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.
1950s and 60s
It is time¬†to say good bye to Dr. Herbert Marshall McLuhan -¬†media explorer, theorist, prophet, and celebrity. This blog began in September, 2009, on the anniversary of the stroke that took away his power to speak and ends, today on the 100th anniversary of his birth.¬† Each post, this is number 452, has looked at one of McLuhan’s observations, ideas, thoughts, opinions, or experiences.¬† I am saying good bye to Marshall now¬†not because there is nothing left to say, but because¬†it seems to me a good time to move on. I have had the wondrous experience¬†of viewing the world for a time through Marshall’s eyes and I thank¬†you for joining me in this attempt to understand him better.¬† It has been at various times thrilling, disciplining, and surprising, an adventure, a job¬†and an obsession, but I have never found it dull.¬†And that’s the way I want to keep it.
Before I go here is one last idea of Marshall’s to ponder:¬†”The media,” he wrote to Walter Ong in November 1961, “as extensions of the sense organs alter sensibility and¬†mental process at once.”¬† But, he¬†adds,¬†we are unaware of what they are doing because of their¬†”hypnotic aspect… . Each is invested with a cloak of invisibility.” Faced with such powerful forces is it any wonder McLuhan was never completely successful in his quest to understand media. But then that is the fate of every great philosopher.¬† He sometimes got it wrong.¬† But when he was right, boy was he right!
Cordially, Marshall and Me
P.S. I have been fortunate to recieve the help, support, and encouragement¬†of many people.¬†¬†I would like to thank, especially,¬†Deborah Hinton, David Hinton, Ramon Campos Salazar,¬†Jeff Swann,¬†Michelle Sullivan,¬†Julien Smith, Mitch Joel, and Michael Edmunds.
Reading and listening:
Lament for Marshall McLuhan, composed and played by Sebastien Joseph [then 15 years old]
Letters of Marshall McLuhan, selected and edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan and William Toye, 1987, pp. 280-281.
This week I’m¬†featuring some of my favourite posts from this blog’s archive.¬† Submitted today for your approval Marshall McLuhan on the telephone:
This week I’m¬†featuring some of my favourite posts from this blog’s archive.¬† Submitted today for your approval: Marshall¬†McLuhan¬†on the mini-skirt
This week I’m¬†featuring some of my favourite posts from this blog’s archive.¬† Submitted today for your approval Marshall¬†McLuhan on¬†vacation¬†in California:
Today and for the next four days I’m going to feature some of my favourite posts from this blog’s archive.¬† Submitted today for your approval Marshall¬†McLuhan on the invention of the fire engine¬†:
No question it’s his theory of the extinction of the dinosaurs.¬† Here’s the link to my original post on it.¬† This idea is so wild even Marshall’s critics never talked about it.¬†Probably because they thought no one would believe he thought any such thing. Here’s another theory about dinosaurs, although, thankfully, not one of Marshall’s:
Every post begins with the search for an idea of Marshall’s to write about.¬† Finding a new idea¬†- at least one new to me – is a rush.¬† One of my favourites may or may not be an idea Marshall ever talked about.¬†That’s what Eric McLuhan says in an argument that’s now making the rounds in the higher reaches of the McLuhansphere. Here’s the link to my original post on the idea.
What’s the dispute about? Hold on to your hats. Eric McLuhan insists¬†that Marshall¬†had nothing to do with Dr Timothy Leary’s 1960s counter-culture mantra “turn on, tune in, drop out.”¬† That¬†Leary’s memory must have been playing tricks on him.¬†But if¬†McLuhan had nothing to do with it I can not help thinking he ought to have.¬† At any rate, the debate on this idea is not over.¬†¬†Someone¬†claims to have a video tape of Marshall Mcluhan talking about the incident.¬† Whatever happens I’m sure of one thing: McLuhan’s reputation will emerge unsullied. ¬†
The question that anyone coming to this blog is bound to ask is: What’s so fascinating about Marshall McLuhan?¬† Why are his ideas still worth thinking about today, so long after his two big books – The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media – came out in the 1960s ?¬†¬†For me the hook isn’t the big statements that admittedly still resonate in our digital age “the medium is the message’ or “the global village,” or “pattern recognition;”¬† it’s the¬†small, seemingly inconsequential observations he¬†came out with that force you to think freshly about the world.¬† A case in point, in the interview I posted yesterday Marshall McLuhan asserts that children pay close attention to ads on TV because the’re better made than the shows.¬† Stunningly fascinating.¬† Here for example is one of those ads children were watching in the 1960s.
And if they’re paying close attention to it, you’ve got to ask yourself, “What are they learning from it?”¬† And “Who aren’t they paying attention to and learning from?”¬† In other words, what you learn most from McLuhan is what he pushes you to teach yourself.
Cordially, Marshall and me
Marshall McLuhan (June, 1967, age 55). Another breakthrough!
In the editing and publishing of our journal, Explorations, Ted Carpenter and I made a remarkable discovery.¬† Namely, “that readers like a journal that appears on an irregular basis.¬† Most readers of most journals are very unhappy about their regular appearance.”
Me (July, 2011, age 58).
Bowing to the undoubted desire of most readers of this blog for more irregularity in appearance, I will post again on Wednesday, July 6.¬† Then again¬†I may not.¬† Until then I recommend that you take a peek in¬†the archives.¬† What’s old can be new.
Cordially, Marshall and Me
McLuhan: Hot & Cool, edited by Gerald Emanuel Stearn. New York, 1967, pp. 263-64.