I suppose I owe everyone an explanation at this point. It’s somehow already been half a year since my last contact, after all, outside of Patreon and occasionally answering emails. At least my videos have proven to be successful, with my two most recent additions heading towards a combined figure of 1 million views between them. My only regret is my inability to work faster and make more.
Outside of my closest inner circle, I have left a lot of people unfairly hanging. Good friends who I haven’t talked to for much of the year. I cut Discord out of my life back in March because I felt it was too much of a timesink, and now I find it very difficult to get back into the swing of things. If you’re reading this because I sent you this link, do not take my extremely long absence as personal. I just burnt out and needed some time to work on getting my name out there, which I feel has been moderately successful but does require more work. If we were very close, chances are I gave you external contact details that would allow you to talk to me off the website, some of which I even included in my videos. I do want to get back into a regular routine but I find it increasingly difficult to do so.
For me, the problem has a multitude of layers. First of all, as an individual I have a lot of responsibilities. This includes running (or at least attempting to run) the Gearknob Wiki, which is the culmination of 3+ years of work on the defunct (as far as I’m concerned) Top Gear Wiki over on Fandom, and as I’m sure you’re well aware, was made with the intention of documenting everything to do with automotive journalism. Every issue of every major magazine ever released, every episode of every major TV series such as Top Gear, Fifth Gear, and The Grand Tour, and to ultimately become the definitive resource for anything pertaining to figures within Top Gear and the work they achieved throughout their careers.
The Wiki is now open to the public, and has been for over a month as a matter of fact, and can be registered on, if you are willing to contribute. Of course, there’s a laundry list of requirements and recommendations anyone who wishes to join should read first, but it is now open for business at long last, and all it required was for me to reinstall MediaWiki from scratch, upgrading to 1.38 from 1.36 to install the Confirm User plugin I was waiting for. It is quite annoying how the software by default doesn’t have features many MediaWiki project users such as myself are used to, such as the user confirmation and timelines, and my host has done zero favours by locking me out of the SSH service I paid for (but I am in no mood to talk to them about it since their customer service is almost non-existent), but every last hiccup is more or less sorted now.
I also figured out how to set a favico, so that’s another plus. All I need to do now is get the website and its wiki listed and indexed on Google, since I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it does not appear online, even using the “site:” function. I will need to talk to some people about sorting this out, since it means my audience is much smaller than it should be.
There’s also the remastered versions of Top Gear episodes I’ve been working on. To avoid completely burning myself out, I have decided to focus solely on the pre-HD series, with HD episodes to come later once I figure out how to clean up the BBC HD broadcasts without the interlacing artefacts. To remaster them, I have upscaled the original footage, added deleted scenes from the many DVD releases and internet bonus clips that have since been long deleted from the official Top Gear website, and will aim to have all this out for December if I can so you can enjoy the episodes in a closer manner to the way the original editors likely intended before all the cuts needed to be made for broadcasting purposes. They have been completed with accurate subtitles and chapters.
The next issue is to do with writing scripts for videos. At the moment, I have three fully completed scripts (one for Hot Wheels, one for Richard Hammond, and one that was supposed to be the video I’d planned all year to drop on the 20th) that I couldn’t work on because I was unable to completely record the vocal sections due to a throat infection I sustained in the first half of September which then proceeded to make me ill twice in the span of one month. I still managed to get a video made for that date as a consolation, but unfortunately you can’t watch it on YouTube because of alleged copyright infringement, even though it is a critique of the episode, and covers its backstory, which would fall under most definitions of “Fair Use”. Certainly more so than thieving twats like Van Inhalin who just upload the original segments verbatim. You can watch this video on my Patreon if you’re interested, but it’s unlikely it will be ever be uploadable to YouTube in its current form. What’s more, even as of today, I still have this cough which makes it hard to record without a whole bunch of cuts and artificially lengthens my production process.
Recording is also a very time-limited affair. Due to living in a house shared by 3 other family members, which has three birds (two budgies and one very noisy cockatiel for those interested), as well as neighbours who have two loud dogs, I have a limited number of hours that I can record the vocals for my scripts without interruptions. Often, I can only record in 30 minute stints before one of these pennies drop and I’m forced to abandon recording until things quieten down. The microphone that I bought, a very cheap Zingyou, has a seemingly non-functional pop filter that means I have to manually edit out a lot of my mouth noises and exhales in post. It’s far better than my phone, but doesn’t save as much time as I initially hoped. There’s also the fact recording forces me into a very uncomfortable posture with my seat lowered to its maximum and the microphone on top of a sturdy box to give it enough height so I can speak on the same level into it. If I had a microphone with a filter that at least did its job and a stand that allowed it to be suspended higher in the air, I’d be able to record much more quicker and efficiently than I am presently able to do. I’d still need to manually space out my re-takes, but it wouldn’t take as long as it currently does. Of the 10 days it took me to produce the 20th anniversary video from the completed script, the first 5 of those were dedicated to recording and cutting up the vocals due to all the re-takes necessitated by my condition.
Outside of my work, this year has been very stressful for me, largely due to sociopolitical reasons completely outside of my control. The ongoing calamity in Eastern Europe has worried me from day one, mostly because of a very good friend of mine by the nickname of Professor who resides in the Ukraine and has personally helped me out a lot. I last checked in with him around April, and given how the conflict has only continued, I genuinely do not know if he’s okay and will only find out after this has already been posted. He has been in my thoughts this whole time.
There is also the impending and ongoing shortages of many key resources. Because the Western world has spent the past 20-odd years chasing clean energy rather than self-sufficiency and independency from Eurasian power sources, it means it’s increasingly likely I, along with millions of other British citizens will have to endure periods of no electricity. A notion that was unthinkable for around the last 70 years, and something that I haven’t even thought about since vacationing in my father’s native Lebanon back in 2008. The worst part about all of this is for some reason, world governments seem to be completely ignorant of this plight. They have gone full Marie Antoinette in suggesting people drive expensive, brand new electric cars and are instead focusing on non-issues over the common needs of the people. And this is on top of bare-faced denial that there is an economic crisis in the first place, like some politicians are attempting to argue.
My main worry, and I hate having to sully the quality of my content by constantly begging, is money. I am operating within the most of my means. Hardly any of the money donated has gone towards anything fun; rather I’ve simply been buying up issues of the magazines with the eventual aim of digitisation, as well as other rare, older Top Gear content that I plan to make future videos with. If you can help out, it would be very much appreciated. Again, I’m well aware of the situation everyone finds themselves in at the moment, and understand things may be worse off than they normally would be.
The easy way out of this is to apply for a sponsorship, but I simply refuse to do this as a matter of principle. I would rather earn £100, knowing that it was achieved purely from hard work, sweat and tears, than to earn £1000 largely from the welcoming coffers of a mobile game studio, audiobook service or personal grooming company that otherwise does not care about my content but will still necessitate that I butcher it to talk about their product. I will never stoop to that level.
Had I made my “Three Idiots” video a year earlier, I likely would not have had this issue. Two years earlier, I still had the comfort of grant money that had been generously donated to me during my Undergraduate course at University.
In other, more positive news, I am overjoyed that the BBC are finally beginning to earnestly embrace Top Gear’s past incarnations, not just the Clarkson/Hammond/May formula, but all that came before it. The saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and this rings especially true for Top Gear. Without Noel Edmonds’ scathing critiques on the Fiat Strada, William Woollard building the show into a respected name within the field of automotive journalism, and Jeremy Clarkson’s subsequent tenure on the show, the Top Gear that you see before you today would not exist.
The next stage from here is for them to digitise all 549 episodes of pre-2002 Top Gear instead of just the introduction sequences and little clips they upload as part of the BBC Archive, as well as properly re-digitising the standard definition episodes so that they are not compressed to hell and at their original framerate of 50 FPS. Should the BBC do that, they will have earned my everlasting respect. I still vainly hope for a complete, 22 series Blu-Ray box set packed to the gills with extras including production stills and all the deleted scenes posted to the website, but something like that is a mammoth task that those working within the BBC are unlikely to ever undertake.
So, here’s what I’m likely going to do from here on in.
I will continue to work as I have done. Key updates will be posted on Patreon.
I may start a new Discord server, either one towards my videos (once I get a bigger audience) or a new one centred around Top Gear, where me and my closest friends have control. I say this because last year, during a much shorter, earlier hiatus where I was undergoing some other personal problems, those I had entrusted the server to had decided to start adding rooms and remodelling the server without my express permission, including a politics room, which I have always despised the idea of as it creates unnecessary tension. I was not consulted once throughout this process and the person I suspect was responsible for this (not naming anyone in particular, but who has otherwise contributed minimally to the project as a whole and has been unnecessarily antagonistic a lot of the time) has been more than a bit of a nuisance.
Finally, I will try and make at least one post here every month. Ideally I want to make one or two each week, but that might not happen with the way I currently am. Until things become more comfortable and I’ve cleared some more of my backlog.
What’s funny is one of the hardest parts of returning to this blog was to actually find a decent layout that didn’t make it look like the same cookie-cutter Web 3.0/Semantic Web jank with big buttons and optimised for mobile displays. For now, I’ve settled on this layout, though it will likely change in the coming months.
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