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kids as cops: Actors get into their roles in a 2008 Nibley Children's Theatre production of Pirates of Penzance. Click Arts&Life index for a link to this unusual theater group. / Photo courtesy of Bonnie Schenk-Darrington

Today's word on journalism

February 17, 2009

Why I miss my hate mail:

"It's an odd thing to admit, but in a perverse sort of way, I actually miss the wretched river, the rancid flow of puerile, nasty, sickeningly homophobic email I used to receive on a regular basis from the ultra-right and the Christian right and the Mormon right and the Bush-impaired whenever I would post a friendly, pointed column full of tangy liberal attitude. . . . . Oh, I miss all the lovely and positive email too, which outpaced the nasty stuff by a huge margin. But the hate mail was very special indeed, great fodder for live readings, for the reaction of horrified disbelief of anyone who saw it, for the charming reminder of just how ugly and violent and grammatically challenged the human animal can be."

--Mark Morford, columnist, (2/13/09)

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'It Might Get Loud' premiere is the talk of Sundance

INSIDE THE MINDS OF ROCK GODS: Davis Guggenheim, left, and Jack White of the White Stripes, right, are part of a movie that makes you want to play your guitar very loud. / Photo by Ben Hansen

By Ben Hansen, special contributor

January 19, 2009 | There are times when you see a movie that makes you want to take action. Rocky made us want to fight. Rudy made us believe in ourselves. It Might Get Loud makes us want to play that classic CD and crank the volume up, or pick up a guitar -- any guitar.

Friday morning at 9, the Temple Theater in Park City began showing movies for the first time ever at the Sundance film festival, and we "Temple virgins" who were lucky enough to get into the show watched the building transform into the Temple of Rock.

Rarely can a film penetrate the glamorous surface of rock legends. It Might Get Loud tells the personal stories, in their own words, of three generations of electric guitar virtuosos -- The Edge (U2), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), and Jack White (The White Stripes). It reveals how each developed his unique sound and style of playing favorite instruments, guitars both found and invented. Concentrating on the artist's musical rebellion, traveling with him to influential locations, provoking rare discussions as to how and why he writes and plays, this film lets you witness intimate moments and hear new music from each artist. The movie revolves around a day when Jimmy Page, Jack White and the Edge first met and sat down together to share their stories, teach and play.

The film wastes no time drawing in the audience as we quietly observe Jack White inventing a makeshift one-string slide instrument comprised of only a board, a Coke bottle, wire, nails, a pickup, and an amp. You immediately get the feeling that this film is going to be something special.

An incredible overall feeling is achieved with the matching of these three brilliant musicians. Each contrasts such a different style, bringing many different elements to the table. Jack is quoted at one point as saying, "All three of us get together . . . what's going to happen? Probably a fist-fight."

Page, the master of the rock guitar, is the admired forefather of the group. He is seen referencing technical aspects and terminology, and provides wisdom by both his words and his playing that causes the other two to look like kids at Christmas every time he gives them a bit of his wisdom.

Edge is a master of sounds. He has shown that he can take the dynamics of how guitar sound is delivered and change them again and again, making him the technological whiz of the bunch.

Jack White is a fundamental purist. He reads the message in the music. He feels the art of backwards and simplicity in many different styles of music.

Bring the three of them into the room together, and watch the creativity flow. The three shared their licks and jammed together in a threesome of rock gods on I Will Follow by U2, Ramble On by Led Zeppelin, and Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground by the White Stripes, along with an impromptu slide guitar jam. Each thoroughly seemed to enjoy the opportunity to play with each other on their own tracks, almost honored at the opportunity.

Another highlight of the show was the rare footage shown from each of these artists early in their careers. This included live footage of Jimmy Page playing Stairway to Heaven from one of the early Led Zeppelin tours. As I was able to witness the energy that came from him while listening to an extended guitar solo played on his double-necked Gibson SG guitar, the hair on my arms started to stand up.

Film director and Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim conducted a question and answer session in which he was asked why he had created this movie. His response was simple - "So many rock 'n' roll movies are like car wrecks, about tragedies. I wanted to make a documentary on what rock is all about."

As I sit here with my guitar this morning trying to remember some of the guitar tricks I picked up, I realized that no words could better describe this show. This was truly what rock 'n' roll is all about. Well done, Mr. Guggenheim.

It Might Get Loud will be released this summer by Sony pictures. You won't want to miss it.



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