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"Wood" - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
"Wood"
Yesterday I saw an orange PT Cruiser with faux wood paneling. Today I learned that it has an enormous custom hood ornament and an absurdly cute matching mini-trailer. But this discovery hasn't stopped me from pondering the question that came into my head yesterday. When I was a kid, simulated wood was still an option on Ford and Mercury station wagons. It baffled me then and baffles me now. But I realized, in experiencing the revival of this bafflement, that my confusion really starts with the "real thing." Does anyone out there know why having wood panels on an automobile ever seemed logical? I mean, cars are obviously technological. They necessarily contain metal. Why pretend otherwise? Or is there some function to wood paneling that my post-60s brain simply can't grasp?

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Comments
xxxpunkxgrrlxxx From: xxxpunkxgrrlxxx Date: October 22nd, 2006 05:42 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
that is an excellent question, about the wood paneling. it does seem nonsensical.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 01:46 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
See the rest of the comment thread for possible enlightenment. . . :-)
From: ex_benlinus Date: October 22nd, 2006 07:11 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Station_wagon#History

Here ya go. Golfers. It's all the golfers' fault.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I suppose that explains the legacy of wood-paneling. I still don't see why it was deemed prestigious, but I suppose it's similar to the reason why natural fibers were long regarded as superior to synthetic ones.
celebrian_3 From: celebrian_3 Date: October 22nd, 2006 08:39 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
maybe it's similar to the same reasoning that produces gas burning fireplaces with fake logs--a certain sentimentality about the "homey quality" of wood. (i hate those things, by the way. it doesn't burn like wood, ergo it shouldn't be allowed to masquerade as a bonafide wood fire.) then again, it's not the same reasoning--because burning wood is at least practical.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
When I was a teenager, I had this period in which I was fixated on etymology. I remember being especially impressed that the word "wood" was related, I think via the Indo-European root "deru," to the concepts of truth, hardness, and duration. Maybe wood-paneling appealed to people because they had inherited this positive valuation of wood.
chrisglass From: chrisglass Date: October 22nd, 2006 12:43 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Is there some function to wood paneling...?

Hell yeah there is!
It provides a cool factor.
What more function does one's ride need?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
But why not have vehicles coated in wool, then?
cpratt From: cpratt Date: October 24th, 2006 03:40 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Does Joseph Beuys count?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 06:20 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Getroffen!
cpratt From: cpratt Date: October 22nd, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
"Wood" as you're thinking about here is of course technological in and of itself; Charlie - you'd never find milled lumber in nature, so why should you be surprised when it shows up on any other human-built thing?
kolakoski From: kolakoski Date: October 23rd, 2006 03:50 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I agree, of course--but why must our notion of the natural world always exclude human beings?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Donna Haraway has some interesting points, derived from research on primates, about the way in which the human body as we know it can itself be regarded as "technological," since the adapations it demonstrates evolved as the direct result of our ancestors' tool-using.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I didn't meant to imply that wood wasn't technological. It just seemed like superfluous technology on a motorized vehicle. The Wikipedia entry another commenter cited gives a sense of where the practice came from. I'd forgotten that, like airplanes, cars used to have wood frames.
cpratt From: cpratt Date: October 24th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
There's a reason Boeing is based in Seattle, you know!
hollsterhambone From: hollsterhambone Date: October 22nd, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
This is great!

If the "real thing" is a trick--and Henry James describes this by enticing his readers to look for it but he never provides it for them (the brass ring that doesn't exist)--how do we differentiate between the real and the unreal?

I think, in this case, the faux wood adornments are nostalgic and this points us in a direction--Baudrillard, simulacrum, unreal and all that.

And, heh, you said "wood."




cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 02:00 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
See the previous comments. I guess the wood represents what Katherine Hayles calls a "skeumorph," an object whose form is dictated by a history that is no longer functionally relevant.
kdotdammit From: kdotdammit Date: October 23rd, 2006 06:58 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Ha ha ha. You said "wood".
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 24th, 2006 02:00 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I wood, wood you?
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