Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, April 21, 2004 10:02 pm

Footprints on the windshield

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:02 pm

I happened to be driving to Elon and back at midday today and thoroughly enjoyed Melinda Penkava’s interview on WUNC-FM with Dan Neil, the LA Times motor-vehicle critic (yes!) who just won a Pulitzer Prize in criticism for his columns about cars. He’s a New Bern native and used to write similar columns for The N&O until he got fired for the telling detail to which the title of this post refers. This story, by the way, has grown into journalism legend here in North Carolina.

After that, he freelanced for a variety of outlets, including The New York Times. Only last September he joined the LA Times, where the editors got the idea to enter him in the 2004 Pulitzer competition before he’d even been there long enough to produce the 10 columns — he writes weekly — needed to constitute an entry, forcing them to sit on their desks and drum their fingers until he’d churned out enough reviews. (Actually, he says, he gave them 16 and they culled the requisite 10 out of that, but even that means he was working either Thanksgiving week or Christmas week if I’m counting right.)

The guy’s as funny on live radio as he is in print, and as for how funny he is in print, let me just share with you the ledes of his two most recent columns, the only ones that haven’t yet disappeared behind the Times’ pay-archive firewall:

  • April 21: The most lucid thing the Marxist critic Walter Benjamin ever wrote is the essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” written in 1936, during an apparent dry spell in Berlin’s hashish supply.
  • April 14: Sir Isaac Newton was English, as anyone who tasted his cooking could tell you.

Melinda’s show, “The State of Things,” appears to have audio archives, so go give Dan a listen.

Full disclosure: Melinda’s been a friend of mine since 1986, when I met her at a club in Chapel Hill to which she had come with her future husband, who is one of my ex-bosses from the radio bidness. They live in Oriental, where her husband, now a consultant, also runs this site on Oriental and Pamlico County.

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