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.


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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More gold for the student of media.

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  Look for the small facts.

If you want to understand how media work the best place to look is under the light of small facts.  Forget about the big theories.  Work with small truths.  For example, have you ever noticed that in reading a newspaper you are drawn to the story you already know?  You go to a ball game, that’s the story you turn to.  You’re caught in a storm, that’s what you want to read about.

Why?  As human beings our minds delight in re-running experiences we’ve had in one medium through the frame of another.

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  Is it true?

Observe what you do.  What stories are you drawn to?


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, pp. 211.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, November 20th, 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
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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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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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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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What is the problem?

Marshall McLuhan (June 15, 1964, age 52).  Communcation!

Everywhere you turn communication is breaking down: the relations between east and west, government and citizen, teacher and student, and parent and child are in disarray.  And yet the assumption rules that somehow we generally manage to get our meaning across.  In fact we should be assuming exactly the opposite.

Me (August, 2010, age 58).  Communication!

For McLuhan it was obvious that the rapid movement of information in the electric age was responsible for the problems of the 1960s.  Few understood or agreed with him.

Today information moves even more rapidly and arguably our economic, environmental and social problems are even worse.  What remains unchanged is the unwillingness of sensible people to think about our economic, environmental, and social problems as communication or media problems.  Perhaps we need to start.  Because if there is a universal law of communication in the electric age, it is that communication is always breaking down.

Cordially, Marshall and Me



Letters of Marshall McLuhan, edited by Matie Molinaro, Corinne McLuhan, and William Toye, 1987, p. 302.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
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Who should I invite?

Marshall McLuhan (1959-1967). The Monday Night Seminar.

Monday nights I like to hold an informal seminar to discuss the breakthroughs we are making in understanding media and think things through.  Someone asked me if we shouldn’t have some sort of admission requirements or selection criteria.  I said certainly not, requirements and criteria will only serve to reduce the intelligence of the group.

Me (August, 2010, age 58).  Pure speculation

Actually I don’t know if Marshall McLuhan said any such thing.  What he says, here, I must admit, is more purely my invention than is traditional on From Marshall and Me.  And for this lack of discipline I apologize.  Yet I imagine this is something McLuhan might have said given his views on the problems created by specialization in academia.  At any rate judging by the remarkable diversity of the people who took part in the Monday Night Seminars he clearly welcomed and encouraged the participation of people from widely different backgrounds and with widely different interests.

For example, here is a list of the participants who attended one Monday night in 1967, as recalled by Bob Rodgers, who at the time was a graduate student in English at Toronto and a next door neighbor of McLuhan’s on Wells Hill Avenue: an anthropologist (Ted Carpenter), three beatniks, a young man with a guitar, an Eagle Scout, an academic couple (Wilfred and Sheila Watson), a man in advertising, a CBC news announcer (Stanley Burke), a magician, a fortune teller, an Inuit carver, a wrestler (Whipper Billy Watson), and three graduate students.  I don’t know how smart this group turned out to be, but the conversation was undoubtedly stimulating.

And, as those of you have been following this blog know, I was at University of Toronto in the 70s.  Wish I’d gone.

Cordially, “Marshall” and Me


Bob Rogers, “In the Garden with the Guru,” Literary Review of Canada, January 1, 2008

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Michael Hinton Thursday, August 5th, 2010
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