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What’s Wrong with the Arts?

5,798 words

Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of Charles Krafft’s speech [1] at the Inaugural Meeting of the Northwest Forum in Seattle on November 12, 2016. Some of the audience questions have been removed as they were inaudible, but you can easily infer the gist of them through Charles’ answers. We would like to thank KC for transcribing this talk.

Charles Krafft: I want to start by telling you all that you can interrupt me at any moment and ask a question, and possibly we could have a small conversation. I haven’t really given my subject matter much thought, but what is wrong with the arts? I have some stories that I can tell you that encapsulate what I think the situation is out there.

I’ll begin by telling you that someone I know has been working with the Seattle Arts Council on getting funding for a circus performance with some trapeze artists. There’s a granting cycle that the city provides for artists, performers, and literary people in town — and you find out by going to these arts organizations when the funding cycles begin and end — what you need to prepare for asking the city, the state, or the federal government for money. And as artists, a lot of us at a certain level have to learn how to go through the funding application process in order to get subsidized, because it’s a difficult thing to make your way in this society unless you’re a celebrity artist, and celebrity artists are, I think, maybe 0.1% or maybe even less of people claiming to be artists. I mean, you hear about Andy Warhol, but this man is in a level of celebrityhood that is so far beyond a working artist that it’s unimaginable, you see.

Most of us are obliged to go to our city, our state, or the federal government for funding. It’s very difficult to make it with sales because people are making the stuff, they’re making conceptual art, and what do you do with this? Like this woman Marina Abramovic going into a museum in NYC and painting words on the wall with cow’s blood. I mean, somebody’s got to pay for all that: they’ve got to pay for her to come in; they’ve got to pay to clean it up. The whole business is a substantial investment for the Guggenheim or wherever she did her spirit-cooking performances. She’s getting some funding probably from private patronage, and then she’s also probably getting it from the city and the state of New York.

My friend wanted four thousand bucks to help this company of trapeze performers put on a show in Seattle. So, she went down there and talked to the funding agent, and he said you have to tool their performance to minorities. Well, for her to get the money, she’s got to think about the Sikhs, the Somalis, the Eritreans. She’s got to think about the Nigerians, and she’s got to think about everybody except the people that the theme of the show was about, which was a cult of hippies that disappeared after the 60s and then reemerged in 2001 and decided to relaunch their career as middle-aged former hippie stars. This is all for trapeze artists — but that’s the story. These are just white hippie girls that disappeared and came back — kind of like Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris if they were trapeze artists (laughs).

So, the problem with the situation across America is this multicultural mandate that you have to have to, number one, exhibit your work if you’re a visual artist at a gallery, perform your art on stage if you’re a theatrical person, and then if you want to be a poet or a novelist and you need an extra bunch of money to complete a literary project or build a website or do whatever they’re doing out there that they call making culture, you have to toe this party line which is Cultural Marxist. And that is a big problem out there with people in the profession, but I’ll tell you what, there are so few of these culture-makers in America that are thinking along the lines that we do, that I don’t see any kind of a crack in this wall that I watched happen. I remember in 1995 that I was working with the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) in Seattle, and, all of a sudden, for us to get this grant for this nonprofit arts organization that we ran here, we had to start making exhibitions for minorities — for women, homosexuals, and racial minorities.

In order to qualify for that annual $10,000 grant that we counted on every year (1/4 of our budget), we had to prove that we were going to bring in these other people to make sure that they get a fair shake and representation in the arts in Seattle. We started engineering shows that had to do with — oh, we’re going to have the gay show in September, we’re going to have the women’s show, and that will be in August, and then we’ll have the Native American show in another month, then we’ll have a show for artists (laughs). I mean, it all got compartmentalized into these various kinds of communities — and art is art.

It really shouldn’t make any difference if you are male or female, gay or straight, if you’re a Native American or a Negro. It should be recognized as art by, I guess, art experts that don’t have all this baggage attached to it. If you’ve noticed, there’s all this baggage attached to the arts in America now. These grants that are being given, the attention people get in magazines, that has to do with their sexuality, their gender, and their race. And the old white guy like myself that’s sort of on the outside of the whole scene now, whereas, it was just taken for granted when I was becoming an artist, we weren’t thinking “well, I’m a white guy, and I’m on top of the heap.” It was just “I like to make art.”

It just happened in those days that most of the artists that were professional were men. We had a show at this CoCA place, and it was about hotrods. And we were bringing this collection of artifacts from hotrod culture in southern California to Seattle, and it was going to be presented at our space. One of our board members, who was female, said, “Well listen, there’s no women in this show. What are we going to do about that?” I said, “Well, there aren’t any women pinstriping hotrods in 1947” (laughter). And she said, “Well, okay, but can’t we bring some women in here because we’ve got to have women, or we’re not going to get any money from the government unless we have X number of women in our exhibition.” So, we went out and we found somebody who did some kind of low-brow cartoon monster art, a female; we brought her in.

Then there was a big problem with the poster that we did. On the backside, it had a gearshift knob that was a shrunken head that they used to sell to car guys back in the 50s, you know, with those strings coming out of their mouths and the long hair, and you put it on your gearshift knob. The same girl that was concerned about the lack of females in this exhibition told us, “well, these are racist artifacts,” and I said, “well, they don’t even make these anymore!” We lifted a page from an old custom car magazine, and put it into our poster because it reflected the era that we were trying to celebrate or educate. That’s the deal.

And oh, I want to tell you, too, Pepe was invented here in Seattle. The guy’s name is Matt Furie, and the Alt Right stole Pepe from Matt Furie. Matt Furie is represented by a comic book company in Seattle called Fantagraphics. So, Matt Furie and Gary Groth, the head of the publishing company, went to the ADL and started whining like big babies (laughing) because Pepe got stolen from them. And they’re just fit to be tied, you know. They’re going “Oh my God, Pepe is a Nazi Frog,” and “Look what they’ve done to our Pepe.” And that was publicized on the internet, and then it was publicized in this — we have a Left-leaning Cultural Marxist free newspaper in Seattle that is so typical of the attitude of the Pacific Northwest — as far as the culture here. They were concerned about the Alt Right taking Pepe away from Matt Furie and Fantagraphics. And then to drag the ADL into this thing — it just made me sick.

The Frankfurt School were the people that were brought from Germany into the United States. They were precision-placed in the academies and universities by the foundations in America — the Ford, Carnegie, Mellon, you know these people who have mass amounts of money and their idea — you can read about the Frankfurt School – you can read Adorno, you can read the others — and the idea was to make art and culture so unharmonious and ugly that it would destroy the culture that preceded it, because these guys were Marxists, and Marxism cannot live alongside any other “isms,” you know, it’s the precursor to Communism. So, you get into a culture, you start spreading your little Marxist ideas. These guys are theoreticians from Frankfurt, Germany that concocted this theory based on Antonio Gramsci because they couldn’t take over Europe by force of arms. They had to come up with another idea, and the idea was “Well, we’ll go in on the long march through the institutions.” Institutions are, of course, the universities, the art museums. And these guys had this plan, and the plan was to make all this hideous art and atonal music from a donor. Where do these guys get their ideas?

It’s resulted in a popular culture, which is at the very top, supposed to be intellectual, enlightened, and elitist. You end up with a Marina Abramovich painting museum walls with cow’s blood and everybody clapping and thinking there’s something profound to this — something extremely occult and witchy, and wonderful, and edgy, and transgressive. It doesn’t amount to anything.

The Dadaists, when they had their moment, had the honesty to admit that what they were doing meant absolutely nothing. We’re Dadaists! Dada means hobby horse. We do nothing. We’re just making a statement that has been interpreted, if you would like, as edgy war — which is a term that came up out of the slaughter of the First World War. They said all this stuff that we’re throwing together really amounts to nothing but a protest against cultures that lead their men into the battlefield as cannon fodder, and we don’t want to go, and we don’t want to die — and that was Dada. And they had the honesty to say Dada means nothing.

After Dada, you get these other movements, and you get the intellectuals that come along with promoting the movement, and now we’ve got an art press, art festivals — that’s the Top of the Pops when you’re an artist, if you can be invited to an International Arts Festival. You get out of school, then you get a gallery, maybe — if you’re lucky, and then if you do good in the gallery, you possibly get invited to an art fair in a city. If you’re noticed at an art fair in a city, then you get invited to an art festival in Europe or South America, or in Cuba — these Biennales. And that’s all locked up too with this Cultural Marxist mandate which is egalitarianism, strange kinds of ugly painting and actions and words and protests about the standard stuff about the oppression of the minorities, colonialism, and if you’re from Africa, you need to make a statement about how woebegone your society is, they’ll give you a whole pavilion and you can just go ahead and whine away.

And it starts at the city level, it goes to the state level, it proceeds to the federal level, and to the international level. And at the very top of the pyramid is the international level that’s a very small cabal, clique of curators and critics who anoint an artist who then becomes a kind of international celebrity, and they get re-invited year after year to these places. Their name lends some kind of cachet to this Biennale. Let’s say in Brazil, if you can get a Marina Abramovich to come to Brazil and do one of her spirit cooking gigs, then that makes you look like you’re very cultural-enlightened, and it’s kind of like advertising your country as being a member of this global society that is becoming homogeneous wherever you go. If you guys get on aeroplanes and you take off in every direction, for every human being in this room, when you land you will find the same culture there. And it’s really sad because the airports look alike, the museums are starting to look alike, the food is getting corporatized, and there’s a Starbucks in every — like in Paris you go to your Starbucks or in downtown Rome, Italy — pop into a Starbucks. That’s all the same. You look at the art — modern art I’m saying — that is the same. I could go anywhere and find the same dozen artists with the great big paintings in that country.

All those pop guys, and before the pop guys, you’ve got the abstract expressionists who are American and then the European — the British — Damien Hirst and all that. I’m supposed to go in and look at the stupid Damien Hirst spot painting, and I’m supposed to be overawed because it’s expensive — somebody paid a lot of money for it. That’s all it’s about. Damien Hirst’s painting must’ve cost a million five hundred dollars, and then you look at it. It’s spots, right? Just a bunch of multicolored dots, right? Okay, wow! And you think that because someone paid that much money for it, it’s good, but not necessarily. So, I’ve discovered that there’s that world of elitism and intellectual masturbation that goes along with what you call the fine arts.

And then there’s the hobby crafts. And I’ve drifted from the fine arts into the hobby crafts when I wanted to learn what I wanted to do on china, you know, paint blue flowers on a teacup and make it stay there. And the hobby crafts are what you find at the county fair. You go to a county fair — and I was there at the Puyallup Fair three weeks ago — and I loved going to the damned fair because I like to see what the people that don’t have to worry about art, what they do with their hands. And these little ladies are sitting around painting, oh God, you know birdhouses — little blue wooden birdhouses. They’ve got their paintbrushes, and they’re painting these designs on the birdhouses — they’re doing tole painting. I don’t know if you know what that is. There are these pattern paintings that came out of Germany and Scandinavia that are very scrolly. I’m fascinated by the ease with which these people that don’t consider themselves artists can make these objects that are not considered art. They’re considered hobbies. There are skills that they teach each other, and there used to be more of them before television. That really killed the crafts in America, and probably everywhere else, because people spent too much time in front of TV and less time in the workshop or less time in the sewing room making things with their hands.

So, the hobby crafts — I got mass amounts of inspiration from people that don’t consider themselves artists, and when you tell them — you see, I joined a ladies’ china painting class so I could learn how to paint on a plate. And these ladies, you know, they thought “Boy, we have an artist with us!” and then they brought me extra sandwiches at our meeting, and because they thought I was a starving artist — “Oh, a starving artist!” — and “Bring him an extra sandwich.” And at the Puyallup Fair, I go and I talk to them because I’m interested in what they are doing and thinking, and I also like to pull their chain, too. I like to get up right in their faces and make comments about what they’re doing. But they always say, “I’m not an artist. I’m not an artist.” And I want to tell them that you’re a better artist than half the people I know who call themselves artists, and you shouldn’t feel like that just because you don’t have a machine that creates a celebrity artist behind you. You can’t tell them that because it’s a different world — but I would like to tell them that.

So, we’ve got the Frankfurt School in the critical period ruining everything for everybody as far as making beautiful objects go. It all has to be some kind of revolutionary avant-garde transgressive what-are-we-going to-do-next to epater la bourgeoisie — which means to shock the bourgeoisie. Every year, it’s got to have more shock value, and every year it gets more and more silly, because that’s what they think they need to draw attention to themselves for a career in art — the shocking value — and then beauty gets set aside. And nobody even talks about beauty anymore, and that is, I believe, what art should have: some element of beauty in it. I like the idea of craftsmanship, too, because when you look at something and you can see that somebody has spent some time thinking about it and then some extra time making it, instead of just tossing it off and putting it there, trying to convince you that graffiti is art. It’s not art, man! I don’t know who these guys think they are, it’s just hideous! Pull in a train to any major city in the world and there you’ve got all this scribbling all over everything — and they encourage this.

I was in Slovenia; I went to Ljubljana, Slovenia one year, came home, and went back the next year, and the whole place was covered in this crappy, spray-painted tagging. I said, “What’s going on here?” and they said, “Well, they think this is self-expression.” They’re telling the kids it’s okay, and it’s not okay, because it’s ruining the architecture underneath it. It just makes the society look chaotic, and I don’t know, maybe you like graffiti, but I don’t even like it when they can do it right (laughs). I’ve seen the great big sprays, you know, the Mexican Aztecs with feathers, and babes, and all that stuff. And it’s always got to be about that community, too, a great big wall mural, everybody is from somewhere in the world and they’re all having fun together and it’s just a bunch of bullshit — hahaha! So, if you’re trying to get us to believe that through the arts that the immigrants are assimilating — they’re not! (laughs). We’re not holding hands; we’re not having fun doing the same things. We might be living in the same city, but we’re all in our own little areas, and we all have our own sets of friends and stuff.

Diversity is being completely socially engineered at the top, and there’s a book, if you guys are interested in what happened, called The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders. And this was a CIA operation to make American abstract expressionism the cultural export, and then to promote Americanism everywhere, which is part and parcel of us colonizing the rest of the world with our ridiculously low-brow culture. I mean, American Mickey Mouse, you see, I mean that’s everywhere. These movies that we’re making — the X-Men and Batman movies are drawing mass audiences in China. That’s why they make this crap, because they’re exporting American culture, and they got the rest of the world to think that we had this interesting culture.

The CIA — which is made up of intellectuals, believe it or not. The CIA is not cloak and dagger so much as social engineering, and their scientists understand mass communications and the systems that get people to believe things, and then they proceed to be hired — like Edward Bernays and William Burroughs’ uncle, Ivy Lee — to go out and convince people that they need stuff that they don’t need, or the stuff that they’re looking at in museums is profound, when in fact, it is not profound.

That happened with the help of what we call the Culture Bergs. There were three Jewish art critics in the 50s that helped launch abstract expressionism, as well as the CIA who put it in all the embassies around the world. Had these shows going around, they had intellectuals following it, you can read all about it. But Greenberg, Rosenberg, and Steinberg — that’s the Culture Bergs and (laughs) I have to tell you that what we got here is very Jewish, and the money that buys the art is Jewish, the artists that make the art — a lot of those celebrities, including Marina Abramovich. That’s one of the reasons she is where she is — she’s half-Jewish. She’s a Serb. There’s that business.

This is all kind of intellectual stuff. You could find out a lot about it at the Occidental Observer, and if you want to pursue it, it’s kind of what happened to America and what happened internationally. The Saatchis, these collectors, these guys have so much money they don’t know what to do with it, so they decide they’re going to buy an artist, and once they get picked up by one of these oligarchs — or not necessarily even an oligarch — but just a highfalutin businessman with extra money to spend on art, and all of a sudden you’re anointed as being collectible and then the next guy wants some of you and then the next guy wants some of you and pretty soon, you’ve got a book about yourself and then another book about yourself and it goes on and on and on.

But I would like to maybe ask you to ask me something.

[Inaudible question/comment]

. . . you mean to go ahead and mock them? Yeah, I think that would really help to make them look ridiculous, because that’s exactly what they are. The only problem is that — can you get the rest of the normies to get the joke? They’re so damned stupid that they wouldn’t even see it. I have this one guy that bought two Amy Winehouse teapots because he likes Amy Winehouse, and then I went into his store and he told me that he was getting phone calls from customers telling him that they didn’t like the idea. He said “I had to take your art out of the window because I was getting telephone calls about you. Is it true that you don’t believe in the Holocaust?” I said, “Yeah, I’m afraid so” (laughs). And he was shocked, and aw man, it was sad, he was crestfallen about what he’d heard from these people that were calling him up to ask him to remove the Amy Winehouse from his store window if it was true. “I just thought this was something that they made up just to smear you,” and I said, “Absolutely not! I’m a Holocaust denier, sir!” Let me tell you about that Amy Winehouse. I didn’t want her in with the rest of the good dictators (laughing). I was collaborating with this guy named Mike Levitt on those. He said, “We got to do Amy Winehouse” and I said, “What for?” and he said, “Well, I just like her face and that beehive hairdo” — but, it turned out to be okay to do.

She is a wreck, you know, and so is Miley Cyrus, and some of these other people they’ve asked us to — well, they put them forward to get the kids to emulate their behavior. And this whole heroin chic with Kurt Cobain you see, and before then, William Burroughs, all of a sudden everybody is taking heroin because their stars are addicted to it, kind of promoting it through the attention that they get for taking it, you see. And I think that might have been — I’m kind of a conspiracy theorist. I think that might have been engineered, too, heroin chic, because I’m convinced that psychedelics were unleashed on my generation as a biological warfare weapon. LSD was developed as that and it comes into my culture and deracinates all of us, and then the next thing is everybody is overdosing on heroin — that’s ten years later.

I’ve been tuning in to gnosticmedia.com [now https://logosmedia.com [2]] and these guys, they got the paper trail on Aldous Huxley, Tim Leary, Ken Kesey, and the Merry Pranksters, Terence McKenna — all these guys that we think are visionaries. They’re just set up to look like visionaries because they’ve got an agenda that they’re promoting, and their agenda was to get the kids in the 60s to quit protesting the Vietnam War because they had so much money invested in the military-industrial complex and then to start navel-gazing. So, they passed out the LSD, and they told them this was a way to a spiritual experience that you’re having, and Tim Leary and these other guys said “Yeah and oh well, this is the quickest way to God.” And so, that’s why I did it. (laughs). It was, hey man, listen.

In order to be a CIA agent, you have to take the Leary examination. It’s a personality test that they still have, and they give the guy, the potential agent, or asset — or employee because not everybody — like I say, the CIA is about social engineering, really. A lot about it! But yeah, right. Leary was a CIA. . . and he even said as much. I mean that guy, Jan Irvin, they’ve got a movie of all those guys that were involved in MKULTRA having a party at the end of the 60s, patting each other on the back for how they got this idea spread out to the culture. Each week, I go back to tune in to see how much more evidence they’ve unearthed. It’s real fun. I bought it — hook, line, and sinker. I swear to you, I was the biggest hippie on the planet (laughs).

[Inaudible question/comment]

Oh, that’s a good question. Hey listen, if I’m an example of pearl white art, I think you’d better hold off on that a while, because you’re going to get chastised. In the all-inclusiveness of this diversity that they’ve promoted, there’s no room for whites just yet. We might have to go back in as a white artist.

I was always interested in zine culture. I got involved in subscribing to, before the internet, to zines. They were little self-published magazines that people sent to other people that were interested in the subjects that they were. And I was interested in — I was always interested in music — but neofolk music. So, along with the neofolk music came a bunch of iconographies that looked Third Reich-ish, and I was curious about that and I discovered Laibach. And I got involved with Laibach in Slovenia through a granting foundation in NYC. They sent me to work with Laibach. I went to Sarajevo with them during the war and immersed myself in what they call retro avant-gardism which was their Cultural Marxist theory about what they were doing. I don’t want to get into that, but I realized they’re from a Marxist society, they had a post-socialist nostalgia for how they grew up which was different than us, and so I thought, well, these guys are really smart because Slavoj Zizek was their philosopher for the Neue Slowenische Kunst. It’s a collective, and Laibach’s the musical arm of it.

But I didn’t get red-pilled until I went to Romania and started looking into the Iron Guard. And these guys were Christians, and they were prepared to lay their lives down to not lose their culture because at their universities in the 1920s — 1927 — Marxism was leaking into the university and they realized, I think it’s called autochthony, is that how you pronounce the — when a society identifies with its religion? Is that right? Indigenous culture, correct? Okay, well, that’s what the Iron Guardists were wanting to preserve because they saw the Russian Revolution and what had happened nearby, and that kind of fervor, the revolutionary fervor was spreading through Europe and that’s why Hitler decided they had to stop it in Germany – but Romania got a taste of it and that’s how I got red-pilled. I’m interested in history, and I was interested in this Slovenian avant-garde art group that had a music arm and then I got interested in Romania, then I got really interested in the Iron Guard because they were prepared to die for something. I can’t think of anything I’m prepared to lay my life down for. What kind of world must it have been where a man would go and sacrifice his life for something he believed? And so that’s what happened there.

[Inaudible question/comment]

If you could get enough Alt Right guys to doing the handmade movement. I was approached by one of the ladies that popularized that and made a movie about it, and a book, and so I know what’s going on in the hobby crafts in that particular milieu are open for hijacking. You see, that’s what I did with Delft painting. I hijacked the whole thing. I turned it upside-down and the idea when I started was, you have these prosaic pictures of roaming cows and windmills on plates, but I started painting air disasters. So, all these arts — quilt making and whatever you have — you guys must have those shows around Christmastime for handmade stuff. Do you have the Makers Expositions? Sure, you could go in there and have a whole bunch of fun, but if you do something a little bit . . . right now, you’re going to have to slip it by them somehow. You’re going to have to outsmart them because they’re not going to be prepared to accept something like a swastika or anything — not that you need to put one on.

[Question/comment] You were commenting about graffiti, and something I’ve always found to be kind of odd is how often people don’t see it at all. I went to Milwaukee once, and I was on the main road from the airport and there was this giant mural and there in the middle of it was a great big picture with a halo of Vang Pao, the great heroin lord of Southeast Asia alive in the United States. I almost fell out of the car! “I said to my girlfriend, “Vang Pao, Vang Pao.” She didn’t know who he was, nobody knew who he was except for his community – but that’s where he lives now. And, even worse, I went to Nathan Hale High School here in Seattle for the Republican party precinct meeting, and they had a gigantic mural of Mexican revolutionaries with some rifles pointed at the audience, and I looked at the people at the table and said, “What do you think about the mural?” and they looked and they couldn’t see it. I said, “Well, you know, I don’t really think Mexican revolutionaries pointing guns at us is appropriate for a Republican Party meeting.” They said to a man, “We’re not here to talk politics” (laughter).

CK: What about the tee-shirt the kids wear, with a red star or anything with a red star on it — or a picture of Che Guevara — and that’s all de rigueur. Nobody is going to make any bones about that, but try a Right-leaning dictator or figure from the past that was not a Communist or an anti-communist — it doesn’t have to be Hitler every time, there’s lots of other people. And that’s another thing that I like about learning. Listen, there were a bunch of artists and writers who were on the Right side of the political spectrum, but ended up on the wrong side of history. You’ve got to go back and find out how many of those types there really were, because after ’45, they cleared the decks on this. It’s just been Cultural Marxism from VE Day — I say every day since VE Day has been a Marxist holiday for the culture-makers of the West. That was it! You know everybody — blip, you’re over there, down the memory hole. You’ve got to kind of dig for those guys.

[Question from audience member] Do you not think, then, that some of these historical characters and other kinds of Right-leaning symbols, do you think that there’s no way to use them because what we see working very well is when something becomes extremely taboo, the best way to flip it is kind of to make it funny and in a way, even with your own artwork, I think was very subversive — especially with that teapot — was because everybody thought it was funny.

CK: Oh, I thought it was funny at first (laughs).

[Audience member resumes] But, the joke ended up being on them, and so in a way, it was just the whole scenario of actually the joke being on them — ended up, I’m sure, having a major impact on people. That’s actually a really good story that you can tell and it’s funny and that just feeds more into the artwork itself.

[Second audience member] Well, to speak to the major impact, we had a very interesting experience in London where we were threatened, and our gallery was threatened.

CK: Yeah, I forgot to tell you that I got shut down.

[Second audience member] . . . he wasn’t just a cultural figurehead, there weren’t any bodyguards for a while. It’s not just a little teapot with Hitler and everyone laughs at it. It gets a reaction and that’s cool. It’s dangerous.

CK: Let me just tell you one thing, my latest idea is The Chrysanthemum Circle of Southern Snowmen. I want everybody to go into the department stores at Christmas and tell the management that their snowmen are too white! (laughing).

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