Tag: Marin

Day 996: The Greatest Prank In The History Of History


“That putz, Bolton. This will totally blow his mind.”

The above may have been uttered between the cool gusts of sharp giggles at a gathering of the Berkeley chapter of E Clampus Vitus, an organization designated either as a “historical drinking society” or a “drinking historical society”, depending on whom you ask. These are folks who are dedicated to the noble history of the American West, though they prefer to cozy up to their history with a frothy glass of smirk. Call them deviant scholars, outlaw students of the distant past and the eternal spirit of yeeha. Practical academics and impractical jokers.

The brass plate left by Sir Francis Drake near the bubbly Pacific coast is little more than a whopping banana peel, left on the ground to trip up one unfortunate mark but soon elevated into an established part of the natural vegetation. The so-called plaque that signifies the terminus of European exploration across our happy little continent is a hoax, a forgery, a one-off gag that exploded into accepted fact.

The lesson here is that history, for all her dates and names and oft-inexplicable motivations, can be a blast. Especially when iniquitous historians with a smirking sense of humor mess it up on purpose.


Herbert Eugene Bolton was one of the most respected historians of American western expansion, the author of a now-commonplace theory that asserts that we should look at colonial expansion across all the Americas holistically, rather than piece by piece. He was a brilliant man, the fantastic mind who established the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley as the preeminent historical resource it is today. He was also a member of E Clampus Vitus. One would expect he’d have been on the lookout for shenanigans. Read more…

Day 580: Science, With A Dash Of Evil


If you’re looking for a sobering way to spend an hour (and I can see no reason why you’d want to do so on International Beer Day), have a look at the Wikipedia article about unethical human experimentation in American history. It might make you think twice about heading to the doctor to have him look at that thing on your neck which is probably nothing but it’s grown since Christmas, you’re sure of it, so even though you are positive it’s nothing you should probably get it checked anyway.

Look, sometimes a medical maybe turns into someone’s eureka moment. But to get there, we have to throw a lot of medical maybes at that mystical basket of YES before one makes it in. Sometimes those maybes are going to bounce off some skulls first. A sacrifice for science is a sacrifice for humankind.

But some of these are just messed up.


This is Dr. Loretta Bender. Loretta was a pioneer – a woman who graduated from Iowa State University’s medical school and began working at Belleville Hospital in New York in 1930. Loretta broke new ground for women, developing the Bender-Gestalt Test for identifying possible brain damage, a test that was used worldwide. She was someone a little girl could look up to as an example of someone they might want to be.

That is, unless the little girl in question happened to be hooked up to electrodes, about to be zapped to the tonsils with a gigawatt or two. Read more…