In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.
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MICROTONES by Chris Lay, associate publisher
Maybe I’m just a softy for this most wonderful time of year, but one of my all-time favorite galleries curated by the Wisconsin Historical Society’s digital collections in my 10-plus years working there as an image archivist is the loftily titled “American History Through Christmas Cards.” The nearly 300 images to be found therein include political missives presidential (Eisenhower, JFK, George H. W. Bush), gubernatorial (Phil La Follette, Warren Knowles, Tommy Thompson), and senatorial (Ted Kennedy, Herb Kohl). Tired of old white guys? How about a card from Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton, inscribed with “Have a Revolutionary New Year,” or an African-American Santa wishing a “Merry Christmas To The People.”
Along with those bits of interesting ephemera, this corner of the archive also contains scores of Santas. They’re funky, freakish, and phantasmagorical. There’s even a pleasantly pachydermal one that was sent by Duke Dunbar, the Republican Attorney General of Colorado, sent in 1962. A 1909 card from Germany depicts St. Nick behind the wheel of an automobile, which might be great for kids waiting on him to bring their toys, but it’s bad news for stray snowmen unlucky enough to find themselves in Kris Kringle’s path.
Every entry in the collection is fascinating in its own way, but the one that’s stuck with me the the longest (manufactured by Forget-Me-Not Greeting Cards, aptly enough) is one that just does not work. The concept is that the sender made the card from a paper towel snatched from a public bathroom, but this relatively high concept “Christmas Greeting” goes off the rails with a frustratingly inscrutable rhyme: “Christmas Greetings, I couldn’t afford a Christmas card so —- my wish with cheer to spare I’ve printed on this paper towel that I swiped from *****…” [open the card] “…you know where!” What bit of old-timey scatalogical slang is the past mocking me for not knowing?
There are so many more sincere, bizarre, and above all wonderful bits of holiday cheer to be found over on the WHS website, so take some time between now and the New Year to check them out for yourself. And, hey, if you wanted to get a jump on Valentine’s Day, they’ve got you covered there too.
New this week:
Our top 20 Madison records of 2018.
On the podcast, we discuss a new report on the inequities hip-hop artists face in Madison.
Don’t forget to join us this Saturday at BarleyPop for our Best of 2018 Listening Party. $1 from each full-pour beer sold will go toward supporting our journalism.
Look out for more of our year-end coverage soon!
Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Our Lives launches a new column, “Dear Queer White People.” Madison metal blogger JT Extreme shares his favorite albums of 2018. Milo has announced a February 13 show at the High Noon Saloon. Mistki and Jay Som announce an April 3 show at the Majestic.
This week’s Madison calendar: Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The Worldscreens at the Central Library. The Daily Show‘s Dulcé Sloan visits the Comedy Club on State. Four local bands raise money for Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. And more.