• Unreal Housewives of American TV

    This post was originally published on December 20, 2012.   One of my students in a popular cultural semiotics seminar recently wrote her term project on the reality television “Real Housewives of .  ....
    Jack Solomon
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  • From Forums to Facebook

    For a number of years I was an active participant, and moderator, on a hobby forum. I was well aware at the time that the experience of forum participation was quite unlike anything else I had ever encountered, and, f...
    Jack Solomon
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  • My My, Hey Hey: Why Rock-and-Roll Has Had Its Day

    When Neil Young wrote his edgy tribute to rock-and-roll "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)," the genre was hardly dead, nor really approaching it. A new generation of rockers—the punks—were trying to clear ...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Documentaries, Shockumentaries, and Mockumentaries

    With the appearance of Michael Moore's latest foray into the arena of American conflict and controversy, Farenheit ll/9, I find myself contemplating the significance of the documentary form itself in contemporary Amer...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Just Analyze It

    As American popular culture gets more and more entangled in the political divisions that are rending our country, it may appear to be increasingly difficult to teach cultural analysis without risking painful classroom...
    Jack Solomon
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  • It's Not What You Say; It's How You Say It

    Yet another tale of professorial indiscretion on social media making the rounds prompts me to reiterate what I regard as one of the cardinal benefits of the semiotic approach: viz., that it can lead one beyond the obv...
    Jack Solomon
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  • And the Winner Is . . .

      As I consider the cultural significance of this year's Academy Awards ceremony, my attention has not been captured by the Best Picture winner—which strikes me as a weird amalgam of Water World, Beauty an...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Bowie and Frey: Icons of the 1970s

    It has been a grim couple of weeks for rock-and-roll. First Motörhead’s Lemmy, then David Bowie, then Glenn Frey, and (just this morning as I write this), Dallas Taylor have all passed and gone. Let us hope...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Building a Religion

    As I head into the summer recess for my Bits blogs, I find myself contemplating the cultural significance of the rise and apparent fall of Theranos, the troubled biotech startup that was once heralded as a disruptive ...
    Jack Solomon
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  • What's With All the Wisecracking?

    One of my all-time favorite readings from past editions of Signs of Life in the USA is Andy Medhurst's "Batman, Deviance, and Camp." In that analysis of how the original muscle-man clone of Superman morphed into "Fred...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Nothing Succeeds Like Success

    The lead-in to the L.A. Times article on the Tony Award nominations really caught my attention. Here it is:   "'SpongeBob SquarePants,' 'Mean Girls' and 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.' 'Angels in America,...
    Jack Solomon
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  • The Phenomenology of Facebook

      Though there have been some very high profile participants in the "movement" (can you spell "Elon Musk"?), I am not aware that the #deletefacebook movement is making much of a real dent in Facebook's membershi...
    Jack Solomon
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  • All in the Family: Or, the Return of "Roseanne"

    In 1971, Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin reconfigured a popular British sitcom featuring a bigoted working class patriarch (Till Death Do Us Part) to create America's All in the Family. A massive hit, All in the Family con...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Things Fall Apart

      While there appears to be some significant doubt over whether Cambridge Analytica really had much effect on the outcome of 2016 presidential election (Evan Halper at the L.A. Times makes a good case that it di...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Critical Thinking in an Age of Madness

    I had not planned on writing on this topic as my Bits Blog posting deadline approached. But when a headline in the L.A. Times on February 21st blared that "Conspiracy theories about Florida school shooting survivors h...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Super Ads 2018: Or the Dog that Didn't Bark in the Night

      Yes, it's that time of year again: time for Super Bowl Semiotics, advertising division. And as I contemplate this year's rather uninspiring, and uninspired, lineup, I find myself realizing that the ads were mo...
    Jack Solomon
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  • The Anatomy of a Methodology

    Since the publication of the first edition of Signs of Life in the U.S.A in 1994, semiotics has become a popular instrument in promoting critical thinking skills in composition classrooms. With such a broad variety of...
    Jack Solomon
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  • War Everlasting

      In "The Myth of Superman," the late Umberto Eco's pioneering essay on the semiotics of superheroes, a useful distinction is drawn between the heroes of myth and those of the traditional novel. What Eco points ...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Reading InsideHigherEd.com

    Everyone has a secret vice, I suppose, and mine is reading online newspapers like Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education—as in multiple times every day. I admit that there is something compulsive...
    Jack Solomon
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  • Thor Ragnarok: Or, It’s Déjà vu All Over Again

    So Thor is back, hammering his way to another blockbusting run at the box office. But this time, it's almost as if the producers of Thor: Ragnarok read an analysis I posted to this blog on November 11, 2013, when Thor...
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