Posts Tagged ‘iPods’

Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Link to article: 12 months, countless countries, one bag

Roberto Rocha with all his gear.

Roberto Rocha with all his gear.

Canadian traveler Roberto Rocha put together a sound list of things to bring and not to bring on a long backpacking trip. “No room for dead weight,” he writes. “Lose the long pants and travel gadgets, but hang onto the camera and Swiss Army knife.”

I concur: I’m all about the camera and Swiss Army knife. Laptop, however? Not so much. I never backpack with a laptop; I opt for Internet cafes (see 9. Lost e-mails).

What to pack: Thai fisherman’s pants, shirts made of light material, travel-size toiletries, three must-haves (Swiss Army knife, camera and MacBook).

What to ditch: long pants, towel (they come with rooms everywhere), travel gadgets (e.g. flexible silicon bowls, foldable water bottle, waterproof wallet bag).

Oh, and like me (see 16. iPod Thieves), Roberto’s had his iPod stolen. Go figure.

For more on this topic, check out What not to bring backpacking: 10 things to leave at home.

32. Poorly Bootlegged/Pirated Movies

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

The rapid recent advancement of multimedia technology has expanded the backpacker market for bootlegged and pirated movies. Devices like iPods and netbooks (and soon the new iPad and tablet PCs like it) have become increasingly affordable, accessible and transportable. As a result, the old bootleg movie has reached a new level of acceptance.

In turn, so the quality of the bootlegs we buy has improved. We’ve come a long way from shaky handycams in the movie theater, with people standing up and blocking the screen (see Seinfeld). Although bad versions like these still exist, it is more possible these days to find a still-in-theaters movie with acceptable sound and picture. Obviously, movies and TV series that are already on DVD are available in high-quality direct replications. A friend of mine tells me that by using a media converter, you can transmit your downloaded material directly to your HD TV and home theatre/stereo components, but that’s for at home. This blog is about traveling.

nycmoviepiracy

Experienced travelers are well familiar with the smorgasbord of bootlegged movies and iPod downloads available in Chinatowns around the world. Often, purveyors of such black-market material operate briskly, take your orders using binders of movie covers laid on a collapsable table, with the burnt DVDs delivered like drugs from a stash at a hidden location. In case the police appear, the set-up can be disassembled instantly, with the vendor sometimes taking off running. It’s all for show, really, as the authorities no doubt turn a blind eye to the entire process. I’m sure there are police officers watching bootlegged movies with their families as I write this. Years ago, the corporate film industry, so outraged by their billion-dollar losses due to bootlegging, launched “Buying Bootlegged Movies Is A Crime!” commercials familiar to us all.

With these commercials, the film and recording industries attempt to nurture an ethical conflict within the population, based on a common understanding of copyright infringement and intellectual property rights. Fuck that though, I was copying cassettes and burning CDs without hesitation for decades. For a time, Napster and Limewire were my best friends.

And don’t give me the whole “well, the artist is trying to make a living and illegal downloads prevent him/her from doing so” argument. “What about supporting the artist?” Shove it up your ass, James Hetfield. That argument is so ’90s. The paradigm has shifted. Artists no longer need a record deal to become successful. Drake signed a reportedly multimillion-dollar contract with Young Money after generating fame from mixtapes released online for free. Live Nation is signing the world’s biggest acts now (Jay-Z, Madonna, etc.) because the highest margins are in concert revenue, not CD or iTunes royalties.

But there’s a line to be drawn on the basis of quality. It sucks when you download a shitty version of an .mp3, which sounds crackly or is just too quiet. It’s the same with bootlegged movies. The lack of quality is the price you pay for poaching free, illegal reproductions available before release date, be they albums or DVDs. I embrace the criminal accessibility, but I hate the poor quality. But such is the inevitable cost-benefit equilibrium of any product or service. So the verdict on pirated and bootlegged movies while backpacking? More of a love-hate, I guess. Oh, and I hate people who hate on people who buy bootlegged shit.

27. One-uppers

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Traveling to a cool place is like going to an awesome concert. The experience is so good that you wish everybody could see and hear what it’s like. This type of feeling gives one a false sense of superiority, the delusion that other people are missing out big time. “You really shoulda been there,” or “OMG, I wish you were there,” or “You would have LOVED it,” are common manifestations of this feeling.

Don’t be fooled. These statements are stone cold, back-handed beenous. The back-handed beenou is a standard backpacker conversational maneuver. The speaker feigns a desire to share, but really it’s a need to gloat, so he tickles his uvula and pukes out a quick beenou for all to behold.

kristen-wiig-as-penelope-snl-kristen-wiig-323108_1024_768But even when somebody hasn’t missed out — when they’ve actually been to that place or seen that concert — it doesn’t compare. This is one-upping. Somebody sneaked out a little horn toot, which led Mr. Big Shot to pull the tugboat foghorn. The exchange takes on a sudden “check, check mate” silence, leaving everybody feeling stunned and staring blankly at the table.

“I absolutely loved Amsterdam,” somebody says.

“Yeah, Amsterdam is pretty amazing,” says Mr. Big Shot. ”I met a Dutch guy when I was backpacking in Indo. His mom was born in Indo when it was still a Dutch colony. Anyway, he was in Indo trying to get in touch with his roots. On a jungle trek we went on, he got bit by a snake and I sucked the venom out; saved his life. Years later, I went to visit him; he lives in Amsterdam. His dad like owns Shell Oil. So we got blazed, ate krokete and drove Maseratis through the streets of Amsterdam all fuckin’ day.”

You see, one-uppers can’t help but shit all over a perfectly good conversation between well meaning travelers. It’s a collegiate thing, sort of like how the goof with the ponytail challenges Matt Damon to an intellectual duel only to get absolutely demolished by Damon, who cites plagiarism and famously proceeds to get Minnie Driver’s number. My boy’s wickid smaht.

The point is: One-uppers will do whatever it takes to make conversation revolve around themselves and their enlightened, shoulda-been-there experience.

The weekend after we ran with the bulls (beenou, see 1. Aussie Guys), my buddies and I went to San Sebastian. The place was awash in backpacker overflow from Pamplona. We ended up partying with some Americans and amid the drunken blur of pub hopping and running into a number of annoying Brit lad parties with matching t-shirts or rugby shirts, I recall getting caught in a heavy downpour.

We retreated to an apartment a few of the Americans had been renting for the past month leading up to the Running of the Bulls. We proceeded to keep drinking and people were playing CDs. Completely dating myself, as this was pre-iPod era. Somebody put on Dave Matthews Band. And an interesting wrinkle in the time-space continuum gave rise to a compound beenou of unseen magnitude: A backpacker bragged about an awesome concert.

“Oh this song reminds me of when we saw Dave in some dive bar in Memphis,” said the backpacker, a fat dude from Georgia. That’s right. He called him “Dave,” like he knew him, not Dave Matthews. “This was way before Crash, before college radio made him huge and lame. He and the band were only doing small shows in tiny little venues. Blahblahblahblah…”

I wish I had more quotes from this guy, but I was drunk and, as a habit I tend to block out one-uppers.

Backpacking in the News

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Link to article: One in eight young backpackers has been a victim of theft

A British travel insurance company has found that 12 percent of young backpackers have been a victim of theft while traveling. Another 5 percent of British backpackers polled have been mugged in foreign countries.

Other findings:

  • Male backpackers are more likely to be mugged than females.
  • 7% of male backpackers have been mugged, versus 2% of females.
  • Likewise, 12% of male respondents have been victims of theft, versus 11% of females.

“For many young people, going traveling is the best time of their lives, but it’s all too easy to forget that some places are full of unscrupulous people who are waiting to prey on backpackers,” said Perry Wilson, founder of InsureandGo, the company behind the study. “Young people shouldn’t be put off having fun, but they should take care not to put themselves in dangerous situations and they should plan their trip as carefully as possible (i.e. buy expensive insurance from me).”

Personally, I don’t know if we should necessarily take advice from guys named Perry.

Despite the known risks associated with backpacking, a considerable number young adventurers go without travel insurance, as has been previously reported (see 22. Scooter accidents). InsureandGo noted that 37 percent of respondents “do not always have travel insurance while away,” and one in five (20%) “rarely or never have it,” and would therefore not be covered for any stolen possessions or medical bills resulting from being mugged overseas.

As a male backpacker who has never bought travel insurance and who has indeed been a victim of theft (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed and 16. iPod Thieves), I confess that I will continue to forgo travel insurance, not eat my vitamins, put my mean face on in public, and take whatever shit comes my way. Bring it on, gypsies! I’m ready.

16. iPod Thieves

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

After being stolen from, no matter what the circumstance may be, a question you will inevitably ask yourself is, “Who would do such a thing?” The answer is: Assholes.

Don’t give me the sob story of Oliver Twist. These poor locals. They must steal from the rich travelers in order to survive! They desperately need to feed themselves and their families! They need the money in your wallets, so they’ll pick your pocket, take out the cash and ditch the rest - sorry for the inconvenience (see 6. Getting Pickpocketed). In reality, most of the iPods getting stolen along the backpacker trail are not taken by Oliver Twists.

Although impoverished locals (assholes) are responsible for the odd stolen iPod, the majority of iPod thieves are douchebag travelers (also assholes). Unlike pickpockets, who are predominantly poor people or gypsies, these iPod thieves are more in it for the device than for instant black market cash. I don’t know what the resale value is for a scratched up, poorly file-categorized and already obsolete iPod, but it’s probably not much.

It’s ironic because you would expect your fellow travelers to be people who look out for each other and turn in forgotten items to the hostel lost-and-found. Optimists would argue that most backpackers are trustworthy, but if this were the case, why all the lockers in the dorm rooms (see 15. Dormitories)? Cynics, however (myself included), would counter that the average backpacker isn’t as trustworthy as one might hope. No offense to all you good samaritans out there.

It’s the same with camera theft. Once you’ve lost a camera, you come to realize the content on the device is worth more than the device itself. An iPod contains a backpacker’s personal soundtrack to his/her trip. It took a long time to create and pirate that music (and sometimes movie) library. Tireless hours of last-minute leeching and seeding before you have to catch that flight. In some cases, your piracy went as far as syncing your library with those of other travelers you met and hung out with along the way.

Older backpackers may better relate to stolen CD wallets, which were much worse because original CDs cost so much. A good buddy of mine went on his first backpacking trip to Australia almost 10 years ago and got his CD wallet stolen. The thing was chock full of original CDs (72 in total) bought with money he worked thankless minimum wage hours to earn. Seventy-two CDs, at an average of 15 bucks per, is $1,080. That’s a lot of cash when you’re between the ages of 16 and 20. But the point is, when you’re on a big trip, your music collection is worth a hell of a lot more than that. It’s fucking priceless.

So here’s a modest request from good travelers to would-be douchebag travelers out there. Don’t be an asshole. Buy your own iPod. They’re cheap now anyway.

13. Vegetarians

Friday, June 19th, 2009

“I don’t go around promoting beef or poultry, shoving it in people’s faces. I don’t castigate people for eating steak sandwiches… I’ve seen some of you herbivores and if you wanna argue health, y’all need to eat some kinda supplement.” - Immortal Technique, “Beef and Broccoli” (Album: Revolutionary Vol. 1)

Eschew McDonalds if you want. I don’t care. But if you go traveling and some poor local family invites into their home and they offer you some food with meat in it, eat it. The head of the household works his/her fingers to the bone at some despicable multinational factory for that protein, so you better eat it. Their family doesn’t shop at Whole Foods and they certainly can’t afford GNC supplements. Besides, if you’re so open-minded, you should check your prejudice at the door and try something new, right?

Still, if you insist on being a vegetarian, don’t tell me it’s for the damn animals. Unless you’re a hard-core, badass vegetarian living in a treehouse in the middle of a forest somewhere waiting to eat the apple that falls off the tree, you’re using animal products. I saw you eating gummi bears the other day and last I checked, those shoes aren’t hemp. Your necklace is though.

But it’s the preachiness of it all that kills me. Backpackers are huge preachers. And most preachers are hypocrites. Even Martin Luther King had a fling on the side. Just do your thing. I won’t attack you. But don’t attack me when I’m elbow deep into a rotisserie chicken.

Part of being a backpacker is being broke. Making the most of a tight budget. You don’t sleep in hostels by choice; it’s out of necessity. Desperate times call for desperate measures: I’ve had to cut down my meat intake when I was traveling and strapped for cash. It sucked. As soon as I could eat meat again, dude, I was on it.

Maybe it’s a fashion statement. After all, it goes well with your whole backpacker motif: hemp necklace, cargo shorts, Birkenstocks, dreadlocks (or even worse, white girls with corn rows - they end up lookin’ like Sprewell), book about Buddhism in your bag and Ben Harper/Jack Johnson albums on your iPod.

Here’s a story for you:  A reformed vegetarian, Jack Johnson now serves as an important role model to backpackers everywhere. Apparently there is still hope for clued out hippies. “If anybody invites me over, I eat whatever they serve,” he said. See? He figured it out. It wasn’t worth all the pretending.

8. The Lonely Planet

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Sure, it’s a love-hate relationship. Everybody already knows the merits of the world’s most popular guidebook. It is, after all, the Elvis Presley of the guidebook Hard Rock Cafe. But let’s take a moment to examine its dark side.

lpOften considered “The Backpacker’s Bible,” the Lonely Planet was created in 1972 by travel pioneers Tony and Maureen Wheeler after they beenoued their way all across Asia, telling one and all about how much money they saved on their journey. Over the next 30-odd years, this enterprising British couple turned their diary project into an international beenou machine, marking the course of nearly every person that beenous their face off about their recent trip as you’re idly sitting at his/her dining room table wondering how it all came to this.

A modern day Ferdinand and Isabella, the Wheelers unknowingly commissioned generations of Christopher Columbi to rape and pillage the peaceful savages inhabiting distant and mythical lands. Just kidding - they published guidebooks about Western nations too. Not as much raping and pillaging there though. More like ass-raping prices. Backpackers are incredibly averse to those.

Does it have to be so big? Yeah, yeah, yeah: “The country-specific books are much smaller and packable. Way more informative, too.” Did you not just read that backpackers are broke? Come on man. We bought the South America on a Shoestring edition because a) we are on a shoestring budget and b) it cost $40 while the books for Argentina through to Uruguay came to $6,076.22.

But we refuse to buy the bootlegged copies. We won’t even take them for free. They’re unbearable and so ghetto.

It’s heavy. It weighs 17 pounds. And it’s so thick, it’s more like a dense cube of paper. Did they ever think about transparent Bible paper? You know, the Gideon stuff in those mini-Bibles. But I guess the ol’ LP is handy for self-defense - you can swing it at would-be thieves like a mace ball since you’re already carrying it in a plastic bag with your SIGG (used to be Nalgene) water bottle and Kit Kat bar. “What? It wouldn’t fit in my backpack, OK? (harsh irony) And I need it to figure out where we’re going!”

Despite its shortcomings, I think the Lonely Planet catches undue flak for being inaccurate. I’ve heard many a begrudged traveler go so far as to call it  the “Lonely Liar.” Take it easy. Things change; people go out of biz; prices go up. It’s not THAT bad. Besides, all of those people were holding one as they called it a Liar. Others will bitch for hours about the maps, but I suspect they’re just cartographically inept. I’ve never once encountered an unforgivably errant map, and I’ve seen hundreds (colossal beenou).

Make it downloadable. The BBC bought 75 percent of the company in 2007. Just save us all the trouble, help the environment (a major backpacker plus) and make all of it available on iTunes you greedy (ahem, bloody) imperialist bastards. I can’t even imagine how awesome it would be to navigate through the content on an iPod Touch/iPhone. I really can’t. But you can get the LP Audio Phrasebook App! Yippee.

Ever look at the contributors? They’re huge dorks. I can’t believe I’m taking advice about “Dance Clubs” worth a visit ”if you’re a young twentysomething,” written by some 43-year-old, single ”wanderer at heart” who writes for The Economist and spends “countless hours exploring museums, cathedrals and art galleries.” This person will not help me get laid overseas (This shyster [Thomas Kohnstamm], on the other hand, might). For these hapless scribes, it truly is a lonely planet.