I decided that the highlight of my holiday activities yesterday was watching some bees buzzing around wild flowers. It's not a great film - the bees weren't terribly co-operative subjects, refusing to stay put on flowers and flying around willy nilly. Nevertheless, they are quite fascinating, busy and industrious as they flit from flower to flower, spreading pollen and collecting nectar. Their single-minded dedication to their task is, in many ways, quite admirable.
I can't help but feel that, over the years, I've neglected the insect world in my various summer holiday wanderings. Their activities have provided a background to a lot of my travels, yet I rarely acknowledge their existence. Hopefully, this summer, I might be able to commit a few more of their activities to film, along with some of the other wildlife I encounter. We'll see.
I know, I was barely coherent last week. I promise to try better with this week's posts. That said, there's already a setback. I'm back on holiday and actually recorded some video footage today, which I've edited into a short film, which I'd hoped to post here, However, uploading it to a video sharing service in order to facilitate this is proving problematic, with Vimeo estimating that it needs half an hour (!) in order to upload a three minute video and You Tube giving an estimate of over an hour (!!), neither of which is acceptable, as I'm about to go out to the pub and want to get this sorted before I leave the house. So, I'm going to have to find something else to talk about. Unfortunately, I haven't got anything else prepared - I'm on holiday, damn it! So, I can't go on about how shitty work is, as I wasn't there and I don't want to rant about politics again, as I'm sick of talking about Corbyn and now just want to take action against him instead, (I'm currently awaiting my ballot paper for the Labour leadership election).
I don't watch 'reality' TV, so that excludes celebrity Big Brother from the equation and the Olympics are over, so i can't moan about them taking over the TV schedules again. Low rent movies are a better bet - was up until four in the morning two days running this weekend watching such films. The first time wasn't intentional - I dozed off whilst watching something on Talking Pictures TV, then woke up just as another film started and, despite having seen it several times already, watched Who? in its entirety. I'm not sure why - it still isn't a particularly good film, although it has an interesting premise, which it largely squanders by focusing on the espionage elements of the story rather than the more intriguing philosophical and scientific aspects of the tale, (it was based on a science fiction novel by Algis Buydrs). The second time was, more or less, deliberate - I found that someone had uploaded a complete copy of The Mutations (which coincidentally featured here as a 'Random Movie Trailer last week), to You Tube. A film I'd been chasing for some time now, I decided I needed to watch it before it was removed for copyright infringement, but for some reason started viewing it in the early hours and lost track of time. Hopefully, I'll get round to writing it up here sometime soon. Ah well, the video has uploaded at last, but too late for today. Tomorrow, perhaps.
The Olympics are almost over, thank God. I can honestly say that I've managed to avoid most of it, despite the BBC's attempts to fill the entire schedules of every one of its channels with obscure and unwatchable sports over the past couple of weeks. Don't get me wrong, I'm not belittling those who take part in the Olympics - I'm well aware that simply to qualify for the Olympics, let alone win a medal, represents an incredible level of achievement. It's just that I'm not particularly interested in most sports. Not even when the UK is winning medals at them. I do find it fascinating the way that the British population suddenly become, say, dressage fans, simply because our riders start doing well at it during an Olympic games. The other day Simon Jenkins wrote a piece for The Guardian, in which he drew a parallel between the current media adulation of the UK's successful Olympic athletes and the way in which the Soviet Union used to use sporting success to deflect attention from its economic failings. The article endured an unsurprisingly hostile reception, but I can't help but feel that he has a point. The constant media references to 'our Olympic heroes' can't help but stir memories of all those athletes, cosmonauts and the like were raised to the status of being 'Heroes of the soviet Union'. Ostensibly to inspire their fellow workers but, in reality, to distract the public from continued shortages of consumer goods, poor housing and intrusive state security, theses 'heroes' were also there to help engender a general 'feel good' feeling in the Soviet population: if the people see us beating the world at sports or the space race, the theory went, then they'll believe we're doing well economically.
Is it any different with regard to the UK's Olympic athletes? I don't think there can be any doubt that they are being used to try and create a 'feel good' factor in a Britain battered by the EU referendum and the racism and xenophobia it stirred up, and with a fragile economy likely to suffer further setbacks as a result of leaving the EU. Not that there's anything new in politicians using sporting achievements in this way: there's no doubt that Harold Wilson was happy to use the euphoria created by the 1966 World Cup victory to his advantage. He had also relied upon a repeat performance by the England team in 1970 to create a feel good factor which would benefit Labour going in to that year's general election. Unfortunately for Wilson, England's footballers came up short. However, I noticed today that Britain's Olympians were being used as part of a particularly crude political propaganda, with one of the right wing tabloids emblazoned with a headline screaming that our 'Heroes' were going to be denied a victory parade by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Ignoring the fact that, whenever asked about this, Khan has clearly stated that he was in favour of organising some kind of homecoming, you can clearly see the political subtext in the story: he's a Muslim, he's a bit foreign looking, so obviously he he's an unpatriotic Britain-hating leftie bastard. Pathetic really, but what else should we expect from the right wing press? Anyway, that's another reason we should be thankful that the Rio Olympics are nearly over - it means that the media will have find a new vehicle for their pseudo-patriotic political agendas.
So, looking at internet pornography makes your dick fall off. At least, that's what the UK media wants us to think. (Presumably, they'd rather we all looked at that 'safe' porn they print on page three). Yes indeed, that evil scourge of Britain's youth, online smut, was under attack again earlier this week, with the media wheeling out an 'expert' to tell us that the reason why so many young men apparently suffer from erectile dysfunction is that they've spent too much time wanking over porn on their smart phones. I never knew that you could literally tug the stiffness out of your penis - are there really a finite number of erections a man can experience, so they shouldn't be wasted on wanking? I mean, that sounds suspiciously like that other piece of anti-wanking propaganda, that if you choke your chicken too much you'll run out of sperm. Completely untrue, of course - if you only had a finite amount of sperm, then men would be lugging around their huge testicles in a wheelbarrow like that Viz character, until they'd used enough up that their balls would fit in their pants again. Likewise, an ability to get it up has nothing to do with playing with your todger too much. I speak from personal experience when I say that wanking (whether over internet porn or just the regular variety) does not affect your ability to get it up. Believe me, overuse does not affect the strength of erections.
Obviously, as one gets older, things like blood pressure issues can affect a man's ability to rise to the occasion. (Erectile problems can, apparently, sometimes be an indication of more serious cardiac and circulatory problems). These days, mind you, I find that ennui is the greatest enemy of my ardour: there are times I just can't work up any interest. Which probably isn't surprising in a man my age, who is well past his sexual prime, (although I'm not quite sure when that was - I think it was in the afternoon, possibly on a Wednesday in May, many, many years ago), this sort of 'erectile exhaustion' is what's being blamed for the supposed problems of Britain's youth. They've effectively 'overdosed' on porn, thanks to its ready availability on the web, the theory goes, and the 'real thing', when they encounter it, can't match up the expectations raised by what they've seen, resulting in their inability to perform. Whilst it is true that, back in my youth, we didn't have access to pornography on the scale it is now freely available, (we had to rely on damp porn magazines dumped in hedges), it didn't curb our masturbatory fantasies. If it was possible to wank oneself to death, there would have been a massive mortality rate in my peer group. Moreover, in those parts of the world where porn was treated as normal - the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, for instance, there were no mass outbreaks of 'wanker's droop'. Arguably, the greater availability of porn the web has brought is a good thing for countries like the UK, where sex is still something we get hung up about. Being less furtive about such matters can surely only be a good thing, engendering a far more healthy attitude toward sex, seeing it as something normal, not something to be ashamed of or sniggered about. But the Tories are still obsessed with the idea that freely available internet porn lies at the root of Britain's moral decline, rather than their economic and social policies. At the end of the day, I don't know if there actually is an increase in erectile dysfunction amongst Britain's young men, Even if there is, i doubt very much it has to do with them whacking off over internet smut.
So, last week I was on holiday. I'll be back on holiday, this time for two weeks, next week. For the time being, I'm back at work. Quite honestly, I resent having to split my Summer break in this way: it takes me a week to wind down from the stress of work. Which is why I used to try and take three consecutive weeks in the Summer - I'd have a whole fortnight feeling completely relaxed. Moreover, there would always come a point, midway through the three weeks, when I'd be able to completely forget work altogether, existing in a blissful bubble of carefree joy for a few days. So, having become completely zoned out of work by the end of last week, I found myself rudely thrust back into the fray on Monday. I can tell you that by the end of yesterday, it felt like I'd never been away. So, I'll have to stat all over again next week.
Anyway, you'd have been forgiven for not realising I was o holiday last week: I don't think I mentioned it at all here. Certainly, there were no pictures and no videos posted here. Indeed, I didn't actually take any last week. Which is unusual, I know, as I generally seem obsessed with chronicling my Summer excursions. But last week, I was feeling selfish. I just wanted the first week of my holiday to be entirely about me. I didn't want to share any of it with anyone else, either vicariously through videos and pictures, or by inviting anyone else along. The past few weeks at work were bruising for me and I badly needed some time alone with myself. Being free to think, without the distractions and frustrations of work, is hugely therapeutic - everything becomes much clearer. Things which had seemed like major problems are put into perspective and revealed as mere irritations.
Certainly, it seems clearer than ever now that, once my mortgage is paid off next April (barring disasters), I'm going to have to make serious changes with regard to work. If not giving up this lousy job completely, I'm more determined than ever to at least reduce my hours until I find something better. Even if I don't find something better, I'll at least have more time to myself. It also has become obvious that there are some parts of my past I really have to let go of - some things are just never going to change, so I need to move on. But it isn't just life decisions that get worked through when I've got time to think. I also sometimes find myself speculating about the lives I might have lived, but didn't. I find my mind wandering into idle fantasies. On Friday, for instance, as I walked through a piece of down land I particularly like, with the sun blazing down, a gentle breeze moving the tall grass and a buzzard wheeling overhead, I found myself imagining that my walk would culminate, not in the car park of the country park I was in, but with me walking through the back gate of a cottage. I'd walk down the path and through the back door into the kitchen, whee I'd sit down and drink beer with a beautiful woman I'd never seen before, but who I clearly knew well, as late afternoon turned into evening. It all seemed so idyllic, but was over so quickly. Quite where that particular idle fantasy came from, I don't know. It will never come to pass in reality, I know. But it was nice while it lasted.
Well, I guess I'm just some anti-democratic, Red Tory Blairite bastard, as I applauded last week's decision by the Courts to uphold the restrictions placed by Labour's NEC on who could vote in the forthcoming leadership election. I don't think it at all unreasonable that anyone who joined the party since January should not be allowed to vote in the election: the odds are that many of these new members joined solely for the purpose of voting for Corbyn, or for anyone who stood against him. Indeed, one of the new members who brought the original court action to overturn the NEC decision admitted in a TV interview that his only purpose in joining the party was to vote for Corbyn. Which really reinforces the NEC's case. Surely, nobody should join a political party to pursue a single issue or support a single candidate. Unless they are some kind of entryist who isn't actually interested in the broader aims and ethos of the party, that is. Moreover, it wasn't as if these new members weren't given an alternative route to voting privileges: they could have paid their twenty five quid and become a registered supporter. It's what I've done, (and I freely admit that I'm doing it solely to get the chance vote against Corbyn - I thought I'd use those self-righteous Corbynite bastards' own tactics against them).
But apparently twenty five quid is a fortune and only fabulously wealthy people like me can afford to pay that sort of money. Yet more evidence, apparently of how us so called 'Blairites' (I really wish those Momentum tossers would come up with more original and/or accurate playground insults), hate the idea of democracy within the Labour party. The problem with such nonsense being that political parties, even those operating in democracies, don't actually have to be democratic in their own structures. They are also, by their very nature, highly selective about their membership and who they allow to vote in their internal elections. (Or they should be). Clearly, they have to try and ensure that any new members are committed to the same principles and ideology as the party, otherwise you'll have hordes of people who don't share those values joining in order to subvert them. (Which is effectively what has happened). Political parties aren't mass movements, (as Corbyn and his cronies seem to think they are) - they don't have to attract huge numbers of paid up members, (although all those subscriptions might help with the funding). After all, their function is to elect representatives to bodies such as local councils, Assemblies and the like, and, most importantly, Parliament, by persuading non-party members to vote for their candidates. Otherwise they are nothing more than pressure groups. But unfortunately, the Corbynites just don't seem to grasp this simple concept. Indeed, they don't even seem to grasp the fundamental fact that we don't actually have direct democracy in the UK - it is a representative democracy. Mass campaigns, rallys and the like are all very well, but they can't actually directly influence government policy - that can only be achieved through gaining power by electing representatives to parliament.
Lately, I've found myself thinking about the board games I used to play when I was a kid. These were generally trotted out at Christmas, bank holidays or other family gatherings in order to try and keep the peace with some kind of group activity. The trouble was that favourite games like Monopoly and Cluedo only seemed to stoke up the rivalries and inevitably ended in ill-tempered arguments and accusations of cheating. (Whoever turned out to be the murderer in Cluedo, for instance, would always claim that it was a set-up and that the cards put in that 'solution' envelope had been rigged by one or more other players). Personally, I always found the newspaper-based game Scoop more enjoyable (technically speaking, I suppose that it wasn't really a board game, having no 'board' upon which the players competed, as such). It just seemed less cut-throat and competitive and didn't seem to bring out the worst in the players. The copy we had was pretty ancient - two of the newspapers represented, The Daily Sketch and the News Chronicle, were long since defunct, (it wasn't until an eighties reissue of the game that they were replaced by the Sun and News of the World) - and included the original cardboard 'telephone' which was used to determine events like whether stories were accepted by the editor, for example. This device fascinated me - you had to move this cardboard lever according to some pattern in order to 'dial up' the editor. The later versions of the game replaced it with some sort of plastic telephone - I have no idea how that was operated. I'm sure it wasn't as much fun to operate as the original, though.
The game, if you aren't familiar with it, involved each player trying to complete the front page of their newspaper with different types of story (crime, politics, entertainment, or even the prized 'Five Star Exclusive', for instance) and adverts. In order to do this, you had to collect various cards representing reporters, photographers, ad executives and so on, which enabled you to 'pitch' stories to the 'editor' via that phone device. I don't recall all the intricacies, but I enjoyed playing the game immensely. A lot of that enjoyment came from the stories themselves, which came printed on cards which slotted into place on the 'front page'. They are were all utterly bizarre, involving such things as 'murder by telephone' (a poison dart being inserted into the earpiece of the receiver, so that anyone answering the phone received a fatal dose of the toxin), a fake Martian spaceship, a house building robot, a talking monkey - you get the idea. These stories entertained me greatly and, to this day, inspire the stuff I write for The Sleaze. I have no idea whether anyone still produces Scoop, but I got to thinking the other day that it would be ripe for a modern makeover. I'm sure that there must be some way in which to incorporate phone hacking, for instance, maybe even Page Three girls, celebrity scandals and the paparazzi. (The original did, sort of, reflect cheque book journalism, as I recall each player having to pay for stories using a stack of 'cheques' each paper had). After all, to this day they are still producing variations of both Monopoly and Cluedo, two games I found far less entertaining than Scoop.
Just time for a quick 'Random Movie Trailer' today. Back in the seventies, as the British film industry began to collapse and established studios like Hammer, Amicus and Tigon relinquished their grip on the horror genre in the UK, a number of independent producers started to put out some decidedly off-beat horror flicks. Eschewing Hammer's elaborate period gothics, or Amicus' generally insipid anthology films, this new wave of low budget shockers generally featured contemporary settings and non-supernatural threats. The Mutations is interesting as, despite its new-fangled nudity and violence, it represents an attempt to resurrect the traditional mad scientist movie,also incorporating elements of Tod Browning's 1932 Freaks.
Unfortunately, as I've yet to track down a complete copy of the film, I have to rely upon trailers, excerpts and contemporary critics to get some idea of what The Mutations was like as a movie. Plot-wise, it is pretty straightforward: mad scientist Donald Pleasance is using his students as guinea pigs in his experiments to combine humans with plants. The less than successful results are hidden in a carnival freak show run by Tom Baker (virtually unrecognisable under layers of prosthetics), who also kidnaps the students for Pleasance. Naturally, one of his creations - a sort of venus fly-trap man - runs amok and, well, you can probably fill in the rest yourself. Like Freaks, it uses actual carnival 'freaks', raising the same questions of taste as the earlier film had. All-in-all, it sounds agreeably bonkers and features a suitably rickety-looking seventies monster. Directed by acclaimed cinematographer Jack Cardiff, (who, like his contemporary Freddie Francis, took the director's chair for a fair few genre pictures in the sixties and seventies), you can guarantee that it will at least be nicely shot. Sadly, like many British genre films of its era, The Mutations seems to have undeservedly slipped into obscurity, not even turning up on obscure digital movie channels. Which is a pity as, based on what I've seen and read of it, the film appears a lot more entertaining than some of the better known studio product which still gets regular TV outings.
A more than mildly barmy action film, McBain was a box office failure upon its release in 1991, but has subsequently gathered a cult following. Neither fact is surprising - as an independently produced film, McBain simply didn't have the budget to compete with contemporary studio-backed action blockbusters. However, an action film which features Christopher Walken and his ex-Vietnam buddies tackling their mid-life crises by invading Colombia and helping local left-wing guerillas depose the right-wing regime and its drug baron backers, was always going to attract lovers of schlock movies. Indeed, if it wasn't for the presence of a semi-name cast, headlined by Walken in the title role, featuring Maria Conchito Alonso as the female lead and boasting B-movie favourite Michael Ironside in a sympathetic role for once, the film could easily be dismissed as the sort of direct-to-video action clunker you'd typically find in the bargain bin at your local petrol station shop. An impression reinforced by the fact that the writer/director is James Glickenhaus, best known for the low-budget vigilante flick The Exterminator.
But what lifts McBain above the level of simply being an average modestly budgeted action film is the air of the surreal which pervades it - everything, from the casting to the bizarre plot developments seems off-kilter. Whether that was actually the director's intent, I don't know, but the end result is a weirdly entertaining film. The scenario is pretty standard: having had his life saved by fellow special forces guy Santos in Vietnam, Bobby McBain (Walken) vow to repay the debt one day. Flashing forward to the film's 1991 present day, when Santos is executed in his native Colombia whilst attempting to overthrow the corrupt and brutal El Presidente, (having been let down by the CIA who had promised US support for his uprising), his sister goes to New York to find McBain. Walken's McBain, now working as a welder on a bridge, seems motivated as much by the existential ennui which has enveloped him in civilian life as he is by any desire to repay his debt of honour to Santos. His Vietnam buddies, variously working as a doctor, a cop, a body guard and an arms dealer are equally disillusioned with their post-war lives.
So, naturally, they decide to help the revolution in Colombia, first by raising funds to buy arms by extorting money from local drug dealers. Which is where the weirdness really starts to set in, with Luis Guzman's street level drug boss giving them a lecture - after they've mown down all his lackeys - on how the drug problem is all down to the evils of the capitalist system. It's because all the poor non-whites in New York can't even get low paid jobs at Burger King that they work for him (he also pays better). He suggests that if they want real money, they should extort it from the local Mafia boss. Which they do. This is one of several pieces of 'social commentary' which are, none too subtly, worked into the film. In an earlier sequence, one of the vets is working as a body guard to a company chairman during a stormy shareholders meeting during which the board of directors are revealed as venal and corrupt, the film inviting a direct equation between corporate greed, organised crime and El Presidente in Colombia. Whilst not subtle, it isn't the sort of thing you'd usually expect to find in this kind of action film.
Taking advantage of the fact that Ironside is now a multi-millionaire arms dealer who not only can supply the rebels with hi-tech arms, but can also provide a C-130 transport and fighter escort to deliver them, Walken and co effectively invade Colombia. Wearing loud Hawaiian shirts, naturally. In the process of doing this, Walken shoots down an F5 jet fighter with a pistol, fired from inside the cockpit of the light plane he's traveling in: incredibly, neither the side glass of the plane's cockpit, nor the fighter's canopy are broken. although the F5 pilot is apparently fatally wounded. It just gets more bizarre from there, with the rebels defeating overwhelming odds to capture an airfield for the incoming planes to land on, then shooting down the rest of the Colombian air force with their newly supplied Stinger missiles. Alonso and two of the vets capture the main TV station and she makes an impassioned plea to overthrow the forces of El Presidente live on air. In the meantime, Walken is leading an assault on El Presidente's palace, which mainly involves driving an explosive laden tanker into the gates. It all climaxes with Walken killing El Presidente and the regime being overthrown by the rebels.
None of this really does justice to the movie's fundamental strangeness. Part of its problem lies in a clear confusion over what its central message is meant to be. On the one hand, it seems to be condemning corporate capitalism and extolling the virtues of what is clearly a leftist revolution, yet also seems to be making a case for the virtues of free enterprise over state intervention - the CIA lets Santos down and throughout the film the US administration are shown as being incapable of action, whereas Walken and half a dozen Vietnam veterans succeed in overthrowing the Colombian government in a matter of days. Mind you the film's grasp of US foreign policy toward Central and South America in the nineties is pretty much non-existent: the Colombian regime shown was precisely the sort of governments then President Bush the Senior and his predecessor Reagan had happily been supporting against left wing rebels. To confuse matters even more, despite the film's apparent anti-corporate sentiments, writer/director Glickhaus later left the world of film making to work in corporate finance.
Despite its many lunacies, McBain is, on a technical level, quite slickly made, with decent photography and competently staged action sequences. The performances are variable - Walken appears to have lost interest completely part way through filming, but still provides glimpses of his manic energy and strange diction - but hampered by a cliche-ridden script with a tin ear for dialogue. Unfortunately, the film tends to undermine any real tension by regularly staging utterly ludicrous sequences clearly designed to manipulate the audience's emotions and heighten the drama - Alonso climbs all the way to the top of the bridge Walken is working on in order to meet him, for instance, when it would surely have been simpler to wait at the bottom until he came off shift. Later, there is a scene where a young revolutionary nobly sacrifices himself by destroying an army armoured car by sticking a grenade down its barrel -the scene is so ludicrous and cliched it evokes laughter rather than the intended gasps of sympathy from viewers. There are similarly cliched sequences littered throughout the film: Walken's doctor buddy saving the life of a seriously injured child with a ball point pen barrel and a pen knife, for example. We also know the regime is evil because they mow down women and children (not to mention running them over with their tanks), whereas Walken and co only ever shoot characters clearly flagged up as villains.
But, in spite of all of this, you'd have to possess a heart of stone not to enjoy McBain. In part, its pleasures lie in the fact that it evokes memories of other, better, movies as it unfolds. The whole business of Alonso gathering the peasants' valuables in order to fund her trip to New York to find Walken is clearly inspired by The Magnificent Seven, while the business of Walken and friends extorting funds for the revolution from organised crime and drug dealers reminded me of another Walken film, Abel Ferrara's King of New York, which had been released the previous year, and featured Walken's gang boss raising funds for a local hospital through shaking down rivals. The Colombian invasion sequences (filmed in the Philippines) are somewhat reminiscent of the early Schwarzenegger vehicle Commando, in which he also invaded the base of a South American dictator, taking on and defeating a small army in the process. Most of all, though, McBain is enjoyable simply because it is completely and utterly, barking mad.
In the wake of the Russian Paralympic team being banned from the Rio Paralympics because of the large scale doping of their athletes, the burning question is exactly what form this 'performance enhancement' took? In the first place, was it the athletes or their prosthetics and equipment being 'enhanced'? Were the Russians making illegal alterations to the racing wheelchairs of their Paralympic track competitors, for instance? (The sort of thing various Formula One teams allegedly used to do with their cars). I mean, I wouldn't put it past them to have whole laboratories formerly devoted to the Soviet space programme or nuclear missile development working on incorporating secret rocket thrusters and such things into those wheelchairs. Or maybe nuclear powered artificial legs. Then again, perhaps they've developed a serum which, when injected into their Paralympians before a race, allows them to regrow missing limbs, thereby giving them an unfair advantage. Obviously, as soon as the race was over, the limb would vanish again, making the cheating impossible to prove. OK, I know the video replays would appear to show them with a full complement of limbs, but nobody could argue with the fact that before and after, they didn't have them all.
There is, of course, another, far more sinister possibility: that the Russians are taking perfectly healthy athletes, deliberately amputating their limbs and replacing them with bionic arms and legs, then entering them in the Paralympics rather than the Olympics. In fact, this could be the real reason behind the Russian Paralympic ban. They were trying to circumvent the Olympic ban on some of their athletes in this way. OK, perhaps winning a shed load of Paralympic gold medals wouldn't have quite the same cachet as actual Olympic golds, but what the hell, it's better than nothing, isn't it? Sure, it would mean losing a limb or two, but what's that compared to the glory of winning a gold medal? Besides, the replacement limbs are actually better than the originals. Yep, you can just see how the Russian authorities would have sold it to their athletes. But, sadly for them, now this avenue has been blocked off, too. But not to worry, the actual Olympic authorities have turned out to have less balls than their Paralympic equivalents, as they passed the buck on imposing a blanket ban on Russian athletes, despite the whole doping scandal, resulting in lots of them being eligible to compete after all. If they hadn't already cut of their arms and legs, that is. (Actually, didn't they used to rather patronisingly call the Paralympics the 'Special Olympics', or am I imagining this, or confusing it with something else?).