McLuhan & Xgau

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June 24, 2011 by admin

Search results for “mcluhan” at

“What makes it even more discomforting is that our former National Pastime has become square. McLuhan and his minions in the big media have almost delegitimized it, and with reason. Baseball is an old-fashioned game. Its pace is so slow that it is now chic to claim to enjoy the gossip of the game more than the contest itself.”
review of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, 1971

MM in Understanding Media:
“The characteristic mode of the baseball game is that it features one-thing-at-a-time. It is a lineal, expansive game which, like golf, is perfectly adapted to the outlook of an individualist and inner-directed society. Timing and waiting are of the essence, with the entire field in suspense waiting upon the performance of a single player. By contrast, football, basketball, and ice hockey are games in which many events occur simultaneously, with the entire team involved at the same time.”

(This site has an interesting graph, based on Gallup polls, showing the relative relational popularity of football and baseball.)


2) “It is by creating a mood that asks ‘Why should this mean anything?’ that the so-called rock poets can really write poetry — poetry that not only says something, but says it as only rock music can. For once Marshall McLuhan’s terminology tells us something: rock lyrics are a cool medium. Go ahead and mumble. Drown the voices in guitars. If somebody really wants to know what you’re saying, he’ll take the trouble, and in that trouble lies your art. On a crude level this permits the kind of one-to-one symbolism of pot songs like ‘Along Comes Mary’ and ‘That Acapulco Gold.'”
– from “Rock Lyrics are Poetry (Maybe),” 1967

A nicely drawn example of the participatory (“if someone wants to know…”), un-filled-in nature of MM’s definition of “cool.”


3) “This way of explaining the children-of-affluence idea is the one instance in which Reich’s popularization elevates itself to synthesis, which is really what popularization should do. It is a concise and sane interpretation of ideas implicit in thinkers like McLuhan and Fuller. That it has received scant attention even from Reich’s fans indicates how deeply ingrained the Consumer Society cliché, which it contravenes, has become among American nay-sayers.”
review of Charles A. Reich’s The Greening of America, 1970

I’m unfamiliar with Reich’s book or thesis, but Christgau is voicing what seems to me a fairly typical and unsurprising (though nonetheless interesting — at least if you’re a fan of McLuhan) pattern: that is, that MM’s ideas — assuming Reich is indeed re-playing them in a more “concise and sane” way — have always had a much better chance of reaching a broader audience when translated into plain/sane English. (Better still, don’t acknowledge the source at all, for the very word “McLuhan” can still induce a screeching, nails-on-a-chalkboard effect, depending on the audience.)

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