A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan continues. If he had lived Marshall would have been 100 on July 21, 2011. Join me in the countdown to his centennial, and an exploration of more of his observations on the way media work in the electric age in which we live.

Archive for December, 2010

From Marshall and Me will return after the 12 days of Christmas [plus] on January 11, 2011.

Meanwhile for your viewing pleasure some seasonal cave art from the twentieth century:

Cordially,  and a Happy New Year, Marshall and Me

Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 28th, 2010
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Merry Christmas!

Marshall McLuhan (December 25, 1960, age 49).  Everybody!

I feel particularly Christmas-ee today.  Corinne’s parents sent us a smashingly swell-elegant crystal drinks tray.  It made the trip from Fort Worth, Texas, without a hitch, every surface unscratched and without any extra duty to be paid.  It will come in very handy in this the season to be entertaining and celebrating.  Also, my book job “The Gutenberg Galaxy” is almost done.  I am so wound up I can think of nothing else.  The manuscript will go to the publishers the day after tomorrow.  And on that very day I begin writing this other book on media after Gutenberg which has been on my mind.  I’ve spent the last 20 years reading, it seems only right that I put out some things of my own.  Without Corinne’s help in typing and discussing the ideas swirling around me, I don’t know where I’d be.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  And a Happy New Year!

A time to be thankful for all we’ve got and the gifts we’ve been given material and spiritual.  Like Marshall without the help of my wife, Debbie, who has posted this blog since its beginning in September 2009 and has encouraged me to make it better, I don’t know where I’d be.

Merry Christmas, Marshall and Me


Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 276.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, December 25th, 2010
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What is learning today?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Pattern recognition!

“Today, again, after a period of classified consumption, learning in a comprehensive world is becoming play, pattern recognition, discovery.”

Me (December, 2010, age 58.)  For example …

Something beautiful for this wintery eve [see especially comments at minute 2]:

Cordially,  Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970, p. 118.

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Michael Hinton Friday, December 24th, 2010
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You can learn a lot about a nation …

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  From its sports!

“Games are the mask of the crowd. … Each nation’s popular games project the image of its central dynamism.”

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  For example …

This is America:



This is Canada:


This is Britain:


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970, p. 118.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
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Did TV hurt baseball?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  It is possible …

That baseball’s popularity will ebb and football’s will grow as TV continues to do its work on us.  TV and football are tactile.  Baseball is visual.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Really?

This is one of those predictions by McLuhan that at first strike me as crackers, but then when I look for evidence I’m surprised by how much the facts support him.  Have a look at the results of this Gallup poll, which shows that since the coming of TV in the late 1940s the popularity of baseball in America has fallen and football has risen.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970, p. 118.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
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Where’s the play?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Did you know …

That the word school is from the latin scholia meaning leisure or play?  Is it any wonder kids are dropping out of school?  School has become a detention center.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  What is to be done?

According to my Shorter OED, school derives from the latin schola (not scholia) and means the employment of leisure in disputation.  As usual McLuhan gets the small bit wrong but the big bit right.  Unless school is as engaging as play little real learning will take place there.  How much real disputation goes on in our schools?  How can we introduce more intellectual play?

Is this the solution?

Or is this?

Or are we still missing the point?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
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Business is our culture.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59). You can learn a lot from ads

Today, with the movement of information at electronic speeds, “business and culture have become interchangeable.”  This is why I pay so much attention to advertisements.  To watch an ad is to be immersed in the culture within which the ad is designed to be persuasive.  In the future a historian who wanted to understand this age of ours could do so easily by studying our ads.

Me (December, 2010, age 58). Possibly.

If Marshall is right we should be able to discover a great deal about the differences between the 1950s and 1960s by examining these two ads, the first from the 1950s the second from the 1960s.  In the interests of science I have tried to hold constant as many variables as possible.



Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture is Our Business, 1970, “author’s note.”

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Michael Hinton Saturday, December 18th, 2010
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What’s the good news?

Marshall McLuhan (1965, age 54).  Dear Diary:

Someone from the New York Times called.  Asked me what I thought of the quality of newspapers.  I told him that “the ads are by far the best part of any … newspaper.”  In fact there’s just one thing wrong with them, the ads I mean, not newspapers.  Ads only deal with good news.  By themselves ads won’t work.  The newspapers’ job is to provide enough bad news to sell the good news.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  For your approval:

Good news crying out for bad.  This is an idea we have met before in this blog.  But as a glance through Understanding Media reveals, McLuhan thought a good idea is worth repeating.  A question, as McLuhan would say, for your information, and mine.  How did advertisers sell the good news on TV?


Cordially, Marshall and Me



See McLuhan’s obituary in the New York Times, January 1, 1981.  (“on the web”)

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Michael Hinton Thursday, December 16th, 2010
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The future of old age.

Marshall McLuhan (December, 1966, age 55).  Dear Diary:

Richard Kostelanetz, who is doing a piece on me for the New York Times, looked in today on my graduate seminar on communications, which I run at Toronto University.  He seemed to particularly enjoy my insights on what the elderly have to look forward to in the electric age.

I find a blunt approach to be effective in slashing through the students’ mental torpor.  “What,” I asked, “is the future of old age?”   The answer is obvious, although you’d never have known it by their faces.  Their silence was deafening.   “Why,” I said, “it’s exploration and discovery.”

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  As we are discovering, more and more, today …

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Richard Kostelanetz, “Understanding McLuhan (In Part),” The New York Times, January 29, 1967.  (“on the web”)

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
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Three words a day.

Marshall McLuhan (September, 1930, age 19).  Dear Diary:

Today my habit of memorizing the meaning of three new words a day has paid off handsomely.  Professor Allison, who was lecturing today on Milton, started his lecture with a question.  “What is the meaning of “imprimatur”?  No one else but me could answer.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Words, words, words!

The habit of looking up words in the dictionary (the O.E.D. naturally) was one of the few McLuhan picked up from his father.  It was a habit he maintained for most of his life.  McLuhan’s biographer, Philip Marchand writes, that much later in his life McLuhan once remarked “that a single English word was more interesting than the entire NASA space program.”

Two of the words the young McLuhan committed to memory were “scaturient” and “sesquipedalian.”  Whether he ever found a time to use them seems unlikely.  “I say, Marshall, do you see those two streams, the one gushing forth one-and-a-half times more than the other?”  “Yes, their scaturient and sesquipedalian character certainly caught my eye.”  But that was not the point.  Words themselves fascinated him.  More than the launching of a rocket.  To understand this is to understand McLuhan.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 14and 19.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
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