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.

Humour

How to laugh at ads.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The Will Rogers effect.      

“Will Rogers discovered years ago that any newspaper read aloud from a theater stage is hilarious.  The same is true today of ads.  Any ad put into a new setting is funny.  This is a way of saying that any ad consciously attended to is comical.”

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

If you’re going to study ads you can’t afford to pay too much attention to them.  As an exercise try not to pay too much attention to this ad:

YouTube Preview Image 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading: 

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 228.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication No Comments

Success.

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:

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Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading: 

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

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
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Who was Marshall McLuhan?

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Who am I?

“You see, I’m a sleuth, a kind of Sherlock Holmes character who simply investigates the environment and reports exactly what he sees.  Strangely enough some people are actually frightened by me.  I find the whole exploration of the environment very exciting.  Once you decide to become an explorer, there’s no place to stop.  I’m like Columbus.  I discover new worlds everywhere I look.”

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  So who was he?  A Sherlock or a Columbus?

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Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading:

Barbara Rowes, “If the Media Didn’t Get Marshall McLuhan’s Message in the ‘60s, Another is on the Way,” People Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 12, September 20, 1976.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
Permalink 1970s and 80s No Comments

What did McLuhan talk about at the Centre for Culture and Technology in the 1960s?

Marshall McLuhan (August 24, 1964, age 53).  Here are three problems we’ve been discussing:

First, our world and its problems are the creation of specialists.  The solutions we so desperately require, however, can only come from generalists who can see how everything fits together.   Second, it is widely agreed that scientists are befuddled by abstract art.  We can develop ways to help them appreciate abstraction.  Third, parents have long wondered how their children can do their homework with the radio blaring.    We’re close to a breakthrough on this one.

Me (January, 2011, age 58).  No wonder his colleagues at Toronto University thought he was nuts.

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Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading:

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

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Michael Hinton Saturday, January 29th, 2011
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Education 1 Comment

The ridiculousness of advertising (continued)

Marshall McLuhan (July 5, 1954, age 42). The reason why.

As I said yesterday it is remarkable how quickly an ad objectively examined strikes one as ridiculous.  The question is why?  Obviously it has to do with the conditions that favour objectivity.  Old ads are easier to view objectively.  And ads intended for other cultures.  They shock us into awareness of their ridiculousness while the ads of our culture today remain unnoticed, invisible.  Whoever it was that discovered water it certainly wasn’t a fish.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  You’re not a fish are you?

Submitted for your objective consideration and possible merriment three more ads:

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 130.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
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The ridiculousness of advertising.

Marshall McLuhan (July 4, 1954, age 42). Dear Diary:

So many discoveries, I’m becoming quite giddy.  For example, if you simply study advertisements objectively as technologies for delivering persuasion and forget about passing moral judgments on them it is remarkable how quickly they become ridiculous.  Often, now, without warning the ridiculousness of an ad will hit me in my office or in the lecture hall and I find myself roaring with laughter.  My colleagues at Toronto University think I’m insane.  Let them, the study of advertising brings me great joy.      

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  May these bring you joy.

Submitted for your objective consideration and possible merriment three ads:

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, p. 130.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, December 1st, 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.”

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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.

YouTube Preview Image

 

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading

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:

British: YouTube Preview Image

American: YouTube Preview Image

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

Reading

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

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
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Does this make you laugh?

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

“Will Rogers discovered years ago that any newspaper read aloud from a theatre stage is hilarious.  The same is true today of ads.  Any ad put into a new setting is funny.  This is a way of saying that any ad consciously attended to is comical.”

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

Today the modern day Wills Rogers – Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report), Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) and Rick Mercer (The Rick Mercer Show) – have rediscovered the humour in the news.  But that is to digress.  The question is whether McLuhan is right about the humour of ads placed in a new setting.  Here for your conscious attention in the new setting of this blog is a classic Kodak ad from the 1960s.  Are you laughing yet?

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Cordially, Marshall and Me

P.S.  Me – He did say any ad.

Reading

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, p. 228.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, October 12th, 2010
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What to do with Pastor Terry Jones?

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Marshall to the rescue.

Yesterday I asked for solutions to the Pastor Terry Jones problem.  Here is some more specific guidance from Marshall McLuhan.

Marshall McLuhan (September, 2010, age 99).  Jokes!

I hesitate to involve myself in earthly matters, however, you seem to be in need of help.  I recall Walt Pittman asking me for a solution to the shameful “Paki” joke problem in Toronto in 1978.  You may recall these racist jokes that blanketed the city at that time.  (What do you say to a Pakistani with a Ferrari?  Stop thief!)  My solution was the obvious one – but the Metropolitan Toronto Council did nothing with the idea – launch a PR campaign to cover the city with a new brand of “Paki” jokes.  Jokes that portray the Pakistani as a wholesome colourful character.

Jokes, I submit, are the easiest and most effective way of dealing with the Pastor Terry Jones problem.  Simply cast him as an archetypal idiot by re-cycling sure-fire Newfie jokes.  For example:   What did Pastor Jones study at Harvard Medical School?  (Nothing, they studied him.)  What’s written on the bottom of Pastor Jones’s beer bottle?  (Drink from other end.)  What’s written on the top rung of Pastor Jones ladder?  (Stop here.)

While we’re at it, one more, knee-slapper:  How many preachers does it take to burn the Koran?   Not a one.  The media are capable of burning the Koran without anyone actually burning anything.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

See McLuhan’s solution to the Paki joke as recalled by Walter Pittman in Who Was Marshall McLuhan? pp. 112-113.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, September 18th, 2010
Permalink Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments