I have never really comprehended the meaning of the word "hobby". The very concept of a hobby always sounded so noncommittal, and connected to the baffling concept of "killing time."
I met up with my T.A. down in Salinas and we spent at least ten minutes watching guys play with trains in their cool clubhouse. I guess they had put most of their energy into "train stuff" that I (in my search for impressive feats of geological simulation in miniature) could not discern. Most of the "scenery" in this setup appeared to be assembled from store-bought parts, and offered me no special insight into diorama-fabrication processes. Afterwards, at lunch, we decided to eliminate the planned class field trip to the Model Train Expo later this month, in case it should prove to be, umm, totally lame. I'll go on my own, to possibly purchase some materials for the class.
At any rate, I actually enjoyed the drive down to Salinas and back. I hardly ever drive anymore since I moved back to San Jose (two blocks from where I work) over a year ago-- so driving offers an opportunity to briefly clear my brain of school-related bureaucracy, and so forth.
Back to the subject of the artist, Michael Ashkin (from a prior post). I remember discussions of his work back in the 90's, in which the implication was that he had taken the genre of model train landscapes, and "elevated" it into something less mundane, perhaps less "hobby-like." Years ago, my friend Chris Ware (whom I rarely see anymore since moving to California) was hailed by literary and art critics as having singlehandedly "elevated the genre" of comic books into something more. Chris always vehemently objected to this intended praise, insisting that the comic-book genre needed no elevation, by him or anyone else-- it was already a genre with an illustrious past. This ostensible elevation was accompanied by a new title for the genre-- graphic novels. Chris always maintained that he made comic books, not graphic novels.