Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Neophilia and listmania

click photo to enlarge
Yesterday's post was, in part, about neophilia, the love of novelty and new things, a fondness that is often taken to excess and whose corollary is usually a dislike of that which is old. I've been thinking about this in the context of "listmania" - the drawing up of lists and, particularly, "best ofs". For a number of years it's been impossible to avoid these inane compilations. Guitar solos, footballers, movie themes, overtures, hoaxes, cartoon characters, love songs, jokes - it seems that everything has at one time or another been subjected to a list that purports to rank the 100 "best" (or sometimes "worst") examples. There are legions of magazine articles and books based on this idea: there's even a website that professes to list the 100 Best Everything! The most loathsome list that I've come across is in a book called Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places to Live in the UK, a particularly repugnant mixture of smugness and bigotry. This nasty little volume would be number 1 in my "50 Worst Books" list (irony alert!)

There's also a television channel, not one that I've watched I hasten to add, but which I've noticed on my electronic programme guide, that seems to consist of day-long offerings of musical lists - the 100 best-ever comedy songs, the 100 best-ever disco hits, the 100 best-ever "weepies", etcetera, ad nauseam. What you notice about most of these lists is that they are based on the perspective of a few twenty-somethings so they reflect only their experience, and in many instances encompass only the past 10 years. That's not surprising, I suppose, since the whole "list" phenomenon seems to be designed to appeal to a section of the younger population. That such a concept is entirely fatuous is indisputable. But it's worse than that, it's dangerous. Not in a life-threatening way of course, but in a cultural sense. The idea that someone has the audacity to suggest that they know what is best is one thing, but that people should blindly accept this judgement, and then act on it in terms of buying, consuming and informing their own judgement and appreciation, is quite another.

All of which has little to do with today's photograph of a chest tomb and a gravestone, Grade II listed structures, in a Lincolnshire churchyard. Both are made of limestone ashlar, are old (eighteenth century) so won't appeal to neophiles, and both are unlikely to appear on any list other than those compiled by English Heritage. The gravestone is rectangular with a segmental top and the most elaborate scrolled cartouche with cherubs. It has a much faded epitaph commemorating William Base d.1749. The chest tomb has inscription panels on the sides recording John Spur d.1761. At each corner are gadrooned pilasters, and on the west face is a semi-circular headed niche with a very weathered sculpture of Christ Triumphant Over Death. If you look carefully you can see that Christ has his foot firmly placed on a skull!

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 22mm (44mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On