Bang, Herman (1857–1912)


EB calls this author “[o]ne of Denmark’s most important representatives of literary Impressionism.”

That intrigued me because I had no idea that Impressionist ideas could be transferred from painting to literature.

Here are some characteristics of Impressionism from Wikipedia (“Impressionism”):

  • an emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time)
  • ordinary subject matter and
  • inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience

It’s hard for me to see how this would translate into novels.  If the common element is “ordinary subject matter,” then I would call Bang’s work Realism, not Impressionism.

However, what an interesting thought experiment!  How would one translate Impressionism into a literary form?

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Bang, Bernhard (1848–1932)

Depriving one bacterium of blue light drops its reproductive rate by 90%.

Dr. Bang discovered this bacterium, Brucella abortus, in 1897.  (Present in unpasteurized milk, it can cause pregnant cattle to abort and causes undulant fever in humans.)

According to Science ( ):

Brucella contains a class of signaling proteins called LOVs. In plants, these proteins react to the presence of light, oxygen, or the voltage of a weak electrical current. When activated, LOVs encourage plants to grow toward light, but their role in Brucella was unclear.  When exposed to the blue wavelengths of sunlight, the LOVs in Brucella signal other proteins that tell the bacterium to reproduce at will.

I wonder if an LOV could be attached to chemotherapy, sent to tumors, and then activated safely with light, oxygen or electricity.

(And, of course, this is another reminder of why people should only drink pasteurized milk.)


Surendranath Banerjee (1848–1925)

Bon_anniversaire_346Hindus calculate their ages from the date of conception rather than the date of birth.

That is why Banerjee, an early leader in India’s fight for independence from the British, was rejected from the Indian Civil Service.  The British thought he had misrepresented his age.

What an interesting custom!  I wonder if the focus on conception means that Hindus have a different set of beliefs and attitudes toward sex than Christian-dominated cultures.

Photo credit: Photo by Patrick Subotkiewiez from BAZIEGE, FRANCE

Bandello, Matteo (1485-1561)


This Italian’s Novelle, with 214 stories (EB), was the inspiration for several Shakespearean works: Cymbeline (part 1, story 19), the Claudio subplot of Much Ado about Nothing (part 1, story 20), Romeo and Juliet (part 2, story 6), and Twelfth Night (part 2, story 28), plus one from the Shakespeare Apocrypha, Edward III (part 2, story 29) (Wikipedia, “Matteo Bandello”).

I want to read this because, according to Wikipedia, “[t]he vast majority of the stories derive from those Bandello heard from contemporaries, reported as real life events:”

  • two whores seeking to win their husbands back
  • two brother thieves in cahoots to rob the treasures of the king of Egypt
  • a disdained lover voluntarily choosing to live inside a cave
  • a woman killing herself only out of fear that her good fortune will turn bad
  • Filippo Lippi, released from slavery in Africa because of his talent as a celebrated painter
  • a woman disdaining a man and then killing herself when he no longer pursues her
  • an abbot making music from a chorus of pigs
  • an adulterous lover buried alive and then saved
  • a merchant’s murder of another
  • a case of double adultery whereby each husband cuckolds the other
  • two women yelling at each other after being falsely told they are hard of hearing

These stories actually happened?  Count me in!  Which ones do you think would make good movies?

Also, I think it would be interesting to see the thought process of Shakespeare as he changed these stories.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Bandicoot rat

Funny-Bikini-CatsHere’s a handy rule of thumb: the more teats, the bigger the litter.

And thus began one of my weirder journeys on the internet, all because the Britannica said this regarding the Bandicoot rat of India and Sri Lanka: “The litter size is probably large, since the female has 12 teats.”

Sadly, there are people who actually research this stuff (I mean, besides me). According to the scientist Avery Nelson Gilbert (, Aristotle first suggested this relationship between the mammary number and litter size. However, it has not been proven and is somewhat controversial among evolutionary biologists.

After studying rats, mice and squirrels, Gilbert’s conclusion?  “Mean litter size is typically one-half the number of available mammaries, while maximum litter size approximates mammary number….Mammary number may have operated as a selective constraint on litter size over evolutionary time.”

To save you the embarrassment of examining your own pets, here are the numbers:

Teats                          Litter sizes

dogs, 8-12                 2-8 (varies widely, with bigger dogs having bigger litters)

cats, 8                         3-5.

Photo credit (from the actual photographer–check out his site!):

John Lund


American soldier being hazed (1904) by being thrown high in the air.

Have you ever been initiated or even hazed?  If so, was it a good experience, ultimately?

The Banda are an ethnic group in the Central African Republic, and I found that two aspects of their culture raised interesting questions.

Britannica states that “[t]hey used age grades and initiations called semali to assure unity in time of war.”  This made me wonder why military organizations so often have initiations or hazings.  According to Wikipedia (“Initiation”), initiations often act out a ritual death, which helps conquer the fear of a real death.  They help boys become men, and they help people accept spiritual realities.  These purposes do seem appropriate for the military.

Psychologists have this to say about initiations:

In the study of certain social forms of initiation, as hazing in college fraternities and sororities, laboratory experiments in psychology suggest that severe initiations produce cognitive dissonance [conflicting thoughts that need to be reconciled somehow].  Dissonance is then thought to produce feelings of strong group attraction among initiates after the experience, because they want to justify the effort used.  Rewards during initiations have important consequences in that initiates who feel more rewarded express stronger group identity.  As well as group attraction, initiations can also produce conformity among new members [as do uniforms and similar haircuts].  Psychology experiments have also shown that initiations increase feelings of affiliation. (Wikipedia, “Initiation”)

I was also interested in some economic aspects of Banda society.  According to Britannica,  “Marriage traditionally required bride wealth [a payment from grooms to brides’ families], often in iron implements.  Polygamy, while still practiced, has declined with the rise of a money economy.”

I wonder why the rise of a money economy (which I assume is more efficient and prosperous than a barter economy) would lead to less polygamy.  I also wondered whether polygamy is primarily an economic phenomenon or has other causes.

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Bancroft, Sir Squire (1841-1926)

Scene from The Vicarage

Thomas William Robertson’s play Ours (1866) was scandalous.  Was it because of sex?  No.  Violence?  No.  The furor was caused by a pudding being made on stage.   In The Vicarage (circa 1877) the characters shocked the audience by making tea.  People were not used to seeing such realistic tasks in a stage setting (

It was Sir Squire Bancroft and his wife who financed and promoted this new realism. They produced and starred in comedies all written by the new young playwright Thomas William Robertson, beginning in 1865.  Robertson introduced realism to the stage, and today, it’s hard to imagine anything else.  In Robertson’s plays, actors

  • talked in normal language (they didn’t “declaim”)
  • dealt with “ordinary” situations and
  • didn’t “act” but behaved like their audience (

Prior to Robertson, a designer would put as many chairs into a dining room scene as there were actors who needed to sit down.  Robertson would place on stage as many chairs as would realistically be found in that dining room, even if some were never actually used.  Or, if someone came in from a blizzard, snow would blow in from the doorway.  Other Robertson trademarks:

  • the importance of everyday incidents,
  • the revealing of character through apparent small talk, and
  • the idea that what is not said in the dialogue is as important as what is said (

The Bancrofts gave Robertson an unprecedented amount of directorial control over his plays, which foreshadowed the power that directors wield in the theater today (  Robertson insisted on retaining control over his scripts and casting and required that his actors follow his directions–a novel concept for that time.  Robertson was also a leader in requiring a fee from his managers for every performance of his plays, thus pioneering the modern royalty system (

The Bancrofts were innovating, too (  They constructed rooms on stage which they dressed with the care of an interior decorator, with sofas, curtains, chairs, carpets on their stage floors. Instead of painted flats they had real doors with real door handles.  The actors wore well-made fashionable dress, not the trappings of a dusty theatre wardrobe.  The Bancrofts redesigned their theater to suit the increasingly upscale audience: The cheap benches near the stage, where the rowdiest elements of the audience used to sit, were replaced by comfortable padded seats, carpets were laid in the aisles, and the “pit” was renamed the “stalls.”

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