Tuned In

Blaine Holds 7:08 of Breath; Audience Wastes Two Hours of Lives

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In a disappointment to TV watchers across the nation, David Blaine failed to drown last night. Inside the water-filled sphere that he’d spent the last week submerged in, the magician-shaman-huckster  held his breath for 7 minutes and 8 seconds, nearly 2 minutes shy of the world record of 8:58, but [gasp] better than your current blogger could hope to do. Speaking to a crowd of supporters / death voyeurs in Manhattan’s Lincoln Center [I just exhaled–I’m a slow typist] Blaine tearfully thanked the crowd for helping him make it through the week with the "spirit" and "energy" that they showed by walking by to gawk at the crazy guy in the fishbowl.

It is always a toss-up in a David Blaine special whether the creepiest aspect is the stunt itself or the weird New Age spirituality with which he presents it. Filling much of the two-hour ABC show with montages of his physical and mental preparation, Blaine talks like the prophet of some newly formed Church of Doing Weird Crap to Your Body, accompanied by meditation music. P. T. Barnum could once draw an audience by promising human spectacle and the possibility of a man getting himself killed; today, you have to promise a man getting himself killed while expanding his consciousness.

If nothing else, the Blaine special was pretty to look at. The human-aquarium scenes of Blaine practicing by holding his breath stock-still underwater as a camera circled him were mesmerizing. And his gleaming blue immersion orb was attractive and sleek — if Apple designed transparent spheres for self-drowning, they’d probably look something like this. As the diver assistants plunged into the water and helped the struggling Blaine float through the top of the bubble to take a gasp of air, it was like some kind of metaphor for birth. A reminder, maybe, to his audience that, as Blaine’s circus ancestor once said, a certain kind of person is born every minute.