Dec 31, 2008

Dec 30, 2008

Problems with Freelancers Union Healthcare


I signed up with Freelancers Union for healthcare in October, after several days comparing plans and filling out forms, so I was dismayed when they announced in November that they were changing all of their health plans come January to a new health provider. That meant more research.

Who is this new health provider? Freelancers Insurance Company, a new independent company setup by, you guessed it, Freelancers Union. As the website explains:

Freelancers Insurance Company (FIC) is a for-profit insurance company that provides health insurance solely to the eligible New York-based members of Freelancers Union, a nonprofit membership organization, and to those members’ dependents.

The new plans offered by FIC not only cost more than the old plans, they also cover less in return. And in all of the hubristic email from FU about the change, nowhere did CEO Sara Horowitz explain how a non-profit union operating its own for-profit health insurance company can be anything other than a conflict of interests. How can the CEO of a health insurance company also in good faith be the head of the non-profit organization that is its sole source of clients?

As if to demonstrate this, in its first act in this new relationship, FU created a transition system which penalized members who did not switch to the new plans promptly - by requiring payment of an additional two months in advance. This move benefitted FIC but cannot have helped members already stressed by the transition.

If the new plans had started out no more expensive than the old plans, and if members had been given a choice to stay with their old plan for a longer grace period, this would have demonstrated that FU still put its members ahead of profits - and I would have made the transition to the new plans. Instead, I felt FU was strong-arming its members to make a choice that many didn't want. The only option was to leave.

I now get my healthcare from Fractured Atlas, a non-profit group aimed towards artists that has no pretensions of being a health insurance carrier.

The NYTimes article glosses these issues as the "grumblings" of a few members. Reading the members-only Forums at Freelancers, it is clear that the frustrations at Freelancers Union are much deeper. I will not return to Freelancers Union unless it offers health plans besides those carried at FIC.

Dec 29, 2008

Polaroid in the icebox


Polaroid has been at the heart of many amazing projects (like this one). They cease production tomorrow. I presume I'm not the only one who stashed away a couple of boxes. Won't last long.

Dec 21, 2008

On Artistic Research


I'll admit, James Ryerson's obit of David Foster Wallace influenced me here...

Recently I have been researching "artistic research." I wanted to understand the motivations behind artistic research, as well as the difference between artistic research, art and research.

So far, I've identified three main reasons why an academic institution might be interested in artistic research. They are:

1. To prove artart0, where art is the set of all things that could be described under the label "art", and art0 is the set of art worth consideration in an academic context (not to be confused with W, i.e. Worthy art, or "W").

2. As a way of maximizing $$ = $a + $r, where $$ is the total amount of funds raised by an academic institution, $a is the amount raised for "art" activities, and $r is the amount raised for "research", given that C$a < C$r , for all known countries C. In this equation, confusion over the new factor $ar ("artistic research") between $a and $r is expected to improve $$.

3. As a way of optimizing s + T^s where s is the total number of students, T is the total number of teachers, and T^s expresses the condition that the Teachers be more qualified than the students.

From an artist's perspective, I initially modeled the desire for artistic research as a complex nonlinear formula involving Egg (a Freudian identifier), Cds (desire to spend time alone in a studio listening to music, aka the cave-dwellers coefficient), Pfame (the probability of achieving fame), and Pimportant (the probably of actually doing something important). However, after consideration, I realized in nearly all cases the much simpler factor Nmfa/Nphd dominates, where Nmfa is the number of artists with MFAs, now nearing infinity, and Nphd, the number of artists with PhDs, much closer to zero.

What is curious is that most research papers on art research ignore these compelling pragmatic arguments. Instead they focus on higher level merit claims which, when analyzed closely, reduce to claim art = art research. I have yet to identify any paper which shows how "artistic research" is significantly different from "art", excluding the pragmatics listed above. In other words, in all cases, good art is directly correlated with good artistic research.

On the other hand, there are examples of a worrying alternative: good artistic research can sometimes lead to poor art. In creating the compound formulation Art+Research, it seems some students may become distracted by R, and forget that the goal is to prove the equation A=A+R. This is a topic worth further investigation.

Dec 19, 2008

New School in Exile


I am impressed by this student movement - raising awareness through direct action. link

Dec 18, 2008



Since the recession, more
Stretch limos in front of Lombardi's Pizza.