BLUF stands for Bottom Line Up Front.
Today’s BLUF is simple. I would speculate that more than 50% of your daily activities are routines. I would say that for many humans, that number is much higher, hovering at perhaps 90% when compared over a longer period of exposure.
These patterns of behavior that you repeat each and every day of your life identify YOU as much as your fingerprints or your DNA. They can be observed, classified, quantified, mimicked and predicted.
I’ve taken the liberty of putting the ‘What’s in it for me?’ near the beginning this time.
Today’s ‘So what?’ is simple. If you can observe humans in their natural state, you will note PATTERNS of behavior from which you can glean a BASELINE behavior. That behavior baseline can be used to compare or impeach a person’s human behavior during current and future events. An extrapolation of those bits of information and intelligence can then be used to determine the MLCOA or MDCOA of human actors in any environment.
The kid stays in the picture.
Born in 1930, Robert Evans started out as a voice actor doing probably 300 radio shows before his 18th birthday. Not bad for a kid who survived the depression and ended up a famous Hollywood film producer of such incredible hits as Love Story, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Godfather.
Evans’ first brush with real fame came in 1956 when he was ‘discovered’ standing near the pool at The Beverly Hills Hotel. Later in 1956, famed produced Darryl F. Zanuck cast Evans in The Sun Also Rises, the film adaptation of Hemingway’s classic novel. Evans role of Pedro Romero was in limbo. Other actors on the film approached Zanuck and said Evans was too raw, not right for the production. Zanuck, who was not to be trifled with, defended Evans and famously said, “The kid stays in the picture”.
In today’s episode, I’ll demonstrate to you how to use pattern recognition and analysis to determine the NEXT thing your child, spouse, lover, a terrorist or criminal might do. Being able to compare KNOWNs against UNKNOWNs to determine likelihood.
Jumping the shark.
To understand the term, ‘Jumping the shark’, you have to go to Season 5 of the popular sitcom Happy Days.
From memory, write a few facts on a sheet of paper relative the plot of Happy Days. You should be able to. There were 255 half hour episodes over a ten-year span. Basically, the character arc followed high schooler Richie Cunningham navigating the challenges of adolescence with his family and friends.
Richie was the innocent. The local high school dropout ‘Fonzie’ (played by Henry Winkler) was the tough who turned out to have a heart of gold. The show was responsible for two equally successful spin offs, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy.
Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham) first played a similar character in the film American Graffiti, which highlighted adolescent angst in 1960’s America. Happy Days, set in 1950’s America, was equally formulaic, yet each week we tuned in to see what dilemma Richie and his gang had to face this time.
Like many television series or movie franchises, rather than sailing into the sunset when the series reached a natural ending point, the producers kept churning out plot lines, each more fantastic than the last, to keep the ratings relevant and to get people to tune in.
One of the final episodes had Fonzie’s character jumping a tank filled with water while wearing water skis. The tank held a man-eating shark.
This ridiculous attempt to keep viewers interested (especially when everything about the episode had NOTHING to do with the plot of the original series) was so irrelevant that nowadays anytime a silly gimmick is used (unsuccessfully) to keep viewers interested when a show or sitcom has run its course.
When a show runs its course, the showrunners will introduce a sequel or a prequel to keep making money off of the successful pattern. Just ask Muppet Babies, or Baby Yoda.
If you can use this knowledge to predict what will happen with a television series (think Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon), then you can use the same method of predictive analysis to determine the ML or MDCOA of any human, event or vehicle.
We don’t need much to get excited around here during the winter.
In fact, whenever the ‘Message’ icon pops up on our Direct TV, Shelly and I do “Rock Paper Scissors” to determine which of us get to review the message first.
If we are lucky, and the message is to tell us of an upcoming ‘Free Movie Weekend’, Shelly and I work fast to dump the wear worn Turner Classic Movies already occupying our ‘save’ list in order to clear valuable space for some exciting, snappy new films to record and archive for a future bitter cold yet romance filled Gunnison Movie Night in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Sadly, free movie weekends are filled with horrible reruns, many of which were “headlining” the last free movie weekend. Most of these terrible films went straight to video and never had a theater run (and for good reason).
An example would be Dwayne Johnson’s 2018 film Skyscraper.
Shel and I hadn’t seen it. Minutes into the $300 million dollar film we noted that it was a CGI-laden version of Die Hard meets the Towering Inferno.
Shelly and I have the same tastes in film. Give us Some Like it Hot, The Philadelphia Story, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, What about Bob? and a couple of musicals (Annie, Mamma Mia) and we are set. To be fair, we rarely watch television. When we do, we scan the choices offered and more often than not, they are found to be lacking.
We tried to get into regular television.
We gave five new shows a chance this season. We had to. Our favorite show, The Walking Dead had gone off the rails and now the script choices had strayed so far from the formula we enjoyed that the series no longer held interest for us.
We enjoyed The Blacklist. At least the first couple of seasons.
We tuned in mainly to watch James Spader immerse himself in the lead role. An additional guilty pleasure was being able to see an old friend (Citadel grad and former USMC Captain Bazzel Baz) booting doors and ramming cars with equal aplomb.
Shelly and I binge-watched The Blacklist until it too jumped the shark, the writers are apparently resurrecting old plots from Gilligan’s Island rather than inventing new, more sinister bad guys.
We don’t Hulu or Netflix. We don’t stream. Yet we still experiment with television. Our five choices for the fall 2019 season were; The Unicorn, Stumptown, Carol’s Second Act, Emergence and Evil.
We grudgingly made it through one episode of The Unicorn. We couldn’t identify with any facet of the life experiences being played out during the pilot. Total Hollywood writer fantasy land. Maybe its accurate for LA, but we live in a fly-over state and the values espoused were not our own.
We enjoyed the pacing of the Stumptown pilot. Stumptown is based on the eponymous graphic novels where Dex Parios (if I had a dollar for all the Dex Parios’s I have met over the years) is a damaged human with a litany of ‘secret squirrel’ skills and an equivalent list of ‘baggage’ that every “complicated” Hollywood character possesses.
Cobie Smulders was great in the Dex role, but the plots of the first two episodes were thinner than Steven Seagal’s hair of his Kane series of straight to DVD film.
We had high hopes for Carol’s Second Act as both Shelly and I enjoyed Patricia Heaton in other shows over the years.
In typical Hollywood style, the script called for 61-year-old Heaton to portray just turned 50-year-old Carol Kenney who starts life anew, now as a medical doctor. Pass after episode two.
‘Evil’ started out with a bang. Paralleling the other offerings, a strong female-led a ragtag team of experts (here religious experts sworn to fight Satan and his minions each week tasked with determining whether this ghoul is actually from Hades or merely a bit of undigested ‘Steak-um’ refusing to go softly into that good night. Evil fast became formulaic and uninspired.
Finally, we enjoyed the mystery of ‘Emergence’ until the producers decided that storytelling means the absolute suspension of reality, introducing the competing and conflicting story and character arcs that had both of us scratching our heads. It all felt too familiar. We’d seen it all before.
Is it that Hollywood scriptwriters and television showrunners have lost their connection with the average human experience and now rely completely on rehashing old stories, series, and films?
The answer is; whenever a formula works – writers stick with it. Sure, they will change a title, a character name, the city in which the action takes place, but they will serve up the shell of the successful show again and again. They choose to rely on the fact that most humans will repeat their VIEWING patterns and behaviors rather than worry about being called out for repetition.
Which patterns work best?
Human Behavior Pattern Recognition & Analysis relies on hard science, soft science and a lot of time observing humans, events and vehicles. The Hollywood version of HBPR&A relies on human behavior-based algorithms that deal with valence. Every Disney character, every popular cartoon character, every Star Wars character that you love is based on a scientific algorithm predicting the emotional valence of that character long before the film is made.
Emotional valence used in film and television is computer generated and based on the physiological and psychological references where ‘emotional attractiveness’ produces a positive reaction from the audience. The corollary is that writers and producers rely on negative emotional valences to create the villains for the most popular shows.
To guarantee a popular episode, the writer, producer or director will insert some emotional polarity.
Polarity is where Hollywood takes an actor or the cast and puts them in extreme situations which are contrary to how you would expect to perceive them. It absolutely challenges how you predicted the proscribed encounter would turn out and that creates drama and conflict.
An example would be Mike Colter’s character David Acosta in Evil. Acosta is in training to become a Catholic priest working with a skeptical psychologist (Kristen Bouchard portrayed by Katja Herbers) and a no-nonsense Ben Shakir, the technical specialist played by Aasif Mandvi. Like every Scooby Doo episode, the crew investigates the Catholic church’s backlog of unexplained ‘evil’ mysteries.
The emotional polarity here is expressed when Colter’s Acosta is torn between his religious visions and his addiction to hallucinogenic drugs.
Years ago, a team of scientists entered the most popular films and television shows into a computer and the resulting outcomes provided convincing evidence that Hollywood was using algorithms to replicate the character arcs and plots of their successful shows and films.
The revelation came as no surprise to cultural anthropologists and sociologists, those of us who already understood that humans repeated patterns and therefore it would be logical to assume that the trend would carry over to items commonly used by humans. Things such as product loyalty, restaurant choices, the attraction of lovers or friends, the make and model (and color) of the next car you purchase, and so on.
If you can classify film scripts and plots, you can categorize human behavior.
We’ll conduct a Limited Objective Experiment (LOE) together. Rather than spend the next few moments classifying human behavior through the lenses of my Six Domains, attempt to classify films or television shows you love (or hate) by using the ‘lenses’ I have highlighted below.
This character arc or plot device will require the main character to be a bad human (like a sex predator or serial killer) who perhaps begins with the best of intentions then succumbs to a slow, downward spiral. The film Bad Lieutenant epitomizes this classification. Other repetitive plots would include Killing Eve, Sharp Objects, Dexter, Bates Motel, American Horror Story, Mindhunter, Happy Valley and Pennyworth.
Rags to Riches.
We could place Annie, Pretty Woman, Willy Wonka, Slumdog Millionaire, Cinderella and Harry Potter serve as good examples of the age-old Rags to Riches milieu.
Fish out of Water.
If you’ve ever seen Beverly Hills Cop, Big, Little, Back to the Future, or Starman you’ve seen the Fish out of Water genre of storytelling.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the repetitive scripts or plots available, just enough to give you an example of how a behavior ‘lens’ is built. One that can be used when scanning your environment to determine the likelihood of the events which will follow.
You could easily add categories for “I’ve learned my lesson!” (Scrooge), the “Grass is always greener” (Wizard of Oz) and “Misfits as winners” (Weird Science, Real Genius, The Bad News Bears, The Mighty Ducks).
If we were going to create a ‘Misfit film’ or television script offering of our own we would merely need to add a mismatched group including the smelly one, the fat one, the terrible twins, the quiet one (for times sake, just go to Police Academy and cut, copy and paste); and, for the comic foils, we would need the ‘bad guys’, athletes perhaps, who are at the top of their game and won’t let the misfits play in any reindeer games (ah, there’s another one. The story of Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer).
Like a protracted episode of the kids’ cartoon ‘the Wacky Racers’, the nerdy kids will keep trying and the bad guys will keep pulling off dirty tricks until the final act when the misfits come out on top against all odds. Don’t worry if you are losing track, just pick up a copy of Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need. A screenplay guidebook written by Blake Snyder that demonstrates down to the minute how to create a television show or film script based on these formulaic recipes.
This isn’t new.
Charles Perrault wrote ‘Le petit Chaperon rouge’ (Little Red Riding Hood) back in 1697. When the brothers Grimm decided to retell the tale, they followed Perrault’s architecture, but added ‘updated elements’ such as the hunter rescuing Red from the wolf and an Aesopian decree that bad behavior precedes bad consequences. Each generation someone will ‘update’ the story to fit the mores and culture of the times. The story will never get old.
I’ll be the first to tell you that Human Behavior Pattern Recognition & Analysis isn’t new either.
Saying I invented it is pretty heavy handed. Sure, I discovered it. I named it, I was the one that categorized and created an architecture for the Recognition and Analysis phases – but the fact that an understanding of repetitive human behavior can make you more likely to accurately determine future events has been around since the dawn of man.
With the right training you will be able to see and perceive the patterns in any environment in which you find yourself. You will learn how to use that information to compare, deduce, induce, analyze and evaluate what events will likely follow.
Your conclusions will be based on artifacts and evidence raising them to the level of reasonableness.
Training changes behavior.
I trust in nature for the stable laws of beauty and utility. Spring shall plant and autumn garner to the end of time. [Robert Browning]