Billet Tears: An Objective Comparison

The magical community has long been plagued with overly subjective comparisons, claims that A is “better” than B, with little or no objective criteria used to support the arguments. Descriptions such as “easy”, “deceptive”, “fast”, etc. are subjective by nature, and — while they may be casually informative — cannot form a basis for rational comparison (“fast” is of dubious value for a billet tear in any case: scholars such as Bruce Bernstein have long maintained that the psychologically optimum moment for a peek is that following at least two open, unhurried tears, after any intense onlooker scrutiny has been appeased).

Even a goal like “able to be performed surrounded” is quite subjective, as it involves elements that are difficult to quantify (in the grid below, this aspect is addressed — albeit not fully determined — by criteria B, L, M, R, and S). Similarly with the notion of “natural in appearance” (addressed by the more objective criteria J, K, L, M, N, and O).

Given that a set of measurable criteria was compiled in the process of developing the R2-D2 billet tear, I thought that it might prove instructive to apply it to a variety (there is no attempt here to be exhaustive) of better-known “real-time” billet tears (i.e., those satisfying criterion A). This makes it possible to quickly identify tears that satisfy one or more criteria that might be of particular importance.

Hence the following table, which references all twenty criteria (A through T) cited above:

Baker Billet Tear (Baker)
Bernstein Center Tear (Bernstein)
Business Card Center Tear (Richardson)
The Dr’s Billet Tear (Cushman)
JaJa Center Tear (Jakutsch)
Off-Center Tear (Stride)
Perfected Center Tear (Osterlind)
R2-D2 (Dyment)
RZ Center Tear (Zaltsman)
Sentir Tear (Numen)
T-Rex (Pink)
Think Pink (Pink)
Underground Bottom Tear (Dean)
Zen Billet Tear (Busch)

It should be unsurprising that R2-D2 comes across so well in this showing: it was, after all, specifically created to satisfy the stated criteria. Consequently, it is useful to bear in mind that:

  1. not all of these benchmarks will necessarily be appropriate to individual situations (though I would argue that the more categories addressed, the more broadly applicable the tear), and
  2. it may well be possible to devise additional criteria, beyond those enumerated here (though for them to have any evaluative benefit, they must be relevant in purpose and — like all those used here — objective in format). I welcome such proposals.
Further, these criteria are not all of identical importance (and their relative merits can vary with both individual opinion and performing situation), so deciding between any two techniques is not necessarily a simple matter of adding up their check marks.

Any final determination of “best” will, by nature, include subjective elements, taking into account personal preferences and limitations. That said, excellence (both artistic and functional) arises from careful attention to small details, and — as objective criteria are the only basis for rational judgement — I expect that this reckoning will provide value to some.

… Doug Dyment