The Moral Of The Story

[content warning: puns. This is mostly self-plagiarism from my Tumblr and Twitter]

Once upon a time there was a small desert village with a single well outside town. One day a young woman went to the well to fetch water, and the well heard her crying, and asked “What’s wrong?”

She stopped her sobbing and asked the well “You can talk?”

“Yes,” said the well. “Long ago, the witch who lives in this town gave me life so I could serve as a guardian to the townspeople.”

“Alas,” said the young woman. “I am the daughter of that witch. She lived in peace with the townsfolk for many years. But the new mayor, who is a violent and hateful man, riled the people up against her, and they burned her at the stake. I am young and still do not know very much magic. I tried to curse them, but my curses fizzled. Now I worry I will never avenge my mother’s death.”

“Do not be afraid,” said the well. “I will take care of this.”

The next morning, when the Mayor came to fetch water from the well, he heard an odd noise coming from the bottom. He peered over as far as he could to see what was happening. Then an impossibly long arm shot up from the bottom of the well, grabbed the mayor, and pulled him into the well shaft. There was a horrible crunching sound, and nobody ever saw the Mayor again. The townsfolk apologized to the witch’s daughter, and they all lived happily ever after.

Moral of the story: Living well is the best revenge.

Pixar’s movie Up won the Academy Award for “Best Picture” and was widely hailed as one of the best children’s films of the decade. In fact, some people argued it was too good, and that kids were ignoring school, chores, and other responsibilities to watch it again and again. They said that along with the cute plot, the short, catchy name gave it an almost drug-like addictive quality. This made a lot of people very angry, and Pixar agreed to give its addictive must-watch movies longer names in the future.

Moral of the story: Do not call Up what you cannot put down.

There’s a new report out of CERN that a team of scientists has unraveled the structure of the photon. Apparently this started years ago when some equations showed that photons acted like tiny “hands” – structures with a “palm” and radiating “fingers” – which “crawl” across time/space and “grab” the solid particles they interact with. This explained most of the properties of light but wasn’t an exact match for the data. The latest result is that single photons are actually made up of hundreds of these shapes, all joined together into a single particle, and this is how they’re able to travel so quickly.

Moral of the story: Many hands make light work.

Once upon a time there was an ugly duckling. All of the other ducklings had grown their beautiful white soft downy feathers, but this duckling had no down feathers at all and was bald and ugly and all the other ducklings teased him.

He went to the mysterious crow who lived in the woods and asked for help. The crow said to repeat the magic words “HOCUS POCUS” at midnight with a full moon, and then he would grow his down feathers. The duckling tried that, but the moon just laughed at him and said the magic had no power here.

So he went to the creepy raven who lived in the swamp and asked for help. The raven said to repeat the magic words “ABRA CADABRA” at high noon on a sunny day, and then he would grow his down feathers. The duckling tried that, but the sun just laughed at him and said he wasn’t bound by the magic.

So he went to the wise old owl who lived in the tallest tree and asked for help. The owl explained that the duckling should just ignore the mockery of the other birds and accept that he was okay just the way he was, because there were no magic spells to make ducklings grow feathers.

Moral of the story: You are beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down.

Once upon a time a young lady died and went to Hell. At the check-in desk, Satan asked her age. She was in her twenties, but looked much younger; she thought quick and realized that even in Hell, they probably wouldn’t be mean to children. So she told Satan that she was twelve, and sure enough he said she wasn’t old enough to be held accountable for her sins, and ushered her off to a more peaceful part of Hell reserved for ages eleven through thirteen. She met the other sinners there and realized that many of them, like her, were older people who had lied to get out of their punishment.

Satan began to suspect something like this was going on, so he set up hidden cameras in the 11-13 wing of Hell, trying to catch people acting like adults or admitting to one another that they had lied about their age. But there were hundreds of millions of sinners and Satan couldn’t monitor all the cameras himself. So he went up to the mortal world and asked for the best supercomputer they had. The mortals recommended a newer model of Deep Blue, the supercomputer that had first beaten a human world champion at chess. Satan picked one up from IBM and went back to Hell, where he programmed the Deep Blue to monitor all of the hidden camera feeds at once and report any suspicious activity.

Sure enough, after a few days, he got thousands of reports of people acting older than thirteen. He hunted them down and removed them to Hell proper, where there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And it all could have been avoided if they had just stuck to their charade and acted as young as they said they were.

Moral of the story: Don’t get caught, be tween – the Devil and the Deep Blue see.

By 2050, screens have shrunk and become more flexible until the dream of “programmable paper” becomes a reality. Citizens of the future read newspapers like the ones in Harry Potter that include moving images and even videos of important events. This new technology even makes it as far as the US Post Office, where they decide to include programmable stamps. Instead of a static picture of eg George Washington’s head, it will have a moving image of Washington speaking and giving his famous Farewell Address.

Unfortunately, the technology isn’t ready for the kind of abuse that envelopes undergo on their travel throughout the country and the world. Most of the computerized stamps become corrupted and “crash”; in a particularly common bug, they try to reload but just end up displaying “GENERATING IMAGE…” permanently. The government has no money to fix the problem, so people just get used to stamps on their letters that say “GENERATING IMAGE…” instead of having interesting pictures on them.

Moral of the story: If you want a vision of the future, imagine a human face booting on a stamp forever.

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141 Responses to The Moral Of The Story

  1. faun-like thing says:

    Aw man, that was brutal. It reminds me of something, though. I used to know a pawn dealer(this was before the days of ebay and craigslist. If you wanted to sell something reasonably quickly, the pawn was the best deal you were going to get for it), his name was Bak, he was turkish. He had this one gnarly tooth, I couldn’t forget it, it poked right out of his mouth. One of the tough things about Bak was, whenever someone brought him a hat wanting to pawn it, he would take that tooth to it. A good hat, it would get a dimple, but it’d smooth out in a day. A bad hat, say, one made of plastic or synthetic felt instead of real felt, it would be permanently damaged. The patrons would complain, but he’d wave them off, saying it was a worthless hat and he just saved you the hassle of deciding whether to throw it away. But his english was.. uh.. ideosyncratic. So the client would say “What?! You’ve destroyed it!” And he would always just tell them something along the lines of “Hat which can be destroyed by the tooth, should be.”

  2. Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

    Theres this island in the South Pacific called Tridia. The island is dominated by a huge volcanic mountain in its center, but the Trids, the tribe native to the island never venture up it. They live only on the coasts of Tridia and pass down stories of the great dangers to be found if any were so foolish as to approach the volcano. It is said that a great giant makes his home there, and that should any mere men trespass, he will kick them into the sea so that thy drown.

    Eventually, European explorers made contact with the Trids, and word of them reached a wise Rabbi. He was quite taken by their plight. A whole tribe of people giving up use of half of their home island over a mere myth? It ate at him until he eventually set off to visit Tridia himself and dispel the legend of the giant so that these people will be free to climb their mountain.

    He received a warm welcome when he firsts sets foot on the shore, but as soon as he announces he will climp the mountain to prove that there is no giant, things change. Children yelled and fled from him. The tribeswomen wept for his certain death, the village elders plead with him not to go. The chief even dared follow him to the very base of the mountain, trying to turn him back. It was no use though. They were left to watch the Rabbi begin ascending alone until he vanished beneath the trees.

    After much walking, the rabbi came to a little clearing at the mouth of a cave. As he stepped out into the open space, thinking to take a beak for a moment, a giant emerged from the cave a strode forth to loom over him. The rabbi’s eyes widened as he stared up at the twenty foot tall creature, and fear gripped his heart.

    “Oh please, merciful giant,” He called out “I was warned this was your mountain and I took if for mere folly! Do not kick me into the sea so that I drown! I promise I shall leave this place and never return!”

    The giant stared down at the trembling man for a few long seconds before laughing, “Silly rabbi, kicks are for Trids”

  3. After the Chernobyl accident, due to the large amounts of radiation there was in surrounding ecosystem lots of strange mutations and deformities affecting the plants and animals. A few biologists came to investigate these weird mutations.

    One of them was observing the birds there, and noticed that one of them had a flexible claw: The bird was able to control the individual digits and could grab things with its claw. Although the biologist was very excited by her discovery, when she published it it got no attention. Even when she continued investigating and found a bird which had both claws like this, everyone thought the discovery was insignificant.

    Meanwhile, a second scientist was investigating the plant life in this ecosystem, and made a very similar discovery: He found shrub that was able to finely control one of its branches, which too was capable of grabbing and moving things. Unlike the first scientist, he received instant recognition for his discovery. He was interviewed many times in the media, and his discovery was hailed as one of the greatest in the field.

    The moral of the story is left as an exercise to the reader.

  4. Robin says:

    Years ago, I read a web comic (it was linked on the xkcdsucks blog, I think). It was about some workers from an oil company working on a desert planet to drill oil. But they are attacked by some very dreadful ghosts. It turns out (spoiler ahead) that the company has turned a thriving, happy jungle planet into a lifeless desert and all the life into oil just for their profit. The souls of the previous animals now wander the planet and attack the oil workers. After about 50 pages of a touching story with some side-tracks, it culminates in… a pun!

    Now I have to dive through the whole blog to look for that link again… Sigh

  5. Aran says:

    My reaction to each of these:

    What’s that thing Erica always says? Oh, right. This was the biggest mistake of my life and I hope I die.

  6. jimbo sayqa says:

    My favorite book is I Don’t Care If The Rain Never Stops, by An Wi.

  7. Hunter says:

    I haven’t felt this feeling since I read Godel, Escher, Bach.

    Incredible punning.

  8. eponymous says:

    Scott, I request your penetrating sociological analysis of why people feel the need to describe puns they clearly found hilarious as “awful”.

  9. MawBTS says:

    You forgot the “Monitor lizards monitor lizards” etc one.

  10. Liskantope says:

    I was caught between the desire to chuckle and the urge to roll my eyes through the first three, but number four made it all worth it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I don’t get the last one, can someone please explain?

    • Acedia says:

      It’s a reference to a famous line from the novel 1984:

      “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”

  12. Paul Brinkley says:

    The greatest warrior of Old English legend would have been one Thrynvar, not Beowulf, had it not been for an unfortunate encounter between Thrynvar and Gwandyll the witch. Thrynvar and his companions were venturing home from a miraculous victory against barbarians from the south and, seeking provisions, inquired at the hovel where Gwandyll resided. Gwandyll, being sympathetic to the barbarians, sought to trick Thrynvar, and directed him to a grove where deer were great in number, but warned him to avoid the “circles where faeries dance”.

    Thrynvar’s group reached the grove near dusk, and found signs of game as Gwandyll had promised, but also the fattest deer of all caught in a bramble, surrounded by pale toadstools. One of Thrynvar’s men ignored Gwandyll’s warning (as she’d hoped) and went after the hind, and became himself ensnared; when Thrynvar tried to rescue him, they were set upon by a multitude of wild hounds. The ambush spread to the rest of the band, and turned into a slaughter. Only Udbert, the smallest of them, had escaped, having hidden in fear.

    Udbert eventually reached home, and tried to tell his kinsfolk of their heroism in battle and later betrayal, but no one believed him, thinking it more likely that he had simply fled from a rout. Udbert was ultimately consigned to obscurity, probably as a bellows maker. Thrynvar was mourned as a fallen villager and then forgotten. Udbert’s tale was recounted in embellished form, mainly by madmen wishing to scare young children from entering the woods.

    Moral of the story: white ring dogpiles exist.

  13. Dr. Zarkov says:

    First story: is this an allegory about the near future? Is the young woman’s name Chelsea?

  14. Wander says:

    Unfortunately, my favorite pun has a several thousand word set-up, so I’ll just leave you with the punchline:
    Better Nate than lever.
    It’s funny, I swear.

  15. sweeneyrod says:

    During the zombie apocalypse of 2018, Emma Stone is conscripted and put in command of a task force to retrieve vital infrastructure-related software from the ruins of Silicon Valley. When mission creep leads to a new objective of retrieving a list of all the people with pirated copies of Windows, she disobeys orders, and (being a passionate advocate for free software) takes her unit on a quest to find lost open source code. After finding some parts of KDE and Xfce, Em (as she is now known to her soldiers) decides to locate scattered files of the GNU foundation’s popular desktop environment. In other words: AWOL Em Stone gathers GNOME OSS.

  16. Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

    It’s the year 2040. A wizened Dr. Scott Alexander is running new residents through multiple days of 12 hour shifts. After 6 straight days of grueling 12 hour shifts constantly on their feet with no rests, lunches, or even bathroom breaks, the new residents begin to complain. “Dr. Alexander!” one cries. “We’ve been on our feet for what seems like forever, yet you seem unaffected by these long hours! We’ve never seen you stop for even a bathroom break, how do you do it?”

    “Oh, I’ve gone to the bathroom” a nonplussed Dr. Alexander retorts. “The first thing you learn in psychiatry is that the p is silent.”

  17. gbdub says:

    One day, as the sun shone down on the sparkling ocean, a solitary sea bird came across a dolphin who was thrashing in circles and moaning in pain. The bird flew down and said, “Hello friend, why are you crying so?”

    “I’m wounded,” said the dolphin, “and have this awful hook stuck in my flipper! I can’t fish, and I can barely jump from the waves! I used to be the greatest leaper of all my pod, but now look at me!”

    The sea bird looked at the dolphin, and indeed, he had a nasty cut on one fin, with an old fish-hook stuck into his skin and a length of line wrapped around. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll have it out in a jellyfish’s wink!” Working deftly with his beak, the bird pulled out the hook and snipped through the line.

    “Oh, that feels so much better!” cried the dolphin, “I feel good as new! Look at me swim!” The dolphin flew through the waves, laughing and rolling, and leapt high into the air. Indeed, thought the sea bird, he is truly a great jumper. “How can I ever repay you?” asked the dolphin.

    “Trouble yourself not,” answered the sea bird, “I am always happy to server a higher porpoise”. And the two parted ways as friends.

    One day years later, the dolphin came upon the sea bird, who was floating sadly on the waves. “What troubles you old friend?” he asked.

    “Oh, dolphin, all of my flock have found mates and places to nest, but I have no one to love. I am afraid I’ll always be alone”.

    “That is terrible!” replied dolphin, “but I think I can help – return here tomorrow and I assure you I can solve your problem”.

    The next morning, the sea bird returned, not sure how dolphin could possibly help his sorrow. But sure enough he soon saw his dolphin friend leaping across the water toward him – and just above him flew the most beautiful bird he had ever seen! Her feathers were soft and white as sugar sand, her wings slender, and her yellow beak long and sharp. Salt spray glistened on her wings like gems.

    “My lady bird,” said dolphin, “here is the wonderful fowl I told you about! He is the kindest bird I’ve ever met, and a brilliant fisher! He saved my life – a better partner you’ll never find!”

    “Oh my,” said lady bird, “he is certainly all of that, and so handsome too! I had despaired of ever finding a good bird! Perhaps he’d like to fish with me on this fine day?”

    The sea bird blushed and stammered that he most certainly would. As the two soared off together, he looked back at his dolphin, who smiled a toothy smile and gave him a wink. “Farewell for now, my true friend,” shouted dolphin, “I’ve always thought that one good tern deserves another!”

  18. Aegeus says:

    An orchestra was playing Beethoven’s 9th symphony in an open-air amphitheater, when a freak windstorm blew in, scattering sheet music everywhere. It was so strong that they had to call a brief intermission between movements so that the orchestra could tie their music down onto their music stands. But while they were doing this, the bassists decided that they also had time to slip out for a few drinks. Unfortunately, they got really drunk, and two of the bassists completely blacked out and couldn’t play.

    So when the conductor returned to the stand, things looked pretty grim for the orchestra. It was the bottom of the Ninth, the score was tied, the basses were loaded, and two men were out!

  19. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    As the US national debt rose and rose, people began speculating that the government might eventually be forced to renege on even its humblest obligations. One sharp-tongued Canadian-American journalist went so far as to doubt the Post Office’s promise to honor non-denominated postage, writing,
    “If you want a vision of the future, imagine an aboot-face on the Forever Stamp.”

  20. AS314 says:

    In the Mid-West there was a large office complex that was home to a number of computer companies. The manager of the complex provided a large open area where the people from the different offices could meet each other. They often met at the water cooler and would discuss the news of the day but they were responsible workers and they returned to work quickly.
    There were many chess players among the computer companies and this generated a lot of excitement when the annual chess tournament took place as it always did each December. The players would analyze the games in detail and sometimes spend hours reporting how they could have handled the chess moves better. It was really getting out of hand and very little work was getting done. The office managers came together to discuss the problem and they produced a memo to be sent to all their employees.
    No more chess nuts boasting in the open foyer.

  21. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    The zoological community was shocked by the discovery in a remote region of the world’s largest burrowing animal, an order of magnitude bigger than the previous title-holder, the wombat. Biologists flocked to the isolated area to try to determine what unique features of the region produced such a creature. And when it was discovered that a nearby village had domesticated the creatures long ago, anthropologists joined them, eager to observe the effects of such unusual fauna.

    The creatures were used primarily as draft animals, pulling plows and carts. On occasion their burrowing behavior was put to use digging ditches. In emergencies they were a source of meat. But the most important benefit, the villagers insisted, was spiritual.

    As a coming of age rite, adolescents would ride the beasts as they plowed the fields, and eventually this would lead to some kind of epiphany–the anthropologists were still learning the details.

    One particularly bright anthropologist studied this practice especially closely, and decided to write a book about it for the public. He wanted to use the native name as the title, but the publisher insisted on a translation.

    So he produced the work that would bring him fame, “Meditations on Mole-Ox.”

  22. Lumifer says:

    Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away there was a fishing village on the shores of a wine-dark sea. It nestled in the ruins of an outpost build by an old civilization destroyed many ages ago. Little was left of that outpost except for a monolith that still worked. It couldn’t do much, but it could display giant letters that were visible for miles around and the villagers figured out how to make it put a little star by a particular letter. They were simple folk with simple needs, so a star by the letter F meant the fish were running, and a star by the letter U meant the chief was in an ugly mood today, and the star by the letter Z meant an invasion was imminent.

    Lo and behold, one evening an old monolith-keeper and his young apprentice were sitting by the control panel when there was a great ruckus in the distance. They went out to see what was happening and — oh, horrors! — there was a giant monster, a bronze golem with a fire in his belly, and he was burninating the countryside. What shall we do?! cried the apprentice, can we try to appease the monster?

    No, said the old monolith-keeper, ‘s late, star code X.

  23. Decius says:

    After the inauspicious death of the elder of the village of Try, tradition demanded that the bad luck be cleaned out by burning all of the buildings. So the people removed all of their valuables and a few adults went back to set the fire. After several hours they had produced nothing but a wisp of smoke for their efforts. Finally one of the youngest Trids, who had not yet completed her rite of passage, got frustrated with the delay. She walked back to the remains of the elder’s grass residence and began striking flint together over it. Within seconds the grass was alight and within hours the entire hamlet was ritually cleaned by fire and turned into ash.

    The moral of this story: It takes a child to raze a village.

  24. TheWorst says:


  25. Tom Stroop says:

    I like this post. Seeing Scott make dumb puns again is comforting, like a warm cup of afternoon tea.

    Speaking of tea, I was going camping with my friend Lisa and we were settling down to have some tea, when I noticed it had all spilled out when we were walking around.

    We backtracked a while, and I found some lying in a tree, but Lisa said, “Wait! That’s Poison Sumac. If you touch that, you’ll get a bad rash. Better not.”

    So I looked around some more, and found some tea bags among some flowers. But Lisa said “No, those are Vicious Hound roses. Their thorns are very sharp and can cause bleeding. Just give it up.”

    But by this point I was fairly determined to get some tea, so I annoyedly asked about some bags in a nearby bush, and she said, “Well, okay. Those seed burs will cause you to lose sensation for a couple seconds, but it should be basically fine.”

    So I reached in and grabbed the bags, and sure enough, my hands got numbed. But we made it back and finally had some tea.

    Moral of the story: There’s safe tea in numb-burs.

  26. Alsadius says:

    Wow, those are some truly awful puns. I approve.

  27. anon says:

    Oh wow, ‘mericans actually say “moral of the story”, I thought you people say “aesop” instead.

    • Peter says:

      I thought “Aesop” for “moral of the story” was a TVTropes thing.

      (I have a frequent one: “And the moral of the story is, don’t be a character in a book.” To which I must add especially not if Scott is writing it.)

    • John says:

      Man, I’m glad I don’t live in the alternate reality hellscape where Americans all talk like TVTropes.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      So people actually say “… and the aesop is…” instead of “… and the moral of the story is… ” ?

      • LPSP says:

        Only on TV Tropes, which is pretty small and inbred as communities go.

        • Alliteration says:

          TV tropes terms to leak out some into the rest of the fandom community though.

          • LPSP says:

            To an extent of course. Ensemble Darkhorse for instance has some success, and the term Mary Sue has skyrocketed in use no-doubt from the site’s influence. But using Aesop for Moral isn’t a neat encapsulation of a relevant narrative concept, it’s just swapping one perfectly good bisyllabic term for a more confusing one (“Are we talking about the guy or the thing the guy made famous?”). Only a TV Tropes obsessive, of which you will undoubtedly find a lot on the site itself, use words like that.

          • Outis says:

            Mary Sue predates TVTropes.

          • LPSP says:

            No-one said otherwise.

        • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

          What is TV Tropes? Is it a band?

          Also, get off my lawn.

    • gbdub says:

      No, Americans say “I learned something today…”

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ anon
      Oh wow, ‘mericans actually say “moral of the story”, I thought you people say “aesop” instead.

      This USian never heard of ‘aesop’ in that use. Don’t recall a similar construction, and ‘aesop of the story’ upsets me, for some reason. ‘The Voldemort of that story was ____’ and ‘the Obewan of that story was ____’ feel okay. Perhaps because they are characters while Aesop was a real person, and an author at that.

      ‘The moral of the story’ is normal in the US.* It’s a very common phrase, and some of us leave out ‘of the story’ and just say ‘The moral of this/that is’ or ‘The moral is’. If we’re talking about a real life happening, we’d probably say ‘And the moral is’, because saying ‘of the/this/that story’ is distancing, treating a real happening as we would treat fiction.

      *(It’s so normal, that I feel like I’m being trolled in making a serious reply.)

  28. Most of them were pretty good, but the last two were devastating.

  29. Senjiu says:

    I laughed at the “Don’t get caught be tween – the Devil and Deep Blue see.” because after I read the moral I thought about how cringy it was. 🙂

  30. Atreic says:

    So, my initial response was ‘LOL, these are the most awesome puns ever’. I read them to my partner, who was like ‘oh, that’s a moderately funny pun, shrug’.

    Musing on this, my response to lots of SlateStarCodex is ‘Wow, that is the most insightful / well written / Completely Right About the World article ever’. And my partner tends to be ‘that’s an article, yeah, I see what he’s saying, shrug’

    So, maybe I’m predisposed to think SSC puns are awesome because I have a prior that SSC is always awesome. But I don’t think it’s just that. I wonder if there is some correlation between liking the general posting style / logic / phrasing / something essentially SSCodexy about posts about Issues, and liking really contrived carefully crafted over the top puns? Or, err, maybe any two data points make a line…

    • Anonymous says:

      Or maybe just your partner is that kind of person who doesn’t like to display enthusiasm…

      ‘Do you love me?’

      ‘eh, you’re fine, shrug’

    • LPSP says:

      I showed the site to my mother and got a similar reaction. “Yeah, that’s a point he made.”

    • eponymous says:

      I sent a SSC post to my wife, and she was like, “It’s too long. I’m not reading that.”

      I think it’s fair to say that Scott’s writing is extremely appealing to a narrow set of people.

    • Maybe a correlation, but it doesn’t hold for everyone – I very much like the articles, but my reaction to the puns is that they are mildly amusing. Which, to be fair, is the most I feel about any puns. But at any rate, it’s perfectly possible to have a very high opinion of Scott’s writing without being terribly fond of puns in general.

      • LPSP says:

        For what it’s worth I’m in this boat. Corny puns are amusing, but they’re not a substitute for a real article; tumblr fodder at best.

  31. Deiseach says:

    I’m going to need the rest of the day for my brain to recover from these.

  32. Rachael says:

    Love these, especially the last one.

  33. Markus Ramikin says:

    Get out. /Cary Grant

  34. Someone says:

    Nitpick: Ducklings have yellow or brown down (or a pattern of the two), not white.

    • Anonymous says:

      I recently learned that the lost context of the story of the ugly duckling is that cygnets are gray. Even Australian cygnets.

      • Cliff says:

        “Lost” context?? Isn’t that the whole point of the story??

        • Anonymous says:

          The whole point is that cygnets are ugly, although I don’t know how much people know that this is true in real life. They don’t look much uglier than ducklings to me. I think that their gray color is uglier than their adult white or black, or even duckling yellow, but that’s pretty minor compared to the general duckling appearance. Walt Disney made the cygnet white, so I don’t think I’m alone is not knowing that cygnets are gray.

          • Outis says:

            PROOF that Disney was an alt-right Nazi:
            1) Mr. Duck is a CUCK.
            2) The little white bird has no FUTURE in a multiethnic society of other bird races, who abuse him mercilessly.
            3) The only hope is to abandon the lie of the melting pot and rediscover the bonds of kin with other WHITE birds.
            4) In the end the other birds recognize that the WHITE bird is superior, but he wants nothing more to do with them.
            Pure distilled 1488 ideology in bird form, wow. 🙁

    • PhoenixRite says:

      Another nitpick: Washington didn’t “give” his Farewell Address. It was written and published in papers nationwide, but it wasn’t a speech.

  35. Occam's Laser says:

    The year wasn’t going well for my startup. The latest round of investment had been dismal, and if we didn’t find another source of revenue soon, we’d have to close down. It was during this crisis that an unexpected letter arrived from one of my Swiss cousins whom I rarely spoke to. The letter was short and vague, but seemed to be informing me of an illness in the family and urgently requesting my presence at the family estate. Against my better judgement, I soon found myself on a plane to Europe; I’d done all I could think of for the company, and maybe a short vacation would give me the new perspective I needed to pull off a miracle.

    On my arrival, my cousins immediately pressed me into service preparing our family’s contest entry for a nearby town’s upcoming cheese festival. It seems that the uncle who had taken ill had a critical role in the cheese-making process, and they needed me to take his place, which the letter had conveniently neglected to mention. They couldn’t trust anyone outside of the family with this task, or risk the secret process being stolen by one of their competitors. Although I was a little annoyed at the deception, I nevertheless agreed to help; it was, after all, a family tradition, and a chance to bond with a side of the family I’d never been particularly close to.

    When three of the cousins and I got to the cave at the edge of the estate, one of them handed me a flute and a leaflet of sheet music. Playing music to the cheese at the proper time, they explained, was an absolutely crucial part of the process. If it wasn’t performed correctly, it would completely ruin the taste—not to mention our chances in the competition, which the family hadn’t lost in over a hundred years. All of us stood in separate marked-off areas of the cave, and at a signal, began to play. Though I hadn’t practiced since college, I did a passable job of sight reading my part. As we continued, it became clear that none of our parts matched each other, and I began to wonder whether there had been a mistake. Noticing my hesitation, a cousin waved me on encouragingly from across the cave, and so I focused again on my own part, trying to ignore the three distinct streams of incongruous notes. As we played our separate melodies, the racks of cheese visibly reacted, resonating somehow with the music. When we finished, the discordant notes echoed into silence, my cousins thanked me profusely, and said that my work was done. I decided to stick around for the contest, which we handily won, and headed back home with my share of the prize money, easily enough to keep the company afloat for another year.

    Moral of the story: Four tunes flavor the mold.

  36. Nomghost says:

    You really missed an opportunity by not posting this in comic sans with colourful highlights and the title re: re: re: fwd: fwd: the moral of the story

  37. DanielLC says:

    > Moral of the story: Many hands make light work.

    I would have gone with “Mini hands make light work.”

  38. James K says:

    Beautiful, just beautiful.

  39. onyomi says:

    “Up” has…risen near to the top of my “movies everyone loved but I hated” list, along with “Shakespeare in Love,” “Moulin Rouge,” and “In Bruges.”

    • Acedia says:

      The opening part of Up (the montage of the old guy’s life) was great, but I completely lost interest after that.

      • NL says:

        I honestly have tried to watch it like 5 times (both alone and with other people) and every time I fall asleep as soon as they get to South America.

        WALL-E, on the other hand, I can watch again and again.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          I still prefer The Incredibles to either. Moral of the story: Thou shalt knot steel.

          • LPSP says:

            Best taste right here. Incredibles is an absolute masterpiece.

            Monster’s Inc.
            Most Pixar films, including the beginning of UP
            The rest of UP

            That’s pretty much how I’d rank it.

        • onyomi says:

          I had the exact same experience with Up: the opening montage is a bit overrated but I can understand the appeal. Everything after that felt to me like bizarre non sequitur that put me to sleep.

          I loved The Incredibles. Even before I realized it was an expression of the philosophy of Nietzsche.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It really felt like they didn’t know how to make Up into an actual narrative movie. The conflict felt forced in.

    • John says:

      There are a lot of people who have this “overrated” reaction, but frankly I strongly disagree; I think the movie was rated correctly for about a month after it came out and has been underrated since. (This is also, incidentally, my opinion of Bioshock Infinite.)

    • Anonymous says:

      With you until the In Bruges bit . . .

      • onyomi says:

        I enjoyed seeing the city itself, but In Bruges, imo, suffered from a kind of genre confusion which rarely has good results. Example: Sean of the Dead (another one many people love) can’t decide whether it is a parody of zombie movies or just a zombie movie. In Bruges seems to me to be unable to decide whether it’s a dark comedy with hitmen or just a dark movie about hitmen.

        The result is a movie which seems to ask me to sympathize with characters who are moral monsters simply because they are cute, funny, roguish fuckups, the Collin Farrell character in particular. A serious movie about the psychological struggles of a bad man who shot an innocent child I could like. But not a comedy about the psychological struggles of a bad man who shot an innocent child.

        • greentea says:

          Genres are only labels, not neat little categories with rules that must be adhered to.

          Although In Bruges fits pretty cleanly into my dark comedy category; they always juxtapose irreverence with serious subject matter. That’s what makes them dark. The more awful things are, the funnier.

          • onyomi says:

            I understand that about genre. Defying conventions works sometimes. But it’s hard to get right. Dark comedy works sometimes, but it’s also a fine line. In Bruges, to me, wasn’t funny, but, like the protagonist, seemed enamored with itself.

            To describe what I see as its failing a bit differently: a big mismatch between my own reaction to the events and characters and what the movie seems to expect would be my evaluation of the events and characters (though I understand my reaction is not everyone’s reaction; hence its appearance on my “I hated but others loved” list).

            A deeply flawed, unsympathetic, or only partially sympathetic protagonist can work, but not if the work proceeds seemingly with the assumption that he is wholly sympathetic or not flawed. If the disconnect is big enough it can be a source of comedy, but not if it falls into a kind of comedic “uncanny valley” where it’s too dark to be an airy comedy but not dark enough for the darkness itself to be a source of comedy. It would be like Death Note as a comedy in which Light was treated as a sympathetic protagonist.

          • LPSP says:

            To coin a term in the line of story-as-a-contract (for example, themes are a promise from the author to the reader, and when the story dodges them it feels like a let down), instances where a story clearly expects you to like or accept a character (or dislike or reject another) can feel coercive. You feel like a contract is being shoved in your face, an offer the plot won’t allow you to refuse.

            I’ve never watched In Bruge so I can’t comment on that, but I’d describe almost all of the end of Homestuck in this manner. The audience is expected to care about Pnyyvbcr, loath Pnyvobea, celebrate the forced social crap and not be bothered that gur sbhe xvqf arire unir n pung gbtrgure.

          • onyomi says:

            Though not a movie, Homestuck is also an example of something really popular which I really, really don’t get. Tried a few times to read it and just couldn’t get into at all.

            Oddly, I love Undertale, which seems to be quite popular with the same set.

          • LPSP says:

            Homestuck is a complicatedly-mixed bag, which changes in tone pretty neatly at the quarter marks of the story (so all four quarters feel quite different). I read the author’s earlier story, Problem Sleuth, prior, and I loved that. If it wasn’t for the Problem Sleuth-esque elements to Homestuck I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it all that much. If you can read and enjoy Sleuth, it’s a fair litmus test for some Homestuck enjoyability.

            Undertale is made by Homestuck’s chief musician, the former roomate of Homestuck’s author and one of his major creative muses. Much of its Kickstarter success came from piggybacking Homestuck’s own Kickstarter craze (which, unlike Undertale, is a trainwreck). A large portion of Undertale fans are former Homestuck fans, but there aren’t so many fans of both, outside of indiscriminately fanny circles like tumblr.

            There are big similarities regardless, certainly in terms of music; several major characters in both pieces are strongly analogous to each other (Undyne for example is almost literally Vriska and Meenah’s hornless baby), and the sound design is surprise-surprise almost identical. A piece of the final battle in Homestuck is even literally an Undertale mechanics cameo. What Undertale has that Homestuck lacks is consistency – not just in quality, but in general humour and tone. Homestuck devolved hard over its run. The author stopped trying or caring. A crying shame from someone so talented, who had made the piece gorgeous, stimulating and gripping at its best.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I liked Problem Sleuth up until the “final boss fight”, which was just kind of terrible and took up a pretty big fraction of the comic’s run.

          • LPSP says:

            I’ve often wondered about that final battle. I was introduced to Sleuth in late 2010 as a sort-of birthday present (10/25 funnily enough, which meant that every HS flash released that day was also like a birthday gift), which was over a year after it finished. I enjoy the fight, even if it did randomly drag on in spots. I liked the Pumpkin Schemas, using the portals to weaponise bricks and things. But I don’t know if I’d have found it frustrating had I read it at the time. It certainly ended satisfyingly.

          • anon says:

            I did not like Problem Sleuth, but I liked Homestuck up until it went hiatus and devolved from there.

            I also like Undertale.

            There’s really not as much commonality in whether you’ll like these things as people claim there is.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I don’t know, I liked Homestuck a lot. I agree that it was a mistake to finish it when he did, he should have waited and/or taken as long as he needed to do it.

            Homestuck is to webcomics is what dwarf fortress is to video games, it’s just completely in a class of its own. A lot of Homestuck’s value, independently of its actual quality, is on the meta level — showing what is actually possible.

          • LPSP says:

            That’s interesting anon, would you care to tell us more about what you liked and didn’t like in the two pieces?

            I think we’re in the same boat as each other Ilya, besides extent. The comic was 7-9 out of ten until the kickstarter-induced hiatuses kicked in, and I wouldn’t have called any of it bad before that point.

          • anon says:

            I don’t remember much about Problem Sleuth. I do remember I didn’t like it, obviously, and I remember it was lolrandom. This probably explains some of the difference, because Problem Sleuth was literally a forum game where Hussie took commands from the pool provided to him, whereas Homestuck treated them as suggestions at best and eventually just stopped taking real input at all – even for character names, in the end. So it had more authorial direction, making a more coherent story.

            Homestuck was pretty okay aside from ending suddenly and without resolving much or answering many questions. Oh, and the authorial trolling. It got old, and rather frequent after a while. On the imageboards we have a saying: It’s still shitposting, even if you’re being ironic.

            The character-specific text quirks were pretty out of hand too. Aside from them just being sort of annoying, I pity the ESL readers.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Problem Sleuth was literally a forum game where Hussie took commands from the pool provided to him, whereas Homestuck treated them as suggestions at best and eventually just stopped taking real input at all

            My understanding is that Problem Sleuth abanoned the whole forum game thing pretty quickly. Or, for a while he did continue to take commands from the pool, but the pool was so large that he could usually find what he wanted anyway, and eventually he did just resort to making them up as he needed them, abandoning the forum game aspect entirely.

            I’ve never read Homestuck, but seeing as it came after Problem Sleuth, I’m surprised it had that aspect at all except as a fiction…

        • 2stupid4SSC says:

          I have noticed a possible related issue, in particular with anime, and the clumsy attempts at ‘dark comedy’ where humor and serious subject matter are juxtaposed in a way that I personally find very jarring. Trigun being the paragon of this, mixing the most banal slapstick with mind control murder just doesn’t work for me. This is less about the ability to sympathize with a particular character and more about the emotional 180s that I just don’t like being forced to make.

          • LPSP says:

            In that instance, I’d probably just write it off as most anime humour sucking major twonk. The best japanese humour is a) purely visual b) incidental to other things and c) dessicatedly dry. Jokes and gags from japanese stuff do nothing for me.

          • 2stupid4SSC says:

            @LPSP True, I rarely enjoy Japanese attempts at comedy, in general. However I have noticed a particularly cavalier attitude in which very dark or heavy material is thrown about in anime. It seems to me they just don’t have the same genre notions, or the same notion of genre purity. For example, I could not finish code geass, but I remember plenty of childish humor and ecchi before the mind control suicides started.

            Maybe they just don’t think mind controlling a person into killing themselves or others is as deeply troubling as I think it is? Maybe my pattern matching is working too hard.

          • LPSP says:

            The crazier alternative being that Japanese find Three Stooges-esque slapstick as dark and frightening as mind rape. And I say crazier, but honestly – I can’t rule it out.

            To bring this into a broader topic – in western comic tradition, characters and settings like [Batman and Gotham] are created by a certain author, with a tone and type of story baked into the concept. Other writers are then free to pen new tales about the characters and explore the rest of the world. Compare that to manga, where instead each author creates one world, one set of characters and one plot, which acts as a kitchen sink for everything they find interesting in a story. Most western writers move on from a universe and write a new story elsewhere, even if it follows similar themes – compare that to the ultra long-running nature of popular shonen like One Piece. An attitude is reflected in this.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I mean, that’s not “dark comedy”, that’s just a bad juxtaposition of darkness and comedy. Trigun wasn’t making any jokes about the dark parts, as I recall.

          • Outis says:

            But in Trigun the genre switch matched the two faces of the main character. Vash projects the image of a harmless goofball, but is actually an incredibly skillful gunman. Similarly, the anime initially seems to be mostly an action comedy, but it becomes increasingly dramatic as more of Vash’s past and true nature is uncovered. Both Vash’s goofball persona and the slapstick gradually fade away. Also, it had a really great ending, which is something many other anime TV series have trouble nailing down. In conclusion, if you don’t like Trigun you are wrong.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Trigun was just bad. There have been a few bad shows produced in the West too, you know.

          • onyomi says:

            It’s not one of my favorites, but Trigun works for me because the comedy parts and the serious parts are kept relatively separate, and I don’t recall the serious parts being that grim, but it’s been a long time. Kenshin does this back-and-forth much better, however.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            But in Trigun the genre switch matched the two faces of the main character. Vash projects the image of a harmless goofball, but is actually an incredibly skillful gunman. Similarly, the anime initially seems to be mostly an action comedy, but it becomes increasingly dramatic as more of Vash’s past and true nature is uncovered. Both Vash’s goofball persona and the slapstick gradually fade away.

            See, this is what I hear people say, but it just doesn’t seem accurate. There is no gradual fade, something familiar from e.g. webcomics; they’re kept entirely separate and not meshed together well at all. (It doesn’t help that the serious part is substantially worse than the comedy part.)

            Also, it had a really great ending, which is something many other anime TV series have trouble nailing down.

            I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with that claim as well! I will be slightly more positive than suntzuanime and say that Trigun had a few good episodes, but on the whole it just didn’t work.

          • onyomi says:

            Though it doesn’t say anything about its desirability, and I agree Trigun’s comedy bits were better than its serious bits, and that it didn’t quite nail the transition, it does seem to be one of many examples of a “superficially goofy secret badass” trope the Japanese love.

            Other examples include Kenshin, Goku, Luffy, Naruto’s Kakashi, and many others. Maybe traces its lineage back to the original Goku from Journey to the West, or some of the Water Margin heroes.

          • LPSP says:

            The more I think about it, the more I realise so many flavours of Japanese-popular badass fall into this mold. The pompous bumbling samurai who can none-the-less cut through mountains. Zoro from One Piece, whose chief humanising trait is his improbably lack of direction and alcoholism. Sanji too, for that matter – once we got to know him, he only got more exaggeratedly idolising of women. Countless child-magicians who can destroy worlds but feel sweepy around bedtime or don’t know how sex works. It may actually be the backbone of japanese competency – it must be mitigated with goofy eccentricity.

            Comparing it to western characters, hang-ups over some old loss or conflict seem to be the more common badass-drawback trait.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Funny, Shaun of the Dead and In Bruges are two of my top five favorite movies of all time. I take to genre the way some people take to gender: if you’re not transgressing the boundaries you’re not trying, and you’re probably evil.

          I feel like you’ve seriously misread In Bruges. It’s a Christian movie, at the deepest level. It’s not just set at Christmas-time for the aesthetic. The reason the movie asks you to sympathize with the bad man who shot an innocent child is because Christ asks us to love our neighbors, even if they are bad men. The movie explores themes of forgiveness for mortal sin, and just because it cracks a lot of jokes doesn’t mean it doesn’t take those themes seriously.

          • onyomi says:

            For me, once he shot the kid, I was already done with the movie. I didn’t like the character before that; after that he was a monster to me and any subsequent attempts at comedy in the same movie rang hollow. The movie seems to imply, and the Collin Farrell character seems himself to think, he is worthy of forgiveness and understanding, but nothing he does or says before or after that point makes me want to agree.

            But then, I’m not a Christian, so maybe I’m just too unforgiving. 😛 But I feel like a movie with the very serious theme “even the most evil people are also worthy of forgiveness” should not try simultaneously to be a comedy. But I am less genre fluid than you.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I dunno where you got the idea that the Colin Farrell character thought he was worthy of forgiveness and understanding. Was it the part where he said “I am not worthy of forgiveness or understanding” and tried to kill himself? Like I say, you seem to have seriously misread the film, his personal feelings of unforgivability were an important plot point.

            The movie disagrees with him. It’s sort of the main theme of the movie. You disagree with it. It must be nice to be so good a person as to not believe in mercy.

          • onyomi says:

            “The movie disagrees with him. It’s sort of the main theme of the movie. You disagree with it. It must be nice to be so good a person as to not believe in mercy.”

            I disagree that the movie disagrees with him. His cute quips and puppy dog expressions, along with his belated expressions of guilt, make it clear the movie expects me to sympathize with him.

            As for me being such a good person, I do feel good enough about my morality to judge professional hitmen. The Collin Farrell character took away the life of an innocent child, as well as many others. The movie implies he deserves a second chance at life. I disagree.

            And, again, you may disagree with my judgment of the character or how the movie intends to depict him, and I’m not saying one couldn’t make a good movie about the possibility of living with oneself or finding redemption even after having committed the most terrible acts, but does this sound like a good theme for a comedy, even a dark one?

          • onyomi says:

            Oh, if you mean he thinks he deserves to die and the movie disagrees with him, then I agree with you there, though I’m not convinced he really wants to die for very long, given his later actions and wish not to die in Bruges. If he really wanted to make amends and prevent further carnage he could have turned himself in and informed on his boss.

            In all kinds of subtle and, imo, bad ways (how sympathetic would we find him if he were physically unattractive and didn’t have a cute sense of humor?), the movie asks me to sympathize with the Collin Farrell character, but I do not.

            The movie says to me: “yes this man is a professional killer, but he’s so charming and funny and roguish and look–he feels bad! He hates himself! He wants to make amends. Won’t you forgive him??” My answer is “no.”

            I don’t see why a serial murderer should get a second chance at life when he took away the life of an innocent child, nor how any of this is appropriate material for a comedy.

    • I hated the montage. The woman had a distinctive personality as a girl, but became generic as an adult.

      • TheWorst says:

        Personally, I assumed that was part of the point – that death wasn’t the only part of the tragedy.

      • gbdub says:

        But so did Walter! The only thing interesting about him was his “whimsical” job as a balloon salesman. Otherwise they both got boring as they had to set aside their youthful sense of adventure for adult responsibilities, assuming they’d always have tomorrow to chase their dream. Them getting boring and generic is a big part of the point.

  40. Sandy says:

    Is this why the Report button is missing?

  41. hey nonny nonny says:

    If there is a god, Scott, you should tremble in the knees, for no good end will come to such as pawn dank puns like these.

  42. hypnosifl says:

    Along somewhat similar lines, here’s a funny shaggy-dog joke about stories with morals by Norm MacDonald:

    • I suppose Stern’s name is trigger warning enough, but cw for mass murder being treated as funny. Also, there is no pun, unless I missed something.

      However, there’s a bit at the end about people assuming that they’d know how awful Hitler was, but what if you were entranced by him. If you’d like a pretty good novel-length riff on the subject, check out Look Who’s Back.

      Hitler appears in modern Germany with nothing but his uniform. People assume he’s a brilliant Hitlder impersonator. He becomes a disturbingly popular media star.