My 10 favorite articles of 2013 (Part I): Max, Mel and the Witches.

top 10 final three

I just counted, and thus far I have posted 496 articles on this blog during 2013. In the last few blog posts of the year I’m going to be counting down my top 10 favorites of the year. Yes, I suppose it’s a little self-indulgent, but I’ve done some stuff on this site that I’m really proud of and I think might deserve a second look, or first, if you missed it the first time.

The list that follows is not the list of the most popular articles. You can see that list on the right hand side of each page, and it’s almost always topped by the McStays, Mark Hamill’s face, Bradyn Fuksa and (for some reason I can’t fathom) “Lili Marlene.” This list is my top 10 favorite articles–the ones I most enjoyed writing and which I come back to more often. Out of 496 it’s very hard to pick just ten, but here we go, in ascending order. To go to the article, click the picture or the headline.

pirate max

This article got almost no notice when I first posted it in June. It’s the story of a very strange event that occurred 26 years ago where a video pirate, wearing a mask resembling TV character Max Headroom, took over two Chicago television stations, WTTW and WGN, for about two minutes. The full video of the broadcast signal intrusion is posted in the article. The video pirate clowned for a while as Max Headroom, then exposed his bare butt and got spanked with a flyswatter. I am not making this up! It really happened! Watch the video!

Who did this, or why, has never been explained. When I saw the video on YouTube I just knew it would make an awesome blog. The sheer weirdness of the incident makes it endearing, as well as the fact that it remains unsolved nearly three decades later. I later did another blog on an earlier broadcast signal intrusion, the “Vrillon” incident of 1977 which occurred in Britain, but I find the Max Headroom hijack stranger and funnier by far.

gibsonbar 2

9. To Mel and Back: My complicated relationship with the movie “Braveheart.”

I don’t do a lot of “true confessions” articles on this blog, but back in September I felt a need to vent about Mel. Oh, you know Mel; the once reigning box office champion of Hollywood who seems to have gone quite nuts, got arrested for drunk driving and then spewed anti-Semitic vitriol at the arresting officer, and who was caught on tape screaming racial epithets at his ex-girlfriend while demanding she blow him. And yet, this is the man who made the medieval historical epic Braveheart, which was one of my favorite movies for the better part of 18 years.

What caused me to sour on Braveheart? It had a lot to do with the crazy paranoid scumbag that Mel Gibson has become since 1995 (or always was, but finally unmasked himself), but is there more to it than that? I’m not sure I answered the question in the article, but it’s worth thinking about. Movies have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I find it fascinating how our relationship with particular favorite films can change over time. Plus, I had a lot of fun making the picture header for this article!

tensegrity women

8. Disappeared: The women of Tensegrity, missing 15 years.

This is the first missing persons article to show up in my top 10. (In case you haven’t noticed, missing persons tend to be the #1 most popular topic I write about on this blog). For years I’ve been fascinated by the story of the female followers of fraudulent New Age guru Carlos Castaneda, who vanished mysteriously off the face of the earth shortly after Castaneda died of cancer in 1998. Of the five women who disappeared–Patricia Partin, Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar, Kylie Lundahl, and Amalia Marquez–only one, Partin, has been found, and there wasn’t much left of her. What happened to the others? No one knows.

This article was among the most interesting research jobs I did for this site during 2013. The background on Castaneda and the cult-like group that surrounded him is like something out of fiction. Eventually my research led me to read a firsthand account of life among the Castandeda “witches” (yes, they called themselves that), Amy Wallace’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which I noted would make a very compelling movie. But the real human consequences of the multiple disappearance remain today in the form of grieving families and unanswered questions. A family member of one of the Tensegrity women who vanished was nice enough to comment on this article, and indicated that their family is still looking for her. It’s a pretty interesting story.

Next up: my favorites, 7 through 4.

Please see the individual articles for relevant photo credits/rights statements.
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  1. My 10 favorite articles of 2015 (Part I): Melville, NYC 1916, GoodFellas and Parsifal. | www.seanmunger.com

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