Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Derren Brown Book and Survey Results

BBC News posted a piece called "Inside the mind of Derren Brown" today. They didn't delve too far into DB's mind, giving us a brief sampling of well-known biographical facts.

They did, however, provide the following juicy news:

...Brown is planning his next project. He is writing a book for the general public, which will explore many of his techniques. Although many of his tricks and illusions are hard to believe, he insisted that all it takes is practice.

Although the article does not provide much more information about the book, it strongly suggests that the book will reveal secrets of Derren's tricks (we'll believe that when we see it).

A new post on Derren's official site today does not discuss the forthcoming book, but does reveal that a new DVD set containing four of his TV specials is on the way, as well as a TV broadcast of his "Mind Reader: An Evening of Wonders."

Poll Results

And, finally, I have the results of this week's AboutDerrenBrown survey. As you will recall, the survey asked whether DB's recent shows had too much psychology in the place of actual tricks.

The 31 respondents said that DB's shows have:

1. Too much lecturing -- not enough magic. (5 votes or 16.13%)

2. Too much magic -- not enough psychological lecturing. (3 votes or 9.68%)

3. Just the right mix (23 votes or 74.19%)

In summary, then, people who read this blog are pretty happy with Derren's shows. I suppose that makes sense. Here are some of the specific comments people left:

1. Its been a trend of a lot of individuals as of late, being all denouncing of people who use such tech for their own gain. Its not just him, but after a while a lot of magicians and scientists and the like seem to fall into it. I say bring back the awe of magic, and avoid too much lecturing. Teller is a rolemodel of mine (not so much Penn) because he doesn't speak on stage, he just wows people with good performance. A true entertainer.

2. I like the current approach, but I can understand those who don't.

3. The psychological aspect is the reason why this show is above all the other magic-shows/programs out there. The lecture part of that is just fine (not always his Derren tells the truth). Lets face it - "just magic"; is kind of boring.

4. He uses both his psychological skills and his magician skills to create the perfect show.

5. I came to the Derren Brown party a little late, being an ex-pat Brit living in the US. However, I have watched a lot of his programmes on YouTube and find him to be generally very entertaining. I would agree, though, that "The System"; and the latest series of "trick or Treat"; seem to be more about how we can create our own illusions by false thinking than they were about Derren doing any major magic or mentalism performances. In his current TV work, he seems to be expanding upon the views he expresses in his "Tricks of the Mind" book. Given that he has just finished a lengthy tour performing regular stage mentalism, perhaps he wanted to do something a little different for his TV shows.

6. Although good moral messaging, can only be watched once, maybe twice unlike the classics which i can watch forever (russian)

7. He does a service to us all by the 'preaching' - hopefully some people who are superstitious etc will take this into account!

8. I'm not entirely convinced there's a dichotomy, but I really like the psychological stuff. I really wish I could tell when one or the other was being employed. :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Absolute Magic or Pure Psychology?

Over the past few years, Derren Brown's television shows have become slightly preachy.

In the beginning, his act was non-stop illusion (i.e., mind-reading and magic tricks). Since then, he has increasingly used his public platform as an opportunity to lecture about how easily people are deceived by faulty reasoning.

After the System aired early this year, many complained that the main trick was not a magic trick at all. Instead, it was a predictable con that anyone could have pulled off.

Similarly, the finale of Trick or Treat 2 was a psychological experiment that required no sleight-of-hand and no mind-reading. Sure, there were magic tricks mixed in, but the main attraction was not an illusion.

Personally, I enjoy all of Derren's shows, but I have heard a lot of complaining about his move away from pure illusion. What do you think?

Vote in this week's poll -->

Results will follow shortly!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Derren Brown NLP - The Results

Before we discuss the finale of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat 2 series, here are the results of this week's survey --

The question we asked was simply, Does Derren Brown use NLP? Strong feelings were held on both sides of the debate, but the voting was one-sided:

77% of voters said DB does use NLP
23% said he does not

A total of 37 people voted. Here are some of the comments:

1. You use what works, and magicians do find ways to use what works to pull off the most elaborate events.

2. I'm an avid DB fan and have seen him use rapport and mirroring in very obvious ways. I think he buys into a few NLP techniques but dissmisses the rest as hogwash.

3. Derren has always openly said he uses a whole mis mash of techniques to bring about an effect for the purposes of entertainment. He has previously said that some NLP techniques have value, and therefore why not use them! Obviously NLP does not do everything it (now at least) claims to do, but certainly some aspects of it are surprisingly effective!

4. NLP among other things...I think Derren boost Jason’s self esteem with a lot of different techniques. No doubt about it. But editing is a big factor here. You can make the reality you want with 20-30 answers from different girls. Notice how the girls are not so good looking in the second round of speed dating. I think the hero-act is only remotely related to his new self esteem – maybe there was more to the mirroring-exercise than shown to us.

5. The mental imaging, where Jason was told to visualize himself as confident in bright color etc. is an NLP technique. Whether or not this was merely done for the benefit of the camera as misdirection is open to debate.

6. NLP requires more than what he conveys.

As I noted in the prior entry, DB has been somewhat critical of NLP. Most of his criticism, however, seems targeted at the way certain fans treat NLP as the ultimate secret to the universe when, in DB's view, it is just one of many useful tools.

Stay tuned for discussion of the Trick or Treat 2 finale...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Did Derren Brown Use NLP to Get Jason a Date?

In last week's episode of Trick or Treat 2 (episode 5), Derren Brown apparently improved Jason's self-esteem so he could get dates and chase down purse thieves.

It certainly looked like Derren was using NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) to create this change. The middle segment of the program was an elaborate mirroring exercise, the mental imaging routine smacked of NLP, and the glass-eating reminded me of the hot-coal-walking Tony Robbins uses to inspire confidence in his conference attendees.

But magicians who like Derren Brown frequently argue that DB does not practice NLP, and that he only uses it as a form of misdirection in his tricks (i.e., viewers are led to believe that he's using NLP when in fact his illusions rely on sleight-of-hand and hypnosis).

Derren himself criticized the followers of NLP in his book, Tricks of the Mind, but at the same time acknowledged that some NLP techniques work.

So, does DB use NLP or not?

Weigh in by answering this week's survey question, to the right of this entry -->>

I will post the results later this week. And if you have any theories specific to episode 5 of Trick or Treat, please leave them as comments on this blog entry.