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.

Culture

What good are ads?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  You need to ask?         

“The historians and archeologists will one day discover that the ads of our time are the richest and most faithful daily reflections that any society ever made of its entire range of activities.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  In other words …

They hold the key to understanding us in our real and our imagined worlds.  If we could just break the code in which they are written:

 

 

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 232.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, June 18th, 2011
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How TV works (on us)

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Clothing and style.

“Clothing and style in the past decade have gone so tactile and sculptural that they present a sort of exaggerated evidence of the new qualities of the TV mosaic.  The TV extension of our nerves in hirsute pattern possesses the power to evoke a flood of related imagery in clothing, hairdo, walk, and gesture.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  In the sixties everything was changing.

Why?  People asked.  What was going on?  McLuhan had answers.  TV explained it all.  His fans raved.  His critics were stupefied.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 328.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, June 11th, 2011
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Alcohol’s history!

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Tribal man can’t take it.      

“Tribal societies cannot tolerate alcohol.  The literate man needs stimulants to pull himself together, privately or socially.  His visual culture fragments and isolates him.  The tribal man is so integral, and so involved socially, that alcohol sends him berserk.  Women are in somewhat the same position.  Being more integral, they need no stimulants, except a man.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  The nutty Professor McLuhan

Everyone who reads McLuhan will run across passages of pure lunacy, such as this one.  Fortunately, the times McLuhan stays on the rails compensates for the times he goes off them.   Those who read McLuhan must be willing to put up with the occasional appearance of the nutty professor.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 240.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
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Let your fingers do the walking! (Or is it running?)

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Remember the ad?      

“Remember the New York Telephone ad?  ‘Let your fingers do the walking.’  In the computer age the role of the pedestrian is taken over by the pushbutton.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eaikf34WN-A&feature=related

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  The prescient Professor McLuhan

Do your thumbs deserve a break today? 

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 236.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, June 4th, 2011
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Beware the toothy smile!

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  So many questions.

“This ad raises a multitude of structural questions.  The mouth is the all aggressive organ.  Teeth are the most menacing of all human appointments because of their lineal order.”

Me (June, 2011, age 58).  Don’t like that idea?

No matter, as McLuhan would say, he has others.  But a smile can be a very powerful weapon …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7JB68sLGY8&feature=related

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 220.

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Michael Hinton Friday, June 3rd, 2011
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Did McLuhan fear success?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  It would be more comfortable.      

“At the beginning of his very flattering essay on myself in The Pump House Gang … Tom Wolfe has a drawing of me which at once suggests another title for his essay (“What if he’s right?”), namely, “I’d Rather be Wrong.”  

 Me (June, 2011, age 58).  The important thing is to understand 

“I am resolutely opposed to all innovation, all change,” he said in an interview on the CBC in 1966.  “But,” he went on to say, “I am determined to understand what’s happening because I don’t choose to sit and let the juggernaut roll over me.” What about you?  Do you ever wonder that in your race to keep up with what’s new in the world you are actually being run over?  Try turning the gadget invasion off for a while and see what happens.  The world will still be there when you get back and maybe you will too.  There are worse things …    

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ury5b-qtI1Y

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 212.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
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Will we ever crack the code?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The ultimate challenge!

“Cracking the code of our own popular culture is much harder than the problem of the Rosetta Stone image.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  And what a challenge it is!

The finding of the Rosetta Stone at the town of Rosetta in Egypt in 1799 provided the crucial information required for linguists to eventually decipher the writing of ancient Egypt because the stone contained parallel passages written in Egyptian hieroglyphic characters, Egyptian demotic writing, and miracle of miracles Greek.  Popular culture is so hard to understand because it is more than language.  It is everything that makes us who we are as feeling, thinking, acting, and speaking social beings.  Unfortunately, there are no cultural Rosetta Stones – no worked examples of the multi-dimensional translation of one popular culture into another – to guide us.  As a result we never know which leads are worth following up and which are not.  And to make matters worse, because we are inside of it most of the time we don’t even realize there is something called our popular culture which we don’t understand. (Or as McLuhan liked to put the idea, whoever it was that discovered water it certainly wasn’t a fish.)  One of the ways Mcluhan thought you could see a popular culture was through ads.  McLuhan found ads to be endlessly fascinating.  Each is outside of ourselves and represents a window into our popular culture.   What do they mean?  Who can say for sure, but they do fascinate …

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 148.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
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McLuhan on marriage.

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  It’s about making not matching.      

“After the death of Mrs. Johnson, with whom he had been very happy, Dr. Johnson was asked by Boswell whether there was another woman in the world with whom he could have been as happy.  ‘Yes, sir.  Forty thousand.’  Johnson knew marriage was not matching but making.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  And what about you? 

Marshall McLuhan met Corinne Lewis in July 1938 and they were married just over a year later in August, 1939.  They were married for 41 years, had 6 children, and by all accounts had a very successful marriage.  Perhaps there is something about happiness that can be learned from McLuhan.  Are you looking for the perfect match or getting on with the making of one? 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 128.

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Michael Hinton Friday, May 27th, 2011
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The new learning

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 (May, 2011, age 58).  What do you do when you hit play? 

Learn of course.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

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

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
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The ‘missing link’

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  You may have wondered why …

“The ‘missing link’ created far more interest than all the chains and explanations of being.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Indeed I have, now that you mention it.

In Saturday’s post I asked what you thought McLuhan would say is the explanation for the greater interest in the ‘missing link.’  Notwithstanding Michael Edmunds thoughts, which you may want to take a look at in the comments on that post, I’m going to plump for a simpler answer.  The great chain of being is a completed whole, full of information, and therefore hot.  The missing link, on the other hand, is a gap in the chain of evolutionary development, cool, and therefore more involving and more interesting.   Like these sign off audio clips are more involving than the complete shows they followed …

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 112.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
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