Archive for May, 2009

“Remember, Remember Empire Day, the 24th of May”

There’s no such thing as the British Empire any more, and we’re more used to reading about our royal family in the tabloids these days than we are in loyally celebrating their majesty, so it is perhaps hard to imagine that for 50 years, Empire Day was a massive national, and international celebration. Introduced in 1902, the year after Queen Victoria’s death, and celebrated on her birthday, the 24th May, this was an occasion for demonstrating pride in the British Empire that spanned a quarter of the globe, and generally having a good time.

And aside from the street parties, bonfires and fireworks, this Day was designed to “promote the systematic training of children in all virtues which conduce to the creation of good citizens”. Sounds a little sinister now, but every year, all across the world, schoolchildren would salute the Union Jack, sing the national anthem and hear exciting tales of the bravery and exoticism of Empire. Although it’s a fair bet that the thing they liked best was being let off school early to go to the parades…

We may not have an Empire any more, and they might have re-named the celebration “Commonwealth Day” since the ‘50s, but that’s no reason not to celebrate, we don’t think. Obviously, it’d be a little odd to rejoice in the taking-over-the-world, saluting-the-flag part of things, but perhaps more worthwhile to remember the peculiarly British watchwords of the Empire Movement – “Responsibility, Sympathy, Duty & Self Sacrifice”. Not the most inspirational of battle cries, but worth raising an ice cold gin & tonic to this May 24th, perhaps. Or maybe just a nice cup of tea…

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No More Missing Links

Tuesday’s announcement of the almost perfectly preserved 47 million year old fossil that finally provides the missing evolutionary link between humans and apes has been greeted with a number of impressive superlatives. Sir David Attenborough says it’s the fossil equivalent of the Rosetta Stone, Jorn Hurum from the American Museum of Natural History says it’s like Indiana Jones finding the Lost Ark, and in general, the scientific community have worked themselves up into a bit of a frenzy.

And it’s easy to see why. The lemur-like creature’s fossil – named Ida after the daughter of the scientist who has studied it in secret for the last two years – shows opposable thumbs and fingernails instead of claws, and her back legs are said to reveal secrets about the evolutionary stages that led to primates walking upright. As well as having an almost complete skeleton, Ida, because of the unique area where she was discovered, is so well preserved that you can see the individual hairs covering her body, and even the remains of her last vegetarian meal.

Amazingly enough, Ida was actually discovered in 1983, but the archaeologists at the time did not realise the significance of their find. They certainly do now though, and the carefully managed publicity campaign that has “launched” this discovery shows no sign of abating. A documentary on the discovery is airing next week, and other books and programmes are sure to follow in their hundreds. But whilst it’s easy to be a little bit cynical about the stage managing of the whole thing, this truly is a momentous occasion for science, and our understanding of our own past. It’s fitting therefore that the official name of the fossil is Darwinus masillae, and that the announcement of the discovery was timed to coincide with the great man’s bicentenary. Darwin (who’s birthday Proporta celebrated recently with a range of limited edition products) would have been as excited as anyone by this find, that finally removes the major ammunition for anti-evolutionists, and this is a fossil that, as one scientist noted, will be pictured in all our textbooks for the next 100 years.

So Ida may only be 53cm long, and may only have lived to be 9 months old, but as of this week she’s become everyone’s most famous great-great-aunt. And isn’t she pretty?

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Room 101

We all like a good rant from time to time. So the other day, when we had the radio on in the design room and someone called in from Swindon, Graham surprised us all by launching into a rather impromptu “why I hate Swindon” campaign. Shortly after, Lynnette expressed her dislike for noisy eaters and before we knew it, there was a mini revolution in the making. We’re a friendly bunch, but everyone needs a good vent from time to time. It helps us reach our state of inner peace and all that. So, we decided to jot down the top few things, in no particular order, that grate us… for the moment.

Made up words
Bifidus Digestivum, Actiregularis, Pentapeptides, The Institute of Tricologists… you can’t get through an advert break anymore without adding at least four new words to your vocabulary. We’ve checked some of them out and a few appear to be “genuine”, but for the purpose of this rant we’re going full blanket and saying that they’re all made up. And unnecessary. And anyone who believes that they exist deserves to be mugged off with the facial cream that will have your skin feeling softer and your wrinkle lines visibly smoother after 14 days. Because you’re worth it.

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Walkabout
This is more of a local one to the people of Brighton, but we reckon many across the UK, if not the world, will be able to relate. We could probably stick the whole of West Street into the mix, but for the purpose of this exercise we’re going to keep it focused. For those of you not familiar, Walkabout is a chain of Australian bars across the UK, which has a lovely collection staff working for it (we’ve never met a bad Australian), but the clientele rests with hen parties, people who dance like they’ve got their Walkman still plugged in and lots of boys dressed up as various super heroes, policewomen, netball teams and you can bet there’ll be a blow up doll, sheep or guitar of some sort. Still, if there’s a group of you and you’re drunk enough, you could just about manage an evening, but we bet you’ll feel pretty dirty afterwards.

walkabout


Clicking fingers/whistling

This is one is pretty personal to Lynnette, and we think she’s got a bit of the ol’ obsessive compulsive, so she may be on her own here, but you’ve probably never seen anyone so affected by people who click or whistle to get someone’s attention. We’ve seen her face literally crumble at the sight of such an occurrence. It’s like a scene from 28 Days Later… instant rage. And she’s normally (sometimes) such a calm little thing. She reckons it stems from an unfortunate driving lesson when her instructor clicked her off an exit at a roundabout and she nearly had to pull the car over. We reckon she’s just a bit mental.

Moaning
Ok, we know how this sounds. Seeing as though the whole point of this is to have a good old moan, but it’s a specific type of moan that gets our backs up. In particular, people who moan about things that they could quite easily change, but seem to prefer to just moan about it instead. We all like a moan, and I think it’s our right to be able to do it from time to time. The weather, the price of eggs – that’s all fine. But if it’s something that you can change and it’s starting to become a recurring theme, just bloomin’ well change it. You’re in control of your life. You get to decide a lot of what happens during it. If you’re not happy with something, don’t do it anymore.

Comparing the meerkat
We’re aware that there’ll probably be a huge split on this one, but give it a few weeks and we predict that most people will be on board. It was all very clever and funny at first, and it still kind of is, but with anything like this it’ll be very short lived and will become hugely annoying you mark our words. Not at the fault of the marketing agency who came up with the genius idea, but more because of the poor meerkat impressions that are bound to just keep going and going and going and will ruin it for everyone. Simples.

meerkat

Facebook groups
Before we start this, we’d like to point out that most of us do like Facebook. It’s good for catching up, stalking and sharing photos. However, we strongly believe that if you like smiling, do it. If you want to arrange a night out, text or tell your mates when you next see them. If you’re a fan of hugging, hug someone. If you like the summer, go out and get some sunshine. Don’t set up a Facebook group in order to be able to do it. That’s just introducing a pointless middle man. Live your life.

Marmite
Just don’t.

marmite

Things that nearly made the list, but didn’t…
Churchill Square, my mum, a Jack Russell, seaweed, big shopping trips, people who lack attention to detail, drunkards in Brighton, “?!?”, reversing with your arm around the passenger seat, seagulls, traffic jams, call centres, soap operas, sport on TV with the volume up, Dave Pearce, exclamation mark abuse and smileys.

And for a bit of balance – some stuff we do like…
Stephen Fry, Scroobius Pip, tea, salad cream, Stirling Moss, Lewis Carroll, Michael Palin, Bounce bars, cheesecake, travelling, barbecues on the beach, being silly and Alain Robert.

BlackBerry Curve outsells the iPhone 3G

It seems that RIM’s BlackBerry Curve has got a lot to shout about. It overtook Apple’s iPhone to become the top-selling consumer smartphone in the United States during the first quarter of 2009, according to research published by NPD Group.

Based on online consumer surveys, NPD’s monthly “Smartphone Market Update” report, now ranks the best-selling consumer smartphones in the U.S. as follows:

1. RIM BlackBerry Curve (all 83XX models)
2. Apple iPhone 3G (all models)
3. RIM BlackBerry Storm
4. RIM BlackBerry Pearl (all models, except flip)
5. T-Mobile G1

Apple better pull their socks up in June if they want to continue being top of the class.

5 products you never knew you needed

Little did you know how useful certain Proporta accessories are? Well here are five that have proved to be extremely useful (sometimes in times of crisis, other times just for convenience) for some of the Proporta team…

1) Universal Emergency Charger or Ted Baker Six Pack

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tb-six-pack

Both of these serve the same purpose, it just depends on what style you prefer. This has got a few people out of a some sticky situations, such as being on the way to a meeting, running out of juice and not knowing where you’re going. Just reach for the Universal Emergency Charger or Ted Baker Six Pack and you’re re-connected to the rest of the world in a jiffy.

2) Stereo Y Splitter

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This is a lovely accessory to have on you as it means you’re a lovely person and are willing to share your music with your friends. Great for when one of you forgets your iPod, just plug it in and connect 2 sets of headphones, easy peasy.

3) Magnetic Dashboard Mount

dashboard-mount

We all know it’s all too tempting to use your phone whilst driving – but it’s a big NO NO, so the Magnetic Dashboard Mount creates a safe but accessible car kit by attaching to your dashboard allowing you to use the loudspeaker function on your mobile. Simple and safe.

4) Magnetic Cable Tidy

cable-tidy

These are a must. If you are like most of the population and suffer from headphone headache due to the cables getting is such a twist, this is the accessory for you (and they come in 2 different colours). They are also useful when your headphones are in use, you can pin them out of the way as the magnet works through clothing. Brilliant. These really aren’t to be missed, not least because they are one of Stephen Fry’s top travel tips. Oooh get us!

5) Mobile Device Cleaner

mobile-device-cleaner

You’d never believe it but this little gem has a fair few uses. First of all and the most obvious, it sorts your PDA, Laptop, MP3 Player and iPod’s screen out. Which is great on its own, as a dirty screen is a nuisance to anybody. Well this turns it nice and gleamy. But it’s also great for cleaning your spectacles, aaaand best of all (and this is a seriously good tip), spray it inside your goggles when you’re paintballing and they’ll stay steam free the whole game. Now that’s a top tip.

Amazon Kindle DX

A new Amazon Kindle has been announced – the Amazon Kindle DX. The new DX is 250% bigger than its predecessor the Amazon Kindle 2 and has built in PDF reader.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive was heard to have quoted at the New York conference, “You never have to pan, you never have to zoom, you never have to scroll. You just read,”

And, if you want to change the orientation of the Kindle DX, you just rotate it. We think it sounds pretty slick.

This summer, three newspapers have agreed to offer Kindle DX for a reduced price on long-term commitments to subscriptions. They are New York Times, Boston Globe and the Washington Post.

There is mixed reactions over the price ($489) as it is $130 more expensive than the Kindle 2. But many people are not willing to spend that much just to see the newspaper on a big screen. Proporta reckon it’s a very debateable issue.

Its features include a 9.7 inch display with auto-rotation and 3.3 GB of storage. It also allows readers to expand margins, shortening the length of lines.

A world without paper seems to be what Amazon is working towards, as Bezos’s words indicate “It wouldn’t be bad if we could inch our way to a paperless society.”

The Amazon Kindle DX is available for pre-order now for shipment this summer so watch out for Proporta’s accessories to suit.

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