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.


At a loss what to do with dinner guests who overstay their welcome?

Marshall McLuhan (September 20, 1976, age 65).  Here’s what I do.    

After dinner is finished I leave the table to read in my study.  Now it is possible that a guest may not take the hint and instead follow me.  At this point I have found it is necessary to act decisively.  As I pass the living room couch I pick up a book from the dozen or so I have stacked on it, turn around sharply, and hand it to my guest saying, “I think you may enjoy this.”  Works every time.

Me (February, 2011, age 58).  Now that’s an idea!

Here’s another way to present it. 

 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 Saturday, February 12th, 2011
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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  Education as we know it is obsolete.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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The telephone calls!

Marshall McLuhan (May, 1964, age 52).  And we answer!

For your information, some questions:  Why do we feel compelled to answer a ringing telephone?  Why does a ringing phone in a movie or play create such tension?  Why can a silent phone create such a terrible feeling of loneliness?

The answer is simple the telephone by its very nature demands a partner.

Me (December, 2010, age 58). What about the calls of other media?

If McLuhan is right the telephone has a special power over us.  But is this power unique to the telephone?  Not unique, surely.  But it’s hard to deny that McLuhan is on to something.  Certainly, I don’t feel the same compulsion to open packages, letters, or e-mail, open a door, start an engine, or turn on a television or an electric light.

To protect yourself you may wish to put your cell phone on vibration, now.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964, p.268.

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Michael Hinton Friday, December 10th, 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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Y-y-y-y-you are not who you think you are

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Really!

Everyone knows Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message.”  But hardly anyone understands what he meant by it.

Are you ready for it?  New media change the way we perceive the world.  How?  Because they change the way we sense the world.  With our perceptions changed the world becomes a different place.

So what?  Your children, being shaped by different media than the media that shaped you, are entirely different creatures and live in an entirely different world.  But you knew that already didn’t you?

Marshall McLuhan (1977 age 65/66). We’re re-tribalising!

Boom!  Boom!  Boom go the drums! [Be patient this 8 minute video is well worth it]


Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, September 25th, 2010
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The g-g-g-global village is out to get you

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  Who put the geewiz in the global village?

If there is one thing everyone knows about Marshall McLuhan, it is that he said we have been recreated by electronic technology in “the image of a global village.”  It is tempting to look at this idea of a global village as a positive vision of the essential oneness of all peoples on this planet.  To see our global village bathed in an electric glow in the night skies as a warm, safe, and supportive place.   To experience the good vibrations that come as we listen to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

This was the temptation I almost fell prey to yesterday.  But McLuhan had a very different thing in mind when he talked about a global village.

Marshall McLuhan (1977 age 65/66).  We are going tribal!

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage, 1967, p. 67.

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Michael Hinton Friday, September 24th, 2010
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Just talk?

Marshall McLuhan (March 14, 1951, age 39).  The world is becoming one.

As I was writing to Harold Innis it struck me that the close of the age of print is initiating an end to fragmentation, divisions, and specialization.  Every discipline has much to teach the others.  Economics, for example, has much to teach poetry and poetry economics.

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  For example?

One cannot help wishing McLuhan would provide a specific example.  But the marvelous thing about McLuhan is that he sees no need to.  Looking around today, there does seem to be a scholar who raids literature to advance economics – Professor Deirdre McCloskey – who readers of this blog have met before.

Perhaps this is what McLuhan had in his mind’s eye.  Or perhaps not.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, pp. 223.

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Michael Hinton Thursday, September 23rd, 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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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


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
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The burning of sacred books.

Me (September, 2010, age 58).  What is the solution?

The story that continues to play itself out in newspapers (and on CBCs Cross Country Check-up) and in real life is Pastor Terry Jones’s threat to burn the Quran on September 11.  What can or should be done to deal with this kind of stupidity?  As usual Marshall McLuhan provides guidance.  But as usual the solution requires some hard work.  (For some help see tomorrow’s post.)

Marshall McLuhan (December 23, 1960, age 49).  The solution is there you just don’t see it.

“As always when a serious problem emerges, the answer will be found to have been discovered somewhat earlier in an unexpected area.”


Cordially, Marshall and Me



Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987, p. 278.

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Michael Hinton Friday, September 17th, 2010
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