Crazy Uncle Dennis – a year in review

I know what you’re thinking – it’s way too early to look back on 2020 as there’s still more than a month left. Believe me, that kind of thing irritates me too – but that’s not what this article is. It was one year ago today that I started the website, and I wanted to commemorate the occasion by looking back at some of the highlights, as well as give my own thoughts on a year spent writing about the things I like.

My first article was published on the 30th of November 2019, and it was just a very brief introduction to the kind of website I intended to create. I would go on to incorporate some elements of that into my “about me” page as I built up the site.

As the 2010s drew to a close, I was hit with a strong feeling of time slipping away. I was reminded of a line spoken by Dr Tolian Soran in Star Trek: Generations: “Time is the fire in which we burn.” Picard, of course, would rebuff that in the film’s closing act, but the line – and the concept it represents – always stuck with me, and although decades are merely arbitrary representations of the passage of time, the impending end of the 2010s led me down an introspective path.

“Time is the fire in which we burn.”

Though I’ve had health problems going back decades, the 2010s saw my health take a sharper decline, one which culminated in disability and a restriction on what I’m able to do, both physically and psychologically. It also saw a divorce, bereavement, financial troubles, and other problems which had me at a very low ebb at points. I don’t say this to seek attention or sympathy though, because by 2019, despite my health issues I was relatively settled in a home I can manage despite my limitations, with my cats for companionship, and feeling generally secure. The ending of the decade, had you asked me in early 2019, seemed no more significant than any other New Year.

By the summer of last year, though, I had begun to think differently. Though it was still an arbitrary date, there’s significance in a new decade. This would be the fifth turning of a decade in my lifetime; an event that comes rarely and often marks change. When looking backwards we talk about “the seventies,” “the eighties,” “the nineties” and so on as blocs of time. Whatever the 2020s was going to bring – and whether I’d still be alive by the end of it – it was going to be a change. A new bloc.

The impending beginning of a new decade pushed me to take the plunge and start a website.

That was the mindset I was in when I decided I wanted to make a website. For several years I’d been commenting on videos on YouTube and on social media posts, but I wanted a space of my own where I could discuss what I wanted to at my own pace. I began looking at website-building options, and after considering a few possibilities I settled on WordPress. Crazy Uncle Dennis was born.

The site has evolved massively since I made that first post. Firstly, I stated back then that reviews “are not really my main purpose,” yet I’ve since reviewed 25+ individual Star Trek episodes and several films! I’ve also gotten better with the way I use images, as well as selecting a better overall layout for the site – at least, I think those are improvements! Unfortunately I don’t have any screenshots of the site as it looked back in November last year, but I do have all of the logos and such that I made – mostly in Microsoft Paint. If you’re a regular reader, perhaps you’ll remember some of these:

The original logo from November 2019. It was in use for a few weeks into December.
The second version of the logo kept the Star Trek & Star Wars fonts but changed up the colours, and moved to a narrower format.
By the spring of 2020 I’d changed to this orange logo with a “warp speed” background.
This logo was not in use for very long at all, but features a cool “eclipse” background.
In the summer I switched to this logo, retaining the orange colour and crooked text but moving to a ground-based “staring up at the stars” background.
By late August I’d adopted this style, and the green “D” became the site’s mini logo.

Well that was a trip down memory lane, eh?

As someone who enjoys writing, having somewhere to publish my musings and thoughts on some of these topics has been incredibly helpful. When I first imagined creating a website, this is what I hoped I’d be able to achieve: posting a selection of articles on the topics I find interesting within the entertainment realm. And when I look back on the past year’s pieces, that’s exactly what I’ve done. Occasionally the site can feel like a burden, but those deadlines are self-imposed. There are no real consequences for me if I don’t publish a review of a Star Trek episode within a couple of days of its broadcast! But in a way, that self-imposed pressure to write to an imaginary deadline spurs me on, and at no point have I felt like I’m writing out of obligation rather than enjoyment. If I had felt that way, I probably would have taken a break.

It isn’t my intention for this website to grow into something large and unwieldy, with a huge social media following. That might seem odd, but I measure success less by the number of people clicking on a page and more by what I got out of writing a post. That’s something I learned over the summer when I challenged myself to try to write every day – something I can keep up for a while, but not indefinitely. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a Twitter account, Facebook page, or any other social media attached to this website. The posts here speak for themselves, and while some have been shared on social media, they weren’t shared by me. That’s not because I don’t want criticism or want to fly under the radar because I write controversial things, but I feel that if Crazy Uncle Dennis were ever spun out into a “brand” with a huge following, the pressure to write to deadlines and to push out content would grow. I don’t enjoy writing under those circumstances, as I found out when I took on that daily posting challenge.

A lovely stock photo of someone typing.

So after a year, what am I proudest of? That’s a good question – and the answer is right above you: the Greatest Hits page. Those articles are my favourites, where I feel I put out some of my best work. In particular I’d point to my essay on the Borg, my two-part teardown of Game of Thrones Season 8, my critique of television licensing in the UK, and finally, my piece on objectivity and subjectivity that I find myself frequently referencing in other columns, particularly any time I’m about to give a potentially controversial opinion. Those pieces, I feel, all accomplished what I set out to, and I wrote them about as well as I could write anything.

There aren’t many things from this past year that I’m disappointed with or that I would want to cover up. Perhaps I could’ve been less critical of The Mandalorian in my first post discussing the show; I stand by most of the points but perhaps I’d reword some of them to be less confrontational. When it comes to the new generation of games consoles, Xbox in particular, I’ve blown hot and cold on them and as a result, my output on next-gen gaming in general might look a bit confused if you tried to read all of it. In general I feel that both companies made mistakes in the run-up to launch, such as concealing their prices until the last minute. However, I didn’t mean for that to detract from anyone’s enjoyment or excitement for new consoles, and despite the problems with pre-orders and stock availability, I hope both machines are a success. Otherwise I don’t think I’ve published any “hot takes” that I’d like to retract… famous last words!

Hopefully no angry mob is coming for me… yet.

Occasionally, after having published a review or other article, I’ll stumble upon someone else’s take on the same episode, film, or subject, and they’ll make a very good point that I wish I’d thought of! I want my reviews and writings to be my own thoughts first and foremost, so I’ll never read reviews or critics’ opinions before I sit down to write my own review – something I make very clear in my methodology page. Within the Star Trek fan community there are a few reviewers and critics whose articles or videos I regularly check out, but only after writing my own reviews.

So having looked back, it’s time to look forward. What will 2021 bring?

The short answer is probably more of the same. I have no immediate plans to make major changes to the website or the kind of things I do here, so as we move through this holiday season and into the new year I expect to keep up with posting several new pieces each week on topics relating to – as I say at the top – “Star Trek, gaming, and the wide world of geekdom.” I have a few articles in the pipeline that are in various stages of being worked on, and of course I’ll continue to cover major developments as I see fit.

For those of you who have become regular readers over this past year, thank you for your support. If you’re new here, welcome. I hope you find something interesting to read.

See you out there!

– Crazy Uncle Dennis
Monday, 30th November 2020

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