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

The telephone cures

Marshall McLuhan (May, 1964, age 52).  Is it not remarkable?

Neurotic children apparently lose all symptoms of their neuroses on the telephone.  And stutterers have been known to lose their stutter on the phone or when speaking a foreign language.

Me (December, 2010, age 58). The lesson?

Simple.  Media are not passive instruments.  They change us.  The telephone, McLuhan says, demands the participation of our other senses.  We doodle, we caress the phone, we feel, fall in love.  But, strangely we are not able to visualize the person we’re talking to.   In the clip, below, Rock Hudson and Doris Day show us how the phone works.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964, p. 56 and 273.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, December 11th, 2010
Permalink Communication, Technology 1 Comment

The telephone calls!

Marshall McLuhan (May, 1964, age 52).  And we answer!

For your information, some questions:  Why do we feel compelled to answer a ringing telephone?  Why does a ringing phone in a movie or play create such tension?  Why can a silent phone create such a terrible feeling of loneliness?

The answer is simple the telephone by its very nature demands a partner.

Me (December, 2010, age 58). What about the calls of other media?

If McLuhan is right the telephone has a special power over us.  But is this power unique to the telephone?  Not unique, surely.  But it’s hard to deny that McLuhan is on to something.  Certainly, I don’t feel the same compulsion to open packages, letters, or e-mail, open a door, start an engine, or turn on a television or an electric light.

To protect yourself you may wish to put your cell phone on vibration, now.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964, p.268.

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Michael Hinton Friday, December 10th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Technology No Comments

What the bell!

Marshall McLuhan (March 27, 1967, age 55).  The ringing, the ringing!

“Mrs. Stewart, if that phone rings one more time I’m going to go stark raving mad.  That was from another kid with a bad case of the giggles who asked me to tell him the message.  There it goes again.   I’m going deaf with the ringing.”

“Professor McLuhan, I’m going to do what we should have done two hours ago.  There!”

“Silence.  Merciful Mary, how did you do it?”

“A little trick my husband told me about he saw in Popular Mechanics.  Put some carpet between the bell and the hammer.”

“Mrs. Stewart, you are a genius.”

Me (December, 2010, age 58). The power of the press

Marvin Kitman’s comedic review of The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore appeared in the New York Times on March 26 1967.  Among other things, Kitman said, “With all the zeal of a convert, I would like to urge everybody not to buy this book, in either the paper medium or cloth medium.  McLuhan argues forcibly that the invention of television makes books obsolete.  Anybody who purchases a McLuhan book is playing into the hands of McLuhan’s enemies in the intellectual establishment; high sales figures can only tend to discredit him as a modern thinker.”

As Marshall McLuhan and his secretary Marg Stewart were soon to discover, it was funnyman Kitman who was responsible for the unending ringing of his number.  For Kitman also told his readers that if you really want to get McLuhan’s message you needed more than a medium, such as the telephone, you also needed “to establish a connection.  [And that] Marshall McLuhan’s telephone number at the University of Toronto is 416-WA 8-3328.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marvin Kitman, “Get the Message?” The New York Times, March 26, 1967.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, December 9th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication No Comments

TV: Reaching out to touch someone near you

Marshall McLuhan (May, 1964, age 52).  The effect of TV.

Have you noticed the way children in grade school read these days?  The same way they watch TV:  too close, too involved, too slow.

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Something’s happening here…

But what it is ain’t exactly clear

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media:  The Extensions of Man, 1964, p. 308

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
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Where to from here?

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Not done with McLuhan

Welcome back.  The last 300 posts of this blog have explored a large number of the ideas of and about Marshall McLuhan.  I have not counted, but the number must be far more than 300.  For most people, however, there are only two ideas – the medium is the message and the world as a global village – and neither of these ideas now almost two generations old since they were first announced in the 1960s is very well understood, which is odd.

Why?  Who was he?  What did he really mean?  Was he really that bad a writer?  What did he really think?  Was he serious?  Was some of what he said just bullshit?  What was he really like?  How can he be better understood?  What does it matter now after all these years?  These are questions I have tried to answer in the first 300 posts of this blog, and I’m not yet finished answering.  We are, I think, not done with McLuhan.  In the year ahead I will continue to talk about his ideas; to go slow; to look at them one by one, to wonder at them and about them, and in this way to celebrate and pay tribute to him.  If he is right and media change us, understanding how they do this is vitally important.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dmqqUGFCzg&feature=related

If you wish to be part of this conversation please leave your comments.

Cordially, Me

Reading

Neil Postman, “Forward” to Philip Marchand, Marshall Mcluhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. vii-xiii.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
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Looking for Marshall McLuhan

Me (December 4, 2010, age 58).  Are  you there, Marshall?

Two weeks ago I was in Toronto and stopped in to have a drink in the bar of the Sutton Place, on Bay Street, a few minute’s walk from Marshall McLuhan’s old offices – the Coach House – at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

I did so because I knew McLuhan liked to have a drink at the Sutton Place, it was cold and I thought I might still pick up a memory of him, and my wife knowing this might be on my mind suggested it.  The roof-top bar McLuhan liked at the Hotel is now closed, but one of the waiters, Frank, who has worked in the hotel for over 30 years said he remembered serving McLuhan.

What did he drink?  After some time he recalled. St Jovain, a white Bourdeaux.

Not Scotch?  No, white wine, St. Jovain.

And that was that. He could remember nothing else.

This I think is as good a place as any to leave McLuhan on this the 300th post in this blog, not with a breakthrough in media studies, but drinking white wine, looking out over the city he knew so well, for so long.  Wondering, perhaps, whether this was as good as it got, and if so whether that wouldn’t be all that bad …

Cordially, Me

P.S.    Thanks to all of you who read From Marshall and Me.  And my thanks especially to the following people who in many different ways, small and large, helped to make series 1 a success:  Debbie, Ramon, David, Julien, Michelle, Michael, Mitch, Tara, Jose, and Alex.

P.P.S.  See next week for the start of the next series of posts of this blog that will look for McLuhan and take us intoMcLuhan’s centennial.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, December 4th, 2010
Permalink All categories, Vol. 1 No Comments

The terrors of television

Marshall McLuhan (March 15, 1976, age 65). Dear Eric:

As you know television exerts a far more insidious affect on the minds of children than it does on adults.  Promise me you will be careful to limit your daughter’s (my granddaughter’s) exposure to not more than one hour a week.  More than this and it is doubtful her nervous system can develop undamaged.  If she protests tell her I will pay her a dollar a day for each television-free day.   

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  McLuhan never spoke this way about television in public

Was the private McLuhan closer to the truth than the public McLuhan?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 69.

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Michael Hinton Friday, December 3rd, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

The ridiculousness of advertising (continued)

Marshall McLuhan (July 5, 1954, age 42). The reason why.

As I said yesterday it is remarkable how quickly an ad objectively examined strikes one as ridiculous.  The question is why?  Obviously it has to do with the conditions that favour objectivity.  Old ads are easier to view objectively.  And ads intended for other cultures.  They shock us into awareness of their ridiculousness while the ads of our culture today remain unnoticed, invisible.  Whoever it was that discovered water it certainly wasn’t a fish.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  You’re not a fish are you?

Submitted for your objective consideration and possible merriment three more ads:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 130.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

The ridiculousness of advertising.

Marshall McLuhan (July 4, 1954, age 42). Dear Diary:

So many discoveries, I’m becoming quite giddy.  For example, if you simply study advertisements objectively as technologies for delivering persuasion and forget about passing moral judgments on them it is remarkable how quickly they become ridiculous.  Often, now, without warning the ridiculousness of an ad will hit me in my office or in the lecture hall and I find myself roaring with laughter.  My colleagues at Toronto University think I’m insane.  Let them, the study of advertising brings me great joy.      

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  May these bring you joy.

Submitted for your objective consideration and possible merriment three ads:

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 130.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Business, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments