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.

1970s and 80s

Is TV hurting the Liberal’s and NDP’s chances in the election campaign?

Marshall McLuhan (April 24, 1979, age 67).  Yes!

“We have an election underway here in Canada and the issues include separatism, as well as jobs and inflation.  All of these are hot issues.  That is to say, they are completely unsuited to the TV medium.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  The McLuhan strategy.

And today we also have an election underway.  And while the issues have changed, Marshall’s observations remain relevant.  If TV is unsuited to the selling of hot issues then the party that avoids the issues on TV is most likely to win.  Not surprisingly, McLuhan had another idea, too: hot issues could be pushed on a hot medium like radio.  If McLuhan is right, this could be what is required for a Liberal or NDP victory. Hot sell on radio, cool engagement on TV.  But can any of the opposition leaders beat the Harper stare?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 545.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Politics No Comments

That rock and roll music!

Marshall McLuhan (December 19, 1973, age 62).  Impossible!

Impossible, that is, in any other language than English.  As I wrote to Mr. Ronni Fiedler, the editor of Harper’s Magazine, in a letter which for some reason he chose not to publish, “For many reasons, which need not be cited here, both jazz and rock are forms of music which have made English a world language, since these forms cannot be sung except in English.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Hail the conquering hero comes!

This was an idea McLuhan also tried out on his fellow guests and the audience – not to mention the host – of the Dick Cavett Show in December 1970 with baffling effect.  Truman Capote utterly rejected the notion.  But then McLuhan was never very interested debating ideas and he soon moved on to another subject.  If you’re still in doubt, perhaps Elvis will help you make up your mind:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5JALwwaASg&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 484.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, April 16th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Culture No Comments

At a loss what to do with dinner guests who overstay their welcome?

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Here’s what I do.    

After dinner is finished I leave the table to read in my study.  Now it is possible that a guest may not take the hint and instead follow me.  At this point I have found it is necessary to act decisively.  As I pass the living room couch I pick up a book from the dozen or so I have stacked on it, turn around sharply, and hand it to my guest saying, “I think you may enjoy this.”  Works every time.

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Now that’s an idea!

Here’s another way to present it. 

 Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, February 12th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication 1 Comment

Mea Culpa!

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  How could I have got it so wrong!

Last year, I posted a blog in which I imagined Marshall’s pleasure at the prospect of the word “McLuhanism” appearing in the Oxford dictionary.  However, apparently, I underestimated the later McLuhan’s paranoid tendencies.  According to the journalist Barbara Rowes who wrote a profile on McLuhan for People Magazine in 1976, which I have only recently run across, far from being pleased “McLuhan considered the prospect sourly.”

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  My exact words, if I remember correctly were …

“I can just imagine what that word is going to mean.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines “McLuhanism” as “The social ideas of the Canadian writer H. Marshall McLuhan (1911-80), such as that the effect of the introduction of the mass media is to deaden the critical faculties of individuals.”

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Friday, February 11th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Culture 1 Comment

McLuhan kicks the TV downstairs.

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Recently I put the TV in the basement.

Why? As I told that journalist, Barbara Rowes, who interviewed me for People Magazine, “I did not want it invading my home.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Other technologies McLuhan rejected …

At one time or another were cars, wristwatches, dictation machines, and electric typewriters.  Is the machine using us?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, February 10th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Technology 1 Comment

McLuhan escapes from the 19th century.

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  To set the scene.

I admit it, I’m a creature of habit.  Up at 4 am to read the New Testament in Greek, Latin, French, German, or English in my green bathrobe.  On the white kitchen wall phone a bit after 5 to discuss new breakthroughs in media studies with a colleague, today it’s Barry Nevitt.  Shocking to realize it, but do you know no one in media studies realizes it’s not possible to prove anything?  You can only disprove things.  “It’s really quite enraging that nobody has ever thought of this before.”  Back upstairs for a quick catnap.  Then dressed (Hawaiian shirt and slacks) and down to the kitchen for breakfast at 8.  My custom at table was to read the New York Times while Corinne rustles me up either a beefsteak, rare, or an egg on whole wheat toast with honey – depends on the day, I like to alternate – when one day I realized I was spending too much time reading the bloody newspaper.  You see “the complicated lay of the Times is 19th-century.  To get through the whole damn thing would take at least a week.  In the electronic age people want information quickly.”  That’s when I made my move.

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  What did McLuhan do?

He switched to the Toronto Globe and Mail.  There are, you see, many ways to time travel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w5coGE5fm0

Some of them quite exhausting.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another Is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, February 9th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology 1 Comment

Who was Marshall McLuhan?

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Who am I?

“You see, I’m a sleuth, a kind of Sherlock Holmes character who simply investigates the environment and reports exactly what he sees.  Strangely enough some people are actually frightened by me.  I find the whole exploration of the environment very exciting.  Once you decide to become an explorer, there’s no place to stop.  I’m like Columbus.  I discover new worlds everywhere I look.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  So who was he?  A Sherlock or a Columbus?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s No Comments

Is he right or is he wrong?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59). The microphone.

“The radio and public address microphones killed off political oratory. You can’t orate into a microphone. You have to chat. And the chat invites the interlocutor and the panel group.”

Me (January, 2011, age 58). Or can you?

Or is this the exception that proves the rule?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUP_ISA030c&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:
Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1970, p. 72.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology 1 Comment

Do kids read alone and silently for fun anymore?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The book took us to silence.

In the Middle Ages, as is well known, there was no such thing as silent reading.  It was only with the advent of the book that “silent, solitary reading” took hold.

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  The electric age has opened our ears.

If books and silent reading go hand in hand is it any wonder that today’s electronically-wired kids find silent reading a challenge?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1970, p. 73.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, January 20th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication No Comments

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

Reading:

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

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Michael Hinton Friday, December 24th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Education No Comments