Day Eighty – Losing My Religion (REM) & Darren Brown

I’ve not been disciplined in writing this blog as for one reason I’ve been too busy living and thankfully managing to get my finances back in order since I gambled so much away before I started this blog. But in line with the 12 steps I must say my name is Michael Gamble (yes, a pen name) and I am a compulsive gambler and I’m happy to say that it has now been over 80 days since I last gambled, and to be honest even contemplated gambling seriously.

This week I decided to take a break, take a week from work and just relax and enjoy life and focus on some of my favourite pastimes such as reading and researching. The researching part of my life, my intense curiosity to find truth and meaning has in a round about way led me back to one of my life’s heroes and a person who I guess will go down in my lifetime as a person who, through his own curiosity, personality and passions will I believe become known as the most influential person in the field of how ‘magical entertainment’ is delivered and enjoyed. The person being Derren Brown of course.

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I’m approaching the end of my week off work and find it curious that my initial passions of looking and researching the assassination of John F Kennedy, then other conspiracy theories which took me to researching eventually the history of the Rothschild family, from their  initial roots to who they are today and their influence on world events, to looking at known dodgy areas such as the CIA, MI5, MI6 and to the role on the mainstream mass media and military establishment and eventually on to just enjoying Derren and his recent work.

All the conspiracy research I realised can lead you to the edge of a rabbit hole which ultimately as an average person you make the decision to delve deeper into the rabbit hole or make a conscious effort to recognise it is there – but rather than go deeper and deeper you maybe take a step back and just believe what you believe and move toward just enjoying life. The latter conscious decision could be seen as quite selfish, but one obvious motive for not going to deeply into the hole is a genuine belief that often those that do often end as being deeply unhappy or at its extreme no longer alive.

While watching Derren and catching up with his work this week I have no doubts that he must also be completely aware of things I’ve researched such as the Project MKUltra as some of his shows have shown his own interest psychological phenomena in compliance and brainwashing techniques, particularly in the fantastically entertaining ‘The Assassin’ (episode 1, season one ‘Derren Brown – The Experiments’ October 2011)  , ‘The Guilt Trip’ (episode 3, season one ‘Derren Brown – The Experiments’ November 2011) – which also had an appearance from Tim Minchin and ‘The Push’ (January 2016.)

Yesterday was a day for the Apocalypse and what a mind blowing experience that was, as well as a genuine lesson for anyone who becomes complacent or starts taking life for granted.

In many ways I also find an affinity with Derren when I have heard in some of the few interviews he has given that like me he doesn’t watch TV, doesn’t possess any great ambitions, but is curious, creative and spends much of his time just thinking and working on his next project. In his work you see also how he appears to have held on to an almost child-like sense of fun, amusement and ‘cheeky monkey’ sense of humour. There’s no doubting his delight when you see him behind the scenes directing his work, such as ‘The Guilt Trip’ the genuine joy and pleasure when his plans start taking shape as the subject of the experiment will do exactly as expected, given the psychological trickery that has been put in motion. The ‘look at me, aren’t I great’ attitude is nowhere to be seen, only perhaps a huge smile and knowing that whoever observes and enjoys his entertainment will not only be asking the question ‘how the fuck did he manage that?’ but also, I guess deep down knowing that the greatest pleasure is the bafflement of the audience. The knowledge that if anyone wanted work out how the ‘trickery’ is performed will as with most things in history, what yesterday seemed a complete enigma will be obvious tomorrow. But just for that moment in time, for the duration maybe only of the experience of the experiment he has created that the audience is taken for a period on a magical and delightful ride into the art of what is possible. I guess his openness of not taking his audience for fools and admitting that all he is doing is a combination of what he has learned in showmanship, hypnosis, trickery, sleight of hand or mind reading tricks and that he is in no way psychic or anything other than who he presents himself to be is a thing that makes people warm to him in the way they have over the years.

If you are ethically minded as well, his work on debunking spiritual healing in ‘Miracles for Sale’ (2011) and psychic mediums in ‘The Man Who Contacts the Dead’ from Derren Brown Investigates Episode 1 (May 2010) you really have to take your hat off to the sensitive and caring approach he uses when taking on such fakery – but then leaves the audience, should they wish to take his investigations seriously, in no mind other than that in such areas there are a lot of people getting very rich from the most vulnerable in society. For this alone he genuinely should be applauded for his method of approach, amount of work and ultimately personal quest to expose such ultimately cruel and deceptive practices.

Derren really doesn’t deceive you with his trickery. He tells you up from that it is trickery and showmanship, then leaves you wondering if this is all it is, how on earth is he clever enough to do what he does.

I remember vividly buying his book ‘Tricks of the Mind’ in 2008 and being blown away by the book and my only wonder now was how this happened to be 10 years ago.

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Ten years have past since being completely absorbed in the book to only this week catching up on his work in the last ten years on You Tube. And what a body of work.  I know at the time that I read the book I was busily researching the history of the London Underground as I was preparing to write a novel based on a fictional Victorian character who dwelt in the Underground. Collecting as much information of old London Underground maps and being in awe at such an amazing feat of engineering which has grown from the original Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863 taking passengers between Paddington and Farringdon to the sprawling underground maze of tunnels and trains which are used often without much thought to history or incredible work that went into building it. Google how many styles of London Underground maps there have been and maybe it can give an insight into how my own mind finds fascination in all of it.

I know now what happened in 2008. I began also to become interested in horse racing, betting exchanges and the rest is history.

So, while I was busy divesting myself of my ‘hard earned’ on trying to beat the odds (it never was about the money) – Derren was busy creating.

After feasting on the past ten years’ worth of work from Derren this week I looked to see when the next chance would be to see him live and was disappointed to see that I’d only just missed the ‘Underground’ tour which ended in July. Also, then was surprised to find that Thorpe Park had a ride open in 2016 based on a Victorian ghost train which had been their largest investment to date with Derren and the designer.

However, I did download the audible version of his book ‘Happy: Why More of Less Everything is Absolutely Fine.’ I was in a hurry and wanted to listen to it while driving but was put off within a few minutes by the fact that it’s not narrated by Derren, so instead bought the book and am now thoroughly enjoying reading it.

Derren is 9 years younger than me. I wonder if when the then shy, evangelical man beginning his degree in law and German at Bristol University, which if I’m right should have been around September/October 1990, would have had the faintest inkling that he would become the world-famous entertainer he is today and atheist to boot I guess he would never have thought that in a million years. But I’m kind of sure I would have found him just as endearing then and interesting as he is today. I get the feeling fame has hardly changed him at all.

If you do happen to chance upon this Derren I can only say thank you for a very special week relaxing and enjoying your work, as well as bringing myself up to speed with your success. You may appreciate how much can pass you by when you don’t watch TV and only watch films or documentaries (and as I have done – horse racing.)

I look forward to seeing you live some time in the next ten years and who knows what projects you will have created in the next ten years.

If I ever could suggest anything one area which I have always been fascinated in, it is time travel. I’m sure if inclined you could work miracles with this subject.

If this has a resonance with you Derren, it may also be that I discovered during binge watching your shows, interviews and books that ‘resonance’ is one word you enjoy using. Just something I thought I’d mention 😉

© Michael Gamble 2018

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