virus: Fw: Setting the record straight... (fwd)

Tim Rhodes (
Wed, 6 Aug 1997 09:49:49 -0700 (PDT)

Vedy, vedy interestink.

-Prof. Tim

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 09:08:59 -0700
From: Tess Galletly <>
Subject: Fw: Setting the record straight...

> Subject: Setting the record straight...
> Date: Tuesday, August 05, 1997 1:17 PM
> >>> Remember that nifty post, supposedly Kurt Vonnegut's
> commencement address at MIT?
> >>> Well, it wasn't. Fred Hapgood, one of the people I forwarded it to,
> >>> alerted me to the real author. If you want to check out her original
> >>> column --as well as the *real* MIT commencement address, here's
> the URL:
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Vonnegut? Schmich? Who can tell in cyberspace
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Mary Schmich
> Web-posted: Saturday, August 2, 1997
> I am Kurt Vonnegut.
> Oh, Kurt Vonnegut may appear to be a brilliant, revered male novelist. I
> may appear to be a mediocre and virtually unknown female newspaper
> columnist. We may appear to have nothing in common but unruly hair.
> But out in the lawless swamp of cyberspace, Mr. Vonnegut and I are
> one. Out
> there, where any snake can masquerade as king, both of us are the
> author of
> a graduation speech that began with the immortal words, "Wear
> sunscreen."
> I was alerted to my bond with Mr. Vonnegut Friday morning by several
> callers and e-mail correspondents who reported that the sunscreen
> speech
> was rocketing through the cyberswamp, from L.A. to New York to
> Scotland, in
> a vast e-mail chain letter.
> Friends had e-mailed it to friends, who e-mailed it to more friends, all
> whom were told it was the commencement address given to the
> graduating
> class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The speaker was
> allegedly Kurt Vonnegut.
> Imagine Mr. Vonnegut's surprise. He was not, and never has been, MIT's
> commencement speaker. Imagine my surprise. I recall composing that little
> speech one Friday afternoon while high on coffee and M&M's. It
> appeared in
> this space on June 1. It included such deep thoughts as "Sing," "Floss,"
> and "Don't mess too much with your hair." It was not art.
> But out in the cyberswamp, truth is whatever you say it is, and my
> simple
> thoughts on floss and sunscreen were being passed around as Kurt
> Vonnegut's
> eternal wisdom.
> Poor man. He didn't deserve to have his reputation sullied in this way.
> So I called a Los Angles book reviewer, with whom I'd never spoken,
> hoping
> he could help me find Mr. Vonnegut.
> "You mean that thing about sunscreen?" he said when I explained the
> situation. "I got that. It was brilliant. He didn't write that?"
> He didn't know how to find Mr. Vonnegut. I tried MIT.
> "You wrote that?" said Lisa Damtoft in the news office. She said MIT had
> received many calls and e-mails on this year's "sunscreen"
> commencement
> speech. But not everyone was sure: Who had been the speaker?
> The speaker on June 6 was Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United
> Nations, who did not, as Mr. Vonnegut and I did in our speech, urge his
> graduates to "dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living
> room." He didn't mention sunscreen.
> As I continued my quest for Mr. Vonnegut --his publisher had taken the
> afternoon off, his agent didn't answer --reports of his "sunscreen"
> speech
> kept pouring in.
> A friend called from Michigan. He'd read my column several weeks ago.
> Friday morning he received it again --in an e-mail from his boss. This
> time it was not an ordinary column by an ordinary columnist. Now it was
> literature by Kurt Vonnegut.
> Fortunately, not everyone who read the speech believed it was Mr.
> Vonnegut's.
> "The voice wasn't quite his," sniffed one doubting contributor to a
> Vonnegut chat group on the Internet. "It was slightly off --a little too
> jokey, a little too cute . . . a little too `Seinfeld.' "
> Hoping to find the source of this prank, I traced one e-mail backward
> from
> its last recipient, Hank De Zutter, a professor at Malcolm X College in
> Chicago. He received it from a relative in New York, who received it from
> a
> film producer in New York, who received it from a TV producer in
> Denver,
> who received it from his sister, who received it. .
> I realized the pursuit of culprit zero would be endless. I gave up.
> I did, however, finally track down Mr. Vonnegut. He picked up his own
> phone. He'd heard about the sunscreen speech from his lawyer, from
> friends,
> from a women's magazine that wanted to reprint it until he denied he
> wrote
> it.
> "It was very witty, but it wasn't my wittiness," he generously said.
> Reams could be written on the lessons in this episode. Space confines
> me to
> two.
> One: I should put Kurt Vonnegut's name on my column. It would be like
> sticking a Calvin Klein label on a pair of K-Mart jeans.
> Two: Cyberspace, in Mr. Vonnegut's word, is "spooky."
> E-mail Mary Schmich at