Oh captain, my captain!

Kurtwood Smith, Mr PerryI’ve come to the conclusion that Neil’s dad in Dead Poets Society is the ultimate movie villain. The film actually epitomises the life of a lot of the students that I have to work with, and while they didn’t all go to prep school I’m sure, still the majority are North-Eastern, very well-to-do, highly motivated and/or pressured Marahindividuals. And if you believe the film, despite the best efforts of those trying to inspire, family pressures will crush their free-thinking.

Watching the film came after a detailed discussion of Oxbridge policy (for some reason), and is all linked in – I consider myself very happy that I never had an academically-pressured upbringing. Certainly, I had to do my homework, but there’s a be-all and an end-all to life, and schoolwork ain’t it.

As a result of watching the film, I had a very enjoyable morning commute listening to Marah’s lovely If You Didn’t Laugh You’d Cry, from 2005. Of course, the Philadelphia band owe somewhat of a debt to Uncle Walt, if only for the gorgeous Walt Whitman Bridge, a luckless ode to the drifting away of one’s sorrows in the breeze of the Delaware River, with just coffee, cigarettes and seven dollars to the name.

The band is, in many ways, a ramshackle outift. It’s old-fashioned, rollicking rock’n’roll, with piano glissandos, slide guitar, whoo-whoo backing vocals, the works. It’s a timeless sort of sound though, and done with aplomb. It’s exactly the kind of thing my good buddy Knox Overstreet would crank up on Meeks’ ham radio, a soundtrack to whiskey-soaked bum days as authentic as anything Ryan Adams ever wrote. And while Dead Poets Society and Marah are not obvious bedfellows, there’s an abundant joie de vivre in both, an exhortation to make the most of the day and your life whatever circumstance in which you may find yourself, whether too rich or too poor; and both share an beautiful way with words – the film with those already written, Marah’s with those that trip off the tongue with the most fleeting moment of thought.

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