The Whole World Is Watching July 1, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: 1960s, art, Blows Against the Empire, Hunter S. Thompson, Jefferson Starship, Michael Dingler, New Orleans, NOLA, NOLA Rising, revolution, Rex, Sixties, Yippies
Inside, I found a “zine”, a small self-published chapbook of artwork and writing by Micheal Dingler a.k.a. Rex of NoLa Rising, founder of New Orleans’ insurgent public art movement. Inside are various montage of words and line art expressing his take on New Orleans, war, corporate America, and Top Reasons Why I Love New Orleans. It is titled (I think) “He Dreams In Widescreen”; at least that phrase appears on the cover.
I don’t know why but the booklet immediately put me in mind of the Yippies. Perhaps it had something to do with listening to Allen Ginsburg singing William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience while I scanned these pictures (something I once owned a vinyl copy of, but like many cool things it vanished in late 1986 while I was out of town. Long story. Some other time). My mind started to wander to Jerry Rubin’s Steal This Book, and an image of Ginsburg and friends carrying pictures of vegetables marching around the Pentagon.
The artwork in particular reminds me of the insert booklet from Blows Against the Empire, the Paul Kantner concept album released under the name Jefferson Starship. (No, not the band that made “We Built This City” and other dreck. This record was four years before that, with Stills and Nash along with Garcia, Kruetzman, and Hart and some other folks sitting in. Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?) “It’s a fresh wind that blows against the empire”, that album booklet tell us. Almost 40 years later, Rex has the same message.
You may think all of that 60’s stuff was silly nonsense. Perhaps it was, if you were expecting the Dictatorship of the Stonertariat as the outcome. And yet it was a time full of actions and ideas entirely consistent with the founding premises of a country created by guys who sat around drinking rum-and-water out of quart tankards, who thought after a couple of rounds that it was a Swell Idea to dress up in Indian costume, break-and-enter then toss other people’s tea into the harbor all as a dress rehearsal for committing High Treason in the defense of Liberty.
There is a bit in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. …
“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
Thompson was wrong. The wave did not simply break and retreat. It broke into a thousand rivulets and left behind uncounted pools filled with strange creatures. What happened was a small transformation inside the heads of a large number of individuals. Those tiny transformations produced the world we live in today, the people many of us are. A lot of other people who had very little fun back then or missed it entirely and resent it greatly have gone to great lengths over the last generation to try to put that genie back in the bottle, shredding the constitution and generally fucking up the country and much of the world in the process.
I’m sick of them, of it, of the IT the U.S of A. has become. I’m sick about what was allowed to happen here in New Orleans, and what continues to happen. And after reading this zine I would have to say so is ReX. Are you?
My favorite page in the zine is near the end. At the top of a largely blank page it reads, in broken Courier type, “THIS PAGE HAS BEEN LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK FOR ADDITIONAL ARTWORK”.
I think you know what to do.
If you have any hesitation about that consider this:
The revolution will not be televised. The whole world is watching.
Inside the place where those two statements are not inconsistent is the answer. When you get there you can borrow my Sharpie.