The Critics Respond, Part Fifty-One

Let us take a moment to appreciate what a finely crafted jab this is, dear readers; it was written by someone who somehow understood that I would be fundamentally disgusted at any comparison, favorable or otherwise, between my work and that of automotive journalism’s sole Pulitzer Prize winner. And just in case my blood hasn’t reached full boil in the first half of the sentence, there’s a throwaway jab at “Trump’s America” just to drive home the point that this person feels himself to be fundamentally superior to me on a socio-economic basis.

Having thus received such a kid-glove slap, I see no issue with devoting a thousand or so words — maybe more, if it proves amusing — in the cause of countering sixteen.

I have no idea if I like Dan Neil; I’ve met him only once and he seemed nice enough, although about as far from a “man’s man” as one could imagine. Not exactly the fellow you’d want as your second in a duel of honor, or even on the other end of a couch during a dorm-room move. What I do not like is Dan’s shtick, which is best described as eighteenth-century travel writing, only with the destination being the grotesque and contemptible world of the automobile. You see, it was once very popular for cultivated Englishmen (and Englishwomen) to go somewhere horrifying, like Australia or West Africa or Scotland (see Johnson’s trip) and to then write about their travels in a way that maximized the horrors of that horrifying place. Herman Melville did the same thing on our side of the Atlantic, writing the hugely popular Omoo and Typee before settling down to write a considerably less popular fiction book about a fellow who wouldn’t stop chasing a whale.

The purpose of these books was twofold. First, to titillate with disgusting or offensive anecdotes; second, to reaffirm the essential rightness of the reader in never going to those places himself. In that respect, the old travel books were very different from today’s travel-magazine pieces, which are designed to sell travel and/or excite some envy of the author. The reader of Omoo would instead experience a profound relief at having no plans whatsoever to visit the South Seas. You finished the book feeling better about staying at home. It’s no wonder that the genre was outrageously popular in an era when travel was hard and most people didn’t have the economic mobility required to leave home with no economic reward in sight for doing so.

Dan Neil’s work, the ostensible best of which can be read here, has that same fundamental purpose: to give you a car-hater’s perspective on a particular car in a manner that reinforces the essential righteousness of your car-hating. From his award-winning E55 review:

The engine of the 2004 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG produces 516 pound-feet of torque between 2,650 and 4,500 rpm. For a lot of people, this sentence means nothing. What, after all, is torque? What is a pound-foot, and is 516 of them a good thing or bad? “Pound-foot” seems like nonsense verse, like early Andre Breton or late Snoop Dogg.
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You’ll forgive my being didactic, but the E55 AMG — the ultra-performance version of Mercedes’ E-Class — can’t really be appreciated without some grasp of automotive mechanics. Most cars: They go, they stop, they drink gas and poop exhaust fumes. What’s to explain?
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Torque is expressed in pound-feet (or in the metric system, newton-meters, but let’s not go there, OK?). As Archimedes well understood, a lever multiplies force. Imagine you are loosening a rusty bolt. If you use a foot-long wrench and put 100 pounds of pressure on one end, you are applying 100 pound-feet of torque to the bolt.
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It all seems so innocent, like chalkboard arithmetic you might remember from high school physics. But for car enthusiasts, these numbers are, well, scary… Here’s a little gearhead dish: While peak horsepower has a certain marquee value, it’s not especially relevant outside of top speed. Acceleration — the sensual, guilty, giddy gestalt of tramping the gas pedal and feeling yourself shoved into the fast-forward scenery — is the product of engine torque pitted against the mass of a car.
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I’ll risk one more physics equation: F = Ma. Fun equals mass times acceleration. The E55 has F in abundance… A vast amount of binary code from the Bosch engine management system minutely adjusts the fuel-injection spray and timing for each cylinder.

The autist in me wants to mercilessly nitpick this stuff; “binary code” is nonsensical, and the oft-repeated business about torque and horsepower is easily refuted by anyone who has seen a Honda 600RR run a ten-second quarter with forty-six pound-feet of torque, while an Accord V6 with almost exactly the same amount of torque-to-weight runs fourteens. It doesn’t matter. Dan isn’t known for his insights into actual automobiles; after he and I both drove the new Ghost, he breathlessly told the Wall Street Journal‘s readers that

The Ghost’s body panels flow from headlamps to taillamps without ever traversing a panel gap — a feat of construction that requires four uncommmonly excellent human welders to work simultaneously on the panels, to ensure a continuous seam.

One imagines the General Lee, only with the hood and trunk also welded shut. How else could you have a body without panel gaps? Here’s what happened: we all got a spiel about how the bonnet was welded and adjusted by hand to ensure that it lined up with the cutout for the Flying Lady and the bottoms of the A-pillar. Somehow this got translated into Dan’s notes as “the car has no panel gaps”, and he promptly reported this out to what is increasingly looking like America’s last newspaper of record.

Don’t worry about that. What I want you to see is the distance that he affects between himself and the car — and, by extension, between the readers and the car. He pays the upscale, self-conscious reader that most slippery of compliments: namely, that of assuming that said reader knows no more about automobiles than they do about the effective operation of a crack pipe. The reader fairly glistens with pleasure over this, because as avocations go the automobile is probably the second trashiest one known to modern (bug-)man. (The worst, of course, is that bastard cousin of the automobile known as “powersports”. Charles Murray’s famous “bubble quiz” should have asked readers if they knew the difference between an ATV and a SxS.)

It seems obvious, therefore, that the Pulitzer committee would award their prize for automotive journalism to someone who clearly detests cars — or at least pretends to — because, after, all, they hate cars too. All right-thinking people do. How could it be otherwise? So Neil’s ironic distance is catnip for them. This modern affectation of pretending to affirm something by affirming its opposite is everywhere you look in media. Most notably you see it in the writers who claim they “love America” and then affirm their love by telling you an inspiring story of a recent immigrant from Eritrea who melts down Revolutionary War statues to make giant bronze fist-with-middle-finger-extended sculptures which are then pointed at the second-floor windows of VA nursing homes or something like that.

(Sidebar: Almost thirty years ago, some writer sat jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis down and played “Jazz (We Got)” by A Tribe Called Quest for him. “What do you think of the new jazz music?” the writer, who was white, asked — no doubt expecting to hear Marsalis offer some sort of genuflection to rap as The Sacred Black Music For A New Generation.

“This isn’t jazz — it’s trash, and it’s the opposite of jazz,” Marsalis replied, causing much consternation. To Wynton’s credit, he has not changed his mind in the years since. Even Ron Carter, who played bass on the Tribe Called Quest track in question, ended up having little respect for the so-called fusion of jazz and hip-hop. Full disclosure, however: I think The Low End Theory, the source of that track, is a great album.)

Of course, only an idiot would accuse me of not loving cars. I’ve demonstrated my unfeigned affection for the automobile everywhere from my Equifax record to podium finishes in at least thirteen different classes of motorsport and overall wins in seven. Rather, my critic is accusing me of copying Neil’s style, which he mostly perceives as a machine-gun rattle of name-dropping. From that same E55 review, Neil manages to mention

Andre Breton
Snoop Dogg
Hoover Dam
Archimedes
James Watt
ICBMs
Lance Armstrong

and, as they say, more! Neil also indulges in a lot of what feels like thesaurus-searching: a smile is inevitably a “rictus”, and we get a lot of reinforcement or pairing like “guilty, giddy” or “regal and elegant, expressive and exclusive”. All of this is done in the cause of making you understand Just How Distant Dan Is From The Grubby Cars And Grubbier Car People. There is a lot of language for language’s sake.

Therefore, the claim that I’m “burning up a search bar” to be “Dan Neil for Trump’s America” implies that I sit down and try to write the same kind of look-at-how-sophisticated-I-am stuff, only for the rubes out there who actually like cars. It amounts to the proverbial praising with faint damns, and I’m not totally unwilling to accept this critique. I’m one of the rubes and hicks out there in “Trump’s America” who really likes cars. Guilty as charged. The next time you hold a climate-change summit at a remote private airfield that can only be reached via G650, feel free to un-invite me.

The funny thing about the “search bar” dig, however, is that it reminded me how little thematic variety I put into my work. I have a fairly narrow range of non-automotive interests:

Brit-lit from Chaucer to 1798 (the year Coleridge and Wordworth ruined everything)
American lit from Hawthorne to the pre-Boomers like Roth and Updike
Popular music from 1930 to 1990
Military history from the Greeks up to the day the choppers left Saigon
Roman history from the Republic to the collapse
A little science and engineering, mostly to do with basic theoretical math and CompSci
Cycling
The occasional bit of representational art
Some stuff that people call art but is really craft (like, say, Chihuly’s stuff)
Architecture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
Theology and morality, from the Old Testament up to, say, Karl Barth
Twentieth century tailoring

No matter if you pick up my Some Prefer Nettles ‘zine from 1990 or read yesterday’s “Avoidable Contact”, you’ll hear the same notes being played again and again. It’s always Pope or Dryden, never Wordworth or Robert Frost. Always Seventies rock, never Sixties; always Chuck D and never House of Pain. If I need an allusion to warfare, it’s Western Front, not Eastern. When I want to quote another autowriter, you won’t get Vegas to take your bet on it being either Bedard or Setright.

In other words, if I’m using a search bar, I’m not using it very well. This is easily demonstrated by reading me back-to-back with Dan Neil, who never repeats an allegory or refers to anything twice. Each and every one of his reviews stands on fresh ground. For his 2003 Mini Cooper review, he churns through John Masefield, Edmund Burke, Sam Philips, Saddam Hussein, and the “amniotic hush” of a Lexus LS430. Left jab! Right hook! Then again with the left! And you’ll never see this material again, dear reader; Neil mentions Burke just twice in his entire body of published work, the other time it’s a quote, used five years later in the context of the Volt and Fusion Hybrid.

I am afraid that I have no such predictable novelty. Pope’s Epistle to Arbuthnot makes its way into something like twenty-five of my columns or reviews over the years, which makes it slightly more common than my quoting of Setright’s belief that an automatic transmission and the turbocharger are perfectly matched, “because one will be at work when the other is not.” W. Axl Rose is frequent, but no more frequent than Marcus Aurelius. Twice I wrote about a particular woman’s ability to raise her voice to painful levels at a moment’s notice. Once I compared her to a Telarc CD, the other time I used musical notation, but it’s the same joke told two different ways.

My lack of variety can be explained like so: I like my frequent readers to feel comfortable in what I write. They should have a fair idea about what I’m going to say even as I’m saying it, the same way I could predict the precise finishing order of C/D comparison tests for about 15 years just by looking at the names of the cars. I’m not here to shock you or upset you. We are here to enjoy ourselves. So there’s no sense in continually making you reach for a reference work. Once you know that I use “yclept” instead of “called”, occasionally and just for fun, you’ll never have to think about it again. I’m not here to make you suffer. That’s the real reason I don’t have a Neil-esque command of simile and metaphor.

Also, I’m hugely lazy about writing and rarely bother to do a second draft of anything, much less research some tasty little cultural nuggets ahead of time.

All of that being said, it occurs to me that there is such a thing as being too comfortable. Therefore, in the year to come I’m going to spend a lot more time reading and learning as much as a I can, with the goal being to change things up a bit. Feel free to complain or praise as you see fit.

One last thing: while I was looking for the source of Neil’s Pulitzer Prize I came across this interesting essay about said prize. Using my own cherished Imperial Leader, a certain Larry Webster, as the example, the author writes

Car critics differ from art critics in several interesting ways. Both rely on expert knowledge and skills of assessment and interpretation. They both also reveal personal taste: one man’s ugly SUV may be another man’s “cute ‘ute.” In addition to these attributes, though, the car critic needs more highly developed physical skills. He literally has to make the car perform, to test it the way a musician might test the abilities of an instrument, to whose performance the music critic then intelligently listens. When Car and Driver’s Larry Webster compares the Porsche Carrera’s 0-60 mph acceleration to that of the Ferrari Enzo, he writes “Although we tried our best, the Carrera is extremely hard to get off the line clearly” (June 2004, p. 44). If he had trouble, we’ll have trouble.

She makes an interesting point. In music, you have the musician, and you have the music critic. A musician plays, and the critic evaluates. The autowriter, on the other hand, has to both perform and evaluate. At the same time. This is where the vast majority of autowriters fall down; they can’t play the tune well enough to know if it’s written well. In this respect, at least, I hope my critic, and all of you, will give me the nod over virtually all of my rivals. I might not always hit you with the one-two punch of mythology and pop culture, but I always perform the most honest, thorough, and appropriate evaluation possible. Time and again I’ve shown that I can drive these cars at the same pace as did the people who developed them. It’s true that I would be a more engaging authorial companion were I to use that “search bar” a little better — but,

AND HERE COMES A REFERENCE I’VE MAYBE NEVER USED BEFORE

when I hear the word “culture”, I reach for the visor release on my helmet!

43 Replies to “The Critics Respond, Part Fifty-One”

  1. AvatarAndrew Sheppard

    My two cents, if you call yourself an auto journo and can’t seriously hustle a car around a track aren’t you just a pretender?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      With one major caveat — and that caveat is, IF THE CAR HAS PERFORMANCE INTENT — then I would agree.

      Reply
    • AvatarS2kChris

      Maybe maybe not. John Phillips (I think) once wrote a column long ago about knowing how to drive poorly and it telling him what he needed to know about evaluating a car. IIRC it was a criticism of the media ride along with a pro driver who shows you how to drive, and at one point he references the pro actively adjusting the steering wheel as he was driving.

      I believe his point was that he wasn’t evaluating the car to see how it would behave in the hands of a pro, he was evaluating to see how it would behave in the hands of an average driver, ie is it predictable at the limit or not? If your inputs are less than perfect how does the car react? As a decidedly average driver (compared to car guys, not your aunt Mildred, I’ve got midpack lap and autox times to prove it) I’m unconcerned with how a car handles when Lewis Hamilton drives it, tell me how it will be when Joe Average like me drives it. “This Lamberari Fasterossa put up a 1:31 lap time when the Lamberari driver took it around Fioralfredo, but when yr obdt srvnt did it I skidded into the deep weeds in turn 2” tells me what I need to know.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        This is a conversation Sam Smith and I just got done having. Sam has done most of his racing in immaculately and/or professionally prepared cars, usually BMWs of some kind, so he is quite sensitive to minor setup issues and/or problems.

        I mostly race FWD shitboxes with beam axles and stuff like that so I am in the habit of driving around whatever problems I encounter.

        Therefore, in most situations I am a little faster than Sam but Sam’s feedback on the car itself is more detailed and interesting.

        I think the reason PCOTY worked so well (or at least I thought it worked so well) was that I would go out and set the time then I would collate all sorts of feedback from Sam, Travis Okulski, and others to build the description of how the car behaved at speed.

        Reply
        • Avataryossarian

          ” just got done having.” english tenses are the strangest things. is that different from “just had?” is it ok to end a sentence with a verb? should it be “just had that conversation.?” this is why i’m not a writer…

          Reply
          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            99.9% of the time there’s no difference.

            “just got done having” is meant to convey more immediacy than “just had” but the language could certainly survive without it.

    • AvatarFred Lee

      I see the point, but I’d think the mark of a good automotive journalist is one who understands his target market and accurately conveys how a car meets (or not) their needs.

      If you’re reviewing a Miata Club Sport or a zo6? OK. Hustling around a track might be important to your target market. For just about anything else? Not relevant.

      Reply
  2. AvatarMD Streeter

    When I read Dan Neil I can feel him sneering at me through his words and frankly I avoid that sort of writing. I have never gotten that feeling reading your articles. There are definitely things you have written that have not appealed to me (because we all have different interests) but I’ve never felt like you were talking down to us. I mean, if you were trying to you didn’t do a very good job. I guess you don’t have Mr. Neil’s natural talent for it.

    Reply
  3. AvatarTrucky McTruckface

    That really is a pretty good jab. He managed to trash your writing style and the intelligence of your readers in a single concise sentence.

    I can see why one would draw comparisons to your narrative style and reference-dropping with Dan Neil’s. The difference is that I find your writing to be inherently relatable – even if I don’t share your frame of reference – and you draw the reader in, whereas someone like Neil uses those devices to purposefully elevate himself above and away from the reader.

    The big takeaway here is that even people who hate you and toss around elitist invective like “Trump’s America” also think Dan Neil is pretentious douchebag.

    Reply
  4. Avatartoly arutunoff

    never heard of dan Neil; I’m guessing he writes for the nyt. setright came to tulsa once to look at my mckee-cro-sal awd twin turbo auto trans can-am car. it was a fun afternoon believe it or not. I’d like to see reviews of vehicles with no reference made to their esthetics–maybe 2 photos, titled ‘best angle’ and ‘worst angle.’ decades ago John Phillips wrote as humorous a car-related article as I’ve ever read, matched only by p.j. o’rourke’s discussion of driving a (308?) Ferrari. that discussion was edited to remove a Native American reference, as you might recall. John Christy, the jesuitical Allan girdler, Peter Egan…I miss them. most contemporary car writers are just a bit callow or have lumps of p.c. swept into the corners of their essays. not terribly long ago I found a car and driver in which the idea was presented that congress would never dictate anything about the construction of our cars; late ’65/early ’66 I think. the magazine that we eagerly awaited each month, or at least this particular issue, was surprisingly dull. boy it sure wasn’t when I read it the first time!

    Reply
  5. AvatarJohn C.

    Which one of you, Mr. Neil or Mr. Baruth, would have advised Honda not to ditch the 5 speed Auto for the CVT in the room when the decision was made? The answer of course was neither one of you because you are both of the same mindset that Japan was Godlike.. As was everyone in your profession. A truly damming example of which there are many.

    Reply
  6. AvatarGWallace

    “Not exactly the fellow you’d want as your second in a duel of honor, or even on the other end of a couch during a dorm-room movie.” No doubt a Green New Dealer to boot waiting the advent of solar powered cars with bated breath.

    Reply
  7. AvatarSnavehtrebor

    Just wanted to say that I’ve read automotive journalism since the late ‘70s, and I think that Jack’s melange of highbrow literary references, pro-American socioeconomics, and casual alpha-male braggadocio hits all the right spots, for me anyway. There are plenty of places to read about cars from writers who hate cars (Mr. Neil) or possibly have never driven one (Jalopnik). You keep doing you, Jack.

    Reply
  8. AvatarCJinSD

    Everything you need to know about Dan Neil can be gleaned from reading his argument for including the Ford Model-T in Time Magazine’s “The 50 Worst Cars of All Time.”

    Reply
    • Avatararbuckle

      Yes, that was one of the worst automotive things I’ve ever read in my life that wasn’t published by Motor Trend.

      Reply
    • Avatarbenjohnson

      Thanks for that! After reading hat, I now know that whenever I’m feeling down I can always thank God that He didn’t make me Dan Niel.

      Reply
  9. AvatarSobro

    Style is nice in a “float a pat of butter on top of the sirloin” way, but if substance of the steak is all gristle and fat then the butter adds nothing. Of course I enjoy both from Jack even when he rolls towards obscure to me references, but the meat nearly always satisfies.

    Reply
  10. AvatarGianni

    Glad I was able to read the Avoidable Contact column that precipitated the criticism before Hagerty took it down.

    After 21 years with Hagerty, I think I will do some shopping at renewal time. Shame they have to do stuff like this.

    Reply
  11. AvatarThirdOwner

    Jack, where is the article the “critic” was responding to? I read it on Hagerty’s site when it came out, I mentally commended them for publishing it, and now I can’t find it.

    Reply
  12. Avatar-Nate

    I dunno who the cretin who tried to insult you was Jack , prolly just some jealous fool .

    Keep on keeping on , if I disagree who cares, right ? .

    *very* few have your ability with words .

    -Nate

    Reply
  13. Avatarstingray65

    I suspect most “professional” music, movie, theatre, literature, and art critics are people will failed ambitions (due to lack of talent or drive) in their field of critique. They tend to hate much “popular” content in their field because it doesn’t require the “expertise” of the critic for the public to determine its worth, while “high” art offers the opportunity to belittle the reader by pointing out the important social message they missed by falling asleep during the performance. I have seen little change in these fields of “professional” criticism over many decades.

    On the other hand, automotive and sports journalism has changed drastically. Read an old Car and Driver or Sports Illustrated and you will find articles written by people who generally seem to know their subject well, and also seem to have some real enthusiasm for it. This enthusiasm and knowledge has often been criticized because most readers don’t care about valve clearances and compression ratios (or QB ratings) or drive their sedans around the Nurburgring, and/or because they never wrote about the weaknesses or faults of the vehicle (or athlete) that normal people care about either because they were fans or afraid of losing their access due to being critical. In any case, it never seemed that the writer would rather be covering a presidential election or BLM “peaceful” protest, or saw themselves as superior to their audience.

    In contrast, many of today’s automotive and sports “journalists” seem to be like music/movie critics who are in the business because they lack the talent and drive to get jobs they really want. Since they can’t get jobs in the mainstream media reporting on the latest Trump transgression or promoting the latest social justice cause, they bring their real interests into the automotive/sports ghetto they find themselves suffering through. Thus we get BLM propaganda during football games, and we get hatred for powerful/large vehicles because they cause to planet to melt in our car reviews, and of course nothing negative can be said in our march towards “clean” electric driving nirvana unless it is aimed at idiots like Trump who encourage fracking and suggest cutting back on the EV subsidies. And boy do they hate their audience or any colleagues who actually have talent and interest in the field they cover – I mean what sort of low-life cretin actually gets excited about some foul polluting mechanical contraption or some toxically masculine sweaty athlete? And the funniest thing is they have no idea why fans are no longer coming to games, or why their car review readership and clicks continue to drop.

    Reply
  14. AvatarCliffG

    Alas much of our current criticism was encapsulated almost 50 years ago in Tom Wolfe’s “The Painted Word” and “From Bauhaus to Our House”. Haven’t read much O’Neil in the last 20 years, but I would guess his Prize is simply a result of writing for the correct publication and having all the “right” opinions. After all the ahistorical racist who wrote “1619” and, of course, Stalin’s chief apologist both worked for the same newspaper and received Pulitzers. If that is an example of Danny’s writing he strikes me as a pretentious asshole whose knowledge is a mile wide and an inch thick. The likelihood of him having actually read the entirety of Burkes “Letters on the French Revolution” is pretty much zero, and thus it is merely a name drop to impress. Of course we suffered for eight years a certain President, currently on his 47th autobiographical work, who had the same malady. I am now old enough that suffering fools gladly is of the distant past.

    Reply
  15. AvatarCliffG

    Quick aside since you mentioned WWII. If you haven’t read Rick Atkinson’s trilogy on the ETO, make sure you do. Really excellent.

    Reply
    • Avatar98horn

      The Pacific War by John Costello is quite good. I’ve enjoyed the stuff Drachinifel is putting out on YouTube, as well. He has a great series on the raising of the fleet at Pearl Harbor. That’s a part of the war that is often mentioned, but rarely studied in the depth he does.

      Reply
  16. Avataryossarian

    “yclept” that’s a good one. never knew there is a word that starts with a “yc.” from websters 1913:

    Ycleped
    Y*cleped” (?), p. p. [AS. geclipod, p. p. of clipian, cleopian, cliopian, to call. See Clepe, and also the Note under Y-.] Called; named; — obsolete, except in archaic or humorous writings. [Spelt also yclept.]

    It is full fair to ben yclept madame. – Chaucer.

    But come, thou goddess fair and free.
    In heaven ycleped Euphrosyne. – Milton.

    Those charming little missives ycleped valentines. – Lamb.

    Reply
  17. Avatar98horn

    If you’re looking for a challenging and interesting read, I highly recommend Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon. You must bring a knowledge of organic chemistry, rocket science, pre-WWII German corporate structure, the occult, Pavlovian psychological theory, and psychotropic drugs to the endeavor. Bonus points for finishing it: Rian Johnson admitted that he owned it but didn’t finish it in Knives Out. I despise the little beta-male, so it brought me great pleasure to know that not only had I finished it, but enjoyed it. GR receives alot of comparisons to Infinite Jest, but IJ is truly an unreadable piece of crap.

    Reply
  18. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    Perhaps the most delicious thing about Dan Neil is that the folks he most wants to impress have no interest in his subject matter and, if they know about him they treat him dismissively because he writes about cars.

    I once had a conversation with someone who didn’t think writing about cars was actual journalism (for the record, while I’m credentialed as such and have written news stories I don’t call myself a journalist, a severely degraded profession, but rather a writer, which coincidentally is what my last name means in Yiddish and German). When I pointed out that Neil got a Pulitzer, he replied, “that was for criticism, not for writing about cars.”

    I don’t know if Neil likes cars or not. In my experience, the people who write about cars and the auto industry for mainstream publications are much like other folks in the media and are more interested in their colleagues’ approval than the opinions of car enthusiasts or of people who actually have intimate knowledge of the car biz. During the Detroit auto show back when Chrysler rented the firehouse across the street from Cobo and turned it into a bar & grill for journalists and Chrysler staff I was having a beer at the bar, sitting next to Automotive News’ main correspondant in China. She was open about the fact that she hated cars but the gig was an entre to the larger world of writing about business, which she apparently also hated. She had predictably leftist positions on just about everything we discussed.

    Reply
    • Avatarstingray65

      Interesting comment as usual Ronnie. I find it fascinating that so many fields of journalism are dominated by people who hate large parts of the field they cover. Is it that hard to find automobile journalists who like cars from a technology, economic development, or sociological perspective? Do people visiting automobile enthusiast sites like to read about how terrible cars are for the environment (perhaps we should go back to horses?), or how so many people make wrong choices in buying cars (i.e. SUVs, powerful cars, large cars, pickups, or buying one at all)? The same can be said about business reporters – they seem to generally hate capitalism and think earning a profit is grotesque without ever considering what pays their own salary. Sports is going the same way – all the fawning over the female football kicker this past weekend who managed to kick the ball 26 yards, and all the allegiance to BLM kneelers and very little curiosity about why so few people are watching the games. How hard can it be to hire someone who loves sports to cover sports? I don’t mind investigative reporting or tough questions from reporters, but how about a little balance?

      Reply
  19. AvatarMike

    I used to read Neil’s columns regularly; I enjoyed the cultural references and got a laugh or two out of most columns. In one of his reviews on some turbocharged car- I can’t recall the exact quote or even what car it was- he said something to the effect of “you can make more power either by feeding it more fuel, or more air, which is way smarter.” I actually fired off a letter to the editor of the WSJ about that article, claiming it was misleading. I never heard back, nor saw my letter printed, and I can’t even find the letter in my sent box right now. But the basic lack of any engineering knowledge on display in his columns has just gotten worse and worse. The weekly “Reader’s Rides” column is significantly better in every metric. As are your pieces, Jack. Perhaps you’ll win a Pulitzer for Trump’s America?

    Reply
  20. Avatartoly arutunoff

    in naia at least one girl kicked extra points; and in division 2 a girl kicked a field goal–these took place a few years ago. but they weren’t ‘big league’ enough, I guess

    Reply
    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      Apparently, the guy who kicked for Vanderbilt last year is attending medical school on the same campus and still has NCAA eligibility.

      Reply
  21. Avatardanio

    I went back to this comment to read your response, as well as the one to the comment that followed it.

    I wish more authors would spar in the comments. Why don’t more authors do this? Too busy or too chickenshit?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      My experience is that most autowriters are hugely confrontation averse. Even the one dude on Jalopnik who tells everyone FUCK YOU had his WIFE email me and beg me to stop being mean to him a few years ago.

      Reply
      • Tom KlockauTom Klockau

        That makes sense. In late 2014 when myself, Twitternoodle and several other contributors met at the A-C-D Museum in Auburn, Indiana, he was pretty subdued unless he was with a large group of people. At one point I was in one of the exhibits upstairs, and briefly, he and I were the only ones there. I walked up and said something like, “Amazing museum, isn’t it?” and he just kind of looked down and went “Uhhhhh, yeah.”

        Reply

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