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Podcast no. 15
Interview with Charles Krafft, Part 2
Posted By Counter-Currents Radio On May 6, 2012 @ 12:40 am In Counter-Currents Radio | Comments Disabled
time: 33:37 / 4,984 words
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Greg: I’ve been re-reading Frederic Spotts’ book; it’s called Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics . And it’s one of my favorite books about Hitler and the Third Reich because it’s one of the most fair-minded books I’ve ever read. And one of the things it underlines to me is the difference between art policy in Germany and art policy in Fascist Italy. Because one of the things that the Italians embraced was modernism. The Futurists were a modernist art movement, there was a movement called Novecento that was a modernist art movement.
And it’s interesting, because Hitler didn’t have any liking for anything modern, and yet a lot of his own inner circle had really strongly modernist tastes. People like Goebbels really liked Edvard Munch, and Van Gogh, and they thought that the last thing that they needed for National Socialism and the thing that was furthest from the spirit of their age, was 19th century minor German painters that Hitler liked, like Spitzweg. So there was this fascist, steely Romantic modernism that was sort of aborted in Germany, but still it was very powerful in Italy.
Do you like Italian Futurism? Do you like Italian Art Deco? What do you think of all that?
Charlie: Well, I like the Vorticists. Wyndham Lewis, he’s a guy that I sort of overlooked earlier on, but I’m re-visiting him and realizing that he’s better than I thought he was. Balla, I don’t know much about Marinetti, what he painted, but I like those Italian Futurist Vortex paintings where everything is triangulated and put into these crazy perspectives. Including that beautiful 360 degree Futurist sculpture of Mussolini’s head. Do you remember that thing? It’s a face but it doesn’t look anything like a face because it’s spinning?
Greg: Right, right exactly. I know that one.
Charlie: That I do like. I don’t know too much about what was going on in Germany at the time. I can’t rattle off the names of their painters. But I liked their design: the industrial design, the military design. But I can’t say who was great in Germany although Von Stuck – would you consider him? Where would you put him, because I like him.
Greg: Well, Von Stuck died in the 1920s. He was a Munich painter. He would fit in more with Symbolism as a movement, in my opinion. I think he’s one of the great 19th, early 20th century painters myself.
Charlie: What about those two painters that the Frye Museum in Seattle featured that were metaphysical?
Greg: Gabriel von Max and [Albert von] Keller?
Charlie: Yeah, don’t you love those paintings?
Greg: Those are fantastic. They were 19th century, south German, Munich academic painters.
Charlie: Well, they were weird.
Greg: They were fantastic. They were on the highest level, I thought.
Charlie: Gabriel von Max? What’s his name?
Greg: Gabriel von Max. Yeah.
Charlie: Those monkey paintings. Aren’t those the most splendid things you’ve ever seen?
Greg: Oh yeah.
Charlie: Some of the most splendid stuff you’ve ever looked at? I mean, those monkey paintings just slay me.
Greg: Yeah, yeah. I think they were tremendous painters. And of course modernism has pretty much consigned all of these people to the footnotes, now. Especially in English-speaking countries. And it’s an amazing resource, the Frye Museum, because they actually have it as their mission to provide a place where people can see this kind of work. So it’s a great place.
Charlie: I like— who’s the playwright from Sweden that was also a painter, and a photographer and a musician? I can’t remember his name right now. He had that little thing on YouTube . . .
Greg: Is it Strindberg?
Charlie: Strindberg, yeah. That Strindberg, that guy was a great painter.
Greg: You know, I’ve never seen his paintings.
Charlie: Oh you must. I’ll show them to you the next time I see you. They’re just great, they’re landscapes, and they’re full of Scandinavian storm clouds, [laughs] among other things.
Greg: Well, I’ll have to see that.
Charlie: I like Strindberg.
Mike: The people who order your artwork, where are they located? Across the world, or locally, or–?
Charlie: I’m preparing low-resolution photographs of my work for a book company in Berlin, Gestalten Verlag, they’re interested in putting out a book about it. And I’m going to be in another exhibition in Paris, sort of this lowbrow group in Paris want to do a show that’s going to include me, and they’re going to publish a catalog, so.
I have a Japanese collector; there’s a guy in Japan that likes my early paintings. He doesn’t like the blue and white, Delft disaster-ware as much as he likes what I was doing when I was out living in the country painting landscapes Zen-style.
So, they’re everywhere. They’re in Seattle. They find me on the internet. I have a gallery in Australia, Seattle, San Francisco — I don’t have one in New York, that’s interesting – Los Angeles, Amsterdam, and in Italy, in Rome. And Melbourne, did I say, yeah, Melbourne, Australia.
So I’m feeding these – these are shops, actually. You know, this is interesting. This lowbrow thing of which I’m sort of a part is being marketed in shops rather than in galleries. Or gallery-shops, it goes both ways, so I don’t know how quite to describe these places, because I haven’t been to a lot of them, but it looks to me from the pictures I see that they have books – have you ever been to a place called the Soap Plant  in Los Angeles? It’s called Wacko  now?
Charlie: Oh, it’s run by this guy Billy Shire. It’s got books, souvenirs, kitsch, interesting stuff picked up around the world and put on shelves for you to look at and buy. And then spaces for exhibitions that are up for a month and then come down. So it’s a mélange of interesting objects that you can purchase when you walk into one of these places. Lots of limited editions.
Greg: Right, it’s sort of a boutique/gallery kind of thing?
Charlie: Yeah, that’s a good word, thank you. A boutique gallery, exactly.
Greg: Who are some of the famous people who have collected your works?
Charlie: Let’s see. Oh god, Mark Mothersbaugh, of Devo, owns something. Chris Stein of Blondie owns something. Grace Slick never bought anything from me, but I’ve given her some things, so let’s put her on that list.
Charlie: Let’s see.
Greg: Any Hollywood people?
Charlie: You know, there’s some Hollywood people, but I forget who they are. I’ve got to look at this list, I don’t really keep up with it that much. I can’t think of any actors, any celebrities. I guess I’m not collected by celebrities. I’m more collected by musicians and people in the music industry.
Greg: Well, that’s really interesting in itself.
Charlie: Um, let me think if there’s an actor . . . I just can’t pull one out of my head right now, but I’m sure there is one, because in Santa Monica, the Copro Nasen Gallery  peddles my work and I guess some actors have come in there and bought something, I’ve been told. But I can’t remember who they told me it was.
Greg: Have you ever done any album art?
Charlie: No. I’d like to do some if anybody wants to. I’ve seen some of my stuff has been appropriated by people that do raves: cards that have some of my grenades with blue and white on them that have been manipulated in such a way to make them look like it’s rave art. I’ve seen that happen. These kids that are mining the internet for imagery and sometimes they happen onto my stuff, and it gets turned into advertising for events at clubs. I’ve seen that happen. But nobody has actually come to me and said, “Hey, we’ve got a concept album we want you to help us illustrate.” Nobody’s ever done that.
Greg: I first encountered your work in a volume on Pop Surrealism , I believe.
Charlie: That was the first coffee table [book] ever written about this movement. And it was going to be called “lowbrow art,” and Mark Ryden didn’t like the derogatoriness of that “lowbrow” name, so he insisted if he was going to be in the book, that the authors should call it pop surrealism.
And it was published in Seattle. It was written up by Kirsten Anderson. That was the first book about this movement, and there’s been more since. I can’t remember the names, the titles of the other books, but she put me in it because I’m a local guy and she’s got a gallery here and she wanted to get involved in lowbrow art and I was making it.
Greg: Well yeah, so that’s how I first knew your name. And then around 2006 I sold a Savitri Devi book to you, and that’s how we first actually got in touch.
Charlie: Oh, when you were down in Atlanta?
Charlie: And I bought a book from you, eh?
Charlie: Okay. Yeah, I was interested in Savitri Devi through my friend Adam Parfrey that runs Feral House Books. He introduced me to her – what’s that one about the sun?
Greg: The Lightning and the Sun.
Charlie: Yeah, I just thought that was wacky. [Laughs] Hitler as Akhenaten, right?
Greg: Well, Hitler as an avatar of Vishnu.
Charlie: Oh. But where does Akhenaten, the Pharaoh, come in?
Greg: Well, Akhenaten comes in as an exemplar of the Man Above Time, as opposed to the Man Against Time.
Charlie: Oh, okay.
Greg: He’s the impractical spiritual teacher who’s ultimately ground down by the system. Whereas Hitler, Hitler had enough mastery of the world that he could actually fight and try and change society, resist the downward course of decadence. Whereas Akhenaten just got steam-rollered by it in the end.
Charlie: Oh. And so Hitler was the avatar of—what’s this business about the Kalki avatar, then? Isn’t that supposed to come at the end of the Kali Yuga? Why are they calling Hitler the Kalki avatar?
Greg: Well, you see that’s a misnomer. She believed that Hitler wasn’t the last avatar, but he was the penultimate avatar.
Charlie: Oh, second to the last.
Greg: Yeah. And some people, for instance David Tibet wrote this song “Hitler as Kalki.” Either he disagrees with her view, or he just didn’t understand what Savitri Devi was saying. And I guess Miguel Serrano describes Hitler as the last avatar.
But anyway, that’s an interesting topic.
Charlie: Well, Adam Parfrey is an interesting guy, and he’s had his thumb on all kinds of off-beat stuff for most of his career, which is about twenty-five years of publishing, now. And he introduced me to Savitri Devi’s Lightning and the Sun. Then I would run into those copies of that book in used bookstores, and that’s how I heard about it at first. And I thought it was kind of a whacky idea about Hitler being an avatar or a Pharaoh, you know, I can’t remember exactly. You know more about it than me. That’s probably why I ordered the book from you!
Charlie: But why don’t we tell them about my big trip to Savitri Devi’s friend in Arunachala, you know. That sent me packing when I found her. [Laughs]
Greg: Yeah, well I gave you the name and address of this woman who knew Savitri Devi, who lived in Tiruvannamalai. Her name – she’s dead now – her name was Miriam Hirn. And I wrote to her and said that you were going to be traveling there, and maybe she didn’t get the letter or something. [Laughs]
Charlie: I heard from her too, you know, once I was in India.
Charlie: I was in Trivandrum, and I wrote to her, and I told her that I’d like to have a meeting with her, and I did get on a bus and I traveled all night to try to get to Tiruvannamalai. Is that the name of the town where she was?
Charlie: Tiruvannamalai, thanks. I’m terrible. I’ve been there but I can’t pronounce it.
She wouldn’t see me. There was a man with her; they wouldn’t open the door; and he shooed me away with his hands and then he threw his hands in the air, like, “I can’t help you. She doesn’t want to see you.”
Greg: She can be very exasperating. She had a certain paranoid streak to her that could be very exasperating. She died almost exactly two years ago. She died on April 16th, 2010, and I didn’t discover it until March of this year.
Charlie: Are they both, Savitri Devi and she, disciples of Ramana Maharshi?
Greg: Well, Savitri Devi never really followed Ramana Maharshi. She respected him tremendously and thought he was a genuine holy man. But this woman Miriam Hirn was very much a follower of Ramana Maharshi. She was a civil servant in the French embassy in New Dehli. And that’s how they met, that’s how Savitri Devi met Miriam Hirn, and they got to be good friends. This was in the 1970s. And even before they met, Miriam Hirn was travelling from Delhi to Tiruvannamalai to spend time at the Ramana ashram. And after she retired from the civil service, she thought she’d go back to France, but then she quarreled with her relatives in France, and she just decided to go back to India. And so she lived in Tiruvannamalai on and off for the rest of her life.
Primarily she lived there, and she would go to the ashram every day. And when I visited her there in 2004, we would go to the ashram, and it was a genuinely spiritual place. It was really quite a beautiful place. And one day we took a trip to Pondicherry, and we went to the Aurobindo ashram. And you couldn’t imagine a greater contrast between the two institutions, because the Aurobindo ashram is just a giant gift shop and book shop, and they’re just hawking things. Every square inch of it is full of merchandise for you to buy. I think that probably has a lot to do with the fact that the mother of the ashram, Mirra Alfassa, was a French Jewess: she certainly applied her people’s business acumen to running that ashram.
Charlie: Was Aurobindo Alzheimer-ed out at the end his life? That’s what I heard. That she took over and sort of kept it a secret that he had lost his faculties.
Greg: Right, that’s entirely possible. Miguel Serrano has an absolutely wicked description of the Aurobindo ashram in his book on the serpent . . . [The Serpent of Paradise  (chapter 25)]. And Savitri Devi in her last book, Memories and Reflections of an Aryan Woman, describes the contrast between those two ashrams. I’m borrowing her language, but it fit perfectly when I got there, just to see the difference. I guess the Aurobindo ashram is basically like the biggest landlord in Pondicherry. They own like a third of the town now. They kept buying things up. They probably loaned money out and then foreclosed.
Charlie: I went to Pondicherry, I was impressed with its cleanliness, and I bought a croissant there. It’s very French. I didn’t go to the ashram, though. I didn’t make it there.
Greg: Well, they probably owned the place that sold you the croissant. But it’s so funny: I knew I was in Pondicherry because suddenly we had gone from twisting, chaotic Indian streets to a Cartesian grid!
Charlie: Yeah, exactly. [Laughs] It felt like home, didn’t it?
Greg: Yeah, sort of.
Charlie: I bought a really nice little statue of Gandhi from the hotelier who put me up. I saw in his foyer, and I asked him if I could buy it from him and he said “sure.” So it’s my only souvenir from that trip.
Greg: I got this beautiful statue of Vishnu and his avatars when I was in India in 2004 and I went to various really nice shops where they sold sandalwood-carvings and things like that, which they assured me were all from trees that were cut down before they were banned. Of course they were probably lying. But anyway, I went there, and I kept asking for an image of the Kalki avatar, and nobody had any images of Kalki. And finally I asked this old Brahmin gentleman why they didn’t have any images of Kalki. And his response to me was so charming: “But Kalki avatar has not come yet!”
“How can we have an image of him if he hasn’t come yet?” As if all these other images were from life, right?
Charlie: Right, exactly. Did you happen to get into any Nicholas Roerich? Did you look into his life?
Greg: He’s a really interesting character. I’ve seen his paintings, and I’ve done a little reading, but I don’t know all that much about him.
Charlie: I don’t either. I went to his center in New York City and looked at his paintings and his son’s paintings. Apparently he worked for the Ballet Russe, as a set painter.
Greg: Right, didn’t he paint the paint the sets for the Rite of Spring?
Charlie: Yeah. And then he moved to India, and he was living in the foothills of the Himalayas for years. Who was that musician that wrote The Way to the Labyrinth , remember? He was a French musician, and he wrote a book about India and he went to visit Nicholas Roerich.
Greg: Oh yes, that’s Alain Daniélou.
Charlie: Yeah, exactly. I thought that was a good book.
Greg: That is a great book. I really liked that book tremendously.
Charlie: Yeah, me too. I recommend that book for anybody that’s thinking about visiting India, or anybody with nostalgia for the India of the last century, the tail end of the 20th century.
Charlie: Oh yeah.
Mike: I wonder how that went over, if you got a lot of flak from that, and also how well they sold, and if you’re still making them.
Charlie: I haven’t gotten really any flack over them, and periodically I do a little installation where I’ve got the soap, the perfume, and the advertising that goes with it on display. It continues to pique people’s curiosity. It’s not a big seller because of the swastika, of course. Nobody wants swastikas in their homes, because it reflects on them, they think. Or, they think their neighbors and friends will misconstrue the symbol and accuse them of something. So no, I can’t say it’s a big deal for me. But I continue to have people buy it from me, every once in a while. You know I’ll sell them a bottle of Forgiveness.
I had a custom set made by an essential oils salesman in Los Angeles. And I told him I wanted the scent to be “Blood on Snow.” And he said, “Well that’s a challenge.” And so he sent me back a variety of scents that he had come up with, and I chose one. There really is a Forgiveness scent. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve never smelled blood on snow, and this isn’t it, for sure.
But, it’s a nice smell. It’s got vetiver in it. Lots of vetiver.
The soap is really porcelain. I’ve made bars of real, glycerin soap, but it’s too much trouble for me to go and make a bar — it’s just as easy for me to make a bar of porcelain soap as it is to make a bar of real soap. And this is terrible, but I can ask more money for porcelain than real.
So I stick to the porcelain. You got to buy this fake soap from me, if you want a bar of Forgiveness.
Mike: What inspired that idea?
Charlie: I was in Sarajevo one night with Peter Mlakar, who’s the official orator of the Laibach band. And he’s also the head of their Department of Pure and Applied Philosophy, NSK, and he was just drunk as the Lord.
We had been to a club, and we were going home to where we were being put up. It was up this steep hill, above the bombed-out Winter Olympic Stadium, just torched, and then next to that was a maternity hospital, and that had been torched. So we were overlooking the ruins of these two facilities, from the top of the hill, in the full moonlight, in the snow. If you can imagine. The cab couldn’t get up the hill, because the road was all icy. So he let us out, and we were walking up to where we were staying. And he turned around and looked at this devastation all around us, and said, “Ah, the smell of blood on snow. It’s so Tolstoy, I love it! If I could create a scent for the 21st-century, I would call it ‘Forgiveness.’”
And I remembered that, and when I got back I went to work on creating a line of cosmetics that was based on that offhanded remark. A remark that was full of irony, the night that he made that we were in Sarajevo.
I think I got that quote right. I might’ve had it wrong. But essentially he was just saying that the devastation required a new perfume, and it should be called “Forgiveness.”
Charlie: Frank Kozik is a San Francisco lowbrow artist, who started out as a poster-maker for rock ‘n roll concerts. He graduated to toys now. He puts out a lot of plastic toys that are made in Japan and China.
He did this thing called a “dunny,” a smoking bunny, that’s kind of pneumatic-looking. It has no features, except for a cigarette stuck in its mouth, two ears, and this crazy body that doesn’t have any detail. It looked like a blimp.
And he was coming to town for this exhibition at the Roq La Rue Gallery and Kirsten Anderson, the director there, wanted to put us together. I thought that was a good idea because Frank had used a lot of Nazi imagery in his rock posters, these Day-Glo rock posters which came after the psychedelic rock posters from the Haight-Ashbury. They were just as great. A completely different sensibility, but they were just as graphically wonderful.
So I said, “Yeah, sure I’d love to show with Kozik.” So he came to town. He had a book he was flogging. And he had 100 little robot Hitlers that he had made out of plastic. He had some company in Japan do them for him, and they were lined up 10-deep on a wall, 10-high and 10-deep. And these kids were bringing these toys that they had gotten from this shop in New York that sells artist toys, called “Kid Robot,” that manufactured the smoking bunny.
I call it a “dunny,” but that’s not right. A “smorkin”! He calls this thing a smorkin. They wanted Frank to autograph it. So I knew he was coming, and I wanted to do a smoking bunny myself. I had a bunny mold that I had found in an abandoned ceramic hobby shop, and I just stuck a cigarette in it.
It’s an homage to Frank Kozik. For some reason, this damn thing has taken off. The two things that I sell the most of are hand grenades and smoking bunnies
Greg: And I’ve seen the combos, the bunny/grenade combos.
Charlie: Yeah, I put a grenade in the bunny’s hands. And sometimes the bunny has a hypodermic needle — that’s the “junkie bunny.” And sometimes it’s just sitting there smoking on its haunches. People just seem to like it, so I’ve sold not a “whole lot” of bunnies, but enough for me to be able to call it one of the more popular items that I’ve come up.
Greg: Well it’s an homage, not a theft.
Charlie: Yeah, right. It was an homage.
Charlie: Thanks a lot for asking me to participate. I like the Counter-Currents website, and I’m honored to be affiliated with it. I like your books too, I just read Revolution from Above .
Greg: That’s from Arktos
Greg: I think he’s really good. We’re bringing out a book of his very soon, Artists of the Right. So, I’m working on that as we speak, practically.
Charlie: Oh, good. Because I think he’s one of the best explicators of the political direction that I find myself in, living today. If I could try to explain how I think, and why I’m thinking the way I am, I would direct people to Kerry Bolton. He’s done a really good job of explaining things, I think.
Greg: I agree.
Charlie: I consider him a guru. You know, I’ve told you this.
Charlie: I got in touch with him when he was writing about the Order of the Nine Angles. I was investigating Satanism — have you ever heard of the Order of the Nine Angles?
Greg: Yeah, I don’t know much about it.
Charlie: Well, they were supposed to carry out these cullings, where they would grab people and sacrifice them. It’s an urban myth. But these guys are supposed to be the baddest of the bad black magicians practicing sorcery today. I wrote to Kerry Bolton because he had some information that he was selling about them. And then I started ordering some of his other stuff, and I’m happy to see him getting more exposure over the Internet, because tracking him down was a bit of a task in the old days before the Internet.
Greg: Oh yeah.
Charlie: You know he’s there in New Zealand, on that beach. You’d send him the money and then you’d get this stuff from him, and it was always interesting. I just love going to Foreign Affairs? That blog he writes for, what’s the name of that one where is commenting on geopolitical stuff as it happens?
Greg: Yeah, the Foreign Policy Journal ?
Charlie: Yeah. Foreign Policy Journal. I go there to see what he’s put up, regularly. And every time he put something up I’m usually impressed with it.
Greg: I agree, he’s done a lot of great things for us about the color-coded revolutions around the world . . .
Charlie: Yeah, exactly.
Greg: . . . the Twitter and Facebook insurrections in the near-East, and so forth.
Charlie: All of that stuff. People should be reading him instead of Noam Chomsky, for God sakes.
Greg: Yeah, he’s our Noam Chomsky.
Charlie: We should bring him to the United States and have some Kerry Bolton events, I think.
Greg: We’ll definitely talk about doing that. It’s a bit expensive to get somebody from New Zealand, but—
Mike: Has he spoken at any conferences overseas?
Charlie: That I don’t know. I don’t know too much about the man.
Greg: I don’t know either. If he hasn’t, it would be great to be the first people to roll him out.
Charlie: Yeah, well get in touch with me if you want some financial assistance. And if I’ve got some extra money, I’ll put it into bringing him here.
Greg: Well, that’s fantastic.
Charlie: I’d definitely like to meet him.
Greg: We’ll take you up on that. We really will.
Charlie: Okay, let’s pass the hat and get him here.
Greg: Well Charlie, this has been a really enjoyable conversation. Is there anything you want to say just at the end. Are there any questions we should have asked you that you would like to answer before we go?
Charlie: I don’t think so, other than I wish I had more of a vision for artists in your movement. I don’t really know what we can except just get more people exposed to the work that we like. And maybe that’ll lead to some kind of transmogrification from then to now, and we’ll get some of the craftsmanship and ideas that we like so much back into contemporary art.
You know, artists don’t learn from nature so much as from each other. So the trick is to get people that are involved in art and want to be artists and appreciating art to broaden their horizons by introducing the names and works of these people that are overlooked by history.
Greg: Yeah, well, I think we’ve made a good start with that in this very conversation. So thank you so much.
Charlie: Well, you’re welcome.
Mike: Thanks Charlie.
Charlie: You’re welcome, Michael.
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