The Time Max Headroom Hijacked Two Networks

YouTube
YouTube

It’s kind of hard to explain Max Headroom if you didn’t experience him in the ‘80s. He started as the star of a British made-for-TV movie called Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future, the story of a hard-hitting journalist whose brain is implanted into a computer after he suffers a serious head injury.

The cyberpunk movie proved so popular that in 1987, a show by the same name was introduced in the United States. Audiences had never seen anything like the glitching, stuttering faux AI—and though the series itself only lasted two seasons, the character of Max Headroom gained near-instantaneous status as a pop culture symbol of the ‘80s. His fame was cemented when he was chosen to represent another distinctly ‘80s phenomenon: New Coke. Here’s one of his commercials:

Max was made to look computer generated, but he was actually just actor Matt Frewer in a lot of foam makeup and a fiberglass suit. You can imagine the surprise of Chicagoans, then, when the fictional character took over their televisions on November 22, 1987, apparently of his own accord.

Two stations in Chicago—WGN and WTTW—were interrupted for nearly 90 seconds in the middle of Sunday night programming. “Max,” or at least someone wearing a cheap Halloween mask and doing a decent impression of him, spent almost a minute and a half talking gibberish and humming, then wrapped up his segment by presenting his bare butt to a woman holding a flyswatter.

WGN sportscaster Dan Roan, who was interrupted mid-broadcast, probably summed up the situation best: “If you’re wondering what’s happened,” he said when cameras were back on him, “So am I.”

The FCC took the whole thing very seriously, but couldn’t come up with a motive, a method, or even culprits. The signals were impossible to trace, and to this day, the identities of the hackers and how they gained access remains a mystery.

Here’s the creepy broadcast in its entirety:

Canadian Man Named Lorne Grabher Stripped of His Right to Have a ‘GRABHER’ License Plate Is Appealing the Court’s Decision

Lorne Grabher shows off his forbidden license plate.
Lorne Grabher shows off his forbidden license plate.
CBC News, YouTube

For about 25 years, Nova Scotia, Canada, was home to a vanity license plate emblazoned with “GRABHER.”

Lorne Grabher had given it to his father as a 65th birthday gift in 1991, and it eventually passed to Lorne himself. Anyone who knew the Grabhers no doubt recognized the last name, but the same couldn’t be said for one passerby, alarmed at what seemed like a blanket imperative for abduction and assault. In November 2016, the anonymous individual filed a complaint with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, who informed Grabher that his plate would be revoked the following month.

Grabher, proud of his Austrian-German heritage and outraged at what he considered to be a violation of his rights, sued the Registrar. This past January, CBC News reported that the Nova Scotia Supreme Court sided with the Registrar, ruling that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not extend to this particular situation.

“The seven letters (‘GRABHER’) on a government-owned license plate can be interpreted as promoting sexualized violence (without full contextual information),” the court stated in its decision. “Preventing harm that could flow from such a message on a government plate must be seen as pressing and substantial.”

Though disappointed with the outcome, Grabher was determined to continue the fight, even if that meant taking the case all the way to Canada’s Supreme Court.

“I’m not giving up,” he told CBC News in January. “I’m in it for the long haul.”

True to his word, Grabher is now filing an appeal through his lawyers at Calgary’s Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms on the grounds that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does, in fact, cover personalized license plates, and there is no evidence to suggest that Grabher’s plate actually promotes sexualized violence [PDF].

While you wait for the next chapter of this epic battle of wills to unfold, check out 11 other controversial license plates here.

[h/t CBC News]

Oregon Police Are Cautioning People Not to Call 911 When Their Toilet Paper Runs Out

Running out of Charmin does not rise to the level of an emergency.
Running out of Charmin does not rise to the level of an emergency.
belchonock/iStock via Getty Images

Concerns that Americans may be short on toiletries amid the coronavirus situation have led to some people hoarding essentials like toilet paper, causing others to see their own stock run low. While supply chains have reassured consumers that restocking toilet tissue is no issue, some residents of Newport, Oregon apparently consider their shortage of two-ply to be an emergency matter.

CNN reports that the Newport Police Department issued an exasperated warning on its Facebook page for residents to stop calling 911 to report they’re low on toilet paper.

“It’s hard to believe we even have to post this,” the message reads. “Do not call 9-1-1 just because you ran out of toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance.”

The post goes on to sardonically suggest some historical alternatives for manufactured toilet paper, including “old rope and anchor lines soaked in salt water” and “sea shells.” In case readers don’t get the message, the post also notes—somewhat ominously—that Newport is a “coastal town.”

Obviously, running low on bath tissue can be an inconvenient matter, but the Newport PD wanted to remind people that an unwiped bottom does not rise to the level of an emergency requiring first responder intervention.

[h/t CNN]

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