#53- The Medium is the Massage
The medium is the… massage?
In 1967, Marshall McLuhan teamed up with graphic designer Quentin Fiore to write The Medium is the Massage, a short 160-page picture book that offers us a glimpse as to how the medium “shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action,” of work and leisure.
Karl points out, “to say the media is the massage means the medium, this conceptional world, is massaging you— it’s rhetoric.”
Have societies always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which we communicate or by the content of the communication?
This nonconventional book is a nice companion piece to Bernays’ Propaganda and part of our “Modern Sophists” podcast series.
Tune in to this week’s episode and discover how media can touch our character formation, our public and private lives, even our sentimentality versus hard-head clarity.
- Introduction to The Medium is the Massage and John Senior and the Restoration of Realism
- The rise of Symbolism and Postmodernism
- The problem when the medium in which you receive messages is more important and has a bigger effect on you than the message itself.
- Discussion of the Newtonian world view
- The author’s view on the family circle and the ‘world pool’
- The duo do a brief survey of logic
- Karl talks about Edith Stein
- Discussion of the way media works as environments
- What are acceptable mediums?
- Podcasting vs radio
- James Joyce and Mashall’s overlap
- Discussion of youth fiction in present day
- “…find the core of Western civilization, it’s self-reflection and criticism.”
- What Scott and Karl are reading next
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned In The Podcast
- The Medium is the Massage
- John Senior and the Restoration of Realism
- Edith Stein
- Sextus Empiricus
- Dean Koontz
- John Cage
- Jeremy Bentham
- James Joyce
- “The Robbers Cave Experiment”
- Lord of the Flies
- “Heiligenstadt Testament” Podcast
Scott Hambrick: I’m Scott Hambrick.
Karl Schudt: I’m Karl Schudt.
Scott Hambrick: Today, we’re going to talk about Marshall McLuhan’s, weird little book called The Medium is the Massage. He said in some speeches and some other essays that the “medium is the message” but that’s not the title of this book although it is the idea behind the book. I’m reading a book called John Senior and the Restoration of Realism. John Senior was one of the founders of the Integrated Humanities program at the University of Kansas, in the 70s, which was a program similar to the Great Books program, an important guy to me and others and this is about his life. This is a little chunk that John Senior wrote, “The immediate practical purpose of drinking a cup of coffee is to wash the biscuit down. It’s proximate, ethical purpose is the intimate communion of say, cowboys, standing around the sullen campfire in a drenching rain, water curling off Stetsons over slickers, splashing on the rouse of spurs as they draw the bitter liquid down their several throats into the single moral belly of their comradeship. The remote political purpose of coffee at the campfire is the making of Americans, born on the frontier: free, frank, friendly, touchy about honor, despiser of fences, lover of horses, worshippers of eagles and women. The ultimate purpose is spiritual for a boy to drink a can of coffee with cowboys in the rain is as Odysseus said of Alcinous’ banquet, “something like perfection.” He’s so good.
Karl Schudt: Yeah!
Scott Hambrick: “Free, frank, friendly.”
Karl Schudt: It reminds of Walker Percy’s article on “Bourbon,” which we should take a look at some time.
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, we should do that. What about this alliteration? “Drink a can of coffee with cowboys.”
Karl Schudt: It’s like Goblin and the Green Knight.
Scott Hambrick: It’s so good.
Karl Schudt: I’m sure he did that on purpose.
Scott Hambrick: He did everything on purpose. That’s a good book, I’ve really been enjoying that.
Karl Schudt: How do we link that with The Medium is the Massage?
Scott Hambrick: We can do that without making this thing about two books, the title of it is The Restoration of Realism and John Senior was worried about the rise of Symbolism and Post- modernism and people divorcing themselves from reality. For example, Senior says that we work not like Calvinists, like that idle hands are the devil’s workshop or that idle is good in and of itself but that we work so that we can closely align our minds with reality. When you manipulate things in space and create things at work, you become more in tune with what is good, beautiful, and true.
Karl Schudt: That’s an important point. Realism doesn’t mean pessimism. In philosophical terms that means you believe in something that’s real and you can have idealists; (who are actually Realists) like people think Plato was, because they think there’s something real. It’s just the ideas. Or you could be a moderate Realist like Thomas or Aristotle or you could be a Nominalist or some other kind of thing which thinks there isn’t anything real. There’s something that’s real, we’re pointing to something, and you can differ on how you can get to it and how you know it and even what it is but that there’s something that we’re aiming at. I’d say that makes you a realist.
Scott Hambrick: McLuhan says that the “medium is the message” and that the medium in which you receive messages is more important and has a bigger effect on you than the message itself. If there was a headline in the newspaper or on Walter Cronkite’s evening news show or on the internet, the exact same headline would have a different effect on the receiver of that message based on where the message was relayed to them. I don’t know that he’s wrong about that, but I would say that is contra Realism. These media, while they exist, aren’t concretely real like mending a fence or breaking a horse or all those things that were interesting to JS.
Karl Schudt: There’s a lot to like in this book, it’s a picture book.
Scott Hambrick: It’s a late 60s early 70s collage.
Karl Schudt: ’67 I think is when it’s written, and it’s filled with pictures, and there’s some nudity in it if you’re worried about such things.
Scott Hambrick: Not gratuitous but lewd, I wouldn’t say.
Karl Schudt: There’s a lot about the medium that will be insightful to you and if you are like me it will be scary to you, but you might think he’s not wrong. He’s enthusiastic about the young people being ambitious and that they are doing the right thing when the “old” people aren’t. This is 1967 and all these young people are now old people so we’ll see if they worked out like he hoped they would. I want to go to the very end, on page 146, this is where we run into difficulties with this kind of Nominalism, the names make the things. Things are just names, that’s my caricature of Nominalism. On page 146 he says, “The Newtonian god, the god who made a clock-like universe, wound it and withdrew, died a long time ago. This is what Nietzsche meant and this is the god who’s being observed. Anyone who’s looking around for a simulated icon of the deity and Newtonian guys, might well be disappointed. The phrase, ‘god is dead’ applies aptly, correctly, validly to the Newtonian universe, which is dead. The ground rule of that universe upon which so much of our Western world is built has dissolved.” The Newtonian world is dead, he says. Fine. What does he mean by that?
Scott Hambrick: Right. Does gravity still not pull?
Karl Schudt: Exactly! What does he mean when he says the “Newtonian universe is dead?” I’m still going to build a bridge the same way.
Scott Hambrick: It might have been rejected but I don’t think it’s dead. I think it holds but it might be ignored.
Karl Schudt: The Newtonian world view is wrong but we’re not going anywhere near the speed of light, so we don’t need to bring in relativistic effects. For our parts in the Newtonian universe, the math is good enough and easy enough for us to do. It’s not quite right but it’s right and this stuff bugs me- you can’t talk away gravity. It’s like when Wile E. Coyote goes off the cliff and he’s just standing there in the air and then looks down and he notices that he’s standing in the air and then he falls.
Scott Hambrick: He realizes that objects like him fall.
Karl Schudt: That’s Marshall McLuhan, or I wonder if that is his meaning? The medium is so much the massage, that I can make Newton be incorrect?
Scott Hambrick: He says, on the very back of the book, “All media works us over, completely.” I think some of his bedrock would say that ideas and truth are nearly formulations of the mind and that the media changes the human mind and therefore the medium changes the truth. He might split hairs with me and say something like it changes knowledge. For him, the delivery method has an affect on knowledge and truth claims. I agree, to some extent. When I was a kid, everybody’s dad had an Atlas under the seat of the car or a map in the glove box, I used to love to look at maps. As a result, I’ve got a very good orientation for my town and my state and my country- when I started driving, I could get around. I have a seventeen year-old who’s been driving around for awhile and I think, to her, that our town is a series of paths between discrete locations. If she gets off the path, she doesn’t know how to get to the place she’s trying to get to. The fact that there was a printed map was an aid to my cognition, it changed the way I saw my city. The fact that my daughter does not have a map and has google maps, which isn’t a fucking map by the way, has changed the way her mind works. This has happened over and over and over again. Writing is transhumanism, I don’t have to remember it if I can write it down, it’s an aid to memory. I know the media does something to us, but I don’t think it changes what’s true and real.
Karl Schudt: I wonder if we could pin Marshall McLuhan down and ask him if he honestly disbelieves in natural laws. I can’t speak for him, but I would say he probably doesn’t mean that. There’s a discussion, about Protagoras who says something similar, “Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, of things that are not that they are not.” What does he mean by that?
Scott Hambrick: That sounds like Descartes.
Karl Schudt: Descartes is a Realist, I think? That’s another topic that we can talk about someday. I put him in the Realist camp, Protagoras I don’t know. Socrates tries to save him and there’s a joke about Protagoras sticking his head up out of the dirt and defending himself. Socrates says, “What I really meant is rhetoric is the measure of all things.” It’s a statement about power and not about reality. Maybe we take Marshall McLuhan that way too? This is a statement about power, it’s a statement about how people know things and perceive things, but not necessarily a statement about gravity.
Scott Hambrick: I think you may have him right? This is a weird book. He doesn’t nail down his beliefs in here and it’s hard to see it, it’s a kind of performance art. On page 8, Karl, he says, “The older training of observation has become quite irrelevant in this new time; because it’s based on psychological responses and concepts conditioned by the former technology, mechanization…” There’s a lot in here and I don’t know if I jive with a lot of his assumptions. He doesn’t think that we even have to serve anymore. We are delivered these messages and what matters is what’s delivered to you and how you receive it. He rejects observation at this point.
Karl Schudt: Reject might be strong, but it just doesn’t happen anymore.
Scott Hambrick: You’re right, he says, “irrelevant,”
Karl Schudt: Because the medium has changed. I wrote a note in my book to comment on, and on page 8 at the end of the first paragraph, “Everything is changing. You, your family, your neighborhood, your education, your job, your govt, your relation to others, and they’re changing dramatically.” And my comment to that was “nuts!” He might be right but in his description, he seems to make the descriptive be the moral; that everything is changing, and it should change, and you should get along with it. I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. On page 14 he makes a reasonably true statement about the family, “The family circle is wide and the ‘world pool’ (he alters the meaning of some terms such as when ‘whirlpool’ becomes ‘world pool’ and ‘kaleidoscope’ becomes ‘Collide (as to crash into something) a scope,’” and you can tell he’s a James Joyce fan. “The world pool of information fathered by electric media; movies, tv, tele star, flight, far surpasses any possible influence mom and dad can now bring to bear. Character is no longer shaped by only two earnest, fumbling experts. Now all the world’s a ‘sage’.”
Scott Hambrick: I wrote, underneath that, “horrific.”
Karl Schudt: I wrote, “oh, lord.” It’s probably true for most people.
Scott Hambrick: If you and your spouse work and you send your kids to the “government” education, minimum detainment facility, and then they have soccer practice and they have piano lessons, and they have to do their homework. How much time are you transmitting knowledge to your progeny in a given week?
Karl Schudt: “All the world’s a sage.” What he’s saying is that all the world is raising your kid. How do you feel about that? That is perhaps a fact of life but is not something that necessarily has to be. For McLuhan it’s inevitable.
Scott Hambrick: That’s how we’re acting. Karl, I’m interested in this guy’s take on metaphysics (he’s driving me nuts). Let’s go back to page 10, he says, “Our time is a time for crossing barriers, for erasing old categories, for probing around.” Can you erase old categories? I know he’s not being strictly Aristotelian here, but I don’t think he’s being flippant with his message and throwing around the word ‘category.’ There are classes of things, right?
Karl Schudt: It depends how you define category. Is a category something like substance, accident, place, relation or whatever the list that Aristotle gives? Or, is it the chart that Kant steals but it’s in his book?
Scott Hambrick: Or even more loosely, like when you do a brief survey of logic from a basic reference like a Logic for Dummies book: there will be category errors that ensure you are making arguments about the same thing in the same respect. If you don’t do that you could make a category error.
Karl Schudt: There are three possibilities, right off the bat, that I see. Categories are either actual classes of things, and a class of a thing is a durable thing, or that it is a mental category where you see everything at face value to a rational being. Or they are made up, not necessarily by the category committee but they are made up by the culture and the people. We see things the way we see them, and I think that third answer is where Marshall McLuhan is and it’s seductive because it seems like that sort of thing happens. There are things that people notice because everybody notices them.
Scott Hambrick: I would say that the contents of the category can change and that it was never true, it was never right.
Karl Schudt: One of my favorite philosophers is Edith Stein. She makes a distinction in her metaphysics book between essences and the sorts of things that grow out of essences and then concepts. A concept can be made up, but an essence is something discovered. She talked about literary characters like creating Harry Potter and he can have some characteristics, but you made him up. When you look at a triangle, you don’t make it up, you discover it. Concepts, categories, and here’s some of my weird Platonism, and what she calls “wesenheiten” or essentialities; they are mental in that they are not real, but they are in a different category than the mental category. You have mental things like Harry Potter, then you have physical things, and you have a third category. Where Plato gets messed up, she says, is he can’t figure out where ideas exist in the material world. They exist like ideas exist and we discover them. Let me go back to McLuhan. The world of concepts is shaped by the culture; there are things that people accept now as usual and ordinary that some time ago, things are moving so fast, the conceptual world and what we think about stuff is changing a whole lot but does that have anything to do with the world of essences, the world of ideas, the things that actually are.
Scott Hambrick: There’s some “Karl” stuff; the world of ideas and the things that actually are. I’ve got to get a spoon so that I can eat that. I bristle against this problem all the time: people talk about society all the time like it’s something that you can put your finger on, or put a lasso around, or measure it and it’s not. It’s a useful idea to discuss people’s behavior in aggregate, maybe, but it’s a slippery slope. I can imagine a time in the past when, if you said “society” to someone they would think about the wealthy. In the 50s they would think about their immediate community like the people they played cards with and the ladies at church and the city council. Now, for a lot of people, that would encompass every living person in the world because of this rise of globalism. How good is that concept if you can’t “pin the tail on the donkey”?
Karl Schudt: I don’t think it ends up being a concept of rhetoric. It’s a tool; the medium is the massage. What happens during a massage? You make people feel a certain way- “align their chakras.” To say the “medium is the massage” was a purposeful tactic. To say the conceptual world is “massaging” you is a tool of rhetoric and I think he’s right about that.
Scott Hambrick: I didn’t say this earlier on, but I see this is a part of our series of propaganda with Bernays. This seems to be part of the modern sophists.
Karl Schudt: The cool part about the pictures is that you can pause on them and see what’s going on in them and then when you go watch tv and you see all the commercials- know that you are being manipulated. I’m flipping through the book and looking at all the pictures and now maybe you’ll notice it. You know that this is happening to you, that people know the “medium is the massage” and the media is” massaging” you. I like the picture of the girl in the dress that reads “love” and the ‘o’ is cut out and you can see her belly button. That picture is doing something, right?
Scott Hambrick: It makes love a physical thing; it makes it about the body.
Karl Schudt: It centers it on a part of the body. They know what they’re doing. Media works us over completely. I don’t know about completely; let’s dissect that. Well, I would go back to the “us.” What is the “us?” Who is it working over?
Scott Hambrick: Most people.
Karl Schudt: Human beings. What’s a human being? What is a human? That’s where we’re going to get back to the real and it doesn’t circle back around and changes what’s real. I think Marshall McLuhan drove his car as if Newtonian Physics worked.
Scott Hambrick: They always do.
Karl Schudt: Except for Sextus Empiricus. Have you heard about that guy? He was an early skeptic and he wouldn’t believe the report of his own eyes and he would never say anything and he had his graduate students lead him around so he wouldn’t fall in a well and he’d wag his finger and he wouldn’t say anything because he didn’t want to be wrong. He might have been honest or consistent.
Scott Hambrick: Let’s turn to page 18. There are many people who write and make keen observations and I really like a “hot take,” but these lesser authors- and McLuhan is a lesser author, he’s not Plato, he’s better than Dean Koontz.
Karl Schudt: I might fight you about that.
Scott Hambrick: These guys who make these keen observations aren’t always able to tie it together and make a whole of it, a coherent worldview of it. He’s got some great observations in 1967 and he says, “Today’s child is growing up absurd because he lives in two worlds and neither of them inclines him to grow up. Growing up, that is our new work and it is total, mere instruction that will not suffice.” The two worlds, for him, were the home environment and the electronic information environment. For him it was radio and tv, but I think more tv. I think that’s more true than it’s ever been- childhood is more and more absurd because it isn’t based in reality, the kids do grow up in at least two worlds- the online world with texting and social media, and there’s the school world which is a weird thing in and of itself, and if we’re lucky there’s a family world too. Adolescence and childhood does seem to be getting longer and longer and longer and we continue to instruct people but that we’re not shepherding them into adulthood. We’re not helping our kids move into adulthood and it worries me.
Karl Schudt: It worries me too. I don’t know that it’s possible without some retrenching: descriptively- he’s right, morally- I’m not so sure. If you go to page 22, he says, “The public consents of a great consensus of separate and distinct viewpoints is finished.” If you go back to page 12, he says, “The old traditional ideas of private, isolated thoughts and actions are seriously threatened by new methods of instantaneous electric information are true.” There are no more private, isolated thoughts.
Scott Hambrick: Inner life is jeopardized.
Karl Schudt: There are no viewpoints or well-thought out world views. There are impressions and images and memes and “hot takes.” I was thinking of Heraclitus when I read this too- if everything is flux, where do you stand and how do you raise a kid? He’s the one who brought up the problem of raising kids. How do you raise a kid if everything’s in flux? Heraclitus says, “You can’t dip your ore in the same river twice.” Here’s my idea- why don’t you step out of the river.
Scott Hambrick: Right, if all media works us over completely and these difficulties with childhood and childrearing exist you need to be very, very careful about the media that you’re bringing into your lives. At the bottom of page 20, he says, “‘Come into my parlor,’ said the computer to the specialist.”
Karl Schudt: That’s the spider and the fly. So, the computer is seductive to the specialist.
Scott Hambrick: And will bind you up in silken chains and suck all the blood out of you.
Karl Schudt: I really like the picture on page 21 which is a series of noses, but at first glance it looks like a computer chip but it’s a line of noses and some other facial features. This is the sort of thing that you can do with media (if you have this book you can look at it and it looks very mechanical but it’s an illusion and it’s humans mating with a machine).
Scott Hambrick: He’s interested in symbolism, he’s got his hot takes, and I think he’s very off-base with many things. On page 24, he says, “There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” That’s a very American outlook. If we think about it long enough we can affect it like we have our hand on the rudder: we can change things and there is nothing that’s inevitable. Nothing that we do has an inevitable outcome, we’re always in control of it if you just think about it long enough and you put enough Yankee ingenuity you think you’ll fix it. I don’t think that’s true, sometimes you can’t put all the chicken’s back in the barn.
Karl Schudt: This avalanche of progress toward the new world and we feel like we have to do it. I would suggest to Marshall that you don’t need all this stuff and you could simply step out of the river and let it go it’s way, and partake of less media or be more selective, and make room (he says there are no private thoughts anymore) he might be right. My advice is to; step out of the river, don’t share your life on social media so that you can have a private thought.
Scott Hambrick: So that you can keep it.
Karl Schudt: My takeaway from this, on page 27, is that there are a series of pictures that are referring to the senses, “The wheel is the extension of the foot.” “The book is an extension of the eye.”
Scott Hambrick: I don’t think that’s true.
Karl Schudt: The list continues; “clothing is an extension of the skin; electric circuitry is an extension of the central nervous system.” That’s interesting, so all of this stuff is supposedly an extension of your brain, that might in fact make you think differently, and it might shorten your attention span. I think that’s probably true. On page 41, he sums it up, “Media by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perception. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act the way we perceive the world. When these ratios change, men change.” I think that’s true- you talked about the map in the car, and think about how this would be different from what our grandparents knew when they didn’t have cars. They would have to get on a horse or find a train. It changes the way you think. If you have Wikipedia or perhaps info galactic, if you have access to all of the “facts” that the world has ever known, just by asking Siri or google or Alexa, I guess you don’t need to know them.
Scott Hambrick: To quote Marshall again, he says, “The wheel is an extension of the foot and that a book is an extension of the eye.” I don’t think that’s right. “The book is an extension of the mind.” I think of some of these things as instrumentation, I like to trust my sense data and I will trust sense data as I gaze through a microscope. I couldn’t see a bacteria like E. coli without a microscope but that would change my world view and it changes the scope of everything that can exist. Until you look at the microscope you have no idea that there are all these little creatures but even though it’s instrumentation, it works both ways. On page 26, he says, “All media works us over, completely.” This is where the blurb from the back of the page comes from, “They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they lead no part of us untouched, unaffected, and unaltered. The “medium is the massage,” any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without the knowledge of the way media works as environments.” I wrote underneath this, “I don’t want to be touched, affected, or altered.” I don’t. Am I a Luddite, Karl?
Karl Schudt: Let’s ask how you do that. I have two questions. Is that a good thing and how do I do it? I would like to have private thoughts and have them inside of my mind. I’d like to be able to think about stuff. It’s hard when I have things around me, poking at me, there will always be things; I have a family; they are always poking at me- I’m not a hermit. Who’s the guy who said, “you are what you eat?” It’s not quite true, but it kind of is. In a conversation between Socrates and Hippocrates, one says to the other, “Are you sure you want to let this guy into your soul?” Maybe you do want to be careful. McLuhan is pointing out all the ways that they get into your soul, in 1967. What if he wrote it now? It would be a two-minute YouTube video. I think you need to know so that you can decide for yourself the things that you need or don’t need. You can decide which things you want to do that allow you to be more yourself. Previously, I have mentioned why I like, as recreation, reading books because reading is still my activity when I read it.
Scott Hambrick: That was the question I was going to ask. Why is that medium okay with you but other ones aren’t?
Karl Schudt: Even there, it’s doing stuff. He has some insight here about how the phonetic alphabet changed us. I think that’s probably true. If you look in the Hebrew bible, the words for thinking and mind activity are quite often hearing words- “Hear o Israel.” In Greek, the words for thinking are visual.
Scott Hambrick: McLuhan, I think, is a visual learner because he says that the ear is mystical and that the eye is neutral. I don’t think that’s true- if we use the girl with the word “love” where the letter ‘o’ replaces her belly button, that causes our eye to steer us somewhere. I know he’s right about the phonetic alphabet. I’m sure you have thought about this, being the thoughtful guy that you are. Before there were words before there were emotional states, how could people have experienced the emotional state in a pre-language, hominid? What’s the variety of their experience like?
Karl Schudt: It was probably a bit different. You see Achilles, and Odysseus talking to his heart, telling it to buck up and he’s talking to a part of himself. It changes the way you think for example, if you have Freud in your mind you may have Freudian categories; you might think about your id or your super ego. Maybe you need to go out and have coffee with the cowboys and not think so much about that stuff.
Scott Hambrick: Without language it’s hard to think about dogs, for example, as an abstraction. You could think about the dog that was right in front of you or one that you heard bark but to think about “dog” as an abstract would be difficult to do that. Without the phonetic alphabet to make somebody think about dogs like you would if they weren’t there with you to see the dog. It connected people’s consciences in a way that it hadn’t before. But for Karl, that’s an acceptable medium.
Karl Schudt: It’s more acceptable. I watch movies and listen to music, I’m a child of the age too but I deeply consider my choices and I think that others should also take a moment to consider their choices as well before continuing on. There are things that I personally think are better like reading books and having conversations with a live person.
Scott Hambrick: I think that your personal reasons are better than some of these newer things goes back to the idea of “man against society” and that morality may have had an opportunity to catch up with those things.
Karl Schudt: Sure. If we had a better idea of what vicious book-reading would be than we have about vicious phone use. I want to make an analogy with food: obesity is a modern problem and so is the easy availability of all the sugars. We haven’t figured it out yet, so we have a hard time eating in moderation. Does that analogy limp or does it work?
Scott Hambrick: We like books and we like reading but we probably don’t like reading People Magazine which to us is like sugar, the processed sugar, the junk food of reading.
Karl Schudt: I think performing music is better than listening to it.
Scott Hambrick: I feel the same way about playing sports. Playing a sport badly is infinitely better than watching it. More of these keen observations this guy makes. On Page 61, he says, “The new feeling that people have about guilt is not something that can be privately assigned to some individual but is something shared by everybody in some mysterious way.” I wrote, “how did he know?”
Karl Schudt: If there’s no individual then there’s no individual to blame.
Scott Hambrick: But me being who I am, with my mind, I would concede and say that guilt is gone but McLuhan thinks that it will be diffuse throughout the entire group.
Karl Schudt: So, the whole group has done things wrong- it’s a “structures” of injustice in society. Well there’s no individual that you can blame anymore, and you just have to blame the whole thing because there is only the whole thing. We are all one big blob of media consumers, we’re all fish in the river.
Scott Hambrick: Just before that he says, “A cell, for sitters to sit in…” Monks used to sit in a cell, but it wasn’t a prison, it’s where they had private thoughts and later it changed. The idea of detention in a closed space as a form of punitive, corrective action seems to have come very much in the 13th and 14th centuries. The time and perspective of pictorial space is developing our western world. The whole concept of enclosure as a means of constraint, as a means of classifying doesn’t work as well in our electronic world.” My comment to that is, “other than the danger, prison doesn’t seem that bad to me (like getting shanked, it doesn’t sound too bad).”
Karl Schudt: This is one of those little gems of insight, it may make you think about when prison became a “thing.” It used to be that in the “old days” you could kill somebody and you’d have to pay a fine (which is called a weregild) to be released but if you could pay it then you were free, it was a Salic law of the Franks.
Scott Hambrick: Later than that, in England, they began the death penalty. There were some surprisingly minor infractions that could get a person hanged.
Karl Schudt: Do you remember what Draco said about that? They asked him why he gave so many death penalties to so many penalties. He said, “The minor ones deserve it and I don’t have anything worse for the major ones.” I think it’s funny that Draco, the historical boogeyman, can make a joke.
Scott Hambrick: It’s where “Draconian” punishments come from.
Karl Schudt: For me, the big thing is that all of this stuff is happening but is it a way that things have to be going? I hope not. He has a page that is nearly blank, it’s a series of pictures around page 74 or 75 and he shows an apparently classical scene cut off with only half the page showing where the bottom half has been cut off and only the top half has an image. It looks like it might have been taken out of Athens, then there is a page that is nearly completely blank. He writes, “Environments are invisible, their ground world’s pervasive structures and overall patterns allieved easy perception.” Then he shows an entire picture and it’s of the Fairmount Waterworks in Philadelphia- it’s not classical Athens. My thought about “the environments are invisible,” is “frogs in pots.” Everybody knows that story and apparently you can boil a frog in a pot… you don’t notice the things around you. This means that you have to stop and think about your surroundings. This leads me to the challenge of McLuhan saying that environments are invisible and their overall patterns of allieved perception and I want to see it and know it. My conversation with a friend of mine, as Illinois has legalized recreational marijuana, and he asks me if I’m going to try it. I don’t want to try it because I want to see the world the way it is. I want to know what the environment is, I want to know what’s going on. McLuhan shows a picture of the emperor and I want to see that the emperor is naked. Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody? When you hear the story of the Emperor’s new clothes well, everybody wants to be a part of the intelligent environment and nobody wants to be left out. On page 88, he says, “The poet, the artist, the sleuth, whoever sharpens our perspective, tends to be anti-social. Rarely well-adjusted, he cannot go along with currents and trends. I think I would rather be him. The anti-social brat, unaccustomed to the environment clearly saw that the emperor ain’t got nothing on. The new environment was clearly visible to him.”
Scott Hambrick: He’s very interested in the youth being able to see the environment. I don’t think he’s necessarily right about that.
Karl Schudt: They might be the most eager to jump into the new environment.
Scott Hambrick: They just think it’s the environment, they don’t know it’s new.
Karl Schudt: They’re the frog. It’s always been this way. If your lifespan is ten or twelve years, you would never know any internet. You would never know YouTube.
Scott Hambrick: It was so good. The speed with which things happen- he talks about media and the visual effects and the auditory effects, but he also talks about the speed of which things move. He tells a story about how George Washington once remarked, “We hadn’t heard from Benjamin Franklin in Paris this year, we should write him a letter.” Things happen awfully fast that creates an urgency that doesn’t seem helpful. The young people don’t know that things happen so much faster than they used to.
Karl Schudt: He makes some insightful observations. Should the listeners read it?
Scott Hambrick: Yeah, it’s a quick read.
Karl Schudt: I think it’s worth having read. ON page 92, about the difference about entertainment of 19th century novels (The Golden Age of novels which are long and involved, they are TLDR- too long, didn’t read for us) and the novels of now are that we have shorter entertainments. He says, “Older societies thrived on purely literary plots, they demanded storylines. Today’s humor on the country has no storyline, has no secrets; it’s usually a compressed overlay of stories.” My thought is that we’ve gone further than that where we don’t have jokes anymore: we have “fails,” I guess. Henny Youngman setting up a joke- probably the written word ruined the epic. Nobody wrote epic poetry after Homer and he was the last one and maybe the first one to get written down. All you have are plays, there is no long form epic anymore. Virgil and Dante are somewhat epic but general entertainment gets shorter.
Scott Hambrick: The meter and rhyme goes away because the memorization is not important. It changed things and is that bad?
Karl Schudt: Let’s imagine that two people are in front of us and let’s say they are the “just man” and the ‘unjust man” and whichever man is capable of keeping the Iliad in his mind vs. somebody who can do a cool dance on tic toc is more of a person who you would want to be. I think I’d rather have more that I could enjoy such as an epic poem, yet still think that a tic toc video is entertaining. I’d rather be the sort that can do the better things because there’s more to it, and objectively it’s better. That’s my opinion but if you could do both, which one would you rather do? The person who chooses to do the minimal thing isn’t a good judge.
Scott Hambrick: If you have a material condition that you live in, and you have everything that exists, this rate of change continues and may even accelerates, and 10 percent of stuff changes every two years and fifteen years from now you have a kid, and fifteen percent of your experience will be irrelevant to your kid. What would your grandparents tell you about navigating your podcast, your Online Great Books business, and internet trolls, and social media consumption by your children, and the state of the public schools, the list goes on and on. They might have something wise and virtuous and good to say about those things but our ability to relate to our kids and transmit our knowledge to them reduces as the rate of change in everything goes up. At some point you are unable to transmit your culture to your own kids.
Karl Schudt: If all media work us over completely, let’s ask the question of what is “us.” What are “we,” “what is a human being?” A human being is not completely created by the culture. A human being has, for the most part, two eyes, two ears, has a mind that works in a particular way, logic is not something that changes. I know some people say it does, but they are wrong.
Scott Hambrick: Hambrick and Schudt believe that logic is “a priori,” it exists.
Karl Schudt: There is something there, there is a self there, there is a human there so, the culture may do whatever the culture wants (except that it doesn’t want anything) but there is always the possibility of stepping out of that. We don’t have the original Heraclitus, so we don’t know exactly what he meant. The river is there, there’s a whole lot of things that change.
Scott Hambrick: The conditions of the river are never the same.
Karl Schudt: But the river runs in the banks, there’s a place to stand and dip your foot in the river.
Scott Hambrick: You and I can stand athwart in all of this and yell stop because we know that it’s moving. But back to the frog-boiling thing- a twelve year old might not.
Karl Schudt: A twelve year old raised conventionally might not know that.
Scott Hambrick: Anybody that encourages you to be more aware of your surroundings and to notice that things are changing, you might not know how to get from one place to another because you have never been taught to look at a map etc. It sounds like the ramblings of a madman to them.
Karl Schudt: I’m wondering if there is a Zarathustra coming down the mountain, in Nietzsche’s big book, and making that be you.
Scott Hambrick: Maybe the kids aren’t wrong. There is the “ok, Boomer” meme.
Karl Schudt: Like “ok, Homer.”
Scott Hambrick: Economic realities have changed, the workplace has changed and the Boomers, in that meme, have a rosier outlook on things than they probably should. They think still, that you need to have a firm handshake, get a job and keep it, buy the biggest house you can buy, go to college and everything is going to be ok. It’s rosier than it needs to be. Mine may be more negative than it needs to be, but it goes the other way too. Everything’s changing so quickly, and the media is coming at us. You and I were talking about what’s next as far as the next big social media outlet is. We try to spread the word about Online Great Books and try to get people to read but what’s next? Facebook’s probably not it, twitter’s probably not it, podcasts may not be in the future as well. That’s an admission that there’s always a new medium and it’s coming. What is it? I’m tired of it.
Karl Schudt: What was my answer?
Scott Hambrick: You said that it’s going to be more like it used to be with person-to-person interaction, and I agree, it’s going to be more like it used to be. It’s going to be postcards; it might be conferences.
Karl Schudt: Isn’t that what we’re doing?
Scott Hambrick: With the podcast?
Karl Schudt: You and I are having a conversation that our listeners listen in, and we are very thankful. At Online Great Books, we send out a book and then we sit down and talk about it. We’re using the media because we aren’t in the same room together. We’re not sending memes at each other, it’s as if we’re sitting around a table talking. If we could be at a table talking it would be better but it’s person-to-person that we achieve to do.
Scott Hambrick: When I podcast, in my mind I am like a.m. talk-radio, but I listened to a lot of a.m talk-radio when I was a kid. The media is different, and it’s delivered via earbud, right into somebody’s brain, right into their skull. As a result of that it’s much more intimate and every now and then I run into somebody who listens to one of the shows that I’m on and they really feel like we have a personal relationship because I’ve been talking right into their head for hours. It’s very intimate.
Karl Schudt: I think it’s a brilliant book and I recommend reading it; there’s a whole lot of true stuff in it about media. I don’t want to just stand and be the angry old man saying, “get off my lawn.” I do want to slow down a little bit because what the media is doing isn’t necessarily good. The kids might not be alright, Marshall. Let’s slow down a little bit, pick and choose. Just because something’s new, give it a test and give it time before you may get swept up in the current. There’s a line Chesterton had about liturgical reform, it was translated into English- and sit on it for three hundred years and then you might make another change.
Scott Hambrick: I wouldn’t want to do anything hasty.
Karl Schudt: Right, don’t be hasty. Not everything’s good. How do you know if it’s good if you’re so quick to adopt it? Be a little bit slower. Maybe it is good, maybe podcasts are good? I listen to enough of them but test it and don’t be so eager to dive into it.
Scott Hambrick: Here’s how podcasts aren’t good.
Karl Schudt: Convince me.
Scott Hambrick: There are some things about them that need to be modified. I have found that some of our listeners, when discussing these short works which, (by-the-way, almost everything you and I have talked about in these podcasts could be read in about the time it takes to listen to the show. We haven’t read a bunch of giant stuff except for the Lord of the Rings) take it as a proxy for reading the darn thing. I’d rather they read it. Because it’s so intimate it seems ok having it mediated by us rather than going to a lecture. Because we listen to the podcast with our earbuds, we don’t listen to them most of the time on speakers, we do at our house sometimes but most of the time we listen to it on earbuds and we can have our ear-holes plugged up by that and somebody else’s voice instead of hearing the voices of the people around us who are more important than the voices in the podcast. It can crowd out real experience because you have hours of it in your pocket, it could be very easy to let that drown out the real experience.
Karl Schudt: So could a.m. radio.
Scott Hambrick: It sure did but I don’t think it was as pervasive because you couldn’t control the time and the content and people didn’t listen to it on headphones as much. When I was a kid, there was a clock-radio in the kitchen and we would listen to John Erling’s a.m. radio show on 740 a.m. on KRMG Tulsa, Ok, everyday while we all ate breakfast. We all did that, and it would have been a lot worse if mother had her headphones in listening to it while our mom zoned out.
Karl Schudt: But there are ways in which it’s better. I used to listen to Don Wade, and Roma on WLS, the world’s largest store. He has since died, I don’t know what happened to Roma.
Scott Hambrick: Don Imus died last week.
Karl Schudt: He did? I didn’t listen to him as much, my Don was Don Wade, and he was a cranky, old guy. His co-host was Roma, we found out about five years before the show ended that they were actually married so it’s just a husband and wife sitting and talking at us. News, weather, traffic all that stuff has to be done so no matter how involved he got on a topic he would have to stop the clock so, it’s not exactly a conversation but it’s a conversation punctuated by selling stuff and giving to you the stuff that’s important.
Scott Hambrick: John Erling did a pretty good a.m radio. He used to do a ski report in the winter and talk about the snowfall in the Tulsa mountains, which there were none. Every winter someone would call in because they would drive to Tulsa because of the ski reports only to find out there was no snow here. They would call and they were livid. He was good but I think we’re better. Back to McLuhan- he likes John Cage so McLuhan and I can’t be friends.
Karl Schudt: What page was that one on, I was angry at that quote.
Scott Hambrick: Page 119, he says, “John Cage,” he just quotes from John Cage.
Karl Schudt: John Cage is a modern musician, you might be familiar with his work “4 minutes and 33 seconds,” which consists of an orchestra sitting there in silence for 4 minutes and 33 seconds.
Scott Hambrick: Everybody should throw things at him.
Karl Schudt: You can find a recording of it.
Scott Hambrick: In the postmodern mind they think it’s so clever. I think it’s bullshit. He says, “John Cage says, ‘everyone is in the best seat.’” I wrote “that it’s impossible!” He says, “Everything we do is music.” I wrote next to that, “NO!” I went to the bathroom this morning and it wasn’t musical.
Karl Schudt: Mine was.
Scott Hambrick: Good.
Karl Schudt: Keep reading.
Scott Hambrick: “Theater takes place all the time when wherever one is, and art simply facilitates persuading one this is the case.” I disagree.
Karl Schudt: So, if you walk down the street and you talk to somebody, that’s theater. This is Jeremy Bentham “pushpin equals poetry” let’s go a little earlier than that. I’m going to read a little thing. This is John Cage, he says, “One must be disinterested except that a sound is a sound and a man is a man. Give up illusions about ideas of order, expressions of sentiment, and all the rest of our inherited aesthetic ‘claptrap.’ The highest purpose is to have no purpose at all, this puts one in accord with nature and her manner of operation.” He doesn’t think there’s anything there and he’s not a realist, he’s doubling back on himself because he says that a man is a man. What does he mean by that? A man is not a duck.
Scott Hambrick: He’s Cartesian, Karl.
Karl Schudt: I don’t think he’s Cartesian.
Scott Hambrick: His doubt is how he knows he’s real and he just has to doubt everything.
Karl Schudt: The difference is that Descartes affirms that there are things that are real. Cage is trying to stay in the doubtful stage.
Scott Hambrick: I think that’s an affront.
Karl Schudt: My favorite current band, Vulfpeck, made an album of silence to fund a tour, and they encouraged their fans to loop this album while they slept because they would get royalties for it. I think it’s funny.
Scott Hambrick: That’s clever but they aren’t doing what Cage is saying here, though. They didn’t say that this is art as much as anything else and that they are doing this aesthetic claptrap of our parents, that’s not what it is. Flip the page and he talks about James Joyce, yuck, sorry Malachy. Joyce says, “The prouts who will invent a writing there, ultimately is the poeta, still more learned, who discovered the rating there originally. That’s the point of the eschatology or book of kills reaches for now in so-and-so many counterpoint words. What can’t be coded can be decorded if an ear aye seize or what no eye ere grieved for. Now, the doctrine obtains we have occasioning cause causing effects and affects occasionally recausing altereffects.”
Karl Schudt: What in the hell does that mean?
Scott Hambrick: It’s an attempt to destroy language.
Karl Schudt: I wrote that “I did not read Ulysses,” I had it read to me on audible.
Scott Hambrick: I tried.
Karl Schudt: Joyce is obviously a genius, he’s obviously a really good writer, I think it’s a dead end though. Nobody writes like Joyce; it’s too hard.
Scott Hambrick: When I read this, “what can’t be coded can be decorded if an ear, aye seize…” He says ear and he spells ‘aye’ instead of eye, and then sees becomes “seize” and he’s doing all this word play, and it has to be read to get the meaning because he’s using different language origins and weird homophones to break up what he’s writing here. He’s just screwing with you and it’s all he’s doing.
Karl Schudt: It’s either 49 or 50 percent, my verdict on Ulysses, because I sort kind of liked it or I sort of kind of hated it but my impression when I got to the end was that I thought it was neat, but I’m never doing it again. My thoughts on Joyce are that you get to the end of the page, and he’s talking about James Joyce, “He discovered the means of living simultaneously in all cultural modes while quite conscious.” My note about that was “I’m not sure successful, in fact I think he wasn’t successful because nobody writes like that. Let’s say that all media works us over completely, Joyce tried to do it and it was interesting, but nobody does it, they go back to stories told in ordinary ways because it’s too hard to follow. In other words, going back to ordinary categories is going back to reality. James Joyce is an attempt to stretch that. Nobody listens to John Cage. How many people listen to Schoenberg for fun, outside of a music class? How many people look at a Jackson Pollock and have honest pleasure?
Scott Hambrick: Not even his mother.
Karl Schudt: Some of these ways to stretch the medium to massage you don’t work, it’s not always progress in this direction of everything all at once. He says, “all at onceness.”
Scott Hambrick: When I try to be generous with Joyce, I see that, in doing what he does, he points out limitations of language and written language and shows where it’s inconsistent and it’s difficult. We know that because we read hard books, I get it. I read After the Race and I get it.
Karl Schudt: Should we let Malachy try to convince us that Ulysses is good?
Scott Hambrick: Maybe that would be good pod, if anybody could do it he could. He’s read Propaganda, and he’ll just work me over totally and completely.
Karl Schudt: He’ll just sit there, and he won’t even have a book, he’ll just start quoting from it.
Scott Hambrick: Next page! Page 124, he says, “Science-fiction writing today presents situations that enable us to perceive the potential of new technologies.” Science-fiction has become almost entirely dystopian at this point. I love “The Jetsons” and that rosy, better living through science-fiction that started with Jules Verne and ended with “Star Trek.” It’s almost entirely dystopian at this point. Maybe the future of sci-fi, maybe the future of science and technology is dystopian and maybe they’re dead on. I like the feel-good stuff, Karl.
Karl Schudt: It’s interesting to me that youth fiction…
Scott Hambrick: It’s all dystopian with Hunger Games and all that. I remember reading, in either 7th or 8th grade, we had to read Lord of the Flies, (I hate that book) I remember questioning why the teachers made us read it.
Karl Schudt: Did you listen to Brett McKay’s thing on that experiment in Oklahoma to try to show that people will end up in this state of nature and kill each other?
Scott Hambrick: I did. It’s the “Art of Manliness” podcast and I think the episode is “The Robbers Cave Experiment.” There’s a state park called Robbers Cave and when we were Indian Territory, Karl, people would commit crimes, run over the border from Arkansas, and hide out in Robbers Cave.
Karl Schudt: That’s what I read in True Grit.
Scott Hambrick: That’s right and there’s a state park there and a guy who knew William Golding and read the book Lord of the Flies, was a psychologist and he wanted to show that it was true and he took a bunch of boys in what seemed like a summer camp and deliberately put them in situations to pit them against each other to cause a “Lord of the Flies” kind of thing to happen. It didn’t happen. But when I was a kid, we read that, and I questioned why the state school wanted us to read about these kids who want to kill each other. Is that how they teach kids to not kill each other?
Karl Schudt: Is that what they think of you?
Scott Hambrick: Is that what they think of us?
Karl Schudt: That if we weren’t in the school then it would be like “lord of the flies” and we would find the fat kid and eat him (or whatever they did to piggy).
Scott Hambrick: Everybody identifies with piggy because he’s overweight, he’s got glasses, he’s got a speech defect, there’s a lot wrong with him. There’s enough that doesn’t go right for him and a lot of kids can identify with him and as you read that you may think it’s weird. Meanwhile, I was reading King Arthur’s stories and I wanted to read that. McLuhan says, “Television completes the cycle of the human sensorium.” I almost threw the book. The sensorium is the sum of the things that you can sense (it’s kind of why I like Charity). There is no way in the world that the television completes the cycle of human sensorium, if nothing it short-circuits it and ends it.
Karl Schudt: The whole paragraph, “with the omnipresent ear and the moving eye, we’ve abolished writing. The specialized acoustic, visual metaphor that established the dynamics of western civilization.” I think he’s pleased with this, but I wrote, “stop! Are we forced? Do you have to give up writing? Do you have to give up Western Civilization? Do you have to just keep floating along? You might be able to get out and say, “you people do what you want, I’m going to read a book.”
Scott Hambrick: Buck Owens said, “Stop the world and let me off.” Any given person doesn’t have to watch “Breaking Bad” or whatever or take in the media but the “us” thing in that “all media works ‘us’ over completely” that part happens when watching “Breaking Bad” because it’s easier than reading the screenplay of ‘Breaking Bad.” It seems like the “us” the larger group of people are going to go on that path of least resistance. In my map example, it takes more work to memorize all the address and the street numbers and everything, so you know exactly where a place is wherever you are than to put it into google maps. We tend to take that path of least resistance so when the television is there, even though any one of us could potentially opt out, by and large people aren’t. We are in a post-literate society, lots of people can read but they would rather get it through a video or an audio-book format, and reading is way down on the list of people’s preferred media. Is that good? Should we let them have these fewer resistant methods for information?
Karl Schudt: My reason why I think it’s not good is because it’s a whole lot of people saying that the emperor has wonderful clothing. It’s too uncritical. Emmet and I agree on if you wanted to find the core of Western civilization, it’s self-reflection and criticism. That’s one of the real common things in my real big shelf of the great books is that it starts with Achilles complaining to Agamemnon and then complaining to the gods and then the gods saying that Achilles doesn’t know anything and that it’s always his fault. It’s always looking back at itself and being critical. The medium that McLuhan is talking about is that you’re not critical and that you’re floating with it and it’s working you over completely because you’re letting it. I would rather that you not. Dorothy Sayers talks about exactly the same problem. She worked in media too and her essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” which I recommend you read, is about the use of words against people. The way out for her is the liberal arts, the trivium, learning how to think, learning how rhetoric is used and how you can defend against it. For me, that’s a big use of this very strange book, to sit and think about all the ways to defend myself. He’s got a newspaper picture in the end, he’s got the lady reading Dick and Jane to the kids, and the “New York Times” headline which describes a power failure taking the Northeast, and then another segment about how Johnson restates goals in Vietnam. Which is the more important story? The “Times” told you that the one in the bigger type was the more important one and so learning that these sort of things happen, is the defense. I think that’s what we ought to do. Realize that it’s mental combat out there and you need to be armed.
Scott Hambrick: There’s probably an active thing we can do too like understanding the medium and apply Bernays’ ideas about propaganda within selected media to cause something good to come about. That’s’ the best case but for people to consciously make the good come about would require that they trained in the good, that they had a notion of what the good was and that when they drew back the bow they would know where the target was. It’s tough. He says that “Art is anything you can get away with.” McLuhan and I are not friends.
Karl Schudt: It’s next to the statue of a woman with people walking in and out of her private parts. I’m not making this up, this is an 82 foot long by 20 foot tall sculpture in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. It’s a woman, flat on her back, naked with people cued up to walk into her abdomen.
Scott Hambrick: It’s highly stylized, it’s not a lurid genital but it’s still gross.
Karl Schudt: I don’t think that’s art, it’s a thing, but I don’t think everything is art. I think art is elevated, it’s trying to be better, it’s trying to be more beautiful. There’s a beautiful, a true, and a good and it’s trying to get closer to it. I realize that makes me a reactionary, but I don’t care.
Scott Hambrick: In 1993, Karl, I went to the Nelson-Atkins museum in Kansas City, MO. On one floor is the modern art collection and they had an exhibit by somebody (and it’s pre cell phone so I don’t have a picture of it and I can’t remember who it was) but there was a pedestal and the top of it was 18” x 18” and there was a bowl and a spoon and the inside of the bowl and the concave surface of the spoon were both lined with rabbit fur. I looked at it and it almost made me gag, and I thought it wasn’t’ art like when someone wipes a booger on your windshield is what that was.
Karl Schudt: Like going to the open-mic with an out of tune guitar and play.
Scott Hambrick: I’m going to eat avocado toast and drink a latte. Deconstructed the whole thing and exposed it for what it is.
Karl Schudt: Maybe I’ll play it upside down and backwards.
Scott Hambrick: I went to an open-mic here in Tulsa in ’91 and when it was my time to get up there I did “Okie Muskogee” in spoken word and people threw things at me. I had some friends who did interpretive dance at the same time and I think the crowd thought we were making fun of them and they threw things at us. They were right. I don’t know how much more of Marshall McLuhan do we want, Karl?
Karl Schudt: I think we’ve got the gist. I laughed at the end, before the list of figures and credits, there is a “New Yorker” cartoon where you caption the art, and there is one of these with the kid telling his dad the story and he says, “You see, dad, professor McLuhan says the environment that man creates becomes the medium for defining his role in it. The invention of type created linear, sequential thought, separating thought from action. Now with tv and folk singing, thought and action are closer and social involvement is greater. We again live in a village. Get it?” So, I guess that’s McLuhan’s summary.
Scott Hambrick: But he’s not right. On the very last page it says (this is an Alfred North Whitehead quote, “It is the business of the future to be dangerous.” No, thank you. We have the ability, I believe, to make the future less dangerous. Not only do I think we have the ability, I think we have the obligation to.
Karl Schudt: I’d rather make the future good or beautiful.
Scott Hambrick: The good, by definition, has to be less dangerous.
Karl Schudt: The good and the beautiful are the same thing.
Scott Hambrick: McLuhan wrote “serious” works and this is a serious book though unconventional. He wrote more conventional things: The Gutenberg Galaxy, and another one called Understanding Media, that might be a good one if somebody wanted to dive into those. This book is about 160 pages but it’s two thirds pictures.
Karl Schudt: $6. oo on Amazon.
Scott Hambrick: By the way, it’s a high-quality paperback: it lays flat, it’s a really high-quality book. I think it’s a perfect companion piece to Propaganda. Our BS self-defense system is to read these and to understand what the heck is going on in there. What do we read next, Karl?
Karl Schudt: Aren’t we going to do the FAQ’s?
Scott Hambrick: We can do that, but we have to tell our listeners what to read. So many people read along with us, by-the-way.
Karl Schudt: I know but then I have to come here with a book in mind.
Scott Hambrick: We could do a little Beethoven?
Karl Schudt; That’d be great; we could listen to a symphony.
Scott Hambrick: Let’s do that with our friend Michelle Hawkins so we can read the “Heiligenstadt Testament” Podcast and talk about “Eroica.”
Karl Schudt: …which is symphony #3. I want to give you a little advice, dear listener, it’s hard to remember a symphony and all the bits and pieces of it. If you have a tiny bit of musical knowledge, I would suggest that you listen to it a few times first and then go to imslp.org, you can get out of copyright, digitized scores of sheet music and you can find symphony #3 by Beethoven, as a PDF to have in front of you, and if you listen to it and read the sheet music you’ll be able to hear a little better and perhaps digest it a little bit better. I don’t know what Michelle will think of my idea but for me that helps a lot when I try to figure out what Beethoven’s actually doing. Marshall McLuhan would say that I’ve grown up with visual media and keeping a whole symphony in my memory is hard for me to do. Maybe in the 18th or 19th century they could do it.
Scott Hambrick: Next week, we’ll do a FAQ; we have been accumulating a few questions and we will answer those as best as we can and the week after that will be Beethoven’s symphony #3 and we’ll read his “Heiligenstadt Testament” and that’s where he writes about going deaf. He famously went deaf and continued to produce his beautiful works.
Karl Schudt: For most of his career he was deaf.
Scott Hambrick: We’ll read about what he had to say about doing that. I look forward to that. There is another Online Great Books podcast, thank you guys so much for listening, if you have any questions you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll maybe nail those down on this FAQ show. Meanwhile please go to iTunes and give us a five star review or stitcher or google play or wherever fine podcasts are sold near you and maybe pass it on to a friend. When you pass it on you are a big help to us. How do you get a word out about a podcast?
Karl Schudt: Word of mouth, person to person.
Scott Hambrick: I think so; take one down, pass it around everybody and we’ll talk to you here in another week. Thank you!