Yet more BargainHost problems... smegging hell...

I've suffered BargainHost long enough...

2003-05-27And, on a lighter note... Derren Brown / half term


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Sorry, I wanted to point out how appalling BargainHost were being before putting paws to keyboard about other things. By the time you read this, things will be back up—obviously, 'cause otherwise I couldn't upload anything... anyway, welcome back... despite a fortnight's hiatus (running around trying to get things like PGCE assignments finished), I've averaged over an entry a week this month, which ain't too bad... :)

Congratulations to Laura, who got a job! And still hasn't told me... if this information is wrong, therefore, blame... actually, I can't remember who passed it on. Margaret? Yes, I've passed that widget of the course. Note to self: try not to schedule mentor performance assessments straight before cadet events. Oh well, whatever, nevermind... (and other Nirvana lyrics.) What was I talking about? Mmm... so big congrats to Laur!

Yes, it's finally half-term, which is a very welcome lull. I still have lots to do, but I can get away with working through the early hours of the morning and sleep in. Sleeep... :yawn:

On the last Friday of term we went out in the evening to see Derren Brown. For the benefit of anyone who spent the last six months away from modern media, Derren is a stage magician and 'mindreader'—anyway, it's easier to let him introduce himself:

Thank you for travelling all this way, thank you for buying this programme. If you'd have waited until the end of the show I'm sure you could have grabbed one for free - but then you wouldn't have the pleasure of quietly reading all these space-fillers, like this one, while I flail and spaz about on stage in an arse-clenchingly futile bid to earn your communal affection. Remember - what you see on stage is the thrilling comination of an egomaniacal personality, a dull and closeted youth, and thinly-disguised guesswork. Enjoy every second.

It's a delight to perform live - part of the pleasure for me is that when I walk out onto stage (or if you prefer, the 'space') I have only a broad sense of how the show will pan out. It's you, the friendly, charming audience member who makes it either work superbly or fail miserably to the embarrassment of us all. It's your thoughts and behaviours which provide the material, and I never know quite how the evening will develop. As you read this I am probably in the dressing room rehearsing 'Music of the Night' from Phantom as an emergency backup.

On-stage, he comes across as quite nervous—something we all concluded quite quickly was an act. Fiona commented that the first segment of the show seemed to concentrate on softening some of the audience up by taking the piss out of volunteers. presumably it's easier to work out who reacts the most obviously from this. And, as you might conclude from the extracts above, his patter ain't bad. In fact, he got Fiona and Bill up on-stage later in the show, but obviously found another two punters of the small group of punters he'd gathered for the segment more open to suggestion, and sent them back.

The programme also makes mention that women tend to be more receptive than men... I suppose the latter group tend to have more tendencies both toward hostility and abstraction (ie, switching off and regarding the event as a puzzle.) Trends rather than absolutes, obviously, but out of an audience of several hundred there are going to be those more succeptible than others, and any way of whittling them down to possibles...

Much of the appeal is trying to work out how he does things; some things, such as predicting which hand a coin is in, are readibly explainable as observation of body language and tone of voice (and it may have been the alcohol, but I heard one of his first instructions as "a pound coin in each hand".) So, we might not be able to reproduce the feat outselves but we can begin to understand without the method having to be broken down into a Holmes-esque explanation by the performer. Likewise for the square/triangle/circle choice (yellow square at top of a triangle arrangement, green triangle bottom left, red circle bottom right.) Western audiences scan left-to-right, so when facing a display the last thing we register is at the bottom far right. Coupled with a few possible verbal cues and a compliant personality, you have yourself a trick. I'd have been more impressed if he'd convinced someone to pick a shape left or up, for sure. ;)

As far as working out numbers goes, it was noticeable that he made physical contact with most volunteers or potential volunteers as he asked them to think about numbers or words... generally placing hands on shoulders. You may or may not know that people sub-vocalise when thinking or reading; so, possessing the ability to read those vibrations (still a very impressive and complicated skill!) may help to explain certain feats.

As always, though, there are things for which an explanation is elusive. A later segment of the show involved an audience member playing the part of 'medium' to obtain details of a dead friend of Derren's. Firstly, I question the existence of the friend. Secondly, small details were included in his patter (eg, a link between Exeter and Bristol)—although his volunteer would have needed general information such as UK geography (and which cities have universities) to follow the chain. I don't mind admitting that several of my first responses to questions he asked over the course of the evening were close to those eventually given by selected volunteers. How much of that plays with probabilities and how much with verbal and visual suggestion, I don't know. Bill's theory is that Derren's insistence that his act isn't psychic is a cover for it really being precisely that, whilst Fiona got to go back to school and tell everyone: "Even Derren Brown doesn't dare mess with me!" A good evening, and recommended stage show. :smokin:

In other news, I've discovered a hack to force Windows 2000 to show 256 colour icons in the system tray (it works by directly patching explorer.exe and is therefore service pack specific, although versions exist for different service packs. As of XP, Microsoft have finally fixed this stupid default behaviour themselves. Visit this site for more details...)


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