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.


Why is TV so involving?

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  Because it compels involvement.

“Visual space is a continuum.  … Tactile space is an interval.  Hence beat and rhythm. … It is the interval whether in music or mosaic or in poetry that compels involvement until we become part of the situation.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Huhh?

This is the kind of statement that drove McLuhan’s critics mad with rage.  What was he saying behind the McLuhanisms such as visual and tactile space?  Perhaps that it is not by chance, as he hints in Culture Is Our Business that The Beatles song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” was such a hit with 60s TV kids.  The song reaches out to you and you reach back to it.  It really does want to hold your hand.  It compels, demands, participation.  And that is what all electric media do they compel your involvement.  You become part of the situation they create.  Next time you’re out at dinner and a cell-phone rings observe what happens.  In a way it’s like this:


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 110.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
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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?


Cordially, Marshall and Me

Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1970, p. 72.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
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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


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

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Michael Hinton Friday, December 10th, 2010
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It took TV to really make the telephone’s stimulus pay off.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52). Of course …

“In the 1920s, the telephone spawned a good deal of dialogue humour that sold as gramophone records.  But radio and the talking pictures were not kind to the monologue, even when it was made by W.C. Fields or Will Rogers.  These hot media pushed aside the cooler forms that TV has now brought back to a larger scale.  The new race of nightclub entertainers (Newhart, Nichols and May) have a curious early-telephone flavor that is very welcome, indeed.”


Me (November, 2010, age 58). Is this where the internet has taken us?

Now we have a brand new race of entertainers turning the book into dialogue.  Very welcome, indeed.



Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 270.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, November 13th, 2010
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Is American humour the monopoly of uneducated rubes and yokels?

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  The argumentative Dr. McLuhan .

Marshall McLuhan never backed away from an argument.  In fact he seemed to be happiest when he was courting an argument by uttering an inflammatory opinion.  Here he takes on the world of American speech, locating and characterizing it in less than flattering terms.  While exceptions to his rule come to mind McLuhan seems to have managed to stake out a high ground of sorts.  You of course must decide for yourself whether he’s right.  Are uneducated rubes and yokels the masters of American humor and slang?  Certainly, one could not be so assured about the rule of British slang and humor by British semi literates.

Consider this evidence found on you tube:


American: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtsRa45-_1A

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Quite naturally …

“Permeation of the colloquial language with literate uniform qualities has flattened out educated speech till it is a very reasonable acoustic facsimile of the uniform and continuous visual effects of topography.  From this technological effect follows the further fact that the humor, slang, and dramatic vigor of American-English speech are monopolies of the semi literate.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 178.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
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What is it about the telephone?

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Anger!

According to McLuhan the big problem with the telephone is that it naturally drives you to rage.  Have you ever lost it on the telephone?  I know I have.  Here’s Marshall’s explanation for this phenomenon.  In short, the medium is so cool (read participative or involving) it overheats you.  Before going to Marshall, here is actor Alec Baldwin being driven to rage by the medium.


Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Complete participation

“Some people can scarcely talk to their best friends on the phone without becoming angry.  The telephone demands complete participation, unlike the written and printed page.  Any literate man resents such a heavy demand for his total attention, because he has long been accustomed to fragmentary attention.”


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 267.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
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The curious difference the telephone makes

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  You may not think so, but you are blind on the phone.

“As we read, we provide a sound track for the printed word; as we listen to the radio, we provide a visual accompaniment.  Why can we not visualize while telephoning?  At once the reader will protest, ‘But I do visualize on the telephone!’  When he has the chance to try the experiment deliberately, he will find that he simply can’t visualize while phoning, though all literate people try to do so and, therefore, believe they are succeeding.”

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Try it as an experiment.

This is one of those remarkable observations of McLuhan’s.  He’s right, and it is surprising to find he is right.  Try it yourself.  The next time you take a call on your cell or land line try to picture the person you’re talking to.


More on the telephone tomorrow.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 267.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
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The paradox of the electronic age

Marshall McLuhan (May 16, 1959, age 47).  That old black magic has got us by the …

In this electronic age of ours change is the only constant.  We live and breathe change and yet there is nothing that we hate more than change.   This is the great paradox of our times.  And yet it is easily explained.  Electric media have re-tribalized us.  And there is nothing tribal man hates more than change.  You might say we are used to change and used by change, but we have not got used to it.

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Hope this helps …


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 254.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
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Is this a dream?

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  I’m walking home, minding my own business …

I stop at the corner for the light.  The guy beside me is on his cell phone and he’s edging me off the sidewalk.  The light turns green.  I step off and I realize everyone crossing the street is on a cell phone but me.  And they don’t see me.  I have to move to avoid being walked over.  In other words, I’m the only one who is actually here.  Everyone else is somewhere else.  Something is wrong.  Someone is out of step.  Wait a moment, it’s me.

Marshall McLuhan (1964 age 52). Obviously.

“The telephone is an irresistible intruder in time or place.”

Me again (September, 2010, age 58).  Especially now.

Here is Rudy Giuliani getting a lesson on the irresistible power of the telephone as he delivers a speech.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 271.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
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The power of speech

Marshall McLuhan (June 12, 1951, age 39).  To connect only listen!

Ezra Pound’s remarkable readings of his poems, particularly Canto 56, opened my ears to his rhythms.  As I put the matter to him in a plea that he issue these readings as a commercial discs for the general public, “the poet’s own voice provides an entry to his world which is otherwise hard to discover.”

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Why not try it?

Reading McLuhan can be a confusing and frustrating experience.  One of the best ways to gain entry to McLuhan’s world is to listen to McLuhan talk about his ideas.

Here he is talking on Youtube. Click on the image to play.

Don’t think about this as “McLuhan Lite” think about it as “The Real McLuhan.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 224.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
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