Back in the days when I was a boy electrician employed by a major broadcaster, my main duty was to sit up all night and watch television coming out of the old Soviet Union, just in case something unusual might happen.
At a quarter past four o'clock of each morning, I would watch - rapt - as a stern middle-aged woman in a too-tight leotard which left absolutely nothing to the imagination led viewers through 15 minutes of physical jerks to ready them for whatever Russian daily life threw at them. The thinking - I believe - was that nothing could possibly be worse than watching Mrs Sky Blue Leotard on all fours shouting "Ras - Dva - Tri - Chetyre" as if the secret police were about to hammer on the door should you even think of slacking off.
On morning in the early 1990s, my sanity was shaken to the core by the fact that the daily dose of unerotic aerobics to which I had become accustomed was strangely absent, and had been replaced by a grainy video of a production of Swan Lake.
Culture. At that hour. What were they thinking?
That is how I was one of the first people in the Western world to learn that there had been a coup in Russia, and that the Communists were making a (failed) bid to return to power.
This entire experience was the awakening of a love for what I term the Loony Tunes side of world politics. From the American Tea Party to the fruit loops that run North Korea, I am fascinated that these people are actually allowed to tell people how to think and behave. People who run around with cardboard cut-outs of Ayatollah Khomeini in the absence of the genuine article.
So when I receive an email that includes the words "Russian presidential candidate" and "donkey flogging" in close proximity, I am fascinated.
It appears - according to the Moscow News - that one of the most enduring fruit loops in Russian politics, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, has found himself in no little trouble after one of his election campaign videos showed him flogging a donkey (I repeat: Not sexy slang).
I'm pretty certain that I speak for most sane people that an election campaign video for one of the most powerful jobs on Earth which features the candidate himself toughing up a donkey is virtually guaranteed only to appeal to the small-yet-powerful fruit loop sector of society. See also: US Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose reality TV series featured her going out and shooting at things. There was no second series.
If this is the kind of thing to which politicians will descend for a bit of publicity, how long before we see Nick Griffin slapping a meerkat around the face whilst imploring punters "Don't be simples, vote BNP"? Nick Clegg, already taking a battering in the polls, may like to give a little thought to his next party political broadcast being nothing but a fight between himself and an angry baboon, presented as an allegory on politics within a coalition government. In a seperate Conservative broadcast, David Cameron will be dressed as an angry baboon, fighting Nick Clegg.
The sad fact is that political lunacy often wins votes, particularly when offering knee-jerk, spiteful policies to the easily-impressed. Today, you might be watching a man giving a bunch of fives to a dolphin, the next he might be president. Beware.
If you're really interested, the Zhirinovsky video is HERE and it's not pretty. Vladimir, you're an idiot.