Posts Tagged ‘satellites’

Gossip Girl taps ICD4D

June 4, 2009

Gossip Girl is a total guilty pleasure of mine. Initially intrigued by its being set in two posh, private Manhattan schools, I knew after watching the pilot that this would be my mindless TV joy. But recently I was unable to suspend my disbelief when GG’s world of shiny things attempted to fuse with ITC4D. Preppy cad Gabriel and his faux socialite sidekick Poppy (a name that’s even more fun in Afrikaans, doll) have been running all over New York pitching a business idea so obviously profitable that they have heaps of rich folks falling over themselves to invest after only vague elevator pitches at swanky cocktail parties. Problem is it’s all a con and they plan to skip town with the money. But that’s besides the point – what is their super convincing idea? Its very vaguely described as “backing a company that wants to provide wireless access to the developing world”. The really fun this about this idea is that the investors don’t seem to be in it for the warm charitable glow, but because it is set to triple their money “by the end of summer”. As fang-toothed Gabrielle tells a googly-eyed Serena van der Woodsen this startling prediction at a party, she responds with the following blithely unaware gem:

yes that's chuck in the background looking rightfully suspicious

"Come on, without you how else will all those African teenagers send in posts to Gossip Girl?"

Yes because that’s what African teenagers really want Serena – to gossip about whose shack has the shiniest tin roof. Later, as Gabriel schmoozes with more potential investors, he explains:

"The governments, the ISP's and the big companies need to use these satellites. We can be the only game in town" and implies that the free wireless is a happy consequence of the big business "Doing well by doing good"

"The governments, the ISP's and the big companies need to use these satellites. We can be the only game in town"

Satellites? I am so intrigued but, oh no! Before he can explain more about those pesky techno details, he puts on the money squeeze:

“There’s a ticking clock, some of the major Internet corporations are looking to do a similar thing. If we act now we block them completely and we make at least triple on our investment”

Are you convinced? Lily Bass was:

"You can tell your backers I'm in!"

"You can tell your backers I'm in!"

After 5 seconds of thought? Perhaps that last husband of Lily’s should have thought twice about leaving his Trump-esque fortune and company in this lady’s hands when he croaked.

In the next episode this delicious con continues with Poppy stepping up during a swish lunch with Georgina at the Russian Tea Room spinning more wireless yarn while drinking martinis and eating caviar:

business lunch

business lunch

G: Who knew you could bring wireless to third world countries? What a great job!

P: Yeah it’s really more of a passion that a job. I mean it gives so much to the children.

G: Of course! I mean they can look at faraway places and read Bible stories. Oh! They can download Kirk Cameron movies!

Ah, it’s all about the children, Kirk Cameron movies for development, yay! Having been recently immersed in ICT4D during my internship at the Technology for Emerging Markets Group and attending ICTD 2009, this was a total laugh. The idea that wireless internet for people who probably don’t even have computers could be a free side effect of a profitable business in Africa where governments needed some other awesome ass satellites. That browsing the internet to look at faraway places and Bible stories would be its main mode of improvement for poverty stricken children. The preposterous idea that people would have the speeds needed to download whole movies (using which computers and what storage if I may ask).

But I am too harsh, truly I expect GG writers to be experts in Manhattan and debutant balls, not technologists so all is forgiven. (Though I do wish they hadn’t rushed it in the end, I would have liked to see the take down of Gabriel and Poppy rather than have it tacked onto the final episode as a btw)

XOXO

pilgrimage day 9.0 – destination, Jerusalem

January 15, 2009

It’s a well known adage that life is not about the destination, but the journey. This pilgrimage was about Jesus’ journey, but the destination, where Jesus fulfilled his mission, had equal gravity. Even though we had been in Jerusalem a few days already, day 9 we ‘arrived’, everything after this day felt like a winding down of the pilgrimage. Day 9 was also, fittingly, the harshest single day of the whole trip, but, somehow, I felt full of energy and verve. The day was so ridiculously long that I’m splitting it into two posts (which is saying something becuase the posts so far have been way-too-long-for-blog). Anyways, we woke at 5am and left for a 6am Mass at the Holy Sepulcher. We got our Mass in early at the overbooked Christian epicentre, during its Catholic time-slice. We walked a windy, complicated path through the Old City during a grey pre-dawn to get there. The streets were weirdly quiet compared to their regular buzz and clutter. Once we got inside the empty, echoey church we gathered at it’s focus: the enclosure built around Jesus’ tomb. After a while we entered through a narrow entry to a teeny room, the size of a large elevator, for a Mass which contemplated Jesus’ resurrection from the very spot where we were standing. At the end of Mass, one at a time, we walk-crawled through a low arch into an even teenier room at the middle of the enclosure where there was only a large altar built over the rocks of the tomb. Here we knelt and reached into a hole to touch those scared rocks. By the time we emerged from the enclosure, there were already more pilgrims starting to gather.

early morning at the Holy Sepulchre

early morning at the Holy Sepulchre

a glimpse into the sepulchre

a glimpse into the sepulchre

After a quick breakfast nip back to the hotel, we drove off to the Western Wall (a.k.a. Wailing Wall or Kotel), that site of contentiousness between the Jewish and Muslim. The wall’s history is obviously interesting and the fact that Jews are able to pray there freely is a big deal as it is the only part of the Temple that remains. At the commission in which the Jewish sought free worship at the wall, the following argument was made which I think sums up the wall’s meaning and the Jews desperation to hold onto it:

“Being judged before you today stands a nation that has been deprived of everything that is dear and sacred to it from its emergence in its own land – the graves of its patriarchs, the graves of its great kings, the graves of its holy prophets and, above all, the site of its glorious Temple. Everything has been taken from it and of all the witnesses to its sanctity, only one vestige remains – one side of a tiny portion of a wall, which, on one side, borders the place of its former Temple. In front of this bare stone wall, that nation stands under the open sky, in the heat of summer and in the rains of winter, and pours out its heart to its God in heaven.”

There are seperate queues for men and women to enter the site of the wall and very strict rules around maintaining its sanctity. There’s also a seperation at the wall such that there is a part for the tourists  and another for devout (I think Hasidic) Jews. Something else you notice is that, since the wall is so sacred, people do not turn their back on is, so as you leave you walk backwards facing the wall at all times.We got 5 minuts to walk around, and I didn’t walk all the way up and touch wall becuase I thought there wouldn’t be enough time. As we left I instantly regretted it, but Angie, who did touch the wall, did something which really moved me; she saw I was upset, picked up my hand and rubbed it against hers saying ‘Now we both touched the wall’.

rules of sanctity

rules of sanctity

the holiest place

the holiest place

Next we moved onto an even more contested site, the same space is, for Jews, the Temple Mount, where the Temple once stood and, for Muslims, it is where Mohammed ascended into heaven and where he will again appear at final judgement. It is the most holy place for Jews and the third most holy place for Muslims. One thing both agree on is that it is where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac. The space is occupied by two important Islamic places of worship the  Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, (as in the rock on which Abraham prepared Isaac for sacrifice). We walked through a make-shift tunnel with heavily armed soldiers posted along it to get to the Temple Mount.

Temple Mount arch

Temple Mount arch

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

We left the Temple Mount and walked through the Muslim quarter to see two things: St. Anne’s which is considered the birthplace of Mary and the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus restored a blind man’s vision. Bizarrely and unexpectedly we were shuffled into a choir formation in St. Annes to sing a hymn becuase the acoustics there are really good. It was odd becuase there was an air of rush, we had to do this thing we didn’t know we were going to do *fast* bacuase there were other groups chomping at the bit for their choral moment. So, it seems, that’s what you do at St. Anne’s, you’re expected to sing; if you ever go, be prepared. At the pools there there was lots of talking by Frank (which I didn’t really process since I was still thinking about the Temple Mount) and a very quick looksee before we had to move onto to the Via Dolorosa.

one of many altars in St. Annes

one of many altars in St. Anne's

We got to do something very special and follow the Via Dolorosa, the way Jesus walked after his condemnation to his cruxifiction. We walked this path carrying a large wooden cross in turns and stopping at each station of the cross to read from the Bible and pray. The streets were narrow and filled with nonplussed shopkeepers who looked like they’ve seen thousands of Via Dolorosa processions. Ultimately we reached a little green door which turned out to be a wierd back entrance to the Holy Sepulchre, where we completed the last five stations and wandered around among the throngs of people. This time we also got to go to the altar above the rock of Calvary and touch that rock.

via dolorossa - the stations

via dolorossa - the stations

walking the via dolorosa

walking the via dolorosa

oddities through the back entrance of the Holy Sepulchre

oddities through the back entrance of the Holy Sepulchre

After that people got to rest for a while in the plaza outside the church before walking a good while through the shop-filled lanes to get to a Maronite nunnery where Frank had organised a lunch for us. The nuns there knew him well since he had grown up near the nunnery and spent lots of time there as a boy getting up to mischief such as hiding from his parents in their bell tower. We were led up a long flight of stairs which has very hard on the older folk. We ended up on a rooftop where we got an awesome view of rooftops used as backyards, statellites, domes, churches. Frank dissected the view, pointing out the different religious quarters and landmarks. Lunch was simple, homey and delicious and our table was filled with rollicking good table mates like Tia, Mae, Luisa, Fr. Chico, Caroline and Veronica.

lots of folk needed helping hands during all the walking

lots of folk needed helping hands during all the walking

rooftop backyard

rooftop backyard

look at this ladys apron

look at this lady's apron

Next, what we did after chilling at the Maronite nunnery…