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.

What would Marshall say? (continued)

Me (August, 2010, age 58). McLuhan in conversation (continued)

Yesterday we left Marshall in conversation with journalist Herb Caen at a topless restaurant in San Francisco in August 1965.  Readers will recall that McLuhan had called attention to the visual bias of Caen’s language.  Let’s take one more look – sorry, I apologize for my visual orientation – at that exchange.  Here, to refresh your memory is their conversation from yesterday:

[Caen]  Being President of the Leg Men of America, I never felt a primal urge to lunch among the topless ladies, but in such distinguished company who could resist?  ‘Strip steak sandwich,’ I said to waitress Marilyn, who was wearing blue sequin pasties and not much else.  As she walked away, I commented ‘A good-looking girl.

[McLuhan]  Interesting choice of words.  Good-LOOKING girl.  The remark of a man who is visually oriented, not tactually.  And I further noticed that you could not bring yourself to look at her breasts as she took your order.  You examined her only after she walked away – another example of the visual: the further she walked away, the more attractive she became.

Question:  What do you think Caen said next:

(a)    “If you say so Marshall.”

(b)   “Fascinating, I never noticed – look I’ve done it again – my visual orientation.”

(c)    “What?”

(d)   “Actually, I’m rather inhibited.”

Marshall McLuhan (August 1965, age 54)  The answer is …

Of course (d) – which, if memory serves me, I followed up with:

Another interesting word.  Inhibited is the opposite of exhibited, and what is exhibited causes you to be inhibited.

Cordially, Marshall and Me


Herb Caen, “Rainy Day Session,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 12, 1965, p. 25.

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Michael Hinton Saturday, August 21st, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Culture, Vol. 1 No Comments

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