Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winners and Losers

Wars, it seems to me, are ugly, brutal struggles, and usually at the end, there is rarely a clear winner. In reality, I think, wars are won by the side that ends up losing the least. And I don't mean the one that lost the fewest battles, I think more in terms of the side that had to give up the least in the whole process, and in the end.

America was pretty much destined to win World War II for that reason. I mean, we lost a lot of people, but then, everybody did. So did the Japanese. So did the Germans and the English. We lost a lot of hardware. But ultimately, only two or three times in the whole course of the war was American soil ever attacked. And at the time, none of those places were actual states, only territories. Our cities weren't decimated by bombs and artillery. Our economy wasn't ravaged by the war machine's destructive power. Quite the opposite. Our economy was fueled by it.

But even though we “won” the war, we were still losers. We still lost a lot of lives. We still lost a lot of money that was spent blowing things up and getting blown up. We spent a lot of time and money rebuilding the nations we blew up. And we spent the next 50 years spending more money and lives trying to maintain the illusion of world dominance that we thought we had won.

In the end, the winners are not so much “winners” as they are the ones that lose the least.

Why am I thinking about this today? Because it occurs to me that it's true not only on a national scale, but also on individual scale.

A good friend of ours decided to file for divorce today, from a husband that has been verbally and at times physically abusive. It has been building for the last four or five years, coming to direct battle a couple of times. But our friend has decided that she wants to stop losing. Or, at least, to stop losing as much as she has been. She's been losing life and happiness, and it's time to start rebuilding.

Divorce isn't pretty. It isn't easy. I don't think you can call anyone who goes through it a “winner”, but I admire her courage for deciding to stop losing. I think that can, at times, be called a “win”!

Mark Hansen

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kids Grow Up for Christmas

I had some interesting thoughts as Jodi and I were wrapping Christmas presents tonight. I noticed that the presents we'd gotten for our kids, especially Brendon, were representative of his voyage of self-discovery this year. I don't mean anything hugely profound, but he's really uncovered some real interests and personality traits this year. Quite a bit of growing up.

He's discovered a real interest in performing. First as a comedian, then as a magician. All along the way, he still thinks music, particularly drumming, is pretty cool. He's discovered an enthusiasm for origami. And, he's learning to cook.

Clearly some of these are because he's at that age when he likes to do things with Dad, so there's a lot of overlap. But even still, I'm not a magician, nor a paper artist. It's fun for me to learn along with him, as he steps out on his own.

It's been a very interesting year to watch him. He's become much more helpful and less whiny (a little) than before.

I'm proud of him!

Mark Hansen

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Footnote on Service

Tonight I was going to blog about Orson Card's opinion of LDS music. I'd read it a couple of times and was considering a couple of angles for my posting. While I was doing that, the doorbell rang a couple of times. Brendon ran in, a little nervous because it's 11:00 at night. I was a bit confused as well. Brendon's neighborhood friends have been known to come over at some pretty heinous hours in the morning, but never this late at night.

So, I got up and put on a shirt and went to the door, with Brendon right behind. As soon as I opened it, I saw a box and a bag on the snow on our porch. The box was filled with food, candy, and a few trinkets. There was a small turkey, and a whole bunch of canned food, including some wonderful roasted peanuts that I'm eating as I type!

The bag had clothes and things for the kids, as well as a few house decor items and even a CD!

All of it was delivered completely anonymously. Brendon was thrilled, and I was, too. I even feel a little guilty. When my whole job situation shifted, I had told a number of people in my ward about it, in an effort to network and find new job opportunities. It led to a few leads, but obviously, no actual jobs yet.

Still, I think people in the ward and the neighborhood are thinking we're worse off that we actually are. We have actually done OK this month. We've tightened up our belts, but Jodi had done most of our Christmas shopping last spring and summer, when we were in much a better financial situation. So, we're actually going to be able to share some cool gifts this Christmas. Not quite as many as other years, but still a few nice things. I won't mention them, because my boy sometimes reads the blog here.

Plus, my father has stepped in and helped a bit with some car repairs that hit us last month and things. We've been very thankful for their help as well.

With some careful management, we'll be OK.

But, it's still nice to know that people are thinking of us. And the clothing and the food will be put to good use. We're not hurting so much for an actual Christmas dinner, but here in a month or so, we'll be able to pull that out of the pantry and the freezer and have it and stretch that month's food budget just a little bit more. And we'll be very grateful for that! It's just wonderful to know that we're being thought of. We're in a great neighborhood, here!

So, whoever you are, thank you! You are in our prayers!

Peanuts, anyone?

Mark Hansen

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Service, Part Three

(Warning to non-Mormons: This blog post has soooo much Mo' jargon in it that I don't even want to begin explaining it. Other Mo's will understand it. Non-Mo's might want to skip until tomorrow. Sorry... Nuthin' persnal...)

Today's example of service is all about when I got to see someone else do service to someone else. Someone elser? Someone else else? Else2?


I'm not the world's greatest home teacher. Closer to the world's worst. But I got lucky and got a companion that was much more on top of it. And we got this family that I really connected with. The dad was suffering from a number of illnesses and diagnosis, including chronic fatigue. He almost never got to go to church, even though his family did. As a result we pretty much had a standing appointment each week to take him the sacrament.

His son and mine became friends, and they enjoy playing Yu-Gi-Oh and speed cup stacking together.

Then, because there are a lot of move-ins and move-outs, our home teaching lists got shuffled. I was really nervous, because I was afraid that his family would end up with a home teacher like I'd always been. Someone who never goes, never helps, doesn't care much.

I talked with our Elder's Quorum President to see if we could get it shuffled back, but before all that could happen, their new home teacher got a hold of me and asked about them, and came to pick up the sacrament trays so they could carry on.

It felt really good to know that they were in good hands. I've seen him a couple of times at church since then, and I still keep in touch as well.

Taggin' Other Bloggers!

Here's where I'm going with all these posts. I've been thinking a lot about service lately. I'm not sure why, but it's been on my mind. So, I'd like to start a Meme up. I'd like to hear your stories. When you get tagged:

  1. Tell a story of when had service done to you
  2. Tell about a time when you did some service
  3. Tell us about when you saw someone do some service to yet another person

You don't have to do it all in different posts, like I did. Do it in your own style. Here are the first five I'm gonna tag:

  1. Mormon Foodie (Maybe talk about service and food?)
  2. S'mee at Knot in the String
  3. Sparky at 3 Left Turns
  4. Is This Mike On?
  5. The Black Mormon Girl

Remember, when you get tagged, if you decide you want to play along, write up your story and then tag a few other bloggers and see what happens!

Mark Hansen

Friday, December 12, 2008

Service, Part Two

Where yesterday's post was about someone doing me service, today's bit is about me doing a little kindness for someone else. I know that sounds a bit like bragging, but in a few more blog entries, you'll see where I'm going with this.

Anyway, this morning, I stopped at a convenience store to get a morning snack. Diet Pepsi and a chocolate chip muffin. The breakfast of Champions.* There was this guy standing in line in front of me. While we were both waiting in line to pay, he and I kept glancing back and forth at each other. I kept thinking, "I've seen that guy somewhere, but I don't know where."

Finally, he speaks up and says, "I keep thinking I've seen you somewhere, but I can't place where..."

I was just thinking the exact same thing!

And we start exchanging bits of information, trying to figure out where we'd met. I live in Eagle Mountain City Center, he lives in the Ranches part of the city. He works at the elementary school in City Center, as the Assistant Principal. Oh, that must be it. I'm Jacob's dad! That was when recognition set in. We talked a minute about Jake.

To understand, you have to know that one of the biggest blessings in our children's life has been the experience they've had at the school. Especially Jake. The school administration has really rolled out the red carpet for him. They really take care of special needs kids at this school. It's a big difference between our experience here and our experience in other schools and in other school districts.

As we stepped up to the cash register, he was in front of me, and started to make his payment. I suddenly got an idea to repay him. I simply stepped up and told him to cancel his payment. And I covered his soda and snack.

It's not much, but Jodi and I really appreciate what he and his school have done for us.

And later, when Jodi went to take Jake some medicine, the Assistant Principal thanked her.

Mark Hansen

*Seriously. It's a well-balanced meal. It has elements of all 4 food groups necessary for sustaining life in today's fast-paced workaday world: Sugar, Chocolate, Caffiene, and Preservatives.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Coincidental Service

So, today wasn't particularly good or bad, through most of the workday. Still, when I left my job at 8:00 tonight, I was glad to be goin' home. Usually, either my wife or I will call the other while I'm on my way to "check in" and see how long before I'll arrive.

But tonight, about ten minutes after I had told my wife that I'd be about another 20 minutes, I noticed the truck was riding rough. I knew right away it was a flat, but I was hoping it wasn't. I pulled over and saw in a moment that it was.

This December hasn't been very cold, by December's standards, but it was still definitely not warm. It was also dark. Add to that the fact that I had never changed a tire on this particular vehicle before, and I was not happy. So, after calling my dear wife and telling her I'd be a little later, I crawled up under the butt of the car to check on the spare.

The good news: It's a full-size spare, not one of those toy wheels. The bad news: It's tied up under the truck pretty tight, and I don't know where the tools are to get it down. After a few minutes of digging in the back seat (under it, actually) and I found them.

So, I'm lying back underneath the back end trying to lower the spare, listening to car after car drive on past. Then, I see lights surround me. I'm thinking, "Either this is someone to help me, or kill me." One final thought, "Or it could be a UFO..."

Of course, it's someone helping. He starts loosening the lug nuts while I start to position the jack.

About this time, a lady comes up and uses her modern century flashlight (her blackberry with a bright white screen) to help us see what we're doing. I didn't recognize her at first (I was focused on the tire), but she lives down the street from us, and goes to our ward. We taught her daughter in primary.

Then, while we're working, I introduce myself to the guy helping, and it turns out he also lives near my house, a street over. He just moved in, a week ago, and also goes to my ward.

So, with the spare on, we all shake hands and with my thanks, we all get back in our cars. Then, we all convoy the last 10-15 minutes back to our homes.

It was a great day, after all.

...And my last words to everyone were, "Well, now I'll have something to blog about tonight!"

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Day Without a Gay

I saw a news report today about tomorrow's "Day Without a Gay" strike. I don't know that "strike" is really the right word, but it's all I can think of. From the website: "Day Without A Gay seeks to shift our strong feelings about injustice toward service! Let's fight for equality by out-loving those who would deny us rights. Call in "gay" on December 10th (International Human Rights Day) and volunteer for your local LGBT and/or human rights organizations".

In other words, if you're gay, or if you support gay rights (whatever that means), you're supposed to not go to work tomorrow (December 10th). You're also not supposed to shop at stores that don't support gay rights. The idea is to show the economic impact the LGBT community has.

I remember the Mexican/Hispanic community tried something similar to show their impact as immigration issues were being debated.

This raised a number of thoughts in me. One is that usually when I stay home, I call in "sick". Now they want people to call in "gay". I thought they'd just spent the better part of a decade trying to convince us that being gay wasn't the same as being sick. Hmmmm...

I also thought that I could do this, too, just like the gays. I could call in "Mormon". Can you imagine that? "Hello, boss! It's Mark. I just wanted to tell you that I'm feeling really Mormon today, and frankly, I'm just too Mormon to work. I'll see you tomorrow! Thanks!"

But think what would happen to the Utah economy if we were to do that. We'd have to pick a day that really resonates with Mormons. Maybe Joseph Smith's birthday on Dec 23rd. Or even better! We could all not go to work on the anniversary of the day the Mormon Pioneers first stepped into the Salt Lake Valley!

Oh, wait... We're already doing that.

Hey, here's a better idea! Instead of only doing it one day a year, we should really show how much economic clout we have! We should do it more often! Like, monthly or even weekly! What would happen to Utah's economy if all the Mormons stopped shopping or working one day a week. Hey, how about Sunday!

Oh, wait...

Mark Hansen

Friday, December 05, 2008

Is This a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

So, last night, we're all gathered downstairs and we're getting ready to play "Apples to Apples". This is a fun family card/word game. But Jacob is freaking out. He's literally screaming. He doesn't want to play this game. We try to convince him, because he's had a great time playing it before.

Finally we get him calmed enough to tell us why he doesn't want to play it.

"It has a swear word in it!" He says through his tears.

Jodi and I look at each other. We can't remember any word on any of the cards that can be construed as a swear word. We tell him it's OK.

"NO! NO! It has SWEARING!"

Finally, we get him calmed down, and in the end we have a great time playing a completely cuss-word-free game.

But that experience kinda haunted me. I got to wondering if my son's reaction to swearing is good or bad. His brother does it, too. He'll shut off the TV sometimes if he hears a word that he thinks is "bad" or if it's "too violent". And frankly, his threshold for both is pretty low. "Stupid" is a swear word in their book.

On the one hand, I think it's great that they want to keep clean and pure. I want to applaud that. On the other hand, if they go on screaming crusades everytime someone around them lets loose a string of colorful language, they're going to live very lonely lives.

What's a parent to do? It's just so *%^$#!! confusing...

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Songs of Zion

Matt Whitney, Plan Be Music

I gotta just tell you the story of how I got to know Matt.

He and I were involved in the LDSmusicians email group, and we also worked together planning the LDS Independent Music Festival a couple of years. For one of those years (or maybe two), we actually put together a band. The first year, we called it a "project" because we knew that if we ever called it a band or gave it a name, it would end up in a horrible breakup with ugly litigation. Because that's how ALL "bands" end, right? So, we were quite adamant about NOT calling it a band.

It had Matt on keys, vocals (incredible vocals), and songwriting, John Newman on horns, songwriting, keys, arranging, and other miscellaneous things that we needed. Morey Day played the drums, and I played bass, guitar, and sang (thought not as well as Matt).

We were a twisted eclectic band. We did everything in a kind of weird way, because we all came from such diverse styles. John was our jazz, I was the rocker, Matt was the showman, and Morey was just along for the ride, playing just about anything we could throw at him. That first year at the fest, we did a few of John's tunes, one of mine, and a couple of Matt's. The hightlight, however, was this fast, funky jazz version of Book of Mormon Stories. We called it, "BookaMo". I can still remember it.

At one point we did actually get a gig in a park and at that point we decided that we had progressed beyond "project" and that we needed a name. One suggestion was "Matthew, Mark, Morey, and John". Another, since John, Morey, and I were all pretty stout, and Matt, being in the military, was in great shape, was to call us "Slim and the Fatboys". We figured that our schtick could have been that we would all argue over who was actually slim.

In the end, because our sound was so eclectic, and because our rehearsals always seemed to degenrate into silliness, we settled on the name, "Random Tangent".

In the end, we did split up. Matt went to Iraq, then to the east coast. John went back to school nights, and we just couldn't keep it together. Fortunately, it wasn't an ugly breakup. We're all still friends, and no one has even mentioned suing anyone.

In the intervening years, we've all progressed in our music in our own way. Matt, in particular, has just put up a website with a couple of tunes on it. He is an amazing writer, an amazing pianist, and an amazing vocalist. The big reason I find him most amazing is that he doesn't sound anything at all like all of the other Mormon pianist/singer/songwriters. His style is more show-y, with a cynical, yet heartfelt edge to his testimony that has been painfully honed by the sharpening stone of reality. When the scriptures talk about the sword that cuts the joints and the marrow, they're talking about his tunes.

Unfortunately, the ones of his that I like the best are not available for free download. But the ones that are there are certainly worth checking out.

C'mon, Matt! What about DC Tonight? :-)

Mark Hansen

Monday, December 01, 2008

Christmas Decorations at Our House

After 21+ years of marriage, you tend to gather some stuff. Lots of stuff. Some stuff is cool. Some stuff is pointless. Some stuff has accumulated, and nobody seems to know where it even came from.

But what's especially cool is some of the Christmas decorations we've gathered. One tradition we have had, ever since we started having kids is to buy one new ornament for each member of the family each year. That family member gets to choose it, and it should have something to do with the events of that year in that person's life.

So, the year that Jacob loved watching the Spiderman movie over and over and over, he got a spiderman ornament. Another year, Brendon just was wild over Pokemon, so he get a little pikachu in a pokeball (If you don't understand that, you probably don't have young kids). One year, I got a little metal electric guitar. Another year, I had been really into Magic cards, so I hung one on the tree. It was a 3/3 white angel. Get it? An angel? On a Christmas tree?

Oh, well, I thought it was clever...

When Jacob was first born, on Christmas Day, he was left in the hospital. So, that year, we got him a little teddy bear Christmas decoration with his suitcases packed.

The fun of this tradition comes as we start setting up the tree. It never fails to turn my thoughts back and my memories loose.

And among our other Christmas decorations with history is the tree itself. It's a big one, artificial, and was given to us by Jodi's mom and stepdad. It's become even that much more special now that Jodi's mom has passed on. We've also got this beautiful pearlish glazed ceramic nativity set that we made when Jodi's mom still had her porcelain doll shop open.

What are some of your original Christmas traditions?

Mark Hansen

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Influences

Tonight, as I was waiting for my kids to be ready for bed, and I was winding down, I was watching a documentary that I'd Tivo'ed a long time ago, about the history of heavy metal. It traced its roots from working class England in the 70's, to the debauchery of 1980's LA, through the angst of the 90's, and on to now, where it's kinda become a montage of the whole.

It's really a big history of my own musical progression. I started to think about my own musical influences, and they are many. Some of them, you can't really hear in my music. I think that's mainly because they may have influenced me in other ways that music. Anyway, here they are, with some thoughts. I'd welcome your comments, and who were the bands influential in your life (not necessarily musically).

My influences

Steeleye Span was an old british folk band. They took old folk tunes, and redid them with rock instruments and arrangements. I liked them a lot. I didn't know that they weren't cool. I just liked them. And I likedy them even though hardly anyone else had ever even heard of them, and that was in the days before "indie cred"

Rush The first rock song I ever learned wasn't "Stairway to Heaven". That was the second. The first one was "Bastille Day" by Rush. Many years later, I still love to listen to then. I went with them through the progressive art rock years, the techno keyboard years, the guitar revival years, and I got to see them in concert again last year. I loved them for the musicianship, and the thoughtful lyrics. They weren't lewd or just another party band. They really made me think.

Cinderella, for the blues. Their first album was pretty pathetic. Just another flashy glam hair band. They coulda been one-hit wonders. Their second and third albums, however, were incredible. I loved it. They had nailed the concept of heavy blues, and it was great. Sadly, nobody else in the world seemed to think so, and so they faded off into obscurity. But each of my albums seems, somehow, to have a heavy blues tune. They helped me to realize how cool that sound is.

Queen, for the diversity. One thing I loved about Queen is that you never knew what you were gonna get. They flipped from bubblegum pop, to heavy rock, to arabic rai, to experimental choirs. Often within the bounds of the same song. Certainly every album was a bizarre mix of styles and sounds. But, it all seemed to sound like Queen. I've tried to do that in my own quest for a "Signature sound".

Queesnryche I am a totally unashamed 'Ryche fan. Everything they did in the 80's I loved. And even some of the stuff they did in the 90's. I think "Empire" is my favorite 'Ryche album. They had everything. Great writing, great vocals, great production. Thinking man's rock. Good stuff.

Yes, for the complexity. I remember going to see Yes on their "Tormato" tour. I was just into high school, and the only way I could get permission to go was to drag my dad along. My dad, "Mr Classical". Yes was probably the only band I could have ever gotten him to go see. It was an incredible show. I have always loved Yes for their musical complexity. I have to admit, though, that I don't get the lyrics. They seemed to be able to pull of obscure lyrics much better than later bands like Duran Duran would, however.

Slade, Twisted Sister, Georgia Satellites, Joan Jett, and a million others for the simplicity. Complexity and intellect is great. I love intricacies and subtleties. But sometimes, ya just gotta turn it up and make some noize. There's a certain cleansing power to loud, mindless, driving songs like "I Wanna Rock", "Run Runaway", or "I Love Rock and Roll". Somehow, when it's all done, you shake off your troubles and you feel all cleaned out inside. Yeeaah!

The Who, for the black eyes. I've often said that there are times when I feel like, in songwriting, if someone hears my song and doesn't get a black eye or a bloody nose, then I haven't done my job. Yes, there's a place for creating beauty and being inspiring. But there are other times when you've got to grab someone by the shirt collar and shake him up. The Who taught me how to do that.

Metallica, for the deep ugliness of art. And just the same, there are times in life that aren't pretty. And art shouldn't always be still lifes, florals, and beautiful landscapes. Sometimes we need Guernica and Jackson Pollock. When I was writing "Millstones", I realized that I couldn't treat that topic with any other sound.

AC/DC, for turning me away from the lewd and the lame. Sometimes, you've gotta come face to face with the extreme to see just how bad it is. For years, as I was growing up, I listened to a lot of hard rock, and I'd try to convince others (and myself) that the words really weren't all that bad. Then I came up against AC/DC, and I realized that, yes, it really was that bad. Add to that the fact that they're musically pretty lame, and I started to see that many others (WASP, Motley Crue) etc, weren't really all that uplifting, either. To this day, there's only one or two AC/DC songs I can tolerate.

Stryper and Petra, for helping me see what I'd believed for a long time, that you can sing about God in a rock tune.

I'm sure there are many others. I could keep going on and on. But I'll let it go. You pick it up. Let's meme this baby. Write in a comment or in your own blog, "What music influenced you growing up, and how did it impact you?"

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Love Your Enemies?

I've had a little bit of time to think about the reactions to proposition 8, now.

It was very interesting to me to watch people around me, at work, on twitter and blogs, at church, making comments and pressing forward with their beliefs. I didn't begrudge anyone their opinions. I have my own as well. But as the debate got more and more heated, more and more people took sides. And as the sides were chosen, the battle lines were drawn. I knew that there were strong feelings. I guess I had just expected that once it was all settled in the vote, that it would be accepted and we would all move on.

I know that those that are pushing for gay marriage wouldn't quit, but it seemed to me that they would more likely look ahead to the next challenge instead of getting vindictive.

And when we talk about loving our enemies, and doing good for those that despise us, what does that mean? I hope nobody expects us to back off our stance or our beliefs. We're being labelled a church of hate. I don't see i that way, of course. So, in order to be a church of love, do we have to change our fundamental beliefs and accept the ways of our accusers? Do we have to agree with you in order to win your seal of approval?

Up until the end, I saw this whole experience as a wonderful example of democracy in action. It's like in the book of mormon. In Helaman, chapter 1, the story of Pahoran, Pacumeni, and Panchi gives an excellent example of how elections work. And two dynamic examples of just how different reactions to election results can be.

Anyway, it's late, and I'm rambling...

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Job and Me

So, lately I've been struggling a lot. I've been feeling quite down, and playing the victim very nicely. While, intellectually, I realize that there are people who've been hit harder by this economic turndown than I have, I'm still playing it for as much sympathy as I can.

...And it truly hasn't been easy. My income has fallen to about a little more than half what it was in the early parts of the year. My position in the company I work for is no longer what it was. The cars in my driveway have all decided they want to stop working at the same time as my laptop, and, of course, I can't afford to get them fixed.

On the surface, it would seem that I'm coming up to Thanksgiving day, with a lot of not-so-much-to-be-thankful-for on my plate.

But when I look at it from another perspective, I am very blessed. It's true that my job situation has changed drastically, but I am still employed. There are many in this country who are not. I still have a home. Many do not. I can still make my mortgage payment (even though it is more difficult). Many cannot. Even though my wife and I have both been sick lately, Jacob hasn't.

So, I've been reading in the Old Testament. For about two years, now, I've been on a slow and steady quest to complete that. I've got probably another year at the rate I'm going. But the other day, I'm sitting at work, and on my break reading along. I come to Job. As I read along, I realize that he's my bro, these days. He's not sure why he's suddenly hurting, but it's there. His friends tell him that it's his fault. He sinned, so now he's being punished. His wife tells him to curse God and die. Now, I know I'm not sinless, and my wife's been very supportive, even though she's been afraid, too. But good ol' Job says, basically, "I don't know why God is letting this happen to me. Who really knows God's plans anyway? I just know in the end He'll bless me for faithfulness!"

And so I need to be as well. I don't know what's going on or where it will lead me. I just need to press on and be as faithful as I can be. Just like Job.

Mark Hansen

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Songs of Zion

General Conference’s Greatest Hits
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with Special Guests

Most of the time, when I’m in here reviewing musicians, and their CD’s and songs, I’m dealing with the indies, the edgier side of LDS music. Today, I’m talking about the Mo’ Tab. The is no musical group in all of LDS music that is more mainstream than they are. Their performances in the conferences twice a year set the bar, the standard, and the model for church choirs all over the world. They define what LDS worship music is. Ya can’ get mo’ mo’ mainstream than that!

Yet, I’m a big fan. I love to hear them sing. Their arrangements and execution are always incredible. There have been many years where, as inspiring and instructional as the talks are, the music has been more memorable and more impactful to me.

…And now, I can fill up my iPod (or whatever) with it!

At a page in the website you can now download mp3’s (as well as other media) of the musical performances of the choir!

Some of my favorites: The reverent and tranquil rendition of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” is amazing, as is “I Need Thee Every Hour”. The more rousing ones, like “Rejoice, The Lord is King”, are great, too. Some are more straightforward arrangements, some are more innovative.

A bit of a headsup, some of them, like “High On the Mountain Top” are covered with the announcer’s voice. I just deleted those when I listened.

It’s pretty exciting news, to me, a musician and ward choir director.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Songs Of Zion

Well, the election is over. I’ll let other bloggers sort out the chaos that will undoubtedly ensue. I will, however, say this: I was impressed both by McCain’s concession and Obama’s Victory speeches. After all, they both handled things with dignity. Wasn’t that what I was asking for?

So, tonight, I’m going to blog about something totally different.

The Songs of Zion

“The Showman Empire”
By TJ Fredette

The LDS hip hop hall of fame is a pretty small, it’s true. But if there were to be candidates and inductees, I’d recommend two: Arhythmatik and TJ Fredette. These are musicians whose songs I actually like. I mean there are a lot of LDS artists that I like and I support simply for their novelty. They’re unique and I like that. But these are two guys that I keep in rotation in my mp3 player. I can actually “sing” along with some of their tunes.

So, when TJ sent me his latest self-published CD, “The Showman Empire”, I was excited.

I was also a little nervous. I mean, when I really like something that I’m hearing, this little voice in my head wonders if the next thing they do will be as good.

Well, it is.

One thing I really love about listening to TJ is his messages. They’re hard-hitting, but clean. One of my favorites is “You Don’t Know What Could Happen”. This is an in-your-face story of what happens when wrong choices get out of control. “Say One Thing Mean Another” is an indictment of the excesses of mainstream hip hop culture that doesn’t pull any punches.

He can also get personal. “Young Shadows” is all about how little kids look up to older family members, and how we need to be careful about the examples we live. Repentance is the subject of “I Didn’t Mean It”.

I really like his tracks, as well. I don’t know who produces them, himself or someone else, but they always have more structure than typical eternal loops that I hear in a lot of pop and hip hop. The minor keys he uses tend to lend an air of austere seriousness to the songs, but honestly, that’s the one complaint I have about this CD. Most of the tracks come with that haunting, sad tone, and a similar pacing in the beats. I’d say to mix it up a bit more, but then, I’m not the expert on hip hop production, either.

Well, now I have some more killa beatz to add to my rotation on my commute!


Mark Hansen

What Separates Us From The Animals

Well, the election is here, and it’s almost done. I got up early and voted. There was a line, but it wasn’t too bad. Maybe about a half hour to 45 minute wait. It’s a small price to pay for freedom, right?

Is it just me or did this election seem to be more divisive than those in the past. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty ugly mudslinging, but this one just plain got vicious. I don’t particularly mind it when the politicos criticize each other’s plans and policies. I just think it’s wrong when they try to undermine each other on a personal level. And I saw lots of it going around this time, especially on the ‘net.

I guess that’s just part of the test, the vetting process that we’ve set up for our president, right? If they can’t handle the election process, they can’t handle the job, right?

I just wish we, as a people, could handle it with a little more dignity.

Mark Hansen

Monday, November 03, 2008

Five Years in my Family

Five years ago, I started hearing about blogging. I’d actually been seeing and reading blogs for quite some time, I just hadn’t realized that was what they were called. I also started seeing the potential for promoting my music, and I thought about how I could join in.

That’s how Mo’ Boy was born. My thought was to just share my thoughts on Mormon life and culture, as well as an occasional foray into doctrinal stuff. But I didn’t do that very often.

And even though I’ve slacked from time to time, I’ve not given it up, which has earned the blog a slot as one of the oldest LDS blogs that currently exists. And I’m not hanging it up anytime soon.

I sat down with my wife last night and we talked about some of the things that have happened to us in the last five years, since I started. We came up with a surprisingly big list, and here we go (not in any particular order):

• Brendon Baptized – This was a big landmark. There was a time when we thought we’d never have kids. And here one of our kids was getting baptized. It was a wonderful moment. Now, he’s only a year out from the Aaronic Priesthood.
• Jacob Baptized – Baptizing Jacob was an interesting trick. We tried all kinds of methods. First a chair, then different ways of holding him. Finally, my father and I just held him, floating, on the surface of the water, said the prayer, and lowered him under. It was also a powerful moment.
• Bev Died - My step-mother-in-law passed from Pancreatic Cancer. It was a pretty long and slow death, and it was very difficult for my kids. They, especially Jacob, were very young, so they didn’t really understand, but they did miss her.
• Joan Died – Then, this last year, my wife’s mom died as her body shut down with Parkinson’s Disease. This one was actually a lot harder on my wife.
• Sold old house, built new house, moved – Two years ago, as her mom was starting her physical descent, we lived with them in their basement for a year and a half while our current home in Eagle Mountain was being built. It was great that our kids got to know their grandparents so closely before she passed.
• One United Generation – My first CD was released in 2005. This was quite an accomplishment for me, a real landmark in my life.
• Lost and Found – The second CD was also a landmark, but not so pivotal as the first one. I’m proud of them both, and I have a hard time saying which one I like listening to better.
• Don married, divorced, married, divorced – After Bev’s death, my father-in-law Don went into a bit of an emotional tailspin. Since then, he’s been married and divorced twice, and also gone through a couple of girlfriends. My boys tease him about it, which probably isn’t a good thing…
• Conductive Ed – A few years back, we discovered and tried a new program of physical therapy for Jacob. It was very hard, but it also worked wonders for him. Still, it was frighteningly expensive, and it was in Tucson. We did manage to bring it to Utah for a few sessions, but even that was more than our budget could allow.

There’s been a lot of changes since I started Mo’ Boy. It’s been a fun ride. Of course, it’s also far from over.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, October 02, 2008

More on Voting

At first, I was gleefully riding the Obama bandwagon. It was a long primary, but here we are! As the general election not-so-slowly deteriorated into mudslinging and backpedaling on both sides of the aisle, I've been less and less enamored with either of them. Pretty typical of me, it seems. They both want to criticize Bush, and each other, but in the sound bites anyway, neither one wants to present a better plan.

Then I hit their websites. It's all there. Spelled out in fairly plain language, just how the candidate feels about and plans to work on each issue. It was great.

I blogged about the process over at my web business blog, SOHOMan. Now I'm much clearer. That's what I was praying for, right?

Mark Hansen

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why You Don't Do Genealogy

I was digging through some old papers and I found a page that were some notes I used to give a talk on genealogy. Right at the top was my list of the ...

Top Ten Reasons for Not Doing Genealogy!

10- I prefer to live in the future, not the past
9- I'm always getting shushed in the Family History Library for giggling at all the funny, old-fashioned names.
8-I feel that my ancestors deserve some privacy, now that they're dead
7-I can barely put up with the relatives that I KNOW of...
6-I'm looking for my royal lineage, and I keep finding cattle rustlers and horse theives.
5-I get real nervous when my wife says, "Wow, honey! They had twelve kids!"
4-I get real nervous when my husband answers, "But sweetie, that was because he had three wives!"
3-I can't even remember my own WIFE's birthday, much less my great-great-grandmothers!
2-I start out at and within minutes I'm watching Weird Al videos on YouTube!

And the number one excuse for not doing genealogy:

1-Knowing my relatives, they won't make it to the Celestial Kingdom anyway!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Proud Dad Moment: Brendon in the Kitchen

So, I come home from work today, and my son bounces up to me and says, “Guess what, Dad? I’m making pizza!”

Now to understand my reaction of fear mixed with intrigue you have to understand two facts. One: The last time my son and his friends attempted to make pizza, they didn’t use a recipe, because one of them “already knew how”. Even though they promised Jodi they would clean up after themselves, the kitchen was left like a tomato hurricane had blown through. As proud of their pizzas as they were, they ended up looking like cheesy hockey pucks. The taste wasn’t too far off of that, either.

Two: The teacher of his fifth grade class had made an assignment where they have to read a book with some sort of instructions, do the thing it instructs, and then teach it to the class. Brendon chose a cookbook, and making pizza as his thing.

So, with all that in mind, I walked toward the kitchen, very afraid of what I would find. I was shocked. The kitchen was a mess, true, but then it was when I left for work this morning, too. The part that he’d been using was relatively clean, and cluttered only by the few tools I could tell he had used. There was a mixing bowl full of dough, quietly rising. I looked close. It looked like pizza dough, quietly rising. It suddenly dawned on me that he was actually making pizza!

So, while he was telling me the story of how he’d done it, and how he’d had troubles finding the yeast, and some of the spices for the sauce (which he also made from scratch), I started looking through the fridge for toppings. I found some pepperoni and salami, and some shredded cheddar and jack cheese mix.

So, I looked over his shoulder while he spread the dough, then the sauce. Then the cheese and toppings. Finally, more cheese. It looked great. He put it in the oven, and set the timer.

And what a taste feast we all had when he pulled it out! I’m still in awe. He found a recipe on his own, started to make it, sought help only when he needed it, and finished it. And it tasted GREAT! Wow. I am amazed!
Mark Hansen

Music as Worship

Over at LDS blogs, there’s a blog entry about music as a form of worship. I’m on board with this. I wish everyone would sing and drown out the organ. Instead we often get the “Mormon Mumble”.

This article sparks two memories in my mind.

The first happened as I came into the MTC. Every night, all of us that were on a single floor of the dorm at the MTC would gather for what we called “Floor Prayer”. We would sing a hymn (in Spanish, ‘cause that’s what we were all studying), and all kneel in prayer. We were all enthused and eager to learn. For many of us, being focused on the Gospel all day was a very new thing, so spirits were high.

So, when we sang, it rang through the halls. I had never before heard hymns sung that way. It grabbed me and lifted me up in a way that I’d never known hymns could do. It was truly the first time I’d ever experienced music AS WORSHIP, rather than just another phase of a meeting. It was an ear-opening experience.

Another experience happened many years later. We had been invited to attend a non-denominational Christian Sunday worship service with some friends. We did, and on the surface, we had a great time. It’s interesting, but at the time, that meeting served to strengthen my own testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Priesthood, but that’s a topic for another blog day.

One thing I noticed, however, is that everyone sang. When I say that, I mean EVERYONE sang, and sang with gusto. When the time came in the service to open up their songbooks, everyone stood and sang out. Nobody seemed to care how well they sang, they just all raised their voices. I was suddenly jealous. I wished that we could muster that kind of enthusiasm while we’re corralling the kids and reading our lesson manuals.

I’ve noticed, over the years, that the more involved the congregation is in the singing, the more they are involved in the meeting. If more ward music directors and bishops understood that, sacrament meeting would start really making a difference in people’s lives.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Praying and Elections

Should we be praying to help us decide who to vote for?

It’s an interesting question. I mean, on the one hand, it’s a pretty important decision, and like all important decisions, I pray about it.

On the other hand, if we were all praying about it to the same God, doesn’t it make sense that He would give us all the same answer? Maybe that’s why Utah is practically a one-party state, right?

But I don’t think God works that way. Until He sends his Son in all His Glory to rule, we have to have earthly governments. Those governments are established by humans and managed by humans, flawed as we are.

In addition to that, God give us our freedom and our choice. We can decide who will lead us. In Alma 10: 19, it says, “…Yea, well did he say that if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction.”

We do believe in being subject to kings, rulers, magistrates, bla bla bla. We live in a nation where we get to choose them. We have to choose them. So, how do we decide. We all live in different circumstances and different backgrounds. We have different challenges. We need different kinds of help. Government means different things to different people.

I don’t think we should ask God who to vote for.

Here’s what I imagine God wants us to do (I could very well be wrong): I think he wants us to look at our lives, and the lives of those around us. I think he wants us to pray to clarify the political issues and rhetoric that are spinning around us. We should pray to better understand what’s going on. We should exercise our own will to study what the candidates and parties are saying and doing. We should pray to be able to discern the truth as we’re doing that.

And then we should choose to vote for the candidates that best represent the clarified view from our own perspectives.

Mark Hansen

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Songs Of Zion

Can Mark Rap?

From time to time here here in Mo’ Boy I’ve reviewed various LDS rappers. I’ve even lamented that there seems to be a lot more going on in LDS rap these days than there is in LDS rock.

Be that as it may, there’s one of these guys that I’ve actually had a chance to meet face to face on a number of occasions. That’s Clayton, AKA Arhythmatik. Great rapper, great guy.

At the fest, someone asked about that name. When I said it was his stage name, they asked, “What’s his real name: Social Studies?” We all got a good chuckle over that one. Of course, you’d have to spell it funny to make it work. Hmmm…

“Soshul Studeez” …?

Anyway, about a year ago, as I might have mentioned in one of my many blogs before, he and I started collaborating on a rock/rap hybrid tune called “Shine the Light”. The original intent was for me to create the basic track, and sing the chorus, and he would rap the verses. But after he sent me the first verse, he suggested I rap the second verse. I was hesitant, but he encouraged.

I felt totally out of place, but I gave it a shot anyway, and in the long run, I’m pretty pleased with myself. Anyway, after a lot of technical back and forth, with him adding something and then me adding something else, I’ve finally finished the rock mix of the tune! I’m so stoked. It’s available at my site, on the music page for free download.

Arhythmatik is also still working on a more hip-hop mix, and I can’t wait to hear that. Collaboration is so much fun!

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alex Boye, the Cell Phone, and the Book of Mormon

The other weekend, at the music festival, Alex Boye presented a little bit comparing how we treat our cell phones compared to our Books of Mormon. Afterward, I did a little search, and found the same bit on some other blogs and sites. It’s really cool because it makes you think about which fills a bigger role in your life. Here’s the text:

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Book of Mormon like our cell

  • What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
  • What if we turned back to get it if we forgot it?
  • What if we flipped through it several times a day?
  • What if we spent an hour or more using it each day?
  • What if we used it to receive messages from its text?
  • What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?
  • What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
  • What if we used it as we traveled?
  • What if we used it in case of an emergency?

Now, at the time, Alex took it a little bit further, and to catch his extension, click to the youtube video of him presenting it at a fireside and see. I’m not gonna spoil it for you. It’s cool.

It’s kinda funny for me, because I have one of those PDA smart phones. So, I actually carry my Book of Mormon IN my cell phone! Alex laughed when I showed him that. Even still, I could stop and read it more than I do.

He’s also asked for everyone that watches the video there to post their testimonies of the Book in the comments section. He talked about how cool it would be to get a million testimonies. I read through some of them (there were about a hundred when I was there), and I felt very inspired. I left mine there, and I’d like to encourage you all to as well.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Inner Circle, Outer Circle...

First of all, before you read this, to make any sense of it at all, go read this posting over at A Motley Vision. I could summarize it, but, frankly, not that well, and it would be just as long as the original, so just go read it. I’ll wait until you get back.

Done? Ok, then…

He mentions that he’s not sure how the analogy he makes all works in something as small as the LDS market. In fact, it does. I have seen all three schools of thought that he mentions in my own interactions with other LDS musicians. Heck, I’ve seen them all in myself, but I’ll mention that later.

A while ago, at an LDS musicians group conference (hosted by the FCMA), I heard a speaker lay out a different analogy that covers similar concepts. This analogy helped me to grasp the different approaches. It’s not directly comparable to William’s, but it has similarities:

There's a circle, and all of us, as LDS musicians/artists, are standing in it. Some face inward, singing to the church. Their goal is to strengthen and to uplift those that are already members. These make no attempt to cross over to the larger markets. The best of these artists are both thought-provoking and inspiring. The worst come across as Sunday-school lessons set to music.

Others face outward, to singing to the outside world. These artists rarely carry religious messages, but rather sing about being generally good and living a good life. They are more analogous to the “integrationals”. Many of them view their musical work as being more missionary-ish.

As a subgroup here, there are some of these within the LDS market which will produce music that is very religious, but is more generically Christ-centered. It will avoid overt references to anything specifically Mormon, in an effort to approach the broader Christian market. These artists often find themselves alienated, since they’re often not “Mormon enough” to capture the LDS market, and are outright rejected by the mainstream Christian world.

The last group in the circle just sing where they are, and tend to not pay attention to which way they’re facing. They’re comparable to the “Transformationals”. They just create, and let the art fall where it may. This tends to make some of the most artistically satisfying music. However, the artists often have a very hard time marketing themselves, as there’s not a clear direction or focus for their art.

Because of my tendency to sit on fences and not take strong stands, my own music has at times fallen in each of the three categories. I definitely consider myself primarily a clean entertainer, but I also write songs that are purely “transformational”. I also feel very strongly that I am providing an alternative, and I often mimic mainstream styles, directed at an LDS market.

As I have tried to figure out where I stand, I’ve realized that I feel mostly “called” to face the inner circle. My goal is to take the musical sounds that I love (hard classic rock), and use it to strengthen those members of the church that also enjoy it. Because that segment of our membership is underserved by traditional LDS music. That’s the music I make, that’s the music I like to listen to, and so that’s what I share.

One thing I’ve noticed among LDS musicians is that there is a higher degree of tolerance among the different artists. Those that have chosen to face inward in the circle tend to not cast aspersions on those that choose to face the world, and vice versa. My general experience has been that we all want to help make good music and if that uplifts a particular audience so be it. In my limited experience, for example, in the world of LDS film, I’ve seen a lot of bitter intolerance, as if each creator had some sort of direct connection to “the right way to be”, and everyone else was off “ruining it for everyone”. That was very sad for me to see.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thoughts on the LDS Independent Music Fest 2008

Some background: In the middle of 1999, a lonely LDS guitarist and folksinger in Idaho was frustrated that he had no way to communicate with other church musicians. He started an email group called LDSmusicians. A few days later, I found it and joined. Soon after, there were others and we became quite a chatty and encouraging group. We shared our song, and helped each other get more points with their mp3 sites. We talked shop, and critiqued each other’s work. We talked about ways to get gigs and promote ourselves.

And that summer, in 2000, we set up a couple of traditions. One was producing an annual compilation CD, and another was the music festival. As many as could make the journey would gather together at the American Fork Amphitheater on a Saturday in late August. We would play music together all day long, and at the end, we staged a concert. We’ve been doing it every year ever since, with one exception.

It’s always been a lot of fun to see people year after year. You get to hear their new tunes, tell some stories and have a great time. It’s like a big family reunion.

So, last weekend, it happened again. This year, it was a three-day festival, with a youth night on Friday, an all day event on Saturday, and a Sunday evening devotional for the more sacred music. I attended Friday an Saturday, but wasn’t able to attend on Sunday.


Steve Brown, of the acoustic duo Border Crossing, was in charge this year, and was greatly assisted by Julie Keyser. I showed up around 5:00 and saw them both there, as well as a few others. The sound and lights guys were there, setting. I was glad, ‘cause I’d done that in years past, and I was very grateful that it was someone else’s problem this year!

All of us just hung out and talked for a long time. It was great fun. In the back of my mind, I can remember Gaylen Rust, of yourldsneighborhood.combeing there, but in retrospect, I’m not sure. The two days kinda blurred for me. He was definitely there on Saturday. He’d helped out a LOT with the fest, in terms of promotions and sponsorship. We talked a lot about what was going on in LDS music. He’s getting involved pretty heavily in promotions and marketing. Which is something our little group needs desperately to learn.

At about 8:00, Shawn Phillips started DJing. It was supposed to be a dance, but there was hardly anyone there, much less dancing. Still, it was really cool to listen to the way he’d blend the music and the samples. At about 9:00 we decided to start the live performance part of the show. I went on first, and did what I felt was one of my best sets in a long time. I was feeling really confident in the show.

Then Arhythmatik took the stage and he had everyone dancing and shouting along with him. What a performer! He’s solid! It was exciting to me to see the few people that were there respond so well to two performers (he and I) that are so far out of what is normally mainstream LDS music.

It was a lot of fun, and I left that night thinking how lucky I was to be involved in such a great group.


The next morning I was slow getting started. I had my two boys with me, and it wasn’t easy getting them ready to go. Still, we managed, and when we arrived there were already a number of other musicians there. I was surprised to see Greg Hansen there. Greg and Gaylen have been teaming up to get the yourldsneighborhood jukebox going to help provide promotional outlets for indie LDS artists. It was fascinating to talk to the two of them. Greg has been involved heavily in the LDS music industry for a long long time. We talked a lot about trends, like the imminent death of the pearl awards, the future of the LDSBA and its convention, the way the internet is taking a bigger and bigger chunk out of retail… Fascinating stuff.

Early in the afternoon, we set up for the “Songwriters in the Round”. Four of us had been asked to sit up on the stage and take turns playing songs, with just our own acoustic guitars. I was both very honored to be asked to participate, as well and very nervous. I enjoy unplugged gigs, but I don’t do as well at them. I have a struggle remembering the words while I’m trying to play the guitar as well. But I did OK. I got Sam Payne, another participant, to scat along with me on “Thank You”, and Brendon came up to pound out a beat on my guitar case during “Superman”.

Neil Owen, Julie Keyser, and Sam also participated. Julie sang one about when she lost one of her babies after only a few hours of life. That one hit very close to home and got me teared up. It was very well written. Of couse Sam is an incredible writer, and Neil is the consummate bluesman. He does one (I don’t remember the title) based on some New Testament scriptures. Very gospel. Great stuff.

After the Songwriters, we had the open mic. A number of people had sort of stumbled onto us and they got up and performed. I was quite impressed with them, too, but I didn’t remember their names. My two boys got to sing a couple of primary songs, and everybody loved that as well.

As the stage guys and the bands for the evening began setting up, Julie and Steve stepped forward to present the first annual “Green Jello” awards. That first year that we had the fest, there were some in the LDS industry that whispered that our little show would be like a “Roadshow on Steroids”, or that it was all very “green jello”. Some of us got a little miffed, but others said that being “green jello” meant we were music of the people, not of the machine. In honor of that, they created these awards.

I was pleasantly surprised when they announced me as the “lifetime achievement” award. We all kinda chuckled over that one, but there are very few of us in the email group that have been with the group since the beginning, and stayed with it. I guess that’s an achievement! Anyways, I was touched. It sure made me feel good. And I got a cool little trophy, too.

In the Early Evening show, there were three ladies that had formed a group called “Musically Inclined”. They played some up-tempo tunes to minus tracks. Great job, and crystal clear harmonies.

Lindy Kerby did some tunes that I think were off her new CD. I love her voice. She did the solo at the end of “How Beautiful”

I did two tunes, too. I had planned on doing three, but my tracks CD had gotten scratched, and so that last tune kept skipping.

The evening show started with Jen Handy and her group. She’s got a killer voice, and her sound is a very strong Contemporary Christian vibe. Did I mention her voice is amazing?

Then, we got to hear more of Neil Owen, this time accompanied on the Dobro by Ryan Tilby and a bit of harmonica from Sam Payne. What a show.

Then, Sam took the stage. I always love watching him perform. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him more animated on stage than this time, though. They started with their version of “Route 66” and he was all over it. It’s fun to watch him dance, too. He’s the ultimate hick jazzman! Great set.

Finally, Alex Boye. Another consummate showman. But with a lot of heart and testimony. And another killer voice.

Overall Impressions

I’ve had a rather tough time these last two-three years trying to figure out what my place is in the LDS music world. And, it all sort of came together for me this weekend. I got a lot of encouragement from speaking with Gaylen, Greg, Alex, and Sam, and to suddenly be recognized so much by the group made me feel like I actually have a place in it.

I’m starting to see that my focus of writing, recording, and releasing mp3 singles is a great model for me to follow in promoting my site and my music. I’m not in a position where I can do a lot of touring or performing. Pressing thousands of CD’s is also beyond my limits. But I can put together some kickin’ tunes and share them on the ‘net.

I’m very excited about the ones I’ve been working on lately, as well. I’m collaborating with Arhythmatik on a rock/rap crossover tune, I’ve got some rockers and ballads both coming along, including one I wrote a few years back for my anniversary.

Come along for the ride with me!

Mark Hansen

Thursday, August 14, 2008

So, Modest is Hottest, Right?

I was just talking with my good friend Heather, who, with her husband, owns “Modest by Design”. They do girls formal wear, and all of it’s modest. No spaghetti straps or strapless/backless gowns here. No slits up the sides, or plunging necklines. I always have a great time visiting with them. This particular time, she had some interesting (and good) news to share.

As she was talking about how their business is going she pointed out some fascinating things. She said that many of their modest dress designs come from manufacturers of non-modest dresses. I wasn’t sure what that meant. She showed me. She found one of their dresses and pulled it off the rack for me.

No, I didn’t try it on, thank you very much…

She showed me where the hemline was on the original design, and pointed out the sleeves. They had gone to the manufacturer and said, “We’ll sell this if you make the hem longer, raise the bustline, and add sleeves to it. Make it more modest, and we’ll sell it for you!”

When they first started, they had tried this, but had been basically laughed off. But now, she says, they have the numbers (the sales) to hold their attention.

I was intrigued.

But there was more. She said that she and her husband had been working with one of the companies to expand their modest line of clothing because the company had found that three of those dresses were outselling the rest of their catalog!

With her impish smile, she said, “Who’d have thought that there are girls out there that don’t want to dress like ho’s!?”

A long time ago, I wrote:

“I know a boy
Who likes the girls sweet and pure
Who don’t have to dress to allure
They let their own lights shine..”

…And put it in my song, “He’s Out There”. Heather, actually, sang back-up vocals on it, too!

So, kudos to Heather and Eddie for making it work!

Mark Hansen

Mark on TV!

On Monday, I had an especially fun morning! I got to go to the KJZZ studios up in Salt Lake and participate in the "Home Team" morning show, hosted by fellow LDS musician Julie Hanks (De Azevedo). The program was about the good and bad of technology, and we got to talk about our internet group of LDS musicians and the festival coming up this Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Springville.

So, check out the video and come see us at the fest! I'll be performing Friday and Saturday.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


William, over at A Motley Vision, mentioned that the LDSBA (LDS Bookseller's Association) Convention is going on this week. I actually got to attend this a few years back, when “One United Generation” was getting distributed. It was a great time. Lots of fun, and I got to see and meet a lot of cool people.

It’s basically a place where owners of LDS bookstores gather and find authors, publishers, musicians, and creators of LDS-oriented products. They buy their stock for the year, party, hobnob, find out what’s cool and new, and then go home.

The show is closed to the public, meaning that only members of the organization can attend. The only reason I got in was because my distributor got me in. It’s whole purpose is for product creators and distributors to get their wares seen and bought by retailers, who then stock their shelves with it.

This is a pretty common model in industry related trade shows. One of the biggest one that I know of is NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers). They have a huge show that draws all kinds of industry people every year. It’s also closed to the public.

AMV was commenting on how the attendance (and value) of the convention is dwindling. Partly, I imagine, due to the fewer and fewer LDS retailers out there. William was speculating that opening it up to the public might be a good idea.

A part of me agrees. I think it would be a lot of fun! I’ve been to some LDS product expos in the past, and I’ve always enjoyed them. I get a kick out of it. I love walking around and seeing what people are coming up with. I like seeing our own popular culture in action. I don’t always like what I see, but I like seeing it happen.

Another part of me has seen the low attendance that these shows tend to draw. Maybe it’s because they’re undercapitalized, and don’t have the budgets to do the heavy advertising. Maybe it’s because they’re usually held here in Utah, and we’re pretty saturated already with LDS products. Maybe it’s because a lot of Mormons see that sort of thing as the over-commercialization of our faith.

I’m not sure what the real reason is. The fact is, that without people coming and shopping, the vendors can’t justify the effort and the expense of setting up a booth. Without vendors, of course, the expos die.

As a creator, a musician, I would love to have the opportunity to present my wares, my CD’s directly to a buying public. Let them choose. I also realize that it makes me a willing participant in the ongoing overcommercialization of my faith. Oh, well… I can’t please everyone. I’m just making tunes that I wanna share, ya know?

Nonetheless, I do like to see situations and events that celebrate our members creating our own popular culture. I do like to see us celebrating our faith and our uniqueness. That doesn’t seem to be too wrong, either…

Mark Hansen

Friday, August 01, 2008

Back to the Temple

Jodi and I went to the temple today. I’m ashamed to admit it’s probably been more than a year since we went last. I’ve just let life get in the way, and it’s been frustrating.

But as the session was starting, and the voice begins the narration, I found myself just sitting and smiling. I was just absorbing the good feeling of being there. Then all of a sudden the Spirit just drops on me, and I’m tearing up and my chest feels like it’s gonna explode. It was an incredible feeling.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt it that strong. It was a real wake-up call for me. I mean, I’ve been active, I say my prayers, I read my scriptures, but I’ve really, really missed out by not going to the temple.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Whither the Listener?

Over on the LDS Musicians yahoogroup we’ve been having this discussion as to how important the audience is or should be to the musician. Should they target their writing to a particular audience, or should they create independent of who’s listening?

I’ve talked and written about this one a few times, like here and here, but I thought I’d share here, the post I made to the group:

Writing for the Audience v Writing for Yourself

This has been a really interesting discussion. Like I do on so many other issues, I find myself sitting on the fence on this one as well.

John Newman and I used to have this discussion, based on the old question: “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

At first, my argument was to the effect that it doesn’t matter if there’s anyone there to hear it. As it falls, it still creates waves. It’s simple science, and there’s no discussion nor philosophy involved.

But John countered that those waves are nothing but changes in air pressure, until it gets picked up by an ear and re-interpreted as sound. He said that it doesn’t become “sound” until it is heard.

The philosophical implication there is that without a hearer, there is no sound, only pressure waves. That means that it has to be a communication. It’s not just an outpouring of noise. The D&C kinda talks about this, too. In section 50, starting at verse 17, He talks about how the preacher and the listener both need to be in tune with the spirit for the communication to happen.

Now, there is some value in writing songs that are very personal. They help us sort out things in our minds. They are truly self-expressive. Sometimes, I write songs like this and I know that nobody else is ever gonna “get it”, and I’m fine with that. I’ve written some songs that are so personal that I’m not sure I’ll ever share them. Sometimes, I do, and it surprises me how many other people can find meaning in it. “Toy Soldiers” is a good example of this. I’m constantly amazed how many other people find themselves in what was originally a very personal song.

Other times I write songs that are intended to go out to particular groups. “He’s Out There” is a good example of that.

Most of the time, I write what hits me. While I’m writing or editing, I try to be clear enough that my audience can understand it, because I think it’s important to communicate. I AM thinking of my audience, but I’m usually not driven by it. Does that make sense?

Perhaps the real question that we should be asking is: “If a singer sings in the woods and there’s no one there to hear him, does he make a difference?”

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A New Song! "Too Late Smart"

When I was a little kid, I can remember my mom saying one of her sayings: “I’m too soon old and too late smart” whenever she did something that she thought was a big blunder. At the time I didn’t really get it. I thought all adults, especially my mom and dad, knew everything! They were the smartest, coolest people ever. If only the world would just listen to them, then it would be a great place to live.

Then I got to be a teenager. Suddenly my parents became total idiots. They had no idea what end was up. I was going to take the world by storm. I was going to make a difference! I was going to be the one that the world rallied around! The Lord had a very important mission for me.

It wasn’t until long after my mission, and well into my married life that I started to learn how fundamentally clueless I was (am). It was then that the wisdom of that saying started to sink in.

And now, many years later, as I look at my where my life is, sometimes I wonder what I’ve been doing all this time. And I wanna smack myself on the forehead like David Byrne and say, “Well… How did I get here?” At times like these I start to think of those times when I thought adults knew everything, and I start to think that now I’m too soon old, and too late smart.

I guess that’s a pretty normal thing for a guy to go through at my age.

Anyway, a long time ago, I wrote a song about it, and then about a year ago, revised it to reflect my newfound wisdom and acceptance of the drab and normal life my choices have brought me. My important save-the-world mission? I still don’t know what it was or is for sure. But raising my kids to be happy and faithful followers of the Lord is a daily challenge, and it’s the most important thing I can do right now. And I'm very grateful to have the help of my very, very patient and loving wife at my side.

So, anyway. Here’s the new song!

I like it a lot, actually. It’s a solid, driving rock tune, with a killer mix. Nuthin’ mellow about it! Check it out, and feel free to post your own comments and experiences!

Mark Hansen

Friday, July 18, 2008

Songs of Zion

Live Out Loud

Looks like Deseret Book (in the form of Shadow Mountain) is picking up on the pre-teen pop craze. I just got this email encouraging people with kids from 7-13 to go and fill out a survey to help pick the cover for a debut CD from a new group they’re promoting. They’re called LOL (for “Live out Loud”) and it’s three young kids. I have NO idea what they sound like, as the CD hasn’t been released yet.

A part of me just wants to LOL, myself, and just roll my eyes. But then another part of me remembers that I had thought of the idea myself a few months ago, and I just didn’t have time to pursue it. I think it would be a blast to produce a project like that.

I also think of my two boys, and how much they'd love a cool project like this, if it's done right.

If I hear any news when it’s released, I’ll let you know.

So, FWIW, here’s the links to the surveys. One of them is for grownups to fill out, and the other one is for kids.

Grownup Survey

Kids Survey

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Religion and Politics...

I’ve been thinking about some things, political things, lately, and I started contemplating these two (seemingly) contradictory scriptures:

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.” 2 Ne. 4: 34

- And -

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;” D&C 58: 27

On one level, these seem to say the opposite thing. The first scripture says to rely on the Lord for all guidance and success. The second scripture says to go out on your own and do stuff.

I got to thinking about this when I started thinking about the nature of politics and religion. If we are all praying to the same God for guidance in our world and our politics, why are so many of us getting so many different responses? If we’re not supposed to trust our own “arm”, then we should rely on Him, right? So, why all the differences?

It even makes me wonder if I should be praying for help as I choose my candidates. As I’ve been contemplating it, I’ve come to two parallel conclusions that seem to answer it in my mind.

Some things are directed by God.

Some things He leaves up to us.

See, God’s all about us learning things. That’s the whole purpose in the creation of the earth. I think a large part of that is letting us make choices and letting us make mistakes, as well as find successes. There are some things that He definitely takes a strong hand in. This happens on the big, historical picture, as well as on the scale of the individual person. There are some things He just doesn’t care about, like what color shirt I wear. In between all of that, there are a lot of choices that we have to make, and He often lets us make them on our own. Sometimes, He even inspires us to make certain choices that are right for us, but which might not be right for someone else. Sometimes he lets our choices be clouded by our own life’s experiences. Why? Because that’s how we learn from them.

So, I think that I shouldn’t be praying about which candidate He wants me to vote for. Instead, I should be praying for clarity and understanding so that I can make a better choice based on my own life’s learning.

Mark Hansen

Monday, July 07, 2008

To Spaz or Not to Spaz…

I have a “child with special needs”, and I’m sad. Not because I have a “child with special needs”, but because I don’t know what to call him.

I just read this article about Tiger Woods referring to himself and his playing on a particular day and using the word “spaz”. The article goes on to tell about how many people are up in arms about it. It also referenced a survey that lists a bunch of other words for this sort of condition that people find offensive.

I think it’s time to invoke the Mo’Boy Doctrine again. I mean, c’mon people, let’s get a life, here.

What frustrates me most about who can use what word, and who gets offended by which word is that I realize that underneath it all, the words don’t matter. What matters is that we want to insult each other. No matter how many words we put on “the evil list” we will continue to create or adapt others to be offensive, we will continue to find more offensive words, because people are still trying to be offensive.

Think of it. If kids like mine hadn’t grown up being insulted on the playground, then when Tiger said he felt he was playing like a “spaz”, no one would have batted an eye. If no-one wanted to insult an African-american, then the word “nigger” would be just as meaningless. No matter who said it, or to whom.

The bottom line? We need to be nicer to each other. We need to not insult each other. We need to not get offended as much. We need to not worry about picky little rules of words, when words really aren’t the issue.

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How to Win the Iraq War

I found this article to be interesting. It’s cool to hear some positive stories about what’s happening in Iraq, first of all. But it’s also cool to hear about the story behind those positive stories. I mean, I like that violence is down. But I also like that traffic and commerce and interaction is up. I also like to read about what’s causing it.

It’s pretty easy to simply say that the troop surge is taking hold. Yeah, us! Go, Team! But there’s more to it than just that. As I read the article and saw the list of things that the forces are supposed to be doing, I smiled.

  • "Serve the population: give them respect: gain their support."
  • "Live among the people: you can't commute to this fight."
  • "Walk: stop by, don't drive by: patrol on foot and engage the population."
  • "Promote reconciliation: we cannot kill our way out of this endeavour."

I’ve heard these things before. Sure, with different words, and different specifics, but the same sentiment and approach. Where was it that I heard these things? From my mission president, twenty years ago, in Honduras.

Could it be we were doing something right way back then?

Mark Hansen

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Songs of Zion - LDS music

"Father to Son"

by Sam Payne

One of my biggest frustrations with all of the studio CD’s I get from Sam Payne is that if you don’t hear it live, you’re missing half the fun. Sam’s performances are lively, and very improvisational it’s true, but the real fun of a Sam Payne show is the stories. Sam is arguably the best storyteller in LDS music, and he sets up each song so, so well. In fact, sometimes the songs rely so much on the story that without hearing it the live setting, you end up kinda scratching your head and saying, “Huh?”

Some of my favorite Sam songs are like this. Once I see the show, and hear the stories, then the song falls beautifully into place, and its meaning is crystal clear.

So, Sam has now put out a “live” CD. I put that in quotes because it’s not really like a recorded concert, but it is. Rather than take a remote to a concert, they set up the musicians in the studio and invited in an audience. Then they recorded Sam, telling it and singing it like it is. Then they took those raw tracks and mixed them like a studio CD, along with all the audience.

I always have a tough time reviewing a Sam Payne CD, because as a reviewer I’m supposed to find flaws, right? I’m supposed to say, “Yeah, this was great, but he coulda dun this instead…” But I do have a difficult time finding things wrong with this one.

The recording and performance are excellent, the energy is there. The best tracks on it are “These Are My People”, Where to Find a Hero”, and his concert standard, “Autumn Leaves”. His religious references are not as blatant in the songs as they are in the stories, but they are powerful. “Brothers Road” and “You May Still Remember Me” are based on Old Testament stories. “All Comes Down in a Line” is all about the generations of the Priesthood. I know I'm listening to LDS music, but it's not beating me over the head, either.

After listening to it over and over, I have come to this conclusion: The only thing I have to complain about is that it doesn’t include many of my favorite Sam songs. “Big Time”, “Shazaam”, and “Space Man” are all missed. “Freight Train”, and “Holy”, two songs that actually make me cry, also didn’t make the cut.

Well, you can’t please everyone, you know…

Mark Hansen


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