Thu 2024-May-02

DNS: An Improbable Medium for Humor

Tagged: Beauty / Obscurantism / ϜΤΦ

We members of the Nerd Tribe like our little jokes. The more obscure, requiring loads of intellectual context, the better. The DNS system is taking this one step further.

Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Joss Whedon was, in the 90s through about 2010, the enfant terrible of nerdy, fantasy popular culture with a strong feminist mix. He’s subsequently been ‘canceled’. That’s probably for good reason, involving sexual harassment and generally being an emotionally cruel jerk to his colleagues.

Still… is this meant to be a life sentence? Can we, at some point, begin discussing the art again even while separating it from the artist? I have no idea what the answer to that question should be. I just know I miss the art.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog During a 2008 writer’s strike, while the studios were pretty much shut down, Whedon and his friends and colleagues made a well-regarded samizdat superhero musical miniseries called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The premise is absurd, of course, Whedon being a self-described existentialist and absurdist:

  • In this world, there are people with superpowers. Some of them are heroes, and some are villains.
  • They have silly hero names, like “Captain Hammer”, “Dr. Horrible”, and even “Moist”.
  • The story follows the aspiring villain, Dr. Horrible, who seeks to make the bad-guy big-time by being accepted into the bad-guy union, the Evil League of Evil. (Motto: “Homines Non Boni Seriose”, or “Serious Bad Guys” in dog-Latin.)
  • The head of the Evil League of Evil is a supreme bad-guy with the sobriquet “Bad Horse”. This nom de mal is apparently quite literal, as he is an actual horse, presumably bad. We don’t know why he is so imposing, except that everyone else fears him.

There is a song in which Dr. Horrible has sent a letter of application to the Evil League of Evil, and gets a reply from Bad Horse, sung inexplicably by a cowboy chorus:

Bad Horse
Bad Horse
Bad Horse
Bad Horse

He rides across the nation
The thoroughbred of sin
He got the application
That you just sent in

It needs evaluation
So let the games begin
A heinous crime, a show of force
A murder would be nice of course

Bad Horse
Bad Horse
Bad Horse
He’s Bad

The Evil League of Evil
Is watching so beware
The grade that you receive
Will be your last we swear

So make the Bad Horse gleeful
Or he’ll make you his mare…

You’re saddled up
There’s no recourse
It’s Hi-Ho Silver
Signed, Bad Horse

By the standards of the Nerd Tribe, this is all quite normal. Gloriously funny and full of self-directed sarcasm, but normal. Someone even registered the host on the internet, which will play the song for you. Still normal.

The point where it veers – ever so slightly – away from normal is when the song got encoded into the internet’s Domain Name System. DNS, for those of you who are not networking cognoscenti, is a system which inter alia maps host names like to numerical IP addresses that can be used for routing. This is a peculiar place to bury a joke, since it will likely not be exhumed for generations.

Well, that last bit is false. A number of wags have pointed this out, and your humble Weekend Editor is apparently the last to know, as per usual practice. But now that I know, here’s the evidence: if you use traceroute to examine the hosts in the path from your computer to, the intervening hosts spell out the lyrics of the song:

$ traceroute -m 50
traceroute to (, 50 hops max, 40 byte packets
11 (  38.644 ms  38.550 ms  40.386 ms
12 (  44.393 ms  41.453 ms  42.995 ms
13 (  46.806 ms  50.579 ms  49.488 ms
14 (  52.412 ms  53.304 ms  54.598 ms
15  he.rides.across.the.nation (  57.650 ms  57.561 ms  56.814 ms
16  the.thoroughbred.of.sin (  63.187 ms  64.223 ms  61.746 ms
17 (  67.253 ms  67.855 ms  67.171 ms
18 (  72.583 ms  73.238 ms  72.478 ms
19  it.needs.evaluation (  77.687 ms  76.645 ms  80.296 ms
20 (  82.503 ms  85.032 ms  81.966 ms
21  a.heinous.crime (  86.925 ms  86.904 ms  87.098 ms
22 (  93.710 ms  94.520 ms  94.547 ms
23 (  97.279 ms  99.493 ms  97.639 ms
24 (  104.192 ms  104.144 ms  104.005 ms
25 (  105.581 ms  109.267 ms  107.309 ms
26 (  110.098 ms  113.562 ms  112.210 ms
27  he-s.bad (  117.747 ms  119.322 ms  119.703 ms
28  the.evil.league.of.evil (  122.409 ms  122.945 ms  125.530 ms
29 (  126.296 ms  126.068 ms  127.767 ms
30 (  135.196 ms  133.492 ms  133.344 ms
31 (  138.284 ms  141.218 ms  141.521 ms
32 (  143.820 ms  144.146 ms  146.201 ms
33 (  148.039 ms  149.475 ms  147.926 ms
34  o_o (  150.945 ms  153.758 ms  154.447 ms
35  you-re.saddled.up (  160.027 ms  156.435 ms  157.237 ms
36 (  165.933 ms  161.233 ms  163.592 ms
37  it-s.hi-ho.silver (  171.257 ms  167.664 ms  168.288 ms
38 (  168.088 ms  168.365 ms  167.820 ms

Amusingly, it doesn’t work nearly as well with a VPN. Like so many absurd sites nowadays, in the name of “security” – theirs, not yours – you are required to drop trousers and run naked upon the internet. Sigh.

The Weekend Conclusion

The sheer amount of effort to perpetrate this joke is mind-boggling; registering that many hosts alone is daunting. The fact that some in very odd domain names like “mare” gives one further pause for thought.

The burial of this joke in the DNS should have this so thoroughly obscured it that it would not be found for generations, whereupon it would take sociologists and historians a while to discover the source of the joke.

I’d have placed a strong bet on “never” as the discovery date.

I would have been wrong. More or less everybody knows. And now I know. And so too, do you.

I wonder what other jokes are buried in the DNS?

(Ceterum censeo, Trump incarcerandam esse.)

Notes & References


Published Thu 2024-May-02

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