Jun 14, 2008

Starving Artists? Maybe Not! Also, Buying Art at Art Fairs

Where do artists live? What do they earn? Some answers from “Artists in the Workforce” report.
By SAM ROBERTS: If every artist in America’s work force banded together, their ranks would be double the size of the United States Army. More Americans identify their primary occupation as artist than as lawyer, doctor, police officer or farm worker... In 2005 nearly two million Americans said their primary employment was in jobs that the census defines as artists’ occupations — including architects, interior designers and window dressers. Their combined income was about $70 billion, a median of $34,800 each. Another 300,000 said artist was their second job... Like the population in general, the number of artists has grown fastest in the West and the South since 1990, but New York State, followed by California, Massachusetts, Vermont and Colorado, has the most artists per capita... The only artists whose ranks declined since 1990 were, as a group, fine artists, art directors and animators, to 216,000 from 278,000... Overall, the median income that artists reported in 2005 was $34,800 — $42,000 for men and $27,300 for women. The median income of the 55 percent of artists who said they had worked full-time for a full year was $45,200. Over all, artists make more than the national median income ($30,100). They are more highly educated but earn less than other professionals with the same level of schooling. They are likelier to be self-employed (about one in three and growing) and less likely to work full-time, year-round. (Dancers have the lowest median annual income of all artists, architects the highest — $20,000 and $58,000, respectively.) “Many performing artists are underemployed,” Mr. Gioia said, “but one of the stereotypes we’re trying to debunk is that artists are mostly marginal and unemployed.” ...While the number of artists doubled between 1970 and 1990 as theaters, galleries, orchestras and university and commercial venues grew, their ranks since 1990 have increased at about the same rate as the total work force. They now represent 1.4 percent of the labor force, or nearly as many people as the active and reserve armed forces.
If knowing that all artists are not starving reduces your guilt about haggling at art fairs, Christopher Borrelli gives some hints about getting what you want at a price you can afford:
Sparkles—beloved Sparkles! That's what the painting said—"Beloved Sparkles!" Mittelstead had been trawling for cheap wooden furniture at a county fair when he spotted a kitschy painting of a dog's face—a dog named Sparkles. "It was so fun," he remembered. But he didn't buy it—he chickened out. And he regrets it, to this day. "That face is seared in my brain. I miss not having that painting of Sparkles." Don't let this be you. "If you like something you see, buy it," he said. That was Tip No. 1. Last weekend, Mittelstead, who is a lawyer and art collector, led an Art Buying Boot Camp with Jannotta through the 57th Street Art Fair. With art fair season in bloom, their tips apply to nearly any fair you happen across—from the Old Town Art Fair (Saturday and Sunday) to your suburban parking lot festival awash in birdhouses made from license plates.

Jun 13, 2008

Cutting Down on Meat

Mark Bittman explores the issues:
LET’S suppose you’ve decided to eat less meat, or are considering it. And let’s ignore your reasons for doing so. They may be economic, ethical, altruistic, nutritional or even irrational. The arguments for eating less meat are myriad and well-publicized, but at the moment they’re irrelevant, because what I want to address here is (almost) purely pragmatic: How do you do it? I’m not talking about eating no meat; I’m talking about cutting back, which in some ways is harder than quitting. Vegetarian recipes and traditions are everywhere. But in the American style of eating — with meat usually at the center of the plate — it can be difficult to eat two ounces of beef and call it dinner. Cutting back on meat is not an isolated process. Unlike, say, taking up meditation or exercise, it usually has consequences for others... Reducing the meat habit can be done, and it doesn’t have to make you crazy. Although there will undoubtedly be times you’ll have cravings, they’ll never give you the shakes. So, in no particular order, here are some suggestions to ease your path to eating less meat.
He finishes with some fine-sounding recipes, including Edamame With Pork, Tomatoes and Cilantro.

Selecting a Financial Planner: Spell "Fiduciary"?

Alina Tugend expresses shock over the casual way in which some people select a financial planner:
Like many people, especially in these financially unsettling times, I long for someone to look at our portfolio — such as it is — and tell us how to manage everything so that we can send both our children to the college of their choice, retire at 65 and be able to send postcards from exotic locations to our future grandchildren. I also do not want anyone to tell me that I am living in a dream world or that just to build our savings, we will have to cut down on expenses like eating out, the occasional shopping spree and tennis lessons. I want a magician. Or a liar. But a financial planner would probably be a good start. We do have a stockbroker who assists us in investing our retirement fund. But analyzing where we are financially and where we should be going isn’t a bad idea. What I learned, though, is that while most people hire a financial planner more casually than they might, say, choose a hair stylist, you really should go into it as if you are selecting a marriage counselor.
She also gives some good hints for your search.

Jun 12, 2008

Free Softmaker Office SE Suite

Are you following the evolution of free office suite software? If so, you might be interested in what was promised in an ad from SoftMaker in July 2008 PC World magazine (page 14). The ad indicated a free office suite could be obtained at http://www.softmakeroffice.com/. My quick internet search indicated Softmaker has been around for a number of years, so I went to http://www.softmaker.com/english/ to see what was happening. There I learned that the current version of the SoftMaker Suite costs $79.
When I went to http://www.softmakeroffice.com/, I was offered a free download of an office suite, but it was from 2006 and has been superseded by a 2008 version. If you want a free office suite that runs from a flash drive and might load faster than other suites, this might be your piece of cake. Just compare it closely to OpenOffice before you make your final decision.

Jun 6, 2008

Old Brazilian Joke and Free Digital Content: Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman wraps some interesting commentary around an old Brazilian joke. First, the commentary regarding innovation, Amazon Kindle, free digital content and the Grateful Dead:
The predictions of ’90s technology gurus are coming true more slowly than enthusiasts expected — but the future they envisioned is still on the march. In 1994, one of those gurus, Esther Dyson, made a striking prediction: that the ease with which digital content can be copied and disseminated would eventually force businesses to sell the results of creative activity cheaply, or even give it away. Whatever the product — software, books, music, movies — the cost of creation would have to be recouped indirectly: businesses would have to “distribute intellectual property free in order to sell services and relationships.” For example, she described how some software companies gave their product away but earned fees for installation and servicing. But her most compelling illustration of how you can make money by giving stuff away was that of the Grateful Dead, who encouraged people to tape live performances because “enough of the people who copy and listen to Grateful Dead tapes end up paying for hats, T-shirts and performance tickets. In the new era, the ancillary market is the market.”
The joke:
“Brazil is the country of the future — and always will be.”

Jun 5, 2008

Exercisers: Eat Real Food or Expensive Bars and Drinks?

Gina Kolata reports on what researchers/athletes consume:
Dr. Tarnopolsky, a 45-year-old trail runner and adventure racer, might be expected to seize upon the nutritional advice. (He won the Ontario trail running series in 2004, 2005 and 2006.)

So might his colleague, Stuart Phillips, a 41-year-old associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster who played rugby for Canada’s national team and now plays it for fun. He also runs, lifts weights and studies nutrition and performance.

In fact, neither researcher regularly uses energy drinks or energy bars. They just drink water, and eat real food. Dr. Tarnopolsky drinks fruit juice; Dr. Phillips eats fruit. And neither one feels a need to ingest a special combination of protein and carbohydrates within a short window of time, a few hours after exercising.

Free Services for Cell Phone Users

David Pogue reports there are several free services that might be of interest to cell phone users who enjoy keeping thing simple and useful:
Several super-simple cellular services are so sweet and satisfying, you can’t believe they’re free. They work by recognizing your voice, so you don’t have to master anything new on the phone itself — all of the complexity is hidden from you.

Certain voice-driven freebies, in particular, have earned a permanent place on my phone’s speed-dial keys. All work alike: you dial an 800 number, speak your request and get the results in seconds, usually in the form of a text message on your phone.

Frugal Ben Says: Hmmmm. Almost enough to interest me in getting one of those cell-phone thig-a-ma-jigs!

Jun 4, 2008

The Price of Clothes

Eric Wilson says they cost less now than in 1998:
Clothing is one of the few categories in the federal Consumer Price Index in which overall prices have declined — about 10 percent — since 1998 (the cost of communication is another). That news may be of solace to anyone whose budget has been stretched just to drive to work or to stop at the supermarket; in fashion, at least, there are still deals to be had. An anecdotal price comparison by Thursday Styles for 31 name-brand clothing items — such as Calvin Klein underwear, a Chanel tweed cardigan, a pair of L’eggs pantyhose, Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and a wool crepe jacket from Anne Klein — would seem to demonstrate that while luxury prices have outpaced inflation, lower-priced clothes have generally experienced deflation... The fashion and retail industry fear that the appeal of price, for consumers of both mass and luxury goods, is becoming a more important factor in decisions about what to buy than desire, which has been the driving mechanism behind the growth of fashion and luxury for decades.

“We as a business cannot afford to have a customer take a second look and ask, ‘Do I need this?’ ” said Bud Konheim, the chief executive of Nicole Miller. “That is the kiss of death. We’re finished, because nobody really needs anything we make as a total industry.”

Hats off to Mr Konheim for his honesty! Or maybe he would prefer us to put hats on, especially if they were expensive and impulsively purchased!

Jun 2, 2008

The "Dear Seller" Letter

Looking for a house? Ron Lieber describes the letter you might want to send to the seller:
It’s what you write to accompany a bid that is so far below the listing price that it cries out for explanation. Inspired by the success of a friend who used this tactic, I drafted a sample letter that buyers who fear overpaying might send to homeowners. Then, I crafted a reply that confident sellers could fire back.
At the end, he correctly points out the important question: Will your realtor deliver the letter?

Jun 1, 2008

Irate Europeans Protest the Soaring Price of Gasoline

Katrin Bennhold reports that the European middle class is also under attack via high gasoline prices:
Gas prices that make drivers queasy at the pump are a relatively new occurrence in the United States, but persistently high prices forced Europeans to curtail their fuel consumption long ago. (In many countries, government taxes account for more than half the price.) Highways are filled with fuel-efficient Smart cars and Minis, most cities have highly developed public transportation systems, and green-minded policies have spawned everything from special bicycle lanes to downtown congestion charges. Now the current surge in the price of oil has many Europeans asking how much leaner they can become. “This concerns everyone who drives,” Ms. Schneberger said. “And that makes a lot of angry people.” Indeed, protests broke out across the Continent this week as irate port workers clashed with the riot police in Marseille and truckers stopped traffic in London to demand government fuel rebates. On Thursday, the protests spread to truckers in the Netherlands and French farmers blocked the entrance to oil depots. Italian and Spanish fishermen were planning strikes for Friday.
Frugal Ben Says: What kind of comfort should we take from seeing middle class people under attack from international forces? It's time for middle class people to recognize that the problems they face are not just local problems. Political corruption and ignorant politicians are corroding middle class life everywhere.