Still from Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan.
- If you’re like me, your memories of childhood are punctuated by stray mental images of a man with permed hair slowly applying dollops of paint to a landscape on canvas. You’ll remember, too, that this gentle presence, this vague painter of memories, was known as Bob Ross, and you’ll recall that his television show, which is now streaming on Netflix, was titled The Joy of Painting. But you probably won’t know that Ross hated the puffball that sat upon his head, or that he is remembered by his manager as a benign tyrant. At NPR, Danny Hajek does us the service of unsettling our recollections. The worst of it: the perm was artificial! “Bob Ross’s hair was actually straight. Just ask his longtime business partner, Annette Kowalski, who knew Ross better than anyone—he had just gotten out of the Air Force, and was unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a painter … Before he could change it back, though, the perm became his company’s logo—Ross hated it.”
- The novelist Rachel Cusk, writing for the Times, dutifully crushes our dreams of domestic serenity. It turns out that our interiors (our inner lives) are violently reshaped when we remodel our interiors (the inside of our homes). Here she is in the throes of an existential crisis: “I was driven to what appeared to be the brink of mental and physical collapse by embarking on the complete remodeling of our London flat, and while it was true that my children and I were now enjoying the benefits of living in a more pleasant environment, I still felt a certain sense of shame at how determinedly I brought these events about. I caused walls to be knocked down and floors to be ripped up and rooms to be gutted; I threw away decades’ worth of clutter and keepsakes and old furniture; with what at times seemed like magic and at others sheer violence, I caused the past to be obliterated and put something new, something of my choosing, in its place.”
- In the future, the M.F.A. will be replaced by the online master class taught by aging celebrity artists. James Patterson will offer tit-for-tat instructions on how to sell a novel. Werner Herzog will provide the syllabus. And Aaron Sorkin will teach us how to write for television—everything, at that point, will be television. The future, Laura Olin writes at The Awl, is now, for Sorkin has just released his online course in screenwriting for a site called MasterClass. “If you were casting a movie and needed someone to play a teacher of screenwriting, you would probably pick someone like Aaron Sorkin to play the part,” Olin writes. “He is a middle-aged white man. He wears sweaters. He has oval, bookish guy glasses. His hair is still very good; a few strands of it artfully fall over his forehead in a way that may or may not be engineered. He makes insightful, put-it-on-a-poster observations while also saying ‘ah’ or ‘um’ with regularity, like a smart person who is not so brilliant as to seem unapproachable.”
- Over at the London Review of Books, the sly psychogeographical writer and documentarian Jonathan Meades bemoans the “chummy determinism” of our new age of “smart” architecture. For those of you not familiar with Meades’s work—which would mystify audiences raised on American television—just imagine the following paragraph spoken on a screen: “Given that petty bossiness and online manipulation are everywhere to be found it is hardly surprising that the smartest of smart buildings are already being programmed to exercise control over us—caring control, softly spoken—and with a degree of subtlety that quite evaded B. F. Skinner and still evades the uniformed gorillas who patrol gated ‘communities’ and apartment complexes. So far the patrons of this new, chummy determinism are the barons of parallel reality and fiscal mockery—Apple, Google, Amazon etc.”