Static From My Attic

The American Rag Archive

Requiem for a Publisher

The reader will note that a rather morbid undercurrent has run through this column over the past two months. In May, I noted the death

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Memento Mori

Memento Mori

By the time you hold this paper in your hand, I will have achieved the grim distinction of being exactly the same age New Yorker

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Mad for Better or Verse small

Confessions of a Mad Reader

I was reminded of my favorite childhood reading material this past month when I heard that Frank Jacobs, the extraordinary writer of light verse and

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Felix the Cat Gin 1926

Problem Attic

I’ve been putting off writing this column until the last minute—almost until I am physically unable to write it. (That would be an excellent method

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Hudson Lake c1928

A Toast to Bix

I’m going to veer wildly off-format here in order to fulfill a promise I made in this column last month. Last year, a subscriber named

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Andy Senior about 1975

We (Theoretically) Get Letters

I was deeply honored this month to receive a message from the legendary jazz writer, editor, archivist, and producer Dan Morgenstern, who offered his kind

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Reflections in the Key of F

Reflections in the Key of F

I realize that most readers turn to this column with the expectation of somewhat light-hearted commentary, so I am reluctant to unpack this month’s stock

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Pony Express Air Mail

Nor Gloom of Night

When I published my first issue of The Syncopated Times, I worked to compensate for the variables and uncertainties involved in getting started. Not the

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intermission

Notes on the Long Intermission

If anything is musically analogous to this historical fermata, it must be the chorus-length note held by Carmen Lombardo on the Royal Canadians’ classic (and

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Mad renewal card

Interesting Times, 2.0

Each month, it seems, represents a newer normal. Normal wants to update itself relentlessly, much like my Windows operating system—usually at no small inconvenience and

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Louis Armstrtong stamp

Open letter to Jazz Festivals

For the first 52 issues of this paper, page three has contained a column of my mental regurgitations which many readers, unaccountably, look forward to

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Wynton at Lionel Hampton Funeral

In Memoriam

In the second month of our siege against an implacable and impersonal enemy, I am a bundle of conflicting and untidy emotions. It really is

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Stuck Home Stomp

Stuck Home Stomp

There is no point in attempting my usual meandering approach to the topic that preoccupies all of us at the moment. Just as unnecessary travel

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RADIOLA 1920s and 1930s clean radiola365

Words Fail Us

Last December, after wrapping up the layout of my January issue and launching it into the world, I was privileged to revisit what had been

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Kat Edmondson Michael Katsobashvili

I’m Not Worthy! (Am I?)

I was deeply moved—and somewhat embarrassed—to read Larry Melton’s encomium for The Syncopated Times (and its hapless publisher). I do acknowledge that the survival of

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Brunswick Model 102 portable

Portable Joy

Sometimes I forget to breathe. That’s not literally so, but it might as well be. In editing and publishing The Syncopated Times for four years

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Woodsman Spare That Dream!

Woodman, Spare That Dream!

I find myself at the end of a long and harrowing layout process (which may be characterized as the maraschino cherry perched atop my annual

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Block Head

None but a Blocked Head

When I was in high school, I began a book report sixty-four times. I finished none of those sixty-four drafts, and I took an F

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Why Be Legendary?

Why Be Legendary?

Aside from the mere act of dragging myself out of bed and facing a computer screen every day, the most challenging aspect of editing The

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Never Mind the Epaulets

Never Mind the Epaulets

I look back with no special fondness on a publication that used to be ubiquitous in waiting rooms, Highlights for Children. I somehow acquired a

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Change is Good?

Change is Good?

I admit an aversion—if not an antipathy—to change. Change is at times necessary, at a certain point it is inevitable, but I wince when I

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Rome Sentinel 1908

Arrivederci, Fresno!

If, upon leafing through this month’s edition of The Syncopated Times, you notice a few differences from how the paper has appeared in previous issues,

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Do You See What I See?

Do You See What I See?

Sometimes we need to be gently but firmly reminded that life is not of infinite length. I’ve been chugging along in my syncopated rut for

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What Price Syncopation?

What Price Syncopation?

Three years ago this month, I set forth on a journey of perpetual astonishment with the first issue of The Syncopated Times. “How did I

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Jazz By Gaslight

Jazz By Gaslight

 Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer in a Screenshot from the trailer of Gaslight (1944) (Public Domain) Having spent my childhood and an unconscionable portion of my

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Annie and The Hedonists

A Needed Touch of Hedonism

Certain matters of local pride in a community invariably become annoyances to particular members of that community. Twenty years ago we bought a delightful Victorian

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Farm Radio

Turn Off Your Radio

(Related Story: Hot Jazz Saturday Night Cancelled) Most of my life I have been fascinated with radio. My childhood, of course, was dominated by television—because

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Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Sorry, Right Number!

It may indicate a distinctly unbusinesslike attitude, but I regard picking up the telephone receiver to make a call with the same enthusiasm I’d muster

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old computer

Come Visit Our Dot Com

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

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US_Airmail_inverted_Jenny_24c_1918_issue

On Going Postal(ly)

When I began publishing The Syncopated Times in February 2016, I stated my determination to reach out beyond the arbitrary borders of this country to

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Sisyphys (1548–49) by Titian

Every Month, a New Boulder

Each month when I begin work on the following month’s issue of The Syncopated Times I often think of Sisyphus, king of Ephyra, condemned for

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W. C. Fields in his famous role as Mr. Micwaber. Public Domain

A Season of Superlatives

During the season in which I write this, it is almost impossible to avoid Charles Dickens’ inky thumbprint on our culture. There is a pervasive

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fels naptha original

Keeping It Clean(ish)

I am old enough to remember when the prospect of having one’s mouth washed out with soap was a credible threat. Not that such a

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Poster for a production of Ruddigore, published in 1887.

Coincidence? Nah

I don’t find anything especially remarkable about coincidences, except that they seem to happen all the time. Mostly, they occur, are briefly noted, and then

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oh no not jazz

Jazz and Not-Jazz

When I think of some of the acts that are chosen to perform at certain jazz festivals, I cannot help but hear the persistent voice

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Message Not Sent

Message Not Sent

On Dancing Bears, Sarcasm, and the Imperfect Reliability of Electronic Mail At certain times I begin to loathe the internet, resent my computer, and nurse

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Everything is Contemporary

Everything is Contemporary

One of the unforeseen side effects of the internet is that everything is made contemporary. For those seeking to commune with the past, one need

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Scott-Joplin-Ragtime

Why Scott Joplin Still Matters

“Traveling,” said Mme. de Staël, “is a melancholy pleasure.” I’m inclined to concur, despite the chorus of protest that will rise with discordant variations on

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Rich Conaty on the Jon Stewart Show in the mid-90's

I’m Sorry for Our Loss

One of the little-noted casualties of the Social Media revolution is our fluency in composing a simple and heartfelt message of condolence. The Victorians were

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The Victrola Credenza

Shellac That Takes You Back

A Kind of Immortality There’s something exquisitely ironic about publishing and editing a paper dedicated to joyous and lively syncopated music and not finding the

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A Hot Jazz Space for Civility

A Hot Jazz Space for Civility

I face the task of writing this essay with more than a little dread. Last month’s “Static” expressed my views concisely and effectively, and if

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Dog Radio Pipe

When are you?

Unless you’ve been in a medically-induced coma for a year or two, you will have noted that the times are, as the supposed Chinese curse

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why won't you listen

What Do You Hear?

My wife and I were fortunate this past month to hear a program of Spanish and Latin American piano music, with commentary, offered as part

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Sing Along With Glitch!

Sing Along With Glitch!

When I launched The Syncopated Times this past February, I made it my policy never to apologize to readers for anything except publishing information that

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MOLDY FIG, GO HOME!

MOLDY FIG, GO HOME!

Even when writing about a topic as delightful and congenial as early jazz, it’s quite impossible to avoid controversy. To be fair, just about everyone

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Guernica

The Pain of Music

I have previously written in this space about “dread.” I then referred to a more general foreboding—which still occasionally visits me, in spite of my

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New Wonders Gotham Jazz Fest April 8 Neal Siegal

This was the Dream

It was a dream: my wife and I were in a large old auditorium which, instead of theater seating, had a polished hardwood dance floor.

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