Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Hobby Shivers: Definition and Caterogisation

Patrick posted an interesting interview with Kevin Chin, an artist who does a lot of work for Games Workshop. In it, the subject of "Hobby Shivers" comes up. Here's Kevin describing what it is:

Let me introduce you. Well, hobby shivers to me is, when you read about something in the background and the narrative, maybe Black Library novel, or in the army books. The codecies, the battle tomes. You read about it, and you go, that's cool.

You will all, I think, know what he means instinctively. You are looking at something related to your hobby or interests, and you just get - let's use the word without sniggering - a thrill. A delicious and actually physical feeling of excitement - and let's use those words without sniggering, either. It's something very similar, I think, to the sensation you would get as a kid when you would walk into a toy shop or sweet shop and see everything there on the shelves waiting for you and it would be almost as though somebody flipped a switch to send electricity racing up and down your spine. A sense of - is it anticipation? is it vicarious excitement? is it just your brain overloading with a sudden eruption of too many possibilities? - overwhelms you for a second and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

You've all been there. Don't pretend you haven't.

The interesting thing about "hobby shivers" is that it's not confined to nerdish pursuits. I am sure that whatever your hobby is - fishing, rock climbing, cross-stitch - you will experience it (when looking at a particular fly, cliff-face, or....whatever equipment cross-stitch involves). It's a human universal.

There is a taxonomy of hobby shivers, though. First, there is what I would call excitement kitsch. Kundera described kitsch as being the "second tear"; it is what happens when you see something sentimental and cry one tear for yourself and then a second one from knowing that everybody else is shedding a tear as well. Excitement kitsch is when you see something that you know millions of other people are also seeing and getting excited about, and your own excitement is accentuated by that. Some examples would include:

Mitchell Johnson's 7/40 against England at Adelaide in the 2nd test of the 2013/2014 Ashes series (which, incidentally, is the clip I would show to anybody from a non-cricketing country who thinks that cricket is some kind of genteel, toff's sport):

Johnny Wilkinson's drop goal in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final:

The highlights from Germany's 7-1 drubbing of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup Semi-Final (where the excitement kitsch spills over into what you might call schadenfreude kitsch):

Second, there is the aesthetic sublime. This is something which possibly speaks for itself: hobby shivers just because something looks absolutely wonderful.

Like Paolo Di Canio's volley against Wimbledon in the 1999/2000 season (a bona fide fascist has not done something as visually pleasing since the days of Leni Riefenstahl):

Or Sakumoto Tsuguo doing Annan in 1988:

And then there is the vicarious thrill which is the type of hobby shivers you get when you know that you will never do something but can savour the feeling of it in your very imagination.

Like Horst Leuning tasting a 42-year old Black Bowmore you will never buy:

Or this guy talking about guitar riffs you will never have time to learn:

All three of these taxons can appear in fields more relevant to the interests of readers of the blog. Here, for example, is excitement kitsch:

Here is the aesthetic sublime:

And here is something that gives a vicarious thrill:


  1. When you mentioned hobby shivers and Games Workshop in the same sentence I felt sure it was going to be the feeling you get when you see something great in one of their books (yes, this did happen once upon a time) and then you see the price tag and a cold shiver runs up your spine ;)

  2. The video of the volley goal is really a double thrill since the cross field pass is also pretty terrific.

    1. Yeah. Lovely stuff. It also occurred to me when rewatching the clip that Mark Vivien Foe, who passed it to Trevor Sinclair who then hit the cross to Di Canio, died on the pitch not all that long afterwards. I'd forgotten about that.

  3. Hey David, what's the best way to contact you? I have some questions I'd like to run past you.

    - David Schirduan

    1. You can email me at jean [DOT] delumeau [AT]