Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Just an Observation...

Here in America, we’re constantly being told about how backward and oppressed the Arab world is. Women have to wear all-covering clothing, and are imprisoned if they even have a male friend, outside of the family. Rape victims are given jail time. We’re told how they shun the promiscuous and licentious traditions of the Western Hemisphere as evil and democratic elections are one-party popularity contests.

So, today I read this article about a new wave of sexy singers in the Arab world. It talks of the controversy several singers are stirring up in the middle east (which is, of course, otherwise devoid of struggle and controversy). On the heels of that article, I also read this one, about cricket cheerleaders in India.

As I read about it, I find myself thinking dichotomously (is that really a word?). On the one hand, I think it would be good for some of those folks over there to loosen up a bit. Coming from my perspective, it’s a bit tightly wound over there, with a little too much pressure from on top.

On the other hand, look at what they’re asking for. Take a look at the best that American pop culture has to offer: Brittney Spears, Rock of Love, and rap videos.

Yeah! Civilization!

Mark Hansen

Monday, April 28, 2008

“La Media e Mobile”


The Texas Rangers Should Learn Opera!

One of the more famous operatic melodies is “La Donna E Mobile” from Don Giovanni. The song is all about how “Women are moveable/fickle/constantly changing”.

It’s funny because, as I look at the way the media and the bloggosphere are covering and reacting to the Texas Raid on the polygamous FLDS compound, that’s the thought that keeps passing through my mind. I can even hear the melody.

At first, the news reports, while trying to “maintain objectivity” were all over the story like flies on stink. They were all about the juicy, salacious details, no matter how trivial or how unconfirmed the report might be. This was a gallant, courageous rescue mission. A call for help had been heard, no matter how faint, and everyone was rushing in to free the captives from the evildoers.

I can remember when I heard, for example, that they had found beds in the FLDS temple, and had found a single woman’s hair on one of the beds. Obviously, the beds are being used to consummate these horrid underage forced marriages. Right there IN THE TEMPLE itself!

Then, on the bloggosphere, some alternate voices started to be heard. Voices questioning the constitutionality of the raid, and the apparent lack of evidence found. Not so gradually, the tone of the mainstream media shifted as well. Last night on a TV newsmagazine, a reporter was able to actually enter and tour the compound and interview a number of the families men & women that remain. They were very much portrayed as innocent victims. Over and over again, they stated that the charges of abuse, of forced marriage were false. They were shown as simple people trying to live out their polygamous beliefs and not bother anyone, or even harm those within their group. This report was not alone as more and more media reports are starting to take this tone.

Whether or not they are innocent victims or evil enablers of abuse remains to be seen. Whether or not the raid or subsequent investigation will turn up the evidence to press any charges remains to be seen. Also, any emotional damage done to the children, either from living in a horrible, anti-social, abusive polygamous society, or from being torn from the arms of their loving families all remains to be seen.

I just find it interesting to watch how the media has shifted from being more sharks in the feeding frenzy to being the sympathetic and loving friends and supporters. That kind of opportunistic hypocrisy irritates me. Whatever happened to just reporting the news?

The church, meanwhile, is doing all it can to distance itself from either the FLDS group or the raid. The church site is full of corrections and clarifications that we (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) are NOT the FLDS church, and do NOT practice polygamy.

Well, SOMEONE in Texas is going to have to sort all this out, and I’m hecka glad it’s not me!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Gospel Vision of the Arts

Greg Hanson asks, “Is the Gospel Vision of the Arts No Longer Valid? What he’s referring to is a talk (and subsequent Ensign article) given by Spencer W Kimball in 1977. The talk has been an inspiration for years to LDS artists everywhere. In a lot of ways, as I read it, I’m also reminded of John F Kennedy’s inaugural address where he promises to send a man to the moon and bring him home safely. Pres. Kimball’s tone is in that same order. He wants artists to push themselves and reach beyond ourselves to achieve greatness.

I read his words, and I find them inspiring. I want his vision to happen as well. I want Zion to put on her beautiful garments and arise and shine forth for the world like he does.

And then I look around at my own life and I face reality. Here are a few of the realities we face. I realize that many of these will sound like me just making excuses. Still, these are things that need to be overcome.

  1. Not everything will be great

I look at the music that I create, for example, and I realize that there are many flaws. Am I creating greatness? Many people have responded to my songs with enthusiasm, and told me they found the songs inspiring. But is that lasting “greatness?” Not really. One thing we have to realize as an artistic community is that even though we strive for excellence, not everything that we produce, as a community will be “great”. Some of it will only be “really good”. Some of it will even be “pretty lame”. But if those that are making “lame”, or even “just good”, art decide to quit because it’s not “great”, then no-one will ever grow and learn enough to achieve greatness.

So, we, as an artistic community, should do our best to foster effort, and assist in that growth, rather than to cut down and reject less-than perfect efforts. The natural market forces will sort out what’s good and bad on their own. It doesn’t need our help.

  1. Test of time

Much of what we currently define as “Masterpieces” have been around a long, long time. In western civilization alone, we have in our museums samples of works of art that are hundreds and even thousands of years old. Time has helped us to sort the good from the bad. President Kimball says that Bach and Mozart defined their musical eras, and are often revered in the same way that founders of religions are. I’m not saying that’s not right, or that it shouldn’t be that way. But Bach lived and worked in the 1700’s.

Considering that the church was founded in the early to mid 1800’s, that gives Johann quite a few more years to develop a following. And even he didn’t have much of a fan base in his own lifetime. Much of LDS art is relatively new, and I don’t think there has really been enough time to sort out the great ones just yet.

  1. Need to define “Greatness”

Another challenge comes when we try and define what is great and what is not. “Artistic” greatness is such a moving target, and sheer popularity can be quite fleeting. It also doesn’t necessarily define what is a truly well-crafted masterwork. Would “Saturday’s Warrior” qualify as one of the masterpiece that President Kimball is envisioning? It was a key piece in the mormon cultural landscape, and in it’s context, was very influential. It was extremely popular, and in many ways, still is. Is it great art? I’m not sure I want to get in on that debate… What about the works of Janice Kapp Perry, or Michael McLean? Or the now-iconic Arnold Friberg paintings that were included in the paperback Book of Mormon?

What role do the popular arts and folk arts play in this continuum?

  1. Should the Church itself support it more?

Many years ago, as the Salt Lake Temple was nearing completion, there were a number of people called and sent on missions to France. Their purpose was not so much to preach the gospel, but to learn to paint. Their goal was to be able to come back to Salt Lake and paint the murals on the interior walls of the temple.

Throughout the history of the church, there have been times when the church has needed a particular artistic thing created, and at that point, they either call or hire someone to create it.

Should the church commission more works of art? I’m not sure of that, either. On the one hand, it’s great to be free to create as I please. On the other hand, few members of the church can make a full-time living making art for the church or its members (on the open market).

  1. Overcoming ignorance and apathy

A final challenge is one that I’ve encountered in the LDS music world, and have seen in other artistic genres as well. That is the fact the church is currently at about a dozen million members. That’s big. But how many of them know the names of any church musicians, authors, or artists? How many of those only know a few?

We, as the artistic community, have a lot of work ahead of us to let our audience know that we even exist before they can decide if we are “great” or not. Greg Hansen cites the internet as a wonderful tool for advancing the arts. I agree. But even though we now have power saws and pneumatic nail guns instead of a hand saw and manual hammer, we still have to build the house. And that will be a big task.

The Big Audacious Goal

I know this has been long, but let me end with a story. A long time ago, I was working at an elementary school, and in our start of the year training, the principal came to us with the idea of setting a BAG (a Big Audacious Goal). She cited Pres Kennedy and his “Trip to the Moon” speech as a great example. She said that it was crazy for him to set that goal, but look where it got us, in terms of technology and world prestige. She wanted us, as an educational team, to find and set a similarly audacious goal for ourselves. She stressed that even if we failed to achieve that dream, we would still have progressed much farther than we would have had we not set the goal.

One suggestion was that our goal be to have every child reading at grade level. For a poorly-funded, inner-city school, that was pretty big and audacious for a BAG. In the end, the faculty couldn’t get behind it.

Still, I think of Apollo, and President Kimball’s vision, and I think of how big and audacious those goals were, and are. I want to be up to the challenge. I want to take it on.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In Which I Invoke The Moboy Doctrine For The First Time

I know, I’m a little behind the news curve on this one, but bear with me, it’s relevant.

I’ve been watching with mild amusement the reactions of the media and the world to Barak Obama’s alleged gaffe about the poor being bitter and turning to guns for comfort or some such nonsense. I find it funny that everyone seems to have landed on that as evidence of his elitism, and how he can’t connect with the populace. He’s one of the rich snobs of the world and so therefore, we shouldn't vote for him or worship him or name our babies after him or whatever.

First of all, if this is the worst that anyone can throw at him, he’s in pretty good shape, really. I mean, look at some of the things that other people have had to deal with in either this campaign or others, like dodging combat experience by joining the national guard, or having his military record called into question, or groping and/or having sex with subordinates, or not having to dodge bullets fired by imaginary snipers. A vague interpretation of a fairly articulate statement really isn’t meaning much.

But of course, the media, his competition, and now the republicans are all joining together to make a big deal out of it. Which makes me invoke the MoBoy Doctrine.

The reason why I’m invoking it is simple: All politicians are in the elite. The last time a president-to-be was born in a log cabin was Lincoln. Most modern presidents are rich men. They have to be in order to spend the kind of money they do campaigning. Yes, it’s true that they raise much of that money from contributions from rich business and foreign interests and lobby groups, but if they weren’t rich to begin with, nobody would take them very seriously. And anyone that’s in government long enough to be seriously considered for the presidency will have become quite rich and elitist in the process. It ain’t just Obama. They're all rich.

And I realize that this issue is getting to be old news anyway, but that adds to my point. One of the big reasons why everybody did get all bent out of shape over it is because everyone jumped in on the feeding frenzy. And it didn't take long to realize that there really wasn't much to feed on, here. The immediacy of the 'net and especially the bloggosphere is both a blessing and a curse. You can get the news fast, but if you're not careful, you can get swept up and not get a very clear understanding.

So, let’s just not get so bent out of shape over this one, shall we? I mean, if you don’t like Obama for political or policy reasons, fine. But this one is a smokescreen.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mark in Meridian!

Exciting news!

When I saw that "Lost and Found" was about to be done a few weeks ago, I had an evil idea, and got in touch with my old friend Bruce Forbes. He's written a few articles for Meridian Magazine, and I thought it would be fun to do an interview. He was open and even eager to join the fun, and did a great interview and writeup.

So, today, Meridian magazine is running the article. Bruce did a great job, so check it out!

Mark Hansen

Monday, April 07, 2008

Democratic Vote, or Sustaining Vote

One of the cool things about living in America is our elections. OK, granted there’s a lot of problems with the process. But ultimately, it has served us very well. It has enabled us, over the course of some 230 years (give or take) to maintain a certain amount of civility in our government. I mean, think of it. Every four or eight years, the power in the government changes hands in a peaceful transition. No bloody wars, no genocides or purges. We do have the occasional assassination. So it goes. Still it’s nice to know that if we don’t like who’s in charge, we can vote him (or her, now) out when the next time comes. If they’re particularly bad, and get caught at it, we could even vote them out early.

Thus, John F Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

This weekend, it was shown to me a stark contrast to how power and authority is transferred in the church. At conference this weekend, the first session was called a “solemn assembly”, and everyone was called on to sustain the new First Presidency, and the addition of a new apostle to the Quorum of the Twelve. These are the two earthly governing bodies of the church. We were all asked, in turn to raise our hands to sustain these men.

This is not an election. There is no campaigning. I don’t get a vote up-front (more on that in a minute). A choice is made, partly based on tradition, mostly based on revelation, and unity. I get to make a “sustaining” vote, meaning that I raise my hand to show my commitment to follow these men.

Here are the interesting thoughts that went through my mind as I contemplated it afterward. There are times when I think democratic elections make lots of sense. Technically, we’re a republic, not a pure democracy, so even in a representative government, it makes lots of sense to vote. When we’re dealing with earthly issues of governance and authority, I definitely want a say. It is my right, my duty, and my pleasure to participate in it.

But when I think of dealing with God and with spirituality, a democratic vote doesn’t make sense to me. The thought that a vast group of mortals, each with an agenda and an idea of what is right and wrong, trying to gather together the political support to decide what it is that God wants us to do is an idea that is absurd to me. No, when it comes to diety, I want simply to be told what God wants. And then I can accept it or reject it. I can vote after the fact. I can vote with my feet. If I don’t like where I’m being led, I can walk somewhere else.

But I choose not to. For me, it’s not blind faith, it’s not being a sheep and following where everyone else is going. While it’s probably true that some might treat religion that way, I don’t. I choose whom I will follow. And I choose to follow Thomas Monson and the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Songs of Zion, Shameless Edition

Mark Hansen
"Lost and Found"

Hello, friends! I’ve worked hard and long getting my newest CD put together. The writing and production is some of the strongest stuff I’ve done to date! I’m really proud of it, and I’m proud to announce that it’s available!

Let me run down the tunes for you (the ones with links have samples available for download):

  1. Turn it Up Matt 19:16-21 – This one’s a kickin’ rocker, opening up the set. It’s all about turning your life up a notch.
  2. Dance With the Devil 2 Nephi 28:21-22 – We don’t pray to the devil, we don’t serve him, but sometimes we dance with him a little too much. This is a heavy tune about that moment when you decide to stop the dance.
  3. Today and Yesterday Isaiah 1:18 – Another one from the “Lost” side, this one has a cool retro/contemporary feel to it.
  4. I Will Sing This Prayer D&C 25:12 – This is a beautiful ballad that builds and grows.
  5. Play the Cards Matt 25:14-23 – Everyone is dealt a hand of cards in the pre-existence. For good or bad, how we play those cards determines how well we live.
  6. Where’s My Soul 1 Nephi 8:23 – Ever have those times where you just feel like you’re missing something? Where’d it go?
  7. Torocagua Eph 2:12 – My mission was in Honduras, and I started in a little suburb of the capital called “Torocagua”. This song is a tribute to the place that changed my life.
  8. Two Houses Matt 10:35 – A mother and a daughter can’t see eye to eye. A sad but memorable ballad
  9. The Things I Do 2 Nephi 4:17-19 – Why do I do the things I do? And why do I do them over and over? And why do you still love me, even when I do them?
  10. Rejoice 2 Nephi 2:25 – One from the “Found” side of things. This one’s a bouncy little rocker about how wonderful it is to be married to my wife.
  11. How Beautiful Isaiah 52:7 – A big, powerful gospel ballad. “Your God Reigns!”
The CD can be purchased online for only $11.00 + $2.00 shipping. Or just click into and go to the CDs link.

I want to thank all of my blogger friends for reading my blatherings and for supporting me so much in my efforts. You guys are the ones that really rock!

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Songs of Zion, sort of...

New LDS Music Finder

I’ve recently become involved with an exciting new website called “” It’s primarily an advertising site for LDS-Member-oriented products and services, but it’s also got a lot of cool blogs, interviews, and other features.

One of the features that I’m particularly excited about is one called “The Jukebox.” This is a growing collection of indie LDS artists. As a visitor, you can login, listen to, rate, and comment on the songs listed there. This is exciting primarily because this is being spearheaded by Greg Hansen (no relation, unfortunately), who is a major player in the LDS music industry. His idea is that producers looking for songs and artists can come here and see/hear who and what is new and great. If the public comes in and rates the songs, they can check that as well and see if an artist or song already has some traction with potential buyers.

Plus, you get to hear and sample a lot of great music.

Now, unfortunately, this system is still in beta and so it’s a little clumsy to navigate. So, here’s how you do it.

  1. Go to The Jukebox.
  2. Click “Join the Jukebox”, and fill out the form. It’s free.
  3. Login
  4. When you’ve logged in, you’ll see some grey tabs across the top. Go to “Rate Music”. Then you can check on the ones that are already rated high, as well as do a search and see the whole list.
  5. Click on a song title. If it doesn’t start playing immediately, click the play button on the player. Read the lyrics, the comments, etc…
  6. Click the “Rate This Track” link in the upper right hand corner, and give it a rating.

Now this system will work better and better as more and more people use it. I’d love to encourage you, of course, to give my songs a good rating. Obviously, I’d like to promote myself. But keep in mind that the system is designed to give honest feedback to producers. So, if you don’t like a song you hear, either give it a bad rating, or, better IMHO, don’t comment at all.

Those that are running the jukebox are talking about making a compilation CD available with the songs that end up with the highest ratings, so, forgive my shameless plugs, but I’d sure appreciate it if you good folks gave me good ratings!

Also, I’m going to be going through and doing my own ratings of songs I hear, and I plan on reviewing, here in Mo’ Boy, some of the good tunes I hear. I’d also like to encourage you to go in and give them good ratings too, again, if you like them.

Most of all, just give the system a spin, and see how you like it.

For starters, here are a couple of recommendations:

“Tempted” by Julie Keyser

This one has a really cool minor key groove. It feels contemporary, almost R&B, like a girl group with a hot dance track behind it could really take it places. The current recording is really just a demo, however, so you have to listen with a bit of imagination. But the lyrics are strong and the melody’s hooky. It’s really great!

“Today and Yesterday” By Mark Hansen

Yeah, that’s me. Like I said, I’m not above shameless self-promotion. This is probably my favorite from the new CD “Lost and Found”. It’s got a hooky modern/retro groove and possibly the best mix and arrangement on the CD. Check it out!

Mark Hansen


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