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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magic names and the media » » David Blaine's latest stunt Ascension - your predictions? (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Reviewer EndersGame
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Here's a promotional video:

And here's the live video:

Any guesses about what you think will happen?

I think Blaine will vanish or levitate or something unexpected. Otherwise it won't be much different from the Red Bull Stratos project by Felix Baumgartner (video here).
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It was a bit long for me, but I did watch it, and it was a great stunt that will again get “Magic” in the minds of many laypeople who watched. I am always amazed at the amount of physical and mental training he puts into every one of these “Houdini” type PR Stunts. He is very dedicated and pushes some serious boundaries. The only drawback in my opinion is that they did it on YouTube instead of TV. I think TV would have reached more (although the number of views on YouTube are amazing).
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Ascension is receiving some negative feedback in a magic community on a particular social media platform. I understood and fully expected for there to be some who did not or could not fully appreciate what David was attempting to and ultimately successfully did.

However, I find it... unattractive, that there are other magicians who would rather tear his accomplishment down by dismissing it as merely 'sky-diving' or that because he didn't 'vanish' into the sky or some other type of illusion then everything else that took place is inferior.

Someone else mentioned that he was able to accomplish all of this because of money. Yes, it is most definitely helpful if you can afford all the top experts, equipment, and training for these types of things whether or not the money comes from your own bank account or from sponsors.

Absolutely, I do not disagree. But money did not give him the extreme self-discipline that was required to accomplish any of his achievements.

For Ascension alone... He didn't give someone an envelope of cash and they made him a certified licensed hot-air balloon pilot. He didn't write someone a check and they said "OK, you're a certified skydiver now, good luck."

Sure, the argument can be made that having money gave him the time/leisure needed to achieve those things in the last 2 years, but consider the source (if coming from out of pocket expense) that's his money, money that he earned from having a vision and executing it 23 years ago that has turned into what it has today.

Good. Good for David. I'm not going to dismiss or be disparaging of a magician who is more successful. Besides, money doesn't buy testicular fortitude, and he needed (and has) plenty of that.

David has time and time again shown us that the majority of our limits are the limits we have put on ourselves.

He risks his life and his health to entertain and motivate people. He did this particualr stunt for his daughter, because of a vision they had together and he showed her (and the rest of the world) that you are capable of your dreams.

It may not be perfect, it may not go the way you wanted, you might completely and utterly fail, just like Ascension had a high probability of failure but the point is, is don't be afraid to fail, be afraid of not trying.
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Reviewer EndersGame
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As a stunt, how do you think Blaine's Ascension compares with the previous achievement by Felix Baumgartner with the Red Bull Stratos project?


In my opinion that was arguably even more impressive as far as human limits are concerned, whereas Blaine's stunt was more about aesthetic beauty.
Dave Scribner
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Personally I thought it was a lot of hype to not much of a stunt.

I heard the ballons were special made so they wouldn't break
He was harnessed to the balloons so he wouldn't fall
He had oxygen so he could breath
He put the straight jacket on half way up so he was protected just in case.
Once he reached altitude and released himself, he just became a skydiver

Compared to his other stunts, I didn't think this one measured up but to the general public I guess it served the purpose.
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Just a skydiver? The temperature at that altitude was around -31 degrees. This is no small feat. Avoiding hypoxia on the way up - David did it using his breathing technique and relied on the oxygen provided much less than someone else would. He jumped from 25,000 feet (Tom Cruise did this in M:I - Fallout, but in full gear with a specially-crafted helmet and oxygen strapped to him as he jumped).
Amazing and beautiful stunt, I thought.

Straight jacket? Do you mean parachute? Of course he put it on at that point. Hypoxia could impair his judgment at higher altitudes resulting in a far greater chance of loss of life. David wasn't trying to risk his life. He was re-creating a lovely childhood image for his daughter, and finishing it with a kick-ass thrill ride. It was an art piece, with some endurance elements built in.
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Dave Scribner
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Yes I meant parachute, not straight jacket. The last degree report shown was 15 degrees, not -31. His stunt of being inside a solid block of ice would have resulted in temperatures less than that so it's not something he hasn't experience before. Regardless, he was dressed for it and finally put gloves on. Not sure about using the oxygen less than a normal person. Once he put the oxygen unit in his mouth, he left it there just as anyone else would have.

He was in constant contact with the ground crew and Hypoxia never occurred. He was lucid and coherent for the entire stunt.

I'm not saying this was something that anyone could do, just that as a stunt, I wasn't that impressed. He's been working on this for a long time and I'm sure he covered every possibility in rehearsals. No one goes into a stunt like that blind or without thinking about everything that could happen.

Of course he wasn't trying to risk his life but that is what is portrayed to the public. What would happen if the balloons started to break. Supposed he dropped the parachute while trying to put it on. Supposed the altitude and temperature impaired his
judgement. What if the temperature and lack of oxygen at the high altitude caused him to pass out? All of this gives the impression to the general audience that the stunt could be life threatening.

Did he re-create a lovely childhood image? Who knows. Was it truly something he thought of from his past or was it something that added to the hype. I'm remind of the trick "snowstorm in China" Almost every magician that performs it starts with a story of their grandfather and snowflakes. It ends up with "grandpa, this is for you" Do we believe all of these magicians had a grandfather and a story about snowflakes? Of course not but it adds to the hype of the effect.

Didn't mean to go off on a tangent. Just pointing out that I wasn't impressed with this stunt as much as some of his other stunts. The general public enjoyed it and that is what is important
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I find myself mostly in agreement with Dave's comments. Here are some of my thoughts and reactions to Blaine's Ascension stunt:

1. First and foremost, I really enjoyed it.  Entertaining to watch, and all the tech really helped us become part of the experience - that was really well done.  Read all further comments in light of a big overall positive.

2. It was a little on the long side, especially with all the build up. 3 hours - really?  And given how long it was, it would have been nice to have had some comments and reactions from Blaine and the team afterwards, debriefing the experience;  it seemed a pity that was entirely missing.

3. It's kind of amusing watching all these people helping a grown man getting dressed, as if he can't do anything himself.  It kind of flies in the face of what happens later: he can do a risky skydive, but the man can't dress himself? I found that rather humorous.

4. They really did hype it up, trying to emphasize all the dangers.  I realize it was a stunt and things could go wrong.  But even so, it seemed a bit over the top at points, as if they were deliberately exaggerating things to make it seem more scary than it was.  They had a whole team around him, and even if he'd flaked out they would have been able to bring him down safely by controlling the balloons.  

5. The fact that the location was changed from New York to Utah just a day or two before launch makes you wonder if some elements were just staged, and that was the plan all along.  With so much careful preparation of so many elements, surely you don't just change locations a day or two beforehand.  

6. Similar are the scenes where he's being shown the landing zones just an hour before launch and doesn't seem to understand what he's seeing.  Don't tell me Blaine hasn't scoped out the possible landing zones in a carefully prepared stunt that has supposedly been ten years in the making, or doesn't understand what his team is showing him on a screen, when even I get it as a viewer.   David is a showman par excellence.  How much of this and other things were all just theatrics?

7. One thing that did surprise me was how `panicky' Blaine himself seemed at points, because this time we got a fully live experience that showed it all.  Not the ice cool dude that he sometimes makes himself out to be.  Even the "Can I have a sip of water?" line that became a repeated theme.  He seemed very human, very fallible.  

8. No offence intended, but the whole thing just before launch about invoking holy people in the earth and sky and mother nature and praying for their help was a bit weird. Surely Blaine doesn't believe any of that nonsense.  And if there was a tight time window, why give precious time for primitive incantations?  

9. They really played up the father-daughter part of the narrative.  That was touching and all, but you have to wonder about the girl's mother, and Blaine's relationship with her.  I don't know the whole story here, but here we have a man who breaks the limits of human endurance, but how about his endurance in human relationships?  If you're a guy who is still married to the mother of your children and are faithful to her until death, you're showing a level of true endurance that Blaine seems to lack.

10. I was secretly hoping for something even more magical, e.g. that he'd suddenly levitate in the sky, or even vanish.  This is David Blaine after all.  But I guess in the end this was more about a stunt than about magic.

11. As a stunt, this begs comparisons with Felix Baumgarner's record-breaking achievement in 2012 with the Red Bull Statos project (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Bull_Stratos).  Baumgarner used a helium balloon to get 39km up, then jumped and broke the sound barrier while free falling, eventually landing with a parachute (video here).  In my opinion that was arguably even more impressive as far as human limits are concerned, whereas Blaine's stunt was more about aesthetic beauty.

12. It would have been nice to have seen some references to achievements similar to Blaine's attempt.  I was somewhat surprised to discover that cluster ballooning is an extreme sport that is more common than I realized (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluster_ballooning). For example, read the story of Larry Walters who used a patio chair and 45 helium balloons to fly over 15,000 feet. It sparked many imitators, listed on the Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawnchair_Larry_flight), and it's well worth reading over some of those.  Many of them seem as impressive if not more impressive (or crazy) given the absence of support teams like the one Blaine had. So Blaine is hardly the first to do anything like this, and there are even others who have come back down to earth from a cluster balloon ride with a parachute. 

13. The disclaimer at the end seemed a bit ridiculous: "This production was filmed in strict accordance with all CDC and SHA Covid protocols and safety guidelines including testing, social distancing, use of PPE, quarantining, disinfecting and good hygiene practices."  Really?  This seems a little absurd given (a) the much greater dangers Blaine has taken on by his stunt; (b) the lack of social distancing and other protocols that seemed to be in place, besides the occasional mask.

14. I love how Blaine giggles like a little kid.  This sense of childlike wonder is what magic is all about!

I guess in the end this was really all just a spectacle, alongside many similar achievements, many of which didn't have a large support team providing protective bubble wrap.  Perhaps we were taken in a little by the hype (I was anyway).  Blaine is a showman after all.  But what made this achievement particularly noteworthy was the ability of technology to bring us right in alongside Blaine the whole way along, and experience the drama from his perspective.  And that was brilliantly done.

So criticisms and nitpicking aside, it was still good entertainment, and I enjoyed watching it.
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I think his style works for him, his ideas are interesting, he is great at getting publicity- I'd say I'm a fan of David Blaine. I enjoyed Ascension even though it was basically just him tied to balloons for 2 hours. I stayed for the whole thing and thought it was visually interesting.

All that said, for anyone who likes easter eggs, at 2:44:18 you can hear David fart at 24,400 feet.
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