Upright is Unreal

There are any number of performers who seem to think a joke is funny simply because it rhymes.

Tip for new players (and, sadly, some old players) – a joke is only funny if it’s funny. Don’t expect me to laugh at non-funny jokes just because you’ve put it to music.

That said, I was always quite a fan of Tim Minchin – a superb satirist, sceptic and cabaret performer – who took the funny song schtick to a level rarely traversed in Australia. He was genuinely funny and very clever. He was also fearless enough to take on anyone claiming authority or power based on the unprovable, including the various churches, George Pell, alternative medicine and anyone stupid enough to believe in their so-called remedies.

Thumbs up Tim.

But he lost me. I was one of maybe seven people in the entire world who hated – that’s right HATED – Matilda the Musical. I suspect Roald Dahl may have hated it even more.

Every song sounded the same, even though the lyrics were impossible to hear when sung by so many screeching children. (What was WC Fields’ advice on that?) But most of all, I simply didn’t believe that anyone could be so deliberately cruel as Matilda’s parents. I haven’t read the original story, but I’m guessing there was a lot more subtlety and apparent justification. For me, the musical was unwatchable.

So I went off him. I guessed that maybe someone had driven a dump truck full of money up to his house and asked him to take on the work – what else could explain it?

When I heard he had written and starred in a new TV miniseries, I was not much interested. Naah, Minchin’s a sell-out, was my view. Nothing to see here.

Well, the ads for Upright did look interesting, and then my sister (who tends to have very different taste from mine) told me it was the best thing she’d seen in years. She even compared it with Breaking Bad, so grudgingly I gave it a go.

My wife and I were hooked from the opening minutes and binged the whole eight episodes in a few days.

This was seriously good Australian drama. Well written, brilliantly acted, gorgeously shot, full of layers. On one level it’s a standard road trip / mismatched buddy story and could easily have wallowed in cliché, as so many Australian productions have done before.

Minchin’s talent and sensibilities however allowed him to lasso the cliché beast and turn it to his own will – driving the conventions down different paths and defying the jaded expectations of those accustomed to standard tropes and resolutions.

It was witty, clever, unpredictable and simply wonderful.

I don’t want to say too much about the story for fear of spoiling, but I cannot recommend Upright highly enough. I’ve no doubt it will win numerous awards, not least for young Milly Alcock whose portrayal of Meg was jaw-dropping to say the least. She is certain to be a major star in the next few years.

Every featured character was interesting and drove the story and despite the occasionally OTT or surreal moments, the series never jolted you out of your suspended disbelief. And I do get my sister’s comparison with Breaking Bad – not that Lucky Flynn has anything in common with Walter White, but the lush desert scapes and the sheer intensity of Upright will have others make the same comparison.

Upright will massively increase Tim Minchin’s standing across the board – showcasing all his talents as writer, performer and musician – and take him to a whole new level as a multi-faceted polymath of the performing arts.

So Tim Minchin is restored in my eyes, which I’m sure will allow him to sleep much more easily.

A National Disgrace!

Australians woke today to the news that the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) had lowered their recommended maximum weekly alcohol intake from fourteen standard drinks to ten.

Seriously, ten standard drinks.

And a standard drink isn’t even a proper drink, like a schooner or a decent glass of vino. It’s a middy or bloody thimble of wine. What’s the point?

Who the damn hell do the NHMRC think they are, making recommendations that no-one asked for, and will have no effect other than to put thousands out of work? Brewers, wine producers, hoteliers and their staff, Accident and Emergency workers, booze bus police, drug and alcohol counsellors. Do the NHMRC think about any of these people and their livelihoods when coming up with their do-gooding drivel?

All that is bad enough, but what these wowser proclamations truly obscure is something far more insidious. Alcohol is not just a pleasant intoxicant and powerful social bonding tool, it is actually a measure of a nation’s vitality.

I remember reading an account written by a Hanse or Lombard merchant who had occasional dealings with the Vikings. He was deeply impressed by their vigour and capacity for random violence but was staggered to note that they were always drunk.

Always.

He could turn up at breakfast and the Vikings would already be smashed, and yet these same drunken oafs conquered all of northern Europe, discovered America, settled Iceland and Greenland, made incredible advances in shipbuilding, navigation, diplomacy, metallurgy, farming and invented their own runic form of writing.

Not bad for a bunch of early medieval pissheads.

They were going just fine until some idiot replaced all their cool gods, like Thor and Loki – full on drinking gods who knew how to have a good time – with mono-bloody-theism with its devoutness and abstinence. The Viking empire dwindled in direct proportion with the demise of their drinking culture.

Now Scandinavia is a teetotal basket case, infested with Lutherans and other non-drinking nonentities – and the NHMRC is trying to do the same to Australia!

We are being invited down the same nanny state path that led the Vikings to oblivion and I for one won’t stand for it.

I am calling for an increase in minimum weekly alcohol intake, from fourteen standard drinks up to thirty. Thirty proper drinks – not your standard thimbles!

Let’s get Australia moving again, filled with the spirit that drove the Vikings (and the Romans before them) to such incredible advances.

And if all that doesn’t convince you, let’s not forget that Hitler was a teetotaller.

Is that what you want NHMRC? A return to National Socialism?

Because only a bloody Nazi would want Australians to stop drinking.