In addition to being publisher, editor, circulation manager, graphic designer, and advertising director for the paper you are now reading, I am also cook the meals and do the dishes here at Syncopation Central. When I’m laying out The Syncopated Times the food tends to be more expedient. This week, after enjoying a take-out order of Singapore Mai Fun (a dinner which always prompts the same joke: “I get no kick from Lo Mein—I’m havin’ Mai Fun”), I cracked open my fortune cookie to discover this message:
I have never been one to let dessert items dictate a course of action (unless it’s to avoid them, for the most part), but this “fortune” was particularly misguided. It is, in fact, the worst possible advice I could imagine imparting to anyone. Assuming I have any personal beliefs (and I’m not saying I do), sharing them leads only to bitter disagreement between intractable sides. People start calling each other names and no longer see each other as fully human. At best, one faction condescendingly attempts to “enlighten” the other. And it has been my experience that insertion of said beliefs (in the form of an agenda) into any otherwise innocent and constructive endeavor ruins the whole enterprise.
The Syncopated Times has a point of view, and that should be intrinsic in everything you read here. Plainly stated, it is that good music, intelligent discourse, and levity are more than mere ornaments, but necessities of a happy life. Partisan contention has no place in this paper.
The publisher of its predecessor did not feel that way. I am certainly here to honor and continue his commitment to promoting traditional jazz and ragtime and keeping them alive in performance. I do not share his taste for controversy, nor his willingness to intrude political and sectarian commentary into a music publication.
On the face of it, it’s just bad business. Blurting a controversial opinion (however fervently held) guarantees offending at least half of my subscribers and advertisers. More seriously, it imperils everything positive I’m determined to accomplish with a periodical uniquely dedicated to celebrating and preserving early jazz.
Syncopation transcends controversy. It does not pander to sides, nor does it propagandize. It is frankly a relief from the public sniping and bickering that begins to sound like the barking of dogs. It is also subversive in that it threatens to wake up the mind to what is essential. It shatters minor points of manufactured contention (that appear major), so that pledged enemies may find common ground.
It is the opposite of strife. The news (and programs and publications that comment on the news) are calculated to keep us fearful, angry, hopeless, and depressed. To keep us watching and reading, they hold us in a state of perpetual anticipation of the Worst Case Scenario. Syncopation is the antidote.
The cover story of this issue is devoted to the one man I rank above every world leader, thinker, and self-appointed messiah of the twentieth century. Louis Armstrong, as the apotheosis of joyous hot jazz and swing, helped bring about a genuinely Wonderful World wherever his music was heard.
Can rhythm save the world? That remains to be seen. But thinking of Louis is a place to start: What Would Satchmo Do? Swing hard—and always be kind.
P.S.: The other fortune that came with our meal (really!) was this: