Tuesday, October 01, 2002

i run screaming

It is inevitable that I now write about David Blaine. Ever since I saw him on TV in “Street Magic” performing a new brand of up-close-and-personal magic, I have been possessed by an unholy fear of him. Marco and the rest of my friends have a running joke about my encountering him – he’d walk up to poor unsuspecting me and with blinding spontaneity just suddenly…LEVITATE. I’d stare in horror for a moment and then, like the pathetic bewildered village lack wit in the old black and white films, run screaming in abject terror to the hills, gouging out my eyes at having seen the Devil himself.

I think my reaction is due in part to the cleverly edited footage of the street people’s reaction shots. Yes, they fled or averted their eyes from the abomination. It’s also partly due to how he performed his feats; with no obvious staging, out there in the open in broad daylight. The stage magic I know is, well, on stage – with razzle dazzle, lights and dramatic music, with lions and tigers and bears (oh my) vanishing and reappearing and pretty assistants sawn in two; with pomp and circumstance. Nothing prepared my eyes for something extraordinary in the context of the mundane, shorn of artifice. It was…magic.

When I attend a magic show, I am mentally prepared to see magic tricks and confounding prestidigitation. Like a child, the suspension of disbelief is willingly given, because I expect to see clever sleight-of-hand and traditional tropes. Without the trappings, its very nature intrudes into my perception of an ordinary day.

Of interest to note is his almost unanimous condemnation by other magicians, who were caught off-guard by the usurper who suddenly had his own TV specials. He incurred the wrath of the established performers and perhaps an ungainly amount of envy from the others who wished they had his chutzpah.

In due course, he buried himself for a stretch of period in ice, performed a vertiginous balancing feat for days, transubstantiated coffee into coins, and continued to confound, amaze and impress his audience – forcing the intrusion of the wonderful upon the ordinary.

Do I like him? Hell, yes. I admire his audacity, his upturning of convention, his sheer…ugliness, and the studied lack of charisma he comports himself with (and those are kickass tattoos).

Part of me misses the traditional showmanship, the glitz and costumes and big cats. But a greater part of me is delighted, a little boy rediscovering the power of magic upon his imagination – choosing not question the evidence of his senses, and instead running to hills with an endless exquisite scream trilling in his throat.

(PS – Want to know how he may have levitated?)

Which leads us to...

blaine encounter
question (9 of 100)

Q: You're walking down the street and David Blaine walks up to you and LEVITATES. What do you do?

A: Oh man, you know what I'd do.


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