A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Archive for September, 2010

The present as future.

Marshall McLuhan (December 14, 1960, age 49).  No more teachers no more books .

The other day, as I was telling Claude Bissell, I received a questionnaire.  One of the questions was: “In your opinion will the television school broadcasts ever replace the teacher in the classroom?”  Of course they will.  Why do people insist on assuming that the present is forever?

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  And the beat goes on.

It’s hard to imagine a question like this being posed today.  The future is now the present.  This fall, many first year college students will see their professors for the first time on (closed circuit) television or on the internet and ask their first question by e-mail.

In the sixties Marshall’s prophesies were viewed by most people as crazy talk.    Many kids today, I imagine, will read them and wonder what the fuss was all about.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 275.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, September 16th, 2010
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Do you go out to do your homework?

Marshall McLuhan (December 14, 1960, age 49).  Everything is now done in teams

A team or corporate approach characterizes schooling today.  For example, you can see this “most emphatically in the study habits of high school students, who now say in the evening, “I’m going out to do my homework.”

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  The beat goes on

Today the internet kids still go out to do their homework, but now thanks to cell phones, Facebook  and computers they don’t have to go out to go out.

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 275.

 

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
Permalink 1930s and 40s, Culture, Education, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

The medium is the mess-age

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  The one worder.

Marshall McLuhan had no small talk.  His long time friend and colleague, Ted Carpenter, says that McLuhan could talk about small things but was incapable of doing so without turning the small thing into a large subject with “his unflinching directness.”  For example, he tells the story of walking with Marshall to the coffee shop of the Royal Ontario Museum.  They entered the Museum by the imposing front entrance way.  And in the middle of the entrance on the steps was “a turd.”  Looking down, McLuhan spoke volumes with a single word.

Marshall McLuhan (1950s, age 40s). “Human.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Edmund Carpenter, “That Not-So-Silent Sea.” Typescript posted on Internet, p. 9.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

Changing the world.

 

Marshall McLuhan (1966, age 55).  In conversation with Timothy Leary.

Dr Leary …”

“Tim, man, call me Tim.”

“Well, Tim, it’s delightful conversing with you over lunch.  You were saying that LSD is a therapeutic wonder drug and a miraculous spiritual step-up remedy, working much in the same way I imagine as do the writings of James Joyce.”

“ James Joyce, unbelievable, Marshall, you may be the only person on the planet that doesn’t need LSD.  But I’ve got to tell you, one hit of LSD has taught me more about how my brain works than I learned from 15 years of clinical psych. research.  What I want to do now is spread the good word.”

“I hear you, Tim, and of course to do that you’re going to need to employ the most current techniques of advertising science.  In short, you need a slogan.”

“ You mean like LSMFT – Lucky Strike makes fine tobacco?”

“Exactly.  Here’s a jingle that comes to mind:

Lysurgic Acid hits the spot

40 billion neurons that’s a lot! “

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Later, much later …

While taking a shower, a slogan popped into the mind of Dr. Timothy Leary.  You guessed it:

Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.”  And the rest, as they say, is history.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fErEDnGMO44

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

“Timothy Leary,” Wikipedia.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, September 11th, 2010
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Back to School.

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Forever young.

In a letter to Sheila Watson, McLuhan writes that the Bloomsbury groupVirginia and Leonard Woolf, Maynard Keynes, and the rest – was a “child cult.”    They celebrated the virtues of youth and were determined never to grow up.

Sensible people, of course, then and now, have always thought such ideas are selfish, irresponsible and ultimately dangerous.  But today such ideas, arguably, are viewed with even greater hostility.  Parents seem determined to do everything they can to get children to grow up as fast as possible.  Marshall, of course, has other ideas.

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1965, age 54).  Forever learning.

It is impossible to learn without embracing a cult of the child.  To learn you must be like a child.  You must look at the world without pretension.  Children are born with a hard wired formula for learning.  That formula, as I wrote Sheila, is to allow oneself “the freedom to play and probe.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 324.

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Michael Hinton Friday, September 10th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Education, Vol. 1 No Comments

Marshall at the crystal ball.

Marshall McLuhan (February 25, 1965, age 54).  What’s in and what’s out.

“Professor McLuhan, how can you say, clotheslines, seams in stockings, books and jobs are all obsolete?

“Clotheslines, seams in stockings, books and jobs are all obsolete.”

“Seriously now, isn’t that a clothesline I see in your backyard?  Isn’t your current celebrity based on books?”

“Jane, these predictions follow from a close observation of the electric age in which we now live.  Everything is in flux.  But if you don’t like them, it doesn’t matter.  Here’s another.  Everything you thought you knew about children and their role in society is changing.  For example, one day it will be a commonplace for children to have credit cards.”

“Really, an American Express Card for little Bobby?”

“Well, if you don’t like that idea …”

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  What do you make of those apples?

These are just some of the predictions that showed up in the Life Magazine profile article on Marshall McLuhan by Jane Howard that I talked about yesterday.  Squint and they all seem bang on.  The question is what can we learn from them today?  Perhaps that any one as perceptive as this is still worth listening to.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Jane Howard, “Oracle of the Electric Age,” Life Magazine, 25 February 1965, p. 92 and 96.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

Marriage: You’ve got to work at it

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  And now for something completely different.

Marriage is a subject people don’t typically turn to Marshall McLuhan for insight or advice.  But when you think about it, it’s not a bad idea.  After all, he was married for 41 years.  He and his wife Corinne had six children.  By all accounts their marriage was a success.

For those of you looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, here’s what Marshall had to say about the secret to a great marriage, when he was interviewed by Jane Howard for a close up article she wrote about him in Life Magazine in February 1965.  (By the way I found my Mrs. Right in 1976.)

Marshall McLuhan (February 25, 1965, age 54).  Don’t play the match game.

“Corinne, what did I say to that journalist, Jane Howard, about marriage?  Was I for it or against it?”

“Don’t be silly Marshall, of course you were for it.  Here’s exactly what you said.  It’s right here in this week’s issue of Life.”

Like any other relationship marriage must be remade by the contracting parties every day.  It’s a terrible illusion in people’s lives that if they don’t match each other exactly, they ought to drop everything and split up.  They don’t consider the possibility of making as an alternative to matching.  Any relationship can be a depth relationship, if you try and make it so.  People used to say, ‘Well I’m married, that’s that, put up or shut up’ – which I happen to think is a very good idea.  But now they get divorced – they drop out of marriage for the same reason they drop out of school, because they’re looking for a depth relationship, a profound role.

“Not bad eh?”

“Not bad at all, Marshall, not bad at all.”

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Jane Howard, “Oracle of the Electric Age,” Life Magazine, 25 February 1965, p. 99.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
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To hell with your point of view

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Are you ready for it?

Having a point of view would seem to be a good idea.  Presumably it is what blogs are all about.  Yet there is a problem with them, as Marshall tells us.

Marshall McLuhan (January 13, 1966, age 54).  It closes down exploration.

As I was telling my friend Tom Wolfe, “When you try to find out ‘what’s going on’ a point of view is not very useful.” The man with a point of view has no need to search for  answers, he is convinced that he already has them.  Rather than learn from the events that pass before his eyes, he spends his days emotionally reacting to them.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 332.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
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How Smart Are You?

Me (September, 2010, age 58). Who can make sense of this?

Goths, Tattoos, and Celine Dion

Sex Tapes, Oprah, and Chef Gordon Ramsay

Dubai, Silicon Valley, and Off-shoring Jobs

Touch Bars, Internet Porn, and Pamela Anderson

Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia

Gated Communities, The Homeless, and Meth

Twilight, Book Clubs, and Islamic Militarisml

Teen-age Bullying and Date Rape

The Recession and Global Warming

The 21st Century

Marshall McLuhan (September, 2010, age 99).  I can.

How?  I’ll give you a hint.  Click on this link.

Don’t like that idea?  I’ve got others.  Tune in next week.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, September 4th, 2010
Permalink Communication, Culture, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

Guess if you can.

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Who can make sense of …

Rock ’n’ Roll kids, the surfers, and the hippies?

Swingers, poets, and artists?

New York City, Southern California, and Canada?

Topless restaurants, Playboy, and silicon breasts?

Sputnik, the DEW-Line, and the Cold War?

Suburbs, Watts, and Vietnam?

Howl, Mad magazine, and Dyslexia?

Teen age and Executive Drop Outs?

Computers and the mini skirt?

The sixties?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 53).  Me.

You’re going to kick yourself when I tell you.  In a word – television.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvoz7cpUaZ4

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964i.

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Michael Hinton Friday, September 3rd, 2010
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