Monday, May 08, 2006


I was bored and flipping channels. I've gotten good at flipping, being able to recognize and decipher the nature and content of any program within about 2 seconds of viewing, allowing me to skip forward, looking for a televised bauble that will hold my deficient attention.

"...stonbury tor..." I heard, as I zipped past the National Geographic channel.

"Avalon," I thought to myself, as I hit the brakes and surfed back to the program that was sure to mention Arthurian Legend in the next breath. Sure enough, the booming voice of the British narrator clarified in the very next sentence that the little hill next to the little town of Glastonbury may have been the legendary Island of Avalon, and King Arthur was once believed to have been buried there. There were even ties to Joseph of Arimathea and the grail...

While likely a hoax perpetrated by local catholic monks, the hill has actually been used as a 5th century fort, an early Christian church, and a montestary. The hill is surrounded by a former coastal wetland (thus it was an island), which has since been drained, and is now a dry farming flatland call the Somerset Levels.

Fascinating geographic stuff, to be sure, but there's no escaping the hokum when Avalon is at issue. (Cue the mystical sounding Celtic harp music) Enter a balding man in a disheveled coat. His name was Barney, or somesuch, and he was a dowser. You see, There are magical invisible lines called ley lines that criss cross mother earth, and human beings can gain great mystical power at their junctions.

The Glastonbury tourist counsel would like you to know that two of the greatest ley lines, the Michael Line and the Mary Line, intersect at the apex of the Tor. And to prove it, they hired Barney the dowser to demonstrate the unquestionably awesome power of Mother Earth. Stepping gingerly, as if trying not to wake the dead, Barney walked in rings around the abbey at the top of the hill. As the currents of mystical power coursed through his aura (or something) his sensitive dowsing hands trembled, and the angled wires resting between his fingers began to sway as if by their own volition. Truly this was proof of the potent powers intersecting in this magical place.

Either that, or Barney was twisting the wires with his thumbs. Hard to say, really.

It's just this sort of hocus pocus that bothers me about David Blaine. OK, really, all telelvision illusionists. Now, I enjoy the craft-work that goes into a well executed illusion. The misdirection, the manipulation, the set up. Contrary to the belief of a few frighteningly naive peasants, Mr. Blaine is not actually MAGIC. He does not actually have any supernatural gifts or abilities. He just has good slight of hand talent and masterful set ups. Unfortunately, he also manipulates what you see with the use of good old-fashioned camera angles and editing.

Yes, editing. Like Jonathan Edwards and all of the other televised cold-reading cranks, Blaine edits out failed attempts, showing you only the successes, creating the greatest illusion of all. Admittedly, however, the successes are entertaining.

So, being the bitch for media hype that I am, after a week of crises and dilemmas, Blaine was to emerge from his giant human fish bowl tonight after an attempt to hold his breath for nine minutes, and I chose to tune in to watch the spectacle, all 2 hours of it.

Bullshit, of course. No one can hold their breath for nine minutes, but the execution of the illusion was destined to be fascinating. So here's the thing. He escaped from his chains and shackles in time, but he FAILED to stay underwater for 9 minutes. He failed, on live network TV. Now, he would never have attempted the trick without being sure it could be done. And, he would never allow the audience to see anything that he didn't choose for them to see.

So, my only conclusion is that he chose not to succeed. Sure, he succeeded in the escape from the shackles, at a very comfortable 6.5 minutes. Very convenient. Then when all was safe, he allowed the stunt to go wrong.

But why? What was the purpose of deliberately televised failure? Build an audience for a second attempt? Maybe. The missus suggested that since the attempt was bogus to begin with, it could never be recorded as a world record. Good point. Maybe he just wanted to be like his idol, Houdini, only without all of the dying...

Maybe for his next attempt, he should do it in Glastonbury. The extra goddess juice could help him hold his breath longer...


  1. Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
    Little breezes dusk and shiver
    Thro' the wave that runs forever
    By the island in the river
    Flowing down to Camelot.
    Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
    Overlook a space of flowers,
    And the silent isle imbowers
    The Lady of Shalott

  2. the other anonymous1:59 PM

    David Blaine is an asshole

  3. a)The English stole the mystic Celtic harp music from us. They have no culture, they have to make it up.

    b) Dont send Blaine to Glastonbury - its far too close to me

    c) John Edwards is a crank?? I am bereft...

  4. Alfred, lord tennyson9:13 AM

    Although I am very pleased and honored to finally see someone quote me in this blog, I have to point out that Shalott and Avalon are not the same place. The Lady of Shalott and the Lady of Avalon (aka, the Lady of the Lake or that watery tart) are not the same person.

  5. When I think of Camelot, I think of this:

    "You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin' 'em together!"

  6. I used to appreciate David Blaine in his earliest days when he would do what he called "street magic" - basically walking up to people in busy cities and doing tricks with a minimal of props and prep time with the bystander.

    Now he does these esoteric, "I'm trying to be the next Houdini but I'm really a freak" crap, which is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Break the record, not break the record, who really frickin' cares. Unless he dies. Then we all care. Because we're cruel.

  7. Is David Blane famous?

  8. No, he's not famous - it's just an illusion.

  9. the other anonymous11:26 PM

    He's not an illusion. He's an asshole.


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