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Matthew Putman: Press/Reviews

The quintet at the “Gowanus” date just fit, miraculously, as if it were a suit which needed no altering. This is not to say that what we did was perfect, as that kind of judgment is impossible to make, and if I were to take a shot at making it, I would say that we were far from perfect. It was just that somehow, we communicated with the music, before we even had a chance to know each other, or use words, which might be the reason it felt so good. We were telling each other’s stories of sound with each of us creating the plot and characters together. We were weaving our collective histories into a mosaic of expression that neither diminished, nor exalted the individual. A lyrical and percussive give and take, that rises, rather than descends into a calamity of shouts with an infinite variety of flavors, became a long conversation of struggle, discovery and invention. As a scientist, often skeptical of such thing, I found that a number of principles which I had either experienced, in the lab , my thoughts or in literature suddenly lodged in my cortex, long after the emotional peptides of the moment had dissipated throughout my veins. That memory sustains a hope, of long and short phrases, in darkened studios and recesses of the mind.
This is in reference to a microscope patent
"In his one-man show, Pierre-Marc Diennet plays, with real skill, both himself and his mother, a funny, brilliant feminist and activist named Perdita Huston, who committed suicide in 2001 to avoid a prolonged battle with cancer. Diennet not only inspires the audience with stories of how his mother helped women in war-torn countries, he also portrays his own fascinating relationship with her: though they travelled the world together from the time he was a baby (he was born in Algeria during the war there), she often abandoned him. Whatever Perdita may have done, she seems to have passed her best qualities on to her son; he’s funny, gifted, generous, full of dignity, and, above all, brave."
Review of Perdita - The New Yorker (Dec 8, 2008)
"What is a son to do when his mother is an international hero? Well, in the case of Perdita Huston’s son, you become an accomplished playwright and an impressive actor. In his play PERDITA, Pierre-Marc Diennet has captured the courage, humor and even annoying habits of a mother who wasn’t always around. As a world-renown journalist and human rights activist for women in third world countries, Diennet was forced to share his mother and often fend for himself. Through mastery of a plethora of languages and dialects, he relays the fascinating and poignant story of a woman ahead of her time, a woman who fought for the oppressed and demanded change. All change comes at a cost, and the pride and sacrifices of a son are brilliantly interwoven in the story of PERDITA. This inspirational work is timely and should serve to remind us that behind every hero there are human beings sharing their loved ones and forgoing their personal needs. Diennet has created a candid tribute to his famous mother worthy of our attention."
“Sometimes leaving home can be a greater act of love,” says the title character of Perdita, “than staying.” An internationally recognized human rights activist, her complicated notions of familial responsibility are rendered still more complex by the knowledge that Perdita is written and performed by the title character’s son. Neither childish tirade nor sentimental portrait, Pierre-Marc Diennet’s moving new play tells the story of his mother’s remarkable life as seen (if not always witnessed) by her devoted son.
The smartly structured text consists of a series of scenes that jump between a loosely chronological history of Perdita’s life as an international activist, fighting injustice, and a present day that finds her back in the United States, fighting cancer. Nick Francone’s scenic design includes dates and locations, in the form of postmarks, projected against the set at the start of each scene. It’s a creative design choice that roots each scene in time and incorporates the theme of long distance connections so important to the story; oversized postcard fragments and foreign cityscapes form the production’s backdrop.
Under director Linsay Firman, the disparate scenes of Diennet’s carefully constructed script flow organically into one another. Avoiding the solo-performance convention of directly addressing the audience, Perdita contains only scenes of dialogue between characters. Playing himself, he is refreshingly free of irony and self-deprecation. He treats himself, as a character, with the same integrity and critical eye that he does with all of the characters he portrays. Particularly arresting is a scene of conflict between himself at 15 and his mother just before she leaves him in Geneva; the scene plays like a standard scene of a realistic family drama; not formally acknowledging Diennet’s personal connection to it is an effective choice. His ability to depict personal conflict onstage, and to play both sides of it without wrapping it into a neat conclusion, is in itself a gift to his mother.
While the mother-son drama forms the heart of the story, Diennet includes a host of other characters along the way, and masterfully portrays all of them. He shifts easily from role to role, granting each character extraordinary degrees of specificity. While a scene where he plays a distraught African woman praising Allah in the wake of her daughter's wartime death, comes perhaps a bit soon in the production -- other intense moments that occur later feel more appropriate -- he nonetheless depicts her, like all of his characters, as someone with a meaningful perspective. He's his mother’s son.
The care Diennet has taken with his mother’s story is itself a heartwarming gesture. That he does it so powerfully, and with such substance, makes it not just a gesture but a breathtaking piece of theater. In the second act of the production, Diennet has Perdita tell a Sri Lankan with whom she wants to study nursing in Africa that living the life you want to live is itself a way of loving your family; it’s not hard to imagine that the same is true of storytelling."
Review of "Definition of Insanity"
If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, a 38-year-old unknown still trying to succeed as an actor certainly qualifies. Fake documentary confounds autobiography and fiction as writer/director/actor Robert Margolis shepherds viewers through Gotham streets on his daily rounds, from audition to audition, from humiliation to humiliation. Margolis wears his heart on his frayed sleeve in his unwavering belief that he was born to act. Brilliant, audacious indie, a collaboration between Margolis and Swiss director Frank Matter, has snagged awards wherever it has played and deserves a theatrical shot.

As Margolis has a wife (Kelli Barnett) and young son to support, his infrequent thesping gigs and occasional employment as a dog-food telemarketer are supplemented by handouts from his parents. But mom and dad have decided to cut the umbilical purse strings. They, in concert with his increasingly frustrated wife, urge Robert to get a "real" job and pursue his acting career on the side.

Such betrayal of his full-time calling horrifies our hero who, at least in his own mind, is always on the verge of a breakthrough. Though it is tempting to see the hero as a self-delusional loser, that interpretation begs the question of whether the same is not true of anyone bucking the odds in quest of a dream. Indeed, in many ways, "Insanity" plays like a tragicomic, schlemiel-centered version of innumerable Hollywood sagas where last-minute success reads in hindsight as heroic destiny.

Certainly success in Margolis' and Matter's picture, like a will-o'-the-wisp, beckons at every turn, only to be painfully (and hilariously) snatched away. The play Robert has been in rehearsals for during informal run-throughs actually gets funding for an Off Broadway opening, but the playwright, who repeatedly assured Margolis that he was irreplaceable, peremptorily dumps him for a "name."

When a nervously hopeful, spruced-up Margolis shows up for a long-anticipated meeting with a bigshot theatrical agent (real-life player Bruce Levy), Levy's staff denies he has any such appointment. A screening of a low-budget picture that Margolis headlined in (an actual Matter-directed, Margolis-starring opus) draws an amazingly large crowd, except that 95% of them are there to see the Fellini film upstairs.

Meanwhile, a callow youth (Derek Johnson) whom Margolis has been mentoring and preparing for the hard road ahead, effortlessly lands the lead role in a sitcom.

At low ebb, Margolis accepts the P.I. job his parents have been pushing, hanging out on stakeouts with an experienced gumshoe and basking in the glory of his first collar: a lost cat.

But the Big Break, in the form of a small but juicy role in a Bogdanovich film, waits in the wings, setting up the ultimate cosmic rug-puller.

Margolis and Matter insinuate slight temporal shifts within the largely chronological storyline: Scenes from play rehearsals with a changing cast irregularly punctuate the narrative, and it becomes clear that the text is probably written by Margolis and that it bears more than a passing resemblance to events in his life.

When a nurse interrupts a scene to usher off a suddenly catatonic actor, the suggestion is made that insanity may be more than a metaphor for our beleaguered hero.

Matter's steady, hand-held DV camera, making the most of outdoor New York locations, effortlessly keeps the fiction of documentary alive without sacrificing composition or tonal control. The almost desperate closeup complicity that Margolis creates with the camera lends a ferocious ad lib immediacy to his running self-justifying commentary that is as endearing as it is delusional, making him a more benign, smarter Rupert Pupkin fated for documentable peculiarity instead of mass-media stardom.



Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Matter; music, Paula Atherton, Amy Fairchild; sound, Harmonic Ranch; associate producers, Marine and Matthew Putman. Reviewed on DVD, New York, June 9, 2005. (In Brooklyn Film Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.
Process analysers come of age: ten years ago Alpha Technologies introduced a new machine called the rubber processability analyser. It has taken a decade for competitors to arrive on the scene, but in the final months of 2003, five different companies introduced machines which do something very similar to the RPA.
Publication: European Rubber Journal
Publication Date: 01-JAN-04 Format: Online

Full Article Title: Process analysers come of age: ten years ago Alpha Technologies introduced a new machine called the rubber processability analyser. It has taken a decade for competitors to arrive on the scene, but in the final months of 2003, five different companies introduced machines which do something very similar to the RPA.(Processability testing)

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Full Article
Testing for processability has been one of the betes noirs of the rubber industry. Often, said Philip Prescott, owner and founder of Prescott Instruments, a company only discovers one of its compounds is off-specification, when technicians run a production batch into a moulding machine or and...

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...extruder, notice that it failed to flow as well as the reference compound.

The first resort is to check if all the ingredients went into the mixer. Next is to look at the rheometer curves of the incoming polymer. Too often, these and other tests fail to identify the problem, said Prescott.

Ten years ago, however, Alpha Technologies (then Monsanto) introduced the Rubber Processability Analyser (RPA). This was the first instrument capable of discriminating between an off-spec compound and the reference. The name "processability analyser" was used because, up to that time, the only way to tell if two compounds were the same, was to run them through the production process. Until 1993, most mixers and mills were more discriminating than the most precise tests available.

However, when Alpha introduced the RPA, the industry was uncertain of its value. While many are now convinced that a RPA, and similar machines, show why one compound processes differently from an apparently similar compound, there are still major concerns. These include matters such as the length of time each test can take, the level of skill and education required of the operator to properly interpret the results and, finally, over the cost of the instrument, according to competing suppliers.

Only when tyre companies started making tread compounds filled with silica did sales of these machines start to accelerate. Even then the machines went into the production environment, rather than the laboratory, as Alpha had expected from such expensive equipment.

Silica changed the relationship between hysteresis and frequency and, in doing so delivered better wet grip and lower rolling resistance. But the only instrument capable of measuring the change in hysteresis with frequency was the RPA, and so the tyre makers bought the instruments by the dozen to equip their production quality control.

The secret of the processability analyser is an advanced motor on the die, together with some better instrumentation and sophisticated software.

A processability analyser works in the same way as a simple moving die rheomoeter, but with a twist. An MDR rotates the lower half of a die back and forth, while measuring the forces on the upper half of the die. The forces are transmitted through the sample of rubber contained within the die: the visco-elastic properties of the rubber change the amplitude and phase angle of the transmitted forces and so the measurements are made over a variety of amplitudes and progressively as the sample is cured. Critically, however, in a standard MDR, the frequency of the oscillations is constant, though the amplitude can sometimes be varied.

The RPA introduces a seemingly simple modification--allowing the frequency of the oscillation to sweep through a wide range of values. This gives far more information about the viscous and elastic response of the material at different cure levels. And it is this information which permits the operator--or rather the software--to extract a lot of useful information about the material.

Unfortunately, early versions of the machine took a long time to perform each test, sweeping through a range of amplitudes and frequencies at each point on the cure curve. And this led to two issues. First, the length of time between tests, and, second, the amount of data generated.

For a machine running in a production environment, it is desirable to run one test in the time between a mixer being filled and the compound being dumped. Modern tyre factories often run on a three- to four-minute mix cycle but, with RPA tests lasting 12 minutes or more--and the machines costing over $100 000 apiece--something had to give.

As more suppliers have entered the market, users are being offered a range of solutions, varying from the high-technology, high-cost to much more 'cheap-and-cheerful' systems.

Matthew Putman, vice-president at Tech Pro Inc., told ERJ: "I did not want to sell a processability analyser until I knew we could sell it for the same price as an MDR." Tech Pro is selling a machine called the Rheotech MDTP for around $50 000. And, according to Putman, "I do not want to sell any more MDRs." The new machine offers the same level of discrimination as any of the other rubber processors on the market, he claimed. "There is nothing special about a processability analyser. It is just an MDR, plus. So if I can sell an MDR or an MDR-plus at the same price, I want to sell the MDR-plus," Putman said.

Explaining this approach, Putman said a number of customers had raised the issue of price during his research. "They said they liked the idea of an instrument that could discriminate between materials in this way, but they were concerned about the price," he said.

Speaking for Scarabaeus GmbH of Germany, Walter Nussbaum said something very similar: "The future rheometer instrument for the rubber industry is variable in strain and frequency at a price simlar to the conventional standard MDR instrument from yesterday." Nussbaum added, "The customers will decide which test method is the best one."

Scarabaeus has been selling such an instrument into the German and French markets for some months.

Another issue Putman identified is that rubber technicians want to see something they can recognise: something like a standard rheometer curve, rather than some entirely new presentation of the data. He said Tech Pro has worked hard to deliver a machine which is at the same price level as an MDR and is as easy to use as an MDR, but which can also deliver a better level of discrimination between compounds.

To achieve this, the company has pre-programmed a number of tests which can be carried out quickly--typically in four minutes or so--and which produce clear, identifiable results which a technician can interpret.

"The machine can be used to perform rigorous tests which require more interpretation," said Putman, "but we wanted to give people the option to use it as an MDR-plus, which delivers test results quickly and clearly."

The idea of pre-programming simplified tests is not new. Alpha sells a Production Processability Analyser (PPA), which does something similar. Alpha develops a test with the purchaser, and then sets the machine up to perform that test and present results according to customer specifications.

Beyond these customised tests, an ISO test committee is currently drafting some standards to define what tests these simplified machines should perform, and how they should be carried out.

Other suppliers have also tried to simplify the apparently overwhelming complexity of interpreting the results. Prescott instruments launch has its own version of a processability analyser this month. Philip Prescott said, "there is a trend toward using these machines in the production environment." He said Prescott has been working with Trelleborg's central mixing facility in Sweden to develop a standard MDR used next to a mill.

He said the objective was to have the machine perform a test in less time than the typical mixing cycle, and produce a pass/fail result very quickly. The idea is that the mixer operator will control the mill and the test machine with no other assistance, said Prescott. Instead of two or three people running back and forth between the test machine and the mill, a single person will operate the mill, perform the tests, and make production decisions based on the results of the tests.

The operator has to prepare a sample and insert it in the machine, then press one button and the machine does the rest, producing a result before the batch has finished on the mill.

Prescott said much of the work had been in formatting the results to make them compatible with Trelleborg's proprietary software. The first such cell started operating in summer 2003, and the results appear to be very good, he claimed. Prescott said he expects that the system will be introduced at many of Trelleborg's mixing facilities in the coming years, as part of the company's continuous improvement efforts.

Scarabaeus has adopted a similar approach, with high-level technical support for its customers. According to Nussbaum, the company offers a high-quality machine which can deliver a wide range of results, and Scarabaeus aims to work with customers to find a test which provide the right level of discrimination between compounds, but also runs quickly. "If you can perform a test in two to three minutes, and provide more information than a standard MDR," he said, "then maybe you can have success with this instrument."

While there is a small market for instruments which perform a complete test in 10 minutes or more, he said that the market for such units is probably limited to a few high-end laboratories. A bigger market is in the production environment, but "you cannot sell there unless the test is very fast, and you can show some useful results," he said.

Less testing, but more scientific

Prescott said there has been a tendency for rubber processors to reduce the amount of testing they do, while simultaneously increasing the complexity of their analysis. Instead of testing all mixes and components, he said, there has been a general increase in the use of statistical methods, which allow companies to test only a percentage of samples, but in carefully-controlled patterns. This approach requires test equipment which is more accurate and more reliable, he said.

Following this trend, said Prescott, "we lost a few sales of standard rheometers where the customer chose to buy a process analayser instead," and this led Prescott to develop an instrument capable of performing frequency and amplitude scan of the test sample.

According to Tech Pro's Putman, most companies tend to test right at the start of the process: at goods inwards, and at the end of the process, after the products have been finished. There is relatively little testing in between, he suggested. In many cases, this is because standard tests are incapable of generating good results that can help improve the product or reduce cost, Putman said. The processability analyser, however, can provide very useful information within the factory, and part-way through the process, he said, as it can identify when a compound is good or perhaps needs a bit more mixing, for example.

Prescott took this idea even further, suggesting that, in the future, some companies might be able to use results from a processability tester to automatically change process conditions upstream or downstream of the test unit. It could also be used to analyse trends in compound characteristics, so that process conditions could automatically respond to the changing compound behaviour. Both Prescott and Tech Pro's Putman said these ideas are for the future.

The first step, said Prescott, is to get companies up the learning curve, and to understand what processability analysers can offer.

At present, he suggested, the incentive for buyers tends to be a bit defensive. They know that some rubber polymer they receive from their suppliers is different from the reference grade, he said, but their existing test machines cannot tell them how it differs. They cannot therefore present hard evidence to support a claim against their supplier, or demand a replacement batch.

The processability tester, however, can very often identify those differences, he said. Thus the decision to purchase is often triggered by a need to provide evidence to a supplier, rather than a need to improve the production process.

Asked how companies develop formulations, and then apply them to products, Prescott replied that some will simply find a recipe and formulation that works in a given appliction and then run a battery of tests on this standard compound, to get a set of reference data. In the future, they will perform the same tests, and compare them with the reference set, to ensure repeatability.

Unfortunately, said Prescott, it is hard to correlate the results of standard laboratory tests with subsequent performance either in the factory, or in later service.

With a processability tester, he said, it is much easier to understand how the test results relate to performance, so it is easier to make a judgement about when a compound will work effectively in an application, and when it has to be re-worked.

Prescott noted that many end-user customers--such as Ford or GM--have their own tests, many of which differ only in detail. The processability analyser, he suggested, offers an opportunity for the industry to develop a series of standardised tests. "We have an opportunity to sweep the board clean and start again, replacing the standard tensile tests with more meaningful tests that can be standardised throughout the industry, and so bring overall costs down," he said.

Tests become more product-related

There will always be a need for the conventional tests, such as elongation at break and tensile strength, said Martin Wheeler, director of international sales for Tinius-Olsen-Hounsfield. however, he said, "all the growth is now in product-related testing."

Until about 10 years ago, he said, the company made most of its sales in these relatively conventional test machines. Now, the sales split around 60:40 between product-related tests and are more conventional standard material tests.

Product-related tests, he said, are those which ensure a product meets the requirements of the market in terms of physical, chemical and environmental behaviour. So an antivibration mount might need mechanical cycling for an extended period of time in an environment with aggressive chemicals and elevated temperatures. A child's toy might need to have any appendages repeatedly stretched back and forth, and then see if any harmful ingredients can leach into water or saline solution if sucked for a long period, or if a child might come to harm if it bites or chews on the piece.

Wheeler said equipment capable of showing a product can meet such market-driven requirements is the main growth area in his business today.

Nevertheless, he said, "you need basic materials testing to get you out of the gate." He said most companies need to check the properties of raw materials as they come into the warehouse, and standard tests are ideal for this.

Name change

* The company formerly known as Hounsfield Test Equipment Ltd is changing its name to Tinius Olsen. Hounsfield was acquired by the US-based company in 1996, and now Tinius Olsen has decided to change the name of its European subsidiary.

Measuring dispersion

Another instrument aimed primarily at the shop-floor, is the Dispergrader which measures the dispersion of carbon black in a compound. Tech Pro bought the rights to the instrument from Optigrade in 2000, and immediately identified a way to dramatically improve its effectiveness.

The Dispergrader offers a way to measure the dispersion of carbon black in a rubber compound. Its great limitation under Optigrade was that it could only work with cured samples. Coming from a custom-mixing environment, John Putman, owner of Tech Pro, saw that it needed to be able to test uncured samples before it could be of any great use in a factory environment.

Having adapted the Dispergrader to measure uncured samples, the company now sells the unit into mixing environments. Here it is possible to get a repeatable, consistent measure of dispersion in a fresh mix within a few seconds. Putman said the implications of this are huge, and the potential savings dramatic. "What companies tend to do at present is to over-mix, to ensure they get enough dispersion. If they can mix to the point where dispersion is just right, then they might save 30 seconds or a minute on each mix. Over a week's worth of mixing, that can add up to a huge improvement in productivity," he said.

Service contracts are "key to growth"

Service remains the biggest challenge for many testing equipment suppliers. Large international companies such as Alpha Technologies can employ a fleet of full-time service technicians--even in developing countries such as China or India. Most of its competitors, however, are forced to rely--at least in some countries--on agents and distributors, who frequently have other commitments and sometimes do not deliver the right level of service.

Consequently, in global terms, Alpha dominates the service sector. However, the expansion of markets in India and China has opened opportunities for other test equipment makers who want to win some of the attractive long-term service business, as it develops in these newer countries.

While there has always been a need to service instruments in India and China, the changing face of the rubber processing business has brought new players into these countries. Well-known names who use modern test instruments--and want them serviced and calibrated regularly--have created an opportunity for other instrument makers to develop this side of their businesses.

According to Philip Prescott, owner and founder of Prescott Instruments, "when a company is seeking a service account, they tend to ask for a company which can deliver service throughout the world, and this makes it hard for smaller companies (like Prescott) to compete."

Nevertheless, he said, "we are looking at the Far East region and working with our partners there in China and Singapore to look at how best to provide the service there."

According to Matthew Putman at Tech Pro, "service is key to our growth. There is nothing better, and it helps with new instrument sales where we have those relationships." He said that, if a service technician is regularly visiting the company, then they get the chance to see if the company wants to invest in new machines, or upgrade equipment. This gives a company with a service contract a big advantage over those without, he said.

He said it is a positive loop, "we see what out customers really want."

Putman said his engineers can service all types of equipment in most countries of the world. "The only time we have trouble with our instruments is in areas where we cannot offer the service," said Putman. As a result, the company will no longer sell into countries where it is unable to offer service. Putman said Tech Pro offers the same level of service throughout the world, but admitted that things might take a bit longer in China than in the US, for example.
This is an old and long article about the early days of a flop musical I produced. Though it was not a success, this is a fun read, and brings back a lot of memories. If you want to read it follow the link.
This is an old article about a completely different time in my life. Read it ato see if you still recognize me.