Tuesday, July 8, 2008

313th Post - A Guilty Pleasure

Patricia and I have been enjoying, for the third summer in a row, a program called "America's Got Talent". It is on NBC/ASN Tuesday nights at 9pm ET.

Many of the people who try out for that show, don't actually have talent. Singers who can't sing. Jugglers who drop things alla the time. And, my favourite, magicians with no ability to perform magic.

Quite a few years ago, I was in a magic club here in Halifax. I spent more than a little bit of money purchasing effects from places like Hank Lee's Magic Factory and Phil Matlin in Montreal, who runs Perfect Magic. I became a member of IBM, the International Brotherhood of Magicians. I subscribed to the Linking Ring magazine.

And, you know what?

I found it boring.

When I began to move a little bit closer to the "inner circle", when I began to realize and understand how these effects were done, I started to feel a little cheated. I both want and don't want to know how something is done. I am conflicted. I mean, I want to know how David Copperfield or Lance Burton achieves flight, and can fly around the stage and the audience like an errant balloon with the air escaping from it. But, if I researched how these effects were done (and there are places where you can do that), I'd doubtless feel that it was fake and silly. And I don't need to know how those effects are achieved in order to get a kick out of them any more than I need to know how a microwave oven works in order to enjoy popcorn.

It comes down, to me at least, to presentation. If an effect is artfully performed, if I see something I haven't seen before, if my mouth is agape, then I am willing to suspend my disbelief and be amazed about what I have seen. That, to me, is magic.

I still remember a couple of effects, by the way. And, while I sold off most of my magic books last year, I did keep a couple. But I sold off nearly every effect I bought back in the early 1990's. Glad to be rid of them. And, Rod Doiron of that magic club was kind enough to let me sell off those items at that club last year.

(Yes, JC and Deb Smith: the same Rod Doiron you know. I get around.)

But, let's get back to "America's Got Talent". We like the show quite a bit. But, we can't help but notice that some of the people who try out, already not only have talent, but have thriving careers in their field of endeavour.

An example of this is The Pendragons. They have been a hubby and wife magic team for some 30 years. They are very well known in magic circles and have had a healthy career with the attendant appearance fees to match. Jonathan Pendragon was nearly killed 2 years ago when he was stabbed by the blunt end of an arrow in a freak accident. It has taken him this long to make it back to the point where he can perform in public.

I suppose this is a comeback of sorts for them both; but even so, they already have talent, and were discovered and acknowledged for their talent, a long, long time ago. It is not necessary for Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff to tell them that they are talented. The Pendragons and their multitude of admirers already know that.

They don't need, and shouldn't be, on this show. The show should be about undiscovered talent. But it isn't, even though it hardly seems fair to put established artists like the Pendragons cheek by jowl with some guy who read a magic book a couple of years ago and fancies himself a magician. It isn't fair to anybody: the Pendragons, the Buddy with the magic book, and the viewers.

But we'll still watch. Don't worry!


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