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.
This week I’m¬†featuring some of my favourite posts from this blog’s archive.¬† Submitted today for your approval Marshall McLuhan on the telephone:
Today and for the next four days I’m going to feature some of my favourite posts from this blog’s archive.¬† Submitted today for your approval Marshall¬†McLuhan on the invention of the fire engine¬†:
No question it’s his theory of the extinction of the dinosaurs.¬† Here’s the link to my original post on it.¬† This idea is so wild even Marshall’s critics never talked about it.¬†Probably because they thought no one would believe he thought any such thing. Here’s another theory about dinosaurs, although, thankfully, not one of Marshall’s:
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 (1970, age 59).¬† Tribal man can‚Äôt take it.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†
‚ÄúTribal 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.‚ÄĚ
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
Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 240.
Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).¬† Did you know ‚Ä¶
That the word school is from the latin scholia meaning leisure or play?¬† Is it any wonder kids are dropping out of school?¬† School has become a detention center.
Me (December, 2010, age 58).¬† What is to be done?
According to my Shorter OED, school derives from the latin schola (not scholia) and means the employment of leisure in disputation.¬† As usual McLuhan gets the small bit wrong but the big bit right.¬† Unless school is as engaging as play little real learning will take place there.¬† How much real disputation goes on in our schools?¬† How can we introduce more intellectual play?
Is this the solution?
Or is this?
Or are we still missing the point?
Cordially, Marshall and Me
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
‚ÄúThe old belief that everybody really saw in perspective, but only that Renaissance painters had learned how to paint it, is erroneous.‚ÄĚ
Cordially, Marshall and Me
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 288.