Signs O’ the Times, Part Deux: If we don’t call #45 back, he may stay dead!

Photos & Text ©2021 Malcolm J. Brenner

All photos taken with an iPhone 7, most in the parking lot of a local Winn-Dixie supermarket. Wherever possible, identifying details of the license plates have been obscured; otherwise, these are the digital equivalents of box-camera negatives, and should be treated as such: nothing fancy! Enjoy, and ponder what it all means when we roll the bones!

“If I wanted to hear from an asshole, I’d fart.” Or you just might stay where you are and await the scream of tortured metal…

This would be on a Jeep… obviously, the owner has a problem with the flood of refugees the U.S.A. is accepting from South Stickistan!

Conflicting opinions… What would John do?

And if you don’t know who Bob Dylan is, or what he was, or represented to Baby Boomers, don’t ask your folks, ask your grandparents… but only if they are, like, cool! You know, they do yoga, smoke weed, spout poems that don’t rhyme and there’s a gleam in their eye when they reminisce about ‘shroom hunting in the cow pastures just outside Sarasota in the early 1970’s?

Yeah, them. Ask them who Bob Dylan was, and why his anthem “Like a Rolling Stone” (sorry, stoners, this has nothing to do with the Stones) is quite possibly the greatest rock song ever written: because it embodies the sense of loss my generation suffers from, not only the loss of our brothers in the meat grinder of Vietnam, but the sense of loss of control over our own lives.

I don’t follow any professional sports, but I probably know more about the Steelers than I do about women… they’re from Pittsburg, right? The football team, I mean!
But… why be merely annoying, when, with just a little more effort, you could be a truly Evil Genius?
…And she’s better behaved than that slutty, potty-mouthed daughter of yours, beee-atch!
Here I am, at the Charlotte County Arts & Cultural Center, which is just a few blocks from my house, getting my first vaccination shot on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day! That date is also the birthday of my father, Millard Maxwell Brenner, born in 1915 while the “War to End All Wars” was being waged. If you’re hesitant about the vaccination, don’t be! I feel really healthy for a change with Bill Gates’ nanobots, running Windows 13, in my veins and arteries! They are keeping me perfectly fine! perfectly fine! perfectly fine! perfectly…

Silver Shadows of the Past

It was so long ago that I still had a job reporting for the Charlotte Sun, which meant a regular paycheck (even if it was only a measly $9 per hour in 2003) and money in my pocket, free to burn if I wanted. I haven’t had that very often in my life, so it felt good, and I felt like indulging myself a bit.

I was in Port Charlotte, driving west on Edgewater Drive, a road that crosses US 41 to become Harborview Road (not to be confused with Harbor Drive, some miles further north). Harborview consists of a shopping center named Schoolyard Square and a bunch of run-down looking freestanding business, including the Sun. But the other side, Edgewater, holds some very nice, upper-middle class homes in addition to churches, and one of those homes happened to be holding a moving sale. So I pulled the truck over and went in.

A cursory inspection didn’t reveal any of the unusual or antique cameras I always hope to find at such sales, so I asked the lady who seemed to be running things if she had any.

“Cameras? No, we don’t take many pictures ourselves… you know, Christmas and 4th of July on the same roll? But we do have some old pictures,” she said, and pulled out these, in much the same condition as you see them now. “I don’t know where they came from, myself, but you can have them for, oh I don’t know, $12, if you want.”

I did, and I bought them all. Now, with some time on my hands, I have meticulously scanned and toned each one, to best restore the quality of the the original and redact the ravages of Grandfather Time.

The subjects in these photos, the people themselves, and the art of the photographers are on display, working as they had to with the cumbersome large-format cameras, plate films, slow lenses and limited light sources in the late 19th to early 20th Century. The pressures of war led to the development of new technologies: smaller, sharper cameras utilizing more sensitive films; coated lenses; Kodachrome and Agfachrome, the two original color films; and the electronic flash, developed by Harold E. “Doc” Edgerton at MIT. A flash Doc made for taking Army Air Force reconnaissance photos at low altitudes was so powerful, with a single discharge it could set fire to a sheet of newsprint held a yard away from the enormous flash tube!

Styles of photography changed, became more casual, and today? Today we have cameras built into our phones, and phones built into our cameras. Color is compulsory, B&W optional. Flash tubes are now smaller than the lenses that take the picture! Like sorcerers in some distorted dream, we send images flying through the ether, to land continents away, or be as wildly distorted as any vision in a nightmare. And it’s all so easy and automatic, we don’t even have to think about it!

Well, remember those days, because these days are built on them. The cell phone in your pocket has its camera because photography exploited the demand for what had once been obtainable only to nobility, the personal portrait. Here they are, and I would like to know: Of all the photo studios named here, have any survived into the 21st Century?

I wonder.