From The Magic Circle Jerk, January 2004


Thursday, January 22, 2004

Andy's Take On Tired Topics: David Blaine 

I like David Blaine.

Shhhhh. Don't talk to me. I'm a nerd.

Oh, yeah, that's right, I like David Blaine. I enjoy his specials, I have his DVD, I've read his book. What does this say about me? I don't think it says a whole hell of a lot. Maybe that I enjoy watching magic. I like to watch people freak out. I don't know.

Freud says that in order to find out about a person, we shouldn't ask them what they like, we should ask them what they dislike. So perhaps my enjoyment of him says less about me than people's issues with him say about them.

Comedian/writer Ali Farahnakian had a great show here in NYC called "Word of Mouth" and he talked about how when people are in traffic slamming on their horn, what we hear is-- HONK HONK "Hey fuck you, buddy" HONK HONK "C'mon. Move it, Asshole!" But what they're really saying is--HONK HONK "Somebody please pay attention to me!" HONK HONK "Somebody love me!" 

So I always wonder what people are really saying when they constantly bitch about Blaine. I mean, I love music, but I hate shitty groups like Matchbox 20. I think they're lame and kind of worthless. But every time someone mentions Matchbox 20 or I hear a song by them I don't get all bothered by it. I just realize people have different tastes and some people like shitty, weak, pseudo-rock and roll. 

In this thread, on The Magic Cafe, "Macgyver" neatly lists the reasons why people dislike Blaine (He pretends he's listing other people's reasons, but they're clearly also his). They're almost all completely ridiculous. Let's take a look:

1. Constant use of plants and stooges-- Actually, he doesn't constantly use plants and stooges. Just because you don't understand how he accomplished a trick, that doesn't mean it utilized a plant or a stooge. 

2. Camera tricks. -- Oh, come on. He used a camera trick to enhance the Balducci for television. But ultimately he was trying to dramatically represent what the spectators were actually reacting to. Let's say you could make yourself disappear but it could only be performed for a couple of people at a particular angle. You're making your TV special and you realize that if you just film your disappearance it will be obvious to the television audience what is happening. But you don't want to lose the disappearance because the reaction to it was so fantastic. So you do a camera trick for the disappearance and intersperse it with the spectators reactions to the real disappearance. Is that so awful? Maybe. I can understand if you're completely anti-camera tricks. But somehow I don't think the vitriol reserved for Blaine stems from his performance of the Balducci.

3. Doing tricks that are store bought and require little skill, such as ID/Svengali/coin bite, ect. -- I have a theory. I don't think people were mad because Blaine was doing tricks that they could do. I think people got mad because Blaine was doing tricks that they could do, but they don't. In other words, many people bought an Invisible Deck when they first got into magic, but eventually stopped doing it and got into more complicated, convoluted tricks. Then they see Blaine on TV doing tricks that they disregarded years ago, and in their heads they're thinking "Why the hell am I spending all this time trying to do an invisible pass?" And that's a good question, why are you spending all that time trying to perfect an invisible pass? But that might be a difficult question to answer, so instead I think you should probably just piss on Blaine for taking bites out of quarters.

And honestly, this should have been a happy day for magicians. Here is someone getting national exposure and doing tricks that we can duplicate. If you weren't able to turn that into a positive for yourself without denigrating Blaine, then I'm afraid your creativity is rather sterile.

4. Having no story or patter, he keeps saying "look, look, look. Watch this, Watch here, look here, look, look, look." -- You know what I hate? Fucking stories and patter. Seriously, that stuff is way overrated. I don't need someone who's all like, "The last time I was India, I purchased this mysterious box." If I were a regular spectator I'd think, "Show me the trick, but don't patronize me, asshole." I think the longer you're involved in magic the more you believe you need some kind of story to accompany a trick. When you've seen twisting the aces a million times you begin to think, "Hey, this might be better if I wrapped it in a story about Paul Revere's midnight ride." But most times, it's not. It's really not. I agree that a trick benefits from context, but I don't think that a story or intricate patter is required. In David Blaine's case, the whole context of his performance is that he is someone who comes to you with no prelude, performs something impossible for you, then he leaves. The character is meant to be mysterious. About the best idea for fucking up the character he's trying to create would be for him to come up and say, "Good evening, my name is David Blaine and I'm here to show you some wondrous magical-merriment! Now, not long ago I was in the attic of a haunted house when a leprechaun gave me this coin..." 

5. The Stunts... which have nothing to do with magic, only to get him more TV coverage and specials. --Oh, my god. Someone in the entertainment industry who does things to get himself more tv coverage and specials? For shame, Mr. Blaine. For shame. And what's wrong with the stunts? I like the notion that he's pushing himself to the limits of his endurance. I think that's interesting. Maybe it's not technically magic, but here's the way I look at it: Seeing a guy standing on a pole for 3 days when he could conceivably fall and smash his head on the pavement seems much more impossible than having someone accurately predict which one of four cards I would think of (i.e. B'wave). But that shows what I know, because the same people who think the stunts are lame think B'wave is genius.

6. He calls strolling magic, "street magic", which it isn't. Street magic is an art and Blaine alienated MANY street magicians by referring to what he does as street magic. --Jesus Christ, now you're just being silly. Really, that's what you have a problem with? The fact that he calls magic that he is performing on the street, "street magic"? You're beginning to betray your real motivations.

7. He comes across looking for the screaming spectator, and trying to be cool (which he is). Not for entertaining those specific people, but to make himself appear special and wierd out their sense of reality. --I don't even really understand what this means, but if you're saying that he looks for people to get good reactions from. Well, asshole, you're right. HE'S TAPING A FUCKING TV SHOW! 

8. He created many Blaine-wannabe's which do nothing but expose magic and go around showing friends BAD magic. --True. But don't blame him because there are a lot of unimaginative people out there. 

Now, I'm not saying everyone has to like David Blaine, but the reason a lot of people come off as jealous when they complain about him is that their complaints seem to shift with Blaine's interests. 

-When he first started out people complained that he was doing simple tricks right off the shelf that they could do themselves.
-When he stopped doing simple tricks off the shelf the same people complained that he was now doing tricks that they couldn't. "Oh yeah, well if I had a gimmicked store window, I could reach in there too."
-When he does his stunts people say, "That's not magic." But at the same time they say, "He's not really doing those stunts." 

In other words, no matter what this guy does people piss on him. So that's why their indignance seems somewhat hollow. 

My favorite thing is when Blaine was hanging in the box in England and all these people would get on the message boards and say, "Nobody here even cares about Blaine. It's a bore quite frankly. All the people I talk to about him think that he's an idiot and that his stunt is stupid." Whenever someone goes out of their way to tell you how little they care about something, you can be pretty certain they're full of shit. You may say you don't care about Blaine, and that you find the whole thing boring, but the fact that you're talking to your friends about him and going onto message boards to read and write posts about him reveals a different truth. 

If you don't like Blaine, that's great. Don't watch his shows. Don't read about him. But as with the other topics this week, letting everyone know how much you don't like Blaine is probably a waste of some precious resources. You come off not looking like the more talented, cool, unimpressed, person you believe you do. You come off as a person saying, "Somebody please pay attention to me! Somebody love me!"