David Blaine--modern-day Houdini or ABC fraud?

As you probably know, David Blaine is currently encased in a block of ice hollowed just enough for him to fit. He is now on display at Times Square in Manhattan, until his third special on ABC at 9pm tomorrow. This is on the heels of his buried alive stunt last year. The question is: Is he to be regarded as a modern-day Houdini? Or is he merely a good-looking hack who is augmented by special effects courtesy of Disney? Dopers, the floor is yours.

Neither. He’s a magician who also found a niche in doing non-magical things that simply require a helluvalot of endurance.

He is not encased in ice. It would unreasonable to conclude that he is.

The bastard is making Times Square traffic even worse. I don’t care if he can pull his head out of his own arse six ways from Sunday. No one should be allowed to cause more delays in Times Square.

Not Disney special effects, but not really Houdini at this point. Houdini was a magician and an escape artist; Blaine seems to be, as was mentioned, a guy with a lot of stamina. Having seen some previous programs about him, I have to say that watching him levitate was pretty awesome and a lot more magical (even after I learned the secret). I am hoping they show some of his more magical stuff during Wednesday night’s show. (10PM EST/PST, 9PM CST, n’est-ce pas?)

That’s a dummy in there.

Take the above statement any way you like.

Oh, feh, like we care. I passed within a block or two of Times Square on my way to work this morning and it never occured to me to go out of my way to look at that schlemiel.

This is New York, we have other things to worry about. If you wanna encase yourself in ice, go right ahead—as long as you’re not blocking the goddam sidewalk.

Only New Yorkers will go out of their way to express indifference.

picmr, that is the BEST definition of a New Yorker I’ve ever heard! Belongs on a T-shirt.

As some of you may know, Blaine started gaining popularity through performaces at rich folks parties and the like. Some of my ex-fiancees friends were in attendance at one of these and were spell-bound. This was, of course, years before ABC came into the picture.

Blaines appeal is that he performs his tricks up close and personal. Of course they’re tricks, to say otherwise decries the belief in ESP of one sort or another, which, though cool and certainly soemthing I wish I had, most likely doesn’t exist. So yes, they are tricks, bu they are also beautifully performed. Entertainment, astonishment and they ability to leave people wondering what it is they just saw - that is why David Blaine is as good as he is.

note: there are plenty of “smaller” or lesser known illusionists/magicians/whatever that can do similar tricks, perhaps, but David either does them better, can do more of them, or was in teh right place at the right time. Either way, I’m entertained, and that’s good enough for me.

My problem with Blaine is that, while he does have good skills as an illusionist and at sleight-of-hand, he cloaks it in so much bullshit “mysticism.” Same thing that bugs me about Copperfield. I prefer my illusionists to be upfront that they just highly-skilled people who have practiced A LOT. Like James Randi, or Penn & Teller. Don’t insult my intelligence by trying to pass it off as magic.

But hey, what do I know - I watched every one of Fox’s “Masked Magician” specials, and ended up even more impressed by all the hard work and skill that these people bring to their work. I have more admiration for Teller, for instance, after seeing him scramble around the Plexiglass version of the body-part trick (where it appears that his body has been split into three seperate boxes on a platform). He’s really moving very quickly through the platform, timed perfectly with Penn’s opening and closing of the box doors.

Sue me, I enjoy it the more I know how well it’s done.

I walked by Mr. Blaine today in Times Square. He seems to have plenty of room in his little icebox. He is wearing a hat and moving around. His face looks a little pasty, but he in no way seems to be on the verge of death. In fact, he’s standing up. Its not clear whether he is even in contact with the ice. And if he’s not in contact with the ice, he’s basically got himself a little igloo in which his own body heat is keeping him warm. Isn’t that what Eskimos do? I say its all a scam. But then again, Houdini was probably no different.

I’ve seen 2 of Blaine’s specials on ABC and I have not seen him try to mask his tricks with any mysticism or even very much flair. He just walks up to somebody and says “can I show you something?” then he does his trick and then walks away leaving them bug eyed. I actually like his style because he doesn’t mask his movements with flashes of light or clouds of smoke or any spiritual or hokey crap.

JJ says:

Well, from what I’ve read about it (which I admit isn’t a lot), I think he’s got a little room around him (like a a couple of inches?). In fact, one of his concerns was that he would fall asleep and his face would come in contact with the ice and freeze to it. I don’t think there’s any way a person could be literally frozen in a block of ice anyway – your skin would freeze and die just from the contact. So, yeah, he has a little wiggle room, but not much.

I don’t think this follows, though others may correct me. I don’t think your body would produce enough heat to “keep you warm” if you were encased in a block of ice (even with an inch or two of air around you). Sure, you retain some body heat, but surely not enough to be comfortable or “warm.”

What, freeze themselves in blocks of ice? Not to my knowledge.

Actually, I think it’s less of a scam than most so-called “magic,” more properly termed “illusions,” in that Blaine is not trying to trick people into thinking anything is going on that isn’t. He’s really in there; it’s really ice; and he’s really staying for three days, if he can stand it. He himself says it is an “endurance experience,” not an illusion. So the question “how does he do that?” in this case doesn’t refer to the mechanics of how it is done (which are straight-forward), but rather to how he stands it.

All that said, I don’t get where the interest is in seeing if a person can stand extreme cold for three days. So he can; so what? At least with his illusions there’s some question as to what is really going on.

There is some concern regarding Blaine falling asleep and resting part of his exposed body on the ice, specifically his head. There are people on stand-by who will aparently attemp to wake him in sucha case. That failing, I understand they are plannign to drill through the ice and physically push his head from the surface in order to prevent a “freeze-burn” type wound.

Blaine prepared for this endurance test by fasting and practicing sleeping upright, BTW and FWIW.

Where can I get a pic of Blaine on Ice?

*Originally posted by Jodi *

I don’t think this follows, though others may correct me. I don’t think your body would produce enough heat to “keep you warm” if you were encased in a block of ice (even with an inch or two of air around you). Sure, you retain some body heat, but surely not enough to be comfortable or “warm.”

What, freeze themselves in blocks of ice? Not to my knowledge.

I’m no thermodynamics expert, but I think that your body gives off heat constantly. And I think that the few inches of air between his body and the ice can be kept reasonably warm by his own body temperature. This is why a coat or blanket keeps you warm. It traps your own body heat.

I normally assume these tricks are scams and this is my way of trying to explain this one. The hard part for Mr. Blaine is probably to remain upright, not fall asleep, and not get bored out of his skull.

I think that Eskimos stay warm by sitting in small structures made of ice called igloos. Their own body heat becomes trapped in the structure, which then warms the air inside. At least that’s what my 5th grade science teacher taught us. But that was a few years ago and things may have changed.

According to Page Six, the magician community is not particularly impressed by this stunt. It sounds like the only impressive thing is that he is going to stand for 61 hours. Anybody seen “Hands on the Hard Body”? Maybe he should try to win that.

Penn Jillette and David Copperfield’s spokesman went public. James Randi consulted on the stunt and says it is still dangerous.

What I want to know is why the ice doesn’t melt inside and a) get him sopping wet with cold water and b) fill up the chamber, at least to his ankles or something. Of course, I haven’t seen the set-up, so maybe there’s a drain under him? Or he’s wearing a wet suit?

Well I don’t really have anything to add but wouldn’t it be funny if someone saw him at a restaurant next door when he was supposedly locked in a block of ice. He’d prolly stop getting ABC specials after that.