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Culture

Issue: "Roe vs. Wade 25," Jan. 17, 1998

Now, after Ellen, a bisexual cop

NBC's critically acclaimed police drama Homicide is doing Ellen one better. A storyline has been introduced in which Detective Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) finds himself attracted by a man and, despite his earlier heterosexual escapades, starts dating him. "This isn't about sex," said Mr. Secor, who has played the character since 1993, "but about someone addressing the bisexual spirit within and seeing what that adds to the character." Homicide is at the end of its two-year renewal. "So since we don't know if this will be our last year or not," Mr. Secor said, "here's a way to strike by exploring the notion that there's a little bit of feminine in all of us and how this all affects Bayliss's relations with his fellow cops." Ellen similarly found "a way to strike" a blow for homosexuality when it was facing cancellation. With the much-hyped "coming out" of the character and actress Ellen Degeneres, the ratings did shoot up, but only temporarily. As the show has become more and more "gay-oriented," its ratings have fallen from the top 20 to the lower 40s. But the self-congratulatory spirit remains in Hollywood, so we can expect more omni-sexuality from desperate or self-righteous shows.

AOL's and the army's war on porn

America Online is responding to the online annoyance of "spam"-unsolicited e-mail advertisements, often of pornographic sites-by cracking down on those who send them. But an organization of Internet businesses, the National Organization of Internet Commerce, is threatening to post the names and addresses of 5 million AOL subscribers-half the total- if the company continues to stand in the way of unwanted advertising. AOL is suing to prevent this further violation of their customers' privacy, calling the threat by spammers and pornographers "cyberterrorism." When Congress banned the sale of pornographic magazines on military bases in 1996, the bill was predictably declared "unconstitutional." But a federal appeals court ruled in November that the law is constitutional after all. As the legal battle continues, the Recording Industry of America and the International Periodical Distributors Association have joined Penthouse magazine in an effort to put the X back in PX.

TV will fry your brain

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The cartoon show that sent over 700 Japanese children into epileptic-like convulsions may be coming to a television screen near you. In December, an episode of Pokemon, or "Pocket Monsters," featured an animated explosion, with flashing red and blue lights. Just as pulsing lights have long been known to set off epileptic seizures, the cartoon special effect triggered seizures and lesser symptoms of trembling and nausea in viewers across the country. More than 700 viewers were hospitalized, with many more affected, as children throughout Japan compared symptoms the next day. The program, a favorite among Japanese kindergartners and elementary-aged children, is based upon Nintendo's Pocket Monsters video game. Now, with the notoriety of the program, a company is planning to syndicate the cartoon in the United States. A company called 4 Kids Entertainment will make Pokemon available to local television companies. It will, however, be edited to eliminate scenes that might cause seizures. "We're confident it won't be a problem," said Al Kahn, CEO of 4 Kids Entertainment. "We've taken the problem seriously and fixed it."

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