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.


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