This week, the internet has been ablaze with stories like this one on CNET.
Okay, not ablaze. But a bunch of articles. Here’s the deal. A Simpsons episode I wrote, called “The Dad Who Knew Too Little,” had a joke in it where Homer gave his email address as: ChunkyLover53@aol.com. Ha ha. Homer thinks of himself as fat and sexy. Ha ha ha.
Before the show aired in 2003, I signed up for the ChunkyLover53 email address on my personal AOL account. The thinking was that if anyone wanted to write an email to Homer, it would be fun to answer back. Within minutes of the show’s first airing, ChunkyLover53’s inbox was packed to its 999-message limit. Oops. Fun over.
Many of the messages to Homer were of the simple, “Who is this?” or “Are U Matt Groening?” or “LOL Homer Rulzzz LOL!” variety. But many people wrote long, thoughtful, attempting-to-be funny missives to, lets face it, the most popular and beloved cartoon character in the world. If not ever. Many, many, many women sent messages to Homer that were designed to make him, uh, stray from his hopefully rock-solid marriage to Marge.
At one point I attempted to save the cream of the “Letters to Homer” crop for posterity, but dumbly lost them. Even more dumbly, I also attempted to ANSWER EVERY LETTER TO HOMER. If ever there was a Sisyphean (or, should I say, WifePissyOffy-an) task, this was it. At first, I would write clever individual responses, then not-clever ones, than paste pre-written gags in again and again, like:
Dear Nerd, I didn’t even know the internet was on computers these days, let alone some kind of electric mail dealie. Please send all future letters (and beer) to: 642 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield USA then a zip code. Praise Jebus! —Homer Simpson.
But, fairly quickly, anyone who wrote to Homer was lucky to get a “Doh!” in return, some time between five weeks and three years later. Surely, the vast majority of fans who wrote to Homer never heard anything in response. Which is too bad (I.E. my bad), because Simpsons fans are extremely smart, interesting and passionate people, and deserve more than a “Stupid Flanders” for sticking with this crazy show all these years.
Cut to now, where some clever internet hacker has somehow snagged the ChunkyLover53 AOL Instant Messager address, and is using it to trick people into downloading viruses in the guise of exclusive Simpsons content.
Well, just to set the record straight, I am not that hacker. I am a Mac user, which means I don’t know what an “exe” file is, let alone a “computer virus.” Also, I just logged on to the AOL email account of ChunkyLover53, and everything seems normal. 895 messages in the inbox, mostly spam, but a few winners, like:
Hey hello!! I love the Simpsons! I FROM VENEZUELA CONGRATULATION!!! by you show!! jajaja sorry my inglish ist bag!! This ist the e-mail the homero!! I love that!
(Homer’s South American email buddies have always been adorably vocal.)
I would call AOL to try to straighten this mess out, but it’s a dead end. Because of its “fame,” ChunkyLover53 is on some crazy “scam-alert” status with AOL. There is a security notation on the account, so that if anyone calls about “ChunkyLover53,” they are assumed to be a mischief-maker, and are put on hold for a super-long time and then cut off. Trust me, it’s impossible.
(A side story. Once, I also registered the name of a website Lisa had mentioned on the show. A few days after the episode aired, I got a call from someone who wanted to buy the rights to Lisa’s site for “marketing purposes,” which I assumed to mean “porn purposes.” Knowing I couldn’t sell it, I fearlessly bid the price up to $10,000, before putting him on hold, then telling him I just got another bid for $100,000. Was he still interested? Too rich for Marketing Porn Guy’s blood.)
So, what have we learned from all this? 1) Homer is not a hacker. 2) Don’t attempt to answer 999 emails a day and keep your marriage intact. 3) Any boring news story with any Simpsons angle at all, no matter how thin, gets huge internet coverage. 4) NEVER CLICK ON ANYTHING ON THE INTERNET IF YOU DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT IS — EVEN IF IT’S FROM AS ROCK-SOLID A SOURCE AS A PRETEND PERSON’S COMPUTER NAME.
Sadly, we’ll probably never find the fiend behind this AIM virus scam. But my money is on Bart.