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Just what constitutes "magic"?

This is a question that has been swirling in this unpretty head of mine for some time now.

Basically, my definition of "magic" is quite reminiscent of the low-rent magicians that apply their wares at little kids' birthday parties pulling rabbits out of their hat, the never-ending scarf in their breast pocket, the origami art that transforms to a bird and flies away.

I once worshipped David Copperfield (not the Dickens variety, sorry). He was the be-all/end-all magician. He did it all. And I watched on TV as he made the Statue of Liberty disappear before our very eyes. I knew it wasn't legit, but it was still pretty damned cool. Maybe my parents can correct me on this, but I think I even saw him perform live once when I was a kid.

Heck, even GOB's failed illusions on Arrested Development were enjoyable in the absurdly comical sense.

With the publication of the Harry Potter novels and the release of the affiliated films, magic re-emerged in the spotlight as magic-endowed children fine tune their craft in a fictional prep school dedicated to the teaching and learning of magic, both good and bad. These kids levitate, transform, and make items disappear at will.

To me, this is what magic is all about. The ability to do things via slight of hand that are impossible for the normal person. Walking through solid objects, making something disappear, making something else reappear, etc. That is the traditionally accepted definition of magic, right?

Well, here's what Merriam-Webster online has to say...

Main Entry: 1magĀ·ic
Pronunciation: 'ma-jik
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English magique, from Middle French, from Latin magice, from Greek magikE, feminine of magikos Magian, magical, from magos magus, sorcerer, of Iranian origin; akin to Old Persian magus sorcerer
1 a : the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces b : magic rites or incantations
2 a : an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source b : something that seems to cast a spell : ENCHANTMENT
3 : the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand

Miscblaine My question to you is, how is it that what David Blaine does is called "magic"?

Last night, Blaine was involved in a stunt in which he attempted to hold his breath underwater for nine minutes.

A while back, Blaine encased himself for several days in a block of ice in NYC. He has also had himself buried alive as well as "trapped" in plexiglass and suspended over both NYC and London.

And those are magic how?

Yeah, it's amazing that he can hold his breath for so long or didn't succumb to hypothermia or didn't eat; but none of them are magic in the sense that I've come to understand it. It's definitely not covered by the M-W definition above.

So what gives? Why is what he does so damn special?

To me, it's just boring, plain and simple. A waste of airtime.

If Blaine had made himself disappear from inside the block of ice to the ground outside and his skin wasn't blue... I would consider that magic. If there was a shark in his watery gerbil ball that ate him alive and he reappeared whole immediately afterwards... magic!

However, the only magic I see is his ability to sucker in viewers to these spectacles. What am I missing?

Harry Houdini... awesome!

David Copperfield... cool!

David Blaine... hack ratings whore.

Damn, was that out loud? Is Blaine going to make me disappear? No, wait, that would require mag...

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magic, no. pathetic publicity stunt and attention whore, yes. but magic? no.


Kevin, I totally agree. I think he should be called an idiot rather than a magician. Why on earth would somebody remain underwater for a whole week? Do you have nothing better to do? That picture of him looks demonic too.


Last night I was forced to watch this bullshit!(Sorry for swearing but, It was BULLSHIT!) My wife forced me to watch this instead of Deal or No Deal. Not that Deal or No Deal is any better but, I like the fact that there is no trivia and people can win money by doing nothing.

David Blaine's stunt last night reminded me of another crap show I witnessed years ago. It was Geraldo Rivera's show when he said he found Capones hidden treasure hiding place. It ended up to be a waste of time just like last night. Two figgin hours of absolute CRAP!

I missed some moron turning down houndreds of thousands of dollars! DAMN!

Karl in the Dark

Drat, so Blaine didn't drown, eh? Did he break the stupid non-breathing record?

Right on, Kevin. You hit it all right on the mark. That's why I'm doing the "Darked Alive" thing, to show how "magic" I am. Urgh. Blaine is a tool.


He He He I talk with a friend on line last night about Blain. My on line friend works at "The Magic Castle" in L.A. He said "Blaine used to do really Kewl card tricks. Now all he does is endorence stunts."


YAY! Arrested Development!!! :)
Blaine. I don't even know what to say. I've never watched one of his stunts, and I won't make the time to in the future. Booooooring!


Yeah, he's kind of weird and random. I always wonder how the hell he gets health insurance.


He USED to be a magician. He did some amazing tricks (IMHO) and I even kinda refused to watch him because I am convinced he's the devil.

However, I do see the point of what he's doing now, even though it's definitely not magic (and I don't think he's claiming it is). He's all about stamina and pushing the body to its limits. He trains for the stuff like crazy. I find it fascinating.

I mean, *I* couldn't stay under water for a week and then hold my breath for 7 minutes. *I* couldn't stand on top of a pole for 35 hours, or whatever it was. I dunno - I think it's kinda neat.

ms. sizzle

for reals! he sucks.


Suze, I agree.

Elaine, apparently, the time underwater ahead of time was to train his lungs to work longer and process chemicals better. Skindivers who hold the record are a bit miffed at him because their competitions don't allow for any oxygen training tanks.

MIM, Kara made you watch it? Sorry man. You should've dropped by our place. Better viewing. No, actually, I was picking up my parents at the airport.

Karl.i.t.Dark, now I'm getting it! Prove him a wimp! I'm pulling for you, man. When's the end date? I have no idea if he drowned. I didn't watch it.

Mikey, yeah, Blaine's Wikipedia profile says he used to be a really great street magician. Wonder what happened to those days?

Kristina, I knew you'd appreciate the A.D. ref.

Sandra, interesting point. Spoken like a true PR person.

Chase, I can see your point. However, even if he doesn't, personally, hype it as "magic," per se, the networks certainly do. And that's where the frustration sets in. They have no idea what "magic" is, but so long as it's being performed by someone who is a "magician," that's how it'll be hyped. His Web site also looks like one that belongs to a magician. Color me crazy, but...

Sizzle, I really just don't get it myself.


How long until he tries again? Anybody want to put odds on this? All last night did was set up a rematch between David and The Great Blue Water and the Ever Clear Air! Go Air and Water! Lets start the chants. LETS GO WATER! LETS GO AIR!


I would assume, based on this comment, that he didn't get the full nine minutes. How long did he make it?

Karl in the Dark

Chase, naw...the devil could go longer than 7 minutes.


The only magic I'm concerned with is the kind that eminate from the marshmallows in myLucky Charms cereal " They're magically delicious!"


All magicians' efforts fall apart for me if I'm not watching it in person. It's tv or movies where they can do pretty much whatever via special effects. It's right up there with thinking the camera ops on reality shows don't ask people to do stuff over for them so they can catch it on film/video. Since sleight of hand requires getting someone's attention to be somewhere else, I have to believe any magic trick on tv requires coordination with the film crew.

As for live in a gerbil ball dude, he strikes me as an escape artist - a category which gets lumped with magicians since it includes seemingly impossible feats. Any CSI show will tell you 3 wks/3 days/3 minutes for how long a human can last without food/water/air. If that's roughly true for everyone, then 9 minutes would require some trick to pull off, so I guess you could technically call that magic.


I remember watching a David Blaine TV special long ago called "David Blaine: Street Magic." It was pretty cool; he just walked around town doing the kind of magic you talked about, card tricks, levitation, and making people's watches disappear off their arms. But his latest stunts I have no interest in. Seriously, who wants to see some moron peeing in a bag in the middle of New York City?

I have a long history of loving magic, probably because my Grandpa is an amateur magician and I grew up watching his tricks *ahem* illusions. That is probably why I love GOB so much and will really miss his tricks *ahem* illusions on Arrested Development.

P.S. I just googled David Blaine and it listed the latest news stories about him. My favorite of the headlines was "David Blaine Still Not Dead."


Karl, the devil would rock that trick.

Dustin, I would love some Lucky Charms right about now. Damn you.

Claire, I don't really think of it as magic when you do something like holding your breath longer than others. It still just doesn't fit in my preconceived definition of "magic." Escape artists are magicians, though, depending on the trick. Twisting your body to escape from chains... not magic (that's contortionism). Being sealed in a coffin and disappearing from within to reappear elsewhere... magic.

Nicole, Street Magic would be something I would watch. That's the sort of thing I love. I do enjoy the headline, though. Gotta find that article.


So when are you and Karl gonna write that book? I was wondering about David Blaine when I saw Karls picture and then I saw it on MSN news but I hadn't really read anything on it until now.

Yeah, I was gonna mention Street Magic but Nicole beat me to it. It was cool how he'd just walk up to some passers-by and freak them out with a magic trick. But I agree, endurance is NOT magic.

David Blaine isn't The Devil though, Chase. Haven't you seen Bedazzled? Elizabeth Hurley is The Devil, and Dave2 is her evil-doing minion.


Remember when David Copperfield walked THROUGH the Great Wall of China?? THAT'S cool!! :-)


Um. I agree on the Blaine thing but will disagree with David Copperfield. Back in 1995 I worked concert security for ole Mister Copperfield....we all had to sign consent forms that we would not reveal what we saw backstage to any audience members out front. What the man did... not magic my friend. I was so disappointed to learn of his "tricks" and "stunts" that I quit all together watching any of these "magic" shows on TV. And for the record, Copperfield has a stunt double who pathetically looks just like him and it's the stunt double who appears like "magic" fooling everyone around. Bummer eh?


I agree with what you're saying. An impressive physical feat isn't magic- but my sense is that it's not possible to hold your breath 9 minutes under water unless you have a bionic lung or something, so I think a cheat was involved. That doesn't necessarily make it magic (more like James Bond perhaps), but would qualify it as an illusion.


Jacquie, couldn't tell you. Not because I don't trust you, but because I don't know. Hopefully soon. Maybe we'll discuss it when he emerges from his lightless tomb.

Anonymous, we all know Dave2 will do anything for Liz.

Dave, I did enjoy that one. And wasn't there some illusion involving a tank?

Inky, that is a bummer. I know what Copperfield does isn't necessarily legit, but at least his stunts qualify as "magic" unlike Blaine. So what exactly did Copperfield actually do?

Claire, very impressive, indeed. But I don't know if it even would qualify as illusion in my feeble head. I always tend to think that an illusion involves some trickery to the viewers head or eyes. No wait, if, as you said, he is cheating, then yes, I guess it would be an illusion. Okay, I'll agree and call it an illusion. That's quite appropriate.



David Blaine does nothing but annoy the heck out of me. I'm not concerned about your wrinkly hands, I don't care to watch you cry because you can't hold your breath for 9 minutes, and I certainly don't want to see the catheter bag that's hooked up to you! This isn't news!! This isn't entertainment!!


I loved it when Blaine came to Britain and put himself in a box - man, was he stupid. What did he think was goign to happen? This is Britain. We have a (proud?) tradition of making celebrities feel like idiots. Don't think he'll ever try any of this nonsense over here again...
David Coppefield and the Escape from Alcatraz - gave me the wiggins when I first saw it.


Bre, you could see the catheter bag? Oh yay! *hack*

Bec, yet you still allow Madonna to stay in your country. Hmmm... Is "wiggins" a good thing?


I think we all know that Doug Henning was the only true magician to ever live. ;)

David Blaine is a lunatic.


Jenny, while I've heard of Doug Henning, I can't say I remember his acts at all. But considering your final statement and the fact that I agree with it entirely, then I trust you to be on the mark with Henning.

Free Magic School

Yea I agree. I don't know what they call that stuff that David Blaine calls himself doing.

I was on YouTube and saw the most funniest video about that guy, check it out, you'll have the most funniest laugh in your life:


Okay, typically I would look at this as spam, but the video is actually kinda funny. Twisted, but funny.

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