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.


So you think you’re creative?

Marshall McLuhan (August 24, 1964, age 53).  Education as we know it is obsolete.

Naturally we must experiment with alternatives to book-based, classroom instruction.  Here are a few of the questions – which I mentioned to a reporter for the Toronto Star – that I am wrestling with now which may well bring about a breakthrough:

  • How well could you learn economics in a rowboat in an alligator-infested swamp?
  • Or in a bamboo hut in a tropical forest?
  • Or in a triangular-shaped pink room in downtown Toronto?

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  Takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

How did he come up with such incredibly odd but brilliant ideas?  Here’s one answer:

Cordially, Marshall and Me


David Thompson, “How to learn economics in a rowboat,” Toronto Daily Star, August 24, 1964.

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Michael Hinton Friday, January 28th, 2011
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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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What’s wrong with our schools?

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

“In education the conventional division of the curriculum into subjects is already as outdated as the medieval trivium and quadrivium after the Renaissance.  Any subject taken in depth at once relates to other subjects.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58). No wonder kids drop out …

Nothing makes sense.  It’s too superficial.  Math in math class.  English in English class.  Science in science class.  We need to mix things up.  And give it a purpose.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 347.

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Michael Hinton Friday, November 12th, 2010
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Which came first the film or the book?

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The book of course

“Even the film industry regards all its greatest achievements as derived from novels.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58). Can you think of any film that inspired a great book?

McLuhan observes that the book and the film are closely related to one another.  As evidence for this he points to great films being inspired by novels and the difficulty of imagining a film being based on a newspaper.  Yet it is odd that the forces of inspiration seem to work in only one direction.  It is easy to think of novels (and plays and even comic books and video games) that inspired great (ok may be not great, but not completely schlock) films, but hard to think of any film that inspired a great (or even reasonably good) book and none outside the realm of fantasy and science fiction.  No disrespect to Alan Dean Foster, but he’s no Charlotte Bronte.


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 286.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, November 4th, 2010
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Perspective is learned.

Me (November, 2010, age 58). But what does it teach?

Marshall McLuhan said that a perspective is a dangerous thing.  Dangerous to our understanding of the world because it closes off other possibilities.  Here the artist David Hockney explores a different way of seeing:

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Print taught us perspective

“The old belief that everybody really saw in perspective, but only that Renaissance painters had learned how to paint it, is erroneous.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 288.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
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Seeing our present as future.

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Another one for McLuhan.

The critics of Marshall McLuhan said he was a charlatan speaking gibberish.  Yet here he is in 1964, sounding remarkably sane to modern ears, predicting a now ubiquitous small, hand-held electronic device – cell phone, blackberry, i-phone – on which you can play a movie.  Granted he doesn’t see it as digital but 20/20 future sight is asking a lot.  Lesson – if you’re going to predict the future be ready for criticism if you get it right.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Clearly …

“At the present time, film is still in its manuscript phase, as it were; shortly it will, under TV pressure, go into its portable, accessible, printed-book phase.  Soon everyone will be able to have a small, inexpensive film projector that plays an 8-mm sound cartridge as if on a TV screen.  This development is part of our present technological implosion.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, pp. 291-292.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, October 30th, 2010
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The power of film.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  You go where it goes.

“It was Renee Clair who pointed out that if two or three people were together on a stage, the dramatist must ceaselessly motivate or explain their being there at all.  But the film audience, like the book reader, accepts mere sequence as rational.  Whatever the camera turns to, the audience accepts.  We are transported to another world.”

Me (October, 2010, age 58).  Which is hard to believe.

But for all that may in fact be true.  Stranger things can happen:


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 286.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, October 28th, 2010
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Marriage: You’ve got to work at it

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  And now for something completely different.

Marriage is a subject people don’t typically turn to Marshall McLuhan for insight or advice.  But when you think about it, it’s not a bad idea.  After all, he was married for 41 years.  He and his wife Corinne had six children.  By all accounts their marriage was a success.

For those of you looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, here’s what Marshall had to say about the secret to a great marriage, when he was interviewed by Jane Howard for a close up article she wrote about him in Life Magazine in February 1965.  (By the way I found my Mrs. Right in 1976.)

Marshall McLuhan (February 25, 1965, age 54).  Don’t play the match game.

“Corinne, what did I say to that journalist, Jane Howard, about marriage?  Was I for it or against it?”

“Don’t be silly Marshall, of course you were for it.  Here’s exactly what you said.  It’s right here in this week’s issue of Life.”

Like any other relationship marriage must be remade by the contracting parties every day.  It’s a terrible illusion in people’s lives that if they don’t match each other exactly, they ought to drop everything and split up.  They don’t consider the possibility of making as an alternative to matching.  Any relationship can be a depth relationship, if you try and make it so.  People used to say, ‘Well I’m married, that’s that, put up or shut up’ – which I happen to think is a very good idea.  But now they get divorced – they drop out of marriage for the same reason they drop out of school, because they’re looking for a depth relationship, a profound role.

“Not bad eh?”

“Not bad at all, Marshall, not bad at all.”


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Jane Howard, “Oracle of the Electric Age,” Life Magazine, 25 February 1965, p. 99.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
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To hell with your point of view

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Are you ready for it?

Having a point of view would seem to be a good idea.  Presumably it is what blogs are all about.  Yet there is a problem with them, as Marshall tells us.

Marshall McLuhan (January 13, 1966, age 54).  It closes down exploration.

As I was telling my friend Tom Wolfe, “When you try to find out ‘what’s going on’ a point of view is not very useful.” The man with a point of view has no need to search for  answers, he is convinced that he already has them.  Rather than learn from the events that pass before his eyes, he spends his days emotionally reacting to them.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 332.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
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More suggestions for new Chapters for Understanding Media

Marshall McLuhan (August 2010, age 99).  Is this funny?

Joke titles for new chapters for Understanding Media?  Swift said, “satire is a glass in which we see every countenance but our own.”  But really I fail to see the humor in this exercise.

Me (September, 2010, age 58)  You tell me.

Here are some more tongue-in-cheek suggestions (See The Understanding Media Pun Contest) for new chapter topics and titles for Understanding Media:

Automatic Pencil: Getting the Lead Out

Pit Bull: Man’s Best Fiend

Microscope: Little Wonder

Smoke Signals: The Message is Blowing in the Wind

Quack-Quack: Fowl Language

Boring Conversation: Medium Tedium

Capital Punishment: A Live Issue?

Swedish Massage: The Masseuse is the Massage

Push-Up Bra: The Cleavage is the Message

Gypsy Fortune Teller:  The Medium is the Message

George Hamilton:  Narcissus as Narcosis

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, pp. xi – xiii.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
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