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Methodical by Aaron Smith
Posted by Gerald Kirchner on 23rd Feb 2005
Just what the world needs: another booklet with essays on performance theory. Hasn't the magic world had enough of that yet? You'd think, with some groundbreaking work on the subject by a variety of writers and performers, that everything that can be said has been said. Evidently, it hasn't; Aaron Smith's booklet, Methodical, shows there is still more to say, and uses some creative, ingenious effects to prove his points.
Yes, you read that correctly: Smith uses effects to illustrate the content of his essays. No mere theory here, no dry content that goes widely unproven, Smith uses a wonderful approach of discussing a point of performance magic, then gives a winning, sometimes absolutely stunning, effect that shows the point in action. This ain't your typical approach, and it works exceedingly well.
Here's a breakdown of the five essays and the effects that illustrate them:
* One Two Twos Sandwich, Hold the Selection Please ~ An essay discussing the never-ending debate on whether or not practitioners should performer flourishes and other displays of skill. Smith makes a telling point with a sweet sandwich effect: a card is selected, shown, and placed on the table. The Two of Hearts and the Two of Diamonds are removed from the deck and turn face up and face down in a two-card "Twisting the Aces" variation. At the end, the selected card is vanished and appears between the deuces.
* Neoteric Signed Card ~ Brother John Hamman's deservedly famous "Signed Card" plot, this time performed with two signed cards with a new concept, is used to illustrate how a performer's security in a method leads to bold and all-to-magical occurrences.
* The Fifth Card Illusion II ~ An interesting essay on the use of theatrical tag lines, something largely overlooked by performers. The effect demonstrating this point reads dry, but is an absolute winner: A card is selected and lost in the deck. The performer tries four times to locate the card, failing each time, and placing the failure on the table. The four cards are spread to reveal a single face-up card, which is the selected card. I told you it read dry. It's also one of my favorite effects from the booklet. This is one of those you have to see and perform to appreciate.
* Noraa's Paradoxes Part One ~ In one of the "heavier" essays, Smith tackles the use of irony and contradiction for misdirection. The essay is firmly demonstrated with my other favorite effect from Methodical: The Aces are placed face down on the table. A card is selected by each of four spectators and their card placed face down in front of them as they are chosen.. The four Aces are lost in the deck. All four spectators name their cards -- they have chosen the exact same card. When they turn over their cards, the spectators find their cards have become Aces. The performer removes the selected card from his pocket.
* Too Much a Miracle ~ Taking on the subject of comfort zones within performers, Smith gives an incredibly sweet piece of work that will push some performers far outside their comfort zones and into the face of some fun magic: A card is chosen then lost in the deck. Three cards are taken from the deck and shown to be the chosen card. One of the cards changes into another card, and is placed on the table. Three more cards are shown to be the same as the tabled card. The tabled card is then turned over and seen to have changed to the selected card; the three cards are turned over and seen to be the mates of the selected card.
Smith's effects are solid, strong pieces of magic. There are even one or two pieces of handling that are downright genius, and belong in any card worker's arsenal. All told, the essays Smith has put together, and the supplied evidence in the form of the effects, will make you think and crack your knuckles at the same time.
"Methodical" by Aaron Smith
In a Blink: 10 Out of 10
Material: Excellent (10)
The material is solid stuff. The essays are enough to give you pause and make you think, while the associated effects are strong and solid. Strictly card work, the material you'll find on these pages is a winner. While the material is not the hardest you're likely to face, be prepared to put in a bit of work, which you'll be repaid for in spades.
Quality: Excellent (10)
Smith's writing style is impressive, getting points across in an extremely clear manner during the explanation of the effects, but also maintaining a a clear, lucid style during the essays. Smith seems to be striving to grasp as many nuances as he can for the effects, and does so with an incredible amount of success.
Illustrations: Excellent (10)
The illustrations, drawn by Aaron Smith, are few, but are precisely placed. As a direct benefit of the writer also being the illustrator, Smith knows when words fail to convey a technique properly and is ably prepared to add an illustration to provide extra information.
Presentation: Excellent (10)
This is a difficult category to score Methodical on; while Smith has some clever presentations, ultimately entertaining and enjoyable, Smith gives you so much information in the essays to play with, thoughts to track down, that you'll find yourself changing presentations to suit you but relying on the essays to lead the way.
Originality: Excellent (10)
Smith has put forth some very original effects that serve as working explanations of time-honored, though little explored, performance concepts. The effects are purely Smith's, and are very nice, very selective pieces of work.