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 (December 3, 1952, age 41).  Secrecy?    

“[Wyndham] Lewis used to say to me:  ‘The secret of success is secrecy.’  I used to think that very funny.”

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

Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep your mouth shut:

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 233.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
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Why read McLuhan?

Marshall McLuhan (January 4, 1964, age 52).  The McLuhans at the breakfast table.

“Marshall, listen to what Tom Easterbrook has to say about you in the Weekend Magazine.”

“And what is that?”

“He,” that’s you, “churns up the atmosphere.  I think he’s aware of doing it, but he does it for shock effect.  He goes at his adversaries until they become numb.  But he has zest – he’s full of fun.  He conveys a marvelous feeling of being alive.”

“What do you think?”

“Dear old Tom.”

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  Being alive.

Tom Easterbrook was McLuhan’s oldest friend and a colleague at the University of Toronto.  As Easterbrook suggests for McLuhan the important thing was to shock people into thinking.  If you worry too much about whether McLuhan is right or wrong you will get very little out of reading him.  Slow down and enjoy the rush of life.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 177.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, May 5th, 2011
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Business talks!

Marshall McLuhan (1969, age 58).  Talking is a labour-saving technology!

“The executive who has many decisions to make must resort to the speedy oral conference with specially briefed experts.  The sheer quantity of information entering into such frequent decisions could not possibly be presented in linear, written form.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Hence, the popularity of the single page report!

The purpose of the single page is not to record everything that needs to be said.  It is to remind the reader of everything that needs to be said later and in greater detail.  And as this clip suggests not all that is said needs to be recorded.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, 1969, p. 72.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
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Where to from here?

Me (December, 2010, age 58).  Not done with McLuhan

Welcome back.  The last 300 posts of this blog have explored a large number of the ideas of and about Marshall McLuhan.  I have not counted, but the number must be far more than 300.  For most people, however, there are only two ideas – the medium is the message and the world as a global village – and neither of these ideas now almost two generations old since they were first announced in the 1960s is very well understood, which is odd.

Why?  Who was he?  What did he really mean?  Was he really that bad a writer?  What did he really think?  Was he serious?  Was some of what he said just bullshit?  What was he really like?  How can he be better understood?  What does it matter now after all these years?  These are questions I have tried to answer in the first 300 posts of this blog, and I’m not yet finished answering.  We are, I think, not done with McLuhan.  In the year ahead I will continue to talk about his ideas; to go slow; to look at them one by one, to wonder at them and about them, and in this way to celebrate and pay tribute to him.  If he is right and media change us, understanding how they do this is vitally important.


If you wish to be part of this conversation please leave your comments.

Cordially, Me


Neil Postman, “Forward” to Philip Marchand, Marshall Mcluhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. vii-xiii.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
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How do you sling your slang?

Marshall McLuhan (November 2010, age 99). Down memory lane with Marshall and Corinne …

Corinne do you remember this?  ‘Slang offers an immediate index to changing perception.’”

“It certainly sounds like you, Marshall.”

“Of course it sounds like me, I said it.  And you typed it up and that’s how it got into Understanding Media. ”

“Did I?”

“Of course you did, behind every great man in the university is the sound of his wife’s typing.  The fascinating thing is that slang continues to be an immediate index to changing perception.”

Just listen to the internet kids talking.  Here’s a typical snippet:

  • He’s really, really, mad.
  • I’m like, ‘Hey, why are you like that?’
  • And he’s like, ‘whatever.’”

“What are they saying, Marshall?”

“Hard to say, there is an unmistakable 80s patina to it, but that doesn’t matter, focus on the medium, the words.  That’s the real message.   No one says saying or said anymore.  The verb to say is gone, replaced by like.  Conversation is getting cooler and cooler.  More and more involved and involving.  The internet has taken on the job TV was doing to us in the 60s and stepped it up several notches.  Visual man is waving good bye to his progeny.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Here’s some more talk to think about:

Cordially, Marshall and Me


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

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
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TV isn’t good company.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). The observant Marshall McLuhan.

McLuhan loved observing a medium in action.  You squint.  You turn your head.  And suddenly you see it.  A break-through.  Here he is on the way TV works.  (You may not agree with him.  Especially those of you who when traveling on business turn in the early morning to The Today Show for companionship.  And yet there is something to McLuhan’s idea – as there is with most of his ideas – that is worth thinking about.)

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

“It is not pleasant to turn on TV just for oneself in a hotel room, or even at home.  The TV mosaic image demands social completion and dialogue.”



Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 292.

And this.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
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The power of numbers

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  If not true perhaps it should be.

In 1970 Marshall McLuhan was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of Alberta and in his speech to the graduating classes could not resist talking about one of his favorite ideas:  that the world’s problems were all capable of speedy resolution.  If only the experts would stand aside and let large numbers of ordinary people go to work on them.  Hard to believe?  Odder things have happened – such as for example Wikipedia or a Nelson Eddie-led rebellion.

Check out especially the four minutes from minute 2 to 6.


Marshall McLuhan (November 20, 1971, age 60).  No problem …

“There is no kind of problem that baffles one or a dozen experts that cannot be solved at once by a million minds that are given a chance simultaneously to tackle a problem.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, “Convocation Address, University of Alberta, November 20, 1971.”

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Michael Hinton Friday, October 29th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Vol. 1 1 Comment

John and Yoko and Marshall McLuhan’s theory of dinosaurs

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Perhaps the most insane of McLuhan’s ideas

In 1969 on the last Saturday before Christmas CBS television arranged for Marshall McLuhan to interview John Lennon and Yoko Ono about their ‘War is Over’ campaign and anything else McLuhan thought they should talk about.  Their wide-ranging discussion took place at Marshall’s office in the Coach House at the University of Toronto and lasted about an hour.  Among other things, they talked about the importance of Elvis in John’s career, Yoko’s contribution to their creative partnership, the cultural differences between Britain and America, and, of course, McLuhan’s explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs.  I don’t know what John and Yoko thought of McLuhan’s ideas about the dinosaurs, but it must have crossed their minds that this was one seriously crazy dude.  And if so it would be difficult to say they were wrong.

Marshall McLuhan (19 December 1969, age 58).  It’s the frustration!

“Frustration creates bigness.  Frustration releases adrenaline in the system.  Adrenaline creates much bigger muscles and bigger arms and legs … . This is why dinosaurs ended in sudden death, because as the environment became more and more hostile, more and more adrenaline was released into their bodies and they got bigger and bigger and then they collapsed.”


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Read a ‘transcript’ of the interview between John Lennon and Marshall McLuhan


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Michael Hinton Friday, October 15th, 2010
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What the ads learned from the movies.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Of course, it’s obvious  …

“When the movies came, the entire pattern of American life went on the screen as a nonstop ad.  Whatever any actor or actress wore or used or ate was such an ad as had never been dreamed of.  … The result was that all ads in magazines and the press had to look like scenes from a movie.  They still do.  But the focus has had to become softer since TV.”

Me (October, 2010, age 58). Yes or no?

Today the focus has softened so much that the ad has been re-woven into the movie.  It’s called “product placement.”  Instead of Clark Gable taking off his shirt to reveal an undershirt and everyone runs out to buy one, and the movie makers are surprised, Brad Pitt opens the fridge and guess what’s sitting there – a coke.  And what do you order later on at the refreshment stand because you’re feeling thirsty?  A coke.

And nobody’s surprised, least of all the movie makers who charged Coca Cola a sizable fee for coke’s appearance in the scene.  Despite its historical roots in the movies not everyone is a fan of product placement.  The director John Lynch for example:


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 231.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, October 13th, 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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