Perhaps it is just my Inner Reactionary talking, but some days I find very little that is delightful about the internet, or (as I am inclined to call it) the Infotainment Stupidhighway.
At such times I fully empathize with those who eschew the computer. I consider that I was much happier and did a lot less sitting before we allowed one into our house fifteen years ago. This, of course, is before I remember that it would have been impossible for me to have accomplished any of what I have achieved in those fifteen years. As much of a nineteenth-century guy I would like to imagine I am, computers were made for the likes of me.
What was I like, pre-internet? I was bitter, and irritable, and subject to outbursts of scurrilous and subversive humor. I was a relentless writer of sarcastic letters to the editor of the local daily, typing my screeds flawlessly on a decades-old manual typewriter. I was jealous of others’ success and happiness. I was terrified of rejection, and of spending a stamp to discover that others might not find me as hilarious as I found myself. I lulled myself with mellow wine brewed from sour grapes.
It’s counterintuitive that access to the internet made me a better person. The process took a number of years, but I gradually stopped lashing out and blurting things that were hurtful. Rather than merely jousting with other malcontents who competed for column inches on the opinion page, I was interacting with people whose sensibilities I did not want to offend. I wasn’t sitting at my desk with reams of songs and poems and essays and novels, feeling neglected.
I managed to create a radio program, Radiola!, that people have listened to and enjoyed all over the world. (And I do mean to do more of those shows—for those who are waiting.) Thanks to the reputation of that show, and a certain ability to sling prose (acquired in my lonesome typewriter years), I stumbled into the writing gig that led to my current position as publisher and editor of this paper. None of that would have been remotely possible without the internet.
And yet I virtually bite at the digital hand that’s feeding me. I admit there are discontents. I can’t abide inaccurate information and that people readily believe it without doing further research. I mourn that Wikipedia is deemed authoritative when it is loaded with errors and omissions. The miracle, I think, is that it is not worse than it is. Even so, when in search of research materials, I often find just what I am looking for in books or in album liner notes. In fact, the latter (now neglected by the current download culture) are often incredibly well-researched and informative.
The internet could be better and pleasanter to use than it is. Getting through an article on a webpage can be torture; it’s like trying to read in a casino. A typical site will flash and blink at me, or block the page with a petition it wants me to sign, or beg me to enroll on a mailing list so the visual chaos can be delivered to my email inbox. No, thank you. I just wanted to read one piece of writing without having to pass through a video arcade to reach the end of it.
Thanks also to social media, we are more likely to endorse a thought if someone has made a compelling (or winsomely trite) image of it. I see such memes endlessly shared, and that doesn’t render their arguments any more true. Sometimes the meme-statement consists of a wrongly attributed quotation. If television was, as Lincoln said, “chewing gum for the mind,” then what is Facebook?
It has taken over two years of holding the internet—that indispensable boon, that object of scorn—at arm’s length, but The Syncopated Times has finally launched a website that reflects the utility of the paper itself.
SyncopatedTimes.com complements but does not duplicate the print edition. Associate Editor Joe Bebco has created a site that provides a comprehensive view of what’s going on in jazz right now. What’s even better is that bands, venue hosts, and festival promoters may quickly and easily add their events to the calendar. If you don’t see your event listed, you may add it yourself.
The paper is, as always, the medium for our editorial content. Press releases and breaking news stories will be posted online in a timely fashion, as will the obituaries. Stories, columns, reviews, and interviews will be available in the monthly publication (print or PDF) only—since your subscription pays for both the monthly issue of The Syncopated Times and the website.
Though I have no taste for the pinball-machine aesthetic of the web, I cannot but admit that SyncopatedTimes.com is a joy to behold. A month into its existence it is arguably the best trad jazz site online. For those who have thus far avoided the flash and fluff of the internet, this may be your excuse to pick up a cheap refurbished PC—or to accept the one that your kids have been trying to force on you for a decade.
And for those who are online. . .come up and see us sometime.
NOTE: Since this story ran we have joined the paywalled bandwagon and now offer access to every story published in the paper neatly organized as online posts rather than difficult to navigate PDF’s
This is what our print edition feels like. If you want good news to read with your morning coffee, order a subscription ($30 for 12 monthly issues). You’ll get full online access to our archives, web extras, and our next issue will arrive at your door. Online only access is available for only $20 a year! Support Hot Jazz Journalism- Subscribe