Birdwalking with The Medium is the Massage

A couple of things got me thinking of Marshal McCluen today.

I tend to go on these mental birdwalks, sometimes over the course of a few nanoseconds, and sometimes for days at a time. I picked up a copy of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, a marvelously small and concise book about what not to do in writing.  (go get it) This is only a 30 minute read, if you read it twice, but has some really neat ideas on what makes a writer invisible to the reader, and after completing A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises, I can see that Leonard is a fan of Papa Hemingway.

This got me onto Leonard’s website, which then had several broken links, letting my mind drift over to minimoose, a character from Invader Zim. A quick Google search found a few Youtube clips from the show, and a link to some forum where some other guy linked off to another Youtube clip from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall.

The clip had woody waiting in line with some loudmouth behind him, bragging about his understanding of McCluen, and then Woody breaks the Fourth Wall and pulls Marshal McCluen from offscreen to tell the guy he is full of shit. It’s funny as hell.

If you aren’t familiar with McCluen, then go get a copy of the Medium is the Massage, which is a twisted and difficult read on media and ideas and presentation. Then go grab the first two years worth of Wired magazine, and it looks like some student out of a university communications class made Wired by ripping open McCluen and smearing ideas from his brain all over in a random pattern, and selling it. Wired is much calmer and mundane now, it’s a real trip to see how it has changed.

I still have those old issues of wired in my garage, I haven’t been able to get rid of them, although I lost my copy of The Medium is the Massage. And that brought me back to thinking of my old boss, and friend, Mike Bowler.

Mike and I worked together years ago, and he was a huge child of the Sixties, and a McCluen fan. He kept these journals of clipped out images from magazines, glued together with annotations and thought balloons, like he was stamping raw ideas out of his own brain for later reference. He loved the early Wired magazines, but he also thought that the editors were trying too hard. I haven’t seen him since my first year at Microsoft, bummer.

He’s a good guy to learn from, but tough to follow at times. But that’s the case for most teachers.

I’m pretty sure that he’d laugh his ass off at the Woody Allen clip, then reach out to an alternate dimension to pull McCluen into our frame of reference, and ask him what he thought. Then he’d add it as a page to another of those journals.