Blaine the Messiah

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Richard Hatch
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Blaine the Messiah

Postby Richard Hatch » September 27th, 2003, 12:38 am

Am I the only one who thinks that Blaines career choices have been dictated as much by a spiritual aesthetic as by the more obvious motivations for wealth and fame?

Consider the following:

Blaine first came to public notice with a television special which convinced many laymen that he could actually levitate.

He then gained incredible public attention for his second special by being buried alive for a week. When asked about the experience upon emerging from his tomb, he said: "What I saw was every race of people, every age group, and every religion all gathered together smiling; and that made all of this worth it." He has since described experiencing a sense of rebirth upon emerging from his tomb. The DAVID BLAINE: MAGIC MAN special itself made frequent and artful use of messianic imagery, remniscent of the film COOL HAND LUKE. This was also the special on which he apparently resurrected (his term) a dead fly through the power of belief, tore off and restored the head of a chicken and turned a crippled beggars cup of coffee into an overflowing cup of coins, surely things a real magic man would be expected to do. The special began with a quotation ascribed to mentalist, Joe Dunninger and read by Israeli psychic Uri Geller: For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, none will suffice. In fact, the quote is a variant of one popularized in this century by the Jewish convert to Catholicism, novelist Franz Werfel, who opened his 1941 book, SONG OF BERNADETTE, the story of the miracles of Lourdes with the following version: For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible." (This was also the prologue of the 1943 movie of the same name). I believe Max Maven has tracked the quote to a much, much older source.

Just prior to his next stunt, FROZEN IN TIME, he apparently removed his beating heart from his chest on national television. In the special of the same name, shown to coincide with his emergence from the ice, he apparently brought back to life a dead pigeon found in a park. Upon emerging from the ice, he was quickly taken away in an ambulance (as he was after his "buried alive" stunt), leaving the audience with several fleeting Pieta-like images. Bill Kalush, described in the press as his closest friend and collaborator, was quoted as saying What David hopes his stunts accomplish is to bring all kinds of people together, act out for them their common fears and help them see their common humanity. Seeing someone do something exceptional gives us hope."

When interviewed by Max Maven at the MAGIC LIVE gathering in Las Vegas, Blaine made references to Jesus as the ultimate performance artist, a term he also uses to describe himself. He indicated that he fully expected to die while performing one of his upcoming public stunts and implied that he would die at the same age as Jesus (in fairness, this is my interpretation of a somewhat incoherent interview!).

Blaine keeps his heritage somewhat ambiguous. His late and beloved mother has been variously described as a gypsy and a Russian Jew and his father (who apparently abandoned the family when Blaine was an infant) as Italian/Puerto Rican. The book CONJURE TIMES, a history of African-American magicians, devotes several pages to Blaine. But he has lately labeled himself as Jewish and has identified himself so closely with the noted Auschwitz survivor and author Primo Levi that he has had Levis Nazi incarceration number tatooed on his own left forearm. That he once dated Madonna, who is old enough to be his mother, I consider a likely coincidence!

In VERTIGO, the big event was standing atop a pillar for an extended period. Heres how he described the inpiration for that image: "The idea for this challenge dates back to the 5th century. There is a group of ascetics called Stylites or pillar-hermits. The most famous one was San Simeon. The Stylites stood on pillars as an act of protest against the decadence of their time. San Simeon believed this brought him closer to God." San Simeon, by the way, is Spanish for Saint Simon. After diving into the boxes at the base of the pillar and before once again being wisked away in an ambulance, he said to the crowd: "This is just the beginning. God bless us all."

At a press conference prior to his latest venture, he apparently sliced off part of his ear. Self mutilation has long been a practice of certain religious ascetics. As we all know, he is currently nearing the half-way mark of his attempt to survive 44 days in isolation without nourishment. According to a google.com search, The New Testament passages Matt 4:2, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2 describe Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. This was apparently a period of testing for Jesus to prepare himself for his ministry. Blaine says he hopes the extreme isolation and deprivation he experiences will lead him to the ultimate truth.

Morton Smiths JESUS THE MAGICIAN makes the argument that the historical Jesus was viewed by contemporaries outside his circle of followers as a charismatic trickster and charlatan. Regardless of Blaines motives, imagine if he had performed his magic, much of which is decidedly low tech and even no-tech some 2,000 years ago, and then suffered a spectacular death while defying the authorities. Can anyone doubt that there might today be a religious cult devoted to him? Blaine has said he wants to use his art to create timeless images. The current abuse he is suffering at the hands of a small segment of the British public could well be used to make Blaine an object of sympathy, a misunderstood artist/ascetic being persecuted in his search for truth/beauty/art.

I hope Blaine succeeds in staying in the box for the full 44 days and emerges unharmed, no doubt to be wisked away in an ambulance yet again. I personally admire his many skills and applaud his successes.. And I would love to see how he is regarded--if at all--in the year 4,000.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Brad Henderson » September 27th, 2003, 1:31 am

I found the 40 days choice to be an interesting one as well. I will add that shamanic cultures are ripe with themes of dismemberment and rememberment paricularly in regard to the spiritual and initiatory journeys of its chosen leaders.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Terry » September 27th, 2003, 6:35 am

Blaine is nothing more than an incredible self promoter. Whether he will be remembered, as Houdini is, remains to be seen.

The reaction of the British, to his stunt, indicates his "fame" is not appreciated by all. It will really be interesting to see him exit the box and the negative reaction by real spectators. Of course, he will turn this around to say he was as persecuted by the masses as Jesus was.

Nice try, but no cigar.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » September 27th, 2003, 8:12 am

Richard,
Very interesting and fun words. Blaine's persona in his first special, more reminded me of Toshio Mifuene(spelling?) or Clint Eastwood-the man with no name image. Our cynical/skeptic friends could point out that those who "saw" Blaine levitate, (using for some, a simple parlor stunt) is instructive as how other "witnessed" miracles, could be the basis of religious beliefs. The Werfel quote reminds me of a friend, who asked why she felt John Edward had validity, said, "Because I have faith, and you don't!" ( So there ) As for the "hostile" reaction to Blaine, when Billy Graham came to London for the first time, in the early 1950's to preach for a month, there was open hostility and derision from the press and elsewhere...but by acting, not-reacting to negative sources,Graham eventually won-over much of the press and public, his appearances in England often being the most successful in his career.
By bring the dead to life, making money appear for a homeless man, Blaine is doing what a real magic man would do...Dick Zimmerman lectures, "If someone could do real magic, they would not think the best use of their powers, would be to put a rope thru a wooden block with chinese charecters, and while both ends are being held by spectators, cover the block with a velvet foulard, and remove the block!"
Those who read Bernard Meyer's "Houdini, A Mind in Chains", can only wonder what others will discern from Blaine's exploits.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Richard Hatch » September 27th, 2003, 8:24 am

Here's a recent quote about the box stunt from a London Evening Standard article of Sept. 22nd (I found a link to the article on Meir Yedid www.magictimes.com site):

"And the quasi-religious nature of the event struck me forcefully when this selfproclaimed miracle-worker waved feebly at the crowd, who cheered reverentially as though they'd just been anointed, the whole tableau resembling the Holy Pontiff blessing the faithful from the safety of his bullet-proof Popemobile."

Supporters have also begun holding up banners proclaiming "Keep the Faith, David"...

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Pete Biro
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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Pete Biro » September 27th, 2003, 9:47 am

Will Blaine's next stunt use a large cross and nails?
Stay tooned.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Steve Snediker » September 27th, 2003, 10:08 am

Yeeouch, Pete! Sadly, you might be very close to the truth. I hope not.

This thread simply exorts me to think again about what I do and ask what is the "real magic" in what I do. When someone comes to me about my latest "miracle" I find myself tempted to claim a little extraordinary help -- from above, below, within, or without. Always tempted, but quick to smile and admit to being a simple magician.

David is clearly a capable magi and a cunning showman. But when the line between art, performance, personal spirituality and public perception begins to blur in a messianic/cultic/lunatic fog I have to wonder who is really in the greatest danger here?

Wouldn't it be a hoot to get on the inside of David's head and hear a few of his "real" conversations with close associates? I can almost hear them laughing at the media, the magic community, the adoring public -- all the way to the bank. At least I hope that's what happening. A more evil intent could clearly result in a great deal of hurt. Then who do we "blaine"?

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Richard Hatch » September 27th, 2003, 10:08 am

Hey, Pete, that one's been done already (even at Abbott's! See the chapter on these in Ricky Jay's JAY'S JOURNAL OF AN0MALIES)...

In a CNN interview on August 30th - www.cnn.com/2003/SHOWBIZ/08/30/cnna.david.blaine/ - Blaine says his current stunt was inspired in part by Franz Kafka's famous short story, "The Hunger Artist" (written in 1922 and published posthumously in 1924). An online version of the story may be found out http://www.lundwood.u-net.com/ahunga.htm
It's about a performer who has made fasting his personal art form, staying in a cage in public view without food for 40 days and nights...

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby mark » September 27th, 2003, 10:57 am

Richard and others,
Very thoughtful question you posed Richard, and one that provokes the mind. I am not a great follower of Blaine, and haven't been impressed or enamored by what he has done. Hearing him speak and reading interviews it would be a pretty safe bet to say that no one knows why he does them. While that could be part of the image, I suspect that he is not your run of the mill magician.
While all of this goes on though, I have been wondering if it doesn't say more about us than it does about him. I wonder if we aren't so hungry for the next People article that we are willing to help anyone be a celebrity. (Come on, I just heard that Eminem is the top selling music act in the world) I somehow don't think he is a 'laughing all the way to the bank' sort of guy, but I am not sure I am convinced on the 'I just want everyone to love one another' sort of thing either.
Its funny, we all talk about what a great promoter he is, but if one were to think of nothing but self promotion, and were creative, I believe the American (and much of the world's) population would be more than willing to help.
The question I would pose is this: how could we make magic more substantial without being charlatans? Obviously, there are much better magicians reading these forums every day, and certainly more engaging personalities. What would it take? For my personal tastes, Ricky Jay's shows speak to me, but what about an everyman's show - what does it need to be to appeal to the masses yet be great magic, something we could be proud of?

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » September 27th, 2003, 11:32 am

Blaine has done it!
Not only in the British and world press, but LOOK at the threads in this FORUM! BLAINE BLAINE BLAINE! (As Blaine planned)
But when Blaine can now provoke theological questions, complete with scripture references...He has succeeded above and beyond measure!

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Pete Biro
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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Pete Biro » September 27th, 2003, 11:42 am

One byproduct of Sir Blaine's work is that magicians of the normal variety (if they will JUST be more contemporary in dress and attitude) will be in demand to perform.

Blaine has probably got a lock on all the $5,000.00 a night gigs, but the leftovers will be worthwhile.
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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Brad Henderson » September 27th, 2003, 11:50 am

As Diego has pointed out, I think there are 2 BLaines. The Blaine from the first street magic special, I believe, was a kid who did a bunch of card tricks and thankfully for him had a good director or cinematographer. I think the revolutionary concepts he created, such as keeping his trap shut when the magic occured, resulted from his inability to come up with something witty to say. I say this becasue his "character" is inconsistent throughout this work and over the promotional appearances he made in that time span. (Watch him sitting on Conan's couch practicing the pass for all to see.)

Having said that, I think Blaine is a very, very smart man. I believe that when those around him pointed out the strength of the concepts he stumbled upon, rather than eschewing their ideas for not being his own, he listened and he acted.

Beginning with the 2nd special we see the formation of an image and consistent style. We see the Messianic allusions. We see the beginning of the Blaine phenomena.

I give Blaine great credit for listening to those around him and taking actions to hone a vision which is unique, even if not palatable to all.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Erik Hemming » September 27th, 2003, 11:53 am

Apologies for the amatuer pedantry that follows. I can help it. I'm a cultural and intellectual historian by training. Some things just scream out for comment....

Mr. Hatch is right. There is religious content and obvious religious symbolism.

Blaine is a shibboleth. How a person reacts to him--lay person and magician--is indicative of how they are most comfortable perceiving magic. You could stretch it as far as to say, how you react to Blaine indicates many things about your perceptions of reality.

In some senses, Blaine is the fruition of the critique that "Bizzare" magic provides of "Mainline" magic. Blaine flirts with making his magic meaningful in a transcendent sense--and in the process flirts with rousing the dragons of unreason.

Look--as much as most of us hate to talk and think about it--one strong component of magic is debased religion. In a society that is as profoundly religious as the United States, this debasement serves a basic function of protection. Why?

The power of the State is deliberately cleft from the trappings of religious legitimacy. (Even though an ocassional administration will attempt to martial religious fervour to further its agenda.) It calls on secular authority--the will and support of the people--as the basis for its legitimacy. Consider, for a moment, what many people thoughout history--perhaps most--have endured: State authority legitimated by religion. Ultimate allegiance is not to the people here, but to the HEREAFTER. Anything goes...If the administration is enlightened, you have a great efflorescence of culture; if not, you have the Borgias.

Second component is that, in a society where religion is cleft from the State, but where religion has a profound hold--such as the U.S.--people cast about for meaning, largely secure in their social/secular existence, but searching for Ultimate Meaning where contending "ultimate meanings" are proffered on every other street corner. The result--waves of religious fervour and exhaustion. Trends of belief that ripple across the landscape over time, ungrounded by the authority of the State or the epistemology of science.

The result: Occasionally, citizens of the United States of America get a little nutty and obsessed with ideas that are difficult to fathom. I'm not saying this is exclusive to the U.S. of A. I'm certain it's not. I only feel remotely qualified to talk about the U.S.

One of the hallmarks of religion is the miracle. I'm hard pressed to think of a religion that doesn't include them and isn't in some way legitimated by them.

Gentle reader--I'm going to state the obvious--there are those among us who perform miracles. Those of sufficient skill and craft would be the object of religious veneration...were it not for an ethical demurre. (Some still receive the veneration, despite the demurre.)

Blaine is walking the tightrope. He has martialed the imagery. He has the technical arsenal. Now we wait to see which road he takes. He could turn out to be the greatest promotional artist/magician of the age. Or something else. History will tell. Now, it's simply fun to speculate.


I do know this: When you appeal--without winking--to supernatural forces, you court fire.

Gordo

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Chris Aguilar » September 27th, 2003, 12:31 pm

*gently pointing out the P.G. Varola that the readability of his post would be well served by the addition a few line breaks between paragraphs*


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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » September 27th, 2003, 1:25 pm

Some of the above posts, confirms Blaine's savy. When was the last time you saw posts like these?

About Blaine "not having something witty to say":
A former manager of Copperfield wrote, "Magicians should go to Tower records and learn what is going on in the world." To a different generation and demographics, Blaine is BAD ...which streetwise means, he is cool/good. Imagine if a magician chattering patter, wearing a glittering tuxedo, approached people on the street, with suitcase table and started performing. They would laugh at him, if not throw their liquor bottles at him. It is more entertaining to hear the,(selected/edited) audiences, so Blaine lets THEM say how wild/wonderful his magic is. Less is more, and when Blaine DOES say something, they will listen.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Dave Shepherd » September 27th, 2003, 3:19 pm

Thanks to Richard Hatch for introducing this idea so thoughtfully. And more thanks to P.G. Varola for greatly deepening my understanding of the implications of Mr. Hatch's hypothesis.

There is much to reflect on in P.G. Varola's post, if one intends to be a "serious" magician (even a "serious" comedy magician).

I find myself now thinking a lot about exactly why I do the effects I do, and what difference it makes how I present magic for my friends, colleagues and students as opposed to my magic audience.

I've been characterizing Blaine as a latter-day Houdini for awhile now (prompted, I believe, by Jon Racherbaumer's review of his second TV show). It seems more and more true with every one of his performances.

I believe many magicians of the early 20th century disparaged Houdini, did they not? ("Ah, he's just an escape artist, he doesn't really do magic.") I wonder what 21st century magician people will talk about a hundred years from now?

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Keith Raygor
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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Keith Raygor » September 27th, 2003, 9:44 pm

Wow.
www.KeithTheMagician.com
www.TheMusicalMindreader.com

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » September 27th, 2003, 10:04 pm

The question is whether Blaine is Geller OR the Messiah (and maybe only he will ever know).

:cool:

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » September 28th, 2003, 3:30 am

Now this is the kind of deep, extensive discussion that this board was made for, not the recent discussion of, what, resentment that seems defensive but signifies nothing.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » September 28th, 2003, 5:37 am

I agree with Mr. Groves, this thread has produced some insightful commentary. Thanks to all who've taken the time to post.

Sidenote (regarding your 'critique' of other threads) The Genii webspace has room for all types of discussion: From: theories about performing -to- quips regarding magic books & urine ;)

Speaking of urine, I just finished my third cup of coffee (in honor of Blaine I'm consuming only liquid nutrients for the next 44 minutes.) Gotta go find some tubing...

Doug Conn

Terry
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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Terry » September 28th, 2003, 6:50 am

Doug, would you stop piddling around :D

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Lisa Cousins » September 28th, 2003, 7:21 am

When I first took a glance at this thread, and caught the tone and saw the length of the posts and the variety and the quality of the observations, it seemed to confirm my theory that life is one giant Rorschach test. I could not believe the marvelous things that people were seeing in this ink blot.

But on closer reading, it's really made me re-think my opinions on this phenomenon. Thanks for the insight.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Erik Hemming » September 28th, 2003, 9:28 am

Lisa-

I subscribe to the Rorschach theory, too. But I couch it in a little different terms. Here come the three rules of general semantics:

1. The map is not the territory.
2. The map is not the whole territory.
3. The map reflects the map maker.

I'm sorry, but I've forgotten the correct spelling of the gentleman's name who postulated it so succinctly. I think it is close to "Korzybski".

In any case, the three rules are worth pondering, particularly, I think, for magicians.

...and an "Amen" to D.Conn's post about content. Thanks for "The Big Tent," Richard. And thanks for the good company, everybody else.

Gordo

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » September 28th, 2003, 11:22 am

COUNTING ON THE COUNT: A TANGENTIAL ASIDE

Wonderful commentary, everybody...
Too bad, David Blaine cannot be faxed this thread?

In the meantime, as we twiddle our thumbs, consider the following:

There is NOT a Korzybski Count, but he used the title Count in his name.

Although Martin Gardner criticized much of the Counts work in his book, FADS AND FALLACIES IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE, Korzybski is one of my favorite cranks. His book (still available), SCIENCE AND SANITY, is what hippies in the 60s would have called a Mind-F----). It will definitely stimulate your thinking.

I dont want to get too far off track here, but

for the dubious, left-field record, Count Alfred Korzybskis last name is pronounced "Kahshibski."

He was born July 3, 1879, in Warsaw, Poland, to wealthy, aristocratic parents. By his teenage years he could speak four languages -- Polish, Russian, French and German. His books, despite controversy and criticism and denunciations, continued to sell and influence. His most famous book was titled "Time-Binding: The General Theory" was changed to "Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics." This book, a best-seller in its time, contended that humans progressed ("time-binding") largely as a result of our more flexible nervous systems that were capable of symbolism. Language allowed us to summarize or generalize our experiences and pass them on to others, saving others from having to make the same mistakes or reinvent what had already been discovered.

This linguistic generalizing ability of humans, Korzybski contended, accounted for our amazing progress over animals, but the misuse of this mechanism accounted for many of our problems as well. Following publication of his book in October, 1933, Korzybski set out to conduct seminars at schools and universities throughout the country on his theory of proper human evaluation, which he called General Semantics, which is still going strong and continues to influence theorists of every pedigree.

Besides the aphorism Gordo gave us, Im also partial to these:

Those who rule the symbols rule us.

To be means to be related.

Whenever anyone says anything he is indulging in theories.

In some ways, NLP and Gestalt theory owes a debt to the Count, as well... (Max Maven can fill you in on the rest...that is, if he were sufficiently motivated to do so...<g>)

In any case, thats MY theory and Im sticking to it

for the time being.

Onward

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » September 28th, 2003, 3:18 pm

ah, man :(

when I read the title to that article, I was hoping for a new - underground - inner circle -variation of the Elmsley count ... bummer.

;) ;) ;)

Joking aside...

Opinion: That was an INCREDIBLY interesting post

While it wasn't completely "off track"...
I think the path (of this thread) has been considerbly widened (for the better.)

This thread continues to provide some of the most interesting insights I've read (on magi-bbs) in quite a while...
Too bad it's labeled under Blaine (fearing all the Blaine haters will not take the time to read these 'essays' ... and they're the ones that need it most.)

It feels good when I think of magic as an "Art" and I felt VERY good as I read these posts. Thanks for the good vibes gents.
Doug Conn

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby mike cookman » September 29th, 2003, 5:51 pm

Blaine is certainly good at self promotion and he has somehow entertained people on those television specials with close up magic. And now I must reveal my ignorance: what does his hanging out in a box over a river in England have to do with magic? Is it supposed to have something to do with magic? I dont understand. It's not an escape trick or anything like that, or so it seems to me, so what is the point? Sure, he will get lots of money and all, but is this latest stunt (or whatever it is) supposed to involve magic in some way?

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Erik Hemming » September 29th, 2003, 6:35 pm

Mike-
The quick answer is that it is an endurance feat OR a ritual of purification OR a test of divine favor. (Or a mockery of people fasting to death for political purposes--depending on your interpretation.)

Again, stating the obvious: Fasting for as long as Blaine has proposed to fast often kills people.

In other cultures and at other times, these feats of endurance are/were a kind of magic trick. Enduring fasts proved the supernatural gifts or favor of the one undergoing the ritual deprivation--provided they survive.

That's the short answer.

The long one is a book. Probably a dissertation.

Blaine Studies 101 coming soon to a major research institution near you.... (He's already French-kissed Madonna, hasn't he? I think that's the major qualification for a new branch of cultural studies. It's kind of like a germ.... ) :eek: :eek: :eek:

Gordo
P.S. Racherbaumer is too cool. :D

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Dustin Stinett » September 29th, 2003, 7:19 pm

Man, you guys arecomplex. I think I'll stick with being shallow and self-centered.

(Paraphrased from The Money Pit, but appropriate.)

While this is certainly an excellent thread for those interested, I am so disinterested in what is going on with David Blaine that I have not read a single news report (though I have read some of the posts here--because that's my job). The only thing I have been wondering about throughout this whole thing is what Paul Zenon thinks of Blaine coming to his turf (though Blaine has not done any magic; yet). Though I have not been interested enough to go find out for myself.

Shallowly yours,
Dustin

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » September 29th, 2003, 9:13 pm

B-L-A-I-N-E Yep. You all spelled it correctly.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Richard Hatch » September 30th, 2003, 7:10 am

Meir Yedid's www.magictimes.com today has a link to an interesting Scripps Howard article touching on this topic, in which Blaine is quoted as saying that Jesus was a magician and he (Blaine) is trying to outdo the latter's fasting-in-the-wilderness record...

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Robert Allen » September 30th, 2003, 8:39 am

Hmm, somehow I now flash to Blaine playing the Simon Magus role in _The_Silver_Chalice instead of Jack Palance. What's next, Blaine to build a skyscraper so he can be seen to "fly" above the crowds :) ?

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » September 30th, 2003, 6:07 pm

THE BODY IN QUESTION:

I know, I know
Just as there are politics junkies, news junkies, and card-trick junkies, there are magic-news junkies who surf the net and read all of the sites and forums. Needless to say, the Blaine Business is still generating lots of commentary, using up lots of bandwidth

In some quarters Blaine Fatigue is setting in

That being said, particularly in light of the fascinating long posts by Hatch and others, some of you may find this hasty postscript worth a once over?

BODY MAGIC: So far, the notion that Blaine, like Houdini, employs his body as an essential prop in his stunts has not been suggested.

CAPTAIN OBVIOUS INTERJECTS: Most magicians use extraneous props to perform their feats and in doing so, they confer magical properties to these objects. As performers we refer to them as what we use to demonstrate our apparent powers. The objects have no intrinsic powers, but are merely props in a theatrical sense. That is, they are movable, commonplace, recognizable objects in a setting: balls, glasses, coins, handkerchiefs, cards, tubes, boxes, rings, sticks, and so on. We often say, Most magic is prop-driven. The downside is that the props dominate the feat. They take center stage.

Blaine, like Houdini, makes his body a central issuean object and subject. Houdinis body was handcuffed, shackled, imprisoned, and restrained. He had to pit his bodily strength, coordination, will power, and mental faculties against physical impedimenta. The object of attention was Houdinis body and the feat was his body escaping from whatever was restraining him. When he was buried alive underwater, his body had to survive in a symbolic coffin with a limited air supply. When he supposedly walked through a brick wall, the object penetrating the wall was his flesh-and-blood body.

So what IS Blaine doing with his body?

Obviously he is subjecting it to forces and conditions that are ordinarily detrimental to most bodies.

He has passed the halfway mark and his personal living space is still claustrophobically restricted to his hunger-artist cage. This is his M.O.to be temporarily housed in tight quarters: a coffin-sized box, a Plexiglas cage, or a block of ice. His body is then subjected to extreme deprivations.

CROSSING BOUNDARIES: There are supposedly clear boundaries around bodies. Yet ask yourself, Where does my body begin and where does it end? Do you separate the inside from the outside? There are many more questions than these, but Ill reserve them for a future examination. Blaine, however, is a boundary-crosser. Anagrammatize his name and you get:

BANAL DIVIDE
Better yet: A BED INVALID

So

If and when Blaine survives testing the limitations of his bodys capacity to withstand his latest severe deprivation, I suspect that his next feat will be to test his bodys capacity to deal with tortuous pain.

BLAINE RHYMES WITH PAIN:

Check out this book: Elaine Scarrys extraordinary, heavy-duty tome, THE BODY IN PAIN (1985). Among other things, its a meditation on the vulnerability of the body. It posits:

Sustained, tortuous pain unmakes a persons world. Couple this book with Ariel Glucklichs SACRED PAIN (2001)which I mention in my forthcoming column in Geniiand you may gain many interesting insights into what Blaine is REALLY trying to accomplish. It has little to do with the kind of magic most of us do or are interested in discussing and studying.

FIGHT CLUB IS ONLY A PRIMER: Willfully testing the human body by ritualistically hurting it is a time-tested way to bring about profound transformations in ones consciousness. The average person thinks this approach is mad, daft, stupid, trivial, or spectacularly silly. Most people avoid pain. The pleasure principle rules. But throughout history there have been many true believers who have flogged themselves, starved themselves, hung by their flesh, slept on beds of nails, walked barefooted through scorching deserts, fasted for 40 days, and even crucified themselves.

Self-hurting may even turn out to be trendy?
Consider the recent fascination with Fight Club, body piercing, tattoos, branding, self-punishment covens, cutter clubs, and so on.

Therefore

.If you think matters are getting weirder and weirder today, stay tuned for the next wild and weirder episodes in the Blaine Saga. As Hunter Thompson once quipped, When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

As Blaine starves in his box, Conan is ahead in the polls, an orgy in China makes the news, sport shows in prime-time are sponsored by condoms, Bob Dole and Mike Ditka busk for Viagra, Madonna smash-mouths Britney, everybody is queer for queer make-overs, metrosexuality is in, and

Have yall turned pro yet?
Is it time to shut down this thread?

Onward

Guest

Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » October 6th, 2003, 5:36 am

I have a degree of respect for David Blaine and I believe he has done a great deal to promote magic, but has he not lost the plot a little? I became a magican to entertain, amuse and baffle. I'm not sure that David Blaine's current line of stunts do that. Unlike say Derren Brown's Russian Roulette.

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Ian Kendall » October 6th, 2003, 5:42 am

Magictimes has a link to a Guardian article written about David Blaine that makes interesting reading...

Take care, Ian

It's by Jerry Sadowitz BTW.

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Matthew Field
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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Matthew Field » October 6th, 2003, 7:53 am

Jon R.'s parse on the "body magic" aspect of Blaine is most appropriate. Don DeLillo's recent book, "The Body Artist" as well as the fashion focus on piercings, tattoos, body-building and cosmetic plastic surgery supply ample evidence of the timliness of what David is doing, especially with the young, hip folks.

And Richard Hatch is also right to the point. In this "new age" of people searching for higher meaning in unconventional areas, perhaps Blaine is not trying to be the new Messiah, but simply attempting to provide a touchstone by which people can relate to him.

All this and mega press as well. Well done, David Blaine.

Hey -- wanna see a trick?

Matt Field

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Rich Cowley
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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Rich Cowley » October 6th, 2003, 7:56 am

Originally posted by harry patter:
I have a degree of respect for David Blaine and I believe he has done a great deal to promote magic, but has he not lost the plot a little? I became a magican to entertain, amuse and baffle. I'm not sure that David Blaine's current line of stunts do that. ...
Maybe I'm missing something, harry, but as a kid I would read about Houdini hanging upside down in a straitjacket, or jump into a river handcuffed, and knew I wanted to be a magician. But, hey, waitaminnut; straitjackets and river jumps aren't strictly magic, are they? (Hmmm....)

I think we have to give DB his due; like the icons in each generation before him, he's taken magic to a new place by intentionally "losing the plot" a little, whether we like it or not.

Thanks for listening!

Guest

Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Guest » October 7th, 2003, 1:34 am

I believe that's called escapology, which could be considered a branch of magic. I remember being thrilled by stories of Houdini when I young but that was because his stunts were exciting, he often faced an immediate obvious danger and cheated death using his practiced skills.

If David Blaine was hung over a crowd of horny british ladies about to dropped amoungst them unless he escaped from the perspex box then it would be entertaining.

Maybe I'm missing the point but staying in the box is not magical. I don't anyone who couldn't do that.

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Rich Cowley
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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Rich Cowley » October 7th, 2003, 1:29 pm

Harry:

I'm not extremely versed in history, and so I ask: was escapology tied as closely to magic before Houdini "lost the plot a little" (your phrase) back in his day?

My point was, magicians often display other skills than those strictly meant to "entertain, amuse and baffle" (again, your phrase); I would submit that Blaine is simply pushing the envelope, the same way others have before him. I would also submit that the "he's so unorthodox" position taken by so many magicians proves my point.

I would think that, while Blaine's stunts move at a considerably slower pace than, say, an underwater handcuff escape, he too "cheat[s] death using his practiced skills" (again, your phrase); starvation, falling off a pole and freezing have all killed before, no?

Thanks for listening!

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Re: Blaine the Messiah

Postby Richard Kaufman » October 7th, 2003, 7:31 pm

I don't believe escapology was tied to magic much at all prior to Houdini. Many of the techniques of escapology seem to have been origininated by mediums during the Spiritualism craze. The techniques were secret, of course. Houdini took was was secret and made it its own genre by using the techniques mediums used to slip out of restraints in order to invoke the spirits, and simply demonstrated his ability to slip out of restraints.
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