The Attack of the Killer Cartoons
Life is dangerous. Face it, we put ourselves at risk every time we cross the street, light up a cigarette, take a drink, eat anything not made of tofu or rice cakes, allow our skin to see sunlight, or watch a movie that's based on an old TV show. But cartoons? They're supposed to be simple, harmless fun.That's why it was especially upsetting when 700 youngsters in Japan suffered seizures while watching a popular cartoon show called "Pokemon." Pokemon, for those who haven't been spending time in Tokyo watching children's TV lately, is an animated show based on a Nintendo video game with a title that translates as "little monsters." It's unclear whether that refers to the characters on the show or the kids who are watching it.One Tuesday night in December, children were huddled around their TV sets watching the top-rated show when the screen erupted in a vividly colored explosion while a character's eyes started flashing like a strobe light. Sure this sounds a lot like how you looked after seeing the 2,786th Christmas special of the season ("Barbra Streisand's Dentist's 'Christmas on Novocain'") but there was a major difference. While you changed the channel to the Home Shopping Network so you could buy your last minute Christmas presents ("Don't you think Aunt Rhonda would like a Hummel figure of Ted Kaczynski?" "But didn't we get her that last year?") these poor Japanese children were stuck staring at the TV having convulsions, blackouts, and nausea, which, coincidentally, is the same thing that happened to Aunt Rhonda after she opened her present.Scientists aren't sure what caused this attack, but they suspect it was the children's desire to stay home from school the next day because they had a big haiku exam that they hadn't studied for since they'd rather watch cartoons than think about seventeen syllables in search of meaning. And who can blame them? Actually, they say the rapid-fire flashing might have short circuited the children's natural pattern of brain activity, causing epileptic-like seizures. Remarkably, this is very similar to the look you see in the eyes of the thirteen people who actually watch C-SPAN, except of course the children were better the next day.TV Tokyo immediately pulled the show off the air. Video stores stopped renting or selling copies of the program when reports came in that kids were having seizures from watching them too. This was exactly what a company named 4 Kids Entertainment needed to hear. In the true spirit of American entrepreneurism, they recently announced that they're trying to syndicate the show in this country because, well, why should Japanese children have all the fun? Look for it next fall on the Fox Network under the title "America's Funniest Childhood Seizures."Actually, they say there won't be a problem because they're going to edit out the visual bursts that supposedly caused the wave of seizures, giving us the good old American lo-fat version of the show. If they really wanted to give it an impact they could go the Jolt Cola route and get Mary Hart of Entertainment Tonight to narrate the cartoon. You might remember a few years back when the sound of her voice sent a woman into seizures. Luckily this was an isolated incident, unlike the incredible number of men who had fits over Hart's legs.Injuries caused by leisure pastimes are nothing new. Tennis elbow has been around for years. And newlyweds have been known to walk funny for weeks after returning from their honeymoon. Back in the days when home video games first came out -- remember Pacman? -- doctors diagnosed a condition they called Nintendo Finger, which was caused by having so little to do that you spent hours playing Nintendo, which caused an inflammation of the finger, bloodshot eyes, and a loss of friends. Is it me or is there a Nintendo theme here?Even something as universal as dancing isn't exempt. Recently there's been a warning about "Clubber's Nipples," which is an inflammation caused by long stretches of strenuous night club dancing. Apparently your clothing rubs against your bare breast which causes tenderness, pain, and a look of agony very much like the one caused by having to sit through a Yanni concert.So now you know to add all these activities to your list of things you like but which are dangerous to your health and well-being. You know, basically anything you might enjoy. Then by avoiding everything on the list you can pretty much be guaranteed that you will live a longer life. Or maybe it will just feel longer. Hell, they say length is overrated anyway, don't they?