Axver (axver) wrote,

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The insecurities of having a hobby or two.

In response to my last entry, augustine provided a quote by G. K. Chesterton, one of the better authors this planet has ever seen, and I think my response to it is best contained in its own entry.

"There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject."

This is something to which I have a very strong gut response. This response is "like hell!" Not because other people have bored me; quite the contrary, as I rarely find other people to be boring at all. The response comes from my own insecurities. I think this is best illustrated through three examples.

The subject for which I was first really known online is my encyclopaedic knowledge of U2's concert setlists, other aspects of the band's history, and in general my (on reflection) over-eager and over-enthusiastic love for the band in general. At least in this case, I managed to establish myself in the U2 fan community, where tedious details and obscure facts are not just accepted, but quite enthusiastically welcomed. There are indeed people out there who are genuinely interested in when the eight performances of Hawkmoon 269 took place and, rather than looking at me like I have three heads when I can recite all eight off memory, actually think it is worth some form of bemused respect. So I never really felt a lack of confidence in this, but I have always been conscious that my setlist knowledge isn't something you exactly tout loudly to everyone, lest you be thought completely bonkers or over-obsessive. I may have been over-obsessive once, but as those who have seen my recent Interference posts will attest (e.g. my Superthread posts, my EYKIW thread entitled "when should U2 have quit?"), I pretty much think the band should have gone away after the Lovetown Tour and never come back except perhaps with the Passengers project.

However, in early 2005, my interest in railways - a hobby I have had my entire life - came back with a resurgence after being secondary for a couple of years. This interest has only grown and grown. Proof? Check out my LJ Scrapbook! Specifically the 2008 train and 2008 tram folders - there are probably about 1,000 photos in there. I read about railways. I photograph railways. I sometimes blog about railways. Even my academic work ties into railways; after all, I'm a 19th and 20th century socio-political historian, and the railways are very significant in that field. Only thing is, it's decidedly uncool to be a railfan. It's something some people don't really think you should admit these days. I may be legally blind, but I can see well enough to spot the funny looks I get when I photograph railways - though now that I have got a cane, those funny looks at least are somewhat justified!

Anyway, my point is that although I had a comfortable community environment in which my U2 setlist knowledge is welcome (indeed, this knowledge only developed as part of my interaction with said fan community), I had no such community for my rail interest. Now, I like talking about my interests. Who doesn't? It's fun. But oh, talk about feeling as if you are prattling on about an uninteresting subject! All the little bits of information that I find fascinating, you get the distinct feeling nobody else really cares about. For example, I am endlessly interested in the quirky experimental railcars NZR trialled before they finally stumbled upon a railcar design that actually worked. I love to spend time looking at station track plans, comparing and examining them. If ever this planet has an uninteresting subject, it is indeed railways - except for that peculiar group of people known as railfans. I often only meekly admit to being a railfan, or make jokes at my own expense about it. I have absolutely no confidence in it, or in anybody ever finding it interesting. I would dearly love somebody to say "hey, Ax, I can drive - you want to go railfanning in the country today?", but there's a pipe dream if ever I had one. I'm just grateful Melbourne has such an extensive suburban network to keep me occupied. I have tried to get into the railfan community, but it's hardly as active as the U2 one, and besides my shyness, I find it hard to get into locally since I am much more interested in New Zealand's railways as it is. I don't know.

But I think my biggest concern about a subject being entirely uninteresting would be my academic work on New Zealand history. I feel myself a little torn between work I would like to do, that may have some broader interest, and work I would love to do that probably has little interest to anybody but me. I'm interested in fields like women's suffrage in New Zealand, the demise of the provinces, the rise of the labour movement - stuff some people are likely to care about and that contributes to broader scholarly fields. But oh, some horrendously precise studies, often but not entirely railway-related, would fascinate me no end. I do hope to bring some serious academic rigour to the world of New Zealand railway research, since it mostly sorely lacks this, but even then, you suspect it's lacking because the average railfan doesn't give a damn - they just want to look at pretty pictures of trains, not read a neatly referenced, thoroughly researched piece placing some rural branch line into its regional economic context. So I sit here and wonder why I care about such clearly trivial, uninteresting stuff, and I try to keep what I do academically more focused on general, broad themes that some people do find worthwhile.

Anyway, enough of my insecurities. Regular Axver programming will hopefully resume with my next entry, whenever that might be.
Tags: life, nzr, railways, trains, u2, u2 setlists
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