The Mirror Online (UK), looking to build excitement for the launch of the fourth series of Dynamo: Mission Impossible, is asking readers to vote for their favorite TV magician.
You should head over to the site and make your choice from:
Penn & Teller
There is no space for a write-in vote but they do have clips from the nominees – including our inspiration, Tommy Cooper. (Unfortunately, the sound goes out near the end of the clip but it is still a joy to watch).
Click here to link to the poling site. We don’t know if it will allow you to vote more than once but perhaps that is a concern for us Chicago natives. The rest of the world likely never considers stuffing the ballot box.
Penn & Teller are in London and the toast of the town with great press. We read this morning’s Telegraph for a nice interview with the duo. They express their admiration for Derren Brown, “He’s one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen. He really puts a lot of intelligence and thought into it. He’s an artist,” said Teller.
They profess only luke-warm enthusiasm for Dynamo, “Teller says that while they admire his skills, ‘we know people like Johnny Thompson who’s 78 – and by comparison with whom [Dynamo’s] skills are somewhat… minimal. Compared with some of the old masters of this stuff.’”
They respect David Copperfield’s incredible work-ethic but bemoan the otherwise dormant magic scene.
“[Copperfield] does really good tricks, and he’s always doing new ones. But there aren’t many [magicians], you know?” Penn says heavily. Yes, there’s Siegfried and Roy, “but since Roy got his head bit off by a tiger, that slows him down somewhat. David Blaine doesn’t really do anything now. Why not? I don’t know. I don’t think he made that much money.”
We note that this is the latest in their 40 years of giving interviews where they fail to mention Inside Magic. Perhaps they are saving their effusive praise for our dogged coverage for a big presser once they return to Las Vegas. Yes, that is most certainly it. After all, tens of readers over the course of twenty years adds up to a statistical probability that they have heard of us.
We are most fascinated by behind the scenes stuff. We love logistics. So, for us, the key nuggets came at the end of the article wherein we learn the two get together on Tuesdays each week to brainstorm new tricks. That is the kind of geeky, inside information that makes us giddy. We would love to be present during one of those sessions. We wouldn’t say a word or even give some sort of indication of our existence – sort of as if we were a fly or insect in the room – we would just listen and relish the moment.
We learned that they have been working on a new effect that sounds pretty interesting. They are looking for a way to perform the Vanishing Elephant but with a live cow dressed as an elephant. We don’t know why that sounds cool but it does. We cannot imagine it is easy to work with cows and note that very few magicians have used cows in their acts in the last twenty years.
We knew of a former husband and wife act (former because they divorced) in which the husband referred to his wife as a cow on stage but that does not count. She didn’t vanish but did get a lawyer. He is doing close-up now and has “returned to ‘real magic’” with just a deck of cards and a few coins.” We suspect his new emphasis on cards and coins had something to do with the results of his divorce settlement.
Penn & Teller, like David Copperfield, seem to be asked the same questions by all interviewers. They do their best to give interesting answers and some reporters follow-up with interesting questions that lead to new information. Not often, though. That is not their fault. The Telegraph article is one of the better interview pieces we have read and worth your consideration.
The first time I meet David Blaine, he is weird. Zoned out, distracted or high on something. It’s a private dinner in an upstairs room at a London hotel and he enters without small talk. Dressed all in black with a black baseball cap, the American illusionist is big, bulky and intimidating.
The article in today’s The Evening Herald profiles magician David Blaine from a distance – at least emotionally. The writer is clearly not one of the millions sold on the concept of David Blaine. He views the performer as an oddity; hence an appropriate topic for a news story, we presume.
Mr. Blaine performs some pretty amazing effects for the reporter but he does not seem overly impressed. The tricks he describes seem great but as the writer notes, “we expect to be astonished.” He does not say if he was astonished though.
Mr. Blaine confesses that despite his reputation as a performer of death-defying stunts, he is “obsessed with magic.”
He considers magic as a grounding center for his peripatetic life. “It’s what drives me. It’s my favorite thing. It’s my saving grace. Like a meditation. I don’t even know what I would do without it.”
We know the feeling. Give us a deck of cards and we are content. Take away our deck of cards or our two silver dollars and the panic comes back.
Mr. Blaine teased his fans with scant information about an upcoming performance.
“There is a very big idea that I am going to do in London for the first time ever,” he says. “It’s a very simple idea, but it will be the best thing I have ever done. The most exciting. I know that it will drive me and I will push myself in a way I never would if it was not in front of me.”
It is scheduled to happen sometime in 2016 and in a football stadium. That’s all we know so far.
We were thinking it would be the world’s longest performance of The Six Card Repeat. That would have a lot of magicians watching for sure and there would be drama as he risked paper cuts and wrist injury. Perhaps it is something different.
Magician and endurance maven David Blaine takes to the air this evening in the United States through ABC television to ask Real or Magic? He is joined in this endeavor by Will Smith, Olivia Wilde, Woody Allen, Stephen Hawking and other celebrities who, we are informed, will react to his tricks.
We like David Blaine and believe he has done much to revitalize our wonderful craft and feel badly that we want him to be different than the way he is. He is not Doug Henning or David Copperfield or Harry Blackstone Jr. but he is very talented and, in his own way, charismatic and captivating.
Still, we miss Doug Henning performing the Water Torture Tank live on national television. We miss David Copperfield’s well produced escapes and illusions performed on tape but with the assurance the home audience was seeing the events unfold in real time without camera tricks. We miss Harry Blackstone Jr. for many, many reasons; not the least of which was his wonderful persona – so serious and light-hearted at the same time and able to convince even the most jaded teenager that he could really perform magic.
But David Blaine is bringing magic to the audience of the times where camera trickery is expected and even celebrated. Attention spans are short and expectations are high. Each generation of magic faces a similar challenge. Jim Steinmeyer’s outstanding book, The Last Greatest Magician in the World tells of Howard Thurston making the transition from vaudeville to the traveling, full-evening show and the ultimate demise of that elaborate show type. We know of Thurston today because he survived and conquered the new formats and met his audience where they sat. They were no longer in vaudeville halls watching one of eight shows in a day’s time. They came to see a full-length show and he had the props and chops to show them what they wanted to see – year after year.
We like David Blaine and wish him the best with his newest take on a classic art. If there is anyone that can again move magic in a new direction, it is David Blaine.
ABC Television is putting their sweeps hope on magician David Blaine this fall. Mr. Blaine’s special “David Blaine: Real or Magic,” is slated for Tuesday, November 19 at 9:30 p.m., Eastern.
As we have come to expect, he will have several A-List celebrities on-hand to be amazed and serve as a defacto committee for viewers at home.
Among the stars will be Jamie Foxx, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Ricky Gervais, Katy Perry, Woody Allen, Robert DeNiro, Kanye West, Harrison Ford, Will Smith and Olivia Wilde.
He will even check in with Stephen Hawking whilst in the UK.
It seems fitting to review some of the stunts from past episodes:
1. He’s been buried alive in New York City for a week
2. Encased inside a six-ton block of ice for three days and nights,
3. Perched atop a 100-foot-tall pillar in Bryant Park for 36 hours without a safety net
4. Ate nothing but nothing and drank only water whilst inside a transparent box in London for 44 days,
5. Spent one week in a sphere-shaped pool at Lincoln Center and almost broke the world record for holding his breath. He ultimately broke the record on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” by not breathing for 17 minutes and 4 seconds.
6. Hung upside down for five days in New York’s Central Park.
7. Stood in the middle of a million volts of electricity for 73 consecutive hours.
We cannot wait to see what he has planned next — especially if it is magic-related.
It is a magic story as old as time. Superstar magicians dominate all other acts in the mythical village of “Las Vegas” and become complacent from their success and guaranteed box office draw.
Young up-and-comer magician (Jim Carrey) looks to challenge the flashy duo, causing a crisis of confidence. The magic partnership breaks up bringing economic devastation to both magicians.
Fortunately, an attractive and loyal assistant (Olivia Wilde) encourages the senior magician to return to basics; to find the love he once held deep in his show-biz heart for magic and for his partnership.
The Hollywood production people sent us a blurb (remember the old days when it was illegal to send blurbs using the U.S. Postal System?) describing the plot line in two pithy paragraphs thusly:
Superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have ruled the Las Vegas strip for years, raking in millions with illusions as big as Burt’s growing ego. But lately the duo’s greatest deception is their public friendship, while secretly they’ve grown to loathe each other.
Facing cutthroat competition from guerilla street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose cult following surges with each outrageous stunt, even their show looks stale. But there’s still a chance Burt and Anton can save the act—both onstage and off—if Burt can get back in touch with what made him love magic in the first place.
We look forward to seeing Jim Carrey as the young buck, Steve Gray. He performs magic from a new paradigm like cutting off his face or not using the bathroom for almost a week. According to one critic, his character is a melange of David Blaine and Criss Angel.
We also understand that David Copperfield appears in the film as himself and has contributed a new illusion to the story.
Everyone loves Justin Bieber. We weren't sure until we read the USA Today and saw their very helpful graphic showing that everyone love everything about Justin Bieber always.
We think that was the proper interpretation of the graphic. It wasn't our copy of the USA Today. It was half-way tucked under the door of our neighbor here at the Marriott by the airport. Ours was locked in our spacious executive suite along with our luggage and the two keys made specially for us by Trina last night.
The graphic showed some kind of pie chart with an outline of the globe and pictures of either Justin Bieber or a child actor with a really bad haircut surrounded by hearts flooding towards his floating head from locations around the world.
It may have been a graphic about the Federal Reserve Board's decision to undertake a third round of Quantitate Easing but the picture didn't look like Princeton University Professor and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke per se.
Anyway, our point was that Justin Bieber is one popular singer and he wants to add some specialness to his upcoming tour. Logically, he has hired David Blaine to mix magic, mirth and music to give the audience something about which they will no doubt tweet and blog.
Mr. Bieber's first show will be on September 29, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.
He said he is rehearsing "like crazy" and is "really excited" about having David Blaine consulting.
Ironically, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has also signed on David Blaine to assist in the creation of a pamphlet teaching readers how to go without food for up to 40 days in the event the latest monetary move doesn't do the trick.
(See what we did there? "doesn't do the trick"? Blaine's a magician and . . . )
David Blaine played to a nearly empty theatre in Holland recently.
The dearth of audience members was intentional, however.
DNA India reports his sponsor, Madonna, rented out the entire movie theater “so that she could enjoy a night out at the movies with her boyfriend Brahim Zaibat.”
Described as Madonna’s “Toyboy” by the media source, Mr. Zaibat is a 24-year-old dancer on tour with the iconic performer.
Mr. Blaine was brought in to entertain the small party of Madonna, her companion, daughter and manager at The Tuschinski cinema in Amsterdam.
DNA India says Mr. Blaine performed his “trademark card tricks.”
We are told that Madonna was wearing “a cardigan, knee length skirt and glasses” and her ensemble could be considered “demure.”
We have attempted to learn more about Mr. Blaine’s “trademark card tricks” but to no avail. Initially, we assumed this was some new effect in which trademarks of various companies or services vanished or transformed visibly whilst in the able control of the magician. This left us without the satisfaction we crave when we encounter something new.
We immediately tore through our books and periodicals collected in the anteroom to the great Hardy Estate’s Southern Annex. We found nothing about “trademark card tricks” in the more recent journals and books.
Knowing Mr. Blaine’s penchant for reviving the classics of the great masters – such as Buried Alive in the spirit of Harry Houdini – we thought “trademark card tricks” maybe a knowing wink to the performance of his predecessors.
Interestingly, it is widely accepted that one of the very first trademark was created by and for the Dutch East Indies Company in Amsterdam around 1601. Perhaps that was why Mr. Blaine performed the “trademark card tricks” whilst in the city.
We were able to find one reference to a trick that sounds similar to the “trademark card trick” in an old Popular Science magazine advertisement from Johnson Smith & Co. The writing is difficult to make out and we have tried to highlight the portion that seems relevant. Our reading of the original (sorry for the poor quality scan) is:
“but none MORE entertaining then (sic) TRADEMARK Cards trick . . . VANISH and REAPPEAR with EASE . . . friends and even GIRLS!”
We will continue looking for additional references and supplement this article as we find them.
But for now, as the Sherlock Holmes commented to Dr. Watson upon learning his toilet seat was stolen – no doubt by Professor Moriarity – “I’m afraid there’s not much to go on.”
There is a fine line between art and premeditated murder.
Magician and endurance stunt endurer David Blaine knows the location of that fine line. He will come close to it but not cross. That’s why he continues to command huge fees and great ratings for his appearances.
Marina Abramovic?, artist and author of Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, has made a reputation in the often confusing but almost always entertaining world of Performance Art. New York Magazine’s Vulture blog notes the documentary about her 730 hour-long staring contest at the New York Museum of Modern Art won the Audience Prize for a feature film at a festival in Paris honoring US indie films.
The film is now showing in New York and stirring some controversy. New York Magazine’s Vulture blog writer Andre Tartar wondered “just how much lustier the reception [for the film] might’ve been if Abramovic? really had let magician David Blaine disembowel her with a fire axe.”
Mr. Blaine chews on a glass whilst discussing a performance piece with the artist. We assume he was just “spit-ballin'” some ideas with his creative equal. He proposed taking a hatchet to Ms. Abramovic? and leaving her in pieces-n-parts all over the exhibit space. “You know there are always those axes in the glass in case of emergency,” Blaine says on the video. “…She’s laying there, and the whole exhibition is over.
We are not sure why Mr. Blaine and Ms. Abramovic? abandoned this sensational plan. Then again, we are not sure why Mr. Blaine goes through with many of his other stunts. There is a shrewd calculus in the mystifier’s mind. That’s what makes him special.
As for Ms. Abramovic?, however, she is clearly not adverse to taking her pursuit of art to places rarely considered in suburban wine-and-cheese galleries.
In the early 1970’s, Ms. Abramovic? performed Rhythm, 0. She became completely submissive to her audience and allowed them to use one of 72 different items to interact with her. The items were a mixture of harmful, pleasurable and benign. She had a gun held to her head, she was pierced by rose thorns, and suffered other indignities. The lesson, “if you leave it up to the audience, they can kill you.”
Excellent point and, in our humble opinion, an amazing work of art.
So we were perusing Anesthesiology:The Journal of the American Association of Anesthesiologists whilst waiting for our HOT POCKETS® brand Breakfast – Ham, Egg & Cheese sandwich to cook and came across two articles with magical applications.
The first piece gives an anesthesiologist’s take on magician David Blaine’s world record setting attempts at holding his breath (as opposed to holding someone elses?) for more than 17 minutes. You can watch the TED Talk in which Mr. Blaine instructs audience members in the special preparation needed to hold their breath for more than three minutes after breathing “normal” or upwards of 17 minutes after huffing pure oxygen.
Dr. Abouleish poses the following question to his new anesthesiologist residents when discussing the relationship of end-tidal CO2 and respiration. “If your oxygen saturation is 100% and you hold your breath, what would your oxygen saturation be when you have to breathe?”
Of course all magicians know the answer to this but non-magic oriented medical residents need to be reminded of the relatively slow decline in oxygen saturation experienced by pre-oxygenated patients under general anesthesia.
We agree with Dr. Abouleish’s praise of Blaine’s talk. Those in the audience were able to hold their breath for as long as three minutes or more. Check it out for yourself and abide the constant warnings that this is not a skill easily acquired and one should never try this under water. The chance of passing out is high and because the risk of drowning whilst underwater is directly proportional to being conscious, you could, in the medical parlance, “konk out and die.”
The comments to Dr. Abouleish’s article are also instructive. There is general agreement that Mr. Blaine should have sought advice from an anesthesiologist rather than neurologists.
As you all know Dr. Abouleish is discussing apneic oxygenation.
Watching David Blaine do his 17 minutes was fantastic – but what an incredibly wasted opportunity for science.
As we all know, HE SHOULD HAVE CONSULTED AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST!
Neurosurgeons “Don’t know nuffin’ ” about respiratory physiology. Why did Blaine not have an arterial line for his record attempt – then we’d have known what his arterial pCO2 was after 17 minutes.
Of course we all know that, at rest, during apnea the pCO2 rises between 3 and 5 mm. Hg per minute.
I failed math in Kindergarten but I think 17 times, let’s say 4 mm. Hg = 68. So, approximately he was at 108 mm.Hg pCO2.
As WE (anesthesiologists) know that level has mild to moderate anesthetic properties. I bet if you Emailed Dr. Eger he would know what the MAC of CO2 is.
We would love to meet Dr. Zeitlin. He is our kind of guy.
The second article of magic merit in the February 2012 edition of Anesthesiology, attempts to the answer the age old question, which extracts local anesthesia better, a “mixed” triglyceride lipid emulsion or a long-chain version?
Houdini’s correspondence with Kellar on this issue springs to mind.