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.

Who’s interviewing who? [for one last time]

Marshall McLuhan (December 1970, age 59).  Dick Cavett’s not listening

The other day, as I recounted yesterday, and as I again recount today, I was speaking to Dick-Cavett-Show host Dick Cavett, novelist Truman Capote, Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers, and trumpeter Al Hirt.  Loved probing them.  But that Cavett kept spoiling the fun with his questions and his demands for logic.

Me (January 2010, age 57). Marshall McLuhan’s not listening

Again, as I said yesterday, McLuhan spends much time on the Dick Cavett Show probing and playing Cavett’s role.  But when it comes to probes McLuhan likes to do the probing.

At the beginning of the show Dick Cavett says that McLuhan is maddening.  And yet he is also delighting.  He forces you to think about old things in new ways.  The subject of Dick Cavett’s beard comes up (he is growing one and it itches) and McLuhan remarks that the beard is something Cavett is putting on to play with his audience.  It is a mask of sorts and as such corporate.  Now you can hear the disquiet in Cavett’s voice.  What do you mean it’s corporate?  With much toing and frowing McLuhan explains corporate is the opposite of private.  Which does not do much to clear things up for Cavett.  Beards then you can hear him think are cool.  Cool works on TV.  Politicians want to use TV to win elections.  How come – Cavett poses a probe of his own – I can’t think of one politician who has a beard?  Not one.  McLuhan, however, refuses to play the game.  He moves on to another idea.  But let’s stop and consider Cavett’s probe.

Two points.  Yes, I can think of a politician with a beard:  Fidel Castro, and now that I’ve got that hurdle passed Jerry McGuire.  And no I can’t think of any modern American politician (Lincoln and Grant aren’t moderns) with a beard.  But then I’m Canadian.

Is there an American politician today who wears a beard?  Are beards cool or are only some beards cool.  Does this help make a case for or against the usefulness of the terms hot and cool?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

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Michael Hinton Thursday, January 14th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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