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francis farrell
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Many magicians seem to disapprove of him because of the simplicity of his tricks. This is a strange position to take given that many of the same magicians would almost certainly advise newcomers that it is not necessary to do technically difficult things to create a great response.

Personality and presentation are crucial. Blain demonstrates the truth of this point. Everybody reading this could do the invisible card deck trick that he does. Could we achieve the same response from the audience.

I enjoyed the first special. I thought he was becoming a little pretentious in the second and it was something of an insult to our intelligence to claim he was working with a remote tribe who knew nothing of Western civilization, when there were a pair of goal-posts in the background.

Then I saw him NOT goiving an interview on TV here. He said practically nothing to the interviewer until he held up his hand to him, with a design on the palm. He claimed this warded off evil. At this point I thought he was an embarrassment.
Jeb Sherrill
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I'll admit, I really can't stand the guy, but it's just his pretentiousness and the fact that he cheated at the end of his first special (I still haven't seen the second), that I hate him for. As far as his performance goes, he does what he sets out to do. He runs around on the street and does little tricks for people. Great! It works. I think most magicians are REALLY upset with him for similar reasons, they just bash him for other things to have something to talk about. I think you're right, I don't think his performance is that bad.

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francis farrell
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One thing I enjoy about many (but not all) of Blaine's tricks is the way that often everybody, including Blaine, ends up in laughter. I find that when I do magic at my best, when it all goes well and the audience has enjoyed it, we end up laughing TOGETHER. When that happens I find it one of the most pleasurable things about my hobby.
francis farrell
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Some of the criticisms seem to be: offensive demeanour. Most of the time he seems to me to be quite polite and respectful of his audience. He never mocks them or makes them appear foolish. He dresses casually but as has been pointed out above, that is in keeping with the times. I think the important word is casually. He isn't scruffy or dirty (OK, my father would argue that any man out without a tie is scruffy, but he's 72).

The camera tricks I agree are a flaw and I feel the same way about them as I do about the use of stooges: it's just not magic. Having said that, many respectable and esteemed magicians use stooges, so why pick on Blaine. Bad magic? Well, how do you define that? To me, bad magic is when the layperson spots the trick and so it is ruined for future performers or the use of stooges.

On the levitation question, I read somewhere that the reaction you see is a genuine reaction to the Bad. levitation, but that when they show the levitation it is from a different time and some sort of hoist is used. A pity he needed to do that.
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I think his best trick was getting away with grabbing that girl's b****t in his one special. Repulsively facinating!
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On 2002-03-09 13:42, Francis Farrell wrote:
The camera tricks I agree are a flaw and I feel the same way about them as I do about the use of stooges: it's just not magic. Having said that, many respectable and esteemed magicians use stooges, so why pick on Blaine.

Because-and I think this is an important point-there is little or no ethical gray area in what Blaine does (in the use of camera tricks, that is). He's cheating, and it is very damaging to magic that someone who cheats is gaining his level of popularity. If his behaviour were to become generally accepted, all of magic would suffer.

Why? Because it would eventually filter down into the public awareness that TV magicians use camera tricks. You can do ANYTHING with camera tricks (very nearly). Where are you going to draw the line?

In my opinion, magicians have an unwritten understanding with the general public that camera tricks don't get used. This is a necessary state of affairs, since camera tricks are;

(1) capable of achieving almost anything and
(2) completely obviously so to everybody.

TV Magic would cease to have any effect if Blaine's approach held sway. So I repeat: what he is doing is hurting magic; it is hurting all of us.

As for the comparison with stooges, I don't think it entirely a fair comparison. There is a huge gray area between the ethical and unethical use of stooges.

Most would agree, I hope, that straight out having a supposed representative of the audience pretend to be amazed that you read her/his mind, when she/he is just a stooge, would be cheating, because like the use of camera tricks, it also violates an unwritten understanding with the audience.

However, there is, I think, acceptable and unacceptable stooging, and a large gray area in between. In short, when the entire power of an effect depends on the violation of an audience's trust in what they understand as an implicit agreement, there is an element of fraud in the performance. Whether a stooge constitutes this type of fraud can be a complicated and subtle issue, and much debated.

But with camera tricks, it is NOT debatable. It is ALWAYS obvious to EVERYONE that camera tricks could accomplish any of the TV feats they are watching, and the magic can take place only because of the trust between magicians and the public that camera tricks will not be employed.

I suppose there is still SOME gray area here, though. If Blaine does 52 think-a-card tricks on 52 random spectators, and only puts in the one he happened to get right, along with the accompanying incredible audience reaction, then I would guess we might have some debate as to whether that was a "camera trick".

Most of us wouldn't be impressed either way though (unless he had an out in the other 51 cases, of course).

As for Blaine's performance style, I think it can be summed up as "young kid approaching other young people on the street, speaking at their level, speaking their language, yet paradoxically being in a way very mysterious and a bit spooky."

I think this persona could have much potential, given the audience reactions we see on Blaine's specials, but I find it hard to judge the extent to which he is really pulling it off without knowing what percentage of the reactions he really gets are actually like those that we see.

"What can be thought of or spoken of necessarily IS, since it is possible for it to be, while it is not possible for NOTHING to be." -- Parmenides
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One of the good things about David Blaine is that since nearly all magicians can do "better" magic - in terms of technique, presentation and communication with the audience - it makes you look great.


Well, when people ask you "Can you do magic like that guy on TV? HE's amazing!!" and next thing you do blows them away, for them you're the best magician on the planet! Smile
Alan Wheeler
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There may be a "comedian's comedian," but all I know is who makes me laugh. There may be an "actor's actor," but I can't always tell the difference between good and bad acting. There are great literary writers and good writers, but I have to admit that I've read a few poorly written books that held my interest.

Does David Blaine do any harm to the magical world by revealing secrets or discrediting the art or industry? It could be...

I have never seen David Blaine, but reading these posts gives me the impression that he's not the greatest magician in the world. Still, he's generated a lot of response here and I hope I get a chance to see a performance and know what you all are talking about.

I would love to read a thread treating the subject of popular magicians more generally--including the work of Penn and Teller. This thread, though, has certainly been food for thought.

The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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I like David Blaine for a few reasons:

1. We share the same first name.
2. He goes out to the people to perform instead having them come to him.

Although I have only seen his first special and have it on tape, it was a refreshing change to see magic on the street instead of in some rigged studio with controlled camera angles. Sure many of his tricks were simple, and may even seem elementary to some of us here, but to the average Joe not exposed to magic on a daily basis he acomplished what he set out to do. He dazzled, amazed, and made the people believe they had just seen real magic.

Yes they used creative editing, but I thought it was a nice effect. Without it I believe the whole thing would have looked like some type of Blair Witch Project.

I'm not knocking stage magic, but when that is what most are exposed to and then have it right in your face, which do you think people would prefer? Which do you think looks more realistic and believable?
This is why I think David has gained popularity so quickly. He looks like a real person, in front of real people, getting real reactions.
Jason Fleming
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I sense a noticable increase in the public's interest in close-up magic since the Blaine specials. The fact that I can replicate some of the tricks he showed on his special (but not his personality.... that's his!) right in front of the audience's eyes only makes them enjoy the magical moment more.

Just for fun, I often ask if they've seen David Blaine on TV and then ask what they remember... their answers are intriguing... I think the most common response I've heard is the "Bitten Quarter".


Greg Arce
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Boy, this has been a great thread to read. I agree with several points and disagree with several others... but the interesting thing is that all this talk, even mine, will not change the public's interest in the man.

A few mention a comparison between the acting world and magic. How true because I live in both worlds. Many of you who dislike Blaine probably go to and love certain movies that "true" actors loathe. Many actors I know can't stand the Oscars because they are like Blaine specials.... putting emphasis on popularity rather than talent or skill. What does this all mean? Nothing.

Things will never change. You can fool a large section of the public with the right presentation... you sell the sizzle not the steak. My own opinion: I completely understand why David is popular. He proved my point of decades ago that most people just want you to do the trick right. Get from Point A to Point B... I know many of us want to throw in a picturesque story that encapsulates the history of the world as we perform Open Travelers and that's nice... but believe me the next magician that does Cardtoon after you and does it straight out of the box without any added "touches" will get just as strong of a reaction as you did. Why? Because most of the public does not know any better. They see the end point, not all the years you took to practice a coin roll and an invisible pass.

Once again I go back to acting... there are certain actors who are Oscar award winners, multimillion dollar paychecks, covered in every magazine, but couldn't impress me if they were on fire and had to act hot.... but the public thinks they are stars. Stars! That's an interesting word and has become more interesting over the years. A star seems to be one that doesn't have to be as technically proficient as the others in his or her field... they just have that certain something that fascinates a large population of the people.

Blaine seems to have that because of his specials. Yes, his presentational skills are as deep as a spoonful of water. Yes, his magic skills are moderate at best. But he is a star now so that no longer matters. His best attribute, I feel, is realizing he isn't that smart in magic so he hired smart guys around him. For all that has been said and done, look at how much we talk about him... good and bad.

There is no such thing as bad publicity in show business... h***, O.J. still gets booked on certain talk shows. Have I answered anything? Probably not. The debate will continue. Blaine will keep cashing checks. And we will have to deal with laypeople asking us if we can float in the middle of the street. Deal with it. Or, at least, second deal with it.

Just random thoughts.
One of my favorite quotes: "A critic is a legless man who teaches running."
Steve Friedberg
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Hey Greg...
You just reminded me of what Liberace said after his act was panned in reviews: "I cried," he said, "all the way to the bank."

Folks...Greg's comments are right on point. Yes, many of us here can do the effects better. Yes, many of us know far more than he ever will. Yes, he uses craft camera angles.

Get over it.

If you can do the bitten quarter in front of a lay person who's seen've just gone up a notch in their eyes. Sorry. That's how it is.

The ability to work wonders at FFFF may not translate as well as for a lay audience. I've never truly appreciated Bob Longe's effects, for instance. Too simple, I thought. Yet, I did one yesterday based on the slop shuffle (a Balducci force). Hey, it worked...and the woman I did it for had to pick her jaw up off the floor. Thanks, Bob!

Blaine works and in doing so, has made it possible for us all to gain more recognition. My .02: use that knowledge and recognition and leverage it to your benefit.

"A trick does not fool the eyes, but fools the brain." -- John Mulholland
Greg Arce
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Thanks for the support, Steve. And you also made a good point about taking advantage of the situation by doing Blaine-like effects to spectators. I was a doorman at the time of Blaine's first special and everyone in the building knew me as this magic guy... police and firemen in the neighborhood would stop by so I could do some tricks to them. Anyway, as soon as the special was on the question that popped up was "can I float"? Well, I can and I did... right in the middle of the lobby. I floored them and now I was a god in the building. So all I can say is, "Thanks, Blaine, for allowing me to look better in someone's eyes than you did on TV."
One of my favorite quotes: "A critic is a legless man who teaches running."
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I think Steve Brooks has summed up David Blaine and his street magic absolutely perfectly. I personally like him a lot - if he's a bit anti-establishment, so much the better. The only person that really bugs the h*** out of me is whoever the 'Masked Magician' is on those Street Magic Secrets Revealed TV specials. Now that's what I call 'bad magic'.

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James Harrison
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"His best attribute, I feel, is realizing he isn't that smart in magic so he hired smart guys around him."-Greg Acre

Exactly, he may not be smart enough to come up with new tricks, but he's smart enough to get the right guys around him.

Just like Penn & Teller, they have Jamy Ian Swiss working for them, just as Lance Burton goes to his teachers and mentors for 'Jam sessions'.

Nobody gets where they are without help, no matter how small the help is.

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The reason why, in my opinion, why Blaine is such as success is, One, he can communicate effectivly with the 'common' man (A relic of Houdini), and second, when he is doing street magic, his items or props are so ordinary looking, the spectators can't see anyway how the items could be gimmicked ( Ex: bite-out coin and restored can)
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Now this is a old dug up thread.
Magic is doing improbable things with odd items that, under normal circumstances, would be unnessecary and quite often undesirable.
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Hi there,

This thread seems to be a bit old, but I'll give my views now that we are a few years down the line.

As a magician, I thought David Blaine was simple but effective. His street magic was received very well and I applaud him on that.

I think the thing most people dislike about David Blaine is the crazy stunts hes doing at the minute. I have read his book and his reasons for doing them are a bit, well, crazy!

that's just my opinion. If he had stuck to magic, I think he would be one of the leading magicians of our time. But, that's just my thoughts. Others may disagree.

Many thanks

Magical Mark Watson

Magical Mark Watson - Christian magician, juggler, puppeteer, all-round entertainer and lover of Christ!
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I agree, there are magicians out there who feel David Blaine is a bad performer. I am new to magic so I saw David Blaine peform before I ever touched a magic book. I must say I was completely astounded and didn't want to miss a second of his performance. He has managed to succesfully blow away the general public and popularize street magic over the years. Is he a good performer? You decide.
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