Teaching Diasporas, Mummy Relics, and the Future of the Serial: an Enthusiasm of Links

Grim news: foreign language education in American public schools is in sharp decline, largely because No Child Left Behind has drawn resources away from any subject it does not directly test.  This troubles me. If there is anything I would want my (utterly hypothetical) children to study from a very young age, it is language (foreign and, well, domestic).  Acquisition is so much easier in childhood than in later years, and it is a skill set that is both profoundly useful and tremendously marketable.  Furthermore, (and perhaps this is why language study is proving unpopular in much of America) it acknowledges the multicultural reality of our nation while preparing us to be active citizens within that culture of pluralism, and it combats American isolationism (and thus allows us to engage more fruitfully in global diplomacy, the world economic market, and the free exchange of artistic, academic, and scientific ideas across national boundaries.).


But an odd silver lining: the teaching of Chinese is way up, largely because the Chinese government is partially funding a teaching diaspora.

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As it turns out, Joan of Arc's bones are actually fragments of mummified Egyptian remains, some of them feline.  No kidding.  More details are coming out in the glare of modern technological examination, but when the feline remains were first identified a few years ago, academics speculated that perhaps someone threw a demonic familiar into the flames after St. Jeanne.  Except the remains all predate the Maid of Orleans by hundreds of years.

I trust you are on top of this story, Dan Brown.

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I have quite a thing for the serial format: in television, in novels, in blogs. In fact, I once proposed the idea that HBO (or a similarly ambitious network) should give a group of TV auteurs a series of fixed-length serial format macro-series contracts: a show that would be on the air for 30 or 40 episodes, for instance. It would have a larger arc, of course, unlike most TV series, which aren't teleological in their orientation, but wouldn't be fully mapped out like most mini-series, so it would be allowed to develop like a longer series.  Most of all, the creators would be safe from cancellation during this limited-but-not-short run.  And they could pace the show accordingly.  Because this is the major problem with television as a serial medium: pacing, which fluctuates wildly according to the threat of cancellation and various prognostications about the likelihood and length of renewal.

I also have an equivalent fondness for the nineteenth-century serial novel as a format, and a curiosity about how new media can adapt these conventions.  The Guardian speculates about the form here, and much of the debate in the comments sections seems to be taken up with issues of pacing and its ties to questions of melodrama and taste.

Righto.  Time to get on with my day of chores and Beckett reading.  More later, perhaps...

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