A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

The eccentric Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan (June 1966, age 54).  I do it my way!

No, Corinne, I definitely will not.

But Marshall I can’t always be available to run down to your office to tell you it’s time to go to a meeting at the CBC.

Why not?

Might I remind you, I’m one woman and we have six children?

A point Corinne, I admit it, a point.

Then for Pete’s sake, wear the wrist watch I bought you for your birthday.

I’ll think about it.  Isn’t it time we left studio?

 

Me (June 2010, age 57).  The problem with eccentricities

Here are some of Marshall McLuhan’s eccentricities:

For many years he refused to wear a watch or have a clock in his office.

He judged a new book not by its cover but how interesting it was on page 69.

He did not know his children’s birthdays.

He dictated letters to his secretary lying flat on the floor beneath his desk.

He fell asleep at departmental meetings

He wore pre-tied ties that were held on by an elastic band.

He regularly phoned people at all sorts of hours, some times in the middle of the night.

He thought numbers divisible by 3 to be lucky and avoided numbers not divisible by 3 for such things as addresses, appointment dates, and membership numbers.

He felt it was possible to judge the merit of a Ph.D. thesis on the first 3 pages and frequently said so at oral examinations.

He once claimed that it took him no more than 5 minutes to read Milton’s Paradise Lost.

He disliked being photographed or tape recorded.

He was a notoriously bad listener.  But – as one who knew him said – was polite enough to wait till your lips stopped moving before speaking.

The problem with eccentricities is that in focusing on them you lose sight of the man.  Instead of a real person with thoughts, desires, and feelings, you are left with a card board cut-out man.  A figure of quirky fun.  Someone you have categorized and now cease to think about.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

 

Reading for this post:

Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan, 2009.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, June 5th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Culture, Vol. 1 2 Comments

2 Comments to The eccentric Marshall McLuhan

  • Interesting. What I draw from this blog post:

    – Freud would have something to say about his penchant for page 69.

    – I don’t wear a watch or have clocks around either. Wonder if MM would have carried a cellphone (with clock) around.

    – I could learn something from MM about waiting until lips stopped moving …

    Einstein had several of the same pants/shirts/sweaters in his closet so that he didn’t have to use any brainpower thinking about what he was going to wear in the morning. I loved school uniforms for the same reason and often wish I could get away with wearing them now. You will now understand why you often see me in different variations of the little black dress. Preferably made from unwrinkable material.

  • McLuhan did some of his best work lying down …

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