"Been there, done that" gives one a rosy feeling of magnanimous satisfaction. But after viewing The VICE Guide to Travel, you'll feel better saying "Beirut? Never heard of 'im." This new DVD's seven mini-documentaries and hefty volume offer sneak peeks at the worst places ever. Call it National Geographic for shorter attention spans, amoral curiosities -- and the lazy. "Basically, humans are fucked," the introduction explains. "Well, we went so that you never, ever have to go for yourself as long as you live."
You'll get your shoes radioactive at the nuclear wasteland of Chernobyl and visit a baile funk party thrown by drug lords in the poverty-stricken favelas of Rio. In Bulgaria, everything's for sale and capitalism is king -- just ask the "John Smith" who's constructing Black Sea luxury resorts, and who can get you (or Osama) literally anything for the right price.
The affable Shane Smith guides the most compelling segments, offering thoughtful commentary on the unthinkable. But when Smith, Spike Jonze and Jesse Pearson visit Beirut, all are stunned into near-silence. No wonder: They confront Hezbollah activists, suicide bombers in training, and beaming grade-school children singing little ditties about killing filthy Jews.
For sheer holy-shit factor, Suroosh Alvi takes us inside the world's largest illegal arms market, near the Khyber Pass in Durra, Pakistan. An AK-47? About $50. Alvi estimates that 1,000 guns are manufactured here daily, mainly by hand, and a large percentage sold to mujahideen for jihad.
Despite provocative images, several segments fall flat, due to narrators seduced by easy conclusions. David Choe's search for a living dinosaur in the jungle puts him face-to-face with extreme poverty and xenophobia. His big conclusion? Congolese people are fucked. Likewise, Derrick Beckles travels to Nueva Germania, a failed Aryan experiment in Paraguay that was a refuge for Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele. Beckles is annoying, and so is his conclusion: Aryan utopias are fucked. Well, yeah -- what else ya got?
What casts much of this material into sharp focus isn't necessarily the reporting, but the contrast of seeing a snarky hipster (David Choe and Trace Crutchfield are hopeless showboaters) attempt to trip lightly through the world's catastrophes and powder kegs. Clearly we, too, are fucked.