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, a “monk for the modern age” by George Parker, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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July 30, 2019

Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan (permalink)

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt

unearths some literary gems.

Bill Nye snippets:


Youth is the spring-time of life. It is the time to acquire information, so that we may show it off in after years and paralyze people with what we know. The wise youth will “lay low” till he gets a whole lot of knowledge, and then in later days turn it loose in an abrupt manner. He will guard against telling what he knows, a little at a time. That is unwise. I once knew a youth who wore himself out telling people all he knew from day to day, so that when he became a bald-headed man he was utterly exhausted and didn’t have anything left to tell anyone.


I turned on my heel and I went away. I most always turn on my heel when I go away. If I did not turn on my own heel when I went away, whose heel would a lonely man like me turn upon?


Years rolled by. I did nothing to prevent it.


I would rather disseminate five hundred thousand low-price books than to [sic] print a $27 book and have to read it myself.


The great difficulty in teaching children the letters is that there is really nothing in the naked alphabet itself to win a child’s love. We must dress it in attractive colors and gaudy plumage so that he will be involuntarily drawn to it.


Now the pumpkin knows its place. You never knew of a pumpkin trying to monkey with science.... Rhubarb is the only thing that successfully holds it place with the apothecary, and yet draws a salary in the pie business.


[On “the plug hat that has endeavored to keep sober and maintain self-respect while its owner was drunk”:] A man may mix up in a crowd and carry off an overdose of valley tan in a soft hat or a cap, but the silk hat will proclaim it upon the house-tops, and advertise it to a gaping, wondering world. It has a way of getting back on the rear elevation of the head, or over the bridge of the nose, or of hanging coquettishly on one ear, that says to the eagle-eyed public: “I am chockfull.”


I went to the door and exclaimed to the proprietor as he came, “Merry Christmas, Colonel.”

“Merry Christmas be d——d!” said he in the same bantering tone. “What in three dashes, two hyphens and an astonisher do you want here, you double-dashed and double-blanketed blank to dash and return!!”

The wording here is my own, but it gives an idea of the way the conversation was drifting. You can see by his manner that literary people are not alone in being surly, irritable and unreasonable.


As I said before, this is where two railroads fork. In fact, that is the leading industry here. The growth of the town is naturally slow, but it is a healthy growth. There is nothing in the nature of dangerous or wild-cat speculation in the advancement of this place, and while there has been no noticeable or rapid advance in the principal business, there has been no falling off at all, and these roads are forking as much to-day as they did before the war, while the same three men who were present for the first glad moment are still here to witness its operation.


At first it seems odd to me that I should be writing from where I now am, but the more I think it over the better I am reconciled to it, for what better place can a man select from which to write a letter than the point where he is located at the time.


You can climb to the top of Beaucatcher Mountain and see a beautiful sight in any direction, and on most any day of the year. Every where the eye rests on a broad sweep of dark-blue climate. Up in the gorges, under the whispering pines, along the rhododendron bordered margins of the Swannonoa, or the French Brood, out through the Gap, and down the thousand mountain brooks, you will find enough climate in twenty minutes to last a week.


beautiful, pale-blue satin pincushions which it would be wicked to put a pin in and which will therefore ever and forevermore mock the man who really wants a pin


Twenty years ago you could plant a seed according to directions and it would produce a plant which seemed to resemble in a general way the picture on the outside of the package. Now, under the fluctuating influences of irresponsible isotherms, phlegmatic Springs, rare June weather and overdone weather in August, I find it almost impossible to produce a plant or vegetable which in any way resembles its portrait. Is it my fault or the fault of the climate? I wish the club would take hold of this at its next regular meeting. I first noticed the change in the summer of ’72, I think. I purchased a small package of early Scotch plaid curled kale with a beautiful picture on the outside. It was as good a picture of Scotch kale as I ever saw. I could imagine how gay and light-hearted it was the day when it went up to the studio and had its picture taken for this purpose.


I have just received from Boston a warm invitation to be present in that city on Forefathers’ day, to take part in the ceremonies and join in the festivities of that occasion.

Forefathers, I thank you! Though this reply will not reach you for a long time, perhaps, I desire to express to you my deep appreciation of your kindness, and, though I can hardly be regarded as a forefather myself, I assure you that I sympathize with you.

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be with you on this day of your general jubilee and to talk over old times with you.

One who has never experienced the thrill of genuine joy that wakens a man to a glad realization of the fact that he is a forefather, cannot understand its full significance. You alone know how it is yourself, you can speak from experience.

In fancy’s dim corridors I see you stand, away back in the early dawn of our national day, with the tallow candle drooping and dying in its socket, as you waited for the physician to come and announce to you that you were a forefather.

> read more from Miscellanies of Mr. Jonathan . . .
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