Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Money Wisdom #392

" During the Second War, the U.S.O. sent special issues of the principal American magazines to the Armed Forces, with the ads omitted. The men insisted on having the ads back again. Naturally. The ads are by far the best part of any magazine or newspaper. More pains and thought go into the making of an ad than into any prose feature of press or magazine. Ads are news. What is wrong with them is that they are always good news. In order to balance off the effect and to sell good news, it is necessary to have a lot of bad news. "

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.229

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Money Wisdom #391

"The uniformity and repeatability of print permeated the Renaissance with the idea of time and space as continuous measurable quantities. The immediate effect of this idea was to desacralize the world of nature and the world of power alike. The new technique of control of physical processes by segmentation and fragmentation separated God and Nature as much as Man and Nature, or man and man. Shock at this departure from the traditional vision and inclusive awareness was often directed toward the figure of Machiavelli, who had merely spelled out the new quantitative and neutral or scientific ideas of force as applied to the manipulation of kingdoms."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 191-2

Friday, December 11, 2015

Money Wisdom #390

"As a piece of technology, the clock is a machine that produces uniform seconds, minutes, and hours on an assembly-line pattern. Processed in this way, time is separated from the rhythms of human experience. The mechanical clock, in short, helps to create the image of a numerically quantified and mechanically powered universe. It was in the world of the medieval monasteries, with their need for a rule and for synchronized order to guide communal life, that the clock got started on its modern developments. Time measured not by the uniqueness of private experience but by abstract uniform units gradually pervades all sense life, much as does the technology of writing and printing. Not only work but also eating and sleeping, came to accommodate themselves to the clock rather than to organic needs. As the pattern of arbitrary and uniform measurement of time extended itself across society, even clothing began to undergo annual alteration in a way convenient for industry. At that point, of course, mechanical measurement of time as a principle of applied knowledge joined forces with printing and assembly line as means of uniform fragmentation of processes.
     The most integral and involving time sense imaginable is that expressed in the Chinese and Japanese cultures. Until the coming of the missionaries in the seventeenth century, and the introduction of mechanical clocks, the Chinese and Japanese had for thousands of years measured time by gradations of incense. Not only the hours and days, but the seasons and the zodiacal signs were simultaneously indicated by a succession of carefully ordered scents."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.158

Note: I think it's possible that McLuhan over-emphasizes the measurement of time by smell. I like the idea, but if you read Silvo Bedini's The Scent of Time - a study of the use of fire and incense for time measurement in Oriental countries (link) which was published in 1963 by the journal of the American Philosophical Society, the year before McLuhan's book was published, telling the time by smell seems to be an effect of the technology of measurement, rather than the media of time-telling itself. Interestingly though, it's reported that up until 1924 some Geisha houses measured the 'entertainment time' provided by the use of a burning incense stick (see p.28). 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Money wisdom #389

" 'Money talks' because money is a metaphor, a transfer, and a bridge. Like words and language money is a storehouse of communally achieved work, skill and experience. Money, however, is also a specialist technology like writing; and as writing intensifies the visual aspect of speech and order, and as the clock visually separates time from space, so money separates work from other social functions. Even today money is a language for translating the work of the farmer into the work of the barber, doctor, engineer, or plumber. As a vast social metaphor, bridge, or translator, money - like writing - speeds up exchanges and tightens the bonds of interdependence in any community. It gives great spatial extension and control to political organizations, just as writing does, or the calendar. It is action at a distance both in space and in time. In a highly literate, fragmented society, 'time is money' and money is the store of other people's time and effort."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.147

Monday, December 7, 2015

Money Wisdom #388

"...America seems to be a land of abstractions, where numbers have taken on an existence of their own in phrases like '57 Varieties',  'the 5 and 10', or '7 up' and behind the 8-ball.' It figures. Perhaps this is a kind of echo of an industrial culture that depends heavily on prices, charts and figures. Take 36-24-36. Numbers cannot be more sensuously tactile than when mumbled as the magic formula for the female figure while the haptic hand sweeps the air."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.118-119

Money Wisdom #387

"It may very well be that in our conscious inner lives the interplay among our senses is what constitutes the sense of touch. Perhaps touch is not just skin contact with things, but the very life of things in the mind? "

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 117

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Money Wisdom #386

"Without language, Bergson suggests, human intelligence would have remained totally involved in the objects of its attention. Language does for intelligence what the wheel does for the feet and body. It enables them to move from thing to thing with greater ease and speed and ever less involvement. Language extends and amplifies man but it also divides his faculties. His collective consciousness or intuitive awareness is diminished by this technical extension of consciousness that is speech."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 86