Your Optimism is Required

It’s a new year, and I am required by law to be optimistic. Never mind that each previous year has, in its own way, been a disappointment. Twenty twenty-four is going to be different! Those speed bumps, minor mishaps, and casual train wrecks are just growing pains. Things are off to a good start and I am compelled to regard that as auspicious.

The actual good news is that our application to file Syncopated Media, Inc. as a non-profit corporation has, as of this writing, been accepted by the State of New York. That’s the first rung of the ladder up toward achieving full non-profit status. Once the US federal government and the IRS recognize us as a 501(c)3 corporation, we can begin to accept grants and tax-deductible contributions to keep The Syncopated Times a robust and viable publication and diversify into other branches of media.

Hot Jazz Jubile

This is as it should be, since TST has been effectively a no-profit enterprise since before some guy got the sniffles in 2019. In fact, I’ve been fighting the loss of readers and advertisers almost since our inception in February 2016. Overtures to the Swing Dance community, which I saw as a way to grow our readership with younger subscribers, haven’t really panned out. It may be that people can’t dance and read at the same time.

More likely, it is that I am admittedly terrible at outreach. The nature of what I do is sedentary and solitary, and entails avoiding undue communication. Once I get into my layout, I am determined to reach my goal with the single-minded intensity of a cross-country trucker with a load of perishables. I dare not take my eyes off the road. A typo is certainly less of a tragedy than a ton of spoiled produce—but it occasions my chagrin nonetheless.

While I sit up here in the cab of the Syncopated Express, I note fleetingly that I should be reminding subscribers that they need to renew. Yet I cannot bring myself to pull over and label postcards. Most publications bombard their readers with multiple notices that they’ve lapsed—and readers expect that service. I instead consider that my readership may intuit something is amiss and reach for their checkbooks or the PayPal button. These “psychic reminders” don’t work as well as I’d like. A real non-profit corporation would eventually enable the creation of a subscription department that wasn’t trying to do fifty other things at once.


Things do get complicated here while I strive to produce the best paper possible. I had almost finished my layout when I received word that the new presses were not quite installed and that I would have to publish The Syncopated Times in two sections this month. That has never happened before and I’m hoping this “A” and “B” business will be a one-off.

Aside from having to shuffle and renumber my pages, I do have other concerns about the format. I remember hearing that Leslie Johnson often received complaints that the second section of The Mississippi Rag would go missing in transit. (It was a great relief to her when the photo-offset era came to an end and she could bypass newsprint and send her computer layout directly to digital subscribers.)

Sentimental fool that I am, I am nowhere near done with dead trees. I do anticipate that some of those “B” sections will go astray and I will have extra copies available to replace those arriving in imperfect completeness. Yes, I know that in preparing for such unfortunate occurrences I am in contravention of the Mandatory Optimism Act (the so-called “Happy New Year” law) but I have taken enough spins on this dizzy planet to scoff as only a scofflaw can.

January will skid into February almost before we know it, and such strictures will be moot. My foot will have found its share of banana peels by then and I will have adjusted my expectations accordingly. I can only hold this forced smile for so long as I consider reality. Let’s say that I am willing to compromise and settle for mixed feelings.

Despite the rampant cruel absurdity besetting the world, I detect that there is much goodness and kindness to be found among us. Not everyone is in sway to demagogues and troublemakers; many of my friends and acquaintances have a firm grounding in home truths and resist with all their might attempts to whip them up into a froth or force them to conclusions that are against the angels of their better nature. I can rail against the superficiality fostered by our present screen-centric culture with its fads, vacillations, outrages, and distortions, but I sense, in stepping away from the vortex of flash and sensation, something more quiet, serious, and enduring.


Music is an agent of that wise serenity. It has handles that we hold on to for dear life as all else conspires to shake us loose into a frenzy or to drive us to despair. That it has lately been abused and misused, its coin debased by its ubiquity, does not diminish its power to heal and inspire us, to make us whole.

Publishing a paper about music is vastly more important to me than politics. Politics is the Flavor of the Month, at first appearance; it turns out on closer inspection that too few people have too much political power—and never the people you suspected.

The music we love centers us, and gives us the power to go on living in the world no matter who pretends to be running it. That I have been publishing The Syncopated Times for eight years as a catalyst for that positive force does give me a great measure of satisfaction—and, I grudgingly admit, hope.


Andy Senior is the Publisher of The Syncopated Times and on occasion he still gets out a Radiola! podcast for our listening pleasure.

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