CategoryArts and Entertainment

Life Casting in Animatronics

The unique techniques of life casting have found favor in many other fields such as prototype tooling, prosthetics, taxidermy, architectural restoration and special effects for film and television. The advanced technology used in animatronics also incorporates life casting techniques in the initial stages of creating the characters.

Animatronics refers to making and using robotic devices to imitate a living being. The creatures could be humans, animals (like dinosaurs and sharks), plant life or even mythical creatures. Animatronics brings lifelike characteristics to the inanimate objects so that they can walk, talk and do other activities in a natural way. The movements could be mechanized or controlled by computers.

Animatronics is largely used in films (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, etc), television and advertizing. This differs from computer animation as the simulated creatures are actually physically present and moving in front of the camera. The characters in various amusement parks also wow visitors with the aid of animatronics.

Making the creatures

Animatronics uses puppets, models and other figures which are then animated to emulate lifelike movements. The character first takes shape as a sketch on paper and scale models are created for approval.

Once approved, an internal supporting frame is carefully built using steel or even wood at times. Once the desired shape is achieved, electronic and mechanical components are attached around the framework.

The figure is finally covered with body shells that give it the shape and look of a real creature. Flexible skin is attached to the exterior of the figure that completes the lifelike appearance.

The skin can be made of silicone, foam latex or urethane. First a mold is made by using alginate or clay. The mold should be in the exact shape and size of the animatronics figure. Molds can be made in parts to allow for more ease of use.

The body mold is reinforced using plaster bandages to form a shell mold. Once cured, it is carefully demolded and will have captured the minute details which will be replicated in the skin cast. An alginate mold should be used quickly as it tends to shrink. The silicone or latex is poured into the mold and allowed to cure. Once fully cured, the thin skin cast can be easily demolded as alginate does not stick to anything.

The cast will have a texture similar to that of real skin. It will be flexible as well to allow facial and body movements as required. The demolded skin is cleaned and finished before being carefully attached to the figure.

The animatronics figure gets the final finishing touches in the form of eyes, teeth, hair, feathers and other such realistic characteristics. The requisite color pigments may be added to the skin during casting itself. Else, special silicone/latex paints are used to color the figure as required.

Different World Views of Art

Art through the centuries acquired different forms and conceptions. First of all there was naturalism, then developed romanticism, and then there was impressionism, followed by cubism, which was followed by surrealism and finally trends moved on to postmodern art. Here I would like to provide my understanding on various schools of art.

Naturalism proceeded out of mimesis. The aim of art was to mimic nature. A classic example of mimetic art would Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Mona Lisa lives through the ages for its enigmatic style. Another example would be the Last Supper by Da Vinci. Art became permeated heavily with religious motifs. What has naturalism contributed to the world? An answer would be representation of a mimetic ethos. There is very little to interpret in naturalistic art but we can admire its imitation of nature. I would also like to take Michelangelo’s sculpture of David. What would a postmodern interpretation take? It would perhaps couch it as being gay.

Another style of art that developed during the 18th century was romanticism. What is romanticism? The poet Wordsworth defined romanticism as the spontaneous overflow of feelings. Romanticism captured feelings on to the canvas. The canvas became permeated in rich colors of the baroque. Romantic painting is fanciful and ornamental. When we think of romanticism in the postmodern age we encounter a catharsis with the past. Goya’s exhibit: Saturn devouring his son can be taken as a classic example. The grotesque Saturn is portrayed as an admirable beauty. Romantic painters are endowed with passionate neurosis. Feelings and emotions lie with us to contemplate in ravishment.

Another school of art which developed during the beginning of the 19th century was impressionism. The great masters of impressionism are Van Gogh, Monet, and Gauguin. Impressionism is a unique style of art. Impression is marked by a wide usage of brilliant colors. Strokes were left like scars on the canvas. Impressionism was marked by a tendency of art to become modern. Van Gogh was a brilliant artist who etched out paintings in a style that marked a departure from his predecessors. When we look at Van Gogh’s starry night, we get a passion that is akin to listening of music. Similarly Gauguin’s painting: ‘where do we come from and where do we go’, highlights mythical allegories in brilliant dashes of color.

Another school of art which developed during the beginning of the 20th century was Cubism. Its master exponent was Picasso. With the advent cubism art left its mimetic modes and became the sole creation of the artist. Cubism had a tendency to portray art in abstract terms. Picasso’s La Demoiselles D’ Avignon presented harlots. Their features especially their breasts, hips and asses were made incongruous with oedipal fantasies. Another notable creation of Picasso was the Guernica. Guernica is fantastic rendition of the horrors of bombing Basque, presented in abstract terms. When we look at Guernica we become fascinated to the point of disgust. Cubism highlighted that art can be repulsive.

The next school of art which developed by the middle of the 20th century was Surrealism. My most loved surrealistic artists are Dali and Paul Delvaux. Dali’s most famous painting is the ‘persistence of memory’. Surrealism following Freudian psychoanalysis attempted to portray art with a conglomeration of reality and fantasy. In the painting, persistence of memory, we find melting clocks hanging on trees and covered by an embryo. The tree can be symbolized as a phallic construct. The melting clocks portray time as flowing with the literature of streams of consciousness. The embryo can represent the artist’s oedipal trauma. Delvaux most famous painting is the call of the night. In the ‘call of the night’ a barren land is seen with skulls. There is a nude standing on the open with luscious vegetation growing on her head. There is also a nude whose head is covered standing outside a building with a candle on her head. Delvaux is trying to portray ancient fertility rites in modernistic terms. The painting can also be interpreted as a sexual awakening. Thus surrealism attempted to portray dream with reality.

Next I would like to focus on postmodern art. Postmodern art is contemporary and tends to be a rebellion against existing artistic norms. In postmodern art normal objects are presented in unusual terms. For an example: we can take Marcel Duchamp’s inverted urinal. Postmodern art is also famous for inventing pop-art, where cartoons, comic strips and consumer products were drawn as artistic representations. Another interesting example of postmodern art is Rodin’s thinker. The thinker can be interpreted in two ways. One in a way that a person has constipation, another as an intellectual poised in thought. Postmodern art freed art from all inhibitions and pre-existing conceptions.

Palazzo Pitti’s 7 Galleries – Largest of Florence’s 70+ Museums – Filled With Priceless Treasures

Palazzo Pitti (also called the ‘Pitti Palace’) is the largest museum complex in Florence, Italy. It houses a vast amount of priceless artwork that has been acquired over a period of hundreds of years.

The palazzo has not always been a museum. The original section of the building was constructed in 1458, as the home of a Florintine banker. In 1549 the Medicis purchased the palazzo, and, for a time, it was used by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany’s ruling families for their main residence. During this time, the palazzo was expanded, as later generations that used it acquired vast quantities of luxurious possessions. Subsequent to this, the palazzo was used for various purposes, and in 1919 it (with its contents) was donated to the people of Italy by King Victor Emmanuel III. It is now used exclusively as a museum.

It can be difficult to fully comprehend the importance of the museum and its art collection. Listed below are the palazzo’s galleries, with brief descriptions of the priceless treasures that they contain, to help in gaining a full appreciation of the museum.


This is the largest of the galleries, and contains more than 500 paintings, mostly by famous Renaissance artists. The gallery consists of 28 separate rooms, including the following:

— Apollo room, with paintings by 16th century artists Il Rosso (Madonna with Saints – which originally hung in the San Spirito church), and Titian (an English Nobleman’s portrait, and a Magdalen).

— Ark room, which has a work by 17th century artist, Giovan Caracciolo, and frescoes by 19th century artist Luigi Ademollo.

— Castagnoli room (named after Giuseppi Castagnoli, who painted the room’s ceiling frescoes), which contains both Medici family portraits and Lorraine family portraits, and a famous stone tablet in the stone-inlaid ‘Table of the Muses’.

— Iliad room, which contains two Madonna paintings by 16th century artist del Sarto: Madonna Passerini and the family Panciatichi Madonna, and works by 17th century artist Artemisia.

— Jupiter room, with paintings by 16th century artist Raphael, as well as works by del Sarto, Rubens, and Perugin.

— Justice room, with ceiling frescoes done by 18th-19th century artist Antonio Fedi, and portraits by 16th century artists Paolo Veronese, Titian, and Tintoretto.

— Mars room, with paintings by Rubens, including his Four Philosophers (where Rubens, himself, is portrayed), and his Consequences of War allegories (after which the room was named). Pietro da Cortons’s fresco the Medici Triumph is painted on the room’s vault.

— Poccetti hall (named after Bernardino Poccetti, who was originally thought to have painted the vault frescoes – it is now thought that they were done by Matteo Rosseooi), which has works of Pontormo and Rubens.

— Prometheus room (named after frescoes that were done by 19th century artist Giuseppe Collognon), which has a number of round paintings, including 15th century artist Filippino Luppi’s Madonna with Child, two Botticelli’s portraits, and paintings done by Domenico Beccafumi and Pontormo.

— Psyche room (named after its ceiling frescoes which were done by Giuseppe Collignon), which contains a number of paintings done by 17th century artist Salvator Rose.

— Saturn room, with paintings by 16th century artists Raphael (Madonna of the chair, and Agnolo Doni and Cardinal Inghirami portraits), a del Sarto Annunciation, and Fra Battolomeo’s Jesus with the Evangelists.

— Ulysses room (frescoed by 19th century artist Gaspare Martellini), which has early paintings by Raphael and Fillippino Lippi.

— Venus room, which has a painting (commissioned by Napoleon) by 19th century artist Canova (the Venere Italica), landscapes by 17th century artist Salvator Rosea, and four works by 16th century artist Titian (including La Bella, and Pope Julius II’s portrait).

— White hall (originally the palazzo’s ball room, with mainly white decorations), which is where temporary exhibitions are sometimes held.


The royal apartments have 14 rooms that were formerly used as living quarters for the Medicis and their successors. They now house portraits of Medici family members, many done by Giusto Sustermans. Most of the original furnishings in the apartments have been replaced, but a few of the original pieces are still left.


The collection of paintings in this gallery includes 18th century to 20th century works, and takes up more than 30 rooms. The paintings include works from 19th and 20th century Italian movements. The most notable of these was a 19th century Macchiaioli movement of Tuscan impressionist painters.


This is also known as “The Medici Treasury”. It includes works in cameos, silver, semi-precious gemstones, and ancient vases. The collection also includes fine German gold items and silver items. The rooms also have magnificent 17th century frescoes.


This museum is in a building within the Boboli Gardens, which is located behind the museum. The artifacts in the museum are from some of Europe’s finest porcelain factories.


This gallery takes up 13 rooms, and is the sole Italian museum dealing with Italian fashion history. It has theatrical costumes and other types of clothing dating from, respectively, the 16th and 18th centuries, and costume jewelry from the mid-20th century.


This museum has 18th-19th century carriages and additional means of conveyance used by dignitaries of the time.

Tips To Use A Chalk Marker

Have you heard about chalk markers? You may have because they have been increasing in popularity in the here and now. As a matter of fact, they are so popular and useful that they are being used at home, events, restaurants, schools and parties, just to name a few places. There is no doubt that chalk markers are poplar but there are still a lot of people who have no idea how to use them properly. If you want to know how to use them, we suggest that you follow the tips given below.

How To Activate

Before you go ahead and use the marker, the first thing that you need to do is shake the marker, pump and then start drawing. It’s as easy as you have read. Follow the steps given below to get it done.

1. Your first step is to hold the chalk marker diagonally. You don’t need to remove the cap. Instead, you should leave the cap on and then start shaking the marker.

2. Next, you should choose a flat surface, press the chalk tip on it lightly and then release it. Don’t press it more than a second. You may want to keep repeating this step until the tip of the chalk is filled up with the ink. Typically, it may take between 20 and 40 pumps. Just be careful not to damage the tip of the marker.

3. Once you can see the ink in the tip, you should choose a surface and then start drawing.

Tips To Draw The Right Way

· When pumping, you may want be careful not to put too much pressure on the marker tip. If too much pressure is applied, the tip may get deformed. As a result, you may have to buy another chalk marker.

· After use, you may want to store the pen in upright position with the cap on.

· Don’t forget to check the cap to make sure it is tight.

· Before drawing, make sure that the writing surface is clean.

· When erasing, we suggest that you make use of a damp and clean piece of clothing.

· Remember: the ink will take a while to dry.

· You need to keep in mind that chalk markers work on surfaces that are non-porous like slate chalkboards, porcelain chalkboards, metal and glass, just to name a few.

· Also, you should know that some chalkboards don’t work with chalk markers, such as MDF boards that are chalk-painted.

· Before you use the markers on a whole surface, you may want to carry out a spot test, which will help you find out if the surface is suitable for the chalk marker.

How Do You Remove Chalk Marker?

If you need to remove the chalk marker, follow the tips given below.

You can try out a Magic Eraser for cleaning the target surface. As a matter of fact, these removers work great but you should test it first.

Baby wipe is another good alternative.

Another good solution is an ammonia-based solution. They also work great.

So, you may want to use these tips if you want to use a chalk marker.

Letting It Go

Carlos telephoned me because he wanted to hear from his father, Gustavo, who’d died several years ago. At the beginning of our session, he told me he’d dreamed of his father, who appeared as a phantom-like figure on the edge of his unconscious awareness. Gustavo had spoken to him, but his voice had sounded blurred, like he was speaking underwater. And that made no sense to Carlos, because his father hadn’t drowned.

I centred myself and asked my guides to bring me Carlos’ father. After a bit of uncomfortable stillness, I felt a male energy, but the spirit seemed like he was in the far corner of my reading room. Was this Gustavo? Why was he being so difficult?

“Let me tell you what I’m getting,” I said, concentrating on the ephemeral presence nearby. “The spirit is male. A heavy-set fellow with big hands. And now he’s pointing to his head. There’s a pain in his head.”

Carlos hissed, “Yes.” Then he took a breath and said, “Go on.”

The spirit drew closer to me and I felt compelled to stand up. I said with an edge in my voice, “Let it go.” That surprised me, giving such a sharp command to my client. “That’s how your father would speak, right?”

“Yes. When he was angry about something.”

“Well, your father isn’t angry. He’s-“

A searing pain stabbed my left temple. My eyes squeezed shut and I gritted my teeth. If this isn’t mine, I thought, take it away. The pain vanished. And then I knew what had happened.

“Your father was shot in the head,” I said slowly.

“Yes,” he growled

“Your father says, ‘Let it go.'”

“I can’t.”

“Let it go,” I said emphatically, speaking with Gustavo’s energy. “You’ll only get in trouble. It’s over. Gustavo says it’s over. That’s why he hasn’t come to you. He doesn’t want you to follow him. Let it go.”

Carlos didn’t speak. In my mind, I saw him standing on a dark street corner, his hand in his pocket gripping a weapon made of cold steel, waiting impatiently for someone to walk by so he could take the next step in a drama of vengeance that would seal his own fate.

“Your father says, ‘Promise me. You promise me. You won’t do anything about it.'”

A minute ticked by. It felt like an hour. I wanted Gustavo to say something more to calm his son, but his energy had melted away. I begged anyone else in the spirit world to come forward and talk Carlos out of making a terrible mistake, but the room stayed silent and cold.

Then he said, “Yes, I promise.”

I sensed Carlos’ energy settle. Searching for something to say, I asked him, “Are you all right?”

“Fine.” He sighed as if he was carrying a great weight on his back. “I just need to think.” Then he thanked me for the session and hung up.

I prayed for his guides to help him ease that weight, and give him the inner strength to keep the promise he made to his father. As the days went by, and I nervously scanned the newspapers for word of a story that I knew would break my heart, I came to realize the lesson Carlos taught me: There are some things in life we can’t control, and if we push too hard to exert our will, it ends up controlling us.

Carolyn Molnar is a Toronto based Psychic Medium and Spiritual Teacher. She has over 30 years’ experience. She provides readings and also teaches others how to tap into their intuitive abilities.

Her book, ‘It Is Time: Knowledge From The Other Side’, has made a real impact in how people understand intuition. She has been featured on radio, television and in print. Carolyn believes intuition is accessible to everyone.

Funding Opportunities for Artists

With limited methods for the accurate tracking of individuals with arts as their primary income source, estimated figures of total US working artists (from literary to performing, cultural and visual) are around 1.4 million.

It’s often very difficult for working artists to conveniently finance the creation, exhibition, and marketing of their arts thanks to their relatively low earnings. This makes them almost always in need of financial support for art materials, fabrication costs, travel, studio space, exhibition, marketing, and other expenses.

Although most foundations generally provide grants to nonprofit organizations only, artists are the exception to this rule as fellowships and grants are a very popular source of their funding amongst others cited below;

Fellowships and Grants

Often provided by private foundations and a few art agencies (publicly funded), the funds can take care of fees and other expenditures giving the artist freedom to worry only about creativity. Grants are generally competitive and provide assistance of different terms such as the awarded amount, procedures for application, stipulations etc. Some are much more restricted than others with eligibility and openness varying from nomination and application, to need or being awarded as a for a particular competition.

Artist Residencies

This funding opportunity for artists usually requires displacement from normal obligations and environment to benefit from studio space, housing, living stipends, and travel often provided in Residencies.

Fiscal Sponsorship

Contracting with a non-profit for fiscal sponsorship when having projects related to their mission can provide a valuable funding opportunity for artists. This fiscal sponsorship relationship implies the artist makes use of the tax exempt status of the sponsor to solicit for charitable contributions which are tax-deductible.

Free or Discounted Services

Certain organizations and agencies are dedicated to making health care, tax and legal services particularly available to cash-strapped artists facing hard times. Some of these services are provided at discounts with others being totally free.

Even with the existence of numerous funding opportunities for artists such as cash grants, internships, employment and residencies, understanding eligibility issues and qualification requirements is very important and should be given enough attention. Poor proposals account for many artists being overlooked for funding. So, amongst the important activities like research for valuable information, hiring the services of a qualified grant writer will definitely have great enhancement effects on the chances of an artist to be selected for funding because his/her proposals are prepared with professional experience.

Although eligibility is by nomination only, the MacArthur Fellowship and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant are amongst the most valuable and prestigious awards to support artists. With a wide range of different requirements for eligibility, examples of leading artist grant opportunities available for open application include;

The Awesome Foundation for the Arts and Sciences

For: Awesome projects

Time: Awarded monthly. Applications are rolling

Value: $1,000

This Foundation is a group of small philanthropists awarding monthly micro-grants of $1,000 to individuals who have awesome ideas. The grant for every chapter is donated by 10 trustees, $100 each for scientific, artistic and/or social projects. Previous “awesome” beneficiaries include a phone book farm in Ottawa, a pipe organ (portable), and a Boston giant hammock. There are no eligibility restrictions for this awesome grant.

Brooklyn Arts Council Grants

For: Enthusiasts in G train

Time: Late summer, annually

Value: Average between $1,700 and $2,100

This grant is open to artists based in Brooklyn. It rewards projects with public component funding. It covers dance and theater productions, gallery exhibitions, musical concerts, films, workshops, installation of public arts, screenings and curatorial projects. With about 30 – 40 % of applicants usually benefiting from at least some funding, chances of getting assistance upon application are very high. Eligibility requires artists with proof of residence in Brooklyn.

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation

For: Painters, drawers, printmakers, and sculptors

Time: No deadlines

Value: Depending on the circumstances particular to the artist ($5,000 – $20,000)

This foundation, started by Jackson Pollock’s widow, Lee Krasner, who is also an Abstract Expressionist painter awards grants at all times within the year to artists. Applicants are required to be of financial need while possessing and demonstrating peculiar artistic talent with their recent works in galleries, museums and/or exhibition spaces. Examples of Individuals of note who have received this grant include Zoe Leonard, Jane Benson, Valerie Hegarty, Thornton Willis, Alyson Shotz.

New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship

For: New York based writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians

Time: annually

Value: $7,000

With ever changing categories and mediums every year, this grant is the Holy Grail for New York based artists. Artists from a wide range of disciplines receive cash awards through the NYFA fellowship without restrictions on how they will be used. Five categories are open for applications each year. Examples of notable grantees include; Zhou Long, Jennifer Egan, Doug Aitken, Barbara Kruger, Todd Haynes, Junot Diaz; Spike Lee, Marilyn Minter, Christian Marclay.

There exist many other accessible national and international grants, fellowships and other funding opportunities for artists which are general or speak to particular groups like disciplines, location, race, sex, religious belief, ethnicity, political background etc. Finding the ideal one only requires proper research and application or follow up.

Hosting an Event

Many people go to all of the events that are held here at the University of West Florida but they don’t understand the hard work that goes into planning and hosting an event on campus. This requires a great deal of work and you have make sure that your vision is understood, so that your plan can be executed perfectly by your team and the organization that is assisting you. There are many steps that you must follow in order for your event to be successful and this rubric will help you insure this.

Create a team: Make a team of individuals with the same mindset and goal as you, and who are willing to be creative and innovative.

Set a Date: You and your team that you have constructed must come up with a date that is convenient for majority of those involved and the students. This is very important because the students have exams to study for and there are many students that are involved in other organizations and sororities, so you have to insure the date is one that will fit majority of the student’s schedule.

Appointment: First impressions are everything for many people and the idea that you have for an event on a University Campus may be great but you must get the approval of management. In order to reserve a spot on the campus of the University of West Florida you have to present your idea to the building managers of the University commons. The managers will decide whether they will approve your event or not, so you have to prove that your event follows the standards of the University and won’t cause any disturbance.

Location: The location is something that very few people may think about but in many cases this could be the single most important thing because if the location of the event is attractable for those that were invited as well as those that weren’t that’s a bonus. When trying to choose a location, you must consider the amount of people that will be able to view the event and attend.

Promotion: Marketing the event is very imperative you and the team that you have created must decide how you will promote the event. With the emergence of social media makes promotion much easier but the traditional method of passing out flyers is very useful because it gives individuals something physical that may cause them to attend the event because it’s convenient for them at that time. Nobody wants to host an event that doesn’t have anyone show up, so out of all the steps this may take the most work but it will pay off for you in the end.

Music: The music is something that isn’t a necessity but it is another way to attract students and will keep the spirits of the participants up. You must ensure that the music is generic and is suitable for all audiences.

Activities: You and your team have to think of activities that will keep the participants occupied and interested while the event is going on. There are many contest that can occupy the participants but choosing an activity that everyone is familiar with would be the best option which should make the participants enjoy themselves while at the event.

Food: Make sure you have food that most are familiar with. The university is filled with diversity which you must always remember.

Time: Choose a time that is convenient for most students.

Types of Weave

When we are talking about weaves we aren’t talking about those that you can have in your hair, but rather those that make up the clothes that you are wearing, the sheets that you sleep on, and the towels hanging in your bathroom. All textiles are made by weaving threads whether they be cotton, flax, acrylic or a selection of many other types, together in a certain way. The main weaves are plain, twill and satin:

The plain weave is also called the tabby, linen or taffeta and it is one of the strongest you can get. It is achieved when the warp and weft threads are aligned to form a criss-cross pattern like a checkerboard, only on a much smaller scale. The balanced plain weave uses threads of the same weight to achieve an overall pattern that is straight and strong, which is why it is used in so many pieces of clothing today. Percale, organza and taffeta are all examples of fabrics that are made this way.

Twill makes a pattern of diagonal parallel ribs when it is being weaved. It occurs when the weft is passed over one of more of the warp threads then under two or more of the warp threads. Twill drapes well so it is no surprise it too is used in a variety of clothing and home accessory applications. If you look at a twill pattern you will see what looks like a series of steps and this diagonal pattern is also called wale. Twill comes in all sorts of sub categories like herringbone, hounds-tooth, serge, sharkskin and flannel. That favourite pair of jeans in your closet? They are a prime example of this type of textile.

Satin weave is that which shows a glossy front and a dull back. It is made when four or more weft yarns are allowed to float over the warp. We have all seen this type of weaving as it exists in items like evening gowns, satin sheets, lingerie, baseball jackets and the like, it’s that smooth, glossy fabric that is very thin, and very cool against the skin.

As you can see, textile production varies depending on what material they are making, but it all starts with the raw materials and ends up something that we all use on a daily basis. As with most things, textile production isn’t something most of us even think about, though they are with us all the time.

It’s a Secret

I’ve been a reader for a long time. I read with the expectation of entertainment or enlightenment. I’ve been a writer for much less time, but readily acknowledge the monumental burden of these objectives.

Correspondingly, there are two kinds of writers. The first may be called responsible. These writers make primary the needs and desires of their readers. They use an outline and write with an organized plan. The second may be called cathartic. They write to cast off whatever is inside. They do not jockey their words to achieve a more advantageous position, they just run with them. They spit out their thoughts like tobacco out of a ranch hand-sometimes they get lucky and hit the spittoon. They tell their stories as they happened, just as I do now.

Life is filled with pivotal moments, and I can clearly recall one that occurred at the onset of my fourteenth year of life. Inadvertently and innocently, I saw something I wasn’t supposed to see; I witnessed something not meant for me to witness. But no one can un-see the seen. Oh, how many times I wished I could!

It was the middle of summer, my freshman year of high school was bobbing in and out in the water just a short distance away, and I was filled with both anxiety and anticipation. My best friend Cara Hale and I were spending the weekend at her lake house over the 4th of July. Her parents, whom I’d grown to love, were hosting a BBQ bash with music, fireworks, and all things patriotic. It was an adult party, so we were relegated to the upstairs which contained a TV room, small kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. We were armed with movies and nail polish and looked forward to “doing our thing” while the adults partied below. Cara even suggested we sneak downstairs and “share” a smuggled bottle of beer, our first.

It was pretty easy-peasy as all the adults were outside, sprawled across the lakefront, watching the occasional fireworks shooting their rainbow of colors over the water. We placed the abducted bottles in the mini-fridge upstairs and went outside to join the adults for the show and for me to say goodnight and goodbye to my parents and my Uncle Joe, who was Cara’s dad’s friend since college.

As the party dispersed and the noise below subsided with each crunching of the gravel drive, we locked the bedroom door, dimmed the lights, and opened our illegal booty. I realized after the first two sips that I would only continue long enough to appear to be sharing in the experience, and that became easier to do with Cara guzzling down her bottle and then “sharing” most of mine.

Fast forward, past the giggling and gossiping, and an hour or so later I found myself next to a snoring Cara while I lay awake wondering what high school boys would be like and how I’d wear my hair on that first day. I was so wide awake, in fact, that I decided to move out to the sitting area and start reading “The Odyssey.” I knew it would be assigned in freshman English, and I wanted to get a jump on it in order to make a good first impression.

After turning on the small table lamp, I saw the beer bottles standing accusingly as evidence of what we had done. We had never thought about how we’d dispose of them without getting caught, we’d only thought about how to acquire them without getting caught. I knew if Ms. H. saw them in the upstairs trash, Cara would be in deep. She had church-going, very strict parents (despite their own tendency to party). My life was a little more flexible.

I decided to take the bottles downstairs right then and there, while the house was asleep, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it the morning, especially since I wasn’t sure when (and in what condition) Cara might awaken. I gently opened the upstairs door and, almost without breathing, I slowly and quietly began my descent, one stair at a time. Halfway down, where the staircase turned towards the living room, I froze. It was the sound that first caught my attention; had it come from me? Then I saw them. The unmistakable face of Mrs. H. on the couch underneath the unmistakable melon colored polo shirt now pushed up to the shoulders of my Uncle Joe. The same broad tan shoulders that carried me on one too many long hikes with my outdoorsy family. Those iconic shoulders that would from now until forever be tainted with the vision of Mrs. H.’s bright red nails digging into them.

Lord, please erase this vision from my memory, I thought, as I remained wide-eyed and standing rigidly just long enough for the reality of what I was watching to settle upon me. Then, with trembling legs and a pounding heart, engulfed in confusion, I quietly back-stepped my way up the staircase, closing the door behind me-two beer bottles still in my grasp. I grabbed my jeans which were strewn on the floor, rolled a bottle into each leg, bunched them up, and shoved them into the bottom of my duffle. I crept into the large bed aside a semi-conscious Cara and attempted not to watch the vision that played mercilessly on the insides of my tightly closed eyelids.

What’s a freshly crowned fourteen-year-old supposed to do with a secret like that? Tell Cara, potentially devastating her family? Tell my father that his brother-in-law (and law partner) cheated on his own sister? Blackmailing the guilty parties wasn’t even a concept, and I knew enough about the school gossip network that if I told any one of my other friends, it would no longer be a secret. I was suddenly carrying around a burden that was thrust upon me, and I believe that to be the moment I began to slump somewhat at the shoulders.

I managed to survive the ordeal, feigning enough fatigue the next morning so as not to arouse suspicion, and made a quick exit. For reasons I cannot explain, instead of placing the empty bottles inside our household trash bag for next day pick up, I surreptitiously placed them into the recycling bin of the Baptist minister who lived across the street. There they sat, right on top of the plastic and cardboard, in plain view of the morning neighborhood dog-walkers. I often wonder what compelled me to do that. Was I attempting to shift any gossip that might ensue onto an innocent victim, or was it a passive-aggressive attempt to flip the bird at righteous adulthood? To this day, I’m still unsure.

Four years later, peering back over the horizon of my high-school years and looking forward to the college experience, I was filled with both anxiety and anticipation. I decided that in order to prepare for the next phase in my life, I needed to stand with my shoulders firm to the challenge. It was time to cast off this burden, to relieve myself of this involuntary and extremely heavy load. But in doing so, would I be putting it to rest or giving it immortality? Is my telling this story now responsible, cathartic, or both? That is my secret, not one I’ve been forced to carry, but one I have created of my own volition.

Use of Colorants in the Plastic Industry

Pigment orange, pigment blue, pigment green; you name it and you have an attractive piece of plastic ware with that colour tint in some store or the other. However, in today’s times the scope of pigments and dyes in plastics are not limited merely to lending hues and shades. They also make an impact on sustainability, processability and compliance.

The question often arises as to which among the two; dyes or pigments are best suited for use in the plastics industry. Dyes are used to shade or tint a resin and as such they have to be transparent, strong and exhibit good heat stability. However, dyes are compatible with only a few resins and therefore their use in quite limited in this industry. Pigments on the other hand provide more options to the manufacturer due to their wider chrome range, pacifying ability and better heat stability for a large number of resins.

The base polymer actually decides the kind of colorant that will be most suitable for the application. Pigments work best with polyolefins while dyes give good results with polystyrene, poly carbonate and acrylic. All said and done, the basic determining factor for choice of colorant is its compatibility with the base resin. There are a few other factors that have to be kept in mind as well such as the method of dispersion, processing temperature, heat stability, gloss, weather fastness, application etc. A slight error in making the choice can drastically change the features of the plastic and therefore, a good selection of the colorant assumes great importance.

Today, there is more emphasis placed on using pigments that are less toxic and cause minimum harm to the environment. Millions of dollars are spent on research by several organisations in developing such pigments. Their efforts have not gone in vain and one of them has been successful in replacing lead based materials in pigments. Lead chromate pigments were banned from use in consumer plastics and in its place, organic yellow pigments have been developed which have better tint strengths in PVC and polyethylene. Another new development is with respect to pigment blue. The name of the new pigment is YInMn blue which stands for its chemical content namely yttrium, manganese, indium and oxygen. This pigment is also superior to the traditional cobalt blue pigments and has high reflectivity and high ultraviolet absorbance in the near-infrared area.

Colorants contribute to a number of performance aspects in plastics; however, lending colour will always remain their major contribution. When one sees the attractive world of colourful plastic ware one realises the important contribution made by colorants to this industry. At the same time, every individual connected with using and developing colorants for this industry has to try and make a difference to the colouring technology whereby Mother Earth is not harmed in any way whatsoever!

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