I'd like to clarify some points on iceowl's article. His article is very well written. I like the rather jaunty narrative -- out of a literary magazine, perhaps. Nevertheless, his characterization of the contesting and DXpedition world is rather optimistic. I'd like to offer a ham's standpoint. (Another ham's standpoint, perhaps. I do not know if iceowl is a ham or not.)
DX simply means communication with an amateur radio operator outside of a country. DX has no bearing on nationality. I am only one nationality but hold amateur radio licenses in two countries. My DX status depends on where I stand geographically. DX could be thousands of kilometers away or 100m over a national boundary. Nothing more special than that.
As for the "big guns": certainly iceowl's depiction of high-power stations "running a gallon" (a kilowatt or more of power) is accurate. Certainly, many hams have turned on their radios (or rigs, as we call them) on a Saturday morning to hear the wall-to-wall bedlam of a radio contest (think of hundreds of desperate voices shouting over one another). A glamorization of contesting and DXpeditions overlooks the opprobrium that many hams attach to the rude behavior, very poor operating technique, and unsportsmanlike attitude of many that want to down that last multiplier. Those like me who only operate CW (morse code) have some refuge in frequency bands where voice operators are prohibited.
Making DX contacts is meh. Usually you give a 10 second blip of information and then get off the line for the next station to "get his QSL card". It's not like I'd have a chat with the foreign operator or actually learn anything about that locale. I used to operate a university club station (i.e. a shared station.) Since I was only one of a few hams that operated CW, I would try to get as many "rare" DX stations on CW as possible for the station. After I left the university, I went back to chatting with guys in Nebraska. Sure, it's nice to get a QSL from the Sandwich Islands, but it's just as nice to hear about the farmland out on the prairies.
There are as many ham interests as there are ham operators. Some philatelists want that Penny Black and others are happy with some keepsake Grandma gave them.