Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

This show is a superhero version of Sleeping with the Enemy. It’s gut-wrenching, relentless and left me anxious enough that I had to watch episodes one by one, slowly over a span of weeks. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that I hated my way through most of the season.

And yet, I kept going back to the show because unlike Arrow, nearly every character in the series — and there are a lot of them — is authentic and compelling. (The notable exception is Simpson, a troubled white guy super-soldier cliché.) Unlike Daredevil, in which ethical posturing mostly reduces to a decidedly non-ethical preoccupation with self-definition and identity, Jessica Jones explores both the nature and the extent of the mutual obligations created when people share trauma. These constitute genuinely complex ethical stakes, and the story, despite remaining a superhero series, doesn’t pull away from them or dodge their implications.

By the end of the final episode, I’d come around: this is the best cinematic/televisual story Marvel has ever done, and I’m all in for the next season.

Amy

AMy PosterI came to this movie knowing nothing about Amy Winehouse or her music. So it introduced me to a new character and then chronicled her steady decline under the influences of a father and a lover she had no defences against. What struck me about the story was (paparazzi aside) how unexceptional it was. It’s the fact that all kinds of people all the time find themselves in relationships they can’t cope with or escape and are broken or destroyed in just this way that made it so heartbreaking and ugly for me. Which is a way of saying, I’m not sure that this is a movie about celebrity.

The one positive moment that sticks with me involves Tony Bennet. Commenting on Winehouse’s early death and his confidence that with time she would have pulled things together, he says, roughly, “Over time life teaches you how to live it.” That seems right.

The Doom Generation

Doom GenerationGregg Araki’s early films — The Living End, Totally Fucked Up — were rough affairs, shot, cut and released on a budget of zero; but they twisted formal elements with real style, using them to explore the difficult issues young people living invisibly at the ostensible center of the world regularly face. Araki’s more recent films carry familiar themes forward but in more polished vehicles. Some of them are great, but aging Gen X-er that I am, I prefer the aggression and mess of the earlier, New Queer Cinema work.

The Doom Generation is very much a part of the early films even if it is one of the last. It’s absurd, ridiculously violent, and run through with posturing and mimicry. Yet, taken as a whole and given credit for being more than shock and exploitation, its pieces offer a convincing portrait of the uncertainties straight teens struggle with as they try to understand an adult sexual world that has become inexplicably violent. The pieces also present a frightening glimpse of the mediascape that serves as their home.

Short and unpolished, the film’s address is unsettling and haunting. Perhaps most interestingly, it relentlessly solicits the attention of teens and young adults on terms completely alien to the norms I typically associate with young adult fiction.

San Andreas

San Andreas

Two things occurred to me as I was watching this movie.

First, disaster movies give me the same pleasure that I used to get from horror films as a kid. My poor fingers are chewed to pieces when they’re done. And it doesn’t matter that I know that the whole affair is ridiculous.

Second, Dwayne Johnson has the charming combination of stable presence and dancing lightness that I associate with old-style movie stars. It makes me think his body and history have pushed him into the wrong corner of the movie business. I’d like to see him reduced (physically) to human proportions and trying to play second lead in a dialogue heavy, screwball-type comedy.

Sense8

Wide sense8 spread

Sense8 is a difficult series to get started. The focus shifts constantly between characters and locations without any shared story (or any hope of a shared story). Plus, it takes time for the ten characters — 8 principals, and two marginal — to accumulate enough screen time to gather substance and come to life. All of this added up to an urge to move on to other things, but I remained “invested despite,” and I stuck with the series. I suspect some of it has to do with loving Speed Racer and some of it with my head-over-heels admiration of Lana Wachowski (for reasons).

Whatever the reasons, I kept watching, and things began falling into place. Step one: the Karaoke number shared across continents at the end of episode four, “What’s Going On?” Step Two: the genuinely moving conversation between the African man and the Korean woman and the specter of the terrible wedding in episode five, “Art is Like Religion.” By the endlessly screencapped episode five, “Demons,” the full-on crazy, pot-head on acid concept of what the show was doing began to sink in. Plus it was clear that Lana and the fraternal unit were committed to keeping things both relentlessly sexy (Max Remelt!) and jaw-droopingly beautiful (South Korea! India!). I was hooked.

But cross-cultural, cross-continental (mental not physical?) sexy time aside, what is going on here?

My sense is that the Wachoski’s are making classical cinema but that they are carefully breaking two fundamental rules of the form and exploring the consequences. The first broken rule relates to scope. A classical Hollywood feature is 90 to 120 minutes long. In special cases, especially auteur or prestige films, a runtime might stretch to 180 minutes. Sense8 constructs a story that is reportedly complete and that spans sixty episodes or five seasons (lets call them acts). This amounts to roughly 2900 minutes of story. Managing something of this length, I now realize, poses specific challenges. For example, I’ve watched 12 episodes, and by the end I recognized familiar signals that indicate the conclusion of “Act One.” In other words, after 10 hours of television, the initial presentation of the conflict was complete and the drama was about to begin. This is — judged by any ordinary standard — insane. How do you develop a coherent story of such length that is barely (and perhaps non-) episodic? Sense8 is attempting it and appears to be operating within the traditional structure of the five-act play. That’s interesting.

The second rule of classical cinema that the series breaks relates to the construction of space across the cut. Méliès made magic by moving objects in front of a fixed, static camera. Hollywood constructed stable, coherent spaces by cutting from one camera view to another in a rational, cumulative sequence organized by visual matches between shots. Sense8 uses the matching of traditional Hollywood editing in the service of an impossible, magical space. Scenes within the series occur — almost by default — in multiple locations. Conversations, for example, regularly take place between people separated by thousands of miles. The editing, however, takes no account of these physical realities and cuts shots together by the same logic that governs the representation of a conversation at a single table in a restaurant in the most banal of romantic comedies. By the end of the first season, scene after scene plays out in two or three (or more) locations, characters bounce back and forth between locations, and all of these shifts — organized and enabled by the techniques of classical editing — cohere without confusion. The result is a representation of a purely fictional mental space that I feel I have seen and that is integral to the plot but that makes no sense at all when I try to describe it to people who have not watched the show because it is entirely fantastic and completely experiential.

This is all fascinating — and portentous and overblown (yes, I admit it) — but also very entertaining.

I ended the season eager to find out if Netflix would spring for another season. It turns out they have. So I’m excited, but, because I am greedy, I would like to hear that they have green-lighted the full five seasons: I want to see the entire arc and how it works.

Spectre

1$_V?_Job NameWatching this movie and remembering what has attracted my attention in the others I’ve seen, I think it’s clear I’m not a Bond fan. I like the obligatory gadget-centric early scene with Q (especially now that Ben Whishaw has taken on the role). I like the obligatory first moment when Bond walks into a chic bar or casino or hotel lobby wearing a perfect suit or tux. I like the establishing shots of exotic (not the same as remote) locations. But the rest? It’s fine, I definitely don’t dislike it, but I’m also very “whatever.”

Two things stood out for me in this installment.

The first is that this Bond is successful because he’s been doing this for a long time and knows the right people. I get the sense that anybody with his training who’d rubbed shoulders with the people he has could do the job. The ensemble-cast victory at the conclusion of the film drives this point home.

Second, the casualness of the film’s treatment of torture caught me off guard and says nothing positive about our cultural moment. Threatening to drill holes in someone’s head is gruesome and very different from the cartoon danger of shark tanks or a slow-moving laser. Yet the film treats them as equivalent threats, each a valid response to the generic demand for a moment of Bond, trapped and in danger.

Worse though, the gruesomeness of actually drilling holes in someone’s head — and the consequences that must inevitably follow — go unacknowledged. Apparently our sense of torture’s toll is so terribly skewed — I mean waterboarding is just like rush week, right? — that we are ready to accept that with two new holes in his skull, Bond can hop up and take out a paramilitary force no problem, if only he could free his bound limbs.

I know realism is not a strong standard for judging action cinema, and I’m not trying to apply it here. I’m just saying that, if he’d been punched over and over, Bond would have spent the last scenes of the movie with a split lip. But torture leaves no mark at all. It is overtly and plainly inconsequential. That is a scary notion.

Billy Budd

iurI have a personal interest in Melville that is not academic or systematic. In my early years at university, as a history major angling to write about writers, I went bonkers over Typee, Mardi and Omoo. Moby Dick was (and is) a favorite novel, and I’ve read it regularly for years. I’ve read other tales and novels randomly here and there. I just like these stories of the sea, all of them twisted into metaphysical knots.

So I’m surprised I hadn’t read Billy Budd before because it’s short and comes up regularly in criticism. But I hadn’t, and when I was putting together my “gay canon” list, I decided to use Eve Sedgwick’s early work in queer theory, as an excuse to add it.

As I read, I saw where Sedgwick is coming from in her discussions of the tale. There are long descriptions of Billy’s beauty and of the place that the “beautiful sailor” held among a ship’s crew. The captain’s affection for Billy reminded me of Fassbender’s adaptation of Genet’s Querelle. There is even a scene were a crewman offers to pay Billy for sexual services. Yet despite all of this, once I was past the opening chapter or two, I didn’t experience the book as particularly queer. I was just too distracted by the ship’s villainous master-at-arms.

According to the narrator, this character is the principle problem the narration attempts to address. He is diabolical, is driven by a malice that has no discernible source or rationale, and as a result, the depth of his cruelty is easily misunderstood. The narrator hopes to capture the motives and sensibilities of the character if he is able.

The story is short enough to read in a sitting, and I did, and as I did, I couldn’t tear my mind away from the descriptions of this character. Not even when my eyes were reading about other things. By the end, I was shaking.

Melville’s prose is tortured whenever this character appears and you can feel it trying to hit its mark, to avoid the poorly chosen word or the weak sentence that would allow the character to appear as a lesser or a less awful type. Melville makes no mistakes though. He succeeds. He captures the devil, and it’s terrible.

Worse, I put down the book convinced this type is still with us.

Arrow Season One

Arrow_promo_-_Destiny_leaves_its_mark_-_city_backgroundMy brother finally decided to watch this show and once he got going, tore through all three seasons one after the other. He conceded it had a rough start but insisted it was much better than I had allowed. Based on his reaction, I decided to at least watch to the end of the first season.

And what do I think now that I have?

The show does get better and seems to be trying to cut loose its original framing and replace it with something new. This is most obvious in the move away from the idiotic book-as-motivation that drove the plot early on. There is also a move toward a longer-term and more complex cross-episode narrative arc. As part of this the sister and the mother have receded a bit into storylines that make more sense than those they started with. The ex-girlfriend plot line can’t disappear but seems to be shifting toward less annoying ground. (The death of the best friend in the final episode helps with that.) Most importantly, with Felicity, the show has found its first genuinely likable (even if stereotyped) character. At last.

There are still things to dislike. The show is written in large part for a tween/teen audience and this results in painfully stilted posturing in the relentlessly central romantic relationships. When characters talk to each other romantically, they say what I imagine a teenager might imagine an adult saying or doing at that moment, and it kinda makes me nuts.

I’m also not a huge fan of the through-the-roof machismo. I take it as an attempt to disavow the way shirtless male bodies are subject to an eroticized gaze in every single episode. (Exhibit A: the chiaroscuro pecs and abs in the series poster.) Still, it’s pretty off-putting.

So what now? Well, I suppose that, despite my reservations, I’d be willing to watch the beginning of the next season just to see how the reinvention that is clearly under way proceeds.

Maurice

MauriceMaurice was written only twenty-five years after the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray and Billy Budd, yet its treatment of sexuality feels as if it belongs after the first world war (perhaps after the second as well).  Forster claims that little changed in the years between the original drafting and the novel’seventual publication. Perhaps this is true.

First the similarities, all three novels zero in on affective relations between male intimates that might be legitimately named desire. Two explore directly the particular intimacy invoked by the word “friend.” All of them stage at least one instance of desire that transgresses the line distinguishing the sexual from the non-sexual.

Yet, Maurice is distinctive in several ways. First, regarding instances of sexual transgression, Maurice dares to offer two different responses. Most often, the transgressions — first in Clive’s room, later with Alec at Clive’s home, finally with Alec at the boathouse — are treated as moments of liberation or fulfillment. Less often, Maurice recoils in horror (as he does on the subway when approached by another man). When he does, the novel treats his reaction as a failing and not as morality.

Second, the novel uses the language of friendship for explicitly romantic ends rather than as a means to dodge them. What’s more it directly dramatizes the frustrations and inadequacies of the Platonic attachments often signified by the word “friend” and intended as a substitute for unacceptable sexual exchange. In this novel, the Platonist Clive develops alongside Maurice and his commitment to Platonic friendship makes him a worse not better person.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, the novel presents identity as principally a search for authentic sexuality. In fact, there is little to the plot aside from its account of a character’s development of a self by way of his discovery of desire and sexual life.

Interestingly, this struggle for sexual identity fosters a growing attachment to the idea of the “greenwood,” a reference to the merry men of the forest who lived together outside society.  In short, Maurice, as he accepts his desire, dreams of a queer return to the garden. He believes intimacy and privacy will be found in the anonymity of public, natural spaces and worries that these spaces are disappearing. (He and Alec disappear into them before they are destroyed by war.)

This “greenwood” is the anti-thesis of Melville’s floating microcosm and Wilde’s network of closed rooms and clubs. It reminds me very much of the park which serves as the principal setting in John Rechey’s Numbers.

Numbers (with a return to Shame)

Numbers CoverI ordered City of Night and this book was delivered instead. In it, a young man comes back to LA after a three year hiatus from hustling, hoping to prove to himself that the gay life he lived in that city was a fluke. Or at least that’s what he tells himself he’s doing. It’s clear when his initial attempt to have “recuperative” straight sex goes horribly wrong — the woman’s child interrupts in a way that suggests the protagonist is being hustled — that he’s deceiving himself.

The rest of the novel follows this man as he cruises the woods of a secluded park, obsessively counting sexual encounters according to a set of rules he establishes early on. His goal? Sex with thirty-three men before he leaves to go back home in ten days. If he succeeds, he tells himself, it will free him from his sexual past leaving him to spend the rest of his life a healthy straight Texan. This is folly, and the novel closes with him returning to the park for his thirty-fourth encounter, then his thirty-fifth and so on.

The tone of this return, and the tone of the novel as a whole, are not however easily discerned. On the one hand the novelist clearly aims for the succes de scandale. The protagonist accepts and relishes the degeneracy his sex with men, and his rules ensure that nothing else can emerge. The narration doubles this judgement in its discursive passages and in the ostensibly documentary exposure of baldly pornographic sex scenes. Even the publishing apparatus of the book plays the game: the author insists in the preface that his mother held the sheets of paper for him as he drafted, a declaration that compounds the gay sex of the narrative with the straight incest of the composition.  The pleasure here — for the protagonist, the novelist, and the reader — is the giddy, excessive pleasure of broken taboo.

Yet there is little actual pleasure in this book. Quite to the contrary, the obsessive counting, the desperate belief that this ritual will liberate the protagonist from a desire he finds unspeakable, and the book’s insistence on its autobiographical authority together suggest genuine suffering. In this case, the debasement may be less a stunt than an image of the terrible consequences of an internalized, repressive conception of same-sex desire. The most obvious expression of this suffering is the protagonist’s rules. They have as their stated goal his release from a gay past, yet, their actual effect is very different: they enable him to act out his desire by having more and more sex with men, yet at the same time, they permit him to define that sex as something other than gay sex and himself as someone other than a gay man. In other words, they encourage him in a profound and destructive delusion.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the group of sympathetic, older gay men who offer him an alternative to the woods. They have created a world for themselves and a non (less?) repressive identity and they are ready to socialize the protagonist into their group as a friend. The protagonist, however, actively sabotages this opportunity, betraying these men each time he meets them, and then returning to the woods. With each return he presses further against the limits established by his rules, straining the delusion they maintain. Whenever he breaks them — and he does more and more as the novel progresses — he revises them, each time in more complex, more detailed ways, always recuperating his transgressions as steps along the path toward eventual liberation. The effort involved leaves him frenetic, bored and, by the final pages, fully trapped by desires he prevents himself from understanding.

So I leave this novel perplexed: how much of what I’m reading is a tragic portrait and how much of it is sexual sensationalism and exploitation? I resist thinking it’s doing both: Numbers is too unironic and it clearly isn’t attempting the poetic abjection of Our Lady of the Flowers (although I bet Rechy read that book). Yet despite my resistance, the book clearly isn’t artless; or at least, it’s artlessness suggests — in the way Kerouac often does — a stylistic choice. So I find it difficult to situate myself or to decide how to take what I’ve read. This in itself is an interesting effect.

Final thought on Shame

This book reminded me of Steve McQueen’s Shame. The obvious link is the compulsive sex that damages relationships, but the more significant echo is in the way public, exterior spaces are made (when used in a particular way) anonymous and private. This public anonymity organizes conceptions of time and desire in Maurice. In Michael Warner’s The Trouble with Normal, it is taken as characteristic of non-marital queer cultures.

This has, in turn, left me wondering to what extent the gay sex in the final scenes of Shame isn’t a discovery of the fundamental queerness of this non-normative straight man’s streetwalking and web browsing.  And if that is the case, to what extent is the disavowal of that sex — by the character and by the film — a retreat from the queer conception of a privacy found in public spaces, a privacy at odds with the very different privacy defined and offered by domestic interiors.

Boys

Boys Movie coverA quiet dutch coming-of-age/coming out tale in which two young runners are attracted to each other, kiss, and then have to sort through the consequences. The protagonist is living in a home with his father, who appears to be a mechanic of some sort, and an older brother who is a rebel obsessed with motorcycles. His mother is dead and the father is wounded by this, which adds a note of tragedy. Mostly though this serves to eliminate the possibility that he might speak with her about his troubles and signifies that the protagonist is not a sissy.

There is a lot of confusion and mixed-messages between the two leads — even a turn toward “what we did didn’t mean anything” — but when eventually the two leave their rooms on a school trip and take their bikes to spend the night alone on the beach, it’s clear how things are going to work out.

Stylistically, the beauty of the young men is heavily romanticized especially in scenes set in natural locations: the swimming hole in the woods, the beach at night. At these moments, the cinematography is self-conscious and aims to create tableaux of the sort seen on the poster.

IMDB has this listed as a TV movie, which would make sense. It has the feel of an updated after-school-movie.

New Hampshire from Montreal

A few weeks ago, Stephane Dion, Canada’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, met with his American and Mexican counterparts in Quebec City. The annual Carnivale was underway, and unsurprisingly it was chosen as the backdrop for some of the grip-and-grins played out in front of journalists. And the Quebec journalists ate it up. The images were everywhere.

Here’s the thing: that night, watching Dion encourage Kerry to shake hands with the Bonhomme de neige — the mascot for the Carnivale and easily the creepiest non-clown “face of happiness” I have ever seen — I felt embarrassment — maybe even shame — as my immediate and first reaction. “We’re better than this” I thought and, once I realized that it was true, I said it to the Beav as well. “On est meiux que ça.”

Claudia Ruiz Massieu, John Kerry, Stephane Dion, Bonhomme Carnaval

Later talking with friends, the Beav presented my reaction as a sign that after 15 years in Quebec, with more than half of those as a permanent resident and then citizen, I was finally becoming a Canadian rather than an American in exile.

Anyway, I’m thinking about that this morning as I read the papers and I am trying to convince myself that the American primaries don’t matter for me anymore. But my roiling stomach isn’t buying it.

So far I’ve been fairly detached from the campaign and I know I won’t vote in November: voting is controlled at the state level and I played hopscotch for a bit before moving to Montreal; so actually casting a ballot in a US election involves an inexplicably Byzantine process. I navigated it successfully in 2008 but failed at in 2012. After that I resigned myself to just voting in Canada. Then this past week I decided to watch the last of the Republican and Democratic debates. It was a horror show and now I think I won’t be able to look away.

The Republican primary is a multiple choice test written by a lazy teacher. Most of the options are obviously, ludicrously wrong and can be immediately eliminated. Yet, in response to the question “Who should be the President of the United States of America?” the most popular answers are “more sprinkles” and “all of the above.” I mean did they circle responses at random?

The Democrats are at least dealing with a short answer question. It demands some sophistication and nuance. There’s room for some difference of opinion. But even there, I can’t help thinking that they don’t know much and their judgment is very very bad.

So I’m left with the sense that the States have lost their mind. I mean that literally: where is the public intellect? And despite living and voting elsewhere and despite knowing that this is just New Hampshire, the apparent chaos and derangement of American politics matters to me and is upsetting.

Exporting Comment Sheets

This is my final post about my grading rubric, and I’m going to use it to explain how I set up my export template to create comment sheets. But before I do that, I’m going to take a moment and explain why I think export can seem difficult. If you’re not interested, you skip it.

Export Expectations

I’ve commented elsewhere about discovering how simple and flexible Tinderbox export is. I still believe this is true. Yet, every time I sit down to export something new, I find the task daunting. What gives?

I’m convinced the problem is conceptual and arises from the uniformity of the export function in every other application I use. In those programs, export is called “Print” and it functions in a single, predictable way: from top left to bottom right, line-by-line. Most importantly, this export generates a copy of the arrangement of materials visible on my screen. The trade off for this simplicity is that, because document organization and export organization are synonymous, I must organize my document according to the fixed rules of printing. (This is a constraint we all live productively with most of the time.)

Tinderbox does not work in this way. I can organize my notes however I want and from that organization create whatever export file I want. Working in a file and exporting from that file are largely independent process. In a lot of ways that’s a very good thing. Something like my course map wouldn’t be possible if I were constrained by the rules governing “Print.” The cost of the flexibility can, however, feel considerable when the few default export options aren’t enough and I’m confronted with the problem of how to imagine and to create a “Print” that is adequate to my needs.

Oddly enough, I don’t think that the difficulty involved in coming up with “Print” is found in the export code. In my opinion, export code is much simpler than agent queries and action code. So what’s the problem? Crazy as it sounds, I think it’s having to decide what I want to have once my export is complete. I don’t have to do that in MSWord because — like Henry Ford and his Model T — Word gives me one option: a series of 8” x 11” pages printed top to bottom that match what I see on my screen. TBX is no Model T: the available options are seemingly, overwhelmingly limitless and choosing is hard.

Getting Started

My trick for getting past this block is to step away from my computer, to grab a pencil and paper, and to sketch out what I want. Once I know that, I’ve found that making TBX give it to me is pretty easy. And if I change my mind and want to tweak something? That’s usually easy too.

For the comment sheets I was exporting from my rubric, I wanted various note texts and attribute values to be collected and presented in a sensible way. I thought about this in terms of the rubric hierarchy and came up with a structure shown here.

 

What I Need
General Structure

In this image, the yellow box would be summary information, all of which I had stored in the root note of each instance of the rubric. The green boxes correspond to information stored in various attributes of the criteria notes; the blue boxes are my comments, stored as note text in the descriptor I checked while grading. To create this output I’ll use three templates all of which will be based on the basic HTML template provided through the FILE menu.

Before getting started with the templates, I should also mention that my pencil drawing of the comment sheet indicates where in my TBX notes the information I want to export is located. To give a sense of what that means, I’ve taken screenshot of my sample comment sheet and used colored boxes and labels to do the same thing here.

Annotated Comment Sheet

Templates

I import the html templates that comes with TBX and use them to create my starting templates by copy/pasting them as I need to. By the end of this process, each note in the rubric needs to have the appropriate template assigned to it, either directly or by the export code. To assign them directly, you can use either the HTML tab of the inspector (cmd-1 then the tab marked”< >”) or the HTML selector tab above the key attributes in the text pane. (If the selector tabs aren’t visible, you can turn them on with “WINDOW–>SHOW TEXT PANE SELECTOR.”)

t_comment_sheet

My first template is assigned to the root note. It collects and arranges information from this using three basic export codes. These are:

^title^
^value($RubricEssayGrade)^
^text^

^title^ and ^text^ are easy: the first prints the $Name of the note (which my rubric prototypes have already set to the $ExportFileName) and the second prints anything I’ve written in the $Text attribute (which is what is displayed in the text pane). These two codes are special: they pull the information in $Name and $Text without requiring the attributes to be named. For all other attributes, you use ^value()^, placing the attribute name in the parenthesis. In my template, the ^value()^ code will insert the student’s grade for the essay.

If these three terms were simply listed in my template, then the export would be an unformatted list with no context and would look sloppy. To fix this, I add some stock text — a “/100” after the grade and a generic introduction to the criteria comments — and format everything using html tags. My understanding is that most (all?) html tags will be recognized during export, but I only know a few. So I can’t say for sure. Text added to the template will be added to the output as typed. No codes necessary.

Finally, I want the export to include more than the root note of my rubric. So I need to indicate that my criteria notes should be exported as well. These criteria are the children of the root, so I can use the command:

^children^

That one command is enough to tell Tinderbox to include each of the children in the export. And what information about the children will it include? Whatever the child’s export template says should be included. In my template, I assign a template for the children’s export in the export code by adding a parenthesis to the ^children^ command. But if you’ve assigned the correct template to the criteria using the inspector or the HTML selector tab that’s not necessary.

This template will generate the text found in the red, the blue and the first two green boxes in my image above and, assembled, looks like this:

Comment Sheet Template
Comment Sheet Template

t_comment_sheet_category

This template controls the export of the criteria notes. It uses the same export codes as the previous template, and uses similar html tags. The stock text is different and integrates an attribute value in a more interesting way, the path for the template used to treat the criteria’s children has also been updated, but otherwise, it works in exactly the same way.

This template will generate the text found in the pink, the orange, the brown and the last green boxes, and, assembled, looks like this:.

Criteria template
Criteria template

t_comment_sheet_text_item

The final template, which controls the export of descriptor comments is a good example of the daunting/easy paradox of export. On the one hand this template needs to do only one thing: export the descriptor’s note text. To do this requires nothing more than the single export code ^text^. Easy-peasy. (I spice things up by adding the stock text “Your essay: ” before the comments text because I want things to look classy.)

But there’s a hitch: I only want to export the text of the descriptor note I checked when grading. ^text^ on its own will include all the descriptor comments whether I checked them or not. I don’t know how to do that. So it’s off to the TbRef and the user forums because there’s no way to intuit the answer. I know I need an export code that does the same thing as the action code I used when doing calculations, and I have to look or ask until I find it. It doesn’t take long, but if feels harder — and is more daunting — than selecting “Print.” Once I have the command I need — ^if($Checked==true)^ — I add it and everything works.

The resulting template generates the olive box above, and although it has felt like the hardest to make, it is only two lines long and pulls information from only one attribute. So it is actually the simplest and the shortest of the three.

Descriptor Template
Descriptor Template

 

Final Step

In practice, when I’m done grading, I move all the rubrics from out of the student containers and into a new container that, when I export, will be a folder with all of the correctly named comment sheets inside. I batch convert these to pdfs and upload them to my college’s course management system and students can consult them from there.

The one hitch I see in this output is that the default text sizes for the text is large when printed, but I haven’t decided if I want to do anything about that. If I decide I do, I think that all that’s required is a simple html command in the root template. But that said, I’m pretty sure my students reading their comments on a screen rather than on paper which means there’s probably no problem.

Wilde on Love and Hate

Love is fed by the imagination, by which we become wiser than we know, better than we feel, nobler than we are: by which we can see life as a whole: by which and by which alone we can understand others in their real as in their ideal relation. Only what is fine, and finely conceived, can feed love. But anything will feed hate.

–Oscar Wilde, De Profundis