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.

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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
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Education No Comments

The pattern watcher

Marshall McLuhan (January 4, 1967, age 55).  Why am I so popular?    

“I simply have ideas that seem to intrigue people.  Actually I’m a pattern watcher.  That’s it a pattern watcher.” 

Me (May, 2011, age 58).  McLuhan in action. 

This snippet of conversation is a good example of how McLuhan came up with ideas in conversation.  You can almost feel the electric surge as the idea comes to him that he’s a pattern watcher.  ”I do a lot of my work while I’m simply talking,” he once said.  “I think a lot when I’m talking and perfect many ideas that way.”

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 176-177.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
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What is truth?

Marshall McLuhan (March 25, 1974, age 63).  Good old Agatha Christie!    

“Was it Hercule Poirot who, when asked ‘what is truth?’ replied: ‘Eet ees whatever upsets zee applecart?” 

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  Perhaps it’s time to upset some apple carts? 

Why not?  You have nothing to fear but the apples.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 492.

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 249-50


What is your task?

Marshall McLuhan (April 12, 1936, age 24).  My task?

“My task as a teacher will be to shake others from their complacency.”

Me (April, 2011, age 58).  But how?

As Marshall showed throughout his career the most effective method was a form of intellectual shock therapy.  To assert that the world was not as it appeared to be in the electronic age.  Cause did not precede effect it followed it.  Consumers were becoming producers.  Advertising was a substitute for consumption.  Print created history.  The medium is the message.   Impossible?   Far from itl.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 84.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, April 28th, 2011
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The quest for identity

Marshall McLuhan (1970, age 59).  The importance of slang.

“Slang is verbal violence on new psychic frontiers.  It is a quest for identity.”

Me (March, 2011, age 58).  Becoming the same?

That is the root meaning of identity, “absolute sameness.”  The use of slang identifies you as one member of a particular crowd.  You use it to declare your identity with that group.  The search for identity is a search for the group you are.  Which group are you?  Listen to yourself.  Listen to others.

Cordially, Marshall and Me



Marshall McLuhan, Culture Is Our Business, 1970, p. 288.


Michael Hinton Saturday, April 2nd, 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?

Cordially, Marshall and Me


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
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Looking for Marshall McLuhan

Me (December 4, 2010, age 58).  Are  you there, Marshall?

Two weeks ago I was in Toronto and stopped in to have a drink in the bar of the Sutton Place, on Bay Street, a few minute’s walk from Marshall McLuhan’s old offices – the Coach House – at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

I did so because I knew McLuhan liked to have a drink at the Sutton Place, it was cold and I thought I might still pick up a memory of him, and my wife knowing this might be on my mind suggested it.  The roof-top bar McLuhan liked at the Hotel is now closed, but one of the waiters, Frank, who has worked in the hotel for over 30 years said he remembered serving McLuhan.

What did he drink?  After some time he recalled. St Jovain, a white Bourdeaux.

Not Scotch?  No, white wine, St. Jovain.

And that was that. He could remember nothing else.

This I think is as good a place as any to leave McLuhan on this the 300th post in this blog, not with a breakthrough in media studies, but drinking white wine, looking out over the city he knew so well, for so long.  Wondering, perhaps, whether this was as good as it got, and if so whether that wouldn’t be all that bad …

Cordially, Me

P.S.    Thanks to all of you who read From Marshall and Me.  And my thanks especially to the following people who in many different ways, small and large, helped to make series 1 a success:  Debbie, Ramon, David, Julien, Michelle, Michael, Mitch, Tara, Jose, and Alex.

P.P.S.  See next week for the start of the next series of posts of this blog that will look for McLuhan and take us intoMcLuhan’s centennial.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, December 4th, 2010
Permalink All categories, Vol. 1 No Comments

The celebrity of Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan (1964, age 52).  The Sixties.


“Yes, Marshall.”

“Don’t you think it odd there is so little about this decade that appeals to me and yet so much about me that appeals to it?

“Do you think?”

“Indeed I do.”

Me (November, 2010, age 58).  What is it about the Sixties and McLuhan?

In 1965 anyone who watched TV, read a magazine or looked at a newspaper had heard of Marshall McLuhan.  Why was he such a celebrity in this decade?  It is hard to shake off the idea that there was something about the Sixties that prepared people to be drawn to Marshall McLuhan.  But what was it?

As far as the counter-culture is concerned perhaps it helped to be on drugs to truly appreciate the delights of Understanding Media.  Dig this.  A scarcity of papyrus brought down the Roman Empire.  Far out man.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964, practically any page.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Vol. 1 1 Comment

One of the downsides of the current recession?

Marshall McLuhan (December 14, 1960, age 49).  No joking around.

I was just remarking to Claude Bissell that the “current recession seems have had a bad effect on the flow of jokes.”  The joke must be an exception to the universal rule that in the electronic age everything becomes substitutable for everything else.

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Ohio’s Phil Davison to the rescue.

In our own current recession which lingers on the jokes also seem to be drying up.  Here for your amusement is some found humour.


With thanks to Writing Boots.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 274.

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
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Changing the world.


Marshall McLuhan (1966, age 55).  In conversation with Timothy Leary.

Dr Leary …”

“Tim, man, call me Tim.”

“Well, Tim, it’s delightful conversing with you over lunch.  You were saying that LSD is a therapeutic wonder drug and a miraculous spiritual step-up remedy, working much in the same way I imagine as do the writings of James Joyce.”

“ James Joyce, unbelievable, Marshall, you may be the only person on the planet that doesn’t need LSD.  But I’ve got to tell you, one hit of LSD has taught me more about how my brain works than I learned from 15 years of clinical psych. research.  What I want to do now is spread the good word.”

“I hear you, Tim, and of course to do that you’re going to need to employ the most current techniques of advertising science.  In short, you need a slogan.”

“ You mean like LSMFT – Lucky Strike makes fine tobacco?”

“Exactly.  Here’s a jingle that comes to mind:

Lysurgic Acid hits the spot

40 billion neurons that’s a lot! “

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Later, much later …

While taking a shower, a slogan popped into the mind of Dr. Timothy Leary.  You guessed it:

Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.”  And the rest, as they say, is history.


Cordially, Marshall and Me


“Timothy Leary,” Wikipedia.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, September 11th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments