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The Whole World Is Watching July 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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2 comments

Today I received an envelope written in a careful but fluid hand, and started to open it before I noticed it had no return address, except for this:

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.

Crazy Bastards.

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.

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Legalized Vandalism and Vigilantism in New Orleans January 21, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Citizen Journalism, Debrisville, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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10 comments

What a mean spirited little golum is this Fred Radtke? A vigilante who dashes gray paint over public and private property wherever he spots graffiti or advertising posters, who is allowed to roam the streets with impunity and deface public and private property at whim, sometimes covering public safety signs (stop signs, for example) in his demented quest to cover all of the city’s graffiti.

An interesting turn of urban life is all it was, until Radtke took off after folk artist Michael Dingler and his NOLA Rising project. Today’s Citibusiness weekly reports that Radtke initiated a complaint and resulted in Dingler be charged with 1,100 counts of unlawfully posting signs on telephone poles that could cost him more than $50,000 in fines.

Dingler explains his act of civic art making on the NOLA Rising blog in a June 2007 posting. This is a public art installation, not criminal activity. Sadly, the N.O.P.D. seems to agree with Radtke, who’s own clearl acts of vandalism of public and private property they condone and even encourage.

The New Orleans Police Department, however, condones Radtke’s actions. NOPD often calls him directly to cover graffiti and spokesman Sgt. Joe Narcisse said they have no intention of charging Radtke with any crimes.

Here’s an interesting response from street artist unknownparts which found on Flickr.

radtke.jpg

I can’t believe that the city has given tens of thousands of dollars to some mean-spirited freak so he can spread his own form of ugly paint-based vandalism all over public and private property at his own whim. I have no problem with the city removing or covering obvious gang tags. However, by going after street artists like the NOLA Rising group or even unknownparts and his sort–artists who appropriate public space for what is arguably art–Radtke is no different than the tagger thugs.

This is insane. I just fired of a letter to my City Council Person Shelly Midura demanding Radtke be required to return the tens of thousands of city tax dollars he’s been given, that all charges against Dingler be dropped, and that the N.O.P.D officers who colluded in Radtke’s vendetta against Dingler should be required to apologize, if not in fact be fired for their collusion in Radkte’s own campaign of vandalism.

What NOLA Rising has done is a tremendous work of civic betterment, one tiny poster at a time, contributed to by tens if not hundreds of people. It is a bright spot in the gray landscape of our continuing disaster, a landscape not improved one bit by Radtke’s own gray tags. It is not Dingler that should be stopped and punished but Radtke, and everyone in city government–in City Hall or the N.O.P.D–who has supported him