The Lukewarm Butterknife

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 12.3.1

Apr. 1, 2009

"Due to the exponential growth of negative equity for
many homeowners, the top 10% of all Americans now
control 110% of the nation's wealth."

- A fictitious but not implausible headline

"Your money, your house, and all that you've done,
are defined in terms that don't mean a thing.
The truth be told: we all die and rot,
but that truth won't make your heart sing."

- Fireaxe, "Everything is Bullshit"

Wouldn't you know it? After surviving cancer and fighting my way through chronic fatigue syndrome I'm finally getting close to being in good health again, but now that I'm fit and ready to join in the big party that has been going on for the last ten years I arrive only to find that everyone's either vomiting, lying around in a drunken stupor, or explaining to the cops why the parking lot three stories below is littered with the remains of household appliances. What a rip-off. I mean, for years Wall Street was handing out free money, real estate agents were handing out free homes, and millions of hot, sexy, twenty- somethings were handing out free sex, and there I was, sitting in my apartment, renting, like a total idiot, with no stocks to my name, and barely able to get it up because my hormones were so out of whack from the Chronic Fatigue that whenever I looked at a woman I saw her as a human being instead of a sex object. Oh, what a loser I was, even more so than when I was in high school.

Honestly. I could have been rich, well, on paper at least, living in a house so large that both my bike and my cat could have had their own rooms, and been bumping uglies with dozens of today's unbearably narcissistic, liberated young women…well, liberated in the sense that they've been liberated from any sense of personal responsibility. But no, I had to be sick. I had to eat vegetables while everyone else was wolfing down triple (bypass) bacon cheeseburgers, krispy kremes, and fondue, whatever the heck that is. I had to suffer while everyone else was having fun. And now that it's finally my turn to come out and get my share of the action it feels like I walked out of my apartment and into a funeral parlor.

Honestly, it's enough to make me believe in a god, because someone up there obviously hates me.

But I'm an optimist. Seriously. Sure, my predictions on the direction that the world is heading in are so depressing that you might think that I'm one of those mind-numbingly dreadful pessimists, or worse, a mind-numbingly dreadful pessimist pretending to be a realist but who practices revisionist history whenever their dire predictions fail to materialize. But no, I've always looked on the bright side of things, and the most wonderful facet of living through the Greater Depression and all of the misery, violence, and social upheaval that will come with it is that I can stand before you all and proudly say that I predicted it all. Ha ha! And furthermore, Nyah! All you head-in-the-clouds dreamers were wrong and I was right. So there! And so what if all our hopes and dreams and everything that we've ever worked for are getting smashed into oblivion? So what if the world is going to be a horrible place to live in for the next decade or more? So what if there might be a war so destructive that many of us will end up being killed or poisoned by nuclear fallout? I don't mind because I'll have something to look forward to. You see, when we're standing next to each other in the soup line, hoping that they don't run out of gruel by the time we get to the front, you can bet that I will have a smile on my face because I'm about to tell you for the two-thousandth time that I saw it all coming. I predicted this disaster. And I'm going to lord it over you for the rest of our lives. Sweet.

And speaking of the end of our lives, there's another chance for me to mock you poor hope-filled unfortunates. And here I'm speaking to the believers in an afterlife. Yes, when we're all dead and rotting in the ground and most definitely not in Heaven, or Elysium, or Nirvana, or any other band, you can be sure that I'll be having the last laugh. Well, the last laugh figuratively speaking, because I and everyone else who is dead won't be doing anything at all. We'll just be corpses and that will be that. Yes, an eternity of nothingness and the heat death of the universe is what we have to look forward to. How does that grab you? Muahahahaha! You see, you wasted all that time going to church and enjoying the company of fellow believers and feeling good about yourselves because you believed in some wonderful and fulfilling illusion. While I, on the other hand, righteously hid my atheism in the closet (well, not counting the internet), commiserated with other non-believers about our dismal public image and our persecution at the hands of pundits and evangelicals, and got into far too many frustrating and pointless arguments about religion with irrational fanatics. Ha! Who's laughing now? All that time that you spent feeling safe and warm and loved by some benevolent deity you could have been grappling with the cold, hard reality that life sucks and then you die. And now that the world is about to become a living hell who is better prepared?

Well, you are of course. You've still got your dreams and your gods and your church is going to be a great support group for you. Meanwhile I'll be angry about how my fleeting existence is being ruined by the actions of others and becoming even more convinced that humans are a backwards step on the evolutionary ladder. But hey, at least I was right about the big crash. So there.

A big "Hello" to anyone receiving the Lukewarm Butterknife for the first time. This is the official parody of the Fireaxe newsletter. The humor this time around will be darker than usual and you may find it hard to enjoy or even identify the jokes. So if you are not laughing by now, do not consider yourself humor-impaired, just trust that what you've read so far is hilarious and key off of the reactions of others so that you appear to be amused by the same things that they are. There's no sense in getting ostracized over something so irrelevant as having your own opinion.

"A Little Box of Sunshine" - Transcript of the second coming of the KTLB show

Musical Interlude: "I wish that someone would come along and set things right." (Church organ plays loudly in the background, fades into…)

Brian: Welcome to KTLB! We are back on the air and better than ever. I'm your host Brian Voth and this week, like every other week and every other radio talk show host in the country, I AM REALLY, REALLY, OUTRAGED!

The "dumb guy" of a paid group of mildly dysfunctional, but each lovable in their own way, friends: Preach, brother Voth!

(An awkward silence occurs)

The "laid back guy" of a paid group of mildly dysfunctional, but each lovable in their own way, friends: Dude. You jumped in on his "Paul Harvey pause".

Dumb guy: Uhhhh….

The "overly PC liberal guy": And you said "preach", to an atheist, who is like, not into that whole preaching thing and, you know, he might find that offensive. I certainly do.

The "repentant neo-con, but still a conservative, whatever that means these days, guy": Oh, for crying out loud, can't anyone say anything anymore without someone getting offended?

The "smart chick who no one takes seriously because she's hot": Yeah, and we should stop people from using hyperbole, because everyone does that like, all the time.

The "lecherous guy who thinks he's a player": I'd like to go hyper on your bolees, babe.

Brian: Would you all just KNOCK IT OFF?!

Dumb guy: Yeah. Quiet, you doofuses.

(A longer, even more awkward silence occurs)

Brian: Look, dumb guy, laid back guy was right about the whole Paul Harvey pause thing, and you blew it. Twice. And you know what that means…

Dumb guy: I'm fired?

Laid back guy: Nah, we did that bit before.

Overly PC liberal guy: Outsourced? Like the millions of good paying factory jobs that got shipped overseas and were replaced by low paying, part time retail sector jobs with little or no benefits and health care?

Repentant neo-con conservative guy: Look, if people want to get paid more they need to get a better education and find a better job. Or they can get more than one job like so many hard working Americans do.

Smart but hot chick: No, those better jobs are being filled by companies who hire foreign workers on H1 visas for a fraction of what American workers are paid. And many of the low paying and part time jobs are being filled by immigrants who will work off the books for criminally low wages. That's the dirty little secret of modern capitalism. What we have is slave labor only without the physical chains. Everyone gets hurt, except for the rich.

Lecherous guy: Oh, all this talk of dirty secrets, chains, and jobs gettin' filled is turning me on.

Brian: No one's getting fired or outsourced. Those are the gags from our older shows and they've all gone stale. We like to keep it fresh and topical, which means that for screwing up so badly, Dumb guy, we're inclined to give you a huge bailout, just like our government gives to Wall Street, and a bonus too. But no, that joke's been used about a million times over the last few weeks, and here at KTLB we have to be creative as well as topical, so instead we are going to hit you with…

Dumb guy: Uh oh.

Laid back guy: This isn't good.

Overly PC liberal guy: Violence is not the answer.

Repentant neo-con conservative guy: Violence can be the answer, but you have to do it right, like we did in World War Two. Sure we made a lot of mistakes in Iraq, but the surge worked. You can use violence to reduce violence.

Smart but hot chick: The surge coincided with the Iraqi Sunnis losing the civil war against the Shias, that's why the violence went down. The Sunnis didn't want to keep fighting both the Shias and the Americans, that was more than they could handle. And Al Qaeda was using suicide bombers against Shia civilians, which made the Shias retaliate against Sunni civilians. So when the Sunnis saw that Al Qaeda was counter- productive to their insurgency, a lot of the Sunni leaders, like the "Sons of Iraq", sold Al Qaeda out to the Americans as part of a deal. The Sunnis also called off attacks against American soldiers and in return the Americans let the former leaders of the insurgency run the Sunni provinces. The Americans are even paying them to "provide security" in those areas so that they don't have to do it themselves. But when the Americans leave, the Sunnis will probably start the civil war up again. And Iran was also instrumental in reducing the violence in Iraq since they saw a friendly Shia-led government in charge and they wanted to keep things that way. Iran was able to talk Al-Sadr into laying down his arms so that Maliki would have a stronger hand to play against the Americans during negotiations. And play it he did. So if the surge worked so well, why did Bush have to make concession after concession to Maliki's government?

Lecherous guy: Babe, if you want to see a surge that works, I got your surge right here, yeeeeeaaaaaah.

Brian: (sighs) I don't even remember what I was talking about.

Dumb guy: You were going to hit me with something.

Laid back guy: Ah, man, you didn't have to remind him.

Brian: Right, our new trendy punishment for bad behavior is that we're going to hit you with: THE MEDIA SPOTLIGHT!

(Sound effect of one of those big movie set spotlights turning on)

Brian: Yes, the media spotlight. The most vicious destroyer of lives in the modern world. The entity that killed Princess Diana, drove Britney Spears and Michael Jackson insane, branded one rather nutty woman the "Octomom", (what is she, a cephalopod?) and savaged the reputations and careers of countless others. Yes, Leno, Letterman, and Colbert will be making jokes about you every night. All the embarrassing details of your life will be revealed and broadcast twenty-four seven on every cable news channel. You'll be hounded by paparazzi, accosted by pundits, used as a political football by attention seekers across the nation, and if you're not careful you'll end up with your own television show that makes you think that you're a star but which really makes you into a national laughingstock. Just ask Paris Hilton, Ozzy Ozbourne, or Joe the Plumber.

Overly PC liberal guy: Or Bill O'Reilly.

Repentant neo-con conservative guy: Or Keith Olbermann.

Smart but hot chick: That reminds me of something that Pablo Picasso was quoted as saying, but the quote can't be confirmed. Anyway, it goes like this, "From the moment that art ceases to be the nourishment of the best brains, the artist can use all the tricks of the intellectual charlatan. The refined people, the rich ones and the professional layabouts, only want what is sensational or scandalous in modern art. And since the days of cubism I have fed these boys what they wanted and pacified the critics with all the idiotic ideas that went through my head. Whilst I amused myself with all these pranks, I became famous and very rich. I am just a public clown, a fairground barker."

Lecherous guy: You want cubism? I've got a nice pair of cubes in my pants that I'll let you paint…with your tongue.

Dumb guy: Uh, Brian, I'm just pretending to be dumb, you know, like Larry the Cable Guy.

Brian: Oh, well, heck, you'll be fine then. Hmm, no need for this…

(Turns off the media spotlight)

Brian: Now, where was I? Oh, right, I was OUTRAGED! And then I added a Paul Harvey pause to build suspense.

(Not-so-awkward silence where no one interrupts)

Brian: But since Paul Harvey has passed away we should discontinue that bit too. And also, I think that we should honor a moment of silence for the late commentator.

(Moment of silence occurs, not to be confused with a Paul Harvey pause, although it is a pause for Paul Harvey)

Brian: Yes, outraged! Everyone is! Outraged at the Treasury department and the Federal Reserve and Wall Street and anyone with the letters A, I, and G in their name. Craigs of the world beware. First the powers that be said that the economic problems were contained. Then they said that they needed tens of billions of dollars to make them go away. Then the economy tanked and they said that they needed hundreds of billions of dollars to fix everything, but that this time the money was going to fix the problem for sure. And when things got even worse they said that they needed hundreds of billions more dollars to bail people out and trillions of dollars in guarantees for everything under the sun in order to prevent the entire financial system from coming crashing down and destroying life as we know it. And every time we said: NO! NO! NO! And every time our corrupt and economically illiterate politicians went ahead and gave them the money anyway. And then We The People got mad and elected a new guy to change all that and he goes ahead and keeps on doing the same thing that the last guy was doing which wasn't working. Seriously, what is the deal? I am so out-of-my-head nuclear pissed-off right now that I can barely see straight.

Laid back guy: Dude, it's a scam. Face it.

(Then, for the next ten minutes, ten painful minutes, the overly PC liberal guy and the repentant neo-con conservative guy get into an argument about economics and politics of the type that we've heard so many times before over the last few months, or years, or decades really, that it does not need to be transcribed here)

Smart but hot chick: Well, you have to hand it to Obama. He's been very bi-partisan about his financial bailout plan…both liberals and conservatives hate it.

Lecherous guy: Hey, "bi" is okay with me. Bring a Japanese girlfriend and we'll have a real bi-party-san.

Brian: Well, here's the latest deal. One trillion dollars. One trillion more dollars are going to get dumped down the rat hole that Wall Street has become. And here's how they're selling it to us. See if this sounds familiar. The government steps in and buys a bunch more toxic crap from the big banks, banks that should have been put out of their misery and liquidated long ago. Well, actually, it's like, other people are going to put up a fraction of the money to buy the toxic crap but We The Patsies will put up most of it. That's why they call it a public-private "partnership". But the partnership part of it is just spin because the government is taking most of the risk. Anyway, the banks are going to unload a bunch of toxic crap that no one wants to buy at the prices they are asking because it's all toxic crap and everyone knows that it's almost worthless and so the government is going to buy a trillion dollars of it. It's a screw and we'll be lucky if we only lose half of our investment. Yeah, five hundred billion at least. But here come the Masters of the Spiniverse to tell us that the toxic crap isn't worthless, it's just under- valued because the market is gripped with fear and paranoia. That toxic crap is only a little bit bad, they say, and if we buy it at a discount and we are patient enough we'll see a big return at the end of the road. Cha-ching!

Dumb guy: Uh, you lost me.

Brian: Sorry. Okay, here it is in a nutshell. They've got stuff that no one wants to buy but they tell you that it's worth a lot more than this low, low price that they're willing to sell it to you for. It's a steal at these prices! You're guaranteed to make money. It's a "can't lose" proposition.

Overly PC liberal guy: Hey, that sounds like my real estate agent.

Repentant neo-con conservative guy: And my stock broker.

Dumb guy: And my dead-beat brother-in-law.

Laid back guy: Dudes and dudettes, it's snake oil. It's a scam.

Brian: My point exactly. It's a scam. And this is like, so much worse than the AIG bonuses thing. I mean, people got so angry about that and that was only a measly $165 million. This is a trillion dollars that we're going to lose this time around. That's six-thousand times more! So everyone should be six-thousand times angrier about this than they were about those bonuses. I mean, I'm so outraged that I've been searching around the internet for instructions on how to build a guillotine.

Laid back guy: Dude. Lighten up.

Brian: Lighten up?! Lighten up! You know, I ride in the MS-150 every year. That's where we ride our bikes one-hundred and fifty miles over two days to raise money for the victims of Multiple Sclerosis. But this year you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to sponsor my own ride called My-401k. I'm going to kidnap bankers and force them to ride four-hundred and one kilometers every day until their friends and relatives cough up enough money to make up for what I lost in my retirement fund.

Repentant neo-con conservative guy: Hey, not all bankers are bad.

Overly PC liberal guy: I have to agree. It's the system that's corrupt.

(But they don't really agree, and tragically another boring argument about deregulation, what Democratic presidents did, what Republican presidents did, and what the Federal Reserve did, and all argued using talking points rather than facts and logic erupts between the repentant neo-con conservative guy and the overly PC liberal guy until one of them brings up the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act and the rest of the dysfunctional but lovable friends are forced to bind and gag the pair to get them to shut up)

Brian: Praise to Ishtar. If only we could do that to all the people who keep that ideological argument crap going in real life.

Dumb guy: Yeah, we shouldn't play the blame game. We need to set fault aside and solve our problems.

Brian: NO! We SHOULD play the blame game. And we need to get it right. None of this ridiculous political grandstanding. I want to see judges and lawyers and real prosecutions, not some powerless bi-partisan congressional investigating committee whose purpose is to find a scapegoat and whitewash everybody else, themselves included. I mean, how can we fix the problem if we don’t know, or at least we don't agree, how it happened in the first place? And when we find out how it happened we will know exactly who is to blame. It's not some game, it's called justice. And we need it, badly. But you see, that will never happen, because the guilty people want to keep the ill-gotten gains that they made under the corrupt system and so they want to sweep the whole blame thing under the carpet. You know, they'll convict Bernie Madoff and make it seem like justice was served but they'll let everyone at the big banks and the hedge funds and everywhere else get off without even a slap on the wrist. Most of them will even get to keep their jobs even though they screwed up about as badly as anyone can. And the reason why the government lets all that happen is because most of them are enslaved to their party's leaders and their parties are all about giving back to their campaign fund contributors. It's one big circle of payola. And here's a news flash for you, it isn't just the Republicans who are on Wall Street's dole, now those supposedly pro-labor Democrats are also in the business of paying back their Wall Street pimps, and all with our money.

Dumb guy: But isn't everyone's fault? You know, we all went along with it, so we all deserve some of the blame.

(Sound effect of Brian's head nearly exploding, or is it a sound effect?)

Laid back guy: Dude, calm down.

Brian: I AM NOT TO BLAME! I lived responsibly. I lived within my means. I didn't play the market, or buy or build or flip or refinance some monster-sized house, or buy a bunch of crap on credit to help "stimulate" a dysfunctional and doomed economy. I've earned the right to act like a self-righteous a-hole and that's exactly what I'm going to do. In fact, I didn't just live modestly, I was out there warning everyone about the problems that were building up, but did anyone listen to me? Noooooo. I was mister "doom and gloom". I was laughed at and ignored. But now, now the devastation is finally here. Well folks…can you hear me now?!

Laid back guy: Dude...seriously, chill out.

<(But Brian got even more angry)

Brian: And here's where you all better listen and listen good. I'm not the only one who's not responsible for any of this crap. There's a lot of us out there. And normally we're a quiet bunch who just mind our own business, but when we get really, really mad, like now, do you know what happens? Yeah, we go all Fascist on you. That's right, Fascist with a capital F, and…well, capital punishment too. Does that scare you? Well, it should. You see, while everyone else was out there lying and cheating and having fun, we were sitting at home, playing by the rules, and doing everything prudently. But now, now that the people who lived large, broke the rules, and ended up in trouble want us to bail them out, well we're going to rise up and put our foot down. On your necks! Oh, you're going to be sorry, because we're going to do a lot more than just give you all a stern lecture about your moral failings. No, we won't be reading from the bible, or telling you that "we told you so", and we won't be delivering pretty speeches about how to motivate yourself to get up off your backside and climb up "the hill". No, we'll be marching you up that hill, at gunpoint, and chained at the ankles so that you can't slink away like you did from all your other responsibilities.

(Stunned silence fell over the studio as the others felt too nervous to interject anything, and were a little afraid as well)

Brian: Yeah, we'll find us a dictator. Someone tough, and disciplined, like we are. Not like any of the panty-waste politicians that get up there and tell you what you want to hear and then turn around and do whatever their campaign contributors tell them to do when they get elected. I mean, the lefties called Bush a dictator. Give me a break. The man is an incompetent coward. He proved it on September eleventh and he proved it again during Katrina. He's useless. We all saw the footage. When a crisis comes along he just sits there like a bump on a log. He was a dictator? He was a leader? Get real. Bush couldn't lead lemmings over a cliff. (Editor's note - lemmings do not actually commit mass suicide as portrayed in a Disney documentary some years ago, please check this out for a more detailed explanation) And Obama? A dictator? The righties in this country have lost their minds if they think that Obama's got the guts to chart his own path. No, he's acting like one of them now, one of the Washington elites. He promised change, and that's what happened. The bastard changed. And don't get me started about Reagan…or Clinton either. Or rather, either Clinton either.

(Fortunately both the repentant neo-con conservative guy and the overly PC liberal guy were bound and gagged and so they weren't able to speak up and defend their mighty heroes)

Brian: And there's going to be no more of this pathetic two-party system, and no more arguing about which side is right. That's all just a stupid distraction anyway these days. You know what the difference is between the two parties? Democrats are sniveling, spineless, and wrong; and Republicans are confident, forceful, and equally wrong. Choose your flavor of incompetence and corruption and cast your ballot. Maybe it will be counted but it isn't going to matter. No, when us pissed-off responsible type people get our backs up there's only going to be one party in this nation, and if you aren't loyal to it then say hello to a forced labor and re-education camp. We're going to tell you what to do because you're too stupid to follow the rules. We're going to take away all your privileges because you're too irresponsible to use them wisely. We're going to tear down all your false idols in Hollywood and on Wall Street and in Washington and on television and on the internet and drag you kicking and screaming into the real world. And we're going to send out a swarm of brownshirts to smash every symbol of this screwed up, consumerist, "anything goes" culture of yours and force you to bow down before the god of GROW THE HELL UP!

(A pause follows…not a Paul Harvey pause, more like a Paul Hitler pause)

Smart but hot chick: Brian, it might not be as bad as you think it is. The markets have been stable for a while now and they're going back up. Maybe cooler heads are prevailing. And while things will be bad for a year or two maybe they won't get really bad.

Brian: (Gets one step closer to the edge and he's about to break) Listen. What has happened with every prediction that the "experts" have made so far? Remember how they said that the housing market could never go down, or the DOW was headed to thirty thousand, or that the economy was fundamentally strong, or that if we threw enough money at the problem that we'd avoid a recession, or…or…or. And when they were proved wrong each and every time they just made new predictions, pretending as if they had any credibility left, and those new predictions were just like their old predictions only they lowered their estimates just enough to make it seem like things were going to get better a little further down the road, like in six months or a year or so.

Smart but hot chick: Yes, but…

Brian: Okay, so how do I know we're doomed? I'll make it simple. It's all about debt. You know how high debts are today don't you?

Smart but hot chick: Yes, even higher than they were before the crash of 1929.

Brian: And the government thinks that they can solve the problem by borrowing more and then paying off the banks so that they will start lending again and everyone else can borrow more. They're trying to solve the debt problem by creating more debt!

Smart but hot chick: Well, when you say it like that it sounds really stupid.

Brian: It is! And here, Obama is projecting a deficit of $1.8 trillion in 2010, which is almost as much as the total number of dollars that all of the Asian countries combined are holding, meaning that even if they were willing to lend us all that money, and they'd have to be stupid to do so, we'd wipe out all of their savings in less than two years. And that's just using Obama's rosy projections, which don't include all of the other spending he's going to need to do to make good on the trillions of dollars of guarantees that Uncle Sam has made in our names over the last year. We're broke, our country is broke, and our leaders are trying to borrow their way out of debt. It's insane! And now the Fed has started printing money and opened up that can of worms. I swear, it's like being on a plane and finding out that the pilot is blind. Soft landing? Fat chance.

Smart but hot chick: But what if it all works? What if you're wrong? You've been wrong about things before you know.

(The sinister, and rather discomforting sounds of Brian chuckling can be heard)

Brian: Oh, I'd love to be wrong. I've made a good living for myself in this screwed up economy and I wouldn't mind seeing the madness of the last ten years keep on going for the rest of my life. I'd love to be sitting right here with you five years from now when everything is back to normal, or whatever it is we call this perverse state of being, and we could just laugh about how foolish I was back then. So if you like you can hold on to that naively optimistic dream because yeah, it might all come true. And if you're so inclined you can cling tightly to your smooth-talking, pretty-boy president and his crack team of economic advisors who are still following a failed economic ideology and your oh-so-knowledgeable-about-the-great-depression chief of the Federal Reserve, and you can have as many trillions of dollars as you want to throw at the problem and you can pretend that it's going to be enough to save you.

(And now Brian's sinister tone turns into raging anger)

Brian: So go ahead, bet against me! Put up everything you've got against what I've got. Going to print up a few trillions to bail out a deficit that no one wants to finance? You'd better keep those printing presses running full speed around the clock because I've got over a quadrillion dollars in insanely overleveraged derivatives ready to smash everything you've ever built into a million pieces. And do you like bailing out AIG? Well get ready to do a lot more of that because that was caused by only a few tens of billions of dollars of Credit Default Swaps going bad. I've got fifty trillion more where that came from and it's going to rain down like fire from the sky on every financial institution on the face of the planet. And all your mighty economic wizards are going to be running around with a big money hose hooked up to the Federal Reserve trying to put out the fires, but water isn't going to come out, only paper, paper dollars. And you know what? Paper burns! So take your hubris, take your experts, hell, you can even take all your gods and angels and try to stop the mother of all bubbles from devouring everything that you hold dear. You say that Jehovah is with you? And Vishnu too? Well, I've got the Dark Goddess on my side and she is pissed! You've got no chance. Bush had no chance. Obama's got no chance. McCain wouldn't have had a chance either. Do you think that Jesus is going to come down and save the markets? Good luck. Who do you think killed Jesus when he came down the first time? So bring it on, Jesus! Let's see a second coming. The Dark Goddess will send you back to heaven nailed to a cross made of greenbacks, upside-down this time, and faster than you can say, "Why hast thou forsaken me?"

(And now Brian started screaming as loud as he could)

Brian: Hear my words and listen this time! The sky is falling! All the dead, well, at least the dead economists, are rising up from their graves! The stars are right! We're all doomed! It's gonna be lights out! Do you understand? LIGHTS OUT!

(What could be the most awkward silence of all time descends over the KTLB studio. Several minutes of dead air follow, more dead even than Paul Harvey. Finally the silence is broken.)

Brian: Well, to hell with this. I can't do this anymore. It's April Fool's Day and I'm trying to be funny and I just can't do it. I'm just so full of anger and hatred and frustration that it all comes out sounding like the most awful bile that I can produce. I'm sorry. I'm done ranting and offending everyone. And I'm done broadcasting too. This is it. I'm taking KTLB off the air for good. It's over. Good night. This is Brian Voth, signing off.

(end of transcript)

And so Brian left his paid group of mildly dysfunctional, but each lovable in their own way, friends behind, jumped on his bike, and pedaled for home. He had a lot on his mind and being alone on a bicycle is a good place to get some thinking done. So as he rode he pondered the economic crisis, the political madness, the world, and what his place was within it all, and as usual he couldn't come up with any satisfactory answers.

Then some idiot driving an SUV and talking on her cell phone at the same time cut him off as she suddenly swerved into a parking lot, leaving Brian with no way to avoid running into her. It was the kind of thing that happened a lot on that particular road…some dumb ass cutting you off. In fact, Brian had taken to calling it "Dumb ass cuts road" because you could almost always expect someone to nearly run you over when you rode on it. Normally Brian would have been on his guard for someone doing something stupid, but this day his mind was focused elsewhere and so with a heavy thud, he paid the price for not paying attention.

Thus, it was on the road to "dumb ass cuts" that Brian fell off of his bike, struck his head on the pavement, and had what could have been called a religious experience or a divine revelation if Brian hadn't been an atheist. So instead we'll just call it a fortuitous brain fart.

It was not a vision. No deity spoke to him. A choir of angels that sounded a whole lot more impressive than what even the most costly Yamaha keyboard could produce was not heard. But for one brief moment Brian felt something that he hadn't felt since his childhood: a wonderful feeling that filled his heart with everything that had been missing from his life as he now knew it. For an instant Brian felt safe, warm, and loved, and not only that he also felt reborn, and with a new and powerful sense of purpose. It was as if a door had opened and a universe of infinite possibilities stood before him, and there he was, looking through that doorway and feeling like a kid again, wanting to go running through it and explore everything that life had to offer with a sense of wonderment and fascination. It was that feeling, that glorious, exhilarating, and innocent feeling that pulsed through Brian's mind as he fell, and that feeling changed him forever.

The clueless driver, oblivious to what had happened, drove off, leaving Brian with a flat tire, some road rash, and a nasty bruise on the side of his head, but as he patched himself and his bike back together he could think of only one thing, "I must experience that feeling again, and help others to feel that way as well."

Once he was home Brian swept away all the trappings of his former life, tossing oodles of his once treasured objects into the garbage or pawning them off on eBay, and he devoted himself to his new mission in life. Opening up an old notebook to the nearest blank page the founder of Fireaxe began to describe in words what he had experienced only in feelings on that fateful day, and oh how the words flowed. The decades old pencil in his hand was almost flying over the page as the inspiration poured out of him. And as he wrote, his message of a return to a long lost place and time took shape on the page before him and grew more powerful with every stroke.

Brian worked all through the night and halfway through the next day, not wanting to sleep before he had completed his epic masterpiece for fear that that feeling, that fleeting feeling which had inspired him, would be gone when he awoke. And so, with his fingertips sore, his palm covered in graphite dust, and his eyelids desperately yearning to close, Brian scrawled out the final words of his personal revelation before succumbing to the sandman, collapsing face-down on the essay that would soon change the world and everyone in it.

The next day he posted it to the internet.

For a while nothing happened, and Brian's newfound sense of purpose began to fade. He wondered if this had been another illusion, that his essay had been just one more thing that he had felt strongly about but which no one else did. He also wondered if anyone was going to read it. After all, with so many people writing blogs these days it was hard to get any attention paid to your writings, and what was more was that the people who'd want to read what he wrote, well, they were probably spending their time writing those other blogs. So as nothing continued to happen, Brian spent a lot of time staring into the void, wondering how it was that he'd been so wrong about something which he felt so right about.

A week later he got an e-mail from someone who'd read his essay and was gushing with praise, thanking Brian profusely for writing it. The next day another e-mail came in which the sender also sang Brian's praises, and that was followed by a third in which the author told of being so inspired by the essay that she'd decided to change her whole life and was now happier and more productive than she'd ever been. In the days that followed Brian got more such e-mails, and in a few weeks time he was getting so many that he couldn't answer them all individually. But try he did. Alas, he could not keep up with the flow and in a month's time his mailbox was completely packed with unanswered e-mails. It was amazing. His message was resonating loudly with others and many were asking him to write another essay, building on the growing movement that he had started. Exited, elated, and feeling oh so vindicated, Brian was more than happy to oblige. But he decided to go one step further than merely write another essay.

And so Brian bought a digital camera and made a YouBoob video.

It was unlike anything that anyone had ever seen.

Like so many of the other self-made videos on that site it was nothing more than one person talking into the camera, but it was what Brian said that made it so different. He began graciously, thanking his many supporters for their sentiments and their stories and even mentioning a few of them by name. There was nothing revolutionary about that, but simply doing it reminded people that civility hadn't been completely killed by the internet, at least not yet. And it made them think that perhaps their own manners could use a little cleaning up in the future. It would be the first of many times his viewers would question themselves.

On the table before him Brian had a stack of books, and one by one he opened them and began to read. One was the Bible, one was the Koran, one was Mao's little red book, and there were many, many others, each one of them held in high regard by the followers of one ideology or another. Brian didn't add any of his own commentary as he read. It wasn't necessary. The passages explained themselves. At first the words seemed ancient and irrelevant, as if they had been washed away by all the changes and advances of the modern world, but as Brian spoke them they erupted with life again, sounding ageless and eternal as they rose up to take their rightful place as the foundation of humanity's wisdom.

But they were not happy verses, and they did not fill the viewers with a sense of pride and faithfulness. It was quite the opposite really. For the passages that Brian had chosen were ones that spoke out against all of the transgressions that the faithful of every faith, as well as those who had no faith, had committed against their neighbors, against their enemies, and against themselves. Sin after sin, scandal after scandal, wrong after wrong, the list seemed endless but no one dared turn away as they watched. Brian spoke calmly and forcefully, sparing no one as he read from those books, and in the minds of all those who listened they did hear not Brian's voice, but the voice of what in their hearts they knew to be that of the supreme authority shaming them for what they had done and were still doing, and admonishing them for ever believing that they were so righteous that they no longer needed to adhere to the more difficult practices of their beliefs.

And when Brian closed the last book and set it down before him there was no one in the world who had watched the video who did not feel the immensity of their own guilt as well as the overwhelming desire to make things right once more. They were ready to commit their lives to making up for the evils which they had brought into the world. That was when Brian began to speak in his own words.

"When I was young I used to have a tiny box that once held staples but which had outlived its usefulness in that regard.", Brian began, his voice taking on that quality of reminiscence that puts people's minds at ease. "I kept it in my desk at school, right beside all my textbooks and notepads and pencils and all the other things which I'd come to associate with the drudgery of learning and making good grades. Most of the time I spent at my desk I would be doing my schoolwork, completing all the exercises to the best of my ability, but every now and then I'd have a little free time, and during those times I would pour my creative energies into making something that I, and perhaps a few others, would appreciate and enjoy. Then I would fold it up neatly and place it in that box, on top of the other wonderful little things that I had made, and put it back amongst the boring books and the dreary notepads."

"Over time that little box filled up with a number of amusing things: some drawings, a story or two, more than a few cartoons, whatever I had felt like making at the time.", Brian said, waxing nostalgic, but not getting lost in his own story. "And that little box I began to associate with pleasure and wonderment, for whenever I added to it, or even when I just opened it up and looked through all the things that I had put into it, I once again felt the joyous feelings that came from performing a labor of love. It was like having a little box of sunshine in my desk, and it made going to school seem not so bad."

"I don't know what happened to that box. It's gone now. And gone with it are all those little reminders of how wonderful life can be.", Brian spoke, building up to the point of his story. "The sad part is that I didn't know that it was gone for a very long time. I didn't realize that something was even missing. I suppose that I was too distracted by all the other things in my life to notice that I no longer had my little box of sunshine. So all that time I wasn't putting anything into it, and it wasn't there for me to look through and remember that life can be a beautiful thing."

"But now, now I know that it's gone. And I know what I have to do.", and now all those who were watching could feel something arising deep within their hearts as if they knew what Brian was going to say next, but they still wanted to hear him say it. "Friends, neighbors, fellow humans, let us make our world into a little box of sunshine, and let us start filling it with all the things that makes this world worth living in. Let us all contribute, and give, instead of being selfish and only taking what the world has to offer. We must do this so that we, our children, our children's children, and all who come after us, can look at what we have done and be filled with pride, happiness, and the passion to go forth and contribute their own things of wonder."

And that was all he said.

And that was all it took.

Within hours the internet traffic to and from YouBoob overloaded the servers and the site had to shut down. But within hours Brian's loyal supporters were quick to put the video on mirror sites across the globe and before long thousands of people were watching the video and buzzing about what they'd just seen in chat rooms and bulletin boards everywhere. It seemed that everyone wanted to see it and soon millions of people were logging on to the internet in search of the video that their friends and family members had told them that they absolutely had to see. But alas, the internet was not designed to handle such a heavy load, and although millions of people were able to watch Brian's humble video, and were transformed by the experience, hundreds of millions, nay, billions of people were left out.

That state of affairs could not go unanswered.

And so it was hastily arranged for Brian to deliver his YouBoob message on live television and to have it broadcast simultaneously across the world so that everyone within walking distance of a television could watch it. But that didn't seem to be good enough and so telecommunications companies got into the act as well and offered to beam the speech across their networks so that anyone with a cell phone could hear it too. And as news of the soon to be broadcast speech spread over the planet via newspapers, phones, and word of mouth, people of every faith, color, and creed began to realize that something truly amazing and unprecedented in the history of humanity was about to happen. It was a truly exciting time to be alive.

Television crews were dispatched to Brian's humble apartment, intending to broadcast the speech in the same place that the original video was made, and somehow resisting the urge to sex the presentation up to the gills as Hollywood so often does. Instead they would try their best to duplicate the look and feel of the original recording. But just minutes before the camera crews arrived and Brian's apartment was transformed into what seemed like the focal point of the entire universe, a visitor came and knocked on Brian's door.

It was one of Fireaxe's oldest and dearest supporters, someone who'd known Brian since the early days of his musical project, back when it was still difficult to find and download porn from the internet. Brian was surprised to see him and welcomed him inside to share in his moment of triumph, but what surprised Brian even more was what his friend had to say.

"So who the hell are you now anyway?"

Brian was speechless.

"Are you the Destroyer of Dreams? The Servant of Pain? Or are you now one of the Masters of the Universe?", the man said angrily, and more than a little disappointedly, about what he'd seen the creator of Fireaxe become. "I saw your video. It was crap. For years you railed against ideologies and shot everyone's dreams to pieces. You burned through politics, religion, and economics and left nothing sacred. But now you're about to infect the entire world with the most insidious dream that anyone has ever seen! You've become the enemy. So tell me something so that I know for sure, were you full of it then, or are you full of it now?"

"Look.", Brian began, regaining his composure. "I spent what, thirteen years blasting away at everyone's most cherished ideals, slaving away over my guitar and my computer, pouring money, time, and my life into Fireaxe, and what did I accomplish? I had maybe two-hundred listeners at the most, maybe a couple dozen people who thought that my music was good enough to recommend to others, and most of the people who heard my message didn't even understand what I was talking about. It's the same thing with my newsletters. I mean, I could have had the same effect on the world if I just drove out in to the desert, miles from anywhere, and screamed my damn fool head off for an hour or so every couple of months. But now, thanks to a fantastic, life-changing accident, I'm seeing things in a whole new way. And now my message is reaching people, a lot of people, and I'm changing their lives for the better. I'm finally giving them what they need. Look, I'm still the same person. See, you know that box I was talking about in that video, my little box of sunshine? Well, Fireaxe was one of the things that I've been putting into that box all these years. It's my contribution to the world. But you see, the box is bigger than Fireaxe. Fireaxe was just what made me happy. But what I'm giving to the world now is something that can make everyone happy."

The man considered those words, but didn't hesitate with his answer.

"Creating Fireaxe was what made you happy, and so yes, the music you wrote fits nicely inside the box, but the stories you told with your lyrics and the meaning behind those lyrics, those are far, far bigger than the box. Your ideas are large enough to contain that little box of sunshine, and every other box in the world for that matter.", the man retorted. "Listen, I don't agree with everything that you've written or sung or said. In fact, I find some of it offensive, and some of it makes me wonder if you've completely lost your mind. But I always want to read what you've written, and hear what you've recorded, and that's because you make me think, and that's a rare thing in this world. You, Brian, make me question my view of the world and my place within it. You challenge me to expand my horizons. You force me to sit down and ask myself if what I believe and feel strongly about is a load of crap. And to be honest, a lot of the time I hate you for that. Sometimes you're a real pain in the ass."

Brian sat and listened as his admirer turned the tables on him, forcing the creator of Fireaxe to examine his own beliefs. But he also thought about the authors and directors and musicians and others who had shaped his ideas and challenged his beliefs and how much he respected and admired them even if he didn't agree with them. Then Brian wondered if he'd become one of those influential creators, and that was an awesome thought.

"And that's why you're not popular. Well, that and the fact that you play a style of music that's essentially dead. But you don't tell people what they want to hear. In fact, you tell people what they don't want to hear. And there isn't a big market for that.", the man added with a wink and a grin. "But people like me need people like you. Not to tell us what to think or what to do, but to tell us that there's more to the world than we think there is. I mean, what do you get when you turn on the television, or the radio, or go to the movies, or click around on the internet? All you see is someone trying to tell you what you want to hear. They're just trying to pleasure you for money. They're whores. That's what they are. Whores. So maybe you get off on someone making you feel good, or maybe you get off on someone making you feel angry at people you don't like, or maybe you get off on feeling afraid of some boogeyman. They don't care. They'll just do whatever they need to do to get you off and then take what they need. Honestly, it's like an ideological Sodom and Gomorrah out there."

And Brian appreciated that vivid imagery very much.

"And that's why we need you.", the man said as he drew his soliloquy to a close. "You're not a whore. You're not a sellout. You're the exact opposite. You're a heretic. You're the village atheist who keeps us all honest, or who tries to at least. But even though the masses just block you out when you do the Fireaxe thing, remember that I'm still out there and I want to hear what you have to say."

And after that moving speech Brian could do nothing but rethink his newfound perspective on the world. It made him wonder if he'd truly seen the light or if it really had been all an illusion. A few moments later the camera crews pulled up outside and the big show was about to start. Brian's friend headed for the door, not wanting to be around when things got crazy.

"Thanks.", Brian said as he nodded respectfully to the man who cared enough about him to tell him exactly how he felt. "You've always been of great intellectual value to me too."

And then he was gone and the madness began.

The second, professionally done, recording of Brian's message isn't available at YouBoob anymore, and neither is the first one as popular outcry demanded that it be taken down. Perhaps you can dig it up somewhere on a mirror site if the PC police haven't gotten to it yet, but of the people who saw the live broadcast, and they number over a billion, there are a few who remember what Brian said well enough that they can retell it almost word for word. It started out the same as that modest little YouBoob video did, with Brian sitting at a table with a stack of books at his side, but what he said the second time around was quite a bit different than what he'd recorded before:

"Friends, neighbors, fellow humans, you're all missing something, something that you need more than anything else in the world. Sometimes you feel it strongly, and sometimes not much at all, but the need is always there. That's what these books were written to do.", Brian began, passing his hand over the Bible, Koran, and the other revered texts. "Their purpose is to make you feel that need and allow you to alleviate it, but only if you follow what the books say and spread the word. The books turn you into addicts, into drones, and into slaves."

"They promise you a little box of sunshine, something that can fill your heart with joy now and then so that you can endure the toil of hard work and the pain of conflict and do what's necessary to hold the book that you accept to be true higher than all the others.", Brian said, speaking calmly and forcefully. "And they'll tell you that box is out there somewhere, hiding just around the corner, and if you just follow the book that you'll get there."

"But is that little box of sunshine just a dream? Is it just make-believe? No, it's real. I know it's real. And when you open it up you feel the most wonderful thing in the world. That little box will wipe away all your tears, take away all your pain, and make you feel whole again. It's worth fighting, and dying, for.", Brian continued, putting feeling into the words and making them come alive. "Very soon we're going to need to open up that little box of sunshine because we've painted ourselves into the darkest, ugliest corner that the human race has ever been in, and we've got a lot of death, and suffering, and misery ahead of us. Let's be honest. Did we really think that things could go on being so good forever? Did we truly believe that we were at the end of history?"

"And so as things get worse, and we feel the need for relief, we'll all be searching for that little box of sunshine, the most wonderful thing in the world, and fighting over it when we find it since there isn't enough to go around.", Brian added, his voice grim and foreboding. "But just how wonderful can that little box be if we judge it by its fruits? You as well as I have seen what it does to people, how it changes them when they pursue it, and how they forsake their morals and principles just to get their daily fix from it. And so I can come to no other conclusion but that it is not a gift from a god, nor is it the answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything, but in fact it is the most vile thing in the world. The books make you want it, and want it so badly, that you'll lie, you'll cheat, you'll steal, you'll debauch yourself and others, you'll stab each other in the back and slit each other's throats, and you'll corrupt each and every verse in these god-damnable books to get your little slice of heaven."

"Don't think so? Well just look at yourselves. Look at yourselves! Take a good, long, hard look in the mirror if you dare. Look at everything that you've done over your entire lives and then come and tell me how good and righteous and holy you are.", Brian added, glaring at the camera and smiling in a wholly wicked way. "And if you think that you're coming clean by admitting that while you've done a few bad things in your life but just aren't capable of inflicting the truly despicable and evil things that your books rail against then well maybe push hasn't come to shove for you just yet. But we'll all be finding out if I'm right really soon now. I think that each and every one of you is going to see a side of yourself that will shock you, horrify you, and repulse you to the very core of your being. Your precious holy books will bring out what is most unholy in all of you."

And Brian let out a cruel laugh before adding his final, and most memorable line.

"Now prove me wrong you simian-descended bastards!"

Ending Comments

Now, you knew I was going to stick the dagger in at the end didn't you? (Laughing Out Loud) Take care and enjoy.

Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe

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