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, 2010

The Ghost In The [Scanning] Machine (permalink)


 
Frontispiece to Library of the world's best mystery and detective stories, Volume 1

---

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt notes:

It's the shadow's shadow!
* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost In The [Scanning] Machine . . .

October 30, 2010

The Ghost In The [Scanning] Machine (permalink)


Frontispiece to The mystery of the shadow by Fergus Hume.
* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost In The [Scanning] Machine . . .


Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out (permalink)
Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

THE DEAD SECRET by Wilkie Collins

"Will she last out the night, I wonder?"
Suddenly a shot rang out.
> read more from Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out . . .

October 29, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from A Memoir of the Life of John Tulloch.

“The ghost’s face is almost concealed by his white beard and mustache.” —H. Milnor Klapp, “A Race With a Ghost”

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)
“You’re in the same boat with a lot of your friends, waiting for the day your ship will come in.” —Dolly Parton


 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .

October 28, 2010

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
Prof. Oddfellow shares his secret for finding abandoned fairy forts: look under trees felled by an unexpected gale.


> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
> read more from Two Sides / Same Coin . . .

October 27, 2010

It's Really Happening (permalink)
"Even though I might perceive the experience with my eyes, it's really happening inside of me."
Sean Thomas Forrester, Dancing in the Fire of Transformation
> read more from It's Really Happening . . .


Semicolon Moons (permalink)

WANING CRESCENT (PRESENT PERFECT)

"It looked almost like a semicolon, almost like an exclamation point, yet not altogether like either. It glowed eerily in the dim light."

—Joe Devine, Commas are Our Friends (1989)


 
Inspired by Gary Barwin.
> read more from Semicolon Moons . . .

October 26, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from Memoir of John Veitch.

“The immense problem of the beard faded to insignificance.” —Blackwood’s Magazine

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out (permalink)
Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad

The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide. Suddenly, a shot rang out.
> read more from Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out . . .

October 25, 2010

Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the puzzle image below to reveal one possible solution.

You Do the Math - Presumptive Conundrums
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .


Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier (permalink)
Which is funnier: flat or perspective?

Clue:  This is according to a guide to drawing comics

Answer:  Flat.  (The answer is in black text on the black background.  Highlight it to view.)

Citation:  Suck School of Comic Art, Suck.com, (Nov. 7, 1997)
(Thanks to Jonathan Caws-Elwitt for inspiration!)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier . . .

October 24, 2010

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Ironically, William S. Burroughs wasn't a cutup at parties.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .


Staring at the Sun (permalink)


The sun peeks through the canopy to create shadows in the Ghost Garden at Portmeirion, Wales.
> read more from Staring at the Sun . . .

October 23, 2010

Staring at the Sun (permalink)


Sunset through a Madrona tree over Puget Sound
> read more from Staring at the Sun . . .


Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out (permalink)
Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine.  Suddenly, a shot rang out.
> read more from Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out . . .

October 22, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from Henrik Ibsen: The Man and His Plays.

“The ghost was like a man in old-fashioned clothes, with a beard; but you couldn’t see very well because it was only half-lit, like luminous paint on match boxes.” —Frederic Stewart Isham, Three Live Ghosts

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)
“Looking for your boat on the sea; my eyes: spotlights trawling the emptiness.” —Michael O’Dea


 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .

October 21, 2010

Yesterday's Weather (permalink)
After several days of rain, Prof. Oddfellow tries a new approach: catching grotto droplets in his upturned umbrella.  (Location: woodlands surrounding Portmeirion)


*Inspired by the world's only accurate meteorological report, "Yesterday's Weather," as seen on Check It Out.
> read more from Yesterday's Weather . . .


Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
> read more from Two Sides / Same Coin . . .

October 20, 2010

Semicolon Moons (permalink)

WANING CRESCENT

The semicolon appears to be partly but less than one-half illuminated by the reading lamp. The fraction of the semicolon's dot that is illuminated is decreasing, like a cut flower without a vase. The darkness grows like a gathering thunderstorm. This semicolon appears before the New Semicolon and after the Last Quarter Semicolon. The crescent will grow smaller and smaller every day, until the semicolon looks like the New Semicolon.


 
Inspired by Gary Barwin.
> read more from Semicolon Moons . . .


Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier (permalink)
How did the editor of Punch reply to someone who complained that his magazine was not as funny as it used to be?

Clue:  He spoke three words.

Answer:  “It never was.”  (The answer is in black text on the black background.  Highlight it to view.)

Citation:  Joseph S. Nye, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (1990), p. 87.
(Thanks to Jonathan Caws-Elwitt for inspiration!)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier . . .

October 19, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from The Poetical Works of Owen Meredith (Robert, Lord Lytton).

"‘Maybe he has a mysterious beard.’ ‘Who cares? It’s his soul that matters.’” —Munsey’s Magazine

---

June ponders:

Maybe they were calling Shakespeare "The Beard" and pronounced it "bard"!

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out (permalink)
Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

THE SNOW QUEEN by Hans Christian Andersen

Now then, let us begin. When we are at the end of the story, we shall know more than we know now: but to begin. Suddenly a shot rang out.
> read more from Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out . . .

October 18, 2010

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


Inspired by Jeff Hawkins, who mentioned "the comfort of Euclidean space."
Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the puzzle image below to reveal one possible solution.

You Do the Math - Presumptive Conundrums
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .

October 17, 2010

Staring at the Sun (permalink)


Sunset over Puget Sound from Alki Beach in Seattle
> read more from Staring at the Sun . . .


Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Had Keats majored in economics, might he have wondered (in an elevated style) what doth a Grecian earn?

Gary Barwin adds:

And if Browning had majored in economics, he'd have written "My Last Ducat."
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 16, 2010

Unicorns (permalink)
In this passage, two detective monks exploring a labyrinthine library encounter a book about unicorns in what amounts to the "Fiction" section:

"But why have they also put a book with the unicorn among the falsehoods?" I asked.
     "Obviously the founders of the library had strange ideas.  They must have believed that this book which speaks of fantastic animals and beasts living in distant lands was part of the catalogue of falsehoods spread by the infidels...."
     "But is the unicorn a falsehood?  It's the sweetest of animals and a noble symbol.  It stands for Christ, and for chastity; it can be captured only by setting a virgin the forest, so that the animal, catching her most chaste odor, will go and lay its head in her lap, offering itself as prey to the hunters' snares."
     "So it is said, Adso.  But many tend to believe that it's a fable, an invention of the pagans."
     "What a disappointment," I said.  "I would have liked to encounter one, crossing a wood.  Otherwise what's the pleasure of crossing a wood?"
     . . .
     "But console yourself, they exist in these books, which, if they do not speak of real existence, speak of possible existence."
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
> read more from Unicorns . . .


Not Rocket Science (permalink)

 
* Inspired by Martha Brockenbrough, our puzzle book Not Rocket Science is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Not Rocket Science . . .

October 15, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from The Man Christ Jesus, under a shroud of tissue paper.

“The Holy Ghost is also represented with a beard, to signify his being equal to the Father and the Son, and that like them, he had eternity for his portion.” —Adolphe Napoléon Didron, Christian Iconography

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)


“I am looking forward with confidence to the day when your ship will come in and discharge its cargo.” —Platt Rogers

 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .


Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier (permalink)
Which is funnier: a brandy bottle or a prayer book?

Clue:  This is according to biographer Lytton Strachey.

Answer:  a brandy bottle.  (The answer is in black text on the black background.  Highlight it to view.)

Citation:  Michael Holroyd, Lytton Strachey: A Critical Biography (1968), p. 315.
(Thanks to Jonathan Caws-Elwitt for inspiration!)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier . . .

October 14, 2010

Staring at the Sun (permalink)
Portmeirion's campanile reveals its Brocken spectre.


> read more from Staring at the Sun . . .


Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
> read more from Two Sides / Same Coin . . .

October 13, 2010

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


Inspired by Jeff, who ran with the concept here.
Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


Semicolon Moons (permalink)

WANING CRESCENT (PROGRESSIVE)

"The period of moonlit and starlit nights continued."

—Ronald Mathias Lockley, Shearwaters (1942)


 
Inspired by Gary Barwin.
> read more from Semicolon Moons . . .

October 12, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from Memoir of Charles Lowe.

“[The] specter raises the prospect of an immaterial beard.” —Jack Selzer, Rhetorical Bodies

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out (permalink)
Is it true, as Momus suggests, that there are "few tales which would not be improved by the addition of the phrase 'suddenly, a shot rang out'"?  Decide for yourself as we alter the opening lines of . . .

THE TIME MACHINE by H. G. Wells

The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him)
was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and
twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated. The
fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent
lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and
passed in our glasses. Suddenly, a shot rang out.
> read more from Suddenly, A Shot Rang Out . . .

October 11, 2010

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"To some extent punctuation is sound that you do not hear, a pause that implies the presence of withheld sound.  To some extent, then, language is as dependent upon the unspoken as the spoken, and the rhythm of silence as well as of sound.  In that context, however, silence involves merely a pause of sound in which sound is implied but withheld.  Inner sound deals primarily with that kind of relationship.  Language is meaningful only because of the rhythm of silence upon which it rides." —Jane Roberts, The Nature of the Psyche

(Thanks, Tamara!)
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the puzzle image below to reveal one possible solution.

You Do the Math - Presumptive Conundrums
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .

October 10, 2010

The Right Word (permalink)
"Not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves.  In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me.  It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors." —Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
> read more from The Right Word . . .


Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier (permalink)
True or False: Line graphs are 50% funnier than bar charts.

Clue:  This is according to a guide to drawing comics

Answer:  True.  (The answer is in black text on the black background.  Highlight it to view.)

Citation:  Suck School of Comic Art, Suck.com, (Nov. 7, 1997)
(Thanks to Jonathan Caws-Elwitt for inspiration!)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier . . .

October 9, 2010

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


Not Rocket Science (permalink)

 
* Inspired by Martha Brockenbrough, our puzzle book Not Rocket Science is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Not Rocket Science . . .

October 8, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from Autobiography of Henry Taylor.

“One venerable ‘ghost’ . . . appears repeatedly with his flowing, patriarchal beard.” —Elliot Coues, “Can Ghosts Be Photographed?”

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)
“Be confident that one day your ship will come in — so try not to rock the boat too much in the meantime.” —C. E. Montemayor


 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .

October 7, 2010

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
You can’t step on the same stream bank twice.


> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .


Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
> read more from Two Sides / Same Coin . . .

October 6, 2010

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


Semicolon Moons (permalink)

WANING CRESCENT (FUTURE)

"Space, semicolon, space."

International Standard Bibliographic Description (2007)


 
Inspired by Gary Barwin.
> read more from Semicolon Moons . . .

October 5, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from Memoir of John Wingate Thornton.

“His mustache and beard faded more and more into gray.” —Charles Neville Buck, The Key to Yesterday

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier (permalink)
True or False: Sideburns are funnier than Vandykes.

Clue:  This is according to a guide to drawing comics

Answer:  False.  (The answer is in black text on the black background.  Highlight it to view.)

Citation:  Suck School of Comic Art, Suck.com, (Nov. 7, 1997)
(Thanks to Jonathan Caws-Elwitt for inspiration!)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier . . .

October 4, 2010

It's Really Happening (permalink)


Sequential frames from The Statue, complete with splicing tape.
> read more from It's Really Happening . . .


Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the puzzle image below to reveal one possible solution.

You Do the Math - Presumptive Conundrums
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .

October 3, 2010

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
Though Frederic Tuten is correct when he says, "It's always meanly satisfying to blame the young for the darkening of the culture," here's an exception: it's impossible not to blame the young fiends Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei for darkening the culture by driving a violin prodigy to suicide.  The following curse is less judgmental than their inhuman punishment of their gay roommate: may they be neutered by jackals as they choke on violin strings.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Book of Whispers (permalink)
From our Magic Words outpost:

"Sometimes it is better for certain secrets to remain veiled by arcane words.  The secrets of nature are not transmitted on skins of goat or sheep.  Aristotle says in the book of secrets that communicating too many arcana of nature and art breaks a celestial seal and many evils can ensue.  Which does not mean that secrets must not be revealed, but that the learned must decide when and how." —Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
* The most profound secrets lie not wholly in knowledge, said the poet.  They lurk invisible in that vitalizing spark, intangible, yet as evident as the lightning—the seeker's soul.  Solitary digging for facts can reward one with great discoveries, but true secrets are not discovered—they are shared, passed on in confidence from one to another.  The genuine seeker listens attentively.

No secret can be transcribed, save in code, lest it—by definition—cease to be.  This Book of Whispers collects and encodes more than one hundred of humankind's most cherished secrets.  To be privy to the topics alone is a supreme achievement, as each contains and nurtures the seed of its hidden truth.  As possessor and thereby guardian of this knowledge, may you summon the courage to honor its secrets and to bequeath it to one worthy.
> read more from Book of Whispers . . .


Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
The title of this volume proves the old saying: "He couldn't see the forest for the trees"!


> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .

October 2, 2010

Staring at the Sun (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


> read more from Staring at the Sun . . .


Not Rocket Science (permalink)

 
* Inspired by Martha Brockenbrough, our puzzle book Not Rocket Science is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Not Rocket Science . . .

October 1, 2010

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Mysterious Beards ~

Portrait from Memoir of LeBaron Botsford.

“Should ghosts grow beards?” —Frederic Stewart Isham, Three Live Ghosts

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)


“By launching a number of vessels, you make it more likely that your ship will come in.” —Phil Fournier

 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .



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