Monday, November 29, 2004

Christmas songs I love to hate

The Christmas tunes started in the radio stations a little earlier this year. On the whole, I object to this. Not because I’m upset that Christmas starts too early, or that Thanksgiving pretty much becomes little more than a pre-Christmas. No, I don’t have any problem with that. I mean, Christmas is a time of kindness, giving, and sharing. I say, let’s get that party started in January!

No, the reason I dislike 24/7 Christmas music on the radio is that, by and large, I can’t stand most of the Christmas music they play.

Again, I truly love Christmas Carols. I love to sing them in Church. I love to hear the choirs singing them. I love it when music reminds me of what I’m celebrating. It really touches me.

But I Hate (notice the capital “H”) most of the insipid pop Christmas tunes that get mixed in with the good stuff. And even the term “mixed in” is relative. Often it’s more like an occasional good one mixed in with a string of annoyances. For me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

Here’s my big list:

1. “Santa Baby”

Is it possible to pour more sleaze into an icon of childhood? Gimme a break! I remember this was performed once at a church party. Please!

2. “Jingle Bell Rock”

This little swing number is definitely NOT rock. For those that might be questioning, let me clarify: It is NOT rock. Not even close. It IS, however, cheesy. Just for the record…

3. “White Christmas”

I actually like this one. As a song. But by now, even only a few days after Thanksgiving, I’m already sick of it. Great tune, done to death. Give it a well-deserved rest.

4. Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”

Another one that deserves retirement. I liked it the first year it came out. The first couple of hundred times the first year that it came out. Hang it up, Bruce. It’s done…

5. “Silver Bells”

This one and “Chestnuts Roasting” are great examples of maudlin syrup that just sends me screaming into the frosty air. Which leads me to…

6. Anything sung like a lounge singer

That covers most of the rest. But wait, there’s more!

7. 90% of the soft jazz versions of Christmas songs.

I’ll admit that once in a while, one comes along that has a clever or fresh arrangement. Most don’t. Sleeping pills, almost all of them.

8. Christ-centered Christmas songs sung by people who live sleazy

OK, now I’m getting a little judgmental, but I get sick of hearing about how this or that celeb spends their year drugging and sleazing their way through life, then tries to be all spiritual at Christmas time. It just doesn’t come across very sincere. It’s like their contract requires a Christmas album, so they’ll sing about the Savior, but they really don’t believe it.

And not that anyone has to be pure. I mean that’s what the season’s really all about, right? But when you can see that someone’s really trying to keep their life in tune with The Lord, and they sing about Him, then you can feel it. And I like to listen to it then.

So, I know I've probably made someone mad by singling out their favorite. Which songs do you choke down each holiday season?

Mark Hansen

Friday, November 26, 2004

Rhyme and Meter

I have to admit a certain respect for modern poets who write in rhyme and meter. First of all, there are so few of them, and second, there are so few good ones.

I mean, I'm a songwriter. And I've long believed that songwriting is poetry. In all the songwriting books I read and classes they attend, they tell me it's not so. Songwriting is NOT poetry. Most of the time they've just said that Songwriting has too many parameters, like rhyme schemes, metering, and strophic structure.

Yeah, so what? So do sonnets. What's your point?

I mean, to me, songwriting is just poetry within certain rules. Just like a sonnet has rules, just like a haiku has rules. Pop tunes have rules, too. And within those rules there is a lot of flexibility.

But, there is one difference between pure poetry and songwriting. One is meant to be read, and the other is meant to be sung. In other words, there are elements of the art that go beyond the printed word. Melody, harmony, accompaniament. A poem is just words on the page.

But even that's changing. Is poetry truly words on the page, or words in the air? With the advent of Poetry Slams, where delivery is almost as important as content, doesn't that add another element to the art?

So, back to my original point. I'm a songwriter, and I write in rhyme and meter so that it will fit with my accompaniment, and so that it will fit with the rules of songwriting. It has been a very long time since I wrote a pure poem, that is, something never intended to be set to music. And from time to time, I write a song where the lyrics could stand without the music, as a pure poem. Not very often, but it happens.

And as I read poems, I occasionally find a good one, a real gem, in rhyme and meter that wasn't intended to be set to music, or at least that hasn't been set just yet.

I was out surfing the blogs a few minutes ago, and I found a new poetry blog, named "Vanity, Thy Name Is 'Cameron's Poetry Blog'", and it had some great stuff in, you guessed it, rhyme and meter. Check it out.

And that also reminded me of another good friend that writes poetry, also in rhyme and meter. His great dream is to be a hymnist. Great stuff. Check him out at I actually had the chance to set one of his hymn texts in traditional four-part harmony. It was a great experience.

Great stuff.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Jodi's Christmas Present

Warning: Spoilers. If you're Jodi, or one of her friends, stop reading NOW. Or I will get ornery...


I was over at Renee's Midwest Bloggin, and she made some reference to Geddy Lee. I saw that it was a link, and being a rush fan, I clicked it. Then she ranted about how much she doesn't like Rush.

But anyway, the blog entry that it linked to was really about earworms, or those twiddly little song hooks that stick in your head and don't go away. She also asked what earworms we'd had lately. And I'd had one, tonight, in fact. It's kind of a long story, but I think it was kinda fun.

I was at Greywhale (CD shop) with my wife. We were doing some Christmas shopping, mostly looking at DVDs and video games for the boys. And I suddenly saw a Howard Jones compilation CD. All the good ones were there, like "Life in One Day", "No-One Ever Is To Blame", and "Things Can Only Get Better", etc...

I HAD to buy it for my wife for Christmas. Not only does she love HoJo, but his concert in Park City was one of our first dates.

So, I'm thinking, how can I buy this without her knowing it? My first thought was to sneak it around the store under my coat. No, that would get me arrested. Finally, I thought, rather than work against the staff of the store, I would enlist their aid. "Hey, dude, hide this behind the counter. And don't let that lady over there see it!" He smiled a knowing smile and took the CD.

Then I walked over to my wife and she asked me something about buying this or that video for the boys. As I reached to take the video out of her hand, she pulled it back. I could see there was something else under that video, but I couldn't make out what. Obviously a present for me...

I smiled. "So should I leave the store first, or you?"

It's a song we dance to every Christmas.

But then, in the car, I started reminiscing about the concert, and the hook from "Only Get Better" started going through my head. It took everything I had not to hum, whistle, or otherwise vocalize the song, because I knew that if I did, she'd know instantly what I'd bought.

It was tough, but I pulled it through!

And anyways, I was going to just post this story as a comment on Renee's blog, but Blogger got all wiggy on me and started throwing error messages. So, I put it on my blog instead!

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Another quick shameless plug. I just installed another new tune to my website. This one's a slower ballad called "The Taker". It's actually one of my favorites as far as the writing is concerned, but I'm still to close to the recording process to see the production too clearly. I'll leave that for you kind folks to judge...!


Monday, November 22, 2004

One United Generation

Some of the commentors, emailers, other bloggers, and friends of the Mo' Boy blog have, from time to time, asked me to mention when things happen in the LDS music world, especially where they can find good edgy LDS music.

In the past, I've hesitated to be too self-promotional.

I'm bagging that now, in favor of shameless plugs!

I just posted a new song at my website! It's called, "One United Generation" and it's currently slated to become the title track of the upcoming CD. I was going for a kind of Hendrixian rock anthem sort of feel. You can tell me if it worked or not.

Mark Hansen

Return of Scriptures for Musicians

We constantly talk about the need to read scriptures in context. We talk about how to fully understand them correctly, we need to understand the verses around a particular passage. We need to know the story the verse is sitting in.

I’m always reading this or that criticism of our church which is based on taking a scripture out of it’s context and re-interpreting it. That’s not good.

But every once in a while, as I’m reading, a verse will jump out at me and tell me something that makes me think. And it’ll take me somewhere totally different than the rest of the context around it.

That happened to me again the other day as I was reading the D&C, in section 117. A part of verse 13 reads: “…And when he falls he shall rise again, for his sacrifice shall be more sacred unto me than his increase, saith the Lord.”

So, in some cases, sacrifice is more valuable to the lord than increase. Or, in terms I can understand, effort is more important than results.

Well, now that’s a great discovery. That means that if I work hard at my music. I try to be the best musician I can be, and I try to get the (hopefully) inspired messages of my music to people who can be touched by it. If I put in the effort I can, without neglecting my family and my callings, then that is more valuable to the Lord than how many concerts I play to how many screaming fans, or how many CD’s I sell.

It’s just a reminder of where the priorities must lie.

Mark Hansen

Monday, November 15, 2004

Speaking of Competition...

OK, I’m still reeling from the shock.

But I’m getting better.

I know, I get so tweaked over such small things, but still…

I read in A Motley Vision that Deseret Book bought Excel Entertainment. They also had a link to an article at the DB website. I was just blown away by the news. Out of the blue, what a total surprise.

And I gotta admit, I got real mixed feelings.

My first thought was, “OH, no! Now EVERYTHING will sound like Deseret Book!” I mean, for many years, Excel was the “other guys” that were doing things that DB couldn’t get away with. Then, as I thought about it, I realized that frankly, some of the more innovative stuff that’s been coming out of the “big leagues” in LDS music has been coming from Deseret Book, and that Excel has gotten more and more locked into their own little acoustic folksy tradition. They’ve gotten mellower in the last few years, less edgy.

I wonder what that will mean for the artists. The article said that most of the artists will transfer over to the Shadow Mountain label. Will DB drop any of them? Who will survive the transition? That leaves one bigger label, and two up and comers, Sounds of Zion’s IMS label and Halestorm’s Hale Yeah! Records. Then there’s a few smaller distribution companies.

Of course, it’s a tough time for record labels right now. With sales down, they don’t often have the capital to sign new artists or the gumption to take more risks. And in the mormon world, doubly so.

Still, when I think about it, I’m not sure that this move will impact me, personally. I mean, neither Excel nor DB was pounding on my door with their latest bid to sign my CD. I didn’t forsee that in the near future, either. But I hope it also doesn’t mean that there’s less choice for me as a potential buyer of LDS music. And I guess that’s my greatest fear.

The DB chiefs were saying that, "The real winners in this merger are the families who are interested in wholesome entertainment."

I truly hope so.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Jacob, Two Years Later

I was looking back at my blogging (Mo’ Boy is now over two years old) and I was reading back two years ago. I found this article about Jacob, my youngest son.

I found it to be really interesting, because this morning, I got him up, unhooked him from his CPAP machine and his night feeding pump, changed his clothes and his diaper, set him up in his “Jiggle Jacket” (it’s a vest with a machine that pumps air in and out really fast to loosen the mucus in his lungs), and turned on the Cartoon Network so he’d have something to watch while he jiggled.

Then I took his brother, Brendon, to school.

When I came back, I put on his DAFO’s (little ankle braces) and his Spiderman shoes over them, and his coat. When his preschool bus came, I strapped him into his powered wheelchair and sent him off to school.

This Christmas Day, he’ll be five years old. Next fall, he’ll start kindergarten.

It’s very interesting to see how he’s grown. His little chatterboxing hasn’t stopped. His vocabulary is extensive, even for a “normal” preschooler. He still can’t crawl, and he has trouble still even rolling over. The other day at a church party, I watched him maneuver his powered wheelchair with amazing confidence.

He now gets Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy each twice a week. We’re saving up money to take him to an intensive PT program in Arizona in Feb. There are stories that after a couple of sessions of this program (called “Conductive Education” or “CE”), children often learn to walk. What a dream that would be!

So, it just touched me to think of my own words as I wrote about him two years ago, “He tackles life with a courage born of not knowing he’s not supposed to be able to do things. He takes his sufferings in stride because he’s never known anything different. So after a lesson like that, why do I let myself go on whining about MY life?”

And that’s pretty sharp, considering the self-pitiful moping I’ve been doing for the last couple of days.

So, Here’s to you, Jacob!

Mark Hansen

Monday, November 08, 2004

Religion And Politics

Everyone and his dog these days has a post-mortem opinion of why the Democrats lost in so many of the recent elections. I'd like to cast mine out.

I think that it was basically religious issues that killed Kerry this election. Of the four big issues this election (Iraq, the economy & taxes, gay marriage, and abortion), the latter two are, at their core, religious issues.

And that presents a big problem for the Democrats.

See, the democrats have to preserve this face of being progressive thinkers. And often to do that they have downplay the role that religion plays in their lives. A Democrat has to make sure that Church and state are separate. A Democrat has to appeal to atheists as well as believers of many different faiths.

But a Republican has no such concerns. For them, being religious, and especially Christian, is one of their biggest selling points.

That's why Democrats have to appear to take sides where they don't personally believe. Like saying that they think abortion is wrong, but that it should be a choice. "You can't legislate morality", they say.

But with both the presidential election and the anti-same-sex-marriage referenda, it's clear that there's a majority (small though it may be) that thinks certain points of morality should be legislated. And I think that in their efforts to distance themselves from the right wing, they don't allow for that.

Granted, it was a close one in the presidential this year. I think that shows that in social issues, and issues of foreign policy, that the country was pretty evenly split. That's why the moral issues were making such a difference, and a big factor in why Kerry lost.

I, myself, decided not to vote republican because even though I agree with their stance on abortion and gay marriage, there are other issues that are very important to me. Like I said in blogs past, there really wasn’t one candidate that truly represented me. But then, I’m not sure there ever has been. I’m kind of a hard one to nail down!

Mark Hansen

Saturday, November 06, 2004

No commentary today, just a heads-up.

Over at Mormon Life at the DB website, they've started a couple of their bigger names to blogging. Michael McLean has been doing it for a while, it seems, posting about twice a month, and John Bytheway has just started this weekend. Yesterday, in fact.

As both are good writers, I enjoyed them a lot. Nothing controversial, but still a fun read.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day!

OK, here’s an idea.

You want people to get out and vote? This’ll do it.

Make Election Day a bigger deal. I’m talking a federal holiday. That’s right, a full-on, close-the bank, take-the-day-off-with-pay, fire-the-grill-up federal holiday.

And there should be celebrations with fireworks and parades and concerts. Big events that you can’t get into unless you’re wearing one of those cool little “I Voted Today” stickers.

See, I think we’ve got it all backwards. On July 4, we celebrate the birth of this nation, right? We celebrate the history of America. And I applaud that. I think that’s a great thing. But we’re celebrating an historic event. Something that HAPPENED. Something in the past. On Election Day, we’re celebrating something that’s HAPPENING. Something now. On Election Day, we should truly be celebrating what it means to BE AMERICAN. We declared our independence from a King and set up a constitutional republic.

OK, I’m going to write my congressmen.

That is, as soon as they announce who he is!

Mark Hansen
"...'Cuz if Ya Mind Yer Own Business, Then Ya Won't Be Mindin' Mine..."

OK, I voted.

Now, usually, I would be pretty eager to tell who I voted for. But not this year. This year has been too divisive, too intense. I know that if I say, no matter what I say, there’ll be people that’ll come at me.

I don’t mind people comin’ at me, in theory, if it made any difference. Like if I were undecided and trying to make up my mind, and someone calmly supported their opinions, I could deal with that. That might even sway me. But much of the commentary this election that I’ve read has been more vicious than years past. People aren’t so much trying to share opinions and convince others as they are trying to criticize and call names.

People have been much too much into labels and pigeonholes than the complexities of balancing issues.

Well, I balanced out the issues, and I looked at them in light of my own family’s needs, and I made my decision.

And what that is, is nobody’s business but my own!


Mark Hansen


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