The Medium is The Message

The Medium is The Message

This is the title (or nearly the title) of a book published in 1967 by Marshall McLuhan. Until a few days ago I had never physically handled the book. More on that in a minute. I learned of its existence so long ago that I cannot remember when I didn’t know of it. As I got a bachelor’s degree in communications, it’s very possible that department first brought it to my attention, along with a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t recall if my life depended on it. 

My husband reminded me that Marshall McLuhan, the actual human being, bereted a pontificating professor in Woody Allen’s 1977 movie Annie Hall. I might have learned of it from that. I was never curious to read it assuming it’s too academic. The title has been sufficient. I have pondered the phrase for years and find it to be meaningful.

To me, the phrase means the technology you use determines how you will communicate. The how then effects the what. How you communicate effects what you communicate.

TEXTING

My speech patterns and what I will say are very different in text, email, over the phone, on zoom or in person. Texting is the most radical. Like others, I abbreviate words. Not because I don’t appreciate the value of grammar, but because the keyboard is so small, and the bursts of communication are coming too fast. If I don’t abbreviate, the back and forth can’t happen at the proper speed. There is a difference between a brief and logistical text exchange, like “get butter” and a five-minute parlay. With that, there is a form of bonding I have not experienced in any other medium. Multiple topics going at once, a sense that you and the other texter really get each other. Emoji and gifs in addition to words. I’m not saying it’s superior, but I am saying it is unique. It allows for a burst of intimacy that can bypass some of the more anxiety producing aspects of in person intimacy.

That’s the message of the medium. The message is what that medium can do that nothing else can. It’s not a replacement, it’s an addition.

YOUTUBE COMMENTARY VIDEOS

My kid shows me some of the YouTube commentary videos they watch. So fascinating. In this case, YouTube is the medium, a sub medium of video. I am interested on two levels, as a direct source of insight into youth culture and as an editor. I thought I had seen it all, but I haven’t, not by a long shot. The editing style has a different grammar, it’s extremely lean, all dead air removed, maybe even a little of the air that wasn’t dead. The medium knows it is fighting for attention and it doesn’t ever provide space for reflection. I often have to tell my kid to pause just so I can laugh and not miss the next line.

These videos are sort of like clever essays delivered by charismatic but highly irreverent anchormen. In this world the news is not geo-political or important, it’s cultural and optional.  They are highly constructed verbal arguments against something, usually an offensive offering like Bad Boys on TikTok. The best ones are truly brilliant. Young people have a grasp on the meta that is hard to understate and hard to articulate but very funny. Because of the digitization of everything, they have digested exponentially more content than previous generations and therefore their analysis and performed and edited presentation of that analysis is its own medium.

THE ACTUAL BOOK AS PHYSICAL OBJECT

When my kid is showing me a new video, it’s McLuhan’s book title that most often pops in my head. I feel grateful be introduced to a new medium and I try hard to decode its message. I was talking to my husband about all this, including that I had never read the book and he said, it’s right there, pointing behind me.

What?

It’s on the top of that stack behind you.

Right here, under the art supplies?

Yes.

I’ve lived with my husband for 23 years. This book came with him. Therefore, I have lived in the same house as this book for 23 years without knowing it. I don’t know what that means, but it makes me feel really weird. This book has been in the same vicinity as art supplies I use almost every day. Not a good look for someone who takes pride in being observant. I can discern subtle changes in the pavement throughout my neighborhood, but I can’t notice the cover of a book that I’ve been thinking about for decades because when I look in its direction, instead of seeing it, I just see a blob called Husband stuff. You think you know everything about someone, and you find out you know nothing because you aren’t paying attention.

Well, despite my intentions to not read the book, I opened it up. It’s nothing like I expected! It’s mostly a picture book! McLuhan collaborated with the graphic artist Quentin Fiore. I enjoyed flipping through it. It’s humorous. It’s the YouTube commentary video of its time.

Turns out I was one-part right, one part ignorant. McLuhan wrote Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, in 1964 and the phrase first appears there. That one does seem to be more academic but it’s not in our house for me to check. My husband’s book is the The Medium is the Massage. I certainly wish that phrase were true. I would love a massage. I didn’t realize the play on words until I took the illustration photo for this post. More proof I’m not an observation savant. My husband was dumbfounded, having never noticed the wordplay. All this has got me wondering what else resides in these mysterious piles of husband stuff. Even if I look, will I see it?

Mad Max Fury Road Review Eaglecrowowl Style

Fury-Road-Trailer-4Just returned from watching Mad Max Fury Road. Thrilling entertainment. I was not disappointed. The editor is Margaret Sixel. As reported in a Vanity Fair interview, George Miller, the director of all the Mad Max movies said to Margaret, his wife “You have to edit this movie, because it won’t look like every other action movie”. It doesn’t.

I have not seen the previous Mad Max movies and have been, up until this moment, immune to their allure. I rarely see any movies anymore, though I do go to a few each year. I am usually left unsatisfied and so sink deeper into the comfort of my prestige episodic television series late night couch viewing with husband, dog and parmesan popcorn. Almost nothing can touch it for dramatic artistry, pleasure and viewing satisfaction.

But Mad Max Fury Road was totally engrossing. I spent most of the movie with my hands on my face in a physical and archetypal expression of deep alarm. Here’s why I think it worked so well.

  1. It made sense within the logic and parameters of it’s own universe. I am my father’s daughter and I need stuff to make sense.
  2. It was cool looking. I like good art. The art was good. I don’t normally give a rat’s ass about cars but this movie turned me temporarily into into Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. I finally get it, hot rods are cool. So are explosions. Respect.
  3. Superlative cinematic vision. You could follow the action, it was tense as hell and the violence was legion but not gratuitous. Also the sound design was awesome. I might watch it again just to pay attention to this.
  4. It was tense because something was at stake. In an action movie, you have to care about the outcome. You have to be deeply and genuinely wanting something to happen and passionately wanting something else not to happen. Otherwise it gets terribly boring, no matter how much shit is slo mo blowing up. The degree of tension is predicated on this balance, wanting but not knowing if you will get what you want. So what does this movie want? It wants female values. How could I resist? You had me at hello. Look, men are beautiful and a male warrior is very compelling, no doubt, but an infinite loop of tough guy man on man slaughter devoid of compassion is Hell. I don’t want to live in Hell.

Three things made me want to see this:

  1. Metacritic had 17 100 point reviews out of 43. I don’t think I have seen that before.
  2. A men’s rights activist blog is calling for a boycott because it considers the the film a “feminist piece of propaganda posing as a guy flick.” Do I even need another reason?
  3. Yes. Yes I did. It was this still from the film. I want to see that movie. Thank you George Miller. Loved i!

 

Mad Max Fury Road

 

 

 

Olá Brasil! Obrigado pela sua visita. Como você chegou aqui?*

If you have a blog on wordpress, a fun way to waste time is to look at the statistics of who is viewing your pages.  I noticed that 18% of my views are coming from Brazil, the second ranking country after America at  53%.  I love that I have visitors from all over the globe and especially Brazil because I traveled there and it is a super cool country.

I visited Salvador Bahia which is in the northern part of the country on the coast.  What I remember the most are the beautiful beaches. Below is an image from Morro de Sao Paulo, an island with no cars.  Pedestrian heaven on earth.

Morro_de_Sao_Paulo_89Brazil has a very advanced beach culture. You can roll up to a city beach with nothing but your bathing suit and rent or purchase any desired item: chair, umbrella, floating noodle, hacky sack, volleyball, beer, peanuts, ice-cream, fruit and water. All these amenities are easy to access, they aren’t in some ugly prefab building 3 footballs fields away.  Vendors are constantly walking around with yummy treats.  My impression is that people really like hanging out at the beach together and through committed trail and error they have perfected the process.

I love going to the ocean and am super lucky to live near it.  I don’t begrudge the need to bring everything with me, it beats not being there, but I wish I could grab a few Bolinhos de peixe at a grass hut before I go home.

*Hello Brazil! Thank you for visiting. How did you get here?