David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Sarah Lyall Reads from The 'Anglo Files'

Lyall:    “David Blaine’s plan was to spend 44 days in a see-through Plexiglass box dangling from a crane near London Bridge subsisting on nothing but water. He called the endeavor “Above the Below,” which some observers considered a bit much.

The British were not impressed. They were not impressed when Blaine pronounced this venture as the most extreme exercise in isolation and physical deprivation ever attempted or when he said “I’m a great artist, nothing more, nothing less.” They were not impressed by the multi million pound deal he struck with Sky Television, and they were not impressed that he had decided to confine himself to a glass prison and voluntarily starve when so many people are actually incarcerated in real prisons and actually starving. The mayor of London said it was disrespectful to the IRA members who died on hunger strikes in the 1980s.

Blaine duly took his place in his box, but the stunt totally backfired. It was as if it were the 18th century and Blaine was in the stocks. Crowds of cynical Londoners gathered underneath his box and laughed at him. They pelted him with bananas, French fries and eggs. They made such a mess that his girlfriend, the unusually named German model Manon Von Gerkan, had to be cranked up on a crane to wash the food, the [IB] off the box with a cloth. “We never had anything like this in New York,” she said. Blaine’s helpers raised the box so it would not be within egg throwing distance. A group of men positioned themselves on Tower Bridge and tried to hit it with golf balls. A hamburger van pulled up below and began ostentatiously frying onions and other foods. Its enticing aroma was designed to upset Blaine, starving as he was. A man tried to cut off his water supply. Some youths [frightened] him by shining laser [bands] into his eyes. A homeless person sat nearby behind the sign saying “Please give generously. I’m attempting 44 days on continuous alcohol abuse.” Women took off their tops and flashed their breasts at Blaine. Men pulled down their pants and mooned him. People stayed up all night playing the drums, so as to disturb the tranquility of anyone who might be trying to sleep in an overhead box. A radio station urges listeners to stand in the cold chanting “ding, ding, ding” in an obnoxious fashion. Someone blasted the song “Living In A Box” by the British pop [funk] group Living In A Box. A remote controlled helicopter buzzed by, dangling a juicy looking cheeseburger on a string.

There was unpleasant speculation about Blaine’s bathroom arrangements, in keeping with Britons’ well known lavatorial obsessions. Blaine’s explanation of his plans for his liquid waste, that it would be expelled via tube leading out of the box, had left the solid waste situation deliberately vague. Adult diapers were mentioned. A radio host took to calling Blaine “Nappy man”. Newspaper columnists speculated that the illusionist had been eating on the sly, saying that he actually looked kind of fat, considering. In The Sun, Jane Moore referred to him as “that total twerp currently dangling in a glass box above the Thames.” In The Guardian, Catherine Bennett said that the satirical response to Blaine illustrated the temperamental gulf between Britain and America, because Britons know how to tell the difference between a huckster and a hero. She urged Londoners to engage in a mass public ridicule by taunting Blaine with food. “Even a blob of oily ice cream taste exquisite when consumed in the suspend company of the preposterous, faux-starving Blaine,” she said.

True, he did have supporters, including American tourists, regular visitors, who believed they had telepathic communication with him and that he was sending them special signals from the box, people who felt sorry for him, and the paranormalist Uri Geller, who announced “He has the quality of Rasputin.”

When Blaine finally came down, thin and weak and with his major organs on the verge of collapse, or so he said, the general feeling was that “Above the Below” had been beyond the absurd. A huge pretentious failure. But what was it that made ordinary Britons tease and recent him so much? Because he was making such a big deal about it. Because he’d revealed himself to be a puffed up self promoter rather than the friendly kind of eccentric who does what he does for himself rather than for public acclaim. He was capable of going to the pub and laughing at himself over a few pints because he did not know when enough was enough.

Women took off their tops and flashed their breasts at Blaine. Men pulled down their pants and mooned him. People stayed up all night playing the drums, so as to disturb the tranquility of anyone who might be trying to sleep in an overhead box.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

How Hemingway felt about fatherhood

Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.

Ernest Hemingway Holding His Son 1927 (Wikimedia Commons)
Culture & Religion

Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?

Keep reading Show less

The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

  • Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
  • "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
  • In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
Keep reading Show less

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.