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Three out of four professionals are theives.
January 5, 2006 10:28 AM   Subscribe

Three out of four middle-managers are theives. Derren Brown, psycho-illusionist, gives a business-motivational seminar. Or so it seems. Really, he's using techniques of suggestion to 'program' his marks so that when presented with the opportunity (and a toy gun) they will commit armed robbery. Not everyone thinks its funny. Less grisly than his previous stunts. Nifty flash website he's got.
posted by harmoniousness (107 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
And the fourth one is a thief.
posted by beagle at 10:33 AM on January 5, 2006


Just when I thought reality TV can't get any weirder...
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:34 AM on January 5, 2006


His last show was the extremely cool stunt where he made a young chap believe he was in a video game (vid.)
posted by fire&wings at 10:36 AM on January 5, 2006


This show is so very wrong. And what's worse is that if it came on in America, I would so watch it. I'd feel bad about it, but I'd still watch it.
posted by nooneyouknow at 10:40 AM on January 5, 2006


Q: In case Uri Geller's reading this and wants to challenge you to a fight: who'd win?

A: Me. We'd mentally zap each other from opposite corners of the room, but his powers would be inferior due to the age difference. He's 78 and I'm 26. And I'd keep calling him a bender, which he doesn't like. So eventually his head would explode - i'm imagining quite messily - and then McKenna would be forced to take his place. I'd pull his jumper over his head before he had time to ask me to stick my hands together, so he'd run around unable to see while I chased him, flicking his gooch with a wet towel. I'd do the same to Blaine and any of them. Daniel Radcliffe was well. Bring it on.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:41 AM on January 5, 2006


Wow, that's hilarious, programming people to commit crime and when someone dies or goes to jail because of his "suggestion", I hope they sue the bejeezus right out of him.

This is a really bad idea.
posted by fenriq at 10:44 AM on January 5, 2006


Wonderful. I'd love to see it.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:46 AM on January 5, 2006


WARNING: the flash on his website includes subliminal messages.


posted by Merik at 10:49 AM on January 5, 2006


I watched the programme last night, and was totally surprised when the first person pulled out their toy gun and robbed the guard. And relieved when the one person didn't.

To say it's 3 out of 4 who's a thief is quite misleading of course - the participants were whittled down through extensive vetting to find the most gullible suggestible - and even then, one of them said he was quite disinclined to do something as foolish as to perform an 'armed' robbery and steal from the Bank of England.

Most worrying was the recreation of Milgram's experiment (as part of the whittling process) which found that the experiment is as relevant today as when it was initially carried out.

I mean, one participant actually complained that there weren't MORE voltage levers on the machine after he'd flicked the "Danger Fatal!" 420 volt one! (IIRC he was involved in the 'security' business.)
posted by Blue Stone at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2006


WARNING: the flash on his website includes many subliminal messages.

This is the first one i could screen cap.


makes me wonder what the other ones say.
posted by Merik at 10:51 AM on January 5, 2006


Wow, that's hilarious, programming people to commit crime and when someone dies or goes to jail because of his "suggestion", I hope they sue the bejeezus right out of him.

This is a really bad idea.

I saw it last night and really enjoyed it and it didn't seem particuarly 'dangerous' for those involved either. Each setup was monitored and organised and when it came to the actual 'heist' the area was cordened off by police and there were like a hundred production assistants there to control the situation. There was quite a lot stuff in the show, so it's hard to describe every little bit, but Derren Brwon knows his stuff and to get 3/4 regular people to steal money boxes is quite a feat.

He also thoughrally 'deprogrammed' the contestants as well as having an independany psycologist involved and meeting with them in the weeks after the filming.

All in all 8/10. And it was a damn sight better then 'Space Cadets' which totally wimped out.
posted by Meccabilly at 10:58 AM on January 5, 2006


I'd love to see this. Too bad US reality TV isn't as interesting.
posted by slogger at 11:09 AM on January 5, 2006


DUH.
posted by HTuttle at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2006


Derren Brown is very, very good. His Russian Roulette stunt completely upstaged David Blaine's hang-in-a box-above-the-Thames thing, which was going on at the time - and it only took one episode, not a drawn-out and much-maligned spectacle, to pull it off.
posted by nyterrant at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2006


bread and circuses, now more than ever.
posted by quonsar at 11:14 AM on January 5, 2006


Although I didn't watch this, surely all of those involved had seen previous examples of Brown's tricks (especially the video game one mentioned above) and a large chunk of their brains would have have been working on the principle that a bank was not really being robbed, guards not really being held at gunpoint.
posted by ceri richard at 11:15 AM on January 5, 2006


For "theives (sic)" substitute "worthless overpaid wankers". Oh and also substitute "three out of four" with "all".

There. That's better.
posted by longbaugh at 11:16 AM on January 5, 2006


but Derren Brwon knows his stuff and to get 3/4 regular people to steal money boxes is quite a feat.

Heck, I can't get 3/4 people to agree on a pizza toppings without me giving up. This sorta thing astounds me, like how the Jonestown massacre can occur.
posted by bobo123 at 11:18 AM on January 5, 2006


Damn, I missed this... hope they'll do a repeat!

I don't care how controversial or immoral some may say it is, I've seen other shows by Derren Brown and loved them. Yes, even the Russian roulette thing. It was really all about psychological tricks rather than the thrill of violence/danger. And all the less outrageous tricks he pulled in other shows, like the multiple chess challenge, those were cool too. He really is very good. And funny.

Much better than classic reality tv.
posted by funambulist at 11:24 AM on January 5, 2006


Not only would I definitely watch this is if it were broadcast in the US, I actually think it would be an important thing to watch. At this point in history, we could all use a really sharp reminder that it can be very easy to control the thinking of a population. It wouldn't hurt if the public learned more about the types of techniques used to manipulate people; it might get a few people thinking more critically about the information we are normally exposed to, and on which we base our decisions.

I mean, we've managed to make 3/4 people decide there's a war on Christmas. And at one point, 9/10 people advocated going to war because Iraq supposedly had WMD. It might be interesting to watch a thought-provoking example about the specific techniques that cause people to accept a crazy proposition.
posted by Miko at 11:29 AM on January 5, 2006


I'd be more interested in a show that programmed criminals to hold down real jobs and not hold up banks.
posted by fenriq at 11:31 AM on January 5, 2006 [1 favorite]


It is frightening, but a vitally important piece of television. Put it into the context of suicide bombing for a second. I, too, was relieved and pleased when one of the candidates did *not* rob the van, but almost as scary as the three heist attempts was the Milgram experiment earlier in the show, with one of the candidates expressing disappointment that the electric shock machine didn't have higher voltages.

I saw Derren Brown live last year and it was an awesome show. I don't think the explanations he suggests account for a trick necessarily always do, and I think there's a much higher proportion of "showmanship"/bullshit than most attribute, but he's a thoroughly entertaining performer, and has resurrected the idea in me that magic can be a relevant art form in the 21st century.
posted by nthdegx at 11:37 AM on January 5, 2006


I don't suppose that anyone would know where to find a torrent of this show?
posted by 517 at 11:40 AM on January 5, 2006


I really quite like Derren Brown. I'm somewhat of an amateur magician and I've got some good stuff from him - lecture notes and so on. If you are interested in the mechanics behind this type of work, I highly suggest you check out what Luke Jermay has put out (7 Deceptions, Building Blocks). Kenton Knepper also has a ton of great material. With these resources, a lot of practice and huge balls of steel, you too can be the next Uri Geller!
posted by splice at 11:42 AM on January 5, 2006


UKNova.
posted by Gyan at 11:43 AM on January 5, 2006


It was a phenomenal show.

He revealed how, with the right suggestions, placed there with techniques that totalitarian regimes (and perhaps, some not so obviously totalitarian) have used, it is possible to make people behave in ways that they would ordinarily not do. There was a lot of motivational BS, sure - but crikey, it was powerful stuff.

quonsar, fenriq: has it been broadcast in your area yet? If not, are you commenting on a show you didn't see?

The guard was an actor; the gun was a toy, and the 'robbers' knew that it was, & the money belonged to Darren Brown's production company: admittedly, the 'robbers' didn't know the money was DB's. The heist itself was nearby to the Bank of England. So, there was no actual crime: though the 'robbers' did not know that, either.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:46 AM on January 5, 2006


The only thing which makes reality TV any differient than classic TV is that you, the viewer, are under the impression some of the characters on the show are real life people and not just elements of some script.

Did you watch the video game segment? What was the crap about the flashes from the game putting the subject into a catatonic state? Wikipedia states that approximately 2 people per 10,000 are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy. In the video I think he says 1 in 3 would be affected by his video game. If not epilepsy then what? Some sort of Derren-Brown-ism unknown to moden science? This just goes to discredit him in my mind.

Not that it's bad entertainment. It's fun to watch, just don't take it seriously.
posted by crunchyk9 at 11:47 AM on January 5, 2006


Managing is thievery ? Tell me it ain't so !
posted by elpapacito at 11:51 AM on January 5, 2006


What I like about Derren Brown is that he is completely upfront about what he is doing. There is no magic, simply the power of suggestion, it would seem - it appears shocking when drawn out to such dramatic lengths, but I think dash_slot- is absolutely right, it is only a more extreme version of the types of manipulation we are exposed to all the time from TV, corporations, colleagues and friends.

I thought it made brilliant TV too - much more entertaining than Channel 4's normal crop of reality programme.
posted by greycap at 11:58 AM on January 5, 2006


What was the crap about the flashes from the game putting the subject into a catatonic state?

I'm not sure what that's referencing. But there is some evidence which suggests that watching TV causes changes in brain wave patterns, increasing the number of theta waves, which are associated with relaxed brain states, daydreaming, light sleep, and hypnosis.
posted by Miko at 12:00 PM on January 5, 2006


There's an interesting article I read on Mr Brown, showing that some of what he calls his 'psychological' powers of persuasion are in fact simple magic tricks.
posted by Sparx at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2006


...and so, perhaps, reasoning by extension, video games might cause suggestible theta states too.
posted by Miko at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2006


I'm very tempted to get the Luke Jermay book. I'm also very embarassed that a theif stole my spell checker.
posted by harmoniousness at 12:10 PM on January 5, 2006


willy sutton would be PISSED.....
posted by clavdivs at 12:15 PM on January 5, 2006


And why should I believe this is anything but complete and utter bullshit?
posted by iamck at 12:29 PM on January 5, 2006


Hey, Sparx, I was on board with that article at first, when he pointed out the cheap trick behind the card hand bit and the boxer. Fair enough.

However, by the time he gets to the lie detection and "twin synchronicity", he is no longer explaining the magic trick that's being done -- instead, he resorts to expressing his disbelief through comments of supposed experts* or claiming he understands the trick but not telling us what it is**.

Finally he comes clean: "Please do not misunderstand me. I do love magic. I merely hate it when magicians pretend to be psychologists." So he has an axe to grind because the magician is sullying the good name of psychologists with cheap magic.

Which is missing the point, I think; the reason this magician (and others) can be so successful in convincing the audience that they're working psychological tricks on their subjects is because they are -- for instance, the boxer trick works not simply because the girl stepped back slightly, but because the boxer was being sufficiently distracted and manipulated to believe the mental effect was real -- which is in itself a successful mental effect, played on the subject and on the viewers.

Same thing with shooting one of the scenes in a lab to (as the author puts it) "give it the veneer of authority." Here, he sees and understands the psychological impact of this choice, yet fails to give it credit as a legitimate method of manipulating someone's perception of the event.

Oh well, this has gone on for much too long, but I'm just going to be entertained by the idea that magicians claim to control their subjects directly through the power of suggestion, yet use those suggestions as distractions from the actual suggestions being used, thus employing classic misdirection (as magicians always do) to great success with increasingly sophisticated audiences.

And of course by the idea that this would aggravate the author of that article. Heh.

*"Professor Aldert Vrij, an expert in methods for identifying deception, says '...There might be some excellent lie detectors but I don't know anybody who can consistently and reliably spot a lie'" and "However, psychologists have told me that this level of coherence between twins is not possible"

**"I can see exactly how the synchronicity effect is created using a magic trick - it is clever, but it is misleading."

posted by davejay at 12:37 PM on January 5, 2006


I enjoyed the show last night. I was surprised that only one of the 9 people remaining at that point admitted to knowing anything about the Milgram experiment though.
For my money, the best thing Derren Brown has done was "Messiah" (relevant bit about halfway down the page).
posted by kumonoi at 12:40 PM on January 5, 2006


harmoniousness, if you want, I have an... *uhm*, electronic backup of Luke Jermay's material? Yeah, that's it.

Sparx, there is some interesting logic behing presenting simple magic tricks as psychological suggestion tricks; it lets you relax, as you know the trick is just going to work (which doesn't always happen with real suggestion). You are also setting up the audience for that later, harder effects. Succeeding at an apparently hard mind reading effect establishes in your audience's mind that you may have certain powers. They then become more suggestible than previously. I have heard these arguments from both Luke Jermay and Richard Osterlind. Mr. Osterlind seems to tread more on the side of magic, and Mrs. Jermay and Brown towards psychic/mindreader presentations. Different presentations, but a lot of the same concepts. It's a very interesting field, for many reasons.

iamck, I don't think anyone will prove to you that this wasn't all a big hoax. But then again, I don't think you can prove I don't have a pink cow that follows me everywhere but that no one can see. Feel free to attend a live performance and be convinced (or not). Either way he's mighty entertaining.
posted by splice at 12:41 PM on January 5, 2006


Christ... I just don't know anymore. Why does anyone believe this is not staged? I'm starting to lose all faith in humanity. After reading your posts, I just don't understand. Even as a 'magic' show, it's tired, sad, and uninspired. This is not real, folks. The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy are fake. Movies are pretend. I hope you can understand me. Life can be hard, but is it really so bad that we have to resort to accepting the lowest of entertainment crap as reality? Every post, except maybe one, gave me the impression that you've reserved judgement. That a part of you believes this guy is for real. I weep for the future.
posted by apiaryist at 12:41 PM on January 5, 2006


Damn, apiaryist, you're right.

I mean, he's done countless live shows and he's done lectures for magicians who have gone and reproduced (and adapted) the various concepts and routines and performed them succesfully. A number of mentalist and magicians use the same or very similar concepts in various effects. You can trace his influences and the evolution of the art (through Annemann, Bob Cassidy, Kenton Knepper, Luke Jermay, etc) rather easily.

But this one show shows everything to be an elaborate hoax. My hat's off to you.

I mean, seriously, it's a TV show, obviously there are many things that can be faked, ommited, resequenced, etc. But dismissing Derren Brown's work wholesale over it? I think that's a bit drastic, if this is all you've seen of him.

But hey, feel free to think (and apparently say) that everyone is your intellectual inferior and we're all dummies for not thinking like you. Maybe you'd like to put more condescension in your next post, so that our childish minds can grasp your message more surely.
posted by splice at 12:51 PM on January 5, 2006


Splice(or should I say Derren?), I'm sorry if I touched a nerve. It had to be done. I assume that you believe at least one of the people on the show was mesmerized? If you truly believe that, I have nothing more to say to you.

I need to talk down to ignorant people. It's the only way they're ever going to have their constructed reality challenged. Either they will choose to cloak themselves in faith that what they see is true, or they will more closely examine the facts at hand. If the latter happens, then I'm satisfied that the truth will come out, and TV will be more entertaining for it.

It's ok to be suckered, as long as you know who the sucker is.
posted by apiaryist at 1:11 PM on January 5, 2006


Every post, except maybe one, gave me the impression that you've reserved judgement.

Eh? If this means what I think it means, it says that we didn't fall for it wholesale. And.. nor did you, right?

/coloured, confused.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:22 PM on January 5, 2006


Electronic 'flashes' put some kid in a catatonic state where he can be lifted and placed onto a trolley and carried off by complete strangers?

Please. This is the fakest thing I've ever seen.

"ok, ok...give him another flash...ok....and another..."

You've got to be joking.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:24 PM on January 5, 2006


If you're unsure about the veracity of his claims after watching the show, you've reserved judgement. I've made my decision.
posted by apiaryist at 1:50 PM on January 5, 2006


I've made my decision.

Yes; and you're asking us to take as fact that you're a genius and the rest of us are ignorant.

I'll just reserve judgement on that, too.
posted by Miko at 1:55 PM on January 5, 2006


Miko,

You're making assumptions. I'm trying to get you to think for yourself. I don't think I'm smarter that anyone else. That's why I'm so disappointed that people will let themselves be fooled. You're not idiots. Just ignorant. Look up the meaning of the word.
posted by apiaryist at 2:02 PM on January 5, 2006


I'm with apiaryist. This is bull. That video game stunt linked to above was so obviously staged. wow.
posted by surferboy at 2:07 PM on January 5, 2006


apiaryist, I'm not Derren Brown. Never even met the man.

My impression isn't that every post so far considers that Derren "mesmerized" anyone. It's psychology, suggestion, and misdirection (re: film editing, resequencing, multiple realities effects, etc). It's not supernatural, nor did I see anyone say that here.

Regardless of all this, that you believe that you must condescend to those you consider more ignorant than you would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad. The best way to get people to listen to you is not to treat them as sad deluded children that must be guided to the truth by your superior intellect. But maybe I'm just too dumb and don't understand how that works.

Baby_Balrog, I doubt the kid was in any kind of state he didn't will himself in. He was suggestible, he let himself be influenced, and did what was expected of him. See: hypnotism. A good quote from there:

When one strips away these dramatic dressings what is left is something quite ordinary, even if extraordinarily useful: a self-induced, “psyched-up” state of suggestibility.

Although I note that apiaryist might have meant "mesmerised" as a synonym for "hypnotized". If so, I would disagree; I do believe something quite close to hypnotism plays a large part in these stunts. But I do want to state that I don't believe that hypnotism is some trance state which allows access to the subconscious or anything like that. My views are quite like the skeptic's dictionary entry above.

Or in shorter form: believe what you want, it ain't no skin off my nose. If you want to insist everything is staged and nothing more, also fine. I personally find his methods interesting, and that's from his lecture and other similar materials, not the mock explanations on the specials.
posted by splice at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2006


I'm trying to get you to think for yourself

Don't need any help, thanks. I've done it quite well all my life. Look! I'm still doing it, in spite of your attempted manipulation of my self-perception. I also don't require dictionary help, either. Or intellectual help. Or help on current understandings of psychology, or on the history of psychological experimentation. I'm in no way ignorant -- not on this topic, not on many others. I'm simply responding to your statement:

I need to talk down to ignorant people.

Which you presented as a justification for the arrogant tone you used when you implied that anyone who was not ready to roundly condemn points made by this hypnotist. The truth is that, although he is a showman, much of what he has to say is solidly borne out by current research.

I haven't seen this show, and I'm sure it's also full of B.S., but I have seen his other series and found his introduction of certain concepts of interpersonal manipulation very interesting. It's quite possible that someone who knew nothing about these methods could become interested in learning more about human behavior and suggestibility by watching this program.
posted by Miko at 2:12 PM on January 5, 2006


funambulist: "Damn, I missed this... hope they'll do a repeat!"

It's repeated on E4 at 21:00, Friday 6 January (E4+1 at 22:00) [courtesy RadioTimes.com].
posted by ceri richard at 2:21 PM on January 5, 2006


Well said, quonsar. You are a gentleman and a scholar.
posted by nlindstrom at 2:21 PM on January 5, 2006


Ok. I like you. I'm sorry I offended you. I have a problem with the one show this discussion is about. I enjoy learning about manipulation, cons, and power games. I will never lump manipulation in with hypnotism. Derren Brown makes his bread and butter on mentalist acts and hiring extras. The tone of the responses I read indicated that they believed these guys were actually under a spell or being mentally controlled. To me, that's crazy talk. The only footage I've seen of Derren Brown is a series of cheap parlor tricks using extras, audience plants, and those silly magician-fingers when he 'manipulates' his hireling. Please point me to something more reasonable, and I might change my mind.
posted by apiaryist at 2:25 PM on January 5, 2006


As I said before:

The last time he toured my sister saw him with a psychologist and a group hypnotist. They said that he is clearly a very clever and capable hypnotist and combining that with his mental arithmetic and a level of concentration most of us never reach for sustained lengths of time (2x45mins in his case) he can perform the tasks which seem impossible to most of us.

Since then I have seen him live myself, and am comfortable saying that he had me fooled! Trying to work out whether it was 'ordinary' magic or psychological manipulation just adds to the fun of trying to deconstruct what you saw after the event.
So, who's got a torrent of the latest show?
posted by asok at 2:27 PM on January 5, 2006


517, give it a few days, it was only broadcast yesterday... you can already find his other shows on torrents.

Why does anyone believe this is not staged?

apiaryst - so? who cares? part of the fascination is precisely in wondering what kind of tricks he's playing and at how many levels. Including the possibility some of it is staged. If it is, it's done to perfection and still entertaining so it doesn't bloody matter. The fascination with psychological manipulation still remains. As does his showmanship. And humour. And skill in constructing the show. And so on.

I wouldn't qualify Brown's tv stuff as lowest form of tv entertainment by far. Tastes and all, but it would help to have actually seen some of it before decreeing it was crap.
posted by funambulist at 2:39 PM on January 5, 2006


ceri richard: thanks! (sorry for being lazy and not checking myself before asking :) )
posted by funambulist at 2:41 PM on January 5, 2006


apiarist: extras, audience plants, and those silly magician-fingers when he 'manipulates' his hireling

The likelihood of his using plants or extras at the show I saw was minimal due to his using the 'throw a cuddly toy around a bit' selection method for the really hard tricks.
posted by asok at 2:47 PM on January 5, 2006


Miko, I was referring to the video game segment available here. In it he has a video game which supposedly puts people into a catatonic state. We're not talking altered brainwave patterns, we're talking full on loaded-into-a-truck-and-driven-away-drooling-on-yourself catatonic.

Plus, the fact that the guys friends weren't beating the crap out of Derren should be another clue. I can only imagine what'd I do to somebody if they tried some crap like this on one of my friends. I'd be going all Incredible Hulk Smash on this guy.
posted by crunchyk9 at 2:48 PM on January 5, 2006


Splice... could you send me a copy of the Luke Jermay stuff? I'm curious as to the techniques that Derren uses.
My email address is Bob at EyesOpen.co.uk Ta!
posted by BobsterLobster at 2:48 PM on January 5, 2006


apyarist, I hadn't actually read the article posted by Sparx until now (was at work), so perhaps I didn't understand where you were coming from.

I totally agree that not everything is based in psychology, that a number of routines are presented as being mind control through the understansting of psychology but are rather common magic tricks. However there are a number of effects that are accomplished through suggestion. Since this is on TV, I can't say either way how the video game experiment was performed, but I tend to think it's not a stooge that's involved. But there is most certainly more than just suggestion, of course.

That's magic. And that's where I come from, he's a real good magician and mentalist, not a psychologist or science guy by any means. Sorry if I gave that impression. I admire his application of various psychological tricks to make good magic, I don't think he has some deep knowledge of psychology that allows him to predict your thoughts and control your actions.

If you want good stuff, you could try and track down a copy of "The Derren Brown Lecture", where he shares some thoughts and secrets. It's available from International Magic. He has a few good books out, Pure Effect is quite nice. Luke Jermay's books and his video "Skullduggery" are great. But all of these tip secrets and routines, so if you just want a performance, perhaps live is best. Seeing his shows through the filter of his theories and exposed methods allows you to see how "real" it can be, while not knowing makes it equally easy to believe it's completely staged or that there is some skill/secret involved.

Anyway, it's all good. As long as we can all be entertained, regardless of what he does, what he says he does, and what we believe he does :)
posted by splice at 2:58 PM on January 5, 2006


I'd be going all Incredible Hulk Smash on this guy.

It may be time to consider some anger management techniques. /partial ; )
posted by asok at 2:59 PM on January 5, 2006


If he'd wanted to appear immaculately professional, 4/4 of the middle managers would have 'robbed' the guard.

Look, we all know he is a manipulative bastard. As someone says above, half the fun is in working out which parts, and which people, have been manipulated. And how.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:05 PM on January 5, 2006


I need to talk down to ignorant people. It's the only way they're ever going to have their constructed reality challenged.

Wow. That is just...wow.
Dude, you sound like I did in 5th grade, when I thought I was Baby Einstein. Jesus Christ, I can't believe you were actually able to type that sentence. Constructed reality?
posted by 235w103 at 3:31 PM on January 5, 2006


funambulist : "517, give it a few days, it was only broadcast yesterday"

It's already available. Check my previous post.
posted by Gyan at 3:43 PM on January 5, 2006


Davejay: You are of course correct - misdirection being the watchword of any sufficiently skilled presdigitator. I just thought it was an interesting take - seeing that his schtick is that 'it's all (my amazing knowledge of) psychology and the power of the mind'. I didn't wish to blame him for it - but knowing that's one of his tricks is another utensil for the old baloney detector.
posted by Sparx at 3:53 PM on January 5, 2006


My impression isn't that every post so far considers that Derren "mesmerized" anyone.

Particularly given that Derren makes the point, numerous times during the show, that there's no such thing as 'real' hypnotism, and it's all just a lot of elaborate role play and people meeting social/cultural pressure to do what's expected of them.

I actually thought the whole thing very convincing. The visceral reaction of the last guy in response to being caught was almost palpable -- but I couldn't help wondering if those who actually did the heist realized that they were part of a show, and without there being direct and explicit collusion, they acted as they did precisely because they had been 'given permission' through being part of Derryn's project.

I also have to say that I couldn't believe that only one middle class professional out of nine was familiar with Milgram's research either, but for me, that was the only element that really jarred in a great show.

David Blaine, you've been pwned!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:54 PM on January 5, 2006


Did you watch the video game segment? What was the crap about the flashes from the game putting the subject into a catatonic state? Wikipedia states that approximately 2 people per 10,000 are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy. In the video I think he says 1 in 3 would be affected by his video game. If not epilepsy then what? Some sort of Derren-Brown-ism unknown to moden science? This just goes to discredit him in my mind.

The video in question

The guy (Mick) who made that game used in that "trick" was my Theory lecturer last year at University (when the trick was done).

He didnt tell us anything about it until after the show was aired. Its actually a lot more than 2 flashes. The whole game contains sounds imagery and suggestions, the flashes at the end are just the signal for the subject to shut down and "sleep".
posted by lemonfridge at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2006



Anyone who believes the "transported into a video game" hypnotism stunt is not staged is a complete moran.

Which leads me to seriously question all of Derren's work.

Hoax.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2006


"Anyone who believes the "transported into a video game" hypnotism stunt is not staged is a complete moran."

Or anyone who spells moron like that.

/troll
posted by wozzwinkl at 6:16 PM on January 5, 2006



Get a brain! Moran.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:46 PM on January 5, 2006


Okay, I know this thread is long dead by now but...

The "video game" zombie thing.

Staged? Yes, but probably not with actors playing roles and duping the audience. The guy was probably a regular joe off the street, carefully conditioned and manipulated by the ENTIRE environment around him to be prone to whatever suggestions.

The prep-work gets edited out.

The flashes on the screen are just the signal that the dupe has unknowingly agreed to pay attention to. Those flashes are more for the audience: they're part of the misdirection. (So is liberal editing, of course.)

Anyhow...

That guy didn't appear to be very convinced of being in a video game at all. In fact I think that the audience is the party being duped in this case.

Look at it from this point of view:Just moments before we're shown a guy who is happily blowing-away imaginary zombies.

Now we're shown a guy who is scared, confused, trying to escape, audibly wondering what the fuck is going on, WARNING the aggressors that he will shoot them with a gun that he quite obviously regards as ineffectual, and he's more than surprised when it actually works.

Do you still see a guy who believes he's in "the video game" he was playing just moments before?

I don't.

What I do see is an audience that has been prepared to accept that this guy believes that he is in a video game... simply by being told that the guy believes he is in a video game.

This line of reasoning goes right to the heart of something too... doesn't Derren continuously reinforce the point that what you're seeing is not magic, but psychology?

Think about it.
posted by C.Batt at 8:57 PM on January 5, 2006



Nice post!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:34 PM on January 5, 2006


Well played, C.Batt! Well played!
posted by 235w103 at 11:05 PM on January 5, 2006



posted by Iamtherealme at 1:54 AM on January 6, 2006


damn - totally screwed THAT one up, didn't I?
I mean, he HYPNOTIZED me! It's all Derren's fault.
posted by Iamtherealme at 1:55 AM on January 6, 2006


Gyan, UKnova says "Sorry This site is not open for public use" on the signup page... I'm sure it'll pop up on other torrent sites later.
posted by funambulist at 2:11 AM on January 6, 2006


I'm also surprised that one out of nine well-educated persons recognized Milgram's name. I would have put the ratio at closer to one in two hundred.
posted by watsondog at 4:42 AM on January 6, 2006


C.Batt, I am thinking about it, and.... I have a question: Does Brown ever actually say that's what he's up to? If not, how do we know? And if he is trying to screw with his audience, how do we know he's not doing the same thing with the heist stunt?

Not saying your account is implausible -- I find it very plausible -- but I don't have the opportunity to answer these questions for myself, as I don't have access to the shows. The questions raised are very important and interesting; it woudl be a shame if he bobbled them over a trust issue. (And a tad ironic.)
posted by lodurr at 5:59 AM on January 6, 2006


dash_slot-: quonsar, fenriq: has it been broadcast in your area yet? If not, are you commenting on a show you didn't see?

Don't be absurd. It's more satisfying to stand off and snark ironically about how stupid everyone else is than it is to expend the effort required to formulate an actual opinion. Plus, one-liners get you lots more "attaboys" per post (on average) than thoughtful commentary.
posted by lodurr at 6:07 AM on January 6, 2006


I haven't seen that game episode but what C.Batt says about Brown's insistence on it being all a matter of mind control so the audience would be convinced it is about 100% genuine psychological manipulation rather than tricks (or a combination of the two, which I guess is more likely) and so already prepared to accept it as such, well, I think it's spot on - also see his response to the criticism of the Russian roulette stunt:

Brown himself defended the program, saying, "It probably sounds odd. But as a magic-related performer to have that event being asked: Was it real? Was it not real? That lifts it to a level that I'm very comfortable with. What's left is that fact that it was a terrific piece of television."

Maybe the "it's not psychology! it's just magicians tricks!" objections are sort of missing the point?
posted by funambulist at 6:44 AM on January 6, 2006


I am getting very sleepy.
posted by Miko at 7:52 AM on January 6, 2006


funambulist: "I haven't seen that game episode but what C.Batt says about Brown's insistence on it being all a matter of mind control so the audience would be convinced it is about 100% genuine psychological manipulation rather than tricks (or a combination of the two, which I guess is more likely)"

About the combination of both things (subject and audience) being in play, I agree 100%.

It's the incredibly strong combination of and interplay between the techniques applied to both parties that creates the strong acceptance.

lodurr,

I have only seen the "video game" clip of Derren, and only just then. I have read about him in passing and my statement about the whole "constantly telling the audience..." thing was based on what I had read. I believe that funambulist supports my belief that he does indeed do that.

However, just to clarify something:
he constantly makes that statement not because what he's doing is tricks, but because not EVERYTHING he's doing is tricks, NOR is everything psychology!

It itsn't an either/or situation but a masterful combination of the two. He simply doesn't tell you what is trick and what is "psychology".
posted by C.Batt at 8:13 AM on January 6, 2006


As Dave used to say "Help me, help me! I've been hyp-mo-tized!"

I can't believe what I'm reading in this thread. It's worse than the "I want to believe" UFO threads.

The real trick is that he got some of you to believe it is legitimate.

THAT is magic right there.

Embarrassing.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:36 AM on January 6, 2006


He simply doesn't tell you what is trick and what is "psychology"

Really, in the broadest sense, what's the difference? The reason 'tricks' work is because they play upon the way human beings reason and perceive. To trick someone requires an understanding of how they are likely to perceive or misperceive a situation. Using deception, distraction, manipulation, disguise, and subterfuge all are psychology in the sense that they rely on an understanding of human thought and behavior, and the limitations and prejudices of perception. It seems obvious.

Tricks are an application of psychology, as many in this thread have said. I think the confusion arises from people equating 'psychology' with 'mind control'. Mind control is certainly B.S. What is being referenced by the phrase 'mind control' is simply what I would term 'psychological manipulation'; that is, using an understanding of common patterns of human thought to elicit a predictable reaction.
posted by Miko at 9:10 AM on January 6, 2006


miko,

excellent point. Magic trick, psychological trick, what's the difference? Nothing.

You caught me being lazy with my language. What I meant to say was "magic" rather than "trick". Sorry for the confusion, but thankful for the catch (and further illustration of the matter).
posted by C.Batt at 9:28 AM on January 6, 2006


Gyah.

Embarrassing.

I see hope for at least one person.

The fact that people read reams of information about this serious subject is sad. If I ever see a beat up copy of Derren's book(s!) being used by a bum to keep the rain off of his face while he sleeps, I might pick it up. He's rich enough as it is. He performs lectures...? Does he walk around making large hand gestures as he talks? I bet he uses one of those microphones that is attached to his head and hangs a little stem down beside his mouth. I can only hope that one day he tries to stop a train with his mind while standing in the middle of the tracks.
posted by apiaryist at 9:53 AM on January 6, 2006


Respectfully, apiaryist, I think you're really missing the point of his work; especially if you think he's suggesting that he could do something like stop a train with thought. He makes no such claims. He's aiming to demonstrate that people are credulous and suggestible enough to be manipulated through purely non-paranormal means.

Personally, I think human cognition is pretty fascinating, and am happy to read reams of information about that serious subject. Understanding why we are prone to making mistakes in thought and judgement, to being manipulated, strikes me as very important. He's just providing us some dramatic, showy illustrations of human propensities worth guarding against.
posted by Miko at 10:09 AM on January 6, 2006


You know what's really embarrassing?

No one so far has said "I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats."
posted by lodurr at 10:12 AM on January 6, 2006


I always feel the need to point out that on his very first TV series, Brown used to regularly point out that

1 his techniques were a mixture of magic and psychology, and
2 he is a charlatan.

A good example of this is the Stephen Fry trick. It's a simple card force. Brown tells Fry that he's actually not only made him pick a certain card, but that it wasn't even a card in the deck. Of course, once the DVD came out you could see (in slow motion) the card being switched.

If the zombie thing was real, and the bloke wasn't a stooge and hadn't said he wanted to take part, I think it was pretty unethical. I lost a lot of respect for Brown over that.

Having said all that, if a copy of Splice's electronic backup was to find its way to mf at flameproof dot org.uk I'd be very grateful... :-)
posted by flameproof at 10:12 AM on January 6, 2006


Clearly some people here are simply too clever and sophisticated for the rest of us ignorant plebs that are so obviously fooled and brainwashed into apathy because of being entertained by an entertainer who even has the nerve not to use his skills to protect the homeless and save the world. Yay you!

Next, can we have a rant about pop music?
posted by funambulist at 10:16 AM on January 6, 2006


He's aiming to demonstrate that people are credulous and suggestible enough to be manipulated through purely non-paranormal means.

Exactly, and it's so obvious anyone who's missed that point must not actually have watched any of the stuff they're commenting about. Maybe they could start with these clips and relative explanations. See for instance this one.
posted by funambulist at 10:31 AM on January 6, 2006


Goddammit, I was promised a FAKE trick, but I got a REAL trick instead!

I feel...TRICKED!
posted by cps at 10:39 AM on January 6, 2006


...hey...
posted by cps at 10:41 AM on January 6, 2006


funambulist, "...and it's so obvious anyone who's missed that point must not actually have watched any of the stuff they're commenting about..."

See, that's the problem, right there in a nutshell.

You believe that people accept and understand that these tricks are tricks, especially after they've been told that they're tricks RIGHT TO THEIR FACE BY THE PERFORMER.

The unfortunate truth is that, unlike you, the majority of people hear but DO NOT listen. The next time they're faced with the exact same thing, they jump right back into believing in supernatural powers, mysticism, and magic.

It's frustrating that this bullshit keeps on rearing its ugly head.
posted by C.Batt at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2006


The next time they're faced with the exact same thing, they jump right back into believing in supernatural powers, mysticism, and magic.

You know, you're right; some people will. But some won't.
Once exposed to these ideas, people will take them in various directions, depending on their intelligence, prior experience, beliefs, or simple habit.

It's safe to say that, when exposed to new information, some people will be like Teflon and take nothing in. I would posit that those are the people who were most strongly predisposed to belief in the supernatural in the first place. At the other extreme, some people will absorb it completely, the scales will fall from their eyes, and it will change their lives. I'm sure Brown is one of these people; he became obsessed enough to spend his life on it. Research psychologists also probably fall into this category, since they have enough passion to have made the study of the mind their profession.

Most people will fall into the continuum along the center: recognizing some truth in it and applying it to their lives in varying situations and degrees. That's the way people are with any new information. So, does that mean that people should never be exposed to the new information? Obviously not, because it is changing the awareness and behavior of at least some of the people, at least some of the time. It may spark the interest of the next generation of hypnotist showmen and cognitive psychologists, or even just curious types like myself.
posted by Miko at 11:43 AM on January 6, 2006


C.Butt & Miko: in the end this guy's purpose is primarily to put up a show, entertain, and showing how clever he is in fooling his 'victims' and how impressionable they are is part of the fun (ironically, the only people who seem to take it all so seriously are those going "Oh the humanity!"); it's not really his mission to stop people believing in magic and supernatural and new age stuff and so on.

(Unlike, say, the rationalists in India who work precisely with that intent).
posted by funambulist at 12:13 PM on January 6, 2006


apiaryist, I really don't know what you're about here. We know he has no supernatural powers. He says he has no supernatural powers. His book and lectures have nothing to do with supernatural powers. It's all about magic.

So wtf is your problem? Is it that some people think he really does mind control? Well, there's people everywhere that believe all kinds of things. No need to shit on our heads because of it, especially since I don't see anyone here believing he does all this with special powers.

I'll let you in on some secret: David Blaine can't really levitate. Really, he was fooling people too. Oh, and David Copperfield? He never really made the Statue of Liberty disappear either. What crooks, eh?

No different for Brown. Yeah, he bullshits people. He lies. He misleads. That's magic, for christ's sake. If you have a problem with magic in general, just come right out and say it. Otherwise, he's just a good performer with some interesting ideas. I really don't get all the hatred.

You can consider me a dummy for respecting the guy's skills, I don't give a rat's ass. At least I'm basing my opinion on his explanations of what he does and the reasons for it, not on some specials where the purpose is to fool people (on many different levels).
posted by splice at 1:50 PM on January 6, 2006


funambulist, Brown spends some time explaining what his goals are in his lecture and his book. Putting up a show and entertaining is certainly a large part of it (that's magic, really), but it goes deeper than that. His theory dovetails nicely with the quote you put up earlier about "Was it magic? Was it real?". I can explain further if someone is interesting, perhaps excerpting a bit from his book. But I tend to be long-winded and I probably am taking up too much space here, so unless someone really is interested in seeing what Derren has to say for himself, I won't monopolize any more screen estate :).
posted by splice at 1:54 PM on January 6, 2006


splice-- if you're up for it, why not? This thread has already far outlived its reasonable lifespan expectations, and still, apparently, has readers. I'd be interested in what Brown says in his books about what he's trying to do.
posted by Miko at 2:12 PM on January 6, 2006


I will work up something, then, but a quick quote from his book, Pure Effect, that just begs to be repeated here:

I am unsure then who precisely will find this book entirely to his or her palate. Hopefully no one other than myself, although I trust that more will find something of use in these pages. Perhaps those others who have been obliging enough to pay actual money for my volume but who find it only vapid, mindless and irrelevant will find some other use in it - perhaps they could fashion from it an impromptu hat to wear in the rain, or it may even serve as a simple toy for a least favourite child.

I'll take some time later to transcribe part of a chapter called "My Aims and Priorities". It probably is of interest in this thread. Hopefully I'm not boring too many people with all of this. It's just an interest of mine, really (as if that wasn't obvious :).
posted by splice at 3:18 PM on January 6, 2006


I just watched it - ha, have to say, apart from it being rather hilarious (the motivational bullshit marketing seminar and the shoplifting being the best parts really), it was really *tame* compared to what it was made to sound like in the papers - they did it one by one and had the guy impersonating a single security guard coming right towards them with two suitcases in a deserted street, I mean, who wouldn't at least give it a thought, even without having been subjected to the power of the Croydon-born Antichrist (© The Mirror)? ;)

But seriously, it wasn't people turning into a band of robbers in a bank packed with people at midday and holding hostages. The production had set up the easiest possible way for the experiment to work.

Lots of cheesy bits too - the "Can you feel it" song, one of the motivational slides in had seminar had words arranged top to bottom like this (can't remember what the other words were apart from the first):
Knowledge
A...
S..
H...

That part was almost like right out of The Office. And he did say at the beginning "I'm going to teach them some of my skills, a bit of pop psychology and frankly, quite a lot of bullshit". The funniest thing is all that 'believe in yourself, take risks, be a leader, tap into your unquestioning unbridled power blah blah' is really the kind of crap they teach at seminars like that. Sad, sad, sad.

When he got them to rub their thighs to evoke the motivated feeling he really made them look like idiots. You nearly felt sorry for them.

At one stage he says "now everything should be in place" and after the break the next scene, where we were shown the street on which the "robbery" is about to happen, has Radiohead's Everything In Its Place playing in the background. Tsk! Rather crude as a subliminal message.

The shoplifting action was real funny - the store clerks after a while noticing stuff had been stolen and wondering what's with all those guys in suits sneaking off with chocolate bars "shall we just ban the suits tonight". The scene with the one who made the poorest attempt at stealing was caught and thrown out into the street, that really cracked me up.

I really felt the most interesting part of the show was the first one, not the supposed climax of the robbery.
posted by funambulist at 3:44 PM on January 6, 2006


oh and yes, splice, I second Miko's invitation to 'take up more screen space'. I'm curious.

(Now I have to get that evil "Can you feel it" out of my head!)
posted by funambulist at 3:57 PM on January 6, 2006


"There's an interesting article I read on Mr Brown, showing that some of what he calls his 'psychological' powers of persuasion are in fact simple magic tricks."

Precisely what I was alluding to - which is why I find dash slot's comments amusing. Don't buy into the explanations Brown puts forward - there's a lot more bullshit going on than you might think. Fantastically entertaining.
posted by nthdegx at 5:01 PM on January 6, 2006


paging splice, we'd like to see what you're cooking up. This thread is indeed still quite interesting.

(I wish I would've gotten back here earlier, but I just got home from work and was quite busy today).

Also I just want to take the time to say that I apologize if I came off very harsh with my previous comment. I do in fact admire Mr Brown's stance in that he is very open about what he is doing.

He doesn't present himself as being "super-powered" or such crap. He blatantly tells you he's going to trick someone, then he does it anyway and they still can't help themselves. That indeed is kinda entertaining, on a certain level. (Though I feel very guilty about laughing at the dupes, because I feel that it's akin to laughing at the handicapped)

On the other hand, I hope I was clear in my original post: he isn't entirely open, even though he says he's open about what he does. That's a big part of his innovation in this sort of presentation, imho.

He actually leverages the conceits that we've built up over the decades where we have pervasive entertainment and information. For instance:That's pretty damn nifty.

Also, I apologize for being a stick-in-the-mud pedant.
posted by C.Batt at 5:49 PM on January 6, 2006


I bet he uses one of those microphones that is attached to his head and hangs a little stem down beside his mouth. posted by apiaryist at 5:53 PM GMT on January 6

You haven't watched the show, have you?

Precisely what I was alluding to - which is why I find dash slot's comments amusing. Don't buy into the explanations Brown puts forward - there's a lot more bullshit going on than you might think. Fantastically entertaining. posted by nthdegx at 1:01 AM GMT on January 7

I'm not sure where we disagree - and of course I'm glad you do find my comments amusing, thanks nth!
posted by dash_slot- at 6:10 PM on January 6, 2006


C.Batt, that doesn't sound like being a pedant to me, but if it is, then you're in good company here :)

He doesn't present himself as being "super-powered" or such crap. He blatantly tells you he's going to trick someone, then he does it anyway and they still can't help themselves. That indeed is kinda entertaining, on a certain level.

Exactly, that's what I like about it. He has none of that David Blaine "ooh look at me, mysterious magician with powers you cannot comprehend" and he makes it all a lot more light-hearted.

(Though I feel very guilty about laughing at the dupes, because I feel that it's akin to laughing at the handicapped)

Whoa, that's a bit harsh maybe? I don't think his victims are stupid really, I laugh cos he makes them look stupid, but I certainly don't feel superior or think it couldn't happen to me. Well ok I would never sign up for a motivational business seminar in the first place, and I certainly wouldn't shoplift just cos someone tells me to, but I can definitely picture falling for some of the other stuff. Also seeing the tricks he's played in other programmes too, aside from the tricks we're not told of, it's obvious it has to do with playing on emotions and confidence and people's ideas about themselves, and I don't think being prone to suggestion at that level is in itself a sign of being stupid or much less mentally deficient. He's tricked some really clever people too.

But it is interesting how he selects his targets, weeding out those less likely to be reactive to his cues. Like in The Heist, he eliminated a contestant saying in the application she lied about her real job, which is a job that makes her unsuitable for this experiment. I wonder what that was.
posted by funambulist at 3:26 AM on January 7, 2006


Like in The Heist, he eliminated a contestant saying in the application she lied about her real job, which is a job that makes her unsuitable for this experiment. I wonder what that was.

Journalist?

Watching people go through the Milgram experiment was fascinating.
posted by fullerine at 3:58 AM on January 7, 2006


Sorry for the delay guys, I had a late night yesterday. Here's is a relevant excerpt from Derren Brown's "Pure Effect" book:


I don't consider myself a Mentalist. I do not restrict myself to mindreading effects when I am performing in the real world. Enough magicians have asked me about the wisdom of combining magic and mindreading in performance. No lay participant in my effects has ever queried this. If I explain my thoughts here, I will be able to express a few points that I find important. They begin with the old worry about mentalists' disclaimers and the ethics of psychic performances. I have an interest in suggestion and what gets labelled 'hypnosis'. I work to combine magic and mindreading with 'hypnosis' to create something new and very powerful. Because this is a keen interest of mine, I tend to communicate it in my performances. I find that most intelligent spectators are more interested in the psychological techniques than the sleight-of-hand. Most would rather feel that they had only seen the card change because they
expected to see it change than because I was adept at exchanging it under supposedly impossible conditions. So whilst I have no desire to present my effects as mere psychological chicanery, I will allow the possibility that a lot of subliminal suggestion is afoot. People do find that fascinating, as do I. Now, later I offer to take the spectators a little deeper into the art and we embark upon a few mindreading and 'psychic' effects. Here I let them feel that I am using a heightened sensitivity to body language and a whole set of hypnotic skills to make the effects work. I don't spell it out unless someone takes me to one side and talks to me about it, but I base my own silent script and the belief I take on board about how I'm getting the information into or from another mind on the notion that these suggestion-based techniques really work that reliably.

This classic presentational ploy that Banachek calls 'psychological direction' allows for the illusion of enormous skill, as long as you let the participants figure out for themselves that you are employing such methods. I believe I earn their respect by denouncing 'psychic power' as woolly guff and I challenge those lobotomised flower-fairies who believe in such nonsense, appealing to their intelligence and belief in themselves as sceptical creatures. The other advantage of this angle is that it allows the effects to sit comfortably with a magic routine that suggests that similar ploys are at work. The two sets become connected by a seductive undercurrent of apparently deft manipulation of the participant's minds. At first these techniques are being employed to produce wonderful, mystifying and artistic magical effects. Then the tone darkens, and the performer, almost with an air of reluctance, sensing the correct rapport in the group, casts aside his props and amusements and begins to rely entirely on his knowledge of human nature to delve into the thought processes of the group. The spectators sense this intensifying of the situation, and adjust their interpretation of the event accordingly.
What we are seeing here is no longer trickery.

[...]

As much as I perform mindreading effects, I rarely enjoy watching most mentalism - I do feel that its entertainment value is inherently quite low. It is more suited to late-night demonstrations - rather like telling ghost stories. In commercial performance, I prefer to ensure that the effects I perform are really going to knock the audience for at least six. So these effects here are borne out of a desire to push mindreading into somewhere new, and a wish (which I hope one day to achieve) to combine conjuring, hypnosis and psychic effects into a heightened new form of close-up entertainment.


This was written in the 90s, so surely his thoughts and theories have developped further, perhaps some of his opinions have changed. Still, I hope it's good enough to cast some light on his motivations. Hope you enjoy it.

<random>Oh, and if anyone is wondering, "The Hostel" isn't such a great movie. Tarantino fans, enjoy, but to the rest? Meh, " Saw 2" was better. </random>
posted by splice at 11:16 AM on January 7, 2006


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