Seeing Through Sepia

Were the good ol’ days really all that good?

By Mike Munzenrider

A recent spring day's memory on the river is made to be that much better with some filtering and enhancement, photo by Mike Munzenrider.

The must-have iPhone app of the moment is Instagram, a photo-sharing social network launched in October 2010. In less than two years, the free app has accumulated a whopping 27 million users due to its clean interface, and intuitive, stable technology. Instagram’s most enticing feature, however, is its ability to make picture’s look better by making them look older.

The revamped antique is apropos for our faltering empire. The last decade has left us shaken—how else can you explain that Time named “The Protester” its “Person of the Year” in 2011?

Much of our lives can be time stamped as either pre- or post-9/11. We carry a faint memory of time untouched by this trauma, and as Mitt Romney might put it, we’ve become severely nostalgic. He and other politicians are desperately searching for a “Real America,” a great nation, buried by time, waiting to be rediscovered and restored.

Some experts believe this nostalgia is pathological. At one time it was a medical diagnosis, a homesickness so acute it was one step removed from suicide. As Eva Hudecova, Ph.D., a lecturer and cultural theorist at the University of Minnesota explains, like suicide, nostalgia acts as a rejection of life. “The nostalgic person is constantly in denial of his present,” she says. “He’s looking back for a home he remembers, but it’s never the same because it’s been so idealized.”

Nostalgia is therefore a kind of paralysis; it’s a denial of the present that impedes progress while placating us with an imagined past. It can be maddening because it’s so illusory and so anti-action. Nostalgic friends once prompted Tony Soprano to utter angrily, “Remember when is the lowest form of conversation.” In the grand scheme of things, he’s probably correct. It’s futile to look back, whether we’re searching for “Real America” or the place Osama Bin Laden took away.

If we’re not to fully renounce nostalgia, perhaps Instagram has the right idea by taking the present and filtering it to look more familiar. Coated in nostalgia, the bitter pill is a little easier to swallow.

The Comeback Kids

Horn-rimmed Glasses.

Weezer predicted 18 years ago we’d all look like Buddy Holly. They were right.

Cheap Domestic Beer.

Boozers disdain young upstarts such as Red Dog (1994) while embracing 19th century lagers such as Pabst Blue Ribbon.


Popular during the American Civil War, history is celebrated nowadays with beards of all shapes and sizes, from bushy to tech.

Old fashioned cocktails.

When it comes to his Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and other bourbon delights, I’ll gladly have what grandpa’s having.

They add class to the table and style to your letters, but where does one find a replacement ribbon?

Old Controversies. 

Republican presidential candidates resurface old debates and strive to bring back the Gold Standard.

Vinyl LP’s.

Both to be seen and heard, some claim these non-compact discs have superior sound quality compared to their pint-sized cousins.

The 80’s.
Ronald Reagan is fetishized, American Apparel sells the look, and it’s forgotten that most who experienced the decade thought it was terrible.