« A Very Odd Line in David Wessel's Column This Morning | Main | For the Record... A Little Growth Analysis »

February 17, 2005


One thing is clear: Unfogged has long been one of the gems of the internets, but now the men of Unfogged have met their master:

Unfogged: "You know, that last story I told you was stone cold depressing. I'm going to relate a, well, an only marginally less depressing story, but one that's a lot funnier. (This just reminds me of how in a high school writing class I was accused of pushing the Southern Gothic thing a little too hard, and I was like, 'I toned it down!')

My step-mother used to drink. I think the most wasted day I have ever spent.... This isn't the point of the story, though. I wasn't actually there that time Lonnie asked my step-mom to help...

What follows is not funny. Not funny at all--at least not to anyone with an ounce of compassion for domestic animals. But it is:

...put flea spray on their cat 'Lucky.' If I had been, maybe I'd have been the one to notice it was a spray bottle of 'Easy-Off' oven cleaner, and saved everybody a lot of trouble, but to be honest, I probably wouldn't have.

Strangely enough, he lived, all burnt up with lye, and all his hair fallen out. He hid under the trailer for a good long while, and only came out to be fed. Finally, bald, scarred, pink and fuzzy, he took to hiding behind the TV set, crooning to himself strangely during 'The Price Is Right.' They changed his name to 'Skeeter', because 'Lucky just didn't seem to suit him no more.'

Posted by DeLong at February 17, 2005 02:41 PM


That's really unfunny Brad.

Posted by: rakehell at February 17, 2005 03:25 PM

Oh. Oh dear. :-(

I used to work as a volunteer for the Palo Alto Humane Society, helping to coordinate the pre-adoption fostering program. (We took captured stray kittens and placed them with people whom we'd thoroughly screened for commitment and responsibility, and trained on how to socialize ferals. I worked up a database and mailing-list system to help track the animals and the people, to replace the rather unreliable "we have it all in a paper binder somewhere" method that had previously been in use. It was a great excuse to go spend a few hours a week under a pile of kittens.)

It sounds like there was no malevolence here, which is more than one can say for the last case of a "Lucky" cat. (Not to be read if one is sensitive about cruelty.)

It's shocking to me how low the penalties are for intentional torture of animals. Though perhaps it shouldn't be, considering the blase attitude of red voters towards the torture memos...

Posted by: Auros at February 17, 2005 03:55 PM

Yeah. A big build up for something unfunny in an uninteresting way. Sorry.

My wife could tell a more interesting unfunny story that involves a garage door opener. But even that story isn't worth sharing.

That said, I'm enjoying a good 95% of your posts and I'm sure there will be other readers pleased as punch that you directed them to the story.

Posted by: Ottnott at February 17, 2005 04:01 PM

I'm part southerner. I thought it was a good story told in a properly dry manner.
I just read Guareschi's autobiography of his time in a WWII prison camp. He told of mess his city people coprisoners made of butchering a cow postliberation. He said that if you had lived on the restricted calorie diet they had lived on, and should have medically been dead 18 months ago, then you had the right to criticise them.
He was the guy who did the Don Camillo and Pepone stories.

Posted by: walter willis at February 17, 2005 04:09 PM

If someone had done that to a small child instead of a cat they would have been vilified by the law and the media, and rightly so.

Why is it considered in any way funny by anyone when this sort of thing happens to a cat?

[Well, if the cat died it wouldn't be the least bit funny. The fact that the cat is scarred (and paranoid) makes it funny/not funny, with the balance on the not funny.]

A cat doesn't have the potential of a child, but has feelings very much on the same level. And they will never, ever, have any way to redress a grievance.

There's an old saying that says you can tell a lot about a man (or woman) by the way he treats a cat. It's true.

Same goes for dogs. Or horses.

Posted by: Alan at February 17, 2005 06:15 PM

There is a huge chunk of text missing from the weblog I can see on my browser.

From the line 'domestic animals. But it is:'

to the line: 'Strangely enough, he lived...'

This makes the entire story a little bit difficult to understand. But I'm not eager to read the missing bits, anyway. I love animals and hate animal cruelty.

I can't even watch "Animal Police" on the Animal Planet.

Posted by: Jon Koppenhoefer at February 18, 2005 01:08 AM

Sad story. Poor cat didn't deserve that. Human idiocy is just nauseating sometimes.

Posted by: Tim B. at February 18, 2005 04:52 AM

Poor cat.

In honesty, I have to relate a similar but thankfully far less injurious episode from our house. We once grabbed the wrong tube and put hairball treatment into one of our cat's ears instead of ear mite treatment (imagine putting a blob of apple butter in your ear...roughly the same color and consistency of Petromalt). We realized the second we started what we had done. Fortunately it was merely an annoying episode for the cat, as the Vet was easily able to clean her ear out and there were no lasting ill effects.

You can never pay enough attention to the routine things you do in life.

Posted by: Stuart at February 18, 2005 05:54 AM

For the record: Not funny.

Posted by: Macneil at February 18, 2005 07:44 AM

The only funny thing about it is the profound lack of self-awareness of those involved.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 18, 2005 12:14 PM

"[Well, if the cat died it wouldn't be the least bit funny. The fact that the cat is scarred (and paranoid) makes it funny/not funny, with the balance on the not funny.] "

"For the record: Not funny"

"The only funny thing about it is the profound lack of self-awareness of those involved."

Didn't Baudelaire say something about all humor really being based on cruelty? Or was it Balzac?

Posted by: radek at February 18, 2005 02:15 PM

I would be horrified to participate in such treatment of a cat. But I found the story funny.

I don't think there's a lack of compassion there on the part of the storyteller. In some way, it's a story about the human condition -- in trying to help the cat, a horrible mistake is made and messes up the cat's life. BUT, the cat survives it and manages to forge a new existence.

The funny part is the "we stopped calling him Lucky". It's tragic, but it's also funny. Like watching Carol Burnett or Jackie Gleason as they portrayed the plight of the working woman and man. They made all the terrible stuff that happens to working people funny.

Posted by: Jay at February 18, 2005 04:20 PM

After the last post, I realized that someone who worked at a humane shelter would, understandably not be able to find the story funny.

When I was a professor, I realized an important fact about the use of humor in the classroom:

Students do not find jokes about tests to be funny.

I think it applies here.

Posted by: Jay at February 18, 2005 04:29 PM

As a restorative:

Posted by: Auros at February 18, 2005 05:15 PM

Can someone think of a joke that isn't based on cruelty?

Here are two of my favorite economics jokes.

Nasrudin climbed over the high mountains and came down the other side to a village where no one spoke his language. In the market he saw a basked of beautiful red fruit and he wanted one so he offered a silver coin, and the vendor gave him the whole basket. He went back a ways on the path for privacy and started to eat his fruit. It turned out to be hot peppers, and he started eating anyway. After awhile a yogi came by, looked at him, and said in arabic "Brother, if you eat that whole basket you'll be dead before sunrise." Nasrudin kept eating. The yogi tried again. "Brother, why do you eat the peppers?" Nasrudin finally looked up and answered, "When I bought these I wanted pretty red fruit. But now I'm eating my money."

There was a flood on the Yellow River, and a fisherman went out in his boat for people to rescue. But all he found was a body. He rescued the body and advertised -- the custom was that when a person who didn't get a proper burial his ghost bothered his relatives about it. The man's family also advertised and they linked up. The fisherman asked a hundred gold pieces for the body, pointing out that he'd risked his life to salvage it and he had an opportunity cost from storing it in his toolshed. The family pointed out that they reasonably could only afford ten gold pieces. They could not agree on a price and everyone went home.

After awhile the fisherman got bothered by the smell from his toolshed and went to an expert negotiator for advice. The man listend to his story, and took his fee, and puffed on his pipe, and said, "Wait. They cannot get the body anywhere else. Sooner or later they must come up to your price."

The family got bothered by the ghost and went to the same expert negotiator for advice. The man listened to their story, and took his fee, and puffed on his pipe, and said, "Wait. Nobody else wants the body, you are the only possible customer. Sooner or later he must go down to your price."

I think maybe sometimes humor is based on stupidity more than cruelty. Sometimes even stupidity that no one particularly suffers for.

A grad student told me a story about his time in the Marines. Every time they came onto their base in a latin american country, there was a man standing outside the gate selling bananas. He had a sign in english.

1 bunch 50c
3 bunches $2

Every time marines would stop and tell him the way he was doing it was stupid. But his english was very poor and he couldn't understand. They'd explain over and over, and they'd demonstrate. "See, I buy one bunch. 50 cents. I buy a second bunch. A dollar. I buy a third bunch. $1.50. Cheaper for three bunches one two three. Not three bunches two dollars. You see? You see now?" But the man never understood and he kept the sign up. Every time they saw him the marines talked about how stupid the man was.

After awhile my friend noticed that he could buy bananas in town for seven cents a bunch. But he didn't particularly want bananas.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 19, 2005 08:08 AM

The only reason some find the joke funny is because of the hard-k sound in "Skeeter." Change the name to "Joe" and the joke will be less funny.

Also, torturing a cat really isn't that different than eating a hamburger... no wonder animal cruelty humor seems to be only more popular in today's "edgy" comedies.

Posted by: Macneil at February 19, 2005 05:12 PM

"Can someone think of a joke that isn't based on cruelty?"

What does the sea say to the sand?

Nothing, it waves.

(Though I'm not sure that even qualifies as a joke)

Posted by: radek at February 21, 2005 06:24 PM

Macneil -- although I'm (obviously) pretty keen on the whole "humane treatment of animals" thing, I can't agree that eating an animal and torturing an animal (intentionally or not) are remotely on the same moral plane, as long as the animal was raised humanely and killed in as painless a manner as possible. (Incidentally, if you're in a place where the supermarkets tend not to have locally-raised, humanely-treated animal products, try finding a halal grocer; as I understand it, the Islamic rules about meat are pretty strict about not letting the animal be aware that other animals are being killed, and about not having it suffer.)

Posted by: Auros at February 22, 2005 03:11 PM

Posted by: at March 14, 2005 04:05 PM