
Glued Snippets
Go Out in a Blaze of Glory
Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore
How to Believe in Your Elf
I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought
Images Moving Through Time
Indubitably (?)
Inflationary Lyrics
It Bears Repeating
It's Really Happening
Last Dustbunny in the Netherlands
Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led
No News Is Good News
Nonsense Dept.
Not Rocket Science
Oldest Tricks in the Book
On One Condition
One Mitten Manager
Only Funny If ...
P I n K S L i P
Peace Symbols to Color
Presumptive Conundrums
Puzzles and Games
Letter Grids
Tic Tac Toe Story Generator
Which is Funnier
Restoring the Lost Sense
Rhetorical Questions, Answered!
Semicolon Moons
Semicolon's Dream Journal
Simple Answers
Someone Should Write a Book on ...
Something, Defined
Staring at the Sun
Staring Into the Depths
Strange Dreams
Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out
Telescopic Em Dashes
The 40 Most Meaningful Things
The Ghost In The [Scanning] Machine
The Only Certainty
The Right Word
This May Surprise You
This Terrible Problem That Is the Sea
Two Sides / Same Coin
Uncharted Territories
Yearbook Weirdness
Yesterday's Weather
Your Ship Will Come In


October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
December 1969


Magic Words
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
Martha Brockenbrough
Gordon Meyer
Dr. Boli
Serif of Nottingblog
Joe Brainard's Pyjamas
Ironic Sans
Brian Sibley's Blog
Abecedarian personal effects of 'a mad genius'
A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
May 31, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Blame the Messenger

It’s the oldest trick in the world.  If it’s bad news, blame the messenger.
—Kenneth Davidson, “Howard’s Telstra Trickery,” The Age (2005)

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

May 30, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
I particularly love the second paragraph of this ode to the semicolon.  It's from the Financial Times (excerpted by Amygdala):

The semicolon “signals that you’re not expressing a singular thought”, explains the prolific cultural critic, Chris Lehmann. “It signals that there’s tension, that there is some contradictory evidence - and you [have to] sort of trust readers to be able to deal with that, which most editors don’t and many writers don’t.” Menand locates this fear of complexity in the idea that language should do no more than hold up a mirror to the world. “If you subscribe to linguistic transparency, there’s a bias in favour of simplicity,” he says.


It may seem bizarre to read so much into a stop on the page, but the semicolon is a pause for ambiguity, amusement, complexity, doubt, and nuance. If writing lacks these “genteel” qualities, can we be all that surprised if it is either as dull as a computer manual, or as demagogic as a soapbox on Hyde Park Corner?
> read more from The Right Word . . .

May 29, 2006

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
I saw the documentary "Winged Migration" on DVD, and it got me to thinking a lot about magic and how breathtaking, uplifting miracles can become so disappointing (and worse than that -- actually negative, or an experience of spiritual diminishment) when one discovers the secret of how the trick works.  If you've seen the film, you know what truly magical moments were caught on camera.  Most of the scenes seem "impossible," so extraordinary are they.  I wasn't so much asking "how did they do it?" (because I knew they must have been in airplanes and holding cameras!), but more "how could they possibly have captured so many rare, once-in-a-lifetime occurrences?")  It was one of the most striking movie experiences of my life, and I have seen a lot of films (well-over three thousand films over the last decade alone).  Alas, I began watching the "making of" featurette on the DVD, and I was totally devastated.  The "secret" of the filmmakers was far more diabolical than I could have possibly imagined.  All of the magic drained away, and I was left feeling tricked (the bad kind of tricked -- as in swindled by con-men).  When a magician does something miraculous on stage, you've paid to be entertained and you delight in being fooled.  When a documentary filmmaker dupes you, it's a whole different story.  I found myself feeling outraged over and over again as I learned about the astonishingly elaborate methods the filmmakers employed to secure their footage (though they didn't put strings on the birds' claws and fly them like kites, such a method wasn't beneath them).  I actually had to shut off the DVD player after the worst revelation -- they crated up the pelicans and flew them in an airplane to Africa so as to record that leg of the birds' migratory "journey."  I would have far more enjoyed watching a cartoon about birds, or a LucasArts digital rendering of birds, because neither would have pretended to be a legitimate documentary.  Of course, it all boils down to packaging, doesn't it?  Had the sham-documentary filmmakers stated upfront that this film was an artistic depiction of how birds fly, and explained that all the birds in the film were actors (which is actually quite true, as the birds had been raised and imprinted by the filmmakers from eggs, then trained to fly on cue alongside the aircraft and to follow the sound of the squeeze horn), then I probably would have been quite amazed and delighted by so elaborate an endeavor!  As it was, they presented a fantastic illusion, then turned around and showed how they did it, leaving the viewer feeling gullible.  Had they been real wonder-workers instead of con-artists, they would have left the viewer feeling amazed, not duped.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)
SONG: Dime at a Time
ARTIST: Norma Jean


Two dollars in the jukebox...
And I'll put in the jukebox a dime at a time


Two dollars in the jukebox...
With each song on the jukebox I'm a quarter 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 . . .

May 28, 2006

Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)
SONG: I Love Rock 'N Roll
ARTIST: The Arrows (covered by Joan Jett)


I love rock n' roll
So put another dime in the jukebox, baby
I love rock n' roll
So come an' take your time an' dance with me


I love rock n' roll
So drop another token and let's get smokin'
I love rock n' roll
The juke's not broken so dance with me

(Thanks to Gordon for suggesting this song)

Literary humorist Jonathan suggests that one day jukeboxes might accept only card-swipes,
a la Kinko's self-serve machines.  Just in case that happens, he suggests the following adjustment:

I love rock n' roll
So swipe your stripe in the jukebox, baby
I love rock n' roll
The time is ripe to dance with me

On a semi-related note, software engineer Gordon Meyer says:

I recently read that the latest jukes have become Internet-enabled to allow huge catalogs of sounds, streamed on demand.  A natural evolution, I suppose.  But one idea that surprised me was that at least one model allows you to pay extra and have your selections moved to the front of the playback queue!  It also allows you to schedule repeats of the song at regular intervals at a reduced rate.
* 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 . . .

May 27, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Big Three Gambit

I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book: the Big Three Gambit.  I had been led down the garden path.  I’d had the wool pulled over my eyes.  I had been taken for a ride.  I was the Walrus.
—Joe Queenan, Queenan Country (2004)

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

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)
I dreamed I was a comma (after having corrective surgery to remove my period half).  At last I indicated a slight pause separating two related but distinct terms!

Then I dreamed of a small stall advertising "The Wonders of Punctuation and Spelling," with a sign that said "The Mystery of the Semicolon Revealed!!!" and "See the Ampersand! (Small Extra Charge)," just as in THE WEE FREE MEN by Terry Pratchett.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

May 26, 2006

Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led (permalink)

Saint Flauntus
Patron of Blatant Disregard.

Abundant evidence of risk?  Light a candle to Saint Flauntus, so the tradition goes, and blaze forward!  Flauntus oversees gross recklessness, wanton desires, insubordination, willful misconduct, criminal negligence, off-road escapades, and pop art.
Who is your favorite imaginary saint?  Do share!
> read more from Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led . . .

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"Are you looking for trouble?"  Yes, because the philosopher Hegel said that with the end of conflict will come the end of history.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

May 25, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Believing One’s Own Press

Unbeknownst to them, Smith and Mahto had fallen for the oldest trick in the book
by believing their own press.
—Paul VanDevelder, Coyote Warrior (2004)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

May 24, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
Gregory proposes the establishment of a semicolon appreciation day.  He confesses:

Semicolon and I are best of friends, but that wasn't always the case. When I was in highschool--and I shudder to think of this--I actually said "the semicolon is a superfluous punctuation mark; any old parasitic semicolon can be replaced with a respectable period," if not in so many words (or punctuation marks!). Since then, I've come to appreciate the level of nuance that the semicolon makes possible. Semicolon and I are inseperable . . .
> read more from The Right Word . . .

May 23, 2006

Strange Dreams (permalink)
I was walking through a college campus when I realized that I was late for a class (I believe it was Philosophy) that I had totally forgotten about.  I vowed then and there to totally drop the class, as I couldn't muster up the energy to deal with it, and I decided to spend the hour taking a very long walk around the perimeter of the campus.  Not long into my walk, I spotted a young woman up ahead doing a little dance by herself in a wide expanse of walkway.  She was dressed in a vaguely Middle Eastern hooded cape, with the hood a lighter shade (perhaps light blue) than the rest of the cape.  I stood several yards away (while typing this, I initially wrote "years" instead of "yards"... perhaps a Freudian typo) and watched her do an Arabesque dance with a sword.  At one point she thrust the sword forward and it flew through the air toward me, but in slow motion.  I easily dodged it and said, "You almost hit me!" to which she merely gave a Mona Lisa smile.  Then she thrust another sword toward me, and as it finally skidded to the ground (again in slow motion) I saw that the blade was covered in clear plastic, as if it were factory sealed.
If you have a strange dream to share, send it along!
> read more from Strange Dreams . . .

May 22, 2006

Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)
SONG: Dime Piece
ARTIST: Nick Cannon (feat. Izzy)


are you a dime?
(it's drivin me outta my mind)


be a quarter?
(that's what I say when I court her)
* 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 . . .

May 21, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
There's a very funny piece entitled "The Punctuation Hunter" on the "Unremitting Failure" blog.  It concerns some people being cornered by a 48-point semicolon:

Game officials who finally got that semi-colon said they never saw anything like it.  Said it was like something out of one of those extra-large-print books for old people.  I was like, no shit:  I saw the mother.  With punctuation like that out there, you'd be safer going to Africa to hunt exclamation marks.  People see a semi-colon, they laugh.  Because a semi-colon looks harmless.  Well, go ask Charlie how harmless they are.  Go ask Charlie.

In other semicolon news, James J. Kilpatrick recently wrote a funny diatribe against the "obnoxious" semicolon, calling it "sissy" punctuation:

It is not easy to write with dispassion of the odious semicolon, but let me try: Except for its function in one copy-editing circumstance, the semicolon is worthless.  It is the most pusillanimous, sissified, utterly useless mark of punctuation ever invented.  Sensitive editors should abolish it forthwith. Forthwith! [...]  The semicolon is a belly-up guppie in a tank of glorious Siamese fighting fish.  It's girly.  It is not just probably the most useless of all forms of punctuation.  It is absolutely, positively the most useless of all such marks ever invented.
> read more from The Right Word . . .

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"Do I look like I'm made of money?"  Yes.  If money can mean assets, then your organs alone look like tens of thousands of dollars.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

May 20, 2006

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed I was a "semicolon butterfly" (polygonia interrogationis).  My wings were mottled with various shades of red and brown, and their tips were violet.  I floated off the page and lighted on an inkwell.  I uncurled my tongue and dipped it into the blue-black nectar.

Later that night, I dreamed I was listening to a financial report on the radio: "Prices of semicolons, plot devices, prologues and inciting incidents continued to fall yesterday, lopping twenty-eight points off the TomJones Index."  It was uncannily like something out of THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS by Jasper Fforde.
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

May 19, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Belief that Another is Being Fooled

[T]he oldest trick in the book: belief 
that another is being fooled.
—Mary Margolies DeForest, Apollonius’ Argonautica (1994)

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

May 18, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)

Origami car by Jassu
Examples of Automotive Haiku from Car Talk:

flaming wrinkled death
flies down the road in first gear
with her blinker on

--Gregory Engel

Hilltop. Lake below.
My car sinks so slowly. Thank
god it's a rental.

--Carlisle Landel
> read more from The Right Word . . .

May 17, 2006

Go Out in a Blaze of Glory (permalink)
Pardon me for yawning.  I’m just so bored with this trivial charade that I forgot what we were talking about.  And thank god for that, because I don’t think I could stay awake through another moment of such mindless droning.  Now if you’ll excuse me, whatever you said your name was, I have some comparatively challenging things to do with my life, like watching Wheel of Fortune.
> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .

Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)
SONG: Homeboy
ARTIST: Coolio


If I got a quarter then you got a dime
And you can call me up no matter what the time


If I got a dollar then you got a quarter
And you can leave a message on my tape recorder
* 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 . . .

May 16, 2006

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

Husbands and Knives:
Twenty Shocking Parallels in the Lives of
Yukio Mishima and Woody Allen

1. Residents of Westernized islands.
2. Short male persons.
3. Directors shunned by Hollywood.
4. Existentialists.
5. Commited public "suicide."
6. Expressed nostalgic yearning.
7. Avidly absorbed the culture of the East (or the Upper East Side).
8. Withstood vulgar curiosity about biographical anecdotes.
9. Obsessed with social disgrace.
10. Strong feelings about raw fish.
11. Involved with Asian women.
12. Interested in masks and disguises to express facets of their personality.
13. Fascinated by their own celebrity.
14. Recounted traumatic episodes from youth.
15. Attended tea ceremonies (or at least the Russian Tea Room).
16. Brandished phallic symbol representative of their art (sword/clarinet).
17. Forged in the smithy of their souls the uncreated conscience of their race.
18. Resisted fulfilling the role of son, husband, and father, yet desired to preserve ancestral tradition.
19. Wore costumes of period which they believed themselves to personify (Samurai robe/trenchcoat).
20. Died in their thoughts every morning.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

May 15, 2006

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Being What People Need You to Be

Oldest trick in the world.  All holymen are hip to it.  You gotta be what they want you to be.  Then you’ll succeed.
—Ken Wanio, “So You Want to be a Cab Driver” (2000)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

May 14, 2006

Precursors (permalink)

Reader Comments:

Jonathan wrote:
He rises and dresses earlier than she does, but they use the same shampoo.
> read more from Precursors . . .

May 13, 2006

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)

I dreamed I was late for class and couldn't find the room.

Later that night, I dreamed of having tea with Lewis Thomas again.  He said the most lovely things: "Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath."
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .

May 12, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)

La kato estas en la sako = The cat is in the bag (Esperanto).  The cat photo above belongs to Daniel & Rachael Hutchings.
= Tiger Woods is awesome, and other helpful phrases from the Yindii Guide to American Slang
"Down with the 'hood.'" Ebonics-Japanese phrasebook for sale.
The strange language spoken by circus owner Papa Lazarou, from the British dark comedy series The League of Gentlemen, may technically be gibberish ("Autom, sprow. Cana, tik bana! Sandwol, but no sera smee?") But it was inspired by Parlari, the private language of traveling British circus folk.
Pioneering West African composer Julien Jacob sings in his own mysterious, imaginary language, allowing his listeners to interpret his songs in their own way.

What’s the new word for "cool"? Wicked? Slammin’? Shiny? Wack? Fetch?
More from AskMefi: I'm 6'8". People are always asking me how tall I am. Instead of telling the truth, what are some witty, non-confrontational responses I might use? "Depends on where you start measuring."

Vesona is a universal language proposed by Dr. Alesha Sivartha, in which the first two or three letters of any word give the general meaning and the added letters specialize these meanings. An elaborate circular diagram (copy and paste link in new window) shows how Vesona encapsulates all of human knowledge.
Verdurian is a language spoken by 55 million imaginary people. The fruitful creativity of Mark Rosenfelder offers background on the history, grammar, and literature of Verdurian, as well as a Language Kit for constructing your own artificial languages.
How to say How many flowers are in Pia Zadora's vase? in Esperanto? From Prolific Lo-Fi recording artist Ken Clinger, who records songs in both English & Esperanto.  He juxtaposes awkward practice sentences from foreign language tutorials, creating absurd, surreal alternate realities.
Could a computer language be designed today that would last one hundred years?

Why English is a Silly Language.  "It's really a wonder that any one manages to successfully speak English at all. That people learn it all over the world is just incredible... I mean amazing."
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. Jorge Luis Borges dreamed of a language called Ursprache with absolutely no nouns. For example, there's no word for "moon," but there's a verb meaning "to moon" or "to moonate." The sentence "The moon rose above the water" in Ursprache would translate as "Upward behind the onstreaming it mooned."
The hypothetical lost continent of Mu (also known as Lemuria) is said to have been destroyed in a global upheaval tens of thousands of years ago. Unorthodox researcher Col. James Churchward believed he rediscovered Mu's alphabet, comprised of beautiful and intricate glyphs.
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 The Right Word . . .

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"Is that a fact?"  That is not a fact, but is either a pronoun or an adjective.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .

May 11, 2006

Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led (permalink)

Saint Widerwille
Patron of Irrational Aversions.

Saint Widerwille preached that "In the eyes of God, there is nothing irrational in an aversion to (fill in the blank) provided that one is prepared to accept the consequences."  Saint Widerwille himself was said to suffer irrational aversions to untoasted bread, gypsies, politicians, snakes, polystyrene cups, and people from New Jersey.  In his memoirs, he confessed that his greatest recurring nightmare involved taking communion from a wandering former Jersey statesman named Copperhead: "The moment he thrusts that unbaked wafer and plastic cup of wine toward me, I wake up screaming."
Who is your favorite imaginary saint?  Do share!
> read more from Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led . . .

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Beautiful Woman

“I was thinking that a beautiful woman could provide a, uh, diversion.”
    “Here we go again.  Cherchez la femme.  The oldest trick in the book.”
—Clive Cussler, Polar Shift (2005)

Baited by a broad—the oldest trick in the book.
—F. Paul Wilson, “The Lord’s Work,” The Mammoth Book of Dracula (1997)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

May 10, 2006

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

by humorist and playwright Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

Strange Dreams (permalink)
Last night I fried an egg for dinner, and I dreamed about it that night.  In the dream, I intended to send my brother a picture of that egg with the caption "This is not god, nor the priesthood.  I will send you articles on it."
If you have a strange dream to share, send it along!
> read more from Strange Dreams . . .

May 9, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
Ben Macintyre of The Times is against the bid to flush semicolons out of our prose — what he calls "semi-colonic irrigation."  He makes the following lovely point:

The beauty of the semi-colon lies in its very vagueness. It indicates both connection and division. It is a gentle way of connecting thoughts, without applying the abrupt brake of a full stop or the breathiness of a comma. It implies a qualification or refinement of the idea stated in the first part of the sentence. Sometimes a string of semi-colons shows an evolving idea or description, a string of interconnected ideas.

Virginia Woolf opens Mrs Dalloway with a lovely spray of semi-colons: “How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of 18 as she was then) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the tress with smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking . . . ”
> read more from The Right Word . . .

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
The heart doesn't simply open.  It continuously opens, like a fractal bloom.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

May 8, 2006

Staring at the Sun (permalink)

Artwork by Jason 'Sunshine' Carswell,
Staring At the Sun

I shake
And stare the sun
Till my eyes burn
— David Bowie, "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction"

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun.  — Ecclesiastes

The dawn ventures to confont the sky decorated with multiple colors ... My eyes have an entirely different brilliance.  I am afraid they will make holes in the sky.  —Nietzsche

The biggest drawback to mirrorshades is that they simulate a state of permanent solar eclipse, a twilight world in which colors are distorted and shadows are deeper.  The sun has been both feared and revered throughout human history, but only a handful of people have actually had the courage to look it in the face.  Granted, the naked eye will sustain impairment if exposed to direct sunlight for too long.  Therefore, cyberpunk author Paul Di Filippo recommends optical implants as a solution.  “By stepping down the ratio of photons to electrons,” he suggests, “you can do such things as stare directly at the sun or at a welder’s flame without damage.”

But why stare into the sun in the first place?  Because it's dangerous.  Because it's deviant.  Because so few are man enough to try it.  Because radiation is natural.  Because it looked at you first.  Perhaps the best reason of all is that the sun frees us from the simplistic dogma of dualism.  Photons of light have no antiparticle.  That means that in the world of light there is no division between body and soul, good and evil, seer and scenery, past and future, man and fellow man.  In the world of light, 1 + 1 = 1.

Photographs of the sun are typically taken through telescopes.  Such photographs are pale substitutes for actually looking at the sun.  As naturalist Annie Dillard notes in an essay about witnessing a total eclipse, "The lenses of telescopes and cameras can no more cover the breadth and scale of the visual array than language can cover the breadth and simultaneity of internal experience.  Lenses enlarge the sight, omit its context, and make of it a pretty and sensible picture, like something on a Christmas card."  Scientific instruments, then, limit our perception even as they extend the range of our vision.  No matter what apparatus we use to view the sun, at some point we will encounter a "blind spot."  Clearly, the naked eye (capable of detecting a single photon of light) or naked implant is the only way to go.

There are two steps to proper sun-staring.  First, stare at the sun with the eyes open.  This is not an easy thing to do.  Rochefoucauld, the Benjamin Franklin of France, once said that "Neither the sun nor death can be looked at with a steady eye."  He was correct.  In his novel Staring at the Sun, Julian Barnes warns that "You can't stare at the sun for too long--not even the setting, quiet sun.  You would have to put your fingers in front of your face to do that."  So don't have any preconceptions that it's going to be simple or pleasant.  Try not to blink.  Try not to look away.  Shield your eyes with your fingers at first if you must, but then slowly spread your fingers to reveal the awesome light of the sun.  If you must look away then do so, but slowly bring your eyes back to the sun.  If you find yourself involuntarily blinking rapidly, hold your eyelids open with your fingers.

Second, stare at the sun with the eyes closed.  The sun's afterimage will remain under your eyelids, indelibly etched into your cornea.  James Patrick Kelley describes this phenomenon in his cyberpunk story "Solstice":  "Cage shut his eyes and still he could see it: blood red, flashing blue, veins pulsing across its surface."

What is the significance of this afterimage?  No doubt each person must find his omn answer to this question.  In her novel Century 21, Ewa Kuryluk attempts a philosophical answer.  She says that "We must preserve the sun's afterimage under our lids" because it forces us to confront "ideals, abstract beings which are neither bodies nor forces dwelling in bodies."  Perhaps she means that we can harness the sun's forces, snatch them from the physical body of the star, and carry them with us--literally within our eyelids.  In any case, Kuryluk seems to be touching upon a deeper truth about the perception of reality.  

The French poet Paul Claudel agrees with Kuryluk that we can carry the body of a star within our eyelids, making us the center of our own private solar system.  "We can see in the eye a sort of scaled down, portable sun," he says, "and therefore, a prototype of the ability to establish a radius from it to any point on the circumference."  The German poet Yvan Goll describes such a private solar system:

The universe revolves around you
Eye with facets which chase away the eyes of the stars
And implies them in your gyratory system
Carrying away nebulas of eyes in your madness.

The Maja-Ratri, a Sanskrit text, says that light is the source of all thought, since light is a combustion of star evolution.  That star evolution exists in the inner dimensions of your mind as a phosphene explosion.  Psychologist Carl Jung once wrote that "when our senses react to real phenomena, sights, and sounds, they are somehow translated from the realm of reality into that of the mind.  Within the mind they become psychic events, whose ultimate nature is unknowable."

If you're eventually going to have your eyes replaced anyway, why not burn them out in a single blaze of glory?  Besides, the combination of sunglasses and a walking stick is a timeless fashion statement.
> read more from Staring at the Sun . . .

May 7, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)

From The Which Punctuation Mark Are You Test:

"Congratulations! You are the semicolon! You are the highest expression of punctuation; no one has more of a right to be proud. In the hands of a master, you will purr, sneering at commas, dismissing periods as beneath your contempt. You separate and connect at the same time, and no one does it better. The novice will find you difficult to come to terms with, but you need no one. You are secure in your elegance, knowing that you, and only you, have the power to mark the skill or incompetence of the craftsman. You have no natural enemies; all fear you. And never, NEVER let anyone tell you that you cannot appear in dialogue!"
> read more from The Right Word . . .

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)

Baiting a Hook

“Trick” is dlllos in Homeric Greek, and the oldest known use of the term refers to a quite specific trick: baiting a good to catch a fish.  East and west, north and south, this is the oldest trick in the book.  No trickster has ever been credited with inventing a potato peeler, a gas meter, a catechism, or a tuning fork, but trickster invents the fish trap.
—Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World (1998)

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

May 6, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
Speaking of semicolons, I stumbled upon the most marvelous poem by Matt "World's Best Writer Ever" Getty, entitled "Inside the Semicolon (Draft)."  Here's the first stanza:

The sinister semicolon lurks
on the inside. Always inviting,
he calls you to follow as he opens
doors that look like walls.

To read more (you'll be glad you did), see the poetry section of Matt's website.
> read more from The Right Word . . .

May 5, 2006

Puzzles and Games (permalink)
This is a puzzle in which you try to transform one mythological creature into another.  Drag tiles from the bottom left into the grid on the right, forming the proper head, body, and wings of each creature listed.  Each line of the grid will feature only one change from the row immediately above.  When the grid is complete, click the large arrow to test your matrix.

The first person to send a screen shot of the winning matrix will receive a free set of One-Letter Words Knowledge Cards!  Send it to solution @

Click the image below to launch the game (Shockwave plug-in required).  The file size is 1.2 MB.

> read more from Puzzles and Games . . .

Pfft! (permalink)
In response, there were nons, some ouis, and a choice pfft delivered with upraised palms and heavy-lidded blink.  —Nicholas Class, Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen.
* 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
> read more from Pfft! . . .

May 4, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)

After six years of determined searching, Lars Rasmussen, a purveyor of fine used books, collected a complete alphabet of books with one letter for titles (including Scandinavian letters).  He was inspired by this quotation from James Joyce's Ulysses:

Have you read his F?
O yes, but I prefer Q.
Yes, but W is wonderful.
O yes, W.
> read more from The Right Word . . .

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

> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .

May 3, 2006

Strange Dreams (permalink)
Here's a strange dream:

I dreamed I was among a group of people being tortured very viciously.  Our assailants were cutting off hands and feet, using sharp metal rods for impaling, and so on.  I noticed that one of my fellow victims, a woman, had a tiny round bandage on her forehead.  I recognized this as evidence that she had been impaled through the head, and I deeply dreaded such a fate for myself.  (In retrospect, I associate this small circle with the Hindu "bindi" representing the Third Eye, but in the dream this didn't occur to me.)  At some point during my torture, I gained enlightenment.  I felt the music of the universe enter my body through my root chakra, and I felt myself "puffing up" like a balloon being filled, especially in my belly.  I floated in bliss for a while.  When my awareness focused back on the physical plane, I saw two Hindus holding up their hands in prayer and bowing to me reverently, acknowledging my holiness.  I returned the honor.  One of them opened a book to show me which deity was my overseer or lord in the greater hierarchy of things.  I don't remember the god's name, but I remember reading these words: "This god is associated with endings and beginnings."  I scoffed slightly, thinking that the description was too generic.  "That's what they're ALL associated with," I thought to myself.  (In retrospect, I realize that my overseer is Agni, the Hindu two-headed god of fire who rules over the digestive fires in the belly.)  I only vaguely recall subsequent scenes of my dream in which I was operating as an enlightened being and interacting with my followers.  I certainly felt happy bestowing benevolence.
If you have a strange dream to share, send it along!
> read more from Strange Dreams . . .

Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Bait and Switch

He had fallen for the oldest trick in the book, the one con-men called bait-and-switch: if you tell a lie and get caught, back up and tell half the truth.
—Stephen King, Needful Things (1991)
> read more from Oldest Tricks in the Book . . .

Inflationary Lyrics (permalink)

SONG: Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)
ARTIST: Jim Croce


Thank you for your time
Oh, you've been so much more than kind
And you can keep the dime


Thanks for listening hard
On a cell phone in your yard
There goes my calling card

* 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 . . .

May 2, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
What makes a great story?  Marketing expert Seth Godin suggests that "The best stories don't teach people anything new.  Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place."  (Thanks, Gordon!)
> read more from The Right Word . . .

Puzzles and Games :: Constellations (permalink)
Can you find the pictured constellation in this night sky?  Click the image for the answer and a nifty quotation.

> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Constellations . . .

May 1, 2006

The Right Word (permalink)
In English:

Two people were sitting by a fence. The first says:
"Tell me, if I'm looking at you, and thinking of something, and you know that I'm thinking of that thing, and you're thinking of the same thing, isn't it just as if we had said it?"
"Well, yes..."
"Then, which of us is it like he had said it?"

Translated into Zoinx:

ona be brazer ves unta`i, dalto`i. sila ro'st i tan:
= silali ga fen go, en nebasi go he`i ga, san fermisi go man xiruli, san esasi ga mse`i fermisi go man set, san fermisi ga man tira, i`aneka set vor mse`i silata gi`o'st? =
= sen dot... =
= san, eni`oka set ane`i fen gi`o, mse`i i`a'st vor mse`i silata ge`i set?  =

The Zoinx language (invented in 1993), does not have a fictional population of speakers or a corresponding history, yet "quite a bit of cultural information can be gathered from the language itself."
> read more from The Right Word . . .

Page of 1017

Original Content Copyright © 2015 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.