Friday, April 20, 2007

The Sun Shone Through the Windows

A posting for those that fell in Virginia

Overall, I didn’t enjoy high school. My senior year, I had enough credits that I only needed to attend school a half day. Afternoons, I spent at the University where my Dad taught, playing on their computers. I didn’t attend my own graduation. I don’t own any yearbooks, and I’ve never attended any reunions. The few friends I did have, in my geeky circles, I’ve pretty much kept in touch with via email and chat.

Junior high was even worse. It was an undending, day-to-day nightmare of teasing, harassment, and full-on bullying and beatings. There were a few bright spots, a few good friends. But all in all, I’d just as soon wipe all my memories from 7th through 9th grade, and most of them up through my senior year.

It wasn’t until my early college days that I started to not care what people thought of me. Or maybe it was just that I finally found a crowd that didn’t care who I was, so they could let me fit in without me having to change much. Whatever the case, in the early ‘80’s, life started making more sense to me.

One of the things I’ve learned, over the years, is that even those that were “mistreating” me in those years were struggling themselves. Most people that I’ve met and talked to went through difficult times in jr. high and high school. It’s just the way things are. Par for the course, and all that.

I’ve also learned that, as I looked back, I wasn’t always nice to other people, either.

And yet, somehow, as I went through life back then, trying to cope, and as I’ve tried to deal with my baggage in the years that followed, the thought of bringing a gun to school and shooting people never occurred to me as an option.

So, now, in the new century, when I read and hear about misfits and outcasts who take their frustration and their vengeance out on what they perceive as a cruel and unfeeling system, I’ve got mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I feel a certain bond, a kinship. I was where they were. I was mistreated, beaten, and mocked. I was trapped in a social system that treated me as the problem, not the victim (and frankly, both labels are counterproductive).

On the other hand, I never killed anyone. My life choices, such as they were, never ended up with anyone violently hurt or dead. I chose other ways of dealing with it.

So, a few years back, after the news of a school rampage finally got to me, I remember I sat up very late one night and wrote a song about it. As I did, I remember sitting on my living room floor and bawling my eyes out, after years and years of pent-up anger and frustration finally left me. I felt for those that got shot. I felt for their families. I felt for the boys that did the shooting. I felt for their families. And I was finally able to feel for me.

Anyway, here’s the song that came out of it:

The Sun Shone Through the Windows
Words and music by Mark Hansen, 3/5/01

The bell must’ve rang that morning
Drowned out by the noises
Of the clanging of locker doors
And a thousand busy voices

They were sorted into classrooms
Like a shepherd divides his herd
One was thinking louder
Today my voice will be heard

And the sun shone through the windows
Bouncing through the quiet hall and
The sun shone through the windows
Warming the early cool of fall
As the sun shone through the windows
How could anyone have known
Though the sun was out
There was a dark cloud in the air

He’d said he was going to do it
He even showed the gun
He warned her not to go to school that day
Said she’d miss out on all the fun

She’d let out a nervous laugh
Not quite sure what to say
That laugh was ringing in her ears
When the shots rang out that day


Now they talk about security
Detectors at the doors
Sentries stationed at the bathrooms
And cameras at every floor

They send the staff off to trainings
And the drills will never end
Would anyone be crying now
If he had just had a friend

Final Chorus
And the sun shines through the windows
Bouncing through the quiet hall and
The sun shines through the windows
Where the innocent have fallen
The sun shines through the windows
And the screams have all gone home
The sun is out
But there’s a dark cloud in the air

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yeah, Cool, ...But is it Art?

Today, I want to talk about art.

It seems that, lately, there’s been a lot of discussion (in the circles that I circle in, anyway) about what art is. We haven’t really been saying, “What is art”, but we have been talking about trends in LDS film, and the nature of free speech. All of which is leading me to ask, “What is art?”

And that leads me to another question, which is, “What’s the difference between bad art and great art?”

I touched on this a while back, when I reviewed Doug Erekson’s “Backporch Believer”. But I’d like to go into a bit more depth.

I grew up with a couple of artists. Mom is a visual artist. A painter, and erstwhile sculptor, specifically. She mostly does watercolors. Amazingly skilled in both execution and expression. Wow. She got a Masters in Fine Art when I was just a tiny kid, and just kept doing it, year after year, better and better. She also played in orchestras.

My Dad’s strongest artistic endeavor is probably his photography. He’s done a few shows, but mostly just takes great pictures when he travels. He also sings, mostly in choirs, but some solo, and plays piano. He also is a great appreciator of classical and orchestral music as well as the art that mom and her colleagues make.

So, I learned a lot about the arts as a kid. I grew up around it. We saw concerts, we saw plays. We went to galleries. I played ‘cello in school orchestras and the youth symphony.

Still, I think I define art in different terms than they do.

Art is a very difficult thing to define, when you think about it. One man’s scribble is another man’s art. Dad and I, for example, used to go rounds over and over about whether or not rock was actually music. Good thing he never heard any rap, eh?

So, my definition of art is: “Something original that someone consciously does to express their ideas or beliefs.”

I admit that this definition is very broad, and includes a lot of things that others wouldn’t include. I’m OK with that. See, I can allow something to BE art, without actually having to LIKE it personally. Too often, I've encountered people who define art by what they personally like, then justify that with arguments of technical advancement, or respectability, or even shock value.

And I follow that to a certain extent. What makes art great, is that it impacts me. If something makes me think something new, feel something new, or just makes me consider something in a new way, then it elevates from the world of simple art to great art.

That becomes very personal. Great art is then, by definition, in the “eye of the beholder”. What impacts me will not impact someone else. Or, it might impact me and someone else in different ways.

The problem I’ve been seeing in a lot of these discussions of late, and ultimately, in the discussions that I’ve had over many, many years is that too many people think that once they’ve defined “Great Art” in their own minds, they think that gives them the right to impose that definition on others. I’ve seen that as those in the avant garde try to force their way into traditional venues, and I’ve seen traditionalists reject the new and untried. Both are interpreting art from their own perspectives, and trying to force that perspective onto others.

The biggest example in I’ve seen recent years is going on in the debate in LDS film. Those that made edgy, challenging movies proclaim that the Mormon masses are uneducated philistines that wouldn’t know great art if it was hung around their necks.

Those that make simple love stories and comedies complain that the others are elitists that don’t understand a clear, minimal message.

In my mind, I’ve seen greatness and lameness in both camps. And the difference is NOT in technical excellence, but rather, how *I* feel when I’m done with the experience. Did it leave me thinking? Feeling? If so, it was art. If not, then, “…meh…” to it.

What will become the “Great Works” of Mormon Art? Time will determine, and debate and argument won’t.

But, honestly, that won’t stop the debate and argument…

Mark Hansen
Check it Out

Hey, folks, got a good friend that I want you all to welcome to the Bloggernacle. Andy, over at "3 Left Turns". I've known him for years. A good songwriter, and a great writer. Check him out.

Oh, and I promise to have a real, substantive blog post here soon. I'm working on a couple...

Mark Hansen

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mark's Black Pot

I know, I know. I don't need a new blog. But it's not like I'm starting a new hobby, rather I'm just reporting on an old one.

Every sunday, see, for about a year, I've been cooking our family sunday dinner in our back yard in my dutch ovens. I've decided to begin sharing that with anyone that wants to read. So, come join me at

Mark Hansen

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What an Honor!

Somebody thinks I’m worth thinking about! Or, at least that good ol’ Moboy has somehow managed to provoke an idea or two along the way… S’mee over at “Knot in the String” has listed me as one of her selections in the “Thinking Blogger” awards.

I don’t know what the criteria is, or just how prestigious these awards are, but considering how much I fish for compliments, I’m not about to turn one down when it’s handed to me!

So, to carry on the tradition, I’ll choose my five nominees (except I only chose four):

  1. A Motley Vision
  2. Baron of Deseret
  3. The Inner Dad/Woody’s Woundup
  4. From the Basement

Let’s see who these folks choose!

Mark Hansen


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