On The Importance Of Tits And Dragons

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Ian McShane is a master of his craft. I don’t know if I’d call him a genius because that label sometimes discounts the many hours of disciplined work and practice someone puts into their profession. But Ian McShane is a master. Just watch any episode of Deadwood for evidence. But the 73 year old actor has an incredible resume of achievements from “Dallas” to “Pirates Of The Caribbean” to his famous series “Lovejoy.” If I ever have the privilege of meeting him I would shake his hand in Congratulations on a stellar career.

Recently, Mr. McShane has raised the ire of many genre fans for giving away spoilers for his appearance on “Game Of Thrones.” He gave a response in the Telegraph which said, “You say the slightest thing and the internet goes ape…I was accused of giving the plot away, but I just think get a fucking life. It’s only tits and dragons.”

Here’s the original Telegraph article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/03/11/ian-mcshane-game-of-thrones-is-just-tits-and-dragons/

I encourage you to read the entire article because there’s a lot more than just the “tits and dragons” line that made the headline.

And before you get excited, this isn’t a complete rebuke of Ian McShane’s comments. He’s done more than enough in this business to be entitled to whatever opinion he has. Besides, interview quotes are tricky. Was he just joking? Was he rolling his eyes at internet outrage? The quality of “Game Of Thrones” is pretty much undisputed so I’m sure he’d have some very glowing things to say about the script and experience. Of course, the internet being the internet, that’s harder to find than the mean comments.

But he does bring up some interesting points about internet outrage, spoilers and the genre experience.

Ian McShane cannot be more correct when he says “You say the slightest thing and the internet goes ape.” One just has to look at the ongoing feuds between many Bernie Sanders supporters and many Hillary Clinton supporters to know that’s true. Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are putting an exemplary debate exchanging ideas in the political discourse. Some of their surrogates, however, are shouting at each other on talk shows and across social media. (Following the example of those they profess to love is some advice that wouldn’t go amiss.)

As I have explored in these pages, the keyboard can be a sword bringing bravery to many a troll. The black and white image of one quote taken out of context can instill an extreme judgement of “HOW COULD THEY?!?!” when in fact there was much more to the story.

I ain’t mad at McShane’s comments because every once in a while (or maybe every day) internet outrage really does need to be told to chill the fuck out. Judgments shouldn’t be made on one out of context quote, but by meticulously researching all aspects of a story. And I say this from no high horse. This all has to be learned the hard way. (“Well, OF COURSE, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” said I in 2003. We all can be very wrong about who we believe in.)

I was blocked on twitter not that long ago by a fellow Democrat who was losing her mind about Bernie Sanders ATTACKING Barack Obama. Mr. Sanders wasn’t in fact attacking Obama, but just pointing out how his policies differed from the President’s. In a very reasonable manner. It’s also reasonable to guess President Obama wasn’t mad at Senator Sanders comments. Disagreements happen all the time in politics but the mere suggestion that Bernie Sanders wasn’t the enemy lead to a barrage of rage from this person toward myself and several other people. I’m a loyal and proud voter of Barack Obama but I apparently betrayed the cause by not being mad enough at Bernie Sanders it seems.

(I’ve received the same rage by the way from some Bernie supporters for not loving him so much. There is no political bent that is immune to the pitchfork mentality of mob outrage.)

There’s also the matter of spoilers. In this day and age, they’re getting harder and harder to avoid, but as I’ve mentioned before, apps like this can be a lifesaver:

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/unspoiler/oookgbbhgojdebhnmkmhgfagoiknifgi?hl=en-US

Typing in Game Of Thrones into that app might have kept fans safe from the secret being spilled. It’s impossible to ask the whole world to be quiet about spoilers but there are earmuffs out there that we can wear.

But then there’s the matter of dismissing the genre. In all honesty, I don’t think that’s what Ian McShane meant to do. However, for a great number of years, many us who lurked in Comic Book shops have had to deal with our passions being dismissed with an easy wave of the hand. The explosion of genre programming today shows that those passions weren’t just passing phases and they should not have been so easily dismissed.

Recently, even I was gobsmacked by the amount of attention the new “Captain America: Civil War” trailer got. I don’t mean the buzz but I mean voluminous articles breaking down every shot. Spider-Man’s uniform being combed over. New theories about the plot were written in great detail. People went nuts over this trailer. Google it if you don’t believe me.

Why in the hell would anyone spend so much time and energy over a single few minute long trailer?

The answer is quite simple: It’s important to them.

VERY important to them.

Some scoff and say that Comic books, sci-fi and escapist entertainment is nowhere near as important as serious drama. Perhaps not. That is the endless debate between critics and fans.

Then of course some say that people shouldn’t get so emotionally invested in these kind of genre things. It’s not as important as cancer, domestic violence, rape, abuse and all the other horrors of the world that need fixing. “Why don’t people spend more time worrying about that than the new Godzilla movie?” some will ask with furrowed brows of disappointment.

Those furrowed brows are missing a very key point. Cancer, domestic violence, rape, abuse and all the other horrors of the world are WHY genre is so important. The words nerd and geek have now become affectionate labels for those of us who spend time watching the TARDIS materialize or dress in Starfleet uniforms. It’s easy to forget that the words nerd and geek used to be (and maybe still are) some of the worst names you could be called on the playground. Bullies earned their stripes by inflicting as much torment on the geeks at school and as far as dating went? Forget it.

The “It Gets Better Campaign” reminds us these trends are still there despite the mainstream money-machine that genre has become. So when school is a place of abject terror, when home is a hell of domestic violence, when the steel grip of depression keeps you clawed down, it’s hard to know where to turn.

Many people find not just solace and comfort, but pure bliss in the pages of a fantasy novel, the images of comic book or the wild adventures found in deep space. That faraway land isn’t just mindless escapism but where our troubled minds can escape the painful, chaotic asshole that is real life and find some kind of peace.

And that is the one place I would respectfully disagree with the estimable Mr. McShane. Many of the people who are so invested in shows like Game Of Thrones ARE in fact getting themselves a life.

Yup. Genre entertainment can be damn silly. The sets sometimes wobble and the acting can reach over the top proportions.

Yup. Genre entertainment can take itself way too seriously. Fandom can overreact to the slightest changes in canon and should sometimes take a step back a bit. (I still for the life of me do not get the rage at Goyer & Mazin’s She-Hulk jokes. Google that if you don’t believe me or maybe don’t.)

The world is unfair. The world is filled with tragedy that can strike at any second. The world hurts. Genre, escapism and entertainment, I put it to you dear reader is not just spaceships and superheroes. It is medicine for those hurts.

People often ask me if I’m ashamed of the work I did in Reality TV. “Are you kidding?” is usually my reply. I spent more than a decade laboring to entertainment millions upon millions of people. Even some of the small shows I worked in got around 700,000 viewers. That’s a SHIT TON of people when you think about it. If the show I was working on was a way for those folks to unwind, relax from their day and deal with whatever they were stressing out about, I’m not only not ashamed of the show – I am HONORED to have been a part of it.

Yup. Genre entertainment IS people’s lives. And it will always be of vital importance as long as there are hurts that people need healed.

And besides, the description of “Tits and Dragons” I daresay would attract a great number of viewers. I mean, come on, a show about tits and dragons – how can you go wrong?

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The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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The Story So Far: Episodes 1-10

Line-Up

It has a been a whirlwind journey for me since I launched the Express. I went back and forth about this venture because I knew it would require a lot of commitment which would take away from fictional writing and day jobs. But I’m a writer and expressing myself is what I do so I made that commitment and happy to report zero regrets with that decision so far. Incorporating other creative talents into the podcasting element of this blog has been possibly one of the best things I’ve done since joining the entertainment business 11 years ago this very month.

Over the past 6 weeks, I excited and humbled by the talents I’ve been able to wrangle onto the Express. A diversity of occupations, I felt, was vital to give this little venture any credibility. Along the way, we’ve explored the challenges facing women writers, compared writing styles between the US & UK and even managed to pay tribute to recently departed icons. I’ve also been able to pair up with the fantastic Dan & Travis show on iTunes and have joined them on the wonderful Chronic Rift network. I’m overjoyed with the results so far and quite frankly, am very pleasantly surprised at how quickly this little venture has grown.

I’m just a one man operation self-promoting on social media but I am exploring some exciting promotional options to help spread the word. I’m excited about the listenership numbers (47 countries have either read or tuned in) but based on all the positive feedback I’ve received I’m going to do my best to keep building the audience. To that end, I continue to ask: If you enjoy what you’re reading and hearing on the Express, please don’t be shy about posting on facebook, twitter, pinterest, twiter, google+, wherever and yes, twitter is probably the best promotional tool we have right now. We live in a time of saturated media so we all have to promote the things we enjoy so they get noticed.

Thank you very much especially to Megan Karasch, Tim Bannock, Mark Askren, Arnold T Blumberg, Shannan Leigh Reeve & Chelese Belmont of Beleeve Entertainment and Dan & Travis for their extra efforts in shouting the word about the Express far and wide.

If this is the first post your reading, welcome, I hope you enjoy!  Below are the first 10 episodes of the Handsome Timmy D Express which explores various aspects of the creative life and screenwriting and the entertainment business from various corners of the entertainment business:

EPISODE 1 – World-renowned DJ Matt The Cat takes us through the world of radio – and soul music:

 

EPISODE 2 – Award winning screenwriter Megan Karasch gives a guide to self-publishing and writing sitcom pilots:

 

EPISODE 3 – Director & Digital Media Producer Mike Doto on what a director does &  the ever-changing digital landscape:

 

EPISODE 4 – Awesome podcasters Dan & Travis one what podcasting actually is all about:

 

EPISODE 5 – Independent film producers Beleeve Entertainment on following your vision & their movie Penumbra:

 

EPISODE 6 – Director of Television Research Brian Veys tells us how TV Ratings work:

 

EPISODE 7 – Writer Joseph Lidster on writing about & with depression as well as some Torchwood & Dark Shadows:

 

EPISODE 8 – Publicist AJ Feuerman on image management & brand-building:

 

EPISODE 9 – College Professor & Author Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg on the mythology of zombies and comic books:

 

EPISODE 10 – Stand-up Comedian Talia Harari remembers Joan Rivers & talks about the challenges facing women in comedy:

 

And it’s just the beginning, Episode 11 will be posted tomorrow (and it’s wicked good) and I’ve got some great guests lined up throughout the fall and winter. The Handsome Timmy D Express goes onward…

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Writing With A Dark Shadow: An Interview With Joseph Lidster

Before Doctor Who returned in 2005 to become the huge global phenom it is today, a company called Big Finish got the license to produce first-run, full-cast audio dramas. And I’m happy to report they are still going strong to this day. Many of the stories were as good as any Doctor Who on TV (before or since) and several authors in particular stood out from the crowd in taking the good Doctor to brave, new frontiers. One of those authors was Joseph Lidster and I’m very excited that he’s my guest on today’s episode.

JL HS

Joseph’s story “Master” which was part of the Doctor Who’s 40th anniversary villains trilogy in 2003 was a gothic murder mystery that unabashedly explored the nature of good and evil within one’s soul. I hated Joseph Lidster when I first heard this play because I thought it was simply brilliant. I remain inspired by the piece’s clear cut characters and unapologetic tackling of difficult themes.

  DW7C_161              DW7C_71          dsa21thecrimsonpearl_cover_large

When Doctor Who did return, the credit “Written By Joseph Lidster” found it’s way to our screens on the highly popular spin-off series’ Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, where Joseph continued to take the lead characters on dark – and often humorous – explorations of their nightmares and their fears. Joseph has since written for the TV show Wizards and Aliens which was produced by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford. Also for Big Finish, Joseph has written for and produced their licensed line of Dark Shadows audio plays. He’s currently working on a new mini-series for the line coming soon called “Bloodlust.” 

With the shadow of Robin Williams’ suicide still cast, this is an open and honest discussion about writing about and with clinical depression. Joseph and I swam in some deep waters here which I feel are very beneficial to the overall conversation as we try to expand our understanding of depression and mental illness.  I hope you enjoy:

The Big Finish plays we talked about are available here:

http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-rapture-202

http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/master-215

For more on Bloodlust, coming soon:

http://www.bigfinish.com/ranges/coming_soon_reverse/dark-shadows—bloodlust

-Big Finish produces several ranges of fantastic audio plays. Check them out here:

http://www.bigfinish.com

 Joseph Lidster can be found on the internet here:

https://twitter.com/joelidster

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Lidster

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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The Crazy Ones

Robin_Williams

Writers write things when tragedy happens. And as a member of the entertainment industry, how can I not share thoughts after the sudden and shocking suicide of Robin Williams?

As tributes go, just look on your facebook. It’s accurate to say that everyone’s social media is packed with personal favorite quotes, scenes and memories of Robin Williams who reached truly iconic status. Everyone from the local cab driver to Rowdy Roddy Piper to President Obama expressed deep sadness online at the loss. Even ISIS took a break from their attempted genocide to mourn Robin Williams.

To us, Robin Williams was more than an actor or comedian. He was part of the very fabric of our pop culture. He was a real-life wind-up toy never slowing down. He was a lovable alien and not just because of his Mork from Ork character. He was the same as us but different. It seemed like there was no possible embarrassment for his outrageous antics and while some of his movies weren’t always successful, he always was. Somehow Robin Williams was indefatigable, unstoppable, tireless. The world without Robin Williams – did anyone ever contemplate such a thing?

But he wasn’t those things. Not really. He was a human being. So many who have worked with him have expressed the memory of his endless kindness. But beneath that kindness was a vast mystery and that mystery is one we, as a people, are just scratching the surface of.

In the wake of Mr. Williams death, something extraordinary and courageous has happened. Social media feeds are now also being filled with people’s own battles with “mental illness.” I’ve seen blogs, facebook posts and even short but profound tweets in which people are opening up about this, the most misunderstood battle of the human experience. Battles, wars even, with depression, bipolar disorder, suicidal tendencies, you name it, think of whatever mental ailment and I guarantee you know not someone – but MANY people who’ve battled it.

And in addition to the many people you know, maybe you yourself are one caught in such a torment. Yet, with such a universality of cases, one thing many of those caught in the throes of this illness feel is a desperate sense of loneliness.

I wrote “mental illness” in quotes because as term it’s incredibly inadequate. The wide ranging scope of mental illnesses out there is hard to fathom but we shove them all under a catch-all umbrella thinking that explains everything. Imagine walking into a restaurant and when the server asks what you’d like to drink, you answer “Liquid.” THAT’S how we as a society treat “mental illness.” God almighty, talk about lunacy.

Yesterday was a very emotional day for me because I learned some things about quite a few people that I did not know. That I would not even suspect in a million years. We’re all talented at hiding our deepest shame from the world at large, aren’t we?

Now again, privacy forbids name-dropping, those people will tell their stories to those they want to share with, but I believe I can say I’ve had several close friends battle with deep mental illness before. In some cases, I hope I was able to help. I’m ashamed to say that I know of mutual friends who didn’t take these battles with mental illness seriously. I can’t point fingers, though, I’m guilty of the same with others I wasn’t very close to.

But yesterday’s public outpouring, which was almost confessional, from so many about their mental illnesses really brought home something I’ve wondered about casually for a long time and am now more convinced than ever.

We are all crazy.

And I don’t mean that in a bad, judgmental way. I mean that in the “it’s time to come to terms with who the crazy people are” way. THEY are actually US.

Do you know how many different mental illnesses there are? 300 and counting.

Do you know how many people suffer from a mental illness? 61 million a year, 14 million permanently.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg:

http://www.nami.org/factsheets/mentalillness_factsheet.pdf

It’s time to admit, we know nothing about this stuff but make critical judgments and engage in, sometimes very cruel, behaviors armed with that complete lack of knowledge. Except for our own personal experiences, of course. Because if you can look in the mirror and say you’ve never experienced some sort of mental imbalance, some sort of emotional instability, some sort of destructive irrationality – sorry, but you’re lying to yourself and you will never convince me otherwise.

My deep confession? Well, it’s hard but I’ve shunned the mentally ill for much of my life. Unfortunately – and in some cases tragically – I or people I love have been harmed greatly by some people’s mental illness. The specifics of these events are not for me to share, dear reader. We’ve got to keep somethings private on the internet.

Because of those events, I must confess to stigmatizing people unfairly. It was wrong. It’s shameful. It’s something I have to change, because that viewpoint doesn’t fit in today’s society. Not anymore. Now, that doesn’t mean I can completely forgive those who inflicted the harm I’m referring to. I’m not sure I believe that mental illness constitutes a get-out-of-jail free card for some. But that  also doesn’t mean I should hold their actions against those who suffer from something completely different.

Goddammit, mental illness, the more I type the term, the more inadequate it becomes.

So what can we do?

I’m not a medical professional, I’m not a therapist, I’m not a psychiatrist, I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a sociologist. I’m not a escapologist or any other kind of -gist. I’m just a guy with a keyboard who strings some words together to offer to whoever’s reading what I think is some reasonable food for thought. These are by no means the cure-alls, but I’m not one to accept the notion, “There’s nothing we can do to change things.” (Seriously, how does anyone have this worldview? If this was true, I’d be drawing a deer on a cave wall instead of writing this.)

However, if anyone tries to tell me social pressures have nothing to do with these conditions, I’m not even going to listen to their argument. That’s as ridiculous as saying there’s no climate change.

How we treat each others has an enormous influence our individual self-esteems and our collective self-worth. “I don’t care what other people think.” Yeah, you know who really believes that? Psychopaths and sociopaths (also both forms of mental illness by the by.)

I’m not advocating the elimination of joking around and making fun of each other’s foibles, but I think there a certain attitudes and preconceived notions that need to change.

Suicide is NOT a coward’s way out – Fox News’ Shepard Smith (one of the reasonable voices over there) lashed out against Robin Williams calling him a coward. After a barrage of outrage against him, he’s had to apologize and rightfully so. “It’s cowardly,” “It’s selfish,” “It’s weak.” These are the things we say about people who are in such anguish the only recourse they can comprehend is the ending of their own life. It’s not 1994 anymore. It is not accurate, appropriate or in anyway acceptable to call suicide the coward’s way out. It also helps bring no further understanding to the anguish, guilt and hopelessness that bring people to their own destruction. If all we do is sneer at someone’s prison, we’ll never find the key to help get these people out.

“You have issues” – We need to stop saying this to people. We ALL have fucking issues. Standing in higher judgement over someone over this is possibly the most hypocritical thing to do. There is something somewhere in your past that is informing your judgment in an unhealthy way. Guaranteed, as I write this, that last statement is true.

“Get over it” – We need to stop commanding people to do this too. We’ve all heard and said this about people and their various frustrations.  Sure, they do need to get over it. But if it was easy to just get over it, every therapist would be flat broke and there’d be no self-help section in the local bookstore I hope you still have. Think about your worst heartbreak, firing, broken friendship, betrayal. Think about what you had to do to come peace with that event and carry on living healthily. Now, think how absurd it is to judge others for not finishing that journey yet. My God, the temerity of someone to be emotional confused – how dare they? 

“You’re oversensitive.” – I’ve gotten this one a lot. Maybe this is my big confessional. I’m very emotional. I’ve been known to shed a tear over great movies and favorite TV shows quite frankly. The last episode of Blake’s 7, forget about it. (I seriously don’t know if I can watch An Adventure In Time And Space again.) When someone says something that hurts my feelings and I bring it up, “God, you’re oversensitive” is many a response. (Though mind you, I’ve seen the same people get just as sensitive if not more so when THEIR feelings are hurt) But fine, I’m oversensitive. My question is so what? So fucking what? I’ve been call this a lot but I’ve never been given a valid reason why this is any bad thing.

(And maybe I’m being too conciliatory here. I put my words out there across the big bad internet, inviting scorn and criticism from all corners of the globe. Not bad for someone so sensitive.)

But the point is – are we really taking people’s feelings into enough consideration? Isn’t that what consideration means? Is it really truly so hard to go through life being careful not to hurt each other’s feelings? The words we say to other people are not forgotten the next day, they will stick with that person for months, maybe even years or decades. There’s a lot of hurt feelings I’ve inflicted I wish I could take back. Best I can do though, is try not to hurt anyone going forward.

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” A nice schoolyard saying but total bullshit. Words gut people’s self-worth. Words break people’s hearts. Words ruin people’s lives.

Words are like the ocean, if you don’t respect them, then a lot of harm will be done.

Should we tell people on the receiving end of cruelty to suck it up, or maybe would should tell other people to stop doing savage shit like this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/13/zelda-williams-quits-twitter-robin_n_5674501.html

End The Stigma – This is another one I’m guilty of. Very guilty of. I’ve turned my back to some knowing that I’m not qualified to help. But is that really good enough a reason? Some people, of course, have closed themselves off to help and may be impossible to reach. But is that reason not to try? I know lots of folks who have been through therapy, rehab and hardcore psychoanalysis. They don’t deserve our scorn. They don’t deserve our pity. They don’t deserve anyone looking down their nose at them. They deserve our respect. They deserve our admiration. They recognized a serious problem and had the Goddamn guts to say “I will not live like this and I need help to get better.” They deserve a standing ovation from the rest of us. Because the rest of us may need their advice when we say “I will not live like this and I need help to get better.”

I saw also on some threads that the phrase “demons” is no longer an acceptable term for mental illness. I actually think it’s a good metaphor but if dropping that saying helps in the long run, so be it. We’ve all got to open to new understandings on this front.

Quick side-note: I’ve had many a heated and informed debate with people about gun control. Many people on the pro-gun side have pointed to mental illness as the real issue behind the now-weekly-almost-daily shootings. (1 dead, 2 injured just now in Santa Ana, CA) I’m all ears. Whatever we can do to keep guns out of the hands of those who are not in a sound state of mental health, let’s do it. (That is a form of gun control but shh, don’t tell gun rights folks)

We don’t follow our bliss. It’s stunning to me. We jump headfirst into a rat race which brings us lots of things. Ephemera like houses, cars, fancy clothes, and all that. Don’t get me wrong, I love nice things. I would like to have a jacuzzi and closet full of expensive suits like I was Ric Flair. Why not? But they are all byproducts of happiness, not the cause of it. When you ask people what really truly makes them happy, what gives them a bliss-state, they’re going to say a lot of things, but if they’re honest it won’t be any physical item that’s the source of their contentment. Paychecks give you security. Status gives you a table by the window. Nice things gives you jealous neighbors. Happiness is a much more difficult pursuit to define. Some of us (ahem) have made a enormous material and financial sacrifices to follow that happiness. Some of us walk a different path than everyone else’s rat-race. That is not crazy, that is not sick, that is deserving of no harsh judgement. Just the opposite. Happiness is the goal, not the nice house on the hill. 

Something’s got to change. We all have to open our minds to new ways of thinking, new ways of understanding, new ways of helping. Because when a man who lived in one of the most beautiful and serene parts of the country, when a man who rose to become one of the very best at his chosen profession, when a man who had more money than he could spend, when a man who overcame powerful addictions, when a man who had a loving family, when a man who made everyone on the planet laugh (not sure that’s an exaggeration) – when he finds himself in a place of agonizing hopelessness, we’re all doing something wrong.

It’s been a long time since this person walked the Earth, but we still haven’t learned his greatest lesson:

BeKindMeme

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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