Inerrancy in our statistical analyses. That's what we want. And, inerrancy about important stuff. Not Arkansas' Senate election (it's high Cotton, all the way) or climate change. No, no, we want statistical inerrancy about stuff we actually care about, stuff that's a part of our lives, the quotidian, Americana-like stuff that defines our better selves. And that's what FiveThirtyEight, God bless it, has done with ...
I kid you not. Really. I find this fascinating and, somehow, a genuine public service, one dear to my heart. FiveThirtyEight surveyed all of Bob Ross's, uh, paintings, and worked up various "conditional probabilities" of their content. For instance,
What is the probability, given that Ross painted a happy tree, that he then painted a friend for that tree?
How about happy little clouds?
44 percent [with a "47 percent chance it is a distinctly cumulus one" but "only a 14 percent chance" of a cirrus]
What about charming little cabins?
FiveThirtyEight also engaged in some old-fashioned gumshoe journalism, interviewing Annette Kowalski, who markets the late Mr. Ross's painting supplies. "The majority of people who watch Bob Ross have no interest in painting," said Ms. Kowalski. "Mostly it’s his calming voice."
I can verify that fact. My wife, who couldn't sketch a plausible stick man, positively loved to watch Bob Ross--which is what makes this subject so dear to me. It was always on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon, cold weather, no plans. She'd feel like a nap. A 27-minute nap. Somehow, she could always find Bob cooing away on some channel. And within three minutes, she'd be sound asleep. She adored his voice, which was almost shamanistic in its lulling calm.
Now, perhaps, she can hear him all the time. I love you, Sweetie. And you too, Bob.