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?

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

The other day I was speaking to Dick Cavett.  Actually I was on the Dick Cavett Show speaking to novelist Truman Capote, Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers, and trumpeter Al Hirt.  I tried out a few of the probes I’ve been playing with to see what I can tease out of them in terms of new ideas.  Such as: rock only works in English; Nixon works better on radio than TV; and the instant replay has slowed down the game of football.   Unfortunately, Cavett kept interfering with the fun by asking me questions.

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

McLuhan spent almost half of his time on the show asking questions, and posing new topics for discussion and talking with the other guests.  So much so that at one point Cavett said ironically to McLuhan, and obviously enjoying the theatre, “You’re very easy to interview aren’t you?”

Marshall McLuhan’s one way conversation style was legendary.  As Professor Abe Rotstein who was a member of McLuhan’s conversation circle at U. of T. in the 1960s told me, McLuhan was a polite conversationalist.  He always waited for your lips to stop moving before he resumed speaking.  If you want to get a sense of McLuhan’s verbal pyrotechnics listen to the tape of this show.  But I said I would say more about hot and cool today.  So here goes.  In his conversation with Dick Cavett, McLuhan uses hot and cool to explain why a hot Nixon lost to a cool Kennedy in their 1964 debate on the cool medium of TV.    Tellingly, McLuhan observed that people who listened to the debate on radio, a hot medium, thought Nixon won the debate.  (To be continued)

Is Obama with his southern-preacher style of rhetoric – the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tradition – too hot for TV?

Cordially, Marshall and Me

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Michael Hinton Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Permalink 1970s and 80s, Communication, Technology, Vol. 1 No Comments

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