Monday, December 21, 2015

One More Christmas Visitor

Here's a bonus entry for my Listverse article 10 Benevolent or Frightening Christmas Visitors.

11 Befana the Epiphany Witch

Photo via giglionews

Befana is an old witch that gives gifts to the children of Italy on January 5, a celebration day known as Epiphany Eve. She functions much in the same way as Santa Claus, and she has an interesting story.

When the Three Wise Men were following the north star to meet baby Jesus, they stopped at Befana's house for directions. Befana was the best housekeeper in her village, and invited the Wise Men to rest for the night at her house. She fed them and pampered them so well that they asked if she would like to travel with them to meet Jesus. Befana declined because she was too busy with her chores, but after they left she had a change of heart. Although she went after them, she was unable to catch-up. To this day she is still searching for baby Jesus, leaving gifts for all the children she meets on her journey. Don't let her see you though. She is very shy and will swing her broom at anyone who looks upon her.

There's also a darker, and much different, version of this tale. In it, Befana is mad with grief after losing her child. When she hears that Jesus has been born, she thinks he must be her lost child and goes in search of him. When she finds him she gives him all sorts of gifts, and in return Jesus makes her mother of all the children in Italy.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Two More Strange and Mystical Cats

Read 10 Strange and Mystical Cats People Believed In on Listverse. Here are two bonus entries that were cut from the original list.

12 The Demon Cat of Washington D.C.

photo source:

In the 19th century, caretakers of the U.S. Capitol Building decided to solve their rat problem by releasing an army of cats into the basement. The cats did their job, but by the time humans took over extermination duties there was only one cat remaining…and it seemed to be immortal. This demon cat, nicknamed DC, appears when disaster is about to strike. It was spotted before Lincoln's assassination in 1865, and it was seen again almost 100 years later right before Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. It was also seen preceding the stock market crash of 1929.

The demon cat usually appears in the Senate basement near the catafalque storage room. The catafalque is the dais on which the president's casket lies when his body is displayed for mourning. Security guards who patrol this crypt at night need to be wary. In 1862 a guard shot the cat, but it vanished unharmed. In 1898, another guard claims to have encountered the cat. He found himself held in place by fear. As the normal-sized cat charged at him, it grew with each step until it was the size of an elephant. The guard fired his gun and the demon cat disappeared.

11 The Yule Cat

The Yule Cat was here, but now he is on submission as part of a Christmas themed list. Wish him luck!

In the meantime, click on "Top Ten Lists" in the navigation bar above to see all of my Listverse articles.

Update: Congratulations, Yule Cat! He's now one of 10 Benevolent or Frightening Beings That Visit You On Christmas
photo source

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Anonymous Rogues' Gallery

Barret Brown
Photo credit: The Guardian

Many Anonymous members have no actual hacking skills. No one exemplifies this better than Barrett Brown, a freelance journalist and activist who was drawn to Anonymous because they held the same ideals (for the most part). Barrett's computer skills didn't allow him to do much more than log on to chat rooms, but he was able to help Anonymous in his own way by acting as public spokesperson. He appeared on TV on behalf of Anonymous, debated the issues they supported, and made public appearances at rallies.

There were many in Anonymous who thought Barrett was a fame whore, but there were also many who liked him. Barrett affected a public persona that I can best describe as a cross between Shit-break from American Pie and that high-society Hapsburg fellow with the enormous lower jaw on Family Guy (you know, the guy who laughs with that unimpressed, extended drawl—haw haw Haaaaaaawwww). He appears to do it mostly as a joke—giving interviews while brandishing a cigarette or a cup of brandy, holding a web conference as he sipped wine in a bathtub…but he was genuine in his love for Anonymous' cause of the week.

In the weeks or months leading up to his arrest, Barrett had become increasingly disillusioned with Anonymous as the anarchists within them were beginning to take over. He had never taken part in any of the DDoS attacks, but the FBI arrested him when he re-posted a link to sensitive information obtained by WikiLeaks. After he was released, Barret posted a three-part Youtube video threatening the life of the FBI agent who arrested him (part 1, part 2, part 3). Big mistake. Barrett was arrested again in raid that was caught live on video chat. He is now serving a decades long prison sentence


Topiary is (or used to be) a teenage hacker who at one time did press for Anonymous under his veil of anonymity. He later joined LulzSec and wreaked havoc on government agencies across the web. He was later arrested after it was discovered the LulzSec leader, Sabu, was an FBI informant. Perhaps Topiary's most famous website is when he debated a leader of the Westboro Baptist Church on live TV and hacked into the WBC website on-air (see a recording of it below).

Also, does anyone else think that the Westboro Baptist lady looks an awful lot like the woman who ate the wheels of the bus in the movie Speed?

Beth Grant, who played Helen in Speed
And while we're sidetracked by the subject of Speed, does anyone else think the opening theme of that movie sounds eerily similar to the theme of Metal Gear Solid? Like, I'm positive the guy who wrote the music for Metal Gear ripped off Speed. I remember watching a video (here it is) of the creator of Metal Gear looking devastated after someone reveals to him that the music for Metal Gear Solid 2 was ripped off from a Russian symphony. Did he ever find out about the Speed theme and MGS1?

Okay, I got sidetracked a bit there. Sorry, I re-watched Speed recently. Back to the rogues gallery…

Sabu and Anarchaos
Illustration by Aurich Lawson via arstechnica

I go into detail about these fellows in the Listverse article (Anarchaos is Jeremy Hammond).

Commander X
Photo Source:

The problem with a leaderless movement is that any bum with a hero complex can come in and bend it to suit his vision. Christopher Doyon (aka Commander X) was that bum—and I don't mean that as an insult he was literally homeless, and participated in Anonymous by spending all of his days in web cafes.

In a lot of ways, Doyon represented the opposite of what Anonymous was supposed to be. He proclaimed himself a leader of Anonymous and likened himself to Batman. He acted unilaterally, declaring targets and ordering people to fire the LOIC without a democratic vote, which is how things are normally done. Doyon wanted the world to be a better place, just as long as everyone knew he was the one who fixed it.

After his arrest, Doyon stood on the steps outside the courtroom where his hearing was held and proclaimed to the press that he was the leader of Anonymous, much like Tony Stark revealing he was Iron Man. But the thing is, Anonymous has no leader, and members were getting tired of his fame seeking.

Doyon skipped bail and fled to Canada, where he is currently in hiding. Despite being in hiding, he goes about town wearing an Anonymous t-shirt and freely gives interviews to reporters.


Tflow was an anon who eventually formed part of the LulzSec team. His crowning moment was when he wrote a script that allowed Tunisians to use the internet despite their government's attempts to block it during the Arab Spring. He was also part of the Anonymous team that hacked the website of the copyright alliance and posted on their front page "Payback is a Bitch." Tflow was arrested after Sabu revealed himself to be an FBI informant.
LulzSec (some of them) reunited after the arrests. Photo via International Business Times

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Some Updates

My article on the 'Ndrangheta appeared on Listverse a couple weeks ago. I also had another article
appear a week after that. Check out:

10 Relentless Personifications of Death

Also my article on pirates of the golden age was accepted and should be up soon (Update: It's up now). I submitted another article about cryptid cats, but I haven't heard back from them yet, which is weird because I handed in that one before the pirate one, and they always let you know whether they'll take it or not, or if they have revision suggestions. Maybe it ended up in their spam folder? I'll inquire about it and/or send it again if I don't hear back.

In the meantime, I'm working on an article about the internet culture Anonymous. After that I may dive into the Americas for a narrative history article on the Maya or Inca.

And just a reminder, for my complete article collection click on Top Ten Lists under the header up there.

No new writing tips to post for this month. I'm thinking of maybe posting writing tips for articles and narrative lists, later on.

That's all for now. I hope you've discovered something new from my lists. Thanks for reading!

photo credit: Wikimedia Commons