On the weirdo in the perspex box…

This is one of those posts that gets me into trouble with people. If you don’t like rude words, or have any particular love for David Blaine then walk away! Walk away!

So I want to talk a bit about David Blaine. Hardly the most auspicious reason to get myself back into the weblogging habit after a difficult week, I admit, but I have to vent. I mean – can it really be true that the British are evil for finding him so… ludicrous? Hasn’t anyone noticed? I mean, surely it’s obvious? You talk to American friends over AIM and they’re all, “Oooh, you’ve done it now… We’re pulling out the Blaine inspectors. And then we’re going to have to invade!”

The British don’t have a “healthy disrespect” for celebrity and if you’ve been told that, then you’ve basically been lied to by a professional Englishman-abroad or by some weird kind of Dick Van Dyke cod-Anglo-faker. The British don’t have a healthy disrespect for anything at all, they’re just grumpy old sods who don’t really like anyone who sets themselves above the rest of the herd. Basically if we don’t fancy them and if we don’t want to be them, then we pretty much hate their guts. While they’re funny or cool or interesting – well that’s great – but a chink in the armour and we strike. That’s why British celebrities after a while have to either treat the whole thing as a bit of a job or as a bit of a joke. The most successful take the piss a bit. They go, “It’s Ok! I understand! I get it too! They give me lots of money and I sing songs and have lots of sex, but I’m just like you lot! I think it’s all dumb too!” That’s why people get a bit bored when Robbie Williams writes songs about his inner pain. Whatever you do, you mustn’t believe the hype. Or you mustn’t show that you believe the hype or the cry of ‘wanker’ will resound from hill and dale, from weir to West Wittering…

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, the press is confused. Surely the British are terribly terribly polite? But they’re always so modest and quiet when you see them on television… Well now you know why! The secret need for fame may burn bright in our hearts, but for many people it would be far too embarrassing to admit it. There’s always the secret desire for the banana skin lying provocatively in the path of those who think their farts smell of summer blossom and happy fairies. And there’s always the fear of that self-same skin lying in wait ready to cut us – quite rightly – back down to size. It’s just not the same in the States – where aspiration is celebrated and failure mourned. There each person who becomes huge is an indication that you too could make it if you just ate less mexican food and got your teeth fixed. If you did that in England you’d just get duffed up by some bloke with a bit of a lazy eye who thought you were checking out his girlfriend. Inevitably.

Weirdly, though, the whole trans-Atlantic miscommunication has a menacing side. Several of my American friends have asked me – quite genuinely and quite nervously – whether the vilification of Blaine is somehow representative of the British position towards America. But I must confess it is not – while the image of the USA giving up on the Stars and Stripes as a symbolic representation of their country and instead stringing-up Blaine has a certain visceral appeal to me, I can’t see it happening. Blaine is not being attacked because he is American. But there is a connection with the slathering excesses of fringe America – and that’s to do with the fundamental connection between American celebrities and total and absolute unmitigated bullshit.

I’ll give you an example. Jennifer Lopez somehow managed to claim that being ‘for real’ was – for her- ‘like breathing’ – that she was indeed still Jenny from the Block. But in fact she was possibly the least grounded human being since Yuri Gagarin – and everyone knew it! But it didn’t matter – they still lapped it up shamelessly. Blaine is radically post-Lopez (po-lo?) in the scale of his attempts to turn pure shit into gold – hence the in-box nappy – and that’s the aspect that the British can’t forgive. So why is he hated? It’s not because he’s American and it’s not because the British are evil. Fundamentally, simply, basically, finally he’s just hated because he’s a twat. It’s just that in America, many more twats get famous…

57 replies on “On the weirdo in the perspex box…”

David Blaine was much more interesting as a magician than as -what seems to be his current career choice path – one who tests odd limits of human endurance.
I admit that I am concerned about how Americans are perceived by you Brits, simply because I think I might want to live in London one day and I don’t want George Bush to go and ruin that possibility for me… and I was curious as to whether Blaine’s reception was an indicator of how Brits currently view us yanks.
Perhaps Blaine’s “stunt” truly is a test of endurance. How long can he endure the taunts and beratement? How long can the Brits endure his presence?

Being an American an all, I find the whole thing in itself hilarious. Most everyone I know cares little for David Blaine, and as far as his amazing “stunts”, I glad people over there are pointing laser pens at him, throwing eggs at his case, and dangling hamburgers from toy helicopters in front of his face. Serves him right.

Not a Goldfish
And here was I thinking I was nasty for laughing when I saw shots of the Brits pointing out that David Blaine is trying just a little too hard to get noticed. I feel so much better having read Tom’s…

David Blaine
And that’s that. David Blaine? I don’t hate him. I just don’t see any reason to like him. He is just a twat, as Mr Coates rightly put it, and we have too many of them already. Of all the things I could be doing (watching the footie, going out and havin…

Not sure if you have actually been down to Tower Hill Tom but the fact is that about 5% of people there are hostile, another 5% are adoring Blaine and the rest are kind of bemused.

I was at Tower Hill on Sunday after going to lunch at Butler’s Wharf and I happened to pass the ‘phenomenon’. Granted, there was a great deal of people there but as Cooper mentioned they all looked bemused. The guy in front of me said “what a tosser” and it was obvious that most of the people there thought along the same lines. I couldn’t even be bothered to lift my camera to take a picture, you spend a great deal of your time in London trying to avoid nappy-wearing weirdos who haven’t eaten in a while – why go and see one in a box?
“healthy disrespect for celebrities” or not, I think someone has to do more than simply BE a celebrity to deserve my respect.

Can someone ask David to go away and return when he’s got something interesting to do?
I know the british version of Blaine is Derren Brown but at least he’s doing something interesting (well trying not to get shot).

We have the same kind of don’t-get-too-famous attitude in New Zealand: it’s referred to as “tall poppy syndrome” here, i.e. don’t grow too big or we’ll lop your head off.

I don’t think it’s a particular hatred/amusement with David Blaine or Americans. Nor do I think most of the reaction to him is – at heart – to do with him being a ‘twat’ (although in this case he clearly could be so described). I think most people honestly think this event (like the ice and the pole) are just self-serving, attention-seeking stunts and nothing more. And most people in Britain don’t like an attention seeker – which is why all the helicopter-delivered hamburgers are more exciting. Blaine (and his PR machine) should be relieved by the British reaction because it will – hopefully – stop him doing something like this again and go back to the clever illusions. Personally, I liked the thought of Adam Ant bringing David down by the “power of punk” ( – now that would get onto the South Bank).

I dunno. I think the Brits have a “healthy disrespect” for celebrity.
If David Blaine was doing something truly impressive I’m sure everybody would be out on the streets in support. However he’s actually doing something extremely dumb and pointless.
Whereas in some parts of the world, people would be wowed by the whole spectacle of celebrity, I think us Brits are more grounded. Sure he’s famous, but just being famous isn’t enough to impress us. It’s not a persons celebrity that impresses. It’s their actions.
Personally I’d be much more impressed if it was a regular Jo doing it for charity, rather than a Houdini wannabe doing it for fame and fortune.
Where a naturally cynical lot the Brits. Personally I think that’s one of our strengths.

Nice one, Tom. But beware of the danger: a lot of us Brits are sounding oh-so-superior about this, but in a modern, urban, cutting-edge, ironic sort of way. You can dress it up with a lot of jokes, and fine writing, which you do, but at the end of the day you’re saying “we’ve seen through this, and you haven’t, because we’re British.” Also, a lot of the stuff that’s happened to Blaine has been quite nasty – don’t equate high-minded cynicism with hooliganism, please….

As Kerry said, I think now the real test of Blaine’s endurance will be whether he can suffer taunts and prank pizza deliveries for the full 44 days. Now, that would be impressive.

A lot of this is a reaction against the hype, especially given that he was compared frequently to Houdini, who escaped from boxes.
I formed my (low) opinion of the man following his interview on GMTV a few years back.

The Magic Mr Blaine
So everyone’s talking about David Blaine. has written an article entitled “On the weirdo in the perspex box…” about the man himself, which has sparked off some other, quite diverse comments. When everyone heard Da…

I disagree with your belief that it’s only a British trait of being “just grumpy old sods who don’t really like anyone who sets themselves above the rest of the herd.”
Everyone is like that, c’mon don’t you hate it when your friends become successful. Here in America you get cut down to size fairly routinely, at least among my friends and family. It’s almost a status symbol to have a lot shit talkers about you.

His early sleight of hand and “magic” was lots of fun. All the spectacle crap he’s been doing the last several years is just as you describe: the actions of a twat.
(Please don’t let him come back to the US – we’re done with him.)

Love the Blaine killing game from Robin.
But hey what is this bloke trying to do. Grab some media attention and if you think about it he is being very effective at achieving this goal. I mean people are creating web sites to discuss his antics, so who is the fool, us for watching and thinking about him, or him for doing it. Either way he is getting his wish FAME! I wanna live for ever, I wanna learn how to die!

Hmm, a lot of Houdini’s escapes took several hours to complete, in that respect, Blaine is certainly an heir (if a hugely exploded version of Houdini in that respect.)
On the other hand, Blaine is one of the best close up magicians in the world. (He has about 4 peers in the world, at least in my magician following opinion.)
I sorta think that Blaine hasn’t found his actual talents sufficiently attention grabbing…
Oh sorry, he’s a bit bad in choosing his stunts, but I’m wandering off subject… wait, my subject was that I use too many elipsis

This was a really funny blog, especially the “po-lo” part. That will most likely become a more widely used term for that era in our time. Thumbs up!

A great little piece on the mastery of David Blane. That is to say that he has mastered the art of doing nothing for money! Wish i could. Probably why i hate him so much…..
Any man who can make money out of some shit stunt deserves respect. Any man who does it more than once deserves to be taunted for trying to make us look like idiots cause he thinks we will be impressed!

Po-Lo ! Hysterical. I agree with you about Jenny From the Block. I’d love to see someone like Paxman of Jon Snow question her on this. I bet she couldn’t offer up any evidence.
Anyway, she’s not real. She’s hyperreal. When you look at Lopez all you see is what she represents. She’s disappeared beneath the spectacle of what she now signifies.

David Blaine
I used to read Tom Coates’ weblog regularly, and came back to it after a break today. This post pretty much sums up my thought’s about David Blaine, and is very funny at the same time. My favourite quote?…you too could make it if you just ate less me…

I agree that Blaine has some good close-up magic skills (although I’ve only ever seen them on TV) and is going somewhat off track with his recent publicity-seeking stunts (some of which I’ll admit to being impressed by).
However, what I find most disturbing about the whole affair is that it’s very much designed to appear as some kind of “starvation” test.
Being locked in a box for a long time is a tough enough challenge even with plentiful food and water (and yes, I believe Blaine is getting some kind of sustenance through that little pipe).
I do hope that he gives an interview when he comes out, or at the very least makes his journal freely available, just so that I can judge his state of mind.
BUT, why the “no food” tag? I find this very offensive because there are people who are genuinely too poor to eat well and Blaine is making money off the concept of famine whilst doing nothing to promote the cause of those trying to feed the hungry.
What’s next? Perhaps Blaine will have his ears sealed shut so he can “endure” the life of a person born deaf for a week or two. Or maybe he’ll think of something even more vile.
The people heckling Blaine do right. I wish they’d explain WHY they’re heckling him and also that the media would spend more time decrying this cynical grab for cash.

Life by the river
Our local area has become a focus for medieval behaviour with the arrival of David Blaine’s box, but there is much more than that to see and do here.

I’m agreeing with most of these responses, but just to step outside of Blaine’s box for a second, one thing his ‘stunts’ do expose is the perculiarity of the spectacle and the public’s reaction to it. Surely the most interesting response to this – simply a man in a box not eating – is not boredom and refrain but this near hysteria? (as it’s been presented in the press) I don’t think for a minute that Blaine is attempting to expose people’s reaction’s, but watching people get over-excited, throw things, react in an unconventional way to something that is essentially banal is fascinating. The British arn’t very good with blank spaces, we like to fill our plazas and squares with monuments and ‘things’ – Blaine’s emotional blank canvas is just exposing a British trait of needing to fill the void with ‘something’.

Oh come off it Lawrence, it is just a dire idea.
Some millionaire celebrity on some ego trip about getting closer to God by chosing to do what other people have inflicted upon them by circumstance. Matthew Scott’s story, who escaped from kidnappers in Columbia and spent 12 days without food in the Jungle, is much more interesting. Now there’s an idea for Blaine’s next ‘magic trick’, although I suspect if he was kidnapped they would be desperate to hand him back.

well done.. you have completely managed to prove that you don’t understand the english at all.
Basically if you put someone in a box infront of us, we throw things at them. Why? well mainly if you put yourself in a box then you deserve to get things thrown at you..
Also we are more than bored by celebs and most can’t be bothered to be famous – just as an american you can’t believe that a person could live without being famous..

A friend of a friend met Paul Daniels on a tour of Ireland a number of years ago, and asked him his opinion on David Blaine. Daniels replied: “When I see him do a trick, I’ll let you know”.

Pure gold
Tom Coates on David Blaine: I’ll give you an example. Jennifer Lopez somehow managed to claim that being ‘for real’ was – for her- ‘like breathing’ – that she was indeed still Jenny from the Block. But in fact she…

Er, Tim… Can’t tell who you’re talking about. If you’re talking about me then everything you said might be true if I hadn’t been born in Reading, grown up in Norfolk, gone to university in Bristol and wasn’t currently working in London.

Nice piece Tom.
AA Gill has a good piece in the Times (I am not a big fan, but when he hits his target he is good).
I have a feeling Iím pushing an open door here. Sometimes, as a society, we just decide about things: we just know, like bees know. Itís a sort of cultural osmosis, a collective taste pheromone. And we have decided heís a plonker, a variety act with pretensions and a German girlfriend. When he was doing bar-mitzvah table magic, he was bearable ó now heís got all Faustian, heís a pillock.

What amazes me about this is how people can’t take in what is meant to be happening here. Blaine is an illusionist right? So this is an illusion? Yet people think he’s actually in the box? And so he’s one. He’s made the illusion and suckered some people.
If you think of him being at home with a beer, watching all the twats staring at the box, you can see how he’ll have a chuckle. And how we should chuckle at all those suckered in.
If on the other hand he’s actually in the box, he’s not going to get famous for being an illusionist, now is he.
I remember back to watching magic tricks on tv as a kid. Some people thought it was camera tricks, but you only have to go to a live show to know the people can be illusionists. And so I quickly decided that the woman being sawn in half was not actually being sawn in half, but was merely a stage prop for a twat in a sequined jacket.
By all means there is a skill in illusions, but no more so than if you know for to fix your car, or your PC, or your kettle. with the right training, anyone can do these things. Magicians are famously coy about how even the most basic illusion works, because its all a house of cards.

Soon Forgotten
I seems that the end is near. I’d actually forgotten all about it to be honest! Still this article does serve to point out how little teenagers know: “They are all probably ugly and jealous,” 16-year-old Suzannah Dickson said of…

For the last six weeks, the world has had its eye on artist/illusionist/magician David Blaine, who last Sunday successfully completed an astounding feat by spending 44 days in a human-sized plexiglass box suspended by a crane above the Thames River in London, with only a pen and journal, diapers for his initial clearing of waste, a pillow and pad, lip balm and a water tube (along with a urine tube) to keep him alive. No food.
Blaine is a fascinating figure. Though he is most often referred to as a magician or illusionist, his accomplishments aren’t as dismissable as some of his less-convincing predecessors, such as David Copperfield. With Copperfield, we sensed that television made it easy for him to walk through the Great Wall of China or make an airplane disappear. Using television to enable “magic” didn’t seem so magical at all.
Not so with 30-year-old David Blaine, whose acts have, for the most part, been pointedly public. Last year he stood on top of a 24-meter high flagpole in his home state of New York for 35 hours without a safety net, and in November 2000, Blaine encased himself in a six-ton block of ice in New York City’s Times Square for 58 hours.
Because he allows the public to watch live, Blaine’s stunts take on some greater artistic – even shamanistic – force, and with each new project he definitively gains more of the world’s mystified attention. Perhaps this is because he walks a terribly exciting and convincing line between actually demonstrating something true about nearly unlimited human potential (will, focus, endurance) and what can only be seen as miraculous.
I became utterly intrigued with Blaine’s stint in the clear box above the Thames. When I wasn’t reading about it, I was thinking about him, imagining him up in the clear box like a zoological exhibit, thousands of people every day coming to see him.
I was as fascinated by Blaine’s determination as I was by the reports of the public’s volatile reaction to his endeavor. Apparently, the 44-day stunt began with a wave of public hostility over Blaine’s audacious declaration that he could live, let alone fast, for so long in his plexiglass box. People taunted him, bared their breasts and buttocks at him, threw eggs, golf and paint balls at his enclosure, cooked BBQ beneath him to tempt his hunger, and played loud drums beneath him at night to keep him from sleeping.
But toward the end of the 44 days, as Blaine began to look noticably thinner and fade in and out of consciousness, as he complained of heart palpitations and shooting pains in his head and muscles, as well as of the horrible sulfuric smell inside the box, the crowd softened. People began hanging supportive signs on nearby fences and shouting encouragements at the dazed martyr figure above.
A group of policemen – in an act of support that caused them to later be fined by the city – actually abandoned their duties to come and watch Blaine endure his final hours.
This type of aggression turned tender (or tenderness turned aggressive) speaks for itself, I think. It is a narrative that repeats itself consistently through history, most prominently with the crucifixion of Jesus.
But certainly we see this sort of reaction in art that is intrinsically powerful, too. What gets under our skin, aggravates, infuriates, frustrates and makes us hate is of the same seed that also begets love and divine revelation. The majority of humans, it seems, tends to resent those individuals seeking a freedom by willfully denying comforts so addictively sought after by most; even more, the majority shuns those who flagrantly tempt death. Blaine himself is quoted as saying “I think it is worth it for my art even if I drop dead. I am not afraid of life or death.”
In his work there is the consistent suggestion that the spirit is undoubtedly mightier than the flesh, and that the mind is bafflingly capable. When asked if he was bored after several weeks in the box, he responded: “I believe that boredom is a choice that we have. Boredom is a state of mind. ä I choose to not be bored.”
Illusion or not, Blaine views what he does as performance art, and I wholeheartedly agree. He refers to himself as an “artist with a love for magic.” And indeed, his projects are live-action public spectacles packed tightly and delivered directly with beauty and meaning. Rarely do artists affect their audiences as much as he has on both local and international scales.
Toward the end of his fast, a woman lay a dead pigeon beneath his box in the hope that Blaine’s shamanesque powers would somehow bring it back to life. Though the pigeon was not to be resurrected, Blaine’s feat does unquestionably leave a deep mark on our collective psyche.
However he managed to successfully complete his 44-day airborne fast (which doctors estimate will require two to four weeks recovery in the hospital), in its wake is a sense of triumph not only for Blaine but for human beings everywhere.
Upon emerging at the end of day 44, he told the awaiting crowd of thousands, “I have learned more in that little box than I have learned in years. I have learned how important it is to have a sense of humor and laugh at everything because nothing makes sense anyway. I have learned how strong we all are as human beings.”


Tom you can snigger as much as you like, lets see you go and do 44 days in the box what a bloody laugh, at least David had the guts. Good luck to David Blaine in what ever he does. DAVID BLAINE. LOVE AND PEACE .

You’re right – I can snigger as much as I like, and I fully intend to. You may say that it takes tremendous guts to do that, but I’d say that it only takes courage and guts to do something intelligent, valuable and useful and that doing something as grotesque and self-obsessed as make a spectacle of your own starvation isn’t brave, isn’t impressive, but is ridiculous and vaguely sickening. The closest analogue I can find to it as a feat of endurance is Sex: The Annabel Chong story, which I also think was kind of hideous.

David i am very proud of you. Tom your right too, you have the right to have your opinion i do apolize, but still David done very well. LOVE AND PEACE TO ALL.

Wow! What a cultural difference.
I’m American and I hadn’t even heard of David Blaine until I just saw him on TV. It was on a rarely watched TV channel at midnight. Almost all of the information about him is by British people talking about how much they hate him. It would appear that he wouldn’t be very famous if you guys didn’t keep talking about what a “twat” he is.
Growing up on a heavy diet of punk I don’t like celebrity for celebrities sake more than anyone else, but what I do like is someone who really riles people up, gets under their skin, and generally messes with people (in an entirely passive non harrassing way). I would never have thought that David Blaine’s silly stunts could get so much attention and piss so many people off, but since he’s managed to infuriate all of you I tip my hat to him. Good job David!
The man hasn’t done anything to anybody. He’s easy to ignore. I’m not sticking up for him because I feel sorry for him, he’s apparently a multi-milionaire so he can cry in his piles of money if he’s lonely. I just think it’s lunacy to get worked up over something that doesn’t effect anyone or anything. Save your hostility for George W. and Tony Blaire. They actually are Twats and they are ruinning the world while they’re at it.

I’ve got to say, I only knew my own sourpuss british mum for many years. Now I think being a sourpuss is so inbred with these people, they wouldn’t know how to be anything else even if Jesus came along and blesssed them.

I think he is amaizing. I agree though that his “stunts” where he is trying his own body are boring, its his illusions that are fantastic. How does fill up an empty can. That is magic to me.

Let me speak candidly for a moment. I love Great Britain and Austrailia. Ask any other American male and they will tell you the same thing. We are born with this innate responsibility to protect and die for for your country. Americans have this indelible brotherhood. We, for some odd reason don’t care for Canada. Probably because they have adopted the french language in some provinces. It’s a notion which has permeated our culture in every generation since ww1 and solidified in ww2. Whether it’s biological or a cognitve schema is not important. What is important is that I am 22 years old. Remember one thing. Freedom is eternal vigilance.

This is how David’s stunt is going to roll-out. Apparently he will be shackled and he will struggle to release himself whilst breaking the breath-holding record.
1-He will release himself BUT …
2-He will pretend he is dead
3-Suddenly as his appraently dead corpse is pulled and everyone’s breath is held longer than 9 minutes he will come back to life.
once again David using all kinds of tricks and gimmicks bringing us all to awe and wonder at this guy with albeit charisma, only recycling old tricks. After all what do illusionists do is to do the same tricks with a different style.
Cheers all.

To be honest i just think the British are not as easily impressed as the Americans
Im Australian and Iv spent alot of time in both countries and the Americans are so easily impressed by the slightest thing its no suprise they love David Blaine so much
The Brits on the other hand have to (understandably) see something truly impressive to be impressed, which is why Blaine is ridiculed, because he is obviously an idiot
Derren Brown on the other hand is a truly amazing performer, and it is easy to see why he is so famous in the UK
Derren Brown simply makes David Blaine look like a childs birthday magician and Blain can just not compete and so inevitably he has been booed out of England why Brown now has the throne

Comments are closed.