The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 10.6

September 28, 2007

"In Indian mythology, we are in the Age of Kali -
the last age. The world ends when Kali dances the
dance of death. There are no such clear markers in
markets. Recently, we came close - Jim Cramer, a
CNBC pundit, launched a 'we’re in Armageddon'
tirade on air. Embattled Bear Stearns’ CFO Samuel
Molinaro pleaded: 'I’ve been out here for 22 years,
and this is as bad as I’ve seen it in the fixed-income
markets.' Kali had begun to shake her booty. The
credit bubble was finally deflating."

- Satyajit Das

The writing is on the wall. The emperor has no clothes. The mountain of strength and power that is Wall Street has been revealed to be an illusion: a computer generated image of a thing that exists only in the minds of true believers. But optimism is a difficult thing to kill, especially after a decade of bullishness that was rewarded by unprecedented profits, and so the vast majority still believes what they most want to hear: that all is well, that the Fed is in control, and that if there is a downturn that it won't be very bad. It's a wonderful story, if only it were true.

The believers can't be blamed for their optimism. After all, in every financial crisis over the last two decades or so, and there have been many, the depressing forecasts by "gloom and doomers" have never materialized, at least in the United States. Bubbles have come and gone, leaving only a couple of minor recessions in their wake, so how could anyone believe that this time will be any different?

The answer is that each bursting bubble of the past was "fixed" by the creation of a bigger bubble, which allowed the debts of the past to be rolled over into the newer schemes of the present and future. Sure, there were always a few casualties after every bursting bubble, but the powers that be are very adept at staying afloat while passing the bill on to investors and taxpayers. And even though the loopholes that allowed those lucrative bubbles get plugged by regulators, new ones are found or created, and the great game of milking the bubble is kept going for another few years. In essence this "serial bubble blowing" process is not much different than when you max-out a credit card and "solve" the problem by getting a new credit card. You can keep doing that for as long as you can keep getting new credit cards, but eventually you will run out of credit and the party is over. Of course, when you stiff the credit card company, only you and it suffer, but in the case of bubbles, the damage can get spread far and wide, and today that is true more than ever.

National borders and tight regulations used to isolate bursting bubbles in various nations from the rest of the global economy, limiting their damage, but over the last few decades of deregulation and globalization this is no longer the case. Loans in California can be made by banks in New York and then repackaged and sold to hedge funds in Europe and investors in Asia, which is why defaults in Indiana can cause firms in Germany to go under. Now with a fully integrated and loosely regulated global marketplace, bubbles can grow to monstrous proportions, infecting every corner of the world while resisting all efforts to contain them. Such is the case with the ravenous "credit bubble" of today, which was born in the wake of the bursting dotcom bubble and which has no equal in size and scope in all of recorded history. It is beyond anyone's ability to control or to fix and when it finally bursts, as it appears to be doing, the suffering will affect everyone on the face of the earth. This time though, there appears to be no "next bubble" into which to sweep the massive fallout from the current one. The world is tapped out and the debts are past due, but that hasn't stopped the central banks from trying to delay the inevitable once more.

It should surprise no one that the central bankers of the world were revealed to be hypocrites early on. The doctrine of leaving the free markets to work things out on their own is only adhered to when things are going in favor of the financial giants. When the markets drop and the losses mount, the capitalists suddenly transform into communists and the invisible hand of the marketplace is shoved aside by the inflationary hand of the Federal Reserve. Their remedy is the same as always: a quick, and this time enormous, "liquidity injection" to keep the money flowing; which, last month, served only to prop up a foundering system of financial malfeasance and moral decay. After all, the central bankers cannot afford to admit that the system that they preside over is dysfunctional and rotted to the core so they must do whatever they can to maintain the facade that all is well. While it is true that central banks must act to save the markets, their jobs would have been much easier if they had exercised stricter monetary policy and tighter lending standards, nipping the bubble in the bud at the expense of slower growth or a recession. Unfortunately, as explained in the last edition of The Burning Blade, a nation's leaders must preside over growth and progress every year or risk being deposed and thus bubbles, debt, and short term solutions are encouraged, even when they come at the expense of future growth. And so as long as central bankers are appointed by politicians, the tight-fisted economists will rarely reach the top post while those that give speeches about fighting deflation by dropping money out of helicopters are fast-tracked. But those who advocate loose monetary policy are not necessarily scheming profiteers. In reality most have simply embraced the ideology of Neo-liberal economics which downplays the negative side of running debts and champions deregulation. Many Neo-liberal true believers are convinced that bubbles are really just signs of true economic strength and prosperity rather than problems of a loosely regulated financial market and have put forth convincing arguments that far-above-average growth is sustainable indefinitely. They claim that the central bank's role is essentially to nurse bubbles along rather than pop them and prevent them from recurring. It's hard to argue against them. After all, until the bubble bursts, the evidence is on their side, and with each money making deal and trade, more converts are made to the god of eternal wealth creation. It's truly a case of the blind leading the blind: those blinded by ideology leading those blinded by greed.

Despite how it may appear today, the crisis is far from over. It's not about a few sub-prime loans gone bad, but about the magical creation of trillions of dollars of housing equity through the manipulation of interest rates and the leveraging of trillions of dollars of loans against those homes into gargantuan sums that sent every global market skyrocketing. The practice of leveraging, one of many dangerous financial gimmicks that has been abused to an extreme, turns small gains into large ones, but now it is turning small losses into potentially fatal ones which can bring down major firms overnight. Anyone paying attention to the housing market knows that the losses due to foreclosures have only just begun. Rates are resetting, prices are dropping, and the economy is costing people jobs. In regards to the marketplace spasms that we've seen over the last two months, there's a lot more where that came from, and as the collapse continues, it will pick up speed.

In the past, financial collapses have played out over months, not days, and generally take more than a year to hit rock bottom. These descents are neither constant nor gradual and over the period of the collapse a number of false bottoms are reached where the markets turn upwards and everything seems to be over. But after each rebound comes another, deeper drop, followed by another rebound and another drop. Over and over the process repeats, punishing anyone who dares to invest in what seem to be bargain basement deals, until finally equilibrium is established once more. If the collapse has truly begun, then the world will be a very different place a year from now. Very different indeed. And, as usual, I'd love to be wrong about this as I'm doing well in the current financial climate, but when I see how many of those that I care about are faring, and witness how the reality of a dysfunctional economy - not the fiction that the well known economic indicators suggest - is grinding down upon them, I realize that what we need most of all is change, even if that means slogging through another Great Depression to get to better times.

Speaking of impending doom, you won't have to wait too long to hear the latest Fireaxe CD "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". The mixing is nearing completion and is gelling nicely, yielding a full, rich sound that both sounds and feels good. Also, the artwork is almost complete and it too is a healthy cut above that which has been previously released. Click this link to view what you will soon see spinning around inside your CD player. It seems that I'm getting better at this whole artist/musician/sound engineer thing.

Those are the wings of the Dark Goddess. You'll get to see her in all her malevolent beauty in the fold-out booklet. I think that you will all be very pleased if not blessed (cursed?) to own it.

A big ‘Hello’ to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.

Did I say "Guest Vocalist"? - Oops

In the last edition of The Burning Blade I mentioned that I was going to have a guest vocalist sing on a few of the tracks for "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". That was certainly my plan, it just didn't turn out that way. There were a few parts which I felt would sound great with a soft, feminine voice and I felt that it wouldn't be too much of a problem to find a local singer with a great voice who could do those parts. So I laid down the final versions of the tracks with that in mind and then went online to look for possible candidates to finish things up. In retrospect I pretty much painted myself into a corner since there was no way that I could get the tracks to work right without female vocals, that is without making some major changes to the songs and delaying the release even more.

The initial results of my search were depressing. It turned out that the pool of women who were available for studio work was smaller than I thought, and it got even smaller when I ruled out those who were simply not very good at singing. Now, I wasn't looking for the next Celine Dion by any stretch, but they had to be able to at least sing on key. Slowly I began to realize that my falsetto voice, one that I used in "Lovecraftian Nightmares", sounded better than many of the singers that I heard. That was a shock. But thanks to a little luck I finally found a singer who could do the parts how I wanted them done and who sounded good doing it. I had her record a sample track and she nailed it. Praise to Ishtar! We agreed on a fee for the work to be done and everything seemed to be coming together at last.

Unfortunately, I never heard from her again. I left a couple of messages for her but got no reply. Now, I know that I'm world class loser when it comes to women, which means that I'm very familiar with the whole concept of women seeming to just disappear off the face of the earth when I try to get in contact with them. But, I mean, how big of a loser do I have to be such that I can't even pay a woman to come to my apartment and sing a few verses for me? Seriously. It's not like she had to let me take her out to dinner or let herself be seen with me in public or anything, and I wasn't going to force her to pose for a "band" picture if she didn't want to. It was just a professional relationship, that's all, and not professional in the oldest profession sense either. So am I truly so repulsive that women don't even want to be around me? Alright, I'm definitely getting carried away here. he he he

I'm not certain why she didn't call me back. However, when I think back to our negotiations I remember that she and her friend brought up the idea of getting a piece of the profits if the CD went big. It was hard but I was able to keep a straight face. But when they brought it up more than once I had to say something. I guess that they didn't know much about Fireaxe. But I didn't want to come out and say that I'm dedicated to not turning a profit on my music no matter how many CDs I sell. I was afraid that they might have walked out the door. ("What? You're just doing it for fun!?") So instead I explained that none of my previous CDs ever sold more than 120 copies and that there was little chance of that ever changing. They didn't seem to be satisfied with that but everything seemed fine when they left.

To be honest I was willing to negotiate on a "royalty" of twenty-five cents per CD sold after the first 200 copies if it seemed like I needed to throw that in. In retrospect I probably should have brought that up during our one and only meeting, but I thought that all was well and I really didn't want any strings attached. Yep, I can read women like a book.

I also remember the singer's friend telling me that the singer had auditioned for "American Idol", that she'd made it through the first round, and that she was waiting for the second round to start. So maybe one of you will see her on that show some day. I won't, since I don't watch the show, but it reminded me of how far out of step what I am doing with Fireaxe is with the rest of the music profession. The recording industry has been all about finding the next big thing since as far back as I can remember and it probably all started when the Beatles achieved mage-fame. This is not to say that music was pure before 1960 and that popular demand never influenced what musicians composed or played, but since that point the Rock Star image: the wild lifestyle and easy money; has been the dream that has driven many a youth down to the local music store to buy their first guitar, microphone, or drum set. As the number of garage bands multiplied and the recording industry became highly profitable, music turned from being a legitimate profession (albeit a difficult one that didn't pay well) to the equivalent of the lottery, and when the big prize is so desirable, people will do just about anything to get it. Selling out, getting exploited, trying anything to get your big break, etc., etc., we all know what the business has become, have become far too common and in the process music was reduced to being a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Fireaxe, on the other hand, is all about the music, or more specifically, all about the theme that I'm trying to express. The reason that I first picked up a guitar was that I could write songs in my head but I didn't have the skills to play them. They were good songs, or at least I thought so, and I wanted to be able to get them out of me so that others could hear them and so that I wouldn't forget them over time. Fireaxe is the result of a long journey to achieve that goal. My music is an expression of what I want to say and what I want to play. Fireaxe is what I think and what I feel. It is nothing more and nothing less. I care nothing about becoming rich or famous and would gladly trade a platinum selling CD for profound conversations about the subject matter involved. I'm also not out to change the world, I'm just enjoying the process of creation, and creating something that I can be proud of. It's what I do.

But the singer that I tried to hire didn't seem to care what the CD was about or what the meaning was behind the words that she was singing. That was fine with me as long as she sung them, but it seemed that all she cared about was whether singing for me would help to further her musical ambitions. If that was her goal then I can say that she made the right decision. Fireaxe wasn't going to break down any barriers for her and her time will be better spent doing something else. But the whole experience did serve as a disheartening reminder of how idolatry and the profit motive have perverted and perhaps destroyed a perfectly good form of art. As it is what we call music these days is the artistic equivalent of advertisements since they essentially both serve the same purpose. Both try to shock you, surprise you, titillate you, or do whatever it takes to grab your attention and then they attempt to stick a catchy tune or clever slogan in your head so that you'll remember them and feel compelled to buy the product that they're selling. Of course, it's not just music that has suffered from this disease. Movies, television shows, video games, and other forms of "content" have merged with advertising to become one and the same thing. On the plus side, one side effect has been that commercials have been getting more entertaining as of late, but the downside is that everything else is becoming more and more generic, vapid, and devoid of meaning.

This trend has even larger social implications, but I will leave that discussion for a later time so that I can get back to work on the new CD. But to finish the story, absent a viable female vocalist I decided to give my falsetto voice another try and practiced for several weeks before laying down the final tracks. Don't worry, the good news is that I sound pretty good singing like that and the new microphone certainly helped me to get solid sound quality. I have no regrets about releasing the CD with me singing those delicate parts. I do regret that it is so difficult to enlist the services of professional musicians to help out with my projects. Without the dream of stardom to dangle in front them, it seems that you can't even pay them to play for you. It's a bummer. But if the promise of great riches is the only thing that motivates us, no wonder we have bubbles, tunnel-vision, and the inevitable crashes.

The Fireaxe theory - Outline

I. Basics - well established theories

  • 1. Emergent systems - that complex systems can arise from the interactions of simple things
  • 2. Natural selection - that organisms mutate, proliferate, and compete, with the "losers" becoming extinct
  • 3. Behavioral science - that neurological systems, at their core, function according to the rules of conditioning
  • 4. Entropy - that within a closed system, entropy always increases, which limits the amount of transformation that can occur

II. Extensions

  • 1. That consciousness is an emergent system: a complex system arising in the human mind from the interaction of simple neurons.
  • 2. That civilizations are emergent systems arising from the physical interactions of humans whether conscious or not.
  • 3. That ideologies are emergent systems arising from the psychological interactions of conscious humans
  • 4. That emergent systems follow the laws of natural selection in much the same way that organisms do
  • 5. That the universe is, by definition, a closed system

III. Contentions regarding consciousness

  • 1. That consciousness is a survival advantage
  • 2. That being a member of an ideology is a survival advantage
  • 3. That making its members conscious is a necessary part of an ideology's survival
  • 4. That consciousness is created by instilling within a person a permanent sense of inadequacy - in essence a state of constant fear
  • 5. That the deeper the sense of inadequacy, the stronger the person is motivated - generally to serve their ideology

IV. Contentions regarding ideological struggle

  • 1. That ideologies fight for survival using many methods including, but not limited to, war and enslavement
  • 2. That aggression is a survival advantage
  • 3. That aggressive ideologies make members of rival ideologies feel afraid and inadequate which in response become more aggressive, thus creating a vicious circle
  • 4. That aggressive ideologies must continue to grow or face internal strife as their aggressive members will feed on each other to satisfy their needs
  • 5. That internal struggle results in ideological mutation

V. Contentions regarding the future

  • 1. That internal strife is inevitable since the laws of entropy imply that continuous growth is not sustainable
  • 2. That the abstract bases for ideologies transcend mortality and thus suicidal aggression is not restrained by fear of death
  • 3. That ideological mutation will eventually result in the creation of a suicidal ideology which will attempt to save the human race by destroying it

How to order Fireaxe CDs

Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

  • 1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
  • 2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
  • 3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

Here is a price list. The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S. The prices include shipping and handling.

Food for the Gods: $12 / $14
Victory or Death: $5 / $7
Lovecraftian Nightmares: $5 / $7 (SOLD OUT)
A Dream of Death: $3 / $5 (booklet out of print)

Send everything to:

Brian Voth
1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
Chula Vista, CA, 91911 USA

If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is a request by e-mail. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done. If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.

The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.

Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project. The tiff disk is free so just say the word.

The Future

For the rest of this year and part of the next I will be recording the next Fireaxe CD entitled "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess". I'd like to have it complete by the end of 2007. The new CD will dig deep into the dark crevices of our society and our minds, pull forth the myths that we cling to and hold dear, and expose them all for what they are. While “A Dream of Death” explored the madness of dreams, and “Food for the Gods” described the chaos wrought upon the earth by ideologies, “Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess” will depict the psychological enslavement of the individual in modern times. It will be the darkest Fireaxe work ever.

My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary. Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel. Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace. This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place. I write music because it is a way to express my emotions. What I both think and feel goes into the songs. That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect. Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.

Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

Currently Fireaxe is not for profit. I sell the CDs for $5 each which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge $7 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free. Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

  • 1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost. You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
  • 2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track. Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
  • 3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website. This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
  • 4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketting tie-in. You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
  • 5. You are food for the gods.
  • 6. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can. It's your only defense against THEM. Be warned, they come through angles. Note that the CD is round. Are your speaker cabinets square?
  • 7. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors. None of it is real, at least that's what I'm going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" CD too much.
  • 8. You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
  • 9. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song. I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute. On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to. When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal. I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch. You aren't alone.

The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it. I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution. However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.
Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe

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