In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.
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We have published 45 editions of our Microtones column in 2019 (not counting this one), sending them to our email subscribers on Thursdays and posting them to the actual Tone Madison website on Fridays. The column started in 2016, as a way to add something a little special to our weekly email newsletter, and to create a space where we could play around with story ideas that didn’t always strictly fit in with our arts-and-culture coverage. Ben Munson wrote the first one, about hawks, and his work basically showed me what Microtones should be: deadpan, curious, and filled with a mix of humor and wonder at the strange minutiae of Iife in Madison. Ben’s one of the absolute funniest and most decent people I know, so it makes sense that he’d end up being the spiritual father of this column.
We’re wrapping up the year with a few roundups of our best work from 2019, and I’ll start it here with a commemoration of some standout Microtones:
Ben Munson on a pizza bracket: “If they were seeded a little higher—and to be fair, Mod Pizza and Rocky Rococo received five and six seeds, respectively—there’s a decent chance Domino’s could take down Falbo Bros. and enjoy a short but glorious Cinderella run.”
Loren Sommer on Badger women’s hockey: “In fact, the team’s kick-ass dominance as of late (and by “of late” I mean over the past 20 years) has made single-game tickets hard to get. I couldn’t even get a first-hand take for this story and experience the game from the cozy confines of the 2,273-seat LaBahn Arena. (Doesn’t this team deserve a bigger hometown venue?)”
Edwanike Harbour on judging the Wisconsin Film Festival’s Golden Badger Awards: “I think it’s a unique opportunity to showcase the talent of the state. I’m sure it’s difficult to synthesize something for the entire state and have it be accessible to everyone, but I think it serves as a good reminder of the excellent work that is taking place in our own community. Not everyone needs to move to LA.”
Chris Lay on giant spring rolls: “The total came to $8 for the whole sack of densely wrapped goodness that was passed to me through the almost uninvitingly small window in the side of the cart through which all business is conducted. Both carts, in fact, have almost comically small openings through which currency and goods are exchanged, which I clearly consider to be ‘notable’ enough to point out here.”
John McCracken on an annual Spam-carving contest: “The competition is divided into three categories: with props, without props, and bizarre (which, if I may split hairs, should really encompass everything that transpires at a SPAM carving contest). Throughout the years, carvers have created such classics as SPAM-ual Clemmens and SPAMossarus Goes On Broadway. This year, adherents of this Midwest marble served up fierce entries to compete for SPAM-branded prizes such as a SPAM portable amplifier, SPAM-flavored lip balm, and a SPAMjo, which is a banjo made out of, you guessed it, SPAM.”
Ben Munson on “veggie pizza”: “It’s essentially taking a veggie tray and dumping it out on a starchy substrate. It’s clearly not pizza. But it is a pure-hearted and tasty treat that needn’t be cast aside just because a horrible man eats it by the lake. “
Me on musician Tyler Fassnacht’s “first sip of the day” video series: “I kind of don’t care if these videos portray Fassnacht’s actual first sip of the day. It’s hard to imagine delaying that first cup of coffee just for the sake of a bit, however delightful it may be, and the appeal of this is more about the performance than about authenticity. That said, Fassnacht insists that he’s pretty disciplined about it.”
Mark Riechers on online bike drama: “It’s mostly just a group of people really passionate about bicycles and bicycle rights in Madison. But it is most definitely an echo chamber wherein the core belief system leans more toward ‘banish all cars to the interstate’ than ‘bike paths are neat.’ It’s the sort of environment primed for handlebar-mounted pitchforks when something anti-bike spills into the group.”
Mark, Ben, and me on woodchucks: “Ben has one living under an old gazebo in his backyard, possibly lording it over some rabbits in a captive/cult kind of situation. ‘I texted my dad and said, “should I worry about this?”‘ Ben said. ‘It can be aggressive if cornered, is what he said.’ He got a photo of it, hunkering down near some hostas and exuding rage. Nothing about this is good news.”
Whether you’re a new subscriber or have been reading this crazy shit all year without unsubscribing, thank you and also, Shen Yun.
New this week:
More of our favorite albums and EPs from the year in Madison music.
Seven great songs local artists released in 2019.
Jane Burns explains why you should be excited about Badger volleyball and what you need to know to follow it.
Elsewhere on the Madison internet: The Verge digs into the closing of Madison music startup Murfie. A new compilation from Madison Music Foundry’s Rock Workshop. We care. Robinia Courtyard has some domes.
This (and next) week’s Madison calendar: A solstice celebration at Communication. A political hardcore pile-on at Mickey’s. And more.
Upcoming Tone Madison Events!
March 5: Kayo Dot, Psalm Zero, Telechrome. Communication, 8 p.m. Tickets available now, discount for Tone Madison Sustainers