Re: Kurt Vonnegut (a hoax?)

duck (
Mon, 4 Aug 1997 10:14:41 -0700

At 08:05 PM 7/31/97 -0700, Dan Kohn wrote:
>>Kurt Vonnegut's commencement address at MIT:
>>Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:
>>Wear sunscreen.
>>If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.
>>long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the
>>rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering
>>experience. I will dispense this advice now.
>>Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not
>>understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust
>>me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way
>>you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you
>>really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.
>>Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as
>>effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The
>>real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your
>>worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.
>>Do one thing every day that scares you.
>>Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who
>>are reckless with yours.
>>Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're
>>behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.
>>Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in
>>this, tell me how.
>>Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
>>Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The
>>most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with
>>their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.
>>Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're
>>Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you
>>won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on
>>your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself
>>too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are
>>everybody else's.
>>Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what
>>other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.
>>Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
>>Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.
>>Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.
>>Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good.
>>Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people
>>most likely to stick with you in the future.
>>Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold
>>on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the
>>older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were
>>Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in
>>Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
>>Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will
>>philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that
>>when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and
>>children respected their elders.
>>Respect your elders.
>>Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe
>>you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run
>>Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.
>>Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it.
>>Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
>>from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling
>>it for more than it's worth.
>>But trust me on the sunscreen.


From: sandor weisz <>
From: "rebecca l. eisenberg" <>
Subject: yet another fraud
>From: Neil Rest <>
>Subject: hoax retraction [BURNED!!]
>>A fast note to let you know the Vonnegut commencement address is a
>>A good phony, but a phony. And it's getting sprayed all across the
>>Yes, I'm positive.
>>Bob Weide, Vonnegut's friend and the author & co-producer of the
>>rendition of "Mother Night", wrote:
>>:Yesterday I confirmed for the Vonnegut Newsgroup that the MIT
>>:attributed to Kurt, and spread all over the Web, was a hoax. It
>>was not
>>:written nor delivered by Kurt at MIT or anywhere. Copies of this
>>thing were
>>:E-mailed to me from all corners -- even received one from Scotland.
>>:Well, it seems as though my response spread through the Internet
>>almost as
>>:thoroughly as the speech itself. Today (8/1), my E-mailbox was
>>full of
>>:letters from strangers, responding to my post. In any event, I can
>>:clear up part of this mystery:
>>:There is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune named Mary Schmich.
>>The words
>>:were hers, in her column from the June 1 issue of the Trib. She
>>:passed it off as Vonnegut s, nor was his name ever evoked in the
>>column. In
>>:fact, her column contained a prologue, missing on the Internet
>>:which I will reprint here...
>>:"Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out,
>>:world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people
>>:rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited
>>to sow
>>:our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but
>>there's no
>>:reason we can't entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for
>>:"I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for
>>indulging my
>>:"Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 97..."
>>:The missing piece of this puzzle is: Who is "Culprit Zero?" That
>>is, who
>>:originally placed it on the Internet, crediting it to Kurt? Mary
>>:whom I spoke with today (a very nice woman, by the way), was
>>horrified at
>>:the idea that anyone would think the deed was hers, or that she
>>was trying
>>:to "rip Kurt off." She told me she had read "Cat's Cradle" back in
>>:but that was about it. She's never heard him speak and couldn't
>>:duplicate his style if she wanted to. She even tracked Kurt down
>>on the
>>:phone today to explain what had happened and confirm her lack of
>>:culpability. Kurt was, of course, good natured about it. (Frankly,
>>my fear
>>:is that this will be the new "Venus on the Halfshell" and that
>>Kurt will be
>>:hounded over the next few years by people asking him about his MIT
>>:One last point: Mary said that when her article originally
>>appeared in the
>>:Tribune, she certainly received a favorable reaction and some nice
>>:calls, but that was all. Suddenly, the same words are credited to a
>>:well-known author, and it's being quoted and E-mailed all over the
>>:within hours. Talk about the power of name recognition. Also,
>>:lesson in individual responsibility, or lack thereof, in the
>>computer age.
>>:I beleive Mary is now working on a column about all this for the

here's the orginal column:

and here's the follow-up, if you look today:

"The Recovery Channel, a start-up cable venture, will feature drug
addicts, alcoholics, and overeaters 24 hours a day. It is the logical
terminus for a culture in love with its own dysfunction."

- source unknown