Happy New Year!

Bucharest, a couple of days ago. After a night of heavy snow, the city practically shut down. Being forced to stay inside and watch movies all day is not a bad start to the year. Especially if one of those movies is Say Anything. And yes, I’ve come to agree with this Washington Post story that has made me aware of this early John Cusack film: Lloyd Dobbler is the man.

But back to the snow:

An image from behind the apartment building.

Shot from the balcony. Pretty white out there.

Out front, people are trying to dig out their cars.

Good luck with that.

PS: Happy New Year!
PS2: For a few years now I’ve paid attention to the first track that I hear in a new year. This year, courtesy of a TV jingle, it was Nicole’s Whatever U Like. Oh boy.

Esquire #5 (Jan/Feb 2008)

Esquire is moving forcefully into the New Year with another strong issue – complete with ruminations on the European Union, the meaning of life (by Johnny Depp and Tim Burton), women’s underwear (by me) the state of Romanian culture (by Sorin Adam Matei) and so much more (check out the summary pages below). Johnny Depp graces the cover of this issue, which should ensure plenty of women readers. It’s funny. Even though Esquire is a men’s magazine, plenty of women read it and enjoy it. I’ve even heard some say that they wish there was a women’s magazine that printed the types of stories Esquire does.

Esquire - Ianuarie

I did mostly editing for this issue (editing is cool), but I did write a column for “Influence”. It argues that while you try to make the world work in your favor, other are doing the same. And sometimes they do it better than you. I also interviewed Nicoleta of pop band Hi-Q and thought up a “If you do this, then that” Valentine’s Day chart.

Esquire - Ianuarie - SumarEsquire - Ianuarie - Sumar [2]Other goodies in issue #5:
Romania & EU: One year together
Charlize is a woman we love
Sean treks through Romania searching for the perfect saorma
– Working to write
– The bombing of Radio Free Europe
Adrian-Silvan Ionescu, a man of the 19th centrury
Radu Paraschivescu on selling stuff
– and much much more (including tips on how to brew the best coffee, Bradut on PR practices, the best acting performances of 2007, and a spectular pictorial featuring Romanian snowboarders and skiers).

* Designed by the team of Raymond Bobar and Catalina Zlotea.

PS: Seen anything you liked in Esquire? Tell us via e-mail: esquire@sanomahearst.ro

The music of 2007

I’ve been keeping an eye on the emerging “best of 2007” lists, curious at what albums moved people this year (Stereogum does a nice wrap-up and links to even more). There’s probably oodles more of these lists to come, but I can’t help contribute mine. I did a pretty thorough run-down last year, but I’ll keep it simpler this year.

Let me just say that, since the Decemberists didn’t put out a record this year, there’ll be no ranking. And since there is no ranking, there is no need to go higher than 5. Here are my top 5 records of 2007, in no particular order:

Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
Gogol Bordello – Super Taranta
Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight
Voxtrot – Voxtrot
Travis – The Boy with No Name

There were plenty of other good ones (play some here), but I had each of these on heavy rotation on my IPod for weeks. To please my list-making self, I also wrote a quick one for Esquire’s December issue, listing 20 great tracks that people should have heard in 2007. This is one playlist I’m proud of. Enjoy.

1. Voxtrot – Firecracker
2. Gogol Bordello – Wonderlust king
3. The Decemberists – Culling of the fold
4. Rilo Kiley – Silver lining
5. Bright Eyes – If the brakeman turns my way
6. The National – Mistaken for strangers
7. Travis – My eyes
8. Band Of Horses – No one’s gonna love you
9. The New Pornographers – Challengers
10. Hallelujah the Hills – Hallelujah the hills
11. The Avett Brothers – Die die die
12. Of Montreal – Heimdalsgate like a Promethean curse
13. The Good, The Bad & The Queen – History song
14. The Broken West – On the bubble
15. The Arcade Fire – Intervention
16. Okkervil River – Our life is not a movie or maybe
17. brakesbrakesbrakes – If I should die tonight
18. Modest Mouse – Dashboard
19. The Shins – Turn on me
20. Bloc Party – Hunting for witches

Read a story from Esquire #4

For those who have never read Esquire Romania and are curious how things are written, we’ve put a story from our latest issue online. It’s available on HotNews.ro and it’s about the generation of children born after communism. We sometimes refer to them as the Children of the Revolution.

Esquire #4

What do actor Dragos Bucur, TV and radio personality Andrei Gheorghe and Internet entrepreneur Cristian “Igu” Vasile have in common? Besides being men in today’s Romania, they are also among the stars of the fourth issue of Esquire Romania, an issue of firsts. It features our first Romanian cover — graced by Dragos Bucur (see below). It clocks in at 140 pages (more than 100 of which are packed with top-notch content). It’ll be out by December 1 (first). And it has an orange spine (trust me).

Esquire - Decembrie 2007

Esquire #4 is also my first glossy magazine cover story (the preview below is the opening spread). I always loved the first months on the staff of a newspaper – that slow progression towards getting your byline on A1. With magazines the joy isn’t as personal, but it’s still exciting. The story on Bucur is 10 pages long and it tells the story of a 30-year-old man who knows what he wants from his professional and personal life (as well as from the media). The photos were shot by Cosmin Bumbut.

Esquire - Decembrie 2007 - Dragos Bucur

Below are the two pages of contents. Click the thumbnails to see the larger version. For a better and closer view at the contents, download the PDF.

Esquire - Decembrie 2007 - Sumar
Esquire - Decembrie 2007 - SumarOther goodies in issue #4:
Andrei Gheorghe is one mean Santa
Malvina tells a joke
– The terrors of the Pitesti prison
– The children of the ’89 revolution
– Igu’s nostalgia and LaTrecut.ro
Norman Mailer‘s last profile
Radu Paraschivescu on soccer
Halle Berry writes on Halle Berry
– and much much more (including hot drinks, the obituaries of 2007, free biblical advice, cars and the way to the elusive haircut).

* Designed by the team of Raymond Bobar and Catalina Zlotea.

PS: Seen anything you liked in Esquire? Tell us via e-mail: esquire@sanomahearst.ro

Cristian Nemescu: Life as a movie

Because Esquire Romania doesn’t have its own website (yet), I have decided to begin uploading my stories. I will start with one that ran in our first issue, September 2007.

This profile of the late-director Cristian Nemescu is one of the hardest stories I’ve done, both professionally and personally. I was attracted to this man for a few reasons, some of which I spelled out in an interview with Bradut: he was a young man who loved telling stories, he was a strong character despite his fragile appearance, and his death left a profound gap in the lives of his friends and family. Reporting this story was an enormous challenge. Some of his friends were wonderfully honest and sincere, others were understandably skeptical of a reporter digging for intimate details. Interviewing his parents was also hard, as they didn’t think they had anything to add to what had been said (they did – a lot).

There is always good for better reporting and better writing, but at the end of the day I believe that this piece remains the most elaborate piece of journalism done of the director of California Dreamin’.

Click on the imagine below to download the PDF. Opening montage and design: Raymond Bobar.


Esquire #3

In a few days, check your (Romanian) newsstands for Esquire’s third issue. The cover features Sean Penn in his own Armani suit (he’s Sean Penn after all), and the story talks about his return to the director’s chair for Into the Wild. Penn’s movie is based on a non-fiction book with the same name by Jon Krakauer. But before Krakauer turned the story of a young man who died on an adventure in Alaska into a book, it was — you guessed it — a magazine piece. Those interested in great long-form journalism can read the 1993 Outside article here.

Esquire - Noiembrie 2007

The largest piece of real-estate in issue #3 is superb collection – reported and written locally – of personal tales describing human experiences ranging from exhaustion to fear to bliss to love. It’s Esquire’s Romania first annual “What it feels like…” and among the things you’ll learn by reading these 16 pages is:
– what it feels like to play basketball for 80 hours
– what it feels like to be dumped by a girl when you’re 14
– what it feels like to be a sports play-by-play man
– what it feels like to be a blind tourist in Romania
– and many more.

Cum e sa…

I have done some writing of my own for issue #3, namely a feature on a wonderful group of enthusiastic guys who are working their butt off to put together an American football team in Bucharest (opening spread pictured below). They are the Bucharest Warriors and we’re devoting eight pages to their story. The photos were shot by my friend, the hard-working genius Andrei Pungovschi (see his blog for some of the shots).

Bucharest Warriors

Below are the two pages of contents. Click the thumbnails to see the larger version.

Esquire - Noiembrie 2007 - SumarEsquire - Noiembrie 2007 - Sumar 2Other goodies in issue #3: Seven Romanian photographers pose for their own cameras in a stunning pictorial. Cristian Patrasconiu explains UDMR’s problems. And General Hari-Bucur Marcu offers some insight on Romania’s defense strategy. Hint: there is none. And feel free to stare at the stunning Dana Rogoz.

* Designed by the team of Raymond Bobar and Catalina Zlotea.

PS: Seen anything you liked in the last issue of Esquire? Tell us via e-mail: esquire /at/ sanomahearst /dot/ ro

Take my class, please

I. Am. Teaching.

Actually, I hope I’ll be teaching. The lovely folks at the Bucharest Center for Independent Journalism have given me the chance to teach a course in long-form writing. We’re calling it Narrative Journalism, although I mean that in the broadest sense of the word: journalism that includes elements of narrative storytelling.

The “hope” part has to do with the fact that the class needs 12 to 15 people before it kicks off. I’m positive we’ll get the numbers we need, but still a little nervous. Teaching is something I’ve wanted very much to do upon my return to Romania. My lack of experience in teaching is balanced by my enthusiasm, which I often manage enough off to get others to care about storytelling. Which ultimately is what this class will be about: how do we go about finding and telling stories.

I think that a group of students would have a lot of fun in my class – we’d exchange ideas, talk about writing strategies and, hopefully, do those heartfelt and true stories that Romanian journalism lacks.

If you can read Romanian, an outline of what I plan to teach in the course in here.

For those interested, you can find details on signing up here.

Esquire Romania #2

The hardest thing after a debut is a consistent follow-up. I think the second issue of Esquire Romania has met that standard and done one better.

I’m not one to brag, but you’ll find that the second issue is more local, more diverse and more vividly illustrated than number one. And I’m very happy about that. My part in this effort consisted mostly of a personal essay on my family. This form of journalism–one that I treasure immensely–is something that I hope will stir readers and writers alike. It’s not so much writing on the self but reporting on the self, a much more arduous and interesting process. I got my idea when I found some rejection letters that my grandfather received from Romanian newspapers back in the 1950s. It seems he wanted to write for them. I set out to investigate this and… as the story says… ended up finding something completely different.

The opening spread on my story looks like this:

Portret de familie

Below is a sneak preview of the cover and the summary pages — yes, Robert Downey Jr. looks awesome. And the story on him is a riot!

Esquire Romania - October 2007

Esquire Romania - October 2007 - Sumar Esquire Romania - October 2007 - Sumar Other fun stuff in issue #2: Seven professors step in front of the camera. Iosif Viehmann, a prominent speleologist, isolates himself in a cave for 10 days. Bradut figures out Romanian stereotypes. Cristian Ghinea tears into the myth of young people saving politics. As a bonus, Vasluianu offers an opinion. And more.

* Design by (the magnificent) Raymond Bobar.

absolutely noFX

The noFX show in Bucharest last night was one of the worst I’ve been to. For once, it was neither the band (unlike last year @ Placebo), nor the crowd (which was the case when I saw Me First and the Gimme Gimmes in Boston).

The noFX concert was held in an absolutely disastrous open air sit-down venue. A punk rock show. In an open-air amphitheater. I’m always happy to see big bands in Bucharest, but if the promoters think the name of the band is enough for a memorable experience, they’re mistaken. Lame, unforgivable and pathetic.

I’m waiting for my Decemberists to take the stage in Vienna in two weeks. That’s going to be a real show. Great band, great crowd and most likely, an appropriate venue. See you there. I’ve got three extra tickets 😉

Wien poster