A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.Â Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday,Â I present one of McLuhanâ€™s observations and talk about its relevance today.Â 300 ideas. 300 days.Â 300 posts.
Archive for January, 2010
Marshall McLuhan (1969 age 58).Â The solution to lifeâ€™s problems
My son Eric and Eugene Schwartz tell me that The Marshall McLuhan DEW-LINE Newsletter is selling like hot cakes.Â I send them stuff when I can and they send it on to my subscribers.Â Great idea that the Distant Early Warning (Card) Deck.Â Worked that one out several years ago.Â Eric put it together from my notes and Eugene came up with the cracking idea to charge the subscribers an extra $5 if they want to get the deck.Â The card deck is a technology for delivering creative solutions to lifeâ€™s problems.Â I call it The Management Game.Â Actually Games.Â Here is how to play the simplest one:Â Take any card.Â On the card is an aphorism.Â Relate the aphorism to your current hang up.Â I drew the 5 of clubs.Â The aphorism reads: â€śsince life is short our faces must be long.â€ťÂ My current hang up is my health.Â Nothing seems the same since that brain surgery in November of 67.Â Well, as Corinne says I must take each day as it comes.Â Is that my solution, or is that my problem?
Me (January 2010, age 57). Â Playing a different game
The distant early warning or DEW line was a 1950s cold-war radar alert system Canada and the United States built in Northern Canada in the 1950s.Â The system was designed to give Americans and Canadians a heads up if Russia attacked by sending planes or missiles over the Arctic circle.Â McLuhan liked to announce himself in speeches as a voice from the DEW-line.Â That is he had to come to warn of dangers ahead.Â But in naming his card deck – which if you live in Montreal you can see on display at the Canadian Center for Architecture until February 25th, 2010 – after this famous piece of cold-war technology, McLuhan misleads.Â The name doesnâ€™t quite fit.Â The deck says you can find answers for your hang-ups or problems by contemplating the aphorisms on the cards.Â Yet the DEW line was not a system for finding solutions to a problem (say nuclear attack), but a system for knowing whether you have a problem (look thereâ€™s a bomber!).
Letâ€™s play McLuhanâ€™s Management Game differently.Â Instead of calling â€śto mind a private or corporate problem as you shuffle the cards,â€ť as the game suggests, Â and then pickingÂ â€śa card and â€¦ [applying] its message,â€™Â letâ€™sÂ shuffle, select a card, look at the aphorism, and only then decide whether in fact we have a problem.
The card Iâ€™ve drawn for us all is the 4 of spades: â€śWhen all is said and done more will have been said than done.â€ťÂ Sounds like a call for action.Â I know what Iâ€™m going to do.Â (Tell you about it on Tuesday.)Â What will you do?
(Look next week for the announcement of a winner to our classify Marshall McLuhan contest.)
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Readings for this post
Marshall and me, Reading Marshall McLuhan’s Cards, December 3, 2009
Marshall and me, What’s Marshall McLuhan’s Stuff Worth, December 4, 2009
Marshall McLuhan (December 31. 1980, age 69).Â What a night!
Tonight was a good night.Â Father Stroud said Mass.Â We had a good French burgundy for communion.Â Later when we finished the burgundy with dinner there was champagne and Father Stroud and I watched the news on TV with cigars lit.Â I must say it was a great way to end the year.Â Of course, as you know, I cannot speak or write for that matter. (Except on this blog.Â Thank God for small if fictional mercies!)Â This damn stroke has shut me down and got me down.Â Corinne pointed to my Order of Canada and told Father Stroud it is the thing I am most proud of.Â Thatâ€™s not true, but itâ€™s not like I can speak up to correct her.Â I do like it.Â But the thing I am proudest of is â€¦
Me (January 2010, age 57).Â When did Marshall McLuhan die?
Marshall McLuhan died on the night of December 31, 1980.Â He went up stairs to bed after Mass, wine, dinner, and cigars and by all reports died peacefully in his sleep.Â That was the end of his life, but in a way it was not a particularly important event because in more significant ways he had died twice before already:Â the second time on the 26 September 1979 when he suffered a stroke that took away his power to speak, read, and write; the first time on the 25 November 1967 when he underwent a long and difficult surgery to remove a brain tumor.Â McLuhan survived the surgery but not, I believe, his genius.Â I do not say this lightly or without much soul searching and researching. In the months ahead I will make a case that this tragic event is the single most important biographical event in McLuhanâ€™s life.Â Because if it is true, and there is a strong case to be made that it is true, it means that to understand McLuhan you must pay particular attention to things he said and wrote before 25 November 1967.Â And you must be careful to discount much of what he said or wrote after 25 November 1967.
Consider this a hint of things to come over the months ahead rather than an announcement that the end is here. Before signing off let me hasten to say this is not the end of McLuhan or this blog.Â We and the world are not yet done with Marshall McLuhan.
What do you think Marshall McLuhan was most proud of? What do you think he should have been most proud of?
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Reading for this post
Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The medium and the messenger, 1989, p.p. 286-288.