Saturday, June 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.

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.

Friday, June 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.

Thursday, June 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

My quick internet search indicated Softmaker has been around for a number of years, so I went to to see what was happening. There I learned that the current version of the SoftMaker Suite costs $79.

When I went to, 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.

Friday, June 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.”

Thursday, June 5, 2008

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!

Exercisers: Eat Real Food or Expensive Drinks and Bars?

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.