From El prestidigitador Optimus ó Magia Espectral by Joaquín Partagás, 1900.
15 April 2012
03 April 2012
Albert Einstein’s quote about reality reflected what he understood about the universe, and human ability to accurately perceive it whilst being a part of it. Had he been born a century later, he might have made a similar observation about reality television.
It would seem that at any given hour, there is a television channel broadcasting some sort of reality show. Whether it involves a tribe voting, an awarded rose, or a race that’s amazing, producers have learnt the cost of a reality programme is far outweighed by its value (to advertisers).
The formula – put several people who wouldn’t normally be together under the unlikeliest of circumstances together under unlikely circumstances – is rich ground for conflict. Since conflict is fairly easy to sell to the public, there’s no need to spend money on scripts or actors. Edit out the boring bits, and congratulations, you’ve got ratings.
While I do admit a weakness for cooking-based reality shows (something about the combination of food and humiliation really speaks to me) I find this formula tiresome. But that doesn’t stop people from trying.
Take, for instance, something that’s recently been making the rounds on the social media services. There are plans afoot for a magic-based reality show. Since it’s coming from a “Major Network”, I’d suspect that this will at least get a pilot made. What makes this interesting is the opportunity for the punters to vote on who they want to see in the show, but according to the site, voting “DOESN’T GUARANTEE a spot on the show” (Emphasis theirs).
So what’s the problem? Shouldn’t more magic on television – especially from a “Major Network” – be seen as a good thing? Normally, I’d think so. But aside from my general hesitation around reality television, I have problems with what’s proposed here.
Another quote, this time from Béla Bartók, best sums it up, I think:
Competitions are for horses, not artists.
Even considering what I’ve said before, I think forcing a competition on to an artistic pursuit becomes a very slippery slope for the art. It becomes less about what participants experience, becoming more work-centric, and how a small group of judges think. What’s popular? What’s least challenging? What has more pyrotechnics?
Ultimately, I question if this is best for the art, for any art.
This does have the opportunity to bring some gifted magicians to a wider audience. And, for the record, I do know some of those who are vying for a spot on the show. I don’t know if they could otherwise get the chance to showcase their work on such a grand scale, but I also don’t know if they will be allowed a chance to shine. Unfortunately, art in reality television seems to be the exception that proves the rule.
02 January 2012
Soon after my last post concerning magic, piracy and some Internet ne’er-do-wells, I received an email from Derek DelGaudio. He wanted me to know his contest to discover the owners of a magic piracy site had borne fruit. He asked me to withhold some of the details for a little while, as there were some behind-the-scenes things happening, all of which seemed to point towards a positive outcome.
What really stuck with me was his candour about why he did this. Not out of some sense of the greater good for the magic community, but, instead:
…so I can better understand the world I live in. If I can understand it, perhaps, I can improve my chances of making it a better place.
For what it’s worth, I think there’s a lesson there that’s wider than this discussion.
Today I received another email from Derek, one that may well validate the idea of community policing espoused in my original post. It turns out the owners of the original piracy site stepped up and wanted to make amends. They agreed to work with Derek, transforming the site into one with an anti-piracy theme, in exchange for relative anonymity – no release of surnames. With the help of Jonathan Bayme (CEO of theory11), this new venture looks to make the world – at least the magic world – a better place:
So, with thanks to my new friends Brian, Jason and Mr. Jonathan Bayme, the project is underway and we are proud to announce the new Magicsnoop.com, a site that will actively pursue and protect the intellectual property of magicians.
Good work, Derek. I look forward to seeing how this new chapter unfolds, and if the world is ready to be made a better place.