Monday, May 15, 2006

Blaine and Me

In the comments to my last post, Anonymous says, I'd be right shocked if ever the words "I might have been mistaken" were ever to leave your keyboard.

Actually, I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong; in fact, I have a whole list of narrow beliefs I used to hold which have been replaced by broader, more nuanced views.

I was absolutely, unequivocally mistaken about Blaine for years
(there, I said it). In the past I always felt a tremendous ambivalence about him. On the one hand, I could see that he blew people away and fostered a love of magic in every layperson he encountered. On the other hand, I was brainwashed by the typical magician line that he's an average talent, he uses stooges and trick photography, he's just lucky, etc. I reconciled those two views with the standard response to cognitive dissonance: I ignored them.

I now recognize that like many other magicians I, too, was blinded by jealousy. I resented that he was better looking than me, more successful, dated the beautiful women I'd like to date, got the reactions I'd love to get. And I resented that he did standard material and became rich and successful with it. My reaction had nothing to do with Blaine, of course, and everything to do with me. Blaine, as I stated in my very first post on the subject, is a mirror in which inferior magicians see their own inadequacies.

When Blaine first broke out onto the national stage, I had been a serious close-up magician for over twenty years. I had worked in restaurants, done street magic, worked in one of the top magic shops in the country, performed at the Magic Castle a bunch of times -- in short, I was an experienced and talented magician, pretty consistently well-liked by my audiences. But I seldom got the kind of reaction Blaine got. I seldom had people wonder seriously if I was real. I performed occasionally for celebrities in L.A., but I never had them adopt me as one of their own and insist I accompany them to their cool hangouts. Blaine did all that -- and then got a TV show and blew away the world.

I'm ashamed to admit that while I never trash-talked Blaine to laypeople, I would often provide a typical magician response along the lines of, "He's pretty good. He does a lot of standard material that I've been doing for years, so it's funny to see him getting these TV shows..." In other words, damning with faint praise.

It's only in the last few years that I lifted the veil off my eyes and recognized Blaine for the genius he is. Once I had this shift in consciousness, Blaine's overwhelming contribution to the world of magic became clear. His influence on every magician who came along after him is incalculable; it's hardly a stretch to define Street Magic as year zero of the new magic renaissance.

I have no problem, by the way, with people who simply don't care for Blaine. But the magic boards are still, almost a decade later, filled with people referring to him as a no-talent hack and a fraud, which seems preposterously off base. I now see that the vitriol directed at Blaine has nothing to do with him and everything to do with the jealousy and extreme narrow-mindedness of the magic community at large. Blaine blows away laypeople more deeply than any magician in recent memory. He does this not by performing the most flawless Erdnase Shift, but rather through his extraordinary charisma and showmanship. For this he should be embraced as a teacher

Hatred and contempt directed at a performer who accomplishes magic for laypeople so well deserves to be examined. Too bad the magic community as a whole seems incapable of such introspection.


Mark said...

Way cool exploration of the illusions of perception and projection. We so often underestimate the magic of charisma. If Gore had some of that mojo we most likely would not be lost in the Bush!

PeaceLove said...


Anonymous said...

"On the one hand, I could see that he blew people away and fostered a love of magic in every layperson he encountered."

Exaggerate much? Heck, I even rememember some shots on his early shows of people who didn't want to see him perform and walked away when he approached. Those were certainly laypersons he encountered, and what he fostered didn't look like love from my perspective.

It's this kind of stuff that makes me laugh at your blog so frequently. How could you possibly know that he "fostered a love of magic in every layperson he encountered?" Met 'em all, have you? Interviewed every one?

Granted, you're not talking about the people who have seen him on tv, but I've seen a number of message boards filled with comments by laymen who are singularly unimpressed.

I think you're doing exactly what you claim the critics of Blaine are doing, except in the other direction.

I hereby redub your blog HyperboleMaster's Musings

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree. I think I read where he shot over 200 hours of footage for his first special. From that we saw the same five effects several times. Being generous, that leaves more than 198 hours of footage we didn't see.

Are you claiming to know what's on that unshown footage? A lot of it's probably not shown because the spectators reacted badly. Wow. Your credibility takes a hit.

PeaceLove said...

Nonsense. By that reasoning, if Brando gave a bad performance on takes 1 through 4 but nailed it on take 5, then he's only a 20%, so-so actor. In fact, what ends up on the cutting room floor is entirely irrelevant. All that matters is what was shown on the show.

Trying to use the fact that some people were too scared to even let Blaine perform as proof that he doesn't blow everyone away is similarly a red herring.

This is a performance, a creation. It's relationship to "real life" is the relationship between any work of art and reality. The fact that it's not "real" is the reason so many magicians -- who have an a priori hatred of Blaine -- have so little tolerance for him.

They don't really understand that "A magician is an actor playing the role of a magician," and they resent that Blaine's such a brilliant and charismatic actor.

Signed, HyperboleMaster

Anonymous said...

See, you changed the argument again. That's what you do. You posted something entirely unconfirmable, that he fostered a love of magic in every layperson he encountered (your words), then when called on it you pick another portion of the statement to dispute.

"On the one hand, I could see that he blew people away and fostered a love of magic in every layperson he encountered."

Every layperson he encountered. Get it now? Need smaller words? Or do you want to attack some other obscure word usage and further obfuscate that you really boned this one? After all, I bet even Brando didn't foster a love of acting in every layperson he met, nor would he make such a preposterous claim.

Do you know any artist universally loved? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?

You just can't handle being called on it when you make ridiculous statements, so you set up these straw men and knock them down and avoid the initial contention. You've become notorious for it.

It really is phobic of you to ignore that initial contention - that you made a fantastically unsupportable statement. And the more you avoid it the more foolish you look.

Listen, make life easy on yourself. Admit that the statement was silly. Or, alternatively, do what you do: choose some obscure point of the above to dispute and hope that people forget that you wrote (and I quote) ""On the one hand, I could see that he blew people away and fostered a love of magic in every layperson he encountered."

PeaceLove said...

Yes, of course the statement was silly. It was hyperbole, exaggerated for effect. I'm sure Blaine didn't foster a love of magic in every layperson he encountered. Just practically every layperson I've encountered who has seen his work.

That said, I really think you're getting way too hung up on semantics and are ignoring the larger points of my posts, which are: 1. Blaine is single-handedly responsible for a renaissance in magic, 2. Blaine has branched into extremely courageous conceptual/performance art, and 3. Blaine has figured out a way to become and remain hugely popular with a mass audience through his work. Rather than dumping on him, we should all be learning from his example -- or at least offering our highest respect and honor.

Anonymous said...

You're the one hung up. You took (or, more likely, purposely misinterpreted) my comment as a criticism of Blaine when it was a comment about your post.

You're the one with the obsession. I'm glad you finally admitted it and stopped with the straw men. It was unbecoming.

And I don't think you initially did it as hyperbole. I think you iitially believed it and are doing what you do - changing things when you're called on them. Nothing in the original context or subsequent responses (until now, backpedalling) indicated anything but belief on your part.

Oh well. Your blog.

Anonymous said...

Yes, he is sometimes a silly little man, isn't he?

Magic run in cycles. It has always waxed and waned. Blaine "single-handedly responsible for a renaissance in magic"? Wow - you really have found your new messiah, haven't you?

I'll bow to the east (Jersey) tonight and say, "Watch. Watch. Look. Look.," Three times in honor.


PeaceLove said...

Anon: I don't think I misinterpreted your comment as a criticism of Blaine, just as a silly focus on an unimportant point in my post rather than an attempt to address the major premise. As I said before, I have no idea what you personally think of Blaine.

Anne: Blaine "single-handedly responsible for a renaissance in magic?" Absolutely. Just ask Criss Angel, Derren Brown, Cyril Takayama, the magi of Mondo Magic and T.H.E.M., Gerry McCambridge, Keith Barry, Alain Nu, and almost every other magician who has had a TV special in the last ten years, not to mention Ellusionist, Penguin Magic, and the whole crop of young hotshots they've inspired. In the public sphere, magic before Blaine pretty much consisted of Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, and Lance Burton, with an aside through the consciously anti-magical pomo irony of Penn & Teller.

Much has changed. This is the most exciting time to be a magician I've seen in thirty years!


BTW, I want to again express my gratitude to all who participate in these comments. I hope Anne and Anon and any other Anons won't take anything I say personally. I love a good debate, and I tend to take on subjects that I think are important and worthy of promotion. And I certainly appreciate that people are reading and taking the time to comment honestly and without pulling any punches. So thanks, to all of you.


Anonymous said...

You take them on, but then you sidestep and tapdance around comments better than Bill Robinson.

And no, I don't take what you say personally. How can I when you say such silly things?

PeaceLove said...

Whatev, Bro.


Anonymous said...

Oooh! Oooh! I know! The people you claim are Blaine haters really aren't -- they're just exaggerating for effect!


Anonymous said...

Oooh! Oooh! I know! The people you claim are Blaine haters really aren't -- they're just exaggerating for effect!

Dude, you just been pwned

PeaceLove said...

Same anon? Different anon?

Seven days later?

Which dude has "just" been pwned?


Jeez, someone has too much free time.

Anonymous said...

Which someone?

PeaceLove said...


Anonymous said...

No, indeed's on second. Who's on first.

Anonymous said...

"Seven days later?"

Sorry, dude. I pos when I read 'em. I'm usually too busy doing other stuff.

In what twisted world is that "too much free time"?

Dude, if you have a time limit, post it and I'll try not to get your panties in a bunch.

Or is it that you were pwned?

PeaceLove said...

I think you need a hobby.

Anonymous said...

You mean like having a blog where I state my opinions like they are facts, act like I'm hipper than everybody else, get pissed if people don't post comments on my invisible timetable and tell people I know nothing about they need to get a hobby?

Oh wait, it's been done.

PeaceLove said...

Thanks. You've made my case better than I ever could.