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Simpsons Studies 101 

"The donut-eating contest is our way of trying to boost the intellectual climate of the university," says Erica Eisdorfer, manager of UNC-Chapel Hill's Bulls Head Bookshop, laughing.

Taking a break from planning the Second Annual Simpsons D'ohcathlon, Eisdorfer sighs. "We had a million people last year. This time we have so many events, so many details--and a bunch of corporate sponsors. My gosh, it's like planning a military whatever-you-call-it."

While she worries, with mirth in her voice, that "we're in danger of sucking the joy out of it," she describes the logistics of the flagship event. "Every contestant will have a dozen of exactly the same size Krispy Kreme donuts. They get three minutes [to eat as many donuts as they can]. A helper, kneeling beside them, wearing plastic gloves, will assist them."

During another D'ohcathlon event, students will be asked to design donuts and then present their creations, dissertation-style, to a white-lab-coated panel of celebrity judges. Grades and prizes will be awarded for creativity and the ability to think on the fly.

While most events feature donuts ("Design the Donut of the Future," "The Gluttiator," "Toss the Donut Through Homer's Mouth," etc.), the prizes are varied. A Simpsons chess set, boxes of Butterfingers candy, a portrait of the trivia winner drawn by Matt Groening himself--and 3-D donut buttons.

At noon on Friday, Oct. 20, the Pit at Carolina will rock with the cacophony of dual boomboxes blaring random Simpsons soundtracks. For another event in the D'ohcathlon, emcees will be wearing mortarboards and yelling trivia questions through bullhorns. (Not microphones," says Eisdorfer. "We want a carnival.")

"The Simpsons are like mother's milk to this generation of college students," she says. "And it's true--Homer's going to be here, but we just couldn't work out the deal with Marge's hair."

Well known for her high-brow literary reviews on WUNC-FM, Eisdorfer adds with a grin, "We are a scholarly bookstore. This is just the other side of the intellectual experience." Leaning closer, she confides, "You know, my kids' first exposure to Edgar Allen Poe and William Shakespeare was from Simpson episodes."

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