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 November, 2010

How do you sling your slang?

Marshall McLuhan (November 2010, age 99). Down memory lane with Marshall and Corinne …

Corinne do you remember this?  ‘Slang offers an immediate index to changing perception.’”

“It certainly sounds like you, Marshall.”

“Of course it sounds like me, I said it.  And you typed it up and that’s how it got into Understanding Media. ”

“Did I?”

“Of course you did, behind every great man in the university is the sound of his wife’s typing.  The fascinating thing is that slang continues to be an immediate index to changing perception.”

Just listen to the internet kids talking.  Here’s a typical snippet:

  • He’s really, really, mad.
  • I’m like, ‘Hey, why are you like that?’
  • And he’s like, ‘whatever.’”

“What are they saying, Marshall?”

“Hard to say, there is an unmistakable 80s patina to it, but that doesn’t matter, focus on the medium, the words.  That’s the real message.   No one says saying or said anymore.  The verb to say is gone, replaced by like.  Conversation is getting cooler and cooler.  More and more involved and involving.  The internet has taken on the job TV was doing to us in the 60s and stepped it up several notches.  Visual man is waving good bye to his progeny.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Here’s some more talk to think about:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. vi.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
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It took TV to really make the telephone’s stimulus pay off.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52). Of course …

“In the 1920s, the telephone spawned a good deal of dialogue humour that sold as gramophone records.  But radio and the talking pictures were not kind to the monologue, even when it was made by W.C. Fields or Will Rogers.  These hot media pushed aside the cooler forms that TV has now brought back to a larger scale.  The new race of nightclub entertainers (Newhart, Nichols and May) have a curious early-telephone flavor that is very welcome, indeed.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD1MW-nyhxg&feature=related

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Is this where the internet has taken us?

Now we have a brand new race of entertainers turning the book into dialogue.  Very welcome, indeed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_EXqdJ4L7I

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 270.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, November 13th, 2010
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What’s wrong with our schools?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“In education the conventional division of the curriculum into subjects is already as outdated as the medieval trivium and quadrivium after the Renaissance.  Any subject taken in depth at once relates to other subjects.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58). No wonder kids drop out …

Nothing makes sense.  It’s too superficial.  Math in math class.  English in English class.  Science in science class.  We need to mix things up.  And give it a purpose.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 347.

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Michael Hinton Friday, November 12th, 2010
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Who will pause today to remember the technologies that have fought for our freedom?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  War loves a new technology.

Today the cold war is being fought with information technology.  That is not new.  Recall that in the Second World War the allies relied on the information technology of their day to fight the war.  Remarkable though it might seem to us, space was made in the landing craft on D-day to transport filing cabinets to the beaches of Normandy.   What is new today is that the technology we rely on is the technology of our electric age.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). War still loves new technology

Let us pause this Remembrance Day to think about the technologies that we use to fight our wars.  Today, in the late electronic age, these weapons, such as smart bombs and Twitter,  rely even more heavily on information technology.  The question that presents itself – particularly to those of us who believe as McLuhan did that technology pushes us around more than we do it – is whether these technologies have a bias for war or peace?  Let us hope peace.  Meanwhile here is some evidence to help you make up your mind.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNUWwgvBQvQ&feature=related

 

And take a look at this.

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 339.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, November 11th, 2010
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The big switch.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“[T]he movie has excelled as a medium that offers poor people roles of riches and power beyond the dreams of avarice.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Ah one can dream …

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 291.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
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TV isn’t good company.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). The observant Marshall McLuhan.

McLuhan loved observing a medium in action.  You squint.  You turn your head.  And suddenly you see it.  A break-through.  Here he is on the way TV works.  (You may not agree with him.  Especially those of you who when traveling on business turn in the early morning to The Today Show for companionship.  And yet there is something to McLuhan’s idea – as there is with most of his ideas – that is worth thinking about.)

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“It is not pleasant to turn on TV just for oneself in a hotel room, or even at home.  The TV mosaic image demands social completion and dialogue.”

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Eb2fWmBDrmc&feature=related

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 292.

And this.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
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Movies will conquer the world for Uncle Sam.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Hollywood and globalization.

It seems obvious that Hollywood is a great training ground for globalization.  To see what the western world is all about all you have to do is buy a ticket to a Hollywood film.  If so then the battle for and against globalization will be won on the media battlefield.  For globalization to triumph Hollywood movies must beat TV and the internet.  But then maybe he’s wrong or perhaps the movie has moved on.

 

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52). Of course …

“the film medium … [is a] monster ad for consumer goods.”

 

“The movie, as much as the alphabet and the printed word, is an aggressive and imperial form that explodes outward into other cultures.”

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 294-295.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, November 6th, 2010
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There are two types of people in the world.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Literates and non-literates

According to Marshall McLuhan the fundamental difference between literates and non-literates is their approach to cause and effect.  Literates, the children of print, (left brain in the language he adopted in the 70s) see the world as sequential.  Non-literates, (right brain) view the world as bound together in more tangled and mysterious ways than rough and ready efficient first cause and then effect.  Which are you?  In what camp are the kids you meet?  How about teachers and artists?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wOgYm3YBZk

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course …

“Nonliterate people register very little interest in … ‘efficient’ cause and effect, but are fascinated by hidden forms that produce magical results.  Inner, rather than outer, causes interest the non-literate and non-visual cultures.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 287.

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Michael Hinton Friday, November 5th, 2010
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Which came first the film or the book?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The book of course

“Even the film industry regards all its greatest achievements as derived from novels.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Can you think of any film that inspired a great book?

McLuhan observes that the book and the film are closely related to one another.  As evidence for this he points to great films being inspired by novels and the difficulty of imagining a film being based on a newspaper.  Yet it is odd that the forces of inspiration seem to work in only one direction.  It is easy to think of novels (and plays and even comic books and video games) that inspired great (ok may be not great, but not completely schlock) films, but hard to think of any film that inspired a great (or even reasonably good) book and none outside the realm of fantasy and science fiction.  No disrespect to Alan Dean Foster, but he’s no Charlotte Bronte.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1chtJQFQNs

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 286.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, November 4th, 2010
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A picture is worth a thousand words.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). What can you learn from a cliché?

The cliché, a picture is worth a thousand words, is the idea that Marshall McLuhan starts out with but he takes it to a new place.  His take is that because a picture is worth a thousand words films (films are also known as pictures) must provide their audiences with at least a thousand words of detailed information in every scene.  Clothing and props in historical dramas, for example, must be exactly right in every detail.  On the stage or on TV – in sharp contrast – one can get away with far less detail.  From TV, a case in point [and a little humour]:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k0DinFR5rw

Of course McLuhan would be a lot easier to read if he stuck to plain and simple expressions of his ideas but then if he did he probably wouldn’t have come up with the ideas that he did.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Here is the way to say a picture is worth a thousand words …

“In terms of other media such as the printed page, film has the power to store and convey a great deal of information.  In an instant it presents a landscape with figures that require several pages of prose to describe.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 288.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
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