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.
Marshall McLuhan is news once again.¬†Today is the second day of McLuhan week in Toronto.¬†And for at least this week all things McLuhan will seem fresh. Especially on Thursday, July 21,¬†which is McLuhan’s 100th birthday.¬†What would McLuhan have thought of the celebrations? Probably very little.¬† He had work to do.¬†
Here is a post I wrote on McLuhan and celebrity you may want to take a peek at again.
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¬†discovers the importance of ads:
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
As the end of this blog and McLuhan’s 100th birthday on July 21 draws near I should try to sum things up, to make clear what it is¬†I have been trying to do, and where¬† I think I have succeeded and where I have not.¬† But as the mosquito said on entering the nudist colony -¬†a joke Marshall McLuhan liked to tell – “I don’t know where to begin.”¬† So let me begin on the beginning of the end with something that may or may not be appropriate, an interview¬†of McLuhan on¬†Australian¬†television recorded¬†on June 19,¬†1977 when Mcluhan was 66.¬†¬†Here he is shifting from idea to idea, throwing out an idea and then moving on much as this bog has done. And as¬†I am now doing.¬†
Tomorrow I will pick up where I have left off.
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.
Marshall McLuhan (June, 1967, age 55). ¬†Thinking is leap frogging
“Connected sequential discourse, which is thought of as rational, is really visual. It has nothing to do with reason as such. Reasoning does not occur on single planes or in a continuous connected fashion. The mind leapfrogs. It puts things together in all sorts of proportions and ratios instantly.”
Me (June, 2011, age 58). Like this:
Cordially, Marshall and Me
McLuhan: Hot & Cool, edited by Gerald Emanuel Stearn, New York, 1967, p. 264.
Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 58).¬†¬†Most people prefer the past. ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†
‚ÄúThere are very many reasons why most people prefer to live in the age just behind them.¬† It‚Äôs safer.¬† To live right on the shooting line, right on the frontier of change, is terrifying.‚ÄĚ
Me (June, 2011, age 58).¬† The man of the ‚Äúabsolute present.‚ÄĚ
According to Derrick de Kerckhove, who knew McLuhan in the 1970s and is a long-time student of media, ‚Äú[Marshall McLuhan] lived in what I call the absolute present.¬† Absolutely there.¬† Entirely in the moment.¬† In a way that I can‚Äôt even imitate.¬† Artists are like that.¬† Great artists are; they have this quality of just being there.‚ÄĚ¬† Which perhaps is the same quality that is required for great comedy:
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Forward Through the Rearview Mirror:¬† Reflections on and By Marshall McLuhan, edited by Paul Benedetti and Nancy DeHart, 1996, p. 137.