February 2013

New Twitter Account and the World of Art

This blog is borrowed from the ShatteredTriangle page. ST has a new Twitter account. Follow @shatteredtri for news, updates and more.


The world of art is almost as diverse as the imagination. Today, I would like to focus on music, with emphasis on sounds from the U.S. and the mother continent, Africa.

Three talented musicians banded together (no pun intended) to form
The Zoo Human Project. Jen Cordero @zhpJen is lead vocalist and also plays keyboard and guitar. Derek Martinez @zhpderek, the wiz of strings, plays guitar, ukelele--and he sings! Kevin Sakamoto @zhpkevin sings and plays percussion. Originally from Los Angeles, this popular California group now calls Sacramento home. Their well-recieved albums, Innominata and Naissance, built a solid fan base. Then, like all good American artists, they turned in their own renditions of some Christmas classics in a collection titled The Good List.

On the other side of the globe, from the southern-most country in Africa, comes
David van Vuuren. In October of 2011, David @DaveFromFire won the seventh season of South African Idol. This pop artist is rather quiet on the outside, preferring to express himself in song and that he does with passion. After his Idol win, he joined the Universal recording family and tours for an ever-growing fan base.

Back in the united States, when beauty and talent converge, it is always Kate Prestia-Schaub. She is a gifted graduate of USC and is an accomplished soloist and teacher. He has already mastered the world form classical world. Yet not content to rest on those laurels, she has pushed the boundaries of musical performance working with many contemporary composers. She has also just finished premiering a new piece for piccolo and piano written especially for her by composer Martin Kennedy.

Two continents. Two sounds. Music worth listening to and thinking about.

William Messenger
Los Angeles Book Festival
February 22, 2013 06:05 | Awards, Book Festival | Permalink
The Los Angeles Book Festival has just announced its winners. In the category of genre-based fiction, Shattered Triangle picked up an honorable mention. The is one of the first festival entries for Shattered Triangle and it is good to be noticed and appreciated.

There are many good books that won honors, and the
festival website is an excellent resource for new reading materials. Congratulations to all the authors who won awards at this year's festival!


Los Angeles Book Festival Awards

Yesterday, winners were posted for the 2012 - 2013 Los Angeles Book Festival, and Shattered Triangle won an honorable mention in the genre-based fiction category!

JM Northern Media, owns DIY Convention: Do It Yourself in Film, Music and Books. Along with DIY Convention, JM Northern runs a number of book festivals. This is the first of the book festivals to be held this year--at least the first in which Shattered Triangle was an entrant. And it is a great honor.

With a wide range of categories, from poetry to biography to science fiction to mystery, The Los Angeles Book Festival is a great resource for discovering new, award-winning books. Take a look at the site and don’t forget to get your copy of
Shattered Triangle.

Congratulations to the many entrants and to all the winners!

+/- Benedict XVI

The Papacy. It’s been called the most exclusive club in the world. The members never meet, since there is only one living at a time—until now. Pope Benedict XVI has announced his retirement and resignation as Pope effective on the last day of the month--February 28th.

This is not quite as shocking as the secular media would have us believe. True, it is an extremely rare occurrence. Although Gregory XII resigned in 1415, that was in the interest of healing a church divided by multiple claimants to the papal office. The last pope to voluntarily resign was Celestine V in 1294. Still, this is not really shocking news. In an interview in 2010 for the book “Light of the World”, he indicated that he would was open to resigning if his health impaired his role in the Church. That is what has happened. So what does this all mean?

Once again we find the media looking for some sensationalist angle. Will there be a schism within the church—one group loyal to Benedict, the other to his successor? This is utter nonsense. There will be only one Pope. When Benedict resigns, he will no longer be the leader of the Catholic Church. Period. The Cardinals will elect a new Pontiff, and Benedict cannot change his mind should he not personally approve of the choice.

The new pope may choose to consult with Benedict. That is unlikely. After all, the pope has a unique exercise of power and authority. But even if Benedict’s successor chooses to consult with him, the consultation will have no more sway than any other papal advisors. In any event, it will be only advice and opinion. To borrow a phrase from George W. Bush, whoever is elected will be the final decider. What is far more important is what kind of person the College of Cardinals choose to succeed Benedict and what direction he wants to move the Church.

When John XXIII was elected, he was expected to live only long enough for Cardinal Montini to secure enough votes for his own election, which he did after John’s death, thereby becoming Pope Paul VI. However, the real shock wave to hit the Church was John XXIII’s announcement that he intended to call an Ecumenical Council. Caretaker Popes are not supposed to do that! He recognized that the Church needed modernization or else risk irrelevancy in the world. It was a two-crested wave. Shock was in the air, but so was hope.

Most people only know the Second Vatican Council for its document “Sacrosanctum Concilium--Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”. This is because most Catholics primarily interact with the Church at Mass and when celebrating the other sacraments. And indeed, that document was significant. Praying in a language that both God and laity understood enabled a much fuller participation by worshippers.

But there are other, arguably more important, documents that emerged from the Council and altered the course of Catholic history. Among those are the documents “Lumen Gentium--The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”, “Nostra Aetate—Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”, “Unitatis Redintegratio--the Decree on Ecumenism”, “Dei Verbum—Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation”, and “Dignitatis Humanae--Declaration on Religious Freedom”.

Combined with its other ten documents (sixteen in total), the Council unleashed a radical overhaul of the entire Church. The Church redefined itself as the “people of God”. Power was decentralized with the establishment of Conferences of Bishops, the laity assumed more responsibility—however limited—in Church administration. Scripture scholars and theologians were consulted and occasionally deferred to by bishops who lacked the expertise of academics. Finally, respect was given officially to the individual conscience and to non-Catholic religious bodies.

But the hope that was bred from the Council was not to last. Pope Paul VI presided over the second part of the Council, but he lost his nerve when it became necessary to decide on the morality of contraception. He chose to reject the recommendation by the majority of the commission’s members to modify the Church’s teaching. This majority included every layman and laywoman, the only ones who were married. Archbishop Karol Wojtyla was appointed to the commission by Paul VI. He later became John Paul II.

John Paul was a worldwide phenomenon, traveling more than any of his predecessors and bringing the presence of the Papacy to all corners of the globe. However, he also began an effort to retract from the Second Vatican Council, particularly in the area of Church authority. Benedict XVI furthered that effort. Not unlike the Council, itself, most people notice the regression while at worship. In an example of full-circle metaphor, the English-speaking world now prays in a language that, while officially English, is understood neither by the people nor by God—and the Conferences of Bishops let it happen. John Paul II and Benedict XVI appointed the most conservative and intellectually vacuous men available as bishops, and they succeeded in fully emasculating the national and regional Conferences of Bishops.

To be fair, change is rarely easy, and many people welcomed this regression. There is illusory comfort to restriction and absolute, definitive answers to complex questions. Most people do not enjoy uncertainty. John Paul II and Benedict XVI gave many people what they wanted, but in the process failed to lead. And yet, even Benedict’s detractors must admire his deep commitment to the Church and his willingness to hand over responsibility to someone in better health, someone more capable of the modern demands of the papacy. Not many people can relinquish the kind of power that comes with being Pope.

So the real question facing the Church in the next couple of months has nothing to do with the fact the Benedict will resign rather than die in office. There is no threat of schism. There will be no competing claims to authority or decision-making. The real question is what kind of Pope the cardinals will elect. Will it be someone who recognizes the present and looks to the future, or someone who can only see the past? The Catholic Church does not believe in re-incarnation or we might hope for John XXIII to return. I think I would settle for someone less authoritarian. It does not matter that Benedict XVI will still be alive. Let’s see if the Holy Spirit is alive.

Drones, Brennan and the CIA

As a strong supporter of President Obama, I watched in dismay during his first term as Republican members of Congress continually attempted to derail the plans and policies of his Administration.

The stated position of the Republican leadership was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president. That failed. Dismally. The American people delivered Mr. Obama a decisive victory in last year’s election.

Still, there is a difference between obstructionism and oversight. The American system of democracy establishes checks and balances in an effort to insure that no element of the government runs amok. Unless these are exercised judiciously, the government cannot function properly. Striking an appropriate balance is not always politically easy.

Just as the Republicans cannot fulfill their obligations to the country by constantly blocking efforts of the Obama Administration, the Democrats cannot be faithful stewards if they never challenge the President. Congress has a perfect opportunity to meet its obligations as the Senate begins confirmation hearings on the appointment of John Brennan to head the CIA.

Everyone American citizen should be concerned about the U.S. drone program.

Although I am fundamentally opposed to violence, I realize that there are times when violence is inescapable. However, I find it impossible to justify the use of drones to kill people—even those who are deemed to be enemy combatants, or imminent threats to the United States. The use of drones is problematic, not only on legal grounds, but more so on moral ones.

President Obama has done much to restore America's standing in the world. The use of drones is not among them. These are not only legally tenuous, they also create a new wave of hostility, sow the seeds of future violence and breed new terrorists.

Like the atom bomb, we cannot unlearn this technology. Sadly, like weapons of mass destruction, other nations are now pursuing their own drone programs and we appear headed to a “drones arms race” that could, from a practical point of view, be more dangerous than the nuclear one. Drones are more likely to be used than nuclear weapons.

Brennan’s nomination is troubling on many fronts, but mostly because of his position on drones. The fact that they are effective is irrelevant, especially the “collateral” damage of hundreds of innocent dead. He has publicly argued that drones are both legal and moral. There is little support for the legality of this program, indicated by the opposition of nearly every other national government. What’s worse, are his statements that drones are a moral use of force. On this issue, Brennan is morally bankrupt.

Brennan’s confirmation hearing seems a good time for the entire country to confront the deadly reality of the drone program. It is a chance for the U.S. to step back from the policy that allows the use of drones and provide the necessary leadership that insures a peaceful future for all nations and peoples on this planet. This is a good time for the U.S. Senate to exercise its role in the system of check and balances in a thoughtful and responsible manner. If that means denying President Obama's choice of John Brennan to head the CIA, then so be it.