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The Sunscreen song


Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.
The 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.

In late May 1997, Chicago Tribune metro columnist (and "Brenda Starr" writer) Mary Schmich was walking to work along Lake Shore Drive, wondering what she was going to write about that day. It occurred to her that it was near graduation time and she thought she would write a column that read like a commencement address. As she wondered what advice she might offer, she saw a woman sunbathing on the shore of Lake Michigan.

"I hope she's wearing sunscreen," thought Schmich, 45, "because I didn't at that age."

And that's how newspaper columns are born.

A couple of months later, the column became an Internet hoax when a prankster never identified except as "Culprit Zero" copied it, labeled it as "Kurt Vonnegut's commencement address at MIT," and began e-mailing it to his or her friends. The pyramid began. Schmich's quirky, smart style seemed believable as Vonnegut's. It carried the implied authenticity of the printed word. And, on the Internet, the concept of "validity" is often less important than "bandwidth" and "really cool graphics." The spread of the thing was amazing. It eventually reached Buz Luhrmann, who bought the rights of the text, and so the Sunscreen song was born.

What circulates on the Net faster than anything else, it's clear, is jokes.