Saved by Simon Schama.

The past week’s evenings have been dedicated to vomiting color all over a tiny little diorama of dwarves hunkered around a massive anvil. Yes, it sounds strange out of context, doesn’t it? These are the little spriggans that stare at me from the walls of my store all day long, and the very same tiny lumps of metal who chant in unison, half-painted and therefore only half-brought to life, from atop my desk under the plastic ivy vines. My procrastinated artistic desires, my hidden talent that doesn’t really count as a salient expression of emotion in the real world…and this one, even, was for someone else, but it pays well. Sometimes I’m amazed at how much I can get accomplished with paint and brush when time has me up against the wall. When I want to come through on a professional agreement.

What sustained me through this late rush was an audio representation of the first volume of Simon Schama’s A History of Britain. To me, he seems like the ubiquitous BBC character that everyone has heard of but no one has actually read – who represents the discipline in a way that keeps people interested. The world needs more narrative historians who synthesize the historical timeline from their own point of view, outwith the antiseptic, theoretical analysis so prevalent within the academic world. Note how it’s ‘A’ history and not ‘THE’ history? I suppose, in that sense, he’s the U.K.’s version of our own late Stephen Ambrose. Regardless to whom he could be compared, he’s brilliant, hilarious, self-effacing, and he creates a indefatigable stone monument out of the rubble of the British Empire. Read or listen, watch or consider. Uncle Schama can spin some kind of yarn.


In a rare, wispy and serendipitous meeting of words, completely_lost sweetly suggested I display more of my sub-labors here. I’ll give it a shot, then. But it’s funny: though the creation of these little creatures – the act of which would self-define some as ‘artist’ – I find it less speaks of who I am but instead provides an aesthetic prism into which I can focus my restlessness and my emotion. The colors speak to my heart, and the textures make bits of me curl and writhe with glee. To that extent, I understand the artistic context of the hobby. But compared the fruits and gems of my truly talented friends – graphic designers, musicians, writers, dancers, painters, poets, drawers, love-makers…they’re just lumpy little bits of metal. They don’t really mean anything.


24 Responses to “Saved by Simon Schama.”

  1. agntprovocateur Says:
    March 5th, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    artistic/altruistic endeavors
    i don't know… those TWO LUMPS are pretty perky!!!

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    Re: artistic/altruistic endeavors
    I had to use cold water to thin the acrylic.

  3. thistlelurid Says:
    March 5th, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    Audio? Was he narrating or was it a cast of characters? Im torn.
    My brother does the multitask of audio books while he is working
    on his carpentry…I think(no, I KNOW) I would miss inhaling the
    ink and binding smells…the tactile joy of the paper's texture….
    the swishy-swish of turned pages…the way Ian and Fig insist on
    laying across the pages WHILE Im READING…::nose crinkle:: but I
    do know that owning the audio of poe….with Price and Rathbone…
    has been swimming in my noggin for quite some time..
    "he’s brilliant, hilarious, self-effacing" sounds wonderful!
    I love her sassy tail…

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    Schama reads his own introduction, but there's another, fine reader for the rest. I'm with you on the smell and texture of the books, but I know I'll never get through the print versions of this particular three-volume beast. And listening to it this way lets me do other things with my time and still enjoy the Norman conquest of Britain!

  5. chuckmckeithan Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 12:25 am

    Few think their own talent is worthwhile.
    That's why it is called a talent. Give me a brush and some paint, and I will see your mermaid in my head but the end result is something more like a bad south park rendition of a mermaid. Now, give me a script that describes the mermaids thoughts and feelings, and I will memorize it in a day, block it in five minutes, and the audience will be entranced. But that's not really a talent, that's just me acting.
    Nice job.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    Re: Few think their own talent is worthwhile.
    You're right, of course. Thanks for the laud.

  7. hermiston Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 3:38 am

    The thing about schama
    I'm not sure if I'm a fan of Schama. He's horribly anglocentric for a history of *Britain*. Even if he does start with the Orkney Isles. And he wears his Whiggism on his sleeve. With a nod to the fact that this is only 'A' history of Britain, he then beams out once a week to the population seducing them with stories of kings and queens, half of whom reigned over only parts of the archipelago. Within a year of this series being screened the British public voted for the best ever BRITISH monarch for some stupid bbc programme. Elizabeth 1st won. No Scottish monarchs were even nominated. I have very real concerns with the shite popular history that the people of this country get shovelled. Unles you go looking for it yourself you will be served with very warped ideas. Schama did nothing to address this.
    What he did do that I rate and value about the portrayal of history was he plucked the narratives from it and he played it like a symphony. All the settings, key characters and pivotal events. His Civil War had me on the edge of my seat as I read it. I even remember a discussion with a tutor, back in the days when I was an undergraduate, he asked "What's this sentence trying to do" and I had to say "I think I was trying to do a Simon Schama"!

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Re: The thing about schama
    I agree with much of this, Kieran. Conducting deep or even cursory comparative studies of historiographers, though, informs the truism that everyone has a shtick. That should be self-evident the second we pick up a secondary source. The beauty of Schama is that he's not disguising the fact that he has one. Is he a Scottish historian? No. Could he have included more about the Scots monarchy as it pertains to Britain? Sure. But his real value, as you've pointed out, is the way in which he synthesizes the material and offers it forth. He's honest, he's opinionated, and he's accessible. He'll get people interested, and hopefully they'll see there's more to it than just what he's showing.
    Do give his interviews that I linked to a read, though. He speaks a bit about the idea of media-friendly, popular history, even from within his very academic background and present tenure. I think he's important, but then I've been accused of worshiping ol' Weepy Ambrose, too, by my former fellow academians at Cal. Go figure.

  9. vervassal Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 6:01 am

    I secretly want to marry Simon Schama. Awesome artwork. 😀

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Step off, bitch – he's MINE!

  11. psymbiotic Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 6:53 am

    Ohhh, nice job on that fig! I'm glad to see you haven't lost even an iota of your awesome skill at painting.

  12. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks, Egan. Almost lost to the sands of time and work. You understand how it is.

  13. psymbiotic Says:
    March 7th, 2006 at 11:07 am

    For you, though, I'm sure it's like riding a bike. You never really forget.

  14. ubernacht Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 10:50 am

    Wow – your fine painting skills are increasingly ever-extraordinary!!! Post more!! Post more!! I miss it….
    …although you did see that the 40yr old virgin was being ribbed for his fig habit…

  15. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    To this day, I still show our pictures of Waterloo to anybody who will look. Your input and style are missed greatly.
    Andre and I are working on an unbelievable Old West board just now. Pictures to follow!

  16. ubernacht Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 6:52 pm

    excellent – can't wait to see it!

  17. anonymouseth Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    have you seen these things yet ?

  18. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    Oh, gosh! Those are splendid. I especially like the Kiwi mowing and the powdered snow falling on top of the climbers. Oh, and the crack in the eclair is hilarious. Once again, I must heap praise on those wacky Russians.
    Of course, we're here at the shop today, and all of us are trying to figure out the scale and how we could do something similar with orcs. 😉

  19. inbody Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 4:33 pm

    Are those tan-lines?

  20. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 6th, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    Not so much tan lines, but the natural, suggestive shading of the gentle swell of the mermaid's bosom. Yes, this is why I never get to leave the house.

  21. shinankoku Says:
    March 21st, 2006 at 8:20 am

    Tkil shot me your way …
    Tkil shot me over to your LJ account as I'm a 4AD fan-boy and a miniature painter (he tells me that gives us at least two things in common.) I have to say, your command of skin tones is awesome! The texturing on the scales are pretty freaking fantastic, too.

  22. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 21st, 2006 at 11:01 am

    Re: Tkil shot me your way …
    Hey, good to meet you, and thanks very much for the high praise. I'd love to see some pictures of your work if you've got some handy.

  23. shinankoku Says:
    March 21st, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    Re: Tkil shot me your way …
    I posted some of my stuff to my LJ account, check it out. I did include corny/campy comentary, mostly related to the role of the figs in the silly games I play, sorry about that … hope you like it.

  24. FunkyPlaid Says:
    March 22nd, 2006 at 2:21 am

    Re: Tkil shot me your way …
    Sorry for what? I think it's great that you're into Warhammer and other games like it. You probably didn't know that I manage a major Bay Area gaming store…yet one other interest we have in common!

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