The Summoning of the Spirits of Tarramachus

I have a deep mistrust of stage hypnotists and magicians which I feel is justified, and ancient, and based mainly on the nature of the pursuit of the perfect confidence trick.

To dedicate a life to swindling the suggestible and peering quizically at people through smoke seems to me not to be the noblest of motives, and is most definitely an exceedingly creepy way to make a living.
A quick appraisal of the diminutive physical stature of your average svengali and their—often confessed—bedrock motivation to render themselves more attractive to the opposite sex through trickery (Derren Brown, Paul McKenna, that sociopath ‘Mystery’ from the book, ‘The Game’…) raises some important questions. David Blaine could be an exception to this.

I stress the modality however; he might be. If he isn’t, for starters, he would surely have violated the stated rules of the TED organisation in advancing his own mystique through a 2009 talk which purports to be an honest confessional of the exhaustive training he puts himself through to achieve his goals:
The one baffling misstep in the otherwise highly entertaining programme, 'David Blaine: Real or Magic' shown in the UK on January 1st, was the following sequence involving our Dave trying forcefully to freak Woody Allen right the hell out:
Everything else on the show worked flawlessly as live spectacle, and as television—from DB sticking an ice pick through his palm in the company of everyone from Kanye West to Aaron Paul, to each new, bold twist on the oldest card tricks in the book—you couldn’t see the wires.

But the fish ruse is such an obvious series of audio/visual lies that it begs the question as to whether it was included as the kind of ‘misdirection’ of the TV audience that is Blaine’s stock-in-trade face-to-face.

If it is the case—as it must be, scientifically—that Blaine has spent a decade or more building up a tunnel of scar tissue through the palm of his hand and his bicep with needles of greater and greater circumference, in order to eventually accommodate the spears he clearly sticks right through them on camera, then the idea that he would regurgitate two live fish behind a very obvious jump cut is laughably incongruous.

The documentary exposition of the history of the ‘spouting’ technique, intercut with vérité examples of Blaine’s eventual mastery of it—all eminently creditable, if remarkable—is completely undermined by the idea that the notoriously squeamish Woody Allen would stand leaning against a door frame for “several hours” waiting for David Blaine to sick up a couple of goldfish.

It’s even more implausible that the neurotic director might have popped off for a blast on the clarinet, or a fondle, leaving the mentalist projectile vomiting into his bath for much of the day, only to return at just the right moment—en route for a dump or something—to find the creatures miraculously back in their bowl!

What really mystifies me is what on earth this (deliberately?) cackhanded sequence is doing among an otherwise shockingly believable series of perfectly shot and perfectly executed feats of physical magic.
What seems to be important here is not so much the suspension of disbelief as the promotion of it. We have to think there’s something illusory about the walleyed, droning Hightower of mesmerism or else his real ‘tricks’ might suddenly become utterly banal.

Watching a man actually ingest and emit live sea creatures at will isn’t half as palatable as the idea that he might have tricked us into thinking that he did.