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 solution to the puzzle: Will the real Marshall McLuhan please stand up!

Marshall McLuhan (June, 2010, age 98).  Foul play!

I assure you I had nothing to do with this puzzle.  After all, as you should know, I’ve been dead and buried these past 30 years.  Heaven has its perks – as Corinne continues to remind me – but writing blogs is not one of them.  If you want my opinion, I think this puzzle was a bit of a cheat.

Me (June 2010, age 57).   Drum roll please!

Here are the four short passages once again.  As I explained yesterday only one of these was actually written by Marshall McLuhan.  Which one is the real McLuhan?  If you just found this blog you may wish to try and solve the puzzle for yourself before reading the answer.  If not simply scroll to “the solution to the puzzle.”

(1)    A modern movie actress who tries to play a role will seem old fashioned.  To cope with this, actresses have cooled themselves way down, become numb blanks.  Thus today’s stars are totally tranquilized.  The smart thing for a girl nowadays is to play numb.  Dumb actresses used to be in demand, now numb actresses are in demand.  Rigor mortis is de rigueur.

(2)    There is a current issue of the TV Guide which contains a survey of convicts’ attitudes towards TV.  That is people really up for a long time, many of them for life, and how they regard television.  All convicts are apparently supplied with good TV sets.  Such is the hardship of our prisons.  They pass the word along:  all the new gimmicks, all the new twists they find in crimes; and these are passed along quickly to the boys who are on the way out, and are tried out quickly in the community.  There really is an astonishing story of how much television has helped to improve the level of crime.

(3)    The owner of a Hollywood hotel in an area where many movie and TV actors reside reported that tourists had switched their allegiance to TV stars.  Moreover, most TV stars are men, that is, “cool characters,’ while most movie stars are women, since they can be presented as “hot” characters.

(4)    By filling the space of the TV with a mosaic of close-ups, The Hollywood Squares hypnotizes its audience by paralyzing their senses and numbing their eyes to other distractions.  The movie-world is literally chopped up into nine squares, each of which contains a close up.  The theme music is the ticktock of a hypnotists watch.

“The solution to the puzzle.”

The passage written by Marshall McLuhan is Number 3, which you can find on page 318 of Understanding Media.

Numbers 1 and 4 are the invention of Gary Wolf from his 1996 Wired magazine article “Channeling McLuhan.”  See www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.01/channeling.html.

Number 2 is by McLuhan, but was spoken in conversation in 1977 rather than written.  See the book edited by Barrington Nevitt and Maurice McLuhan, Who was Marshall McLuhan?, 1995, p. 61.

How did you do?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading for this post

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan: The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 35-37.

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Michael Hinton Friday, June 11th, 2010
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