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July 24, 2012 / mmunlocked

McLuhan Birthday Celebration Every Year? Some Day in the “Centre” Promised in the 1960s?

By: Lynne

section updated July 24, 2012

Well, I sincerely hope that the McLuhan Legacy Network will be repeating the successful event of this past July 21 for years to come–in conjunction with the University of St Michael’s College, UToronto and The McLuhan Estate! AND a growing number of other organizations and institutions, of course!

FYI Dr Alex Kuskis’s announcement on the official MLN blog.

* * *

Left2right: Bob Logan presents McLuhan101 Award to Philip Marchand; Michael McLuhan expresses appreciation on behalf of the McLuhan Estate; The Cake [links to larger imgs coming up]

The Event

The celebrants were treated, by Michael McLuhan (Marshall McLuhan’s 6th child), to a first-time-ever presentation of photographs taken of Prof. Marshall McLuhan in his daily life by LIFE magazine. Journalist Jane Howard and photographer Henri Dauman were on assignment for two weeks, “shadowing” him in class, at meetings, with his family. The LIFE Mag article appeared in the Feb 25, 1966 issue.

Along with the facts and jokes, Michael gave the audience a taste of what it was like to be one of the McLuhans back in the 1960, including under the gaze of the world. His father habitually had over 50 books on the back of his fav’ couch (click) that he was in the habit of stretching out on and (re)scanning a good number of pages at a time–at an impressive speed and with remarkable recall; had a fondness for the family cat (click); but did not skate (click); nor did he shovel the snow (click), which was Michael’s job…

I cannot help but recall MM’s highly plausible adage, along the lines of “The more they write about you, the less there is of you.” Not surprisingly, he did not like being photographed, having to “pose,” though he went through the ordeal remarkably well, judging by the photos, apparently giving both photographer and journalist plenty of opportunity to show off their interpersonal ingenuity and professional stamina…

The McLuhan 2012 Award was presented to Philip Marchand by Dr Bob Logan, the engine behind the birth of MLN, and a faithful comet (correction of Marchand’s [some other kind of heavenly body] metaphor) in the “McLuhan Galaxy.” Michael McLuhan spoke on behalf of the McLuhan Estate, expressing their appreciation. The Thank-You speech by the Award recipient and his answers to a number of questions from the audience were authentic–period [post on book coming up].

The actual handing over of the Award was preceded by an introduction of Philip Marchand by Dr B.W. Powe. That was done graciously and honestly, through the eyes and heart of a long-term friend (and, if need be, debate partner). Over and above the impressive list of publications, awards,… the audience met the actual journalist who, having been McLuhan’s UToronto student (English MA graduate 1970), subsequently became a most relentless-and-principled defender of the man and his insights, including at the time when it was “bad politics” (sic) to even be associated with the name “McLuhan” (esp. in the late 1970s and 1980s). He even wrote the first (and reputedly best) biography 1985 – 1989, characteristically sensitively attuned to the protagonist, those with/around/about him, and the very human convolutions binding them.

COMPARE that situation to the over 200 events around the world last year, dedicated to the MM Centenary, and only a minimal “coverage” domestically! We humans are good at repeating ourselves–and not recognizing prophets in their own country 🙂 But check out the “data” for one of Bob Logan’s presentations during McLuhan’s week in Toronto last year, specifically on MM predictions.

So, pulling the historically loose threads from the background MM’s contemporaries made, and we continue, in order to foreground McLuhan as the figure he actually was/is, rather than what may have been incorrectly assigned to him or read into his writings,

LET ME BOOKMARK: The Centre for Culture and Technology promised to McLuhan is yet to be built–the building, and, even more crucially, its people. The imaginative plans architects submitted are on file at the McLuhan Estate, Michael McLuhan says.

It was an architect that brought up at the event McLuhan’s often quoted comment on the news that, for lack of funds, the “Centre” UToronto had promised him, reportedly to keep him from moving to Fordham, NY, could not be built, after all: “… we should be concentrating upon building an intellectual identity, rather than a physical one.”

Of the choices he was given (of “available” campus buildings) MM opted for the little “Coach House” (see image montaged into the “key” of the “McLuhan Unlocked” image–sidebar).

My (and I’m sure others’) recurring thought has been, Should we be reading McLuhan’s vision into that little building,

  • when the country does have the funds for a physical Centre, and
  • is certainly capable of inviting, and fostering, the requisite minds for
  • the proper fulfillment of a long-overdue promise?!

strike that,

  • humans-technologies-media-world… project that cannot wait?!!!

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