Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why write? (Why bother?)

I've been thinking lately about why I write. I currently contribute to a music website devoted to non-mainstream releases (profile here), and I do so uncompensated. I've always liked music, and this writing demands that I listen to new music on a constant basis, whereas left to my own devices (and pocketbook), I would probably just stick with my favorite groups at this point.

So there, at least, is one reason -- to discover new music.

But the question of why I write could also be linked intrinsically to the question of why people read these writings. Since I don't keep a journal or any other writings that I wouldn't want people to read, there must be a reason that this forum for my writing even exists. Why do people read?

This is a little bit of a harder question. Music and movie critics are assumed to be there to direct the public's attention.

"Iron Man is hot -- go see that."

"Gnarls Barkley took a step back on this album -- pass on it."

But looking at my own practices... many of the reviews I read are for movies I've just seen or albums I've just listened to. So while there's a surface level goal of "okay, what do esteemed people think about this album," there's also a deeper level, I think, of "okay, what is this album really trying to say?" Unfortunately, with the short amount of time I spend reviewing an album (I'm also a full time worker and part time student), I usually just shoot for the surface stuff -- describing the sounds, seeing if the lyrics make sense -- rather than the deeper meanings in this art. Of course, with some entires there is a substantial lack of a deeper meaning, but that is beside the point.

So I think I write now to give my honest opinion on an album, hoping that somewhere, someone with tastes similar to mine will benefit from my coverage of whatever artist's material. But I suppose I would like to work towards a deeper level of writing based on what the art represents. I've found that this is easier to do in a movie review than in an album review for whatever reason.

I'm still putting a lot of thought into this, as some of this might end up as my future career. So what are your thoughts on why people write or read artistic criticism? Even though I've focused on movies and music, this could extend into why people devote time to writing about paintings or art exhibits.

I suppose I also spend a large portion of time posting my thoughts on this blog, but I don't wonder too much about why I do that -- whenever I browse the internet, I usually come across a number of things that I would like to tell people about. Unfortunately, I'm usually alone when I'm browsing, and I think my friends are already sick of dozens of emails about cool videos or articles. So I tend to post them here. I also use this space for venting when necessary, but I try to keep it as a center of learning for my legions of readers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Poor Pam: Reflections on The Office's Fourth Season Finale.

* * * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * * *

The Office pulled out all the stops yet again with its fourth season finale. Like last year's offering, this episode pushed through a lot of developments that the writers may or may not visit in the upcoming season. All of the storylines were left as cliffhangers.

I really like the dynamic added with Holly, but I am also sad to see Toby go. There seems to be an endless amount of potential for future flirting between Michael and Holly -- I thought she was joking when she said "I almost fell asleep when Toby was showing me the files," but it turns out that she wasn't just sucking up to Michael -- there is seriously a woman who understands and acts the same way as him. Which is great. And out of all the ideas for pranks/hazing, the writers really capitalized on the one where Dwight convinces Holly that Kevin is a "slow learner". That is very elegant, superb writing -- it's something that everyone who knows the show can immediately see, but not something that I think anyone really thought about before. Kevin was always strange, but I don't think anyone took him for slow -- he really knows his gambling, for example.

Poor Pam's lack of a marriage proposal could almost be seen from a mile away. The Office is sentimental at times, but never when you expect it to be. So when Jim dishes out the money for fireworks and promises that tonight will be the night (to the collective "awws" of females everywhere), you know some stuff is going to go down. And it's certainly appropriate that Andy is the one to mess things up. From the looks of it, there could be some added tension to Jim and Pam's relationship, but that's how (good) sitcoms work, and without that tension it would just be boring. Obviously, this tension muddles the "good stage" that Pam was talking about as the reason that she could go to New York for three months at art school. Whatever will happen?

I thought the writers would have trouble with having to do so many office romances, but it seems like they're pulling it off -- the "surprise" ending bit is a way of keeping interest. Just because you have official relationships or engagements doesn't mean there can't be things happening on the side. Angela's "Okay" response was one of my favorite things in the episode.

There was a notable lack of Stanley (I don't think he had a single line...?), but the time devoted to Toby was well spent. And what's the deal with Ryan? Will there be another job opening and the chance for another cast member to leave the core office?

Michael, while still crude, is left in a sympathetic light, and I think everyone felt that it should be his time to continue standing up for himself and try to develop a relationship outside of Jan (with Holly obviously being the best candidate at the moment). But I suppose the nature of his humor, his tumultuous upbringing and general character all point towards him finding comfort in the controlling, truly messed up Jan.

I think The Office has a couple more good seasons in it, but I fear the probability of more cast changes and especially about this rumored spin-off series. Let's hope that like its British inspiration (and unlike The Simpsons), The Office knows when to bow out with grace. But I suppose I could withstand a few lackluster episodes (I found season four to be lacking, but it might have just been the writer's strike throwing off the groove of things) if they keep delivering special episodes like this one, which was truly phenomenal.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Radiohead @ Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa, 6 May 2008

Radiohead @ Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa, 6 May 2008
by: Justin de la Cruz


I'm allowed to post this in all of my online outlets (e.g. Facebook, blogs) because it was the pinnacle of a series of jaw-dropping concerts that I've seen within the last couple of months. Caribou w/ Fuck Buttons at Club Downunder, Elf Power at the Beta Bar, and now Radiohead at the weirdly shaped Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa. I am truly lucky to have seen all of these, but Radiohead was head and shoulders above the others. They rival Wilco at The Moon as my favorite concert experience now...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Converting files.

So I just went through a somewhat involved process of converting a PDF file to a JPG in Acrobat PRO because I thought it would reduce the size of the file. Unfortunately, it did no such thing, but I did learn a valuable tool (Batch Sequences) in the process.

Afterwards, I just did Document > Reduce File Size... and PRO did the job for me. And still in PDF to boot.