July 30, 2012

Horse 1342 - Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Boring, Boring, Boring!

Foxtel recently ran a competition for people to come up with a better national chant than "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oi, Oi, Oi".

But more coverage means we’ll be hearing a lot more of our national chant. So we want to know – is ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ the best we can do?

The thing is that the chant:
a) isn't very good
b) isn't even Australian

From the little amount of research I can find, it came from Cornwall and was originally "Oggy Oggy Oggy". The word "Oggy" is a derivation of the Cornish word "hoggan" which is a Cornish Pasty. The theory is that pasty sellers would should "Oggy Oggy Oggy" to hawk their wares and the reply "Oi Oi Oi" indicated that someone wanted to buy said same.
The Welsh comedian Max Boyce popularised the chant it appears as a bit of a catchphrase; extending to Welsh Rugby crowds by the end of the 1970s. Perhaps it mutated into "Ozzy Ozzy Ozzy" during the early 80's because of Tottenham Hotspur's Argentine midfielder Osvaldo Ardiles who became something of a cult hero and was even the subject of a Chas and Dave song which made it to No.5 on the hit parade.

So having firmly established that "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oi, Oi, Oi" is not really that Australian, what would be the most appropriate thing for a national chant? Moreover, how does one even start or make a national chant? My experience on football terraces, leads me to believe that chants are highly organic things.
Back in 1997 during an England Cricket tour of Australia, a chant of either "El Fayed has got The Ashes" or "Paula Yates has got The Ashes" were sung in response to the deaths of Lady Diana Spencer and Michael Hutchence respectively.
Most chants in terraces either blindly extol their team and/or show abject hatred for the opposition. However the strangest chant that I've ever heard goes like this:

Have you ever seen? Have you ever seen?
Salmon in a tin. Salmon in a tin.
Here comes your mum with a loaf of bread,
Better watch out or she'll hit you in the head.
Oh salmon, salmon. Get it in a big tin, get it in a small tin,
Get it out of Tesco's, Okay!
To this day I've never worked out what it's for or even who or what it was about.

A good chant should be easily remembered and have a very limited tonal range. In the World Cup in Japan in 2002, for instance, when England played, one chant that went up frequently was "Oooooooooooh. You've got SARS!" in reference to the SARS outbreak of that year.
For some utterly strange reason in that tournament, German fans would sing the theme song of Vicky The Viking in the streets. Even more bizarrely, Netherlands fans would try to outsing the same song but with the Dutch lyrics.

Perhaps the most famous chant that got out of hand was the song "Yankee Doodle":

Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni
Barring the extensive rewrites to this, the chant basically says that "Yankee Doodle" or an "American Idiot" looked goofy on horseback, and was so unfashionable that he thought that just sticking a feather in his hat would make him look dead fancy.

A great deal of chants in Europe don't have any words at all. The tune of "Go West" by the Pet Shop Boys can be heard throughout Europe and there's variations on the "Humba" right through southern Germany and into Italy.

If there is going to be a national chant, I think that the best place for it to come from would be pop culture of some kind. To be fair, it doesn't even have to come from the country in question either. Eng-er-land (deliberately misspelled) sing to the very very American tune of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa. I don't think that a national chant needs any words either, it is quite common to hear the theme from "The Great Escape" at football grounds with no words.

The most obvious thing that I can think of which should replace "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie. Oi, Oi, Oi" is the music of Route 1 from Pokemon Red/Blue . It's very easy to learn, has no words, and can be sung continuously for a very long time.

I'm still singing it now!

July 16, 2012

Horse 1341 - This Defies Description

Organic water. Organic water? Yes, Organic water.

I tried to think of a less apt description for something and short of calling the entire of the Second World War "a bit of a tiff", or perhaps as "inadequate", I failed to do so.

Marketing people in their rush to get us to buy their particular product amongst the godzillions of competitors out there, will resort to all sorts of uses of enticing language, appeals to empathy, authority, vanity even, in an attempt to make you part with your hard won dollarpounds.

So why organic?

The word "Organic" should by definition mean a class of chemistry which originally meant relating to plants and animals but was extended to include all of carbon chemistry.
In that respect, I suppose technically the only thing "organic" about this bottle of water is the bottle which the water comes in because it is made from Polyethylene Terephthalate - that's C10H8O4 for those interested.

Forgive me if I'm wrong but having organic material in drinking water is not only undesirable but in some cases lethal.
After the so-called Great Stink of 1858, the British Parliament was finally convinced by people like Joseph Bazalgette who undertook the gargantuan task of building the London sewerage system at the then astronomical price of £5 million (or £9.1 billion in 2012 terms) and the physician John Snow who had traced the source of the 1854 cholera outbreak, people began to think seriously that having any organic material at all in drinking water was a bad thing.

I did some very low tech research after I'd seen this and worked out that most people think that the word "organic" means that the water is natural and or chemical free. There are of course a few problems with this too.

Just because something is "natural" is in no way any indication that it's safe for human consumption. Things like Arsenic and Osmium are also natural but if you were to actually drink either of those, in the words of Smithson Tennant who isolated the element Osmium you would find yourself "extremely dead".
How can water not be "natural"? By natural I assume that we mean something which comes from nature. Owing to the vagrancies of the Water Cycle, water has this habit of going around and around, so it is very much possible that the water contained in the bottle may have been drunk several hundreds of times over by all sorts of organisms.

The other problem with this particular bottle of water being "chemical free" that that the bottle openly states which chemicals are in it. It says that the water has been purified to 1 micron and sterilised with ozone. It also says that a typical analysis is that it contains 28mg/L of Chlorides, 13mg/L of Sodium, 5mg/L of Magnesium, 13mg/L of Calcium and 2mg/L of Potassium.
Never mind the fact that water itself is a chemical itself which according to the rules of chemical nomenclature could be called Dihydrogen Monoxide. Also, Dihydrogen Monoxide has been found to cause rust and corrosion in various metals, if heated above 65°C produces a full thickness burn in less than a second of exposure and if inhaled in sufficient quantities will cause asphyxia due to suffocation.

I would have contacted Active Organic Beverages Pty Ltd to ask them about their product but the phone number didn't give me any response and there is not website or email address I could find.
After doing a search for their company name, the only reliable instance I found was an article from the Sydney Morning Herald from April 2011 in which another bottled water company is supposed to be in breach on an Australian Standard by the ACCC:

"Everybody knows water is an inorganic compound, so you can't certify water as organic. The next best thing, we believe, is bottling water at the source; our farm is organic, so we think that our brand name is not misleading in that regard. We believe that, of all products in the marketplace, if any of them should have the word organic, ours is one," Mr Stack said
- Sydney Morning Herald, Elise Dalley, Apr 21 2011.

I think that calling any bottled water "organic" is misplaced on several fronts but I suppose that no-one is going to do anything about it. I personally thought that this was just dumb on the part of the marketers but I hadn't realised the legal implications.
Maybe I should start touting this blog as "organic" because it was made by natural processes (my brain). The light which comes out of the device you happen to be reading this on is probably almost certainly "chemical free" or if you printed this on paper, that is also "organic" by virtue of the fact that paper is made from trees.
Or maybe people should just think for ten minutes before they put words on packaging.

July 06, 2012

Horse 1340 - Coffee And Fascism

I think that the one of the most elegant devices of the Twentieth Century, surely has to be the Moka Pot. Patented in 1933 by Luigi De Ponti for the Bialetti company, the moka pot or "caffettiera" (coffee maker) in Italian is both elegant and simple and very very reliable because it has no moving parts. As a result of its incredible reliability, the same moka pot can be used on an electric or gas stovetop or even used on a barbecue or open fire.
The coffee which a moka pot produces will not usually have the same crema as something made with a fancy espresso machine because the coffee itself isn't under the same amount of pressure but because the water is forced through the coffee bucket in the device, all the flavour of a fancy espresso machine is retained. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars, a moka pot can be had for under thirty. There's something delightfully subversive about the moka pot though, and it has to do with the Bialetti company.

Mussolini brought Fascism to Italy in the 1920s but Italians are all far too cool to ever pay attention to what their governments think. There is a curious phrase in Italian "La Dolce Vita" which literally means "the sweet life". Fascism was never going to properly work in Italy, not in a nation who ride about on motor scooters without a helmet and who pay a fortune for badly cut suits and poorly built motor cars.

 Alfonso Bialetti chose as the logo for his company a caricature of his son Renato with one finger raised as if ordering an espresso, or at least that is the official explanation. Bialetti himself later joked after the war that it was a parody of the Saluto Romano or "Roman Salute" employed by both Fascist Italy and more famously by the Third Reich.

I find it quite fitting that l’omino con i baffi or "the mustachioed little man" should survive and be loved by millions and that the horrible Fascist regimes died off, oh so many years ago. Old Alfonso would have been proud I think.

July 04, 2012

Horse 1339 - How To Improve The England Squad

Yet another tournament has been and passed and whilst Spain have proven that this squad is one of the best of all time, England have yet again been consigned to the pit of mediocrity and whimpered their way out of the tournament.
The song "Three Lions" by Skinner, Baddiel and The Lightning Seeds which became the unofficial song of Euro '96, has two soundbites which even 16 years later, could have been said yesterday:
"We'll go on getting bad results"
"We're not creative enough and we're not positive enough"
This was said all the way back in 1996 and yet despite a so-called "Golden Era" which again yielded nought, nothing of serious consequence was done to fix the problem. We're quickly moving from "30 Years of Hurt" as the song suggests, to well on the way to 50.
Many minds have thought about this over the past 20 or so years but I believe I have a relatively simple answer: Britain.

From 1884-1984 the Home Nations (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northen Ireland after the invention of the republic) played in a competition called the British Home Championship. The idea is crudely simple, get the four national sides to play each other.
The idea works perfectly well in Rugby, although that competition has been expanded from the original four Home Nations, to including France and later Italy. I can see no reason why it shouldn't work in football either. The only opposition I can see is the stubbornness of the English FA and of course the clubs themselves.
The idea of course also works perfectly well in football and in 2011 the other four nations Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northen Ireland resumed on what will be a biannual basis, the Nations Cup. The "first" edition was won by the Republic of Ireland 1-0 over Scotland.

It seems somewhat stupid to me that if England keep on failing for tournament after tournament and playing in  "friendlies" which the crowds themselves shy away from, that the FA  rejoin the tournament. Surely more passion, interest and of course travelling fans would be generated within the UK. The lessons of hooliganism which existed 30 years ago, have surely by now been laid utterly to rest what with the Taylor Report, the introduction of all-seater stadia and various pieces of legislation designed to ensure that hooligans are kept away.
I bet that an England v Scotland fixture would pack both Wembley and Hampden Park. The Millenium Stadium in Cardiff would also probably have people piled up to the rafters for a Wales v England fixture.

England's chronic problem is that the players do not play together often enough. Mostly it's because of resistance from their clubs and not wanting them to travel. I would find it very strange indeed if Manchester United wouldn't release Wayne Rooney to play for England at Old Trafford for instance; why would it be an issue for him to play at Wembley, when it wouldn't have been to play at Stamford Bridge the week before?
The Republic of Ireland has almost certainly benefitted from playing in the Nations Cup. Their performance at Euro 2012 whilst it wasn't exactly ground breaking, was in part made to look worse by the fact that they had what would eventually be both finalists in the group stage.

 If I was Grand Poobah and Lord High Everything Else, then I'd be entering England into the Nations Cup. It wouldn't just be because of so much tradition but rather a very real need to improve the national side.