Tag Archives: advertising

Inside McLuhan’s head

An exclusive excerpt from Douglas Coupland’s biography of Marshall McLuhan

Inside McLuhan’s head

 

Photograph by P.J. Salkovitch/ Canadian Press

“I knew going into it that this wasn’t going to be a straight biography,” says Douglas Coupland about his new study of Marshall McLuhan. What the Vancouver-based author has concocted instead is a historical mosaic that borrows heavily from McLuhan’s inimitable riffing style—that is, to dance non-linearly around ideas as a means of forming a distinct theory. Coupland also adds a healthy dose of his own literary signature to the mix—asides, like copies of online user-reviews of McLuhan’s works that appear in between chapters, seem at first glance peripheral to the subject at hand but later turn out to speak a distinct truth about it.

To be sure, this is still a biographical work. It’s just that, for Coupland, the things people already know about McLuhan—his famous phrases “global village” and “the medium is the message,” plus his cameo in Annie Hall—aren’t as interesting as, say, the great thinker’s biological and genetic makeup. And so, instead of analyzing McLuhan’s 1962 masterwork The Gutenberg Galaxy, Coupland investigates the brain that composed it.

Marshall McLuhan’s brain was fuelled by fresh blood from the heart through not one but two arteries at the base of his skull, a trait in the mammalian world found mostly in cats and rarely in human beings. As well, people in Marshall’s family tended to die of strokes. Marshall himself had countless small strokes during his lifetime—sometimes in front of a classroom of students, where he’d suddenly gap out for a few minutes and then return to the world.

 

Why mention this medical information? To establish that Marshall was not merely different but very different, and it wasn’t simply in the way he thought; rather, it was because of the biological mechanisms that made and allowed him to think what he thought.

Marshall exhibited throughout his life a certain sense of obliviousness about the physical world—he was the epitome of the absent-minded professor. He couldn’t drive a car. He tuned in and out of conversations with friends and strangers, and during classes he would ramble, seemingly unaware of those around him, clicking in and out of reality. Many people, when describing their encounters with him, say that with Marshall you had a few seconds to say your hellos or make your point, and after that he was back on Planet Marshall. And this is not to confuse obliviousness with cluelessness. Marshall had created a rich inner life. Why leave it if he didn’t have to?

Perhaps this disassociation, along with others of Marshall’s traits, should be placed on an autistic spectrum. For example, there was Marshall’s hypersensitivity to noise and sounds—loud and/or sudden and/or unwanted. The man disliked disruption of daily patterns. He disliked being touched or jostled. He loved ritual. He punned (punning is a form of disinhibition related to neural wiring in the brain’s limbic system). Marshall was also obsessed with words and memorization, and he was, it has been said, oblivious—not cripplingly so, but it did alter his ability to communicate in person in a way that, if nothing else, probably didn’t help him. Older people interpreted his obliviousness as arrogance; young people interpreted it as cool.

This is not to say that Marshall was autistic, or even a high-functioning Asperger syndrome autistic. But if he had any specific psychopathology, that would be the direction in which to look. He wasn’t depressive. He wasn’t schizophrenic. He wasn’t addicted to alcohol or anything else. He was, to an admirable degree, a happy man with a great family and career. But he did tend to be curiously and creatively oblivious. As his biographer Philip Marchand says, if he had a weakness, it was his inability to listen to speakers less forceful than he was. His forte, on the other hand, was talking tirelessly not only in brilliantly articulate sentences but whole paragraphs—a form of communication he much preferred to writing.

As Marshall aged, his eccentricities became more common and more pronounced. He had a massive collection of jokes and cartoons and loved sharing them with almost anyone in almost any situation—the sorts of corny things your parents email you that have a half-dozen FWD tags in the header. Marshall began his classes and his paid speeches with jokes and bad puns, partly because punning is a pathology and partly because starting an event this way unsettled the audience. Who is this guy? Is he for real? Is he on drugs? Oh, good God, these are the worst jokes I’ve ever heard. That pun was atrocious. This guy is nuts. And then he’d hit them with a wall of ideas, forcing them to challenge their basic assumptions, often alienating them, frequently disturbing them, and always leaving in his wake lots to talk about at the dinner table.

()

Read on

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

On Symbolism

Aa9f4b1f84d289dc8460d77ad67082

ON SYMBOLISM

 

by Alfred Korzybski

 

The affairs of man are conducted by our own, man-made rules and according to man-made theories. Man’s achievements rest upon the use of symbols. For this reason, we must consider ourselves as a symbolic, semantic class of life, and those who rule the symbols, rule us. Now the term ‘symbol’ applies to a variety of things, words and money included. A piece of paper, called a dollar or a pound, has very little value if the other fellow refuses to take it; so we see that money must be considered as a symbol for human agreement, as well as deeds to property, stocks, bonds. The reality behind the money-symbol is doctrinal, ‘mental’, and one of the most precious characteristics of mankind. But it must be used properly; that is, with the proper understanding of its structure and ways of functioning. It constitutes a grave danger when misused.

When we say ‘our rulers’, we mean those who are engaged in the manipulation of symbols. There is no escape from the fact that they do, and that they always will, rule mankind, because we constitute a symbolic class of life, and we cannot cease from being so, except by regressing to the animal level.

The hope for the future consists in the understanding of this fact; namely, that we shall always be ruled by those who rule symbols, which will lead to scientific researches in the field of symbolism and s.r. (semantic reactions : reactions bound to the use of words at the emotional, biological colloïdal, etc., levels) ). We would then demand that our rulers should be enlightened and carefully selected. Paradoxical as it may seem, such researches as the present work attempts, will ultimately do more for the stabilization of human affairs than legions of policemen with machine guns, and bombs, and jails, and asylums for the maladjusted.

A complete list of our rulers is difficult to give; yet, a few classes of them are quite obvious. Bankers, priests, lawyers and politicians constitute one class and work together. They do not produce any value, but manipulate values produced by others, and often pass signs for no values at all. Scientists and teachers also compose a ruling class. They produce the main values mankind has, but at present, they do not realize this. They are, in the main, themselves ruled by the cunning methods of the first class.

In this analysis the ‘philosophers” have been omitted. This is because they require a special treatment. As an historical fact, many ‘philosophers’ have played an important and, to be frank, sinister role in history. At the bottom of any historical trend, we find a certain ‘philosophy’, a structural implication cleverly formulated by some ‘philosophers’ gamble on multiordinal and el (elementalist ) terms, which have no definite single (one-valued)meaning, and so, by cleverness in twisting , can be made to appear to mean anything desired. It is now no mystery that some quite influential ‘philosopher’ were ‘mentally’ ill. Some ‘mentally’ ill persons are tremendously clever in the manipulation of words and can sometimes deceive even trained specialists. Among the clever concoctions which appear in history as ‘philosophic’ systems, we can find flatly opposing doctrines. Therefore, it has not been difficult at any period for the rulers to select a cleverly constructed doctrine perfectly fitting the ends the desired.

One of the main characteristics of such ‘philosophers’ is found in the delusion of grandeur, the ‘Jehovah complex’. Their problem have appeared to them to be above criticism or assistance by other human beings, and the correct procedure known only to super-men like themselves. So quite naturally they have usually refused to make enquiries. They have refused even to be informed about scientific researches carried on outside the realms of their ‘philosophy’. Because of the ignorance, they have, in the main, not even suspected the importance of the problems of structure.

In all fairness, it must be said that not all so-called ‘philosophy’ represents an episode of semantic illness, and that a few ‘philosophers’ really do important work. This applies to the so-called ‘critical philosophy’ and to the theory of knowledge or epistemology. This class of workers I call epistemologists, to avoid the disagreeable implications of the term ‘philosopher’. Unfortunately, epistemological researches are most difficult, owing mainly to the lack of scientific psycho-logics, general semantics, and investigations of structure and s.r. We find only a very few men doing this work, which, in the main, is still little known and unapplied. It must be granted that their works fo not make easy reading. They do not command headlines; nor are they aided and stimulated by public interest and help.

It must be emphasized again that as long as we remain humans, (which means a symbolic class of life), the rulers of symbols will rule us, and that no amount of revolution will ever change this. But what mankind has a right to ask – and the sooner the better – is that our rulers should not be so shamelessly ignorant and, therefore, pathological in their reactions. If a psychiatrical and scientific inquiry were to be made upon our rulers, mankind would be appalled at the disclosures.

We have been speaking bout ‘symbols’, but we have not yet discovered any general theory concerning symbols and symbolism. Usually, we take terms lightly and never ‘think’ what kind of implication and s.r. one single important term may involve. ‘Symbol’ is one of those important terms, weighty in meanings. If we use the term ‘food’, for instance, the presupposition is that we take for granted the existence of living beings able to eat; and, similarly, the term ‘symbol’ implies the existence of intelligent beings. The solution of the problem of symbolism, therefore, presupposes the solution of the problem of ‘intelligence’ and structure. So, we see that the issues are not only serious and difficult, but also, that we must investigate a semantic field in which very little has been done.

In the rough, a symbol is defined as a sign which stands for something. Any sign is not necessarily a symbol. If it stands for something, it becomes a symbol for this something. If it does not stand for something, then it becomes not a symbol but a meaningless sign. This applies to words just as it does to bank cheques. If one has a zero balance in the bank, but still has a cheque-book and issues a cheque, he issues a sign but not a symbol, because it does not stand for anything. The penalty for such use of these particular signs as symbols is usually jailing. This analogy applies to the oral noises we make, which occasionally become symbols and at other times do not; as yet, no penalty is exacted for such a fraud.

Before a noise., may become a symbol, something must exist for the symbol to symbolize. So the first problem of symbolism should be to investigate the problem of ‘existence’. To define ‘existence’, we have to state the standards by which we judge existence. At present, the use of this term is not uniform and is largely a matter of convenience. Of late, mathematicians have discovered a great deal about this term. For our present purposes, we may accept two kinds of existence : (1) the physical existence, roughly connected with our ‘senses’ and persistence, and (2) ‘logical ‘ existence. The new researches in the foundations of mathematics, originated by Brouwer and Weyl, seem to lead to a curtailment of the meaning of ‘logical’ existence in quite a sound direction; but we may provisionally accept the most general meaning, as introduced by Poincaré. He defines ‘logical’ existence as a statement free from self-contradictions. Thus, we may say that a ‘thought’ to be a ‘thought’ must not be self-contradictory. A self-contradictory statement is meaningless; we can argue either way without reaching any valid results. We say, then, that a self- contradictory statement has no ‘logical’ existence. As an example, let us take a statement about a square circle. This is called a contradiction in terms, a non-sense, a meaningless statement, which has no ‘logical’ existence. Let us label this ‘word salad’ by a special noise – let us say, ‘blah-blah’. Will such a noise become a word, a symbol ? Obviously not – it stands for nothing; it remains a mere noise., no matter if volumes should be written about it.

It is extremely important, semantically, to notice that not all the noises., we humans make should be considered as symbols or valid words. Such empty noises., can occur not only in direct ‘statements’, but also in ‘questions’. Quite obviously, ‘questions’ which employ noises., instead of words, are not significant questions. They ask nothing, and cannot be answered. They are, perhaps, best treated by ‘mental’ pathologists as symptoms of delusion, illusion, or hallucinations. In asylums the noises., patients make are predominant meaningless, as far as the external world is concerned, but become symbols in the illness of the patient…..

An important aspect of the problem of existence can be made clear by some examples. Let us recall that a noise or written sign, to become a symbol, must stand for something. Let us imagine that you, my reader, and myself are engaged in an argument. Before us, on the table, lies something which we usually call a box of matches : you argue that there are matches in this box; I say that there are no matches in it. Our argument can be settled. We open the box and look, and both become convinced. It must be noticed that in our argument we used words, because they stood for something; so when we began to argue, the argument could be solved to our mutual satisfaction, since there was a third factor, the object, which corresponds to the symbol used, and this settled he dispute. A third factor was present, and agreement became possible. Let us take another example. Let us try to settle the problem : ‘Is blah-blah a case of tra-tra ?’ Let us assume that you say ‘yes’, and that I say ‘no’. Can we reach any agreement ? It is a real tragedy, of which life is full, that such an argument cannot be solved at all. We used noises, not words. Here was no third factor for which these noises stood as symbols, and so we could argue endlessly without any possibility of agreement. That the noises may have stood for some semantic disturbance is quite a different problem, and in such a case a psycho-pathologist should be consulted, but arguments should stop. The reader will have no difficulty in gathering from daily life other example many of them of highly tragic character.

Excerpt From:
Science & Sanity Ch. VI – ON SYMBOLISM (p. 76-82)
By Alfred Korzybski

via Grey Lodge / Issue #9

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vintage Japanese industrial expo posters

Media_httppinktentacl_gfaab

A collection of posters from various expositions held in Japan in the 1920s to 1940s.

Tagged , , , ,

Marcello Dudovich

Marcello Dudovich Historical Archive, the only website devoted to the artist. It presents a significant virtual gallery of works and documents representing an artistic fund of iconographic research, including 3,000 catalogued works kept in civic collections and company archives, as well as those works owned by collectors. It is an exhaustive, constantly updated means of discovering, knowing in depth, and making known to others the genius and the style of the most famous and versatile Italian painter, graphic and advertising artist.

Tagged , , , ,

The Gates of Paradise are guarded by a pair of peacocks


Nbc_new_york_office_454

Originally, the phoenix was identified by the Egyptians as a stork or heron-like bird called a benu, known from the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian texts as one of the sacred symbols of worship at Heliopolis, closely associated with the rising sun and the Egyptian sun-god Ra.

The Greeks identified it with their own word phoenix φοίνιξ, meaning the color purple-red or crimson (cf. Phoenicia). They and the Romans subsequently pictured the bird more like a peacock or an eagle. According to the Greeks the phoenix lived in Phoenicia next to a well. At dawn, it bathed in the water of the well, and the Greek sun-god Helios stopped his chariot (the sun) in order to listen to its song. Featured in the painting Heracles Strangles Snakes (House of the Vettii, Pompeii Italy) as Zeus, the king of the gods.

()



 

Stunning in its beauty, the Peacock is considered the manifestation of the celestial Phoenix on earth. Its mesmerizing colors and the “thousand eyes” look on its tail is considered to promote abundance and good luck in feng shui, as well as enhance one’s protection and awareness.

()


 


 


In alchemical writings we meet a seemingly bewildering multiplicity of animal symbols – red lions, white eagles, stags, unicorns, winged dragons and snakes. Although at first glance all this complex mass of symbolism seems tortured and confused there is an inner coherence to these symbols, which the ancient alchemists used in specific ways reflecting their esoteric content.

In this article I wish to consider a particularly tight knit group of these animal symbols, the birds of alchemy – the Black Crow, White Swan, Peacock, Pelican, and Phoenix – which are descriptive of certain stages of the alchemical process.

With the Peacock stage, the alchemist has entered into the inner experience of the astral world, which initially appears as ever shifting patterns of colour. This experience is often symbolised in alchemy by the appropriate image of the peacock’s tail with its splendid iridescence of colour. In terms of this series of five stages, the turning point is reached with the Peacock. Up until this point the alchemist has experienced aspects of his being which he was formerly unconscious of – the etheric forces and the astral body. Essentially these experiences have happened to him, although he had to make himself open to the experiences through entering into the initial Black Crow state, however, in order to progress he must begin to work upon his inner being.

Birds in Alchemy

 


 

The peacock is a symbol of immortality because the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh that did not decay after death. As such, early Christian paintings and mosaics use peacock imagery, and peacock feathers can be used during the Easter season as church decorations. This symbol of immortality is also directly linked to Christ.

The peacock naturally replaces his feathers annually; as such, the peacock is also a symbol of renewal.

Early belief held that the Gates of Paradise are guarded by a pair of peacocks.

The peacock has the ability to eat poisonous snakes without harm.

Both Origen and Augustine refer to peacocks as a symbol of the resurrection.

Pythagoras wrote that the soul of Homer moved into a peacock—a hyperbole to establish the respect and longevity of the Greek poet’s words.

“By the Peacock” was a sacred oath, because the peacock was thought to have the power of resurrection, like the Phoenix.

A necklace of Amethyst, peacock feathers, and swallow feathers were a talisman to protect its wearer from witches and sorcerers.

Christians thought, in early times, that the peacock’s blood could dispel evil spirits.

Peacock Symbolism


 


 

All the clips you missed (via Gawker)

After his monologue Letterman took a seat and eviscerated every part of Leno’s address to his audience last night, including his plea that we not blame O’Brien. “Nobody is blaming Conan,” Letterman said emphatically. Letterman then said that what’s going on now is “vintage Jay,” the same man he’s known for 35 years. At the end of his statement, Letterman had this to say about Leno: “You get fired, you get another gig! Don’t hang around waiting for somebody to drop dead.” Game. Set. Match:  Vintage Jay 

“Nobody is blaming Conan,” Letterman said.

Jays


The word “jay” has an archaic meaning in American slang meaning an impertinent person.

The term jaywalking was coined in 1915 to label persons crossing a busy street carelessly and becoming a traffic hazard.  The term began to imply recklessness or impertinent behavior as the convention became established.

 


 

I’ll always be a word man, better than a birdman… – Jim Morrison

 


 

Bill Hicks on Jay Leno

3168bef3e7l

Recorded in 1993, the track “Artistic Roll Call” from Bill Hicks’ Rant in E-Minor is as true today as it was back then:

Here’s the same bit via Howard Stern

(via disinfo)

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CUT-UP MX Billboards

CUT-UP MX is a blog dedicated to Mexican billboards.

Chopped up, partly exchanged and randomly assembled they often become exciting commercial collages. 

Rumors say that once a company’s advertising time is over and a new hirer is still to be found, the pieces are mixed up to disguise the sales message. 

CUT-UP MX is run by Norman Palm, associate of fertig design, Berlin. 

www.fertigdesign.com 

Tagged ,

F.H.K. Henrion Illustration: Olivetti Summa 15

Media_httpfarm5static_hkigj

Poster for Olivetti adding machine. From Graphis Annual 62/63.

via Sandi Vincent

http://www.flickr.com/people/sandiv999/

Tagged , , ,

Pioneers! O Pioneers!

 

Wieden + Kennedy sets a pioneering tone for Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign with help from American poet Walt Whitman. 

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland

 

Walt-whitman-cox-1887-cropped

“Come, my tan-faced children/ Follow well in order, get your weapons ready/ Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes?/ Pioneers! O pioneers!”

— Walt Whitman, 1855

We were on the couch, talking and flipping channels, when suddenly, he or I, I can’t remember, paused on a Levi’s commercial. We both stared.

Most people have probably seen this commercial a hundred times, but we only recently got cable, and this first time we saw it, my boyfriend and I were awed:

Tanned, sinewy people, dancing around flames and water, running and jumping through woods with torches, bounding down dirt roads waving banners; they all seemed to be doing something vaguely revolutionary, vaguely anti-establishment, vaguely important. Over it all, words that made my pulse beat faster:

“For we cannot tarry here/We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger/

We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers!”

“That poem was awesome,” I said at the same time my boyfriend said, “Those images were awesome.”

Both of us were right. But while it’s fairly obvious that an ad agency came up with the images, some might not know that Walt Whitman came up with the words. ()

Read on

Levi’s Ad Gets Her Thinking by Lauren Daley

Tagged , , , ,