Daddie bear

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.

In Microtones, our newsletter-first column. 

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MICROTONES by Scott Gordon, editor-in-chief and publisher 

There’s a new Instagram star on the rise in Madison. More and more frequently, a large seated polar bear statue at the free Henry Vilas Zoo is popping up in my timelines. It’s life-size gigantic, letting its arms rest on its belly as its strange, vacant eyes stare off, presumably into Arctic oblivion. The thing is so big and sturdy that posing on it isn’t just for kids. Go ahead, let dead-eyed daddie bear cradle your adult body. Get multiple adult friends in there good. Don’t just pose in front of it. Climb into those arms. This bear can handle it. And it has a strange magnetism that actual polar bears, the captive ones at least, do not.

My obsession probably started this summer when Sage Caswell, an electronic producer and DJ who plays this Saturday at Robinia Courtyard, tweeted a photo of himself seated in the bear’s left paw. A few other acquaintances and friends, all seemingly independent of each other, followed suit. I started scrolling through Instagram photos tagged to the Vilas Zoo, and sure enough, there were more adults crawling onto that big broad bristly lap, in poses that ranged from straightforward to glamorous.

Intentionally or not, the zoo might have gotten itself on board with a somewhat infuriating new trend.


“In a time when shops have a designated area for Instagramming and when there are whole ‘museums’ devoted to Instagrammable content, the zoo needs their own little Instagrammable content area that is devoid of all living creatures,” one of my friends, Lydia Roussos, told me after I spotted one of their photos with the bear and a couple of friends.


“I like the feeling of being small enough to fit in another being’s hand,” another polar-bear ‘grammerTone Madison contributor Caleb Oakley, says. “If given the chance, I would have climbed in the cage and cuddled with the living bear. As that sort of thing is generally frowned upon, I went with the second best option.”

Perhaps that explains the bear’s unlikely allure for adults: the chance to feel small.


New this week:

Remember those surprise Aziz Ansari shows? Holly Henschen is disturbed by Madison’s response.

Hip-hop artist Dequadray, playing Friday at Robinia Courtyard, talks with us about his creative process.

On the podcast, music critic Jessica Hopper discusses her new book Night Moveswith Chali Pittman.

Our Park Binge series heads to the north side’s Meadow Ridge Park, where John McCracken finds himself constantly stumbling into someone’s backyard.

Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Noname has announced a January 26 show at the Sylvee. Madison goth-rock outfit Vanishing Kids releases a new videoEdge Effects explores the connections between environmentalism and recorded sounds. MMOCA has announced this fall’s Spotlight Cinema lineup.

This week’s Madison calendar: Hardcore band Black Cat celebrates a new album at Mickey’s TavernFar From Heaven screens at UW Cinematheque. Tarek Sabbar plays techno at CommunicationAnd more.

An ode to the best and worst of Madison summers.

Eight stories over eight days, delivered directly to your inbox.

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