Archive for the 'Culture' Category

How to Get Pick Pocketed: A Step by Step Guide

ulaanbaatar-1

Location: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 11/08
Randomly Appropriate Music: Black Wave/Bad Vibrations by Arcade Fire (although The Black Angel’s Death Song by the The Velvet Underground & Nico made a strong charge as I recalled the sense of confusion, the wounded pride of it all)


Would that man steal from you? I doubt it…

But he might.

My last post on Mongolia aimed for poetry: the stark beauty and isolation of Ulaanbaatar. This post is slightly more practical. I’ll wrap up next week with some stories from outside the capitol city, which in my mind is the only reason to go to Mongolia in the first place (a fact sadly lost on one my favorite bloggers, Chris Guillebeau, in his Art of Non-Conformity post, Misadventures in Mongolia).

Obviously, you clicked on this post because you want to ensure that next time you go abroad, you’ll be one of the lucky few to be pick-pocketed. Sounds easy, right? Not so fast! To ensure you get the proper treatment from a pick-pocket, who ideally takes not only of your cash but also valuable credit cards, tickets, and identification documents, careful planning is required. You really need to stand out and make yourself an ideal target.

Follow these simple steps, and I promise you, you too will have your pocket picked!

~~~

Step 1: Go somewhere dangerous and/or crowded

It is a sunny day in November.

I am in a market in Ulaanbaatar.

I see a man, eyes rolled back into his head, drunk. His face creased with labor-darkened skin, he bounces from side to side of a wide promenade. Obstacles—a small girl, a lamppost, a pothole, a table—confuse him. He tries to hold onto an idea: forward. Keep moving forward, and it will be alright.

Genghis Looks Over the Mountains, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Genghis looks over the mountains near the edge of town

I watch as the promenade narrows and he becomes trapped, a pinball between a pile of packing crates and a table of household supplies. The packing crates are impenetrable, and he turns, leaning his arm for balance on the back of a young Mongolian buying dish soap.

With his left hand, the young man swiftly brushes the drunk back. A foot of space emerges between them, and the young man cracks the drunk squarely on the jaw with his right hand, the creased face, now faced down, darkened with the mud of a muddy walkway.

They touched for three seconds, maybe less. The young man did not hesitate. I would have.

The crowd passes around the drunk like a rushing herd swallowing a downed animal. He is crippled but conscious, now another obstacle on the long walk home.

Welcome to Naran Tuul khudaldaany Tov. The Black Market.

~~~

Step 2: Be overconfident/ignore warning signs

Allow me to tell you how I got here.

Ulaanbaatar’s Black Market (also known as Khar Zakh) is ominously named and about as scary as you’d expect. It’s located well outside the city center, two bus connections away from any quaint charm that Ulaanbaatar might possess in its crumbling concrete walls.

Like many unique foreign locations, it’s absolutely enormous yet hard to find.

Disregarding warnings, I decide to take the bus instead of a taxi.

For anyone who has never taken a bus in a foreign country, let alone Mongolia, let me cut to the chase: yes, buses are that bad.

There are a few public transportation experiences that stick out in my mind for all the wrong reasons: the time I showed up at the wrong airport in Turkey and had to take a $65 crosstown taxi; the subway in Bucharest without maps or announcements (an English speaking local confided in me, “I have no idea where we’re going, I’m lost, too!”); the time I got trapped underneath Tokyo for two hours with a vicious hangover and a persistent “haven’t I seen this before?” feeling about the subway system that bordered on the dreamlike.

Buses, however are always the worst. They are cramped, and it’s impossible to figure out where you are without asking or guessing (which have a roughly equal success rate of about 4%). Unlike American buses, where you enter in the front in a roughly orderly fashion, most foreign buses employ a tout, allowing you to enter any way you can (including the roof rate for the so-called Chicken Buses of Guatemala). The tout squeezes through the bus, selling tickets and making change, somehow keeping track of who has already paid at each new stop.

Every time the bus comes to a rest, you feverishly duck your head, scanning for landmarks. You talk to the driver or the tout, and hope that they will care for you (or at least understand you). You shoot off boldly into the unknown, anxious for much of the ride, hoping that the unmarked vehicle you stepped into will honor the route on the fading bus stop sign and deliver you to your destination.

~~~

Soccer on a Dirt Field, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

A better photographer would have made something of this set, I'm sure of it

As the ancient diesel workhorses of Mongolia’s public transport system expel their passengers into the dirt cul-de-sac, you wonder, “Where am I? Why am I in a dirt cul-de-sac on the edge of town? Shouldn’t the largest market in the entire country be slightly easier to find?”

People rush in all directions. Their body language tells you: anywhere is better than here.

I spy a teenage girl, any seasoned traveler’s most likely bet for directions in English.

“Black Market?”

Blank stare.

I try a family, an older man, a middle aged woman.

“Black Market?”

I am beginning to think I have once again set sail on a lonely sea of missed directions and hours lost. A man in a suit approaches me, mud caked to his brown leather shoes. “You want Khar Zakh? You want market?

Yes. I want market.”

I follow him. I have not met him. Quite possibly no one I have met has ever met him. Perhaps no one I have ever met has ever met anyone that he has ever met. We are two completely unrelated bodies. We turn right or we turn left; we walk down a muddy street with high steel walls. There are always walls.

A long concrete rampart with a hole blasted through its center lurks around the next corner. Suddenly, there are many more people. They have emerged from this twisted network of walls, blown out buildings, and dust.

Beyond the concrete wall, there is a chainlink fence, torn at one end, held up as you pass under it. I hardly believe it, but this is the entrance to the Black Market. It felt like sneaking onto the rival high school’s football field, if only the rivals played in Communist Russia.

I wish I had proof, but it’s sort of like the Mongolian equivalent of an airport security checkpoint. Slow line. Everyone is tense. Not the kind of place one feels comfortable taking pictures.

Some people are forced to pay on entering, some insouciantly sidle by. It is not clear why this is. You, of course, as a foreigner, have the privilege of paying. Possibly double.

I reach for my wallet, held high in the chest pocket of my jacket, but my friend in the suit beats me to it, paying the small fee for me. He ushers me inside and gives me a look that says, be careful, you are on your own now, and disappears into the throng.

Apparently, in the summer, this market has as many as 60,000 visitors a day. I am in an endless row of large home appliances, beaten washers, dryers, and stoves, their piping splayed like animal innards. Animals, even dogs, are kept to do work here. They are not part of the family. The same is true of machines. They are kept, repaired, sold, and repaired again to do work, to outlast the poverty that keeps them. They are status symbols only for the very rich.

The market is Byzantine, but organized: appliances, stationary, car parts, and clothing stalls that look like airplane hangers, denim and winter clothes from China stretching beyond sight.

I wander, eventually finding my way to the food stalls. I purchase rice, a few root vegetables, and two whole fish.

~~~

4. Always take public transport, especially if you have bags/a backpack

I left as the vendors packed their stalls, and the skies darkened. The drunks, so incongruous in the light of day, began to take over the night. Whether passed out on the street (How would they not freeze? Who will find them?), warming themselves by oil drum fires, or fighting (always fighting), the night is theirs. I hurried to find my bus, confused as always, wishing I had listened to reason and left earlier.

The buses in UB are sorely overcrowded, virtually bursting at the seams. At night, when the market lets out, they are worse. My camera, a Nikon D90 which I prized above all of my possessions (yes, I slept hugging it close to my chest on the 36 hour train ride from Beijing), looked liked a tumor beneath my coat. I might as well have been traveling with a sign that read: RICH FOREIGNER, PLEASE RELIEVE HIM OF HIS WALLET.

My tripod and backpack across my back, my camera to my front, and my arms full of grocery bags, I was uncomfortable to say the least, constantly being jostled, aware that I was about 3 pairs of eyes short of seeing all the hands touching my possessions. Being a foreigner, everyone is often looking (read: staring) at you already. A foreigner taking up more than his allotment of space is no better.

It’s very artful how the pickpockets got me. Learn from this.

Before the stops, it’s clear who is jockeying to make a move, and who intends to stay put. When the thieves sense that you are about to get off, they have the blocker stand in your way and remain as oblivious as possible. As you are fighting to get his attention, you get pushed from behind, squeezed for a brief moment from an angle you never expected. It’s like someone is in even more of a hurry to get off the bus than you are.

And it’s then that a third hand reaches in and makes the theft.

~~~

5. Buy a money belt but don’t use it/make sure to carry all of your most important cards in the same place

I still remember hopping off the bus and realizing it instantly, my limpid zipper hanging down where it had once stood proudly protecting the wallet I foolishly thought was safe on my chest. I remember making eye contact with a boy just as I left the bus, and then like Kevin Spacey in the Usual Suspects, poof, gone. Alone on a cold street, with no money, no phone, no way to pay for the bus transfer home.

The thieves throw the cards away (although I still maintain a solemn hope that a small Mongolian boy has tried to use my NJ Driver’s license as some nonsensical fake ID) as that’s the only thing that will ever get them caught. The cash, they take. All told, they got about 18,000 tögrög from me, not even $15.

I gladly would have looked them in the face and handed them the money, knowing that they probably needed it more than I did, knowing how much aggravation replacing these cards would cause me in the next few weeks.

This was the last time I felt infallible as a traveler, the last time I laughed a little on the inside at the naivety of a poor hostel goer whose bag had been slashed or wallet robbed. Bound to happen, but never to you, never to me.

My pride was a wounded lion, shot not for sport, but for survival, by professionals. Professional hunters. Eat hunters. Eat.


Blog Carnival: Carnival of Cities, February 24th

Merry-Go-Round, Chengdu, China

Location: Chengdu, China, 11/08 (but this post is All World, baby!)
Randomly Appropriate Music: Better Things by Passion Pit (when I searched my brain for the phrase “carnival in your ears,” this was the first song that came to mind. It’s a scientific process here at travel culture + music)


This week the traveling blog carnival, Carnival of Cities, comes to town! For those not in the know, think of a blog carnival like a magazine that moves from blog to blog, aggregating a bunch of posts about a certain topic.

The Carnival of Cities is a bi-weekly carnival dedicated to posts about cities. That’s it: write about a any aspect of any city. As I’m currently holed up in the dead of an Omaha winter, I like to think of this carnival as a very lazy trip around the world.

Click to view the February 10th Carnival of Cities (whose host may or may not have thought Jordy is a girl’s name) or my most recent post, Sleepwalking in Ulaanbaatar, about my stay in a ger camp on the impoverished outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Happy blogging!

Jordy

February 24th edition of Carnival of Cities:

North America

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Limerick Ode To Ted Alexandro posted at MAD KANE’S HUMOR BLOG.

anto.patterson presents The Cathay: My One-Stop Shop! posted at HelloMissPatterson.

Words2Words presents Experiment: Reveal History posted at A Local Perspective: Philadelphia and Beyond, saying, “A look into a few lesser known historical features of Philadelphia. A challenge to take a trip, eyes wide open, and see the hidden sites of a city.”

Katy Unitek presents Sol: A light in the darkness of Haiti posted at Boots On The Roof.

Katy Unitek presents How to Get Solar Training in California posted at Green Jobs Ready.

Jennifer Miner presents Hiking with Kids in Joshua Tree National Park posted at The Vacation Gals – Family travel, girlfriend getaways, romantic getaways, destinations, things to do, travel tips.

Dave G presents Brainerd Minnesota posted at Brainerd Real Estate Team.

Dave G presents Cook Minnesota posted at Lake Vermilion Realty.

Mike Ross presents 12 Bizarre and Fascinating Facts about Mardi Gras posted at Star Costumes Blog, saying, “It is a famous legendary celebration all throughout the world. Aside from the gaudy costumes, marching bands, and decorative floats to huge crowds, there are fascinating facts about its creation and its continuous popularity. Its really good to know some of them to understand its existence.”

June Tree presents Disneyland & Universal Studios, Here We Come! posted at The Digerati Life, saying, “Let me tell you how our L.A. vacation worked out!”

Byteful Travel presents Why the Art Institute of Chicago kept the Seurat posted at Byteful Blog, saying, “Even if you’re not an Art History major (and try not to pass out when I admit that I’m not), you’re sure to appreciate the amazing Art Institute of Chicago. From Georges Seurat to Edward Hopper, the AIC is a tour-de-force of modern and post-modern art. It features many of the iconic images you’ve probably seen before, but seeing them in person delivers a more personal, and more real, emotional impact (many, many photos included).”

Jon presents Nine Presidents Visit Madame Tussauds in DC posted at The PlanetEye Traveler – Washington DC, saying, “Madame Tussauds in Washington, DC is opening a new US Presidents wing, which when completed later this year, will feature all 42 American Presidnets depicted in wax fugures.”

Jim & Martha presents Hiking Diamond Head State Park in Oahu, Hawaii posted at Wanderlust Journey, saying, “Hiking up Diamond Head State Park outside Honolulu, HI.”

Nancy Brown presents Best Things to See and Do in Wickenburg, Arizona posted at What a Trip, saying, “Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown visits Wickenburg, Arizona and shares her Insider Tips, including a visit to the Kay El Bar Guest Ranch. Gitty up, cowboy!”

Anne Simone presents 100 Best Places to Appreciate Art Online posted at Online Colleges.net.

Zhu presents Château Laurier | Correr Es Mi Destino posted at Correr Es Mi Destino, saying, “Château Laurier is quite famous in Ottawa — more than an hotel, it is a landmark and an heritage building. Located between the Parliament, the Rideau Canal, the National Gallery of Canada, the Byward Market, the National War Memorial, the U.S. Embassy, and the Rideau Centre, it is in the heart of the city.”

Europe

Lena presents 3 Facts: Glasgow | The Colors Magazine posted at The Colors Magazine.

Sam presents New !! 24 Wonderful Sights to See in Dublin Ireland, With Pictures posted at Travel Welcome, saying, “Dublin and Ireland are known for ancient ruins and castles, remarkable landscapes, Georgian architecture, St. Patrick and neighborhood pubs. The rainfall creates brilliant gardens, fields in shades of emerald green, and rainbows. This is the musical home of the Irish Tenors, Celtic Woman and Riverdance. In Ireland you’ll find the love for language that nourished great writers and lasting literature, James Joyce for one. You’ll hear legendary stories of druids and leprechauns, and be haunted by the wild romantic coast seascapes. Here are 24 wonderful sights to see in Dublin Ireland. An interactive Google map of of sights to see in Dublin, is at the bottom of this page.”

Travelrat presents Carcassonne posted at Travelrat’s Travels, saying, “A picture and video … not my best, but it was raining & getting dark.”

Jack Norell presents Barcelona in Gaudi’s footsteps posted at Eyeflare – Travel Articles and Tips, saying, “Gaudi is a wonderful artist and architect. In this post, we follow the trail of his work in Barcelona, including the amazing Sagrada Familia.”

reesan presents Champagne posted at loneleeplanet, saying, “Exploring the Champagne region. The fascinating historic province northeast of France.”

Dee Andrews presents Las Fallas in Valencia posted at Travel and Travails, saying, “Astounding cultural experience in Valencia, Spain.”

r0dman presents Lost in Stockholm posted at on the way to somewhere, saying, “I’d never seen snow like this before! Houses were covered (literally) with snow – on the roof and banked up against the walls.”

Andy Hayes presents Helsinki: Daughter of the Baltic posted at Sharing Travel Experiences, saying, “It’s a charming capital city often overlooked for Europe’s more favourable southern climes. But with great food, awesome outdoors, and friendly locals, what’s not to like?”

Jon presents Georgia O’Keeffe Abstracts at The Phillips in Washington DC posted at The PlanetEye Traveler – Washington DC, saying, “A new exhibit in Wwashington, DC showcases over 100 peices of art created by the iconic American abstract painter, Georgia O’Keeffe.”

Jack Norell presents Taking Long Island Rail Road from JFK airport to New York City posted at Eyeflare – Travel Articles and Tips, saying, “There are a few ways to get from JFK airport to Manhattan, one of the easier (and cheaper) is to pick up the Long Island Rail Road from Jamaica Station and go to Penn Station in Manhattan.”

Robin Locker presents Five Wine Bars in Florence posted at My Melange .

 

That’s it! I’ll be writing more about Mongolia soon, so stay tuned (enter your email address in the space above right to receive email updates with new posts). Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of Cities using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

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The February 24, 2010 edition of the Carnival of Cities:

The Perfect Post, (Death of)

Crucified Shirt, Shanghai, China

 

Location: Shanghai, China and Omaha, NE

Oddly Appropriate Music: Janglin by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

I couldn’t sleep tonight, which usually means I’m very excited about something, or feeling an abnormal amount of self-generated pressure. What I’m excited, or pressured, about has nothing to do with this blog. And that’s exactly why I’m writing a post.

As some of you know, I spend most of my time developing Omaha.net, a community website for the city of Omaha. Yesterday, someone asked me if we were funded by the city. Ha. Funded.

Actually, I am funded, up to and including $5,000 by the good people at Capitol One credit. After being pick-pocketed on the bus last December when I was out getting groceries…in Mongolia…I was funded in the amount of $1,000 by my dear friend Jon, which I have paid back, and when that ran out, for another $1,000 by my dear friend Shaun, which I have not.

I haven’t worked a single day for pay since August 30, 2008.

And on Sunday, my partner in Omaha.net and I are going to take our one, highly nonprofitable website, and attempt to double it, into two highly nonprofitable, debt laden websites by purchasing ?????.?? (redacted).

We will do this by begging friends, family members, banks, and potentially one very rich loan shark (imminent/eminent domainer, Rick Latona) into giving us money.

When it’s all through, I’m literally going to owe cash all over town. And above you is a picture I took in Shanghai of a men’s shirt.

How are these all related?

Good question. If you start to do anything enough, it begins to bleed into the other realms of your life. Our new intern at Omaha.net, Jess, tends to see things in the context of her non-profit pet group, Pug Partners. It’s not that she thinks Pugs are interwoven into the fabric of modern society. It’s just that she’s worked with pugs and pug people a lot. When she deals with large sums of money, it’s because of pugs. Big public gatherings are often pet related. In short, much of her normal, human interaction can be seen through the convex of some pug-related issue.

Since early September, I have worked most of the day, 6-7 days a week, on a website that has currently earned somewhere in the low triple digits. Well, that’s not entirely true. I spent the last 3 days writing about video projects for portablevideoprojectors.com. If we’re lucky, that’ll earn $5 a day in 6 months time.

As such, I’m broke, and my convex is narrow. I view the world completely as it relates to improving one of three distinct areas in my life:

1. Omaha.net

2. my personal blog

3. The climbing wall at the University of Nebraska at Omaha

And unfortunately, all of these areas have become the same thing.

I write on Omaha.net, but I dabble in sales, art direction, strategic vision,  customer experience, marketing, and most importantly office (read: living room) music selection. But that is not why I got into it. Morgan used to pay me a bit to write some words for exciting properties like footcarecream.com and inductionovens.com. I thought it was good to be paid for what I planned to do (write), so I did it.

And I was terrible at it, still am. I take 10 times as long as I should on those sites, obsessing over comma placement, proper MLA quoting, tone, style. I’m either terribly overqualified, or terribly underqualified, and as such, I’m constantly thinking that I should be getting far, far better at this–you know, either using the superior skills I have, or gaining the skills I’m sorely lacking–and actually earning something.

I started climbing for fun, but before long, I had my Flip cam out, seeing if I could grab some “content” for my blog. Or maybe for Omaha.net. Or some other climbing site worth developing. Always, there are other goals in mind because my world lens is confined to growing traffic, exposure, and growth, and somehow doing it in a way that releases me from ever having to play by the rules.

This is my blog. My baby. The place where all the things that do bleed together in my life, my passions, come together. It is my platform to share my version of perfection — and don’t get it twisted, that’s what all artists are always trying to do — and here I am, writing for 20 minutes, and I haven’t once gone back to check a sentence. I haven’t looked up anything on Wikipedia, or obsessed over narrative and grammar. It’s like I can feel my control slipping away.

But really, it’s already gone.

Since I started writing this blog, 4 of my friends have started blogs, 2 people I know fairly well have started blogs, and various other friends have mused about the idea of having a blog.

Everyone has a blog. Everyone.

Not everyone has Omaha.net. And no one without some serious scratch has ?????.?? (redacted). Yet.

So, what’s my point?

I think it’s this: if I am going to blog, I’d like it to reflect the things I care about: travel culture + music. Perfect slices of media in an ever more crowded landscape. But I don’t have the time to craft a perfect blog because I’m slow, obsessive, insecure, and needy. So, I can just not care and let it go, or hide it, and add to the draft pile of posts I have written, but not published, on Hangzhou, China; my cooking hobby and the kitchen I plan to eventually build; climbing at the gym and the sense of comradery I do not feel for my fellow climbers because they are better climbers than I am and I know this and they know this; a road trip to Winterset, Iowa, and probably some others. These could be blog posts, or I could spin them out onto Omaha.net by some clever subterfuge, or they could wither on the vine. The world, as they say, will not care.

But I like that picture of the men’s shirt. I always have. I don’t like how the other exposures, the ones I screwed up, have a lively dog, and a nice man on motorcycle. How people know how to bend the light to their whim, and I only know how to press a shutter button. How the years I’ve spent learning Photoshop, writing — these are now stock. Everyone photographs, everyone writes. Some are great, some are good. The noise is loud, and the signal weak.

Where’s my CN Tower, we’re all asking? 50k Hz of me.

But I also like how being on the phone with Jon reminds me that this doesn’t matter. Writing is not a business, it is a personal hobby, and the senselessness of releasing your imperfection out into the world is not stupider than releasing it onto a page, and having its ugly mug stare back at you. They are both the same. One generates traffic and ultimately ad revenue, and one does not. Take the traffic if it’s there, right? Just don’t forget why you do it, why you have to.

The desire to reread this, at least once, is there. It is calling me. In checking, and rechecking, in the blunt force of time, I will correct myself to greatness, I think. But that isn’t true. In the exigency of the creative moment, that’s where all the good stuff happens. The planning, the branding, the selling: that’s where the money is made. But the good stuff, it’s mercury.

I think Franz Kafka once said something to the effect of, “writing is what keeps you awake at night.” I got that quote from a sticker attached to a Moleskine notebook my brother gave me as a gift when I left for Europe. Often, though, it’s not writing that keeps me awake. But not tonight.

I couldn’t sleep tonight, which usually means I’m very excited about something, or feeling an abnormal amount of  self-generated pressure. What I’m excited, or pressured, about has nothing to do with this blog. And that’s exactly why I’m writing a post.

Make Money Blogging: Twitter

Are you ready to make money blogging? I am. I’ve been thinking about it, leaning toward it even, but I really just decided so for sure today. You see, today was Thanksgiving, built for rest, relaxation, and mastication. And all I could think about was blogging.

Blogging here, blogging on my other site (Omaha.net), getting more unique traffic, more user email addresses, writing better content, doing more, making more money.

It’s time.

So, how do you do it? You know, I’m not totally sure. But I have some ideas. This week, we’re going to dive into Twitter. Consider this your slice of culture with your travel + music. I promise I’ll be back soon with something more Robert Zimmerman and less Mark Zuckerberg.

Twitter’s a social media site, and if you don’t know how to use it, there are plenty of places to turn to. This post is more about how to power use it:

  1. How to rapidly drive up your follower count
  2. Get your Tweets Retweet-ed
  3. And monetize the result.

I’m going to be doing a lot of linking, so let me make this clear: the people I link to are smarter than me.

Their names are BIG for a reason, and this post doubles as a reading list. If you have limited time, read their content, not mine (the links will open in a new window). I’m adding some value to the noise by giving you a Cliffs Notes version of the many sites I’m referencing.

But promise me you’ll go back and give them their due when you’re not drunk off of tryptophan.

As an added bonus, if you read the whole post, you’ll get a free book from Audible.com. Seriously, I swear it’s in there, you just have to read and find out where (*yea there’s a minor catch, but you’ll thank me if you follow through)


Jason Schoemaker


Jason Schoemoney and the famous Google check for $133,000

Jason Schoemaker + the famous Google check for $133,000

Everyone knows that companies use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, heck even MySpace (grrr), to either make money or promote their brand. But you don’t need to be “selling” anything to make money from Twitter. You can get paid just by firing off messages – “Tweeting.”

And you can actually get paid a lot.

Jeremy Schoemaker, founder of Shoemoney.com, has already made almost $35,000 using ad.ly, the Twitter advertising service that promises you 12% of the earnings of anyone you refer. That’s in addition to the sweet MacBook Pro’s they give away. Take the hint, sign up.

Ad.ly lines up Twitter-ers with advertisers, giving people the choice of whether they’d like to be paid to promote a product or service through their Twitter account. Not a fan? Think it’s weird that their website only shows up in text form on my laptop? Yea, I do, too. Luckily, this article lists a BUNCH of other options:

Bill Bolmeier


Notice that Bill's check is much smaller

Notice that Bill's check is much smaller

Bill Bolmeier is not a major player on the Internet, and is easily the smallest name out of anyone mentioned here (aside from myself, of course). But he seems like a bright guy, and he took one of those Twitter advertising options, Sponsored Tweets, and decided to make some money. He outlines a strategy that will get you in the neighborhood of 15,000 Twitter followers in six months by using services that find people for you to follow. These people then follow you back.

Then, you take all your sexy followers over to Sponsored Tweets and charge $20 bucks a pop for in-line marketing.

It’s a damn confusing game for advertisers to figure out who is a quality promoter of their product, but some general advice for, you, the publishers:

  • Don’t post too many ads
  • Tell people that you’re advertising

Do those two things, always double-down on 11, and you should be fine.

Seth Godin

 

Seth Godin was sent from Mars to take over the Internet

Seth Godin was sent from Mars to take over the Internet

Seth Godin, who quite possibly owns the internet, likes to Tweet about his posts using twitterfeed, which automatically makes Tweets for him based on his RSS feed. He’s too busy to write his own posts because of the books, the blog, and because HE FREAKING OWNS THE FREAKING INTERNET. Which is time consuming.

Unlike some other names on this list, he doesn’t seem very interested in Twitter. So, why is he here? Because people Reweet the crap out of his blog posts, essentially using Twitter to do his marketing for him.

Guy Kawasaki

 

Those teeth are made of $1000 bills

Those teeth are made of $1000 bills

Guy Kawasaki has Retweeting figured out. From what I can tell, he has it all figured out.

To the best of my knowledge, all he does all day is read interesting news stories and Retweet them. That’s about it. He’s not only a professional Twitter-er, with a legion of 194,000 followers and change, he’s a market mover.

Aside from making gobs of money working for Apple in the early 80s, he’s also started gobs of other ventures that make gobs of money. He currently seems most focused on Alltop, an RSS aggregator (which will seem more humorous when we get to our last innovator).

Guy LOVES repeating good Tweets.

And why not? Twitter feeds are brief, no one goes back to look at old Tweets, and people aren’t necessarily on when you’re on (and no one’s on when I’m on, between the hours of midnight and 5AM). To steal his analogy from this post, TV news stations repeat the headlines all day, and so should you (though, this still doesn’t excuse MTV playing The Real World: Gary, Indiana eight times a day).

Guy Tweets 24/7. Apparently, people that are serious about Twitter neither read nor write Tweets on the website. Guy uses TweetDeck on his computer and a duo of apps on his iPhone (TweetFlip and Tweetie). For the record, my $15 Kyocera oPhone, as in old, is fond of the “tip calculator” and occasionally turns itself off without warning. But hey! It has a “world clock.”

Guy’s also into Objective Marketer, which looks like some bad ass software as a service for posting Tweets. Click on the Solutions tab of their website and watch the video — you can write Tweets in advance and post them from a shared calendar, you can get access to crazy Tweet based and campaign based analytics — you can totally take over the world.

And we’re totally going to start using it at Omaha.net just as soon as we find a naïve yet attractive college co-ed to be our first intern/Twitter Tsarina.

Guy also likes TwitterHawk, which for less than .05 a Tweet will do your targeted marketing for you. How’s it do that? It searches for people talking about keywords you’re into and fires off a little Tweet luv in their direction.

Finally, you have to read his piece about attracting followers on Twitter. It might be the best thing I link to in this post, and you should read the whole thing. But the coolet thing I took from it?

You can be an expert on ANYTHING.

Find something that people are looking for that you know about, write 3-5 Tweets a day (using valuable links in your Tweets) on that subject, and people will find you.

 

Dan Zarrella

 

Dan Zarella drinking profits like water

Dan Zarella drinking profits like water

Not to hang on Guy’s guy (or member for those of you who like your euphemisms slightly less obscure), but he’s a big proponent of following anyone that follows you on Twitter. His theory is that it’s not only polite, but, ultimately, it helps drive your follower numbers up as more people see your on site activity.

Now, according to some serious number crunching by Dan Zarrella, the amount of Twitter followers matters, but not as much as the content of the Tweets.

Things that are likely to be Retweeted include:

  • Content that is timely
  • Lists
  • Tweets about Twitter
  • Blog posts (hint, hint)
  • Anything free (like the book FREE: The Future of a Radical Price, which is on Audible.com. Wait for it. For free!)

The Top 5 most common words in a post that gets Retweeted are:

  • You
  • Twitter
  • Please
  • Retweet
  • Post

What fun. It’s like that M83 album where the track names form a sentence. But seriously, what does this show us? If you want to be Retweet-ed, ask! Write very clearly in your Tweet, Please Retweet this!

Also, post from about noon – 5pm Eastern time. This way, you catch the East Coast lunch and the West Coast day starting. Note: the numbers to back up this trend confirms my theory that most of my friends with cubicle jobs don’t do any work at all for most of the day.

Final thing to take from Dan: if one person starts to RT (that’s Retweet) your Tweets, others are likely to follow, regardless of content. It’s just built into our brains. So, get that ball rolling!

Some dude (OK it was Guy, again) also passed on additional tips to writing Tweets that will get Retweeted. He recognized that people like knowing how to do things. The phrases “How to” and “The Art of” are very popular because people like spreading knowledge when they Retweet. I’d like to add phrases like “The Secret behind” and “The trick with” to that general idea, although if you are really stuck for followers you could always try, “Hairy horse balls! I didn’t know you could do that!” Never know, it might work.

Additionally, break news, especially if you can consistently break it about a certain topic. The more bizarre the better. Put links in your tweets, and if you need to shrink the links to make them fit the 140 character limit, try using a site like tiny.cc or bit.ly. Need to count characters/words, but not on Twitter? Get GRTY.

Robert Scoble


An artist's rendering of Robert Scoble

An artist's rendering of Robert Scoble

If you believe Robert Scoble, people are turning away from RSS and getting their news directly from Twitter. While I’d still like you to click on that nifty orange RSS logo up the page and to your right to subscribe to my feed, he makes a good point. Twitter is fast, efficient, and breaks news more quickly than anything else on Earth. Just ask the Twitter-ers of Tehran.

What does this mean? It means that people will increasingly value Twitter users who can deliver them news efficiently.

As a side note, Scoble has some great Twitter lists, which are where he bases his argument on the demise of RSS. I thought he was totally bat turds crazy until I looked at one of his lists and found a sale I didn’t know about at a t-shirt company I like in less than 12 seconds.

So, What Now?

After reading all of that, you should be totally jazzed to either start acquiring more Twitter followers or start using Twitter as a larger part of your every day media stream. In return for this great bounty of knowledge,  I’m going to ask you for a small favor. This blog is still super small, and any one of these three things would help it grow:

  1. Join Twitter, follow me @jordyclements, and Retweet this post using the link at the beginning

  2. Sign up for the free email updates using the box with the subscribe button up and to the right. This will deliver you an email every time I update the site.

  3. Comment below and tell me if there’s anything I could shed a little light on next time. I’m thinking a little advice on how to start a blog (how to purchase a URL, how to use WordPress) might be helpful. What do you think?

Lincoln, NE + Cornhusker Football

What Cornhuskers do to Kansas State fans

What Cornhuskers do to Kansas State fans

If that doesn’t get you pumped for a new blog post, I don’t know what will! I’ll explain below…but first…

I’ll come clean. It’s been a really long time. Like a fat kid polishing off his 12th Krispy Kreme, I told myself we’d never get to this point, and now we’re here. Well, we’re not quite here. This isn’t a blogspot page about my cat with the last update from Nov. 2006. But still, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted.

Two distinct things have happened since my last effort:

1. I went to the Phish festival in California and came back with Swine Flu. I think (not that I’d know seeing as how Obama hasn’t given me health care yet, so I’m guessing). Knocked me out for awhile, that stuff is no joke.

2. Got really, really busy with Omaha.net. I can now see why people with real jobs sometimes forget to update their fantasy sports rosters. They’re busy! My job involves sitting in front of a computer all day and occasionally interviewing people. I make my own hours. Yet, I still haven’t had a post in awhile. That’s how you know I’m busy.

So, while Omaha.net isn’t paying me millions, stuff is definitely happening, and I’m excited about it. Being entrepreneurial is as interesting as it is scary, and one day, I’ll have to write about it.

Until then, check out a new post I wrote about my first Cornhusker football experience in its natural state over at Omaha.net: The Cornhuskers Did Battle, But I Won the War (a road kill story, lot of pics, and a funny video I captured by this band whose main claim to fame is The Blow Job Song).

Please please please leave me some comments (here, or there, or both!). It really helps me to know what people are thinking, what they’d like me to write about in the future…heck, I live alone, in OMAHA. It’s nice just hearing from people!

Because I’m stupid, I have about 3-5 posts 75% written, collecting dust. I’m banging those bitches out over Thanksgiving, and we’re getting this bitch up and running again.

Tell your friends, bitches! (No seriously. Tell them. Facebook, Digg, Twitter, it’s all just below…)

Jordy Tries Adventure Racing: Hilarity Ensues

Lance Armstrong died of testicular cancer for you!

Lance Armstrong died of testicular cancer for you!

Faithful readers, you have not been fooled! There really is a post here, I swear.

It’s right here: click on it.

Please.

The thing is, I also work for (co-own?) this other little web venture: Omaha.net. The post is housed on that website, and since I’m totally into Adsense arbitrage, link building, and various other forms of traffic-related skulduggery, I want you to view it there (besides, Google already knows what websites I own, anyways. There’s no fooling them).

Nah, I’m just kidding. It’s just laid out really nicely there because Morgan, our layout editor (co-owner?), does a great job.

Omaha.net: we're so ice cold advertise on ambulances

Omaha.net: we're so ice cold we advertise on ambulances

Of course, I’d like to have my posts here to look as pretty as they do elsewhere. I seriously spend half my time on this site being overwhelmed by HTML/Wordpress issues that are beyond me. The whole idea of having travel culture + music was to write about what I care about, share photographs, and make trillions of dollars, and instead, I indulge the perfectionist control freak inside me who screams, “#336699 is not as visually pleasing a color as #006699! They’ll never come back. They’re alllll going to laugh at you!”

That guy sucks.

I’m a busy kid these days and a little behind laying out the new things I’ve written. But  we’re trying to stick to the Monday/Friday schedule, so you’ll get Adventure Racing and like it! Look forward to Friday’s post about Zen Cooking and Zen Climbing.

Also, I’m heading to Phish’s Festival 8* (!) in Indio, California this Wednesday. Look out for some live video blog updates from the concert later in the week.

Happy Monday! Over and out…


*In the unlikely event that someone who reads this is going to Festival 8, here’s my Google Voice number: 502 414 1234. Let’s meet up and discuss Proust over a bottle of Malbec.


Bonus pics for travel culture + music readers of the farmers market after the race:

Lexington Farm, Lexington, NE

Lexington Farm, Lexington, NE

Jellies, Lexington, NE

Jellies, Lexington, NE

Laughing Honey, Lexington, NE

Laughing Honey, Lexington, NE

Big Green Cucumber, Lexington, NE

Big Green Cucumber, Lexington, NE

Grasshopper on Yellow, Lexington, NE

Grasshopper on Yellow, Lexington, NE

Life and Death, Lexington, NE

Life and Death, Lexington, NE

Glass Onion #1, Lexington, NE

Glass Onion #1, Lexington, NE

Glass Onion #2, Lexington, NE

Glass Onion #2, Lexington, NE

Glass Onion #3, Lexington, NE

Glass Onion #3, Lexington, NE

Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping: 7 – 12

Shadow in Sepia, Yellowstone National Park

Shadow in Sepia, Yellowstone National Park

The Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping…

 

Part 2! If you didn’t already, check out Part 1 for the first 6 “rules” and some good photos…I fell in love with my sepia filter a little. Shoot me.

Without further ado…


It's a Rule: You Can't Prove Your Boots Are Waterproof Unless You Stand in a Lake

It's a Rule: You Can't Prove Your Boots Are Waterproof Unless You Stand in a Lake

 

7. Personal style often becomes very questionable while hiking.

This is both a good and a bad thing depending on your perspective, and everyone has there quirks, from the kitted-out gear-heads to the scrubby naturalists whose equipment (and facial hair) dates back to the 70s. Some are for form following function, while others see it the other way around. I, for example, am partial to tucking my pants into the tops of my boots French legionnaire style, making it look like I’m paratrooping in behind enemy lines at a North Face outlet store. Functional? Yes. Comical? Probably.

Style only becomes a problem when one is literally weighed down by the sheer gravity of their fashion choices. This means you, purple bandanna wearer! You can’t hike with that iridescent bird turd magnet strapped to your forehead. You just can’t.

Hikers from a certain Central Asian country (*cough* South Korea) are known to take it a step further. It seems they’re not even able to leave the house for a day hike without poles, boots, hydration packs, visors, and a wide range of technical fabrics. Due to their culinary culture, South Koreans also need to pack about 50 tupperware containers of kimchi, seaweed, daikon root, fish parts, and the like, per person. Strangely, all of this extraneous hiking gear is also a problem for people from Colorado, except for the fish parts.

Both South Korea and Colorado are great areas for hiking (although the high comedy of seeing Koreans ready to scale Everest taking the subway to their hiking destination is really non pareil), and as long as hikers from those regions stick with a few simple rules–keep fannypacks to a minimum; always over pack warm clothes for the hands, feet and head; rain proof clothing is expensive and worth it–their usually overabundant sense of style should not interfere others’ enjoyment of an otherwise pure, untainted nature experience.

 

Mount Rainier probably looks scary because you're so high!

Mount Rainier probably looks scary because you're so high!

 

8. You really do get high in the mountains, and it’s not just the altitude…or the edible mushrooms.

That thing people talk about – that feeling – really happens. Call it the physical exertion, the sleep deprivation, or even the attempt to survive for weeks fed solely on energy gels and trail mix, but you actually do feel high on a good hike.

I recall one rainy day spent hiking in a spiffy pair of Gore-Tex® boots (see picture above), my dry feet wrapped in fabrics still technically illegal in some countries. I had bought these boots one indulgent day in Korea with a fellow teacher, and I spent my hike reminiscing, each step a reminder of the wild, circuitous route a life can take, and the connections we inevitably make along the way. They’re just boots, but in that moment, they were my connection to him.

Uh oh. I feel a quasi-philosophical tangent coming:

Through the ages, from the ancient shaman mystics through to the pimply high school outcast, people have used drugs to reawaken the part of their consciousness that feels connected to a part of humanity greater than themselves. It’s the Door(s) of Perception, the Huckabee ? blanket, the Vibration of Life – it’s a sense that there are other humans around us, all of the time, who are willing to help us get through life safely and happily. They give us directions when we are lost and water when we are thirsty. And the way we stoke these connections, literally thousands over a lifetime, can build upon itself, so that lost in thought on a mountain trail, a flow of agape literally tears through the breastbone, exiting the heart with such force that…

Whoa. What happened there? I blacked out for a sec.

 

Trees and Mist, Mount Rainier National Park

Trees and Mist, Mount Rainier National Park

 

9. Good trail mix takes time.

It always tastes better after the flavors have had time to work themselves together. So, apparently the best thing to do is…(nota bene: the following sentence will sound a lot funnier if you adopt the voice of Bricktop from Snatch)…acquire your nuts no less than 6 months in advance, and promptly mix with raisins and seeds, salubriously avoiding such saccharine pitfalls as chocolate and yogurt, until the results taste like butter. The same is true with chili, so be wary of any man who keeps a chili farm. Whatever that is.

Just for the record, be wary of chili in general. Don’t attempt to survive for any period of time strictly on it alone. This is one of the finest pieces of advice that I can pass on, and could save your life one day, much like bear spray or emergency oxygen.

See, if you make it like I do, you like to try to add little tasty things as you go along (fried tofu, pepper, etc.), but eventually realize you need to go back to your bases (tomatoes, beans, etc.) for balance, ending up with a 3 family portion when you’re done. Well be careful with that much chili, my friend. A metaphor:

Imagine the generations of Sioux Indians as they recalled the Battle of Little Bighorn in hushed, lachrymose tones, their lips quivering, their eyes lowered. Their people had been decimated; their hope all but gone. This is how I recall the Great Chili Massacre of 2009. I don’t really want to talk about it, but let’s just say that we went to bed lively, strapping youth, and woke up scarred, our tent flaps singed, our once young lungs transformed to those of black-blooded miners.

The tent smelled like poo.

So, don’t eat chili for four straight days and go camping. Eat trail mix instead : )

 

Steam Rising, Yellowstone National Park

Steam Rising, Yellowstone National Park


10. Early to bed, early to Paul Riser…or something.

I have always loathed people that describe themselves as “early risers,” but they are good people to go camping with. These are the jerks who say that they “just can’t sleep after 9AM” in the same aggrieved voice they would use to tell you that they acquired some curse in childhood forcing them to go through life without the proper use of their extremities, or something. Screw you, jerks! The world already works on your clock, and now you want me to feel sympathy for you because once in a while you wake up and you’re tired?

Welcome to my life, jerks. I go to bed late and have to wake up to your alarm. And I hate you.

Obviously, it is totally acceptable to dismiss most Early Risers (or Morning Boners, as I’d prefer to call them) out of hand as go-getters, social-climbers, and men trying to fight off the onset of premature baldness through endless games of AM racquetball. However, in a camping setting, they can prove very useful.

Many animals, including the sun, seem to do their best work in the morning. Birds, especially, like to make interesting noises when it’s early. There’s a certain quality to looking out over a lake as the steam of a new day rises. As the trees stretch, white blades of light cutting into all nature, you will think to yourself, “It’s 5:48 AM, and I have an entire day of majestic beauty ahead of me. I think I’ll go start digging a hole so I can bury my morning shit.”

 

 

Purple Clouds, Mount Rainier National Park

Purple Clouds, Mount Rainier National Park

 

11. Ahh. And deuce you will.

Nothing is more distressing to the  human gastrointestinal tract than having to fold over itself during a 12 hour car ride. Follow this with a night sleeping on dirt, your innards marinating inside a 120º sleeping bag, and six to eight hours of body-shockingly strenuous physical activity the next day, at altitude. By the time this is done, your compacted food waste will be more anxious to escape than Elián González.

And then, all of the sudden, it will be seven days later with no sign of Yertle the Turtle, and you’ll begin to worry.

Now you may find this sophomoric (but seriously, if you’re still reading at this point, consider it the mark of your lifetime ban from Polite Society), but I remember going to basketball camp around the age of 12 or 13. After a few days of putting our new found pubic hairs on each other’s toothbrushes, we got bored, and moved on to talking about bowel movements.

We realized that amidst all the suicides and wind sprints, none of us had gone to the bathroom for three days. This was insanely interesting to the 12 year old male psyche, and we instantly decided that we should bet on who could hold out the longest. Six days in of a week long camp, and a surprising number in our cabin were still going “strong”. But as the hot dogs and soda piled up, we began dropping like flies, every few hours to the latrine, one by one.

Sunday: the camp’s last day. Only me and one other kid left. Our eyes were locked in steely gaze, a real Old West style shoot out, only we weren’t firing off guns (or much of anything for that matter). By lunch, I could see the sweat poring down his face, and I knew it was only a matter of time. The first wave of minivans arrived, ready to ferry their children back home after a successful week of foul shots and dribbling drills. We sat perched outside the Port-o-Johns. Subarus, little sisters, golden retrievers. As dusk set in, we were basically immobalized, hardly able to breathe for fear of disrupting our delicate sphincter stasis. The week was almost complete, and we would have ended in a tie.

But he couldn’t take it. He waddled into the pot, his insides surely heaving, and unleashed all manner of hell on that poor, plastic receptacle. As my dad’s station wagon pulled up in the distance, I could see my parents walking over to greet me, my mom smiling and waving. My underwear unstained, tears of joy streamed down my face. And then I spontaneously combusted.

Did I mention I didn’t make the camp’s All-Star team?

 

Stream, Snow, and Sticks, Mount Rainier National Park

Stream, Snow, and Sticks, Mount Rainier National Park

 

12. Despite their romantic history as heroes of the American West, buffalo constantly look as though they are under extreme medication. So, don’t mess with them.

In fact, I wonder if this is true. Are buffalo medicated? Perhaps its a secret plot by Park Rangers to control population or something. I mean, we keep pandas alive, despite the fact they refuse to reproduce by themselves and are basically the most evolutionarily useless animal. It’s like they evolved into the cute girl at the bar who can’t hold a job, but knows that if she bats her eyes and uses the sad face she can get free drinks and manicures. So, I mean, it’s possible with the buffalo, right?

What’s the rule you’re supposed to take from this? Um, I guess the rule is, go camping, and don’t take my advice! It’s useless!

More free photos:

 

Dark Mountain, Mount Rainier National Park

Dark Mountain, Mount Rainier National Park

Sepia Stream, Mount Rainier National Park

Sepia Stream, Mount Rainier National Park

Brown Trees #1, Mount Rainier National Park

Brown Trees #1, Mount Rainier National Park

Brown Trees #2, Mount Rainier National Park

Brown Trees #2, Mount Rainier National Park

The Scary Civic, Mount Rainier National Park

The Scary Civic, Mount Rainier National Park

Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping: 1 – 6

yellowstone-1

Those scary trees are definitely engaged in some Good Time Camping!


The Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping…


…from someone who’s hardly ever been outdoors.

Some people will tell you that the great outdoors are a natural wonder, meant to be enjoyed by all of Vishnu’s creatures. They’re right, of course, but their assumption that you can just walk outside and have a good time is wildly off. In order to have a good time camping, it’s very important to observe some simple rules:


Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Bison, Yellowstone National Park

 

1. Only go hiking with people you like. This can roughly be translated into someone you’re friends with, or someone you’re f—— (er, engaging in sexual activity with). Let’s dissect the easy one first:

If two guys go camping, you’ll end up talking about incredibly important topics, like whether Jordan could have beaten Russell in their respective primes, or whether Aaron Eckhart, Laird Hamilton, and Evan Stone are all secretly estranged brothers (and by the way, if this were true, who would be considered the most successful…hmmm?).

You will begin to make Top 5 lists: Top 5 Desert Island Bands, Top 5 Books, Top 5 Girls You Wish You Still Had a Chance with from High School, Top 5 Former Friends of Yours Who Might Be Dead or Deported.

Camping with guys is great for dude time. You will come away feeling that as you age into adulthood, it’s amazing how friendship can be maintained just by having “one really great weekend.” As the kids say: no homo.

 

Little Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Little Falls, Yellowstone National Park

 

2. Going hiking with a girl is infinitely more complex. You’ll talk about a wider range of topics, usually including which of her friends she doesn’t like, and how she thinks this hiking experience is bringing you closer together. She will, without saying it, try to subtly prove to you that her hiking abilities are superior to those of your ex-girlfriend, the cute girl you just passed on the trail, and her former sorority sisters.

Unlike camping with a guy, you will probably argue over the correct amount of facial products to bring into the backcountry, and may eventually settle on this specific calculus: you, the male, will carry all the sleeping bags, tent, and cooking components. She will lug the various astringents, moisturizers, and cleansers absolutely necessary to maintain one’s skin while camping. Deal?

Because of the layered effect of time and male/female emotional relations, the great traditions of early couple-hood (the dispensing of pet names, the mutual respect of advanced qualities, the desire to please and looks one’s best) are both fun and potentially dangerous in a hiking environment.

With condensed personal space, the tension of inside jokes can easily build over the course of a three day hike. This can go one of two ways: humor or cutting personal attacks.

Humor is the preferable route. I once stayed at South Dakota’s Horsethief Lake, and by morning, I had comically renamed it “Blanket Thief Lake” to fairly good effect. See, girls loves jokes that aren’t really that funny, but instead make you seem nice, witty, and senstive. Think every movie Vince Vaughn has made since Swingers.

Cutting personal attacks (the perceived personal shortcomings inventory, the dissection of familial differences, the full frontal pet peeve assaults), while scientifically more interesting, can detract from the efficiency of the hike, potentially leading to dehydration, missed check points, and forced night hiking.

In the end, hiking with a girl, you will at least come away feeling that you are, quote, “much stronger than most other guys.” Also, with a member of the opposite sex, you will also be able to scare the animals at night. This is provided, of course, that the wolves don’t assume the coital ululations emanating from your tent are actually the death throes of some tasty, injured prey. If this happens, to quote Snatch, “you’re proper fucked.”


In Search of Ansel, Yellowstone National Park

In Search of Ansel, Yellowstone National Park

 

3. If you hike alone, you will end up seeming like the creepy guy who hikes alone. And there’s a 50% chance you actually are.

Solo hikers are either very fit, and unable to deign to normal human “needs” like rest and water, or suffer from a rare and undiagnosed form of Aspbergers. Either way, hiking alone has to be unsafe. In fact, I’m pretty sure that until a few years ago, hiking alone was virtually impossible. With the advent of iPods (20gb or greater), it has now acceptable in some circumstances.

Recently breaking up with a significant other, being rejected from more than three consecutive job interviews, or squelching on a sublet are all fairly legitimate reasons to hike alone. Others may point to the sense of calm and self-reliance that hiking alone provides. I guess. If you say so.

Be aware that solo hiking will give you a lot of time to compare yourself to people and go over your own personal neuroses. If you feel compelled to write about this experience, be aware that unless you’re Robert Pirsig, your craziness is probably not as interesting to others as you think it is (see: Winehouse, Amy).

However, don’t let me dissuade you. A lot of hobbies are best enjoyed alone, and not all of them will result in hairy palms. Solo joggers can speed up when they want to speed up. Solo photographers are beholden only to the whims of the sun and their willingness to wait for the perfect shot. Solo hikers can look at the jutting, rocky ascent of a positively unsafe route, and think, “I’ve gotten myself into this position, and only I can choose to overcome it, or bend to it.” In my experience, solo hikers rarely bend. Ever.

So, they got that going for them, which is nice.

 

Horizontal Trees #1, Yellowstone National Park

Horizontal Trees #1, Yellowstone National Park

 

4. Hiking at night is not worth it. You may think that you are achieving something by bringing a flashlight and getting a little more mileage done, but you are not. Hiking at night will scare you, and you’ll end up feeling stupid when you duck and cover from the sound of your carabinered water bottle slapping the fat of your thigh.

Intuitively, most people know that not all animals are nocturnal predators. In practice, you can convince yourself that chipmunks sprout poison sabertooths once the sun goes down. Night time is for rest and recovery, fire building, hot chocolate or light alcohol consumption, and preparation for List Making or Baby Making, depending on your chosen hiking partner (see numbers 1. and 2.).

 

Horizontal Trees #2, Yellowstone National Park

Horizontal Trees #2, Yellowstone National Park

 

5. Your tax dollars and admission fees have created some wildly lavish visitor lodges. Make use of them.

I remember walking into the new lodge on the Paradise side of Mount Rainier, my jaw slowly sliding toward my chest. The park ranger, made small under cathedral ceilings of aromatic timber and cantilevered wrought iron, asked me if I needed anything. “I’m looking for a 1 bedroom, but I’ll settle for a studio at the right price…” I reflexively replied, my voice trailing off, captivated by a 90 inch plasma screen showing wild flowers on an endless loop.

The Rainier lodge felt like a swanky singles bar shoehorned into a sexy ski hotel. Order a hot cocoa to go, and make it an Irish!

 

Tree Graveyard, Yellowstone National Park

Tree Graveyard, Yellowstone National Park

 

6. If you sleep with a blanket covering your face, it will taste like you’re chewing on farts when you wake up.

 

Simple as that.

 

Farts Smell, Food Hung in a Tree Doesn't

Farts Smell, Food Hung in a Tree Doesn't

 

That concludes Part 1 of my Top 12 Ways to Have a Good Time Camping. Check back next week for Part 2. And if anyone has some real advice, leave it below, or email me.

Here’s some bonus vertical pics to enjoy! Wahoooo!

 

Mountain Lake Vista, Yellowstone National Park

Mountain Lake Vista, Yellowstone National Park


Trees and the Moon, Yellowstone National Park

Trees and the Moon, Yellowstone National Park


Tree and Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Tree and Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Apply this Post Directly to the Forehead

Billy Mays says, "Up Yours!"Billy Mays would be rolling over in his freshly dug grave if he knew what they were selling on TV these days. The buoyant, bearded salesmen’s earnestness was a beacon of light in the otherwise dark and sullied world of impulse buying.

Never mind that an autopsy recently revealed he had cocaine and three prescription painkillers in his system at the time of death. Focus instead on his charisma, candor, and clean cut, khaki-wearing persona. He was a self-made success story: an embodiment of the American Dream.

Also, you should probably ignore the creepy funeral where everyone dressed like Marshall’s menswear department employees, ostensibly in homage to Mays.

Just Your Average Celebrity Funeral

Just Your Average Celebrity Funeral

Then there’s the fact that he was buried in an OxiClean shirt, which itself would seem creepier if Michael Jackson’s family hadn’t already upped the ante. So, for the record, just ignore both of those facts and that little cocaine thing.

Wait a second. You’re distracting me, here.

In his brief life as an international celebrity, Mays hawked over 30 ready for prime-time products and services, everything from affordable health insurance to vegetable choppers. He even got a “legit” gig parodying himself in a series of ESPN commercials.

Like Ron Popeil before him, Mays claimed to use every product he endorsed. Good thing he didn’t endorse Doc Bottoms Aspray™:

In one foul swoop, Doc Bottoms references butt odor (three times, including one where a grown man sticks his face in another man’s ass), under-breast odor (two times), and even show’s one unfortunate lady crossing her legs before spraying up her skirt. Never mind the implications of needing a deodorant to mask an overactive social life. Why would she cross her legs first? Makes no sense. All manner of feet are mentioned, and the word privates is used. Truly a high point in Western Culture.

But that’s not all. Check out this ad by Mays’ friend/lesser pitchman, Anthony Sullivan:

Sullivan claims his mop won’t drip. Like some pre-programmed robot with his switches set to sell, he stiffly turns, beeping out, “To prove it, I’ll hold it over my head.”

What he won’t do, however, is actually show video of himself doing what comes next. He claims that “in these tough times” its wise to ring the soda off the floor, through his mop, and back into its original glass, ready to drink. Are times really that tough?

Probably not. I think both of these spots are far more post-modern than they might initially appear. They follow the same self-aware trail Mays himself blazed in his work for ESPN. Mays never breaks character in the spots, yet the whole premise is too ludicrous to be serious. Um. Right?

Doc Bottoms uses its gross out images as a talking point, water cooler chat for the, groan with me now, YouTube generation. The same is true of mop-huckster Sullivan. He knows that no one is really going to drink soda off their floor. He also knows that bloggers and the Twitterati are just as lucky to push awareness of his product as he is. I guess you could say we’re all part of the same meta-problem.

Near the end of the Smart Mop commercial, the creators make some kind of Pollockian mess with sand, ketchup, and mustard. It sounds, and looks, like the worst picnic ever. The Smart Mop will replace “sponge mops, string mops” and “even a broom” Sullivan chimes in as the mop goes to work. I just hope it doesn’t replace Vince Offer.