Tardiness. I am ashamed.
I started writing a review of Ponderings *ages* ago. But I kept having to go away and do other things, so it was only just now that I got round to finishing it. When I checked for reviews before posting, I saw that in the mean time the one in this thread had been put up.
I've rubbed my chin, and decided to post mine, below, anyway. It may be in review form, but it's still really just my comments on Ponderings, in the Ponderings thread, which is what threads are for, right? Plus, it's not entirely redundant, as I'm not simply saying exactly the same as Cardza. So, though I'm not exactly taking a fiercely opposing position ("Ponderings is terrible! Kill Waters."), it's not an absolutely identical one either.
The site blurb she say:
“This 50 page PDF ebook contains six effects and two essays. Ponderings includes: new methods of suggestion with cards, a routine based upon interpretive psychology, an effect with a dollar bill and even an easy, but effective, "con?" demonstration. I am confident that you will thoroughly enjoy the effects, but the astute reader will discover the real value between the lines. Most can be performed close-up or stand-up, one routine is primarily a "theatrical piece" (but could be applied to close-up). These routines demonstrate a philosophy of performing mental effects. There is also a thought-provoking essay on the use of "pure" techniques and why we should attempt them.
Red-Handed - The most direct suggestive card force in print
Washington DeCeived - A memory effect takes a left turn at Uri's place
HTP - A design duplication with a difference
K?nt - Completely mental presentation for the K.E.N.T. method
The PC Principle - An effective use of embedded commands and an essay
Double Malt - Don't knock it - till you try it
Why Try? - An essay regarding one benefit of using "pure" methodology
Avalon - A coincidence imagined (complete with conversational hypnosis)”
OK, so here are my thoughts.
Sean Waters’s Ponderings is, in his own – accurate - words ‘A collection of mental ideas’. Though there are example scripts for routines with many of these, it’s not a book of ‘mentalist packet tricks’ but more mostly a selection of (psychological - that is, non-physical) utilities and enhancements. If you’d be so trusting as to step onto this small trolley, I will wheel you around them.
A method of psychologically forcing a thought of card (that is, a card from an imaginary pack, rather than a psycho force of a physical card). It’s actually part force, part, um, statistical likelihood increased further by a verbal subtlety. If you have The Devil’s Picture Book then you’ll be familiar with a good part of the method for a large proportion of this. I mention that to lay down here – and here only; please assume it for the remainder of the review – that Waters draws on/tinkers with/combines/co-opts the methods of many of the greats. He does not hide this fact – on the contrary, he spotlights the originators of this idea or that method – and he does so, it seems, with the knowledge and permission of those people. So, in Ponderings you’ll find not only the products of Waters’s mind but also those of the minds of, for example, Kenton Knepper, Richard Osterlind and Lewis Jones. Which is really rather spiffing. (Actually, I’m not absolutely sure if the major method in Red Handed is something Waters devised independently of Brown; in this one case it’s slightly unclear, but he certainly cites Brown and TDPB elsewhere in the e-Book.)
Anyway, Red Handed is a method you’d be happy to have filed away in your brain to be used at your discretion. You can’t force any card, and you won’t always hit (though Waters gives an out to increase your chances, plus a helpful suggestion for how to deal with ‘misses’). By simple extension, and sensible thought, it could be used to force one of two choices not remotely related to cards too – which increases its value no end.
A part memory, part (sort of) remote vision, or (certainly) mind-reading effect using a bank note. This might be rather good, or it might be a little obvious (though it would never be ‘blatantly obvious’). My guess is that it depends on the audience, and your performance. However, I can’t test it out as, sadly, it relies on a quirk of US currency. It’s perhaps telling, however, that it makes me wish that UK currency had this quirk.
A way of framing ‘readings’, and a picture duplication effect. (HTP, by the way, is this: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O87-Ho ... nique.html
) This is a nice means of roping in a (ropey, IMHO, but genuinely-used nonetheless) real psychological technique to give logic to an effect. Waters provides a brief description of the method he would use for the ‘trick’ part of it, but it’s mostly about the performance – about using the context you’ve set. He nicely provides a short list of actual HTP interpretations too, which is a sweet little palette of psycho-babble to paint with.
Ooooo – this is delicious. Again a psycho force method. It’s to push a spec to choose one of two options (not from a selection – just this... or that), that can be used for many, many kinds of things. He shows how the principle can be used to steer someone towards three example choices, but anyone with a synapse will be able to use it to force a wide range of things; just typing this sentence, in fact, I thought of how it could be used to elbow the spec to pick a photo of one person over a photo of another. This is one of those things where one problem of using it will be stopping yourself grinning and shouting, ‘Ha!’ after you’ve controlled the spec with it.
It’s KENT - http://www.talkmagic.co.uk/ftopic22816-0-0-asc-.php
– but without cards. YOU WILL NEED TO OWN KENT TO DO THIS: HE DOESN’T REVEAL THAT TRICK’S METHOD. I ‘like’ KENT, but I have two problems with it: one is the fudge about the suit, the other – far more serious – is that it’s not guaranteed. In the KENT booklet it blithely suggests a little over 90% success rate. Well, first off (you’ll know what I mean if you own KENT) I up the cards from five to seven for a start, to improve my odds. Even so, you’ll still fail with alarming frequency – if, say, once in every twenty times I do a trick it’ll fail, that’s 5% too often, thanks; *especially* a trick you have to invest with so much acting and theatre. Throughout the KENT manuscript it’s mentioned that Knepper has Killer as a backup. If you have that, fine. If not, I like its thinking, and I keep it in store in case my back’s against the wall and it gives me a good chance instead of nothing but running away and hiding in the toilets, but, generally: no.
K?NT has the spec imagine the cards instead of using a real pack. This makes it a slightly different effect – useable in different circumstances and with, if you fancy, a very different feel. Very pleasingly, though, Waters logically and smoothly sweeps the suit issue out of the picture from the off, and it’s also (I’m going to declare without collecting any data) far, far more reliable. Why? Because people – especially nudged (and Waters furnishes the simple nudge) – are much more predictable than cards. The method for K?ENT isn’t startling. Don’t expect your brain to firework with astonishment: if you own KENT, and you were told that you had to come up with a cardless KENT to win a year’s supply of cheese, then you’d come up with something very like this. Waters, however, lays it in your lap, and laces it with useful suggestions and hints culled from his experience of doing it.
KENT is something I don’t do voluntarily. K?NT is something I will.
A magic effect framed in a scam-themed script. You need a couple of (common, ish) gimmicks for this. It’s basically a (two) transpo effect. Waters uses the scam theme to give it more theatrical substance, which it surely does. It’s the most standardly ‘magic’ effect in the e-Book, though. Possibly (Waters intimates this), it’s one of those things that, as a magician, one reads and goes, ‘Meh,’ but that actually plays big to lay people.
Not an effect, but a short op piece on why one should, in Waters’s view, do effects that aren’t one hundred per cent sure of success when there are plenty that are.
This is really nice. This is *really* nice. You know when reviewers caw, “This effect alone is worth the price of the book/DVD!” Well, this one, demonstrably, is worth at least half the price of it: because that’s how much it costs (at least) to buy the manuscript of the principle on which it’s based. But, more than that, it’s a rather delightful thing (that could easily be a delightfully spooky thing too, I must add) that’s qualitatively different from its, erm... mother ship. It’s basically a prediction – or coincidence – effect set around a spec imagining his or herself choosing to stay in a particular room on a particular floor of a hotel. It uses imaginary cards to illustrate the choice. I grimaced a little at the method for getting the colour, I have to say, but once you’ve whisked pass that the subtlety for the suit is sweet, and the actual number/card will baffle/stun/scare the spec into the ground. It’s streamlined its parent method too, which makes things even better, and the script means everything is supremely logical.
(I’ll add that, personally, I’d limit the rooms to twelve rather than thirteen per floor. I’d do this for one hundred per cent safety, and can’t see it being a problem as you’re merely using cards ‘to represent’ a hotel; not in any way doing a card trick where the pack is ‘like a hotel’. Also you could easily, casually dismiss the ace as being the ground floor – or the ‘first floor’, as Americans call it – and hotels don’t have rooms on the ground floor; it’s just the lobby, reception, restaurant, etc.)
So, what does that add up to overall for Ponderings. I feel it adds up to 8/10. Why the two marks docked? Well, it’s because I can’t shake the feeling that $35 – about £15 in proper money - is steep for an e-Book. You might say, “You wrong-headed Nazi, Sexton. It’s the *content* that matters, not the delivery method. *And* - you wearying buffoon – ten quid is pretty much the minimum cost of even a single trick most places. Any less that £15 and he might as well pay for the taxi out of his own pocket so he can come to your house and scream the words into your parsimonious face.” Well, I take your point, I really do (esp. as we all know places on the Net charging you far more than that for one trick - and often a seventy-year-old, known to anyone who’s bothered to read a book or two, trick as well). But you still can’t deny that a physical book is a more pleasing entity. The problem is something like Lewis Jones’s Seventh Heaven. It’s twice as much, yes, but it’s 108 effects over 377 pages all contained – this is the thing – in a lovely, lovely hardback book. I can’t look at it sitting across the room and *not* dock two points for a 50-page e-Book, really.
Overall then, a good collection of thises and thats from what seems to be a thoroughly agreeable gentlemen; it’s just the price that... here it comes! here it comes! ...gives me... steady now! ...gives me cause to ponder.