Friday, 24 September 2010

How do you get people to protect themselves from something they don't believe in?

Misleading headlines are pretty common in the tabloids these days. In fact flicking through an edition of the Jennifer Aniston Weekly National Enquirer you're unlikely to find anything but (Gee Note: Like if you ever see the headline "Brittany's drug HELL" you can pretty much guarantee it's not about the delightful Ms. Spears snorting lines of coke on the floor of a truck stop toilet, but instead about how the not-crazy-anymore pop princess is maybe possibly thinking about taking a trip to a region in South America which is close to a place where people allegedly sell narcotics ). So I guess you become desensitized to them. Still now and then one will catch you out, leaving you feeling a slight sense of exhilaration before becoming rather miffed.

Take the breathless headline recently found on the BBC website, for example:

Urgent call on EU to stop billion-euro 'alien invasion'.

Which, of course, got me all kinds of excited. In fact I pretty much came up with the rest of the article in my head right there and then...

Spanish farming official Juan DosBonkers has called for urgent action from the EU to prevent UFOs creating Crop Circles. "It's about time this madness came to end" says DosBonkers. "Year upon year local farmers are losing money hand over fist, their crops being wasted because some extra terrestrial bastard decides to do an intergalactic Etch-A-Sketch. For no reason either. I mean it would be one thing if it was a picture of a lovely big cow or something. But it's all squiggles and shit. And Europe is, like, really big. So if you add up all those wasted crops it comes to quite a bit of money. My point is it's about time those no good bureaucrats in Brussels stopped worrying about fiddling their expenses and did something about it."

So you can imagine my disappointment when about five lines in it became clear it was nothing of the sort. Instead the story was all about some environmentalists getting in to a flap about a gang of ruthless ducks taking over a pond that didn't belong to them. Or something. To be honest I gave up reading it about half way through and started to have a daydream about being an astronaut.

Thankfully however birds with webbed feet aren't the only alien invaders we should be wary of. Just ask Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.

Ilyumzhinov is the President of Kalmykia. Fighting out of the red corner Kalmykia hails from South East Russia, weighs in at 29,400 square miles, and borders Dagestan, Rostov Oblast, and the Caspian Sea to name but a few. More importantly Kalmykia is Europe's only Buddhist Republic, and earns it's dosh mainly from agriculture and the fact it's sat on a massive oil reserve.

Now Kirsan is, by all accounts, a bit of a character. Born in Elista on April 5 1962 he came from a relatively poor background, and started off his working life as a mechanic in a factory. After a compulsory stint in the Soviet army he bounced around a bit before making a huge wad of cash in the private sector after the fall of the USSR. He then turned his attention to his first two loves (Gee Note: His pet pig named "Ted" and making miniature furniture for dolls who enjoy a spot of afternoon tea. Well OK. Not really). Firstly he ran for President of Kalmykia in 1993 using such crowd pleasing slogans as Yes We Can! “A wealthy President is a safeguard against corruption”. No really. That's what he ran with. Outstanding isn't it? It's like saying “A man who's already drunk is an ideal candidate to look after your open bottle of vodka” or “If you're looking for a guard for your picnic basket you can't get much better than a fat bear wearing a tie and a hat”. Amazingly the voting public were obviously swayed by this faultless logic and he was elected to office, going on to repeat victories in 1995 and 2002.

Ilyumzhinov's other love is the game of chess. At the age of 14 he won the Kalmykian national chess championship, and throughout his career as a politician Kirsan has made the promotion of the strategic sport his number one priority. He has made chess lessons mandatory for all school children in Kalmykia and even built a “Chess City”, which is a bit like Disneyland except with a lot less cartoon animals and a lot more chess, in his home town of Elista. Such dedication impressed various members of the Chessing (Gee Note: “Chessing” is not really a word is it?) community and Ilyumzhinov was elected president of the game's governing body “FIDE” in 1995.

So at this point Kirsan was riding on a high. President of Kalmykia. President of FIDE. Building resorts. Making money. No wonder he attracted the attention of some exotic visitors.

One night in 1997 “Easy Ily” was kicking back in the palatial grounds of his homestead when, according to him, quite unexpectedly a spaceship landed on his balcony. Showing the same level headedness as that man in “The Blob” who tries to kill the monster with a shotgun (Gee Note: Dude. It's a gelatinous ooze that travels at 0.6 miles an hour. If you stand perfectly still firing bullets at it then of course it's going to eat you. If on the other hand you break in to a brisk stroll you'll out run it in about 30 seconds, at which point it'll get bored of chasing you and head off to bother Steve McQueen. It's not rocket science is what I'm saying) rather than making his way to door at a rate of knots, Kirsan decided to go and meet these strange beings. Where upon they promptly kidnapped him and took him aboard their flying saucer.

"They put a spacesuit on me, told me many things and showed me around. They wanted to demonstrate that UFOs do exist", he said in an interview on a Russian talk show. "I am often asked which language I used to talk to them. Perhaps it was on a level of the exchange of the ideas."

(Gee Note: Bloody illegal immigrants eh? They come to this planet, use all our resources, and they can't even be bothered to learn the language. I'm sure the BNP would have something to say about this).

In an article this past week in The Independent newspaper Ilyumzhinov elaborated on the story. It wasn't just the spaceship that the aliens wanted to show off. No siree, they also wanted to make it clear that they were responsible for the “cosmic” game of Chess.

Oh and sweetcorn. The aliens also gave us sweetcorn. For some reason.

This isn't just the chaotic rambling of a broken mind you understand. Kirsan has evidence on his side. After all proof of chess being played the world over centuries ago with similar rules has been unearthed by archaeologists. "There was no internet before, so how did it get across the world? It means that it was brought from somewhere."

“I'm not ill. I'm psychologically normal,” continues Ilyumzhinov, adding that he didn't try and hide his contact with ET and his buddies. “Even though I knew that people would laugh at me and say I was crazy. Maybe it was a form of self-sacrifice.”

So, for those of you keeping score, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the President of Kalmykia, which is packed full of natural fuel. He believes that he once had a rather pleasant chat with a gaggle of little green men with his mind powers, where they told him that they gave the Earth chess and sweetcorn as a gift. And by revealing this information to the world he now thinks he has become a martyr.

You see, people like Ilyumzhinov exist all over the world. However most of the time these people (Gee Note: Such as tracksuit wearing David Icke with his overblown Messiah complex and off the wall ideas about reptilian shape shifters) get made fun off. Not put in charge of a large economy and one of the world's leading leisure activities.

Next week the members of FIDE will meet up to decide the future of Ilyumzhinov as head of the esteemed organisation. He faces stiff competition in the form of  multi-time World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov and possibly the world's most famous chess player Gary Kasporov, vying for the positions of President and Vice-President respectively. Attendees at the conference will get to vote on whether they want globally respected players running their sport, or a guy who claims he once met with aliens on his balcony.

But Ilyumzhinov isn't going down without a fight. You know that pesky plot of land near “Ground Zero” in New York that caused a spot of bother recently? The one where they wanted to build a Mosque which caused Fox News to pitch a fit and some tosser in Florida to decide to organise a Qur'an burning day?

(Gee Note: Seriously though. What's the big deal about building a Mosque two blocks from where the World Trade Centre once stood? The people who hijacked those planes on 9/11 didn't do it because they were Muslims. Sure OK, the terrorists were all Muslim, much in the same way the people responsible for the Omagh bombings were all Christian. And yet I'm pretty sure if you built a Church next door to where that car bomb went off no one would bat an eyelid. Thinking about it all the 9/11 terrorists were men as well, so why not just be done with it and blame penises? Just castrate any male with a five mile radius of “Ground Zero”. It's one way to ensure you'll sleep safe at night.

Actually I was thinking about this other day. When I was a kid, probably about nine or ten, I remember asking my dad who his hero was.

“John Lennon”, he replied. Now Lennon had died two years before I was born and, despite my father playing music constantly in the car on every family trip, I was a bit fuzzy on who this lad from Liverpool was. So I sat down next to my father as he told me all about The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper, Yoko, and everything else in between.

“What's John Lennon doing now?” I asked when he'd finished.

“Oh he died a while back.” replied my father

“Really? How?”

“He got shot by a man named Mark David Chapman.”

“Why did he shoot him?” I asked, fully expecting my dad to tell a tale of financial skulduggery, or musical jealousy, or some illicit love affair.

Instead my father looked me straight in the eye and let out a resigned sigh. “Because Mark Chapman is an asshole,” he said.

And that was that. No more explanation needed. For some reason whenever I hear all the talk of building a Mosque near Ground Zero being “offensive” that conversation with my dad pops in to my head.)

Well Kirsan has the answer. Forget about the Mosque. How about using that prime space for something quite special? Specifically, a 24 storey high World Chess Centre built in the shape of a King chess piece. Complete with a bank of high powered computers, an observatory to stare at night time stars, and of course plenty of opportunities to whip out your chessboard. Convinced that this is a prospect no one could resist, Ilyumzhinov has written to New York's mayor offering a rather tasty $10 million for the project's development.

Of course some might find this a bit over the top. I mean after all more popular sports than chess don't have such grand settings dedicated to them. But Ilyumzhinov believes it's not just for chess, but also for mankind's continued survival.

 "Above us, they are looking at us, and maybe they will get tired of us. How can we save ourselves from them? Only though intellect, concentration and spiritual energy. If a billion people are in these chess centres, playing chess, the world will have positive energy."

You know, there was an episode of Lie To Me that aired recently which contained the following quote: "Good chess players think five moves ahead. Great chess players only think one move ahead. But it's always the right move.".  Now don't get me wrong, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is obviously barking mad. And I seriously doubt that any alien being would go to the hassle of travelling entire star systems just to show off their ship and promote the virtues of a complicated strategy game rather than, you know, shooting at us with death lasers or teaching us the secret of hauling ass faster than the speed of light.

But I don't know. I like the idea that for once someone who claims to have contacted "them upstairs" isn't talking about dark conspiracies, or transcending our physical forms and rising to the seventh level of understanding. Instead all they think we need to do to avoid a catastrophy is play more games with each other. In a bizarre way, it's kind of refreshing.

And really, if playing chess is the way to do it, I can think of worse ways of saving the human race.

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