Pe Aici Nu Se Trece


Well since not much was going on in the news besides “Hey golly new cabinet coming up” and “holy mackerel it sucks to be in Buzau right about now” and because there’s not much to say about the latest Economist article about Romania except that it sucks, it’s almost entirely factually wrong and written from the usual wooly-headed perspective as always, I thought I’d do something new.

That is to say, I thought I’d strap on my rubber boots and head into the swamp of the Romanian blogging world. By and large these are folks I’ve always tended to avoid because of a combination of slanted, weird diacritics, endless “Academia Catavencu” type jokes, super short 100 word length posts and an overall sense of superficial, cynical “I’m too sexy for this shirt” kind of attitude. Nonetheless, I haven’t ventured into these waters in a while so time to see what’s happening in the brave new Mayan year of 2012.

While it may be fair or completely unfair, I chose to visit the top 20 most popular Romania blogs as ranked by this site. I have no idea if this is an accurate ranking or what but it’s the one from January 31, 2012 (the most recent one).

So let’s see what Romanians are flocking to!

  1. Umbrela Verde – Seems like very nice folks but this isn’t really a typical “blog”. This is more like a website about how to recycle and other news and information about environmental issues. Sadly, the entire flipping thing seems to be some kind of project sponsored and owned by URBB, the makers of Tuborg beer and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Is this really the most popular “blog” in Romania or are the URBB people spending money on hiring professionals to improve their search rankings? Sigh…
  2. Tudor Chirila – Hey, it’s a blog by the guy who used to sing for the band Vama Veche. Cool!
  3. Cristian Manafu – A real blog by a real person. His latest post is the second in a series of anecdotes about just how retarded his fellow Romanians are.
  4. Book Blog – Surprise, surprise, it’s a website about books. Is it really a “blog”? Doesn’t really seem that way. But they don’t seem to be pimping beer so that’s good.
  5. Victor Ciutacu – Well this is a real blog written by a single person but he doesn’t seem to really know how to read Romanian very well. In his latest post he talks about a 1991 law that prevents intelligence service employees from being members of political parties and holding political office. He then seems to be making the argument that Ungureanu, the man nominated to be the new Prime Minister, shouldn’t be holding office because he used to be the head of one of the intelligence agencies. Sigh… but he does seem to really, really like the singer Tudor Gheorghe, so that’s nice.
  6. Groparu – Hey the guy bought me a beer and he’s married and he’s got a young kid. It’s really hard for me to say anything bad about him. Nonetheless, his blog is almost entirely one liner jokes. If that’s your thing, check it out.
  7. Vlad Petreanu – Another real blog but this one seems to cover all kinds of things from photography and art to poetry and sometimes rambling essays on various topics as well as some anecdotes. In his latest post he talks about meeting a neighbor with severe injuries (“it looked like he had escaped from a blender”) and after a long and winding story the apartment manager concludes by saying the injuries were caused by the man’s wife. Nothing makes me laugh more than domestic violence, that’s FOR SURE.
  8. Adi Hadean – A real blog that’s all about cooking food.
  9. Alex Mazilu – A real blog that’s all about photography.
  10. Catalin Tolontan – A real blog from a sports journalist. In his latest post he mocks the Bucharest City Hall for leaving their brand-new stadium with the roof open before all the snow began falling. Meanwhile he mixes two real photographs of people removing snow from the stadium with an uncredited and most likely “borrowed” photograph of some penguins in a totally different stadium somewhere else.
  11. Palatul Sutu – Seems to be mostly political rants mixed with bragging about parties the author gets invited to. In his latest post he roundly mocks Lucian Bode, the nominee for the post of Economics Minister, using old-fashioned Communist-era spelling and very crude and direct language. Sadly, on his (the author’s, not Bode’s) sidebar is an advertisement for an American visa scam. Sigh…
  12. Bucurenci – Once again, another one man blog, this time that of a Romanian currently studying at Stanford University. I freaking love that he talks about modeling for quantitative analysis. Other than that though, the posts are sporadic and I’m guessing he’s quite busy doing other things besides blogging. Nonetheless, he has 19,000 “likes” on Facebook. Wow!
  13. Bobby Voicu – Once again a one-man blog. He seems to do a lot of traveling and is heavily invested in the whole “social media” thing and is less into writing per se (although when he does, it’s almost always about cars) but he does have some good advice for his fellow bloggers, to wit number one on the list, which is do not steal content from others.
  14. Alexandru Negrea – Yep, you guessed it. Another one-man blog. All of the content here is about what’s cool and trending in business and “social media” and how to make money online and how flipping awesome marketing and marketers are.
  15. Piticu – I’m just gonna go ahead and assume you know this is a one-man blog. Short, snappy posts that come in at 2, 3 or even 4 times per day, but all they really are is “hey here’s a link to some news and here’s two sentences about it” and then of course some pictures.
  16. Metropotam – Yay, it’s some kind of group effort, right? I think so. But this isn’t a blog. It’s some kind of entertainment guide of what’s going on at the movies, theaters, concert halls, etcetera. Hey, they even have their own discount card!
  17. Spune Nu Drogurilor – Literally this means “Say no to drugs” and I just assumed by the title that it had to be some cynical, cool, ironic blog name. Nope. It’s actually recycled 1980’s American propaganda about how “drugs” will all kill you. I think someone is rigging the stats here because how this could be of popular interest is beyond my capability to understand.
  18. Adrian Nastase – Yep, it’s another one man blog. Only this time it’s written by the convicted criminal and ex-Prime Minister of the country. And just 4,700 “likes” on Facebook, poor guy.
  19. Reporter Virtual – Again, this isn’t a blog but a kind of news site that seems to have articles written by a multitude of different people. Some of these articles seem to be humor pieces, such as this one about the unrepentant murderer and former host of Cronica Carcotasilor. Others seem to be more or less “straight” news.
  20. Let’s Do It Romania, Blogul – Well technically it’s a blog but it’s mostly just what the team at Let’s Do It Romania has been up to. Which of course you know I’ve long since supported these guys so yay, glad to see they’re in the top 20.

So let’s review. Out of the top 20 “blogs”, one is a corporate pimp vehicle for a beer company, one is a kind of collaborative news site, one is a bizarre “blog” about how all drugs are bad for you and will kill you if you only look at them from across the street, one is about a volunteer NGO and one is a cultural/entertainment guide website. Therefore we’ll subtract these to get 15 “real” blogs.

Of those 15, four of them are purely about various artistic pursuits. Cool and awesome and great for some but not really dealing with current events so I’ll subtract them from the list I’ll be talking about below. Three of the blogs are nothing more than how awesome marketing is and social media is so cool and awesome and fuzzy wuzzy and golly, gee if you’re not making money while you sleep, you’re wasting valuable time to promote your brand, boy!

Therefore we’ve got 9 blogs that discuss current events, more or less. Literally every single one is written by one male author. Let’s review them again in a super brief format:

1) Cristian Manafu – Hey Romanians sure are stupid, aren’t they?
2) Victor Ciutacu – I can’t read Romanian but I damn sure hates me some Basescu.
3) Groparu – Yuk, yuk, here are some jokes!
4) Vlad Petreanu – What’s funnier than domestic violence? Not much, yuk, yuk!
5) Catalin Tolotan – Stealing is okay if no one catches you.
6) Palatul Sutu – I’m angry and I write using Communist-era orthography, damnit.
7) Bucurenci – I’m a nice guy but I’m also really busy. Sorry about that.
8) Piticu – Hey, here’s what’s going on. Yep, I’m just reposting the news and nothing else.
9) Adrian Nastase – I’m a crook but I’ve got a lot to say about what’s going on.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the state of (popular) blogging in Romania. By far the only two on the list writing anything remotely coherent are Bucurenci and Nastase. The rest are almost entirely nothing but jokes, one-liners, incoherent rants and empty of all real content.

Meanwhile, what actually prompted this entire post (of mine) comes from blog number 36 on the list, TV Dece, based right here in Unicorn City. This morning I had the miserable misfortune of reading this post, wherein the author goes to the gym, gets offended by someone’s clothes (too “hipster” for his fucking discriminating taste) and wonders aloud which form of “revenge” would be better, the author going to the gym next time dressed in a fur coat with nothing on underneath or dressed in bright pink to be at his (the author’s) maximum “gayness”? There is some serious repression of one’s feelings going on in this post, ouch.

I swear to God I’m not trying to be the old, grumpy, boring, “uncool” guy on the block here, I really am not. But when I see the country circling the drain, when I see the literally five 24-hour news TV channels all chasing the same two stories (yep it’s cold and yep there’s gonna be some new ministers), I really would’ve thought that the Romanian blogosphere might “step up to the plate”, as it were, and do some heavier lifting.

Instead it’s all smarmy American business marketer speak repackaged in the local language and one-liner jokes and making fun of fellow Romanians. Hey, wait a damn minute, that’s exactly what’s on television! Might as well just turn on OTV (TV channel) than log onto any of these blogs.

What’s even weirder to me is that a local blogger personally told me, “Hey nobody takes us seriously”. Well why would they? I’ve seen more in-depth stuff on my Facebook feed. Furthermore, most of these “top bloggers” are always getting together for “boot camps” and I don’t know what else where they meet and scheme and plot and at the end of the day it seems all they’re good at is figuring out how to better pimp out their blogs to advertisers, including scam artists! Christ!

I hate to get crude here but Romanian media, in its totality, is largely one big circle jerk. Whether that’s print/online newspapers, the radio (how many goddamn “morning zoo” shows does this country need?), the television channels or even the blogosphere, it’s about as vacuous and pitiful as you can get. I’m starting to finally understand why Cronica Carcotasilor is considered a comic masterpiece by some people in this country.

I can’t go into details here but I’ve already mentioned how I am working with some other people on a new project. Seeing what I’ve just seen today with regard to blogs, I am more convinced than ever that our project needs doing. I realize that without a million dollars you can’t open your own television network but a blog doesn’t cost a dime. Really, if this is what passes as popular in this country the problem is a lot worse than I thought.

Sigh…

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18 Responses »

  1. Draga Sam, titlul articolului de la care sustii ca ai pornit are titlul “Metode de trolling la sala”. Tinand cont de asta si de faptul ca e postat pe un blog de divertisment, daca tu atat ai inteles din el, imi pare rau.

    PS: Imi cer scuze ca las un comentariu in limba romana pe un blog scris din Romania in limba engleza. Stiu, sunt un discriminant infect.

  2. And…that’s why yours is the only real Romanian blog I read. That’s also the same reason I don’t watch TV(besides not owning one in Cluj :p ) or on rare ocasions watch Discovery and channels like that.
    The diversity in Romanian media is pitiful, it’s either political, sport, fashion or celebrity crap related…..plus it’s like you said superficial and petty.
    The one thing I do enjoy on the web made by Romanians for Romanians it’s the stuff on http://creativemonkeyz.com/ Aside from their popular show Robotzi they did a nice job at diversifying their stuff and keeping it interesting and funny. I would like to hear your opinion on them too.

  3. Long live the Creative Monkeys! and the show MIEZZZZZZZ :D

  4. What is ‘communist era orthography’?

  5. Sam, you’ve just written what I’ve been thinking for many years now. I have to give it to you, you got balls to throw it in their faces like that ;)
    Good luck with your upcoming project. My support you have!

  6. First they told us we needed to write. Anything, just write.
    Then they told us we have to write every day.
    Then they told us we have to use a strategy.
    Then they told us we have to enter all other Social Media.
    Then they told us we should not get involved into campaigns.
    Then they told us how to get involved into campaigns.
    Then they told us we suck for making money off the blog.
    Then they told us the content is not what they expected. To meet their expectations, we need to get more involved, take the pulse of the street, write stuff that really makes a difference (whatever that means) and produce operas that would outlast us.

    Well let us tell you something: some of us (most of us) have day jobs and perhaps a family, and the blog is sucking off most of what’s left of our energy. So it’s a bit unfair. And you can’t sustain a living by writing Dilema Veche stuff, ’cause nobody gives a crap about Dilema (ever heard of this magazine?).

    In other words, Sam, how long did this post take you to write? What else did you do yesterday? Have you been meeting tight deadlines, battling angry mobs of disgruntled bosses, delivering scores of pages written the night before, have you been pissed on in traffic and queuing for hours at the Revenue Service or the Post? And then, at the end of the day, after a 40 minute commute, can you fully disconnect to write 1-2 pages stuffed with originality? Well, guess what, some of us have been doing that for years. Years, Sam. Without the time to go and meet inspiring people, without being able to go out at least once a week away from it all and just brew and simmer your ideas far from the madding routine, because we are expected to be fathers first and foremost, then husbands, then good tax payers, then to be on time with the installments of the damn mortgage and then, of course, bloggers. Nonetheless, we still manage to come up with content and original writing in an era of Seinfeld, Dr House, Three and a half men, How I met your mother, Monty Python, 9gag, youtube and viral jokes and videos and what not – using nothing but what’s left of our creativity at the end of a hard day’s work.

    And the alternative, that is, making a living off your blog so that it can benefit from your full undivided attention and energy, is to turn your personal site into a “commercial” blog, that is, write enough tabloid crap to get to the masses, but pardon me, pardon us, we’d rather die poor, unknown and forgotten. I prefer my occasional outburts of creativity – the article I spent 2 weeks writing last year (“the county slogans in Romania”) received 1,000+ FB Likes and was plagiarized by national radio.

    As for TVDeCe, I won’t try o explain their humor, it’s like explaining why I prefer the Sibiu cheese to any other French variety. But if you dig deeper into their website, you’ll discover just how viral these two guys became last year for a quite number of times. By picking on that gym troll post you barely scratched the surface: you looked at the apple and said it tasted bad.

    My plea to everybody judging us bad: do produce better content yourselves. We ourselves are not completely fond of the way the entire blogging sphere is taking, but do show us some good quality writing, if possible on a daily basis. Do that for a month or six and you’ll make it. Besides, we love good competition, it keeps our creativity awake. If you do not like us, simply do not read us: we have no contract, we have not pledged to make you laugh no matter what. We are just being ourselves, you can like us or ignore us and go find value somewhere else. However, we do appreciate constructive criticism – which is why I wrote this.

    It’s, I think, the first time I answer critics. I am usually too caught up with my life to ever look around. My 2 cents:)

    • Înţeleg punctul de vedere al Groparului însă vreau să fac o precizare: sunt multi cei care apreciaza Dilema Veche, pentru unii e chiar singura revistă/ziar care merită citită. Probabil că există si bloguri care scriu articole “de substanţă” însă, dacă scopul e să-ţi câştigi existenţa online, evident că nu o să urmezi modelul ăsta.. până la urmă în acest caz vrei să ai trafic cât mai mare, nu?

      Eu citesc 3 bloguri şi niciunul nu se află în Top 20: 2 personale şi unul politic.

      Sam, preferi comentarii în română sau engleză?

      • …corect. Eu ma plangeam de faptul ca astia suntem, Dilema nu este si nu cred ca va fi vreodata un top seller.
        Daca reusesti sa fii dilematic fara a cancaniza blogul, cu atat mai bine. Vezi cazul Petreanu:)

    • The way I see it, this article isn’t really a dig at the quality of those blogs (after all anyone can write whatever the hell they want in their blog)… it’s a critique of the quality of the blogs Romanian (appear) to read. It’s a subtle, but quite important difference I’d think.

      I’m not saying your particular blog is good, nor am I saying that it’s bad. But I do agree with Sam’s conclusion that most of the Romanian media, including blogs, is a sad mixture of dirt and frivolous subjects.

      P.S. Mie mi-a ajuns cu atitudinea asta defetistă de „ăștia suntem”. D-aia românii sunt, ca neam, acolo unde sunt… pentru că au impresia că „ăștia suntem”, în concluzie așa vom fi mereu și n-are sens să ne agităm. Buni, răi… onești, hoți… ăștia suntem… care este.

      • We’ve had enough ourselves. We are often assimilated to the overall media, and we loathe it.
        But we are doing something to change it. We are attending seminars, trying to approach what we do from different perspectives, striving to come up with good content, learning on the go. You can perhaps blame us for poor quality writing but you can’t blame us of bad intentions.
        We are the reflection of the environment we evolve in, whether we like it or not. That’s why I insist that fine, nimble-minded Romanians should sit down and write some damn content. They keep themselves away from publishing and the lack of good content affects everything you see and hear on the media.

  7. „Victor Ciutacu – Well this is a real blog written by a single person but he doesn’t seem to really know how to read Romanian very well. In his latest post he talks about a 1991 law that prevents intelligence service employees from being members of political parties and holding political office. He then seems to be making the argument that Ungureanu, the man nominated to be the new Prime Minister, shouldn’t be holding office because he used to be the head of one of the intelligence agencies.”

    Not really. You’e the one that got it wrong and rushed to a conclusion. Ungureanu refused to quit, even when faced with that law, claiming that there was no incompatibility as organizing a govt is not a political act, but after a hard media campaign (and a statement on TV by the ombudsman), he relented and quit. Ciutacu probably also made fun of the fact that yesterday morning he was “I’m not quitting yet, there is no incompatibility”, and later in the day he was “Alright, I quit”

    • Victor Ciutacu is a two-faced sell-out whose opinion is worth less than the dirt under the finger nails of a day worker that’s been digging trenches all day. And unlike the day worker, Ciutacu couldn’t live a day holding an honest job.

  8. Critics from the “outside” are of the most constructive, good job!

  9. Hi Sam,

    First off – glad to see you’ve turned the comments back on. Bitter and unfair and boring as contributions may get, they were (most of the time) interesting on your blog. I might’ve wanted to add something a couple times, but sending an e-mail is quite a different business than writing a quick comment.

    Anyway, if I may offer an alternative to Zelist, here’s a sort of a top:

    http://polimedia.us/trilema/2012/topul-blogurilor-romanesti-editia-x/

    While Zelist strictly counts links from A to B in establishing relevancy, my proposed top uses real votes and comments of real people contributing to a blog aggregator (polimedia.us/fain).

    I won’t deny there’s a certain amount of circle-jerking too, however you’ll notice the top blogs are actually interesting to read – being written by normal, usual persons, with no claim of being gurus, social media experts, Funniest Men On Earth, Smartest Sport Journalist or some other pompous title.

    Hope you’ll give it a try :)

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