Anything That Interests Me! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Derren Brown - a post on Derren Brown

Derren Brown

I was about to write a post called "Sixpence None The Richer", because, after all, this is my "Anything that Interests Me" blog and I write about whatever interests me - and Sixpence None The Richer is one of my favourites, and I am listening to Leigh Nash singing now. I was so going to write all about Leigh Nash and her incredible vocals, and how I love her songs.

There she goes, singing "There She Goes", crooning from my computer speakers now.

Then I clicked on my taskbar and the analytics devices (now you know, I somehow became technologically advanced after my stint here in England) and I saw that the most popular search term that almost returned my blog was... "Derren Brown". Not "Anything that interests me", the bloody title of my blog, and not Sixpence None The Richer (obviously, because I was just about to write about Leigh Nash and I hadn't done it yet).

So I decided that since people are getting interested in Derren Brown, I shall do my best to tell you what I know about this man and how I got to know and adore him during my stay here in England. I don't know him personally of course, but I was impressed by his book and TV shows, obviously. So here goes: a post dedicated to my current hero, talented mentalist, magician, mind-reader, and fake psychic, Derren Brown!

My first contact with Derren Brown and his brand of magic was by sheer chance. It was my second or third day here in Manchester and I was at Blackwells. For those of you not in the know, Blackwells is the bookshop here in England and apparently it's pretty famous. In any case, I walked in and looked around (because, I am a scholar after all and we love books).

My eyes wandered over Richard Dawkins (hmmm, not too good, and besides I am now Christian and I don't want to have anything to do with his polemic), then my eyes went over to Bill Bryson (hmmm not too good, I nearly died when I did Dr Shekelle's course back in Uni, and the recommended reading was Bill Bryson, so there's no chance in hell I'm going to buy this book), and then my eyes came to rest on this book entitled "Tricks of the Mind". There it was. Mildly interesting. Might be worth a look. I thought.

I opened up the book and immediately there was a barrage and a polemic against Christianity, just the thing I had sought to avoid by looking away from Dawkins. (Later I found out that Derren Brown liked Dawkins' works and appeared in some kind of show with him!) It was mildly interesting and I was rather interested. Then I flipped over to the next page, and I was hooked. A book on magic and mentalism, some kind of magic thing? Shall buy it and have a good read later. Who's this Derren Brown? No idea. Never mind, I'll give him a chance.

I bought "Tricks of the Mind" at a discount and marched out of the bookstore happy.

That night I read it once through and found it very interesting. It dealt with magic tricks, showmanship, hypnosis, psychic powers, and psychology, the kinds of things that interest me, and besides, there was a whole section on how to have an incredible memory. It was a great read and I tried some of the tricks on my friends, and that was that. I put Derren Brown's book in the cupboard and promptly forgot all about it. That was how I was introduced to Derren Brown. I bought his book by sheer chance, read it once through that very night I got it, and then put it into my cupboard and forgot all about it.

How the heck did Derren Brown then become my hero, and how did I get hooked on mentalism and playing pranks on my friends then?

Youtube, man, youtube.

One day, I happened to recall the term "mentalism" as I was evaluating and criticising David Blaine and Criss Angel by watching them on youtube. I love to see how people debunk them, because, while their tricks are fun, I find it more intellectually interesting to see how the tricks are done.

I typed "Derren Brown" into the search function and, for good measure, did another search called "mentalism". And then I watched. And watched and watched. Derren Brown was fantastic. And then everything hit me at once.

A few years back, my brother and I saw a documentary on TV where someone could use sublimal advertising to make people choose his product. I found it very interesting, but not as interesting as some strange man who could make people draw things that he wanted them to draw, by influencing them ON THE WAY TO THE PLACE WHERE THEY WOULD DRAW THE PICTURE. That man, ladies and gentlemen, was Derren Brown.

Then I recalled the book rotting away in my cupboard and rushed to take it out. I read and read and read that book many times. It was brilliant.

Derren Brown is a bloody genius.

OK, so who is Derren Brown after all? I have been going on and on but have said nothing about who the man is. He is a mentalist. A mentalist is a magician who does tricks not with sleight of hand, but using mental tricks. He sorts of plays with your mind rather than your eyes.

Why do I like Derren Brown so much? More so than Blaine or Copperfield or Angel?

For starters, he explains most of what he does in simple terms, even though what he says may be lies, and sometimes they are lies. Some of the nonsense and bullshit that he says are totally crap, and I can't believe that people believe him. (The rest of the time, he tells the truth and talks about psychology.) But nonetheless, he wins me over because he tells us how the trick is done truthfully sometimes. He beat 9 grandmasters in simultaneous chess, and told us how it was done. But as a true showman, and a master mentalist, he did not tell us how he got the final numbers of the pieces left on the boards. Until today I can't figure it out, and I am an academic genius, mind you.

Related to this point about his telling of how the trick is done, I like the fact that Derren Brown is "honest about his dishonesty". I like it that he tells me clear in my face as I watch him on the telly: that no actors or stooges are used, and I love his line of "magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship". That's the way, Derren.

Second, he rekindled my childhood interest in the supernatural and psychic phenomena. When I was a kid I thought it was all real and that Uri Geller was the real thing. Derren Brown proved to me via his shows and his book that there is no such thing as psychic powers, and that rational thinking can explain such phenomena. Now I don't have any fears looking at ouija boards, ghosts, zombies and the like, because Derren Brown's method of thinking and reasoning appeals to me. Rationality is very important - thanks Derren. I knew that before, and I just needed someone to remind me of that. Thanks also for rekindling my interest in the supernatural and homeopathic remedies, ghosts, mediums, spirits, palmistry, astrology and psychics. Derren Brown gave me my childhood memories and interests back.

Third, his writing and speaking style appeals to me. Derren Brown's writing style is lucid, clear and very humorous. Sarcastic, sometimes. Ironic, even. He makes me love his writing. In fact, I sometimes write like him, and like him, we both get misinterpreted. For example, I loved it when he was quoted wrongly in the press and aha, this is interesting, he once "got into a brawl and mudslinging match" with Derek Acorah. That is sheer misinterpretation, if you get Derren Brown's side of the story. He never did anything of that sort, but somehow the media blew it up and made it all seem so much more exciting. Hahahahahaha! I had a bloody good laugh. Derren Brown writes excellently with very few mistakes and overall, Tricks of the Mind was an excellent read and had all my favourite topics inside. What more could I ask for?

As for his speaking and presentation style, I have somehow acquired an irritating London accent from imitating him so often. Derren Brown speaks very well and has a good style on TV, and the best part is: he is one of the few guys who can get away with swearing publicly on TV. And we love it. I love the fact that he swears. For example: "my big f***king expensive yacht" and who-can-forget-that-pun "lucky ladies will have a chance to get/ win a f*****ing from me". He is very cool and has stage presence, although I didn't like it much when he had a very overblown style on "Something Wicked This Way Comes".

By the way, for complete beginners and neophytes (neophyte means beginner), I have watched all his shows before the latest Channel 4 series showing now (May 2008) and they were incredible:

(Not in order) Waking Dead
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Trick or Treat
The Heist
Russian Roulette
The Gathering
Mind Control
The System
The series where he went to the USA posing as various psychic persons?

If you are scared of Zombies, don't watch the one where he hypnotises a man and makes him wake up in a room - full of Zombies!!!! Waking Dead scared the hell of out of me, the first time I saw it!

Alright. That's why I like Derren Brown. He is honest for a magician and he gives things clear cut and right to your face. He made me love the supernatural and the occult once again by exposing them for the cheap lies that they are. Rationality is key. His good, humorous, insightful and very elegant writing style as well as his good treatment of psychology, psychic powers, mentalism, hypnosis, and the supernatural in general make me love him. His stage presence and his clear speaking style (as opposed to the mumbling of Criss Angel, or the harsh sounds of Penn and the quietness of Teller, for instance) and his beautiful irritating London accent make me like him even more.

Also, Derren and I both speak German. I just remembered.

So many reasons to love Derren Brown and so many reasons to be hooked on psychics and mediums and ouija boards. Damn! That's why I got hooked on mentalism. It's all Derren Brown's fault.

PS I don't have anything against homosexuals, but I found it rather a pity for female British fans... because Derren Brown is rather handsome, seriously. Nonetheless, it's his life and inclinations.

PS 2 Derren Brown's on Channel 4 now still, May 2008, as his Trick or Treat is being broadcasted.

Anything that interests me!