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Interview: Mindy Johnson and the Women of Disney, Pt. 1

2018-09-24 | 🔗

Mindy Johnson has spent years tracking down the stories of the women who shaped Walt Disney's life, and the success of the Walt Disney Studios. She contextualizes the lives and contributions of these women in the larger historical picture. 

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
How are you feeling today right now? How are you feeling about the world you live in? You want to make the world better, so you know how I'm not sure I do, but you know who did Mister Rogers, I'm Carmelo Wallace, post of finding Fred, a podcast about Fred Rogers from Iheartmedia and father me here all ten episodes defining friend on the Iheart radio broadcasts more wherever you listen work until stuff. You missed in history class from how stuff works, tat, come Callao, unwelcome upon cast I'm Holly fry, and I'm crazy, be well then, and today have an interview. It is an interview that I was actually trying to get for the animation podcast drawn that I did earlier this year, but the timing just did not work out, but thankfully, this personal,
talking to is also a perfect guest for this show. So the person He has interviewed is mended Johnson and she is a creator see as an author historian, filmmaker and music in, and she came under my reader when a friend of mine told me about a talk that mini gave that shit ended about her recent book, which is called ink in paint the women of wealth these animation. The book covers ground that has really been exists. And before now, and that's what life was like for women at the studio through the years and how so many women innovating the medium of animation in the United States, but they didn't become household names. The way their male counterparts did his interview was so difficult to press. For, because this book is real, substantial and there are so many really fantastic bits of information, and I wanted to ask me about every single one of them, but even with a rather brutally pared down list she nicely
for over an hour and a half, so we are actually going to run this interview over to episodes. This is also territory I think are listeners have asked about before we ve had requests for some the episode about women and animation, nor or women in the world of Disney. So this is a great fit yeah There's a heads up. If you think this is just a Disney episode boy. Are you in first prize has really it has just a lot to do about. Women in the labour market and how their rights and glue Things going on at the same time all interacted with one another so will hop right into it. So it is such a massive book. It is so dense with information, and there really brings to light a lot of subject matter that has never really been explored before to the best of knowledge in book form. So I'm wondering what that research process was like for you. Well, it involved everything from what on late night and digging into people
going on digging under ban digging through bankers, boxes of material and scrap book than love. Letters then just a whole round so I think a lot of fun calling a lot of digging, literally and figuratively, into these women and their families? And when I first went into the main cereal archive, it was a little difficult and that they had elected material on various film and we could go through all turn rise, early ledgers because initially focusing on the aid can paint teams.
It was very materials based, but I, when I asked for any information they had on the women and the role that they perform, presumably in income paint, I was handed a folder that had five pieces of paper and it was a real testament that history is preserved, written about archived undocumented from a male perspective, and we don't think about women and their participation rules and an when you step back from now. And realise that literally two sides have moved liberalization forward, both men and women. And yet, when we look back at our collective past, your only thing happened. Picture. We only know half of that story and that there were women.
from the very beginning in any historical conduct. But we just tap never document that. So in this instance, The reason why this book was large- and I I got about eight month into my research when I initially pitch the idea to my ended we thought we both thought. It would be a charming little volume, because we. The only narrative we had been told to with
women and their roles and animation was essentially the log line, a pretty girl to truth in color, and I we thought it would be. This terming book about T kick the dating social life and activities that went on, and that would be at an incredible each month in bed called her and said I, but this is massive: it, the epic. These women were at the forefront of so much and I dont even bigger than what we thought and I don't know how it out and I had kind of get my head exist with the real waited feeling of. Oh, my god. This is this is massive and I kept digging you. She do said. Okay, deep breath, keep going well.
Enlarge the trim five and the page out, keep going. After all, it was a very termed an end up fortuitous thing, and I was so grateful that she saw what this is about, and it really has been shifting people's minds tat, shifting the paradigm that with labour for centuries and evil realizing the century of animation. But even beyond meant that leave we vote were locked out looked path. We they ve, been unseen, an invisible for too long and its time cannot change, and it is certain fascinating to me than this. West essentially started with five pieces of paper and ended up this really manage without work, but does not cover so much ground. If someone is going to it thinking, they are only getting the story of women
animation. They will be surprised because it covers the history of film and animation. It puts all of those works on much bigger time. Line of things that are happening in the world nothing to do with any sort of entertainment. Why you wanted to put everything in that sort of depth of context? What isn't that nice to have your expectations, He did not answer and it was important
The warm me to convey it was important to understand the contact the time period when you get to something like an hour newspaper article that comes up with the nineteen thirty were Walt Disney is quoted thing. I don't know why, but for some reason women dont have the power well in the early nineteen, thirty animation was Pratt Paulson Physical Comedy and flapped thick and really stemming out upon villain, and there was a lot of physical movement emotion and the perceptions of what where women were and what women could do if thereat and not the best point today, imagine how they were in the nineteen. Thirty till it was important warm me to convey to the reader to place them into a derived you experience of history. We heard a jury
rather than a mere near look at where we where women have been. Because women have always been there, so it was important to understand on and for me my question was very well: when did women move into the workplace? I found that particularly fascinating and it is important to sort of establishing this over arching, true line of when we think about it. At the time again you Walt Disney as an example when he was in Kansas City working on his earlier the tablets in his lap, a grandmother thing, women had only have the right to vote for maybe a year or so in nineteen twenty women were granted for abilities with the nineteen amendments to vote show when you placed in it contact. Oh yeah, isn't it suddenly pretty remarkable arc to realize
When you realise that we get to the nineteen fifty, you have believing artist did they studio a single mother. She with widowed she had two children. She was the breadwinner. She had to get one her fellow animators, to go with her to the bank to co sign alone. So she could get a car that was the reality for women yeah. We were not able to have their own bank accounts, are on credit cards and were in the late seventy than men. Women could get credit cards and their need show when you understand the civil rights Movement, the war, how the war impacted thing, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement in the seventies and more were still working through that its then start to make sense. Why whereat the place, whereas today for women, because we we ve, never track that her story
and for younger readers, especially in ITALY, but it's important that they understand where we come from and where we still have to get to shift the balance and even things out with that. Women are still at a very good horrible percentage within the entertainment and true today? And yet, when you go back to the very beginning, they were out of sixty to seventy percent without people Shea lowest Weber, Dorothy answered Mary. Mary Frances Anita, lose many. The early women of violent film and who established the narrative storytelling lieutenant that we still use today when women who establishing visual roughly thing as filmmakers with a very worthwhile, but women were right there and yet for some
reason, their written out of a history book is the way to balance that I love all of that context, because it makes the story seem a little less quaint and a little more wavy, which I really like about it and one of the other things that I really enjoyed is. There is a section at the beginning of your book where you feature a bunch of different women that all influenced Walt Disney Life, in various ways? And there are some really good stories there? Do you have a favorite among those early influencers? Well, I was in Craig and I certainly knew about his grandmother and and how she was grandmother hasn't had employed for those of us who have been blocked with grandmother. Was she really instilled this love story and narrative and imagination? And for me, it's really has been early relative than educator and when I think
back on the influences that they had on me. As a writer and they'll make early storyteller an educator, and they really thereupon people in the early stages of my life and career. And I think it hopefully listeners are the thinking back to people who help that influence on them and is an important part of what does, the tapestry of who we are and what we bring forward in our own experiences. Jumper me, I was really fascinating to go back in and get an standing up where they see it were planted in people like Walt Disney and their impact how they shape, who they were the person and then ultimately their career.
their impact on our life. And when you get to like Daisy back his his teacher, I left the fact that she made education again to an important part of what are utilised when I'm teaching, rather than a half to show, when I think back to the influences that certain educators and relatives and friends and colleagues have had on my life and career, and I'm sure listeners can do the same. There were certain people who stood out and that we hold a special place in. I founded fascinating likely the Reynolds that, when war establishing has very tiny, laugh again, you do. You know it was a strong statement that there be a woman in there as well and that it wasn't this all male.
world and went out in looking at this industry through a woman LAN interrupt looking for the women. They were there rather than the sort of unconscious bias where we can The two women were not there. We did not even look for that. Show that have been counting is to get people heard of wake up. I realise that the very fact that procreation command, that we have women. our society is right. Of course, women are there. The numbers may not be a strong, but it's important that we look for them. I've been doing a lot of speaking to researchers and students, studying history and research too, actively birch actively look for the women in the room because they were there in some capacity and
contributing in some manner. In the other thing. To is that we don't. They said there is the sort of natural default where we were just automatically at the fall through the mail, and I think, by shifting the being more conscious about and actively, Speaking out, it's a little more counting to find women because of name changes. Then multiple marriages or all the time they may go. A nickname more so than men, and it does make it a little more challenging but not impossible. I really like that many mentioned that women can be harder to track than men in the historical, even in the last century? Just because of things like marriages and name changes that may be aren't always super. Well, documented. Then they are later a little bit harder to find coming up. This interview turns to
Talk of studio, romances and first we're going to have a quick sponsor break this episode of stuff you missed in history class is brought to you by Norton three hundred and sixty with Lifelock your shopping online with your smartphone. It's super feels, like your personal information, is just right there in your hand, but that's not always the case, because, as soon as you hit submit, your personal information could start going. Other places. In fact, whenever you shop Bank or browse online, your personal invoking get out of your control, and that can we be vulnerable to cyber criminals. More threats demand more protection, that's why Norton and Lifelong are now part of one company, Norton, three
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One other things when you talk about in your book, which seems like it would naturally happen regardless, is that there was a rather common events of studio romances cropping up. I imagine when you have a huge department of women that is disproportionately huge for probably compared to other industries or companies working alongside a large group of men like eventually there are lots of romances that pop up. Will you talk about that a little bit and sort of the social aspect of it, but also that the more famous romance that came out of it you know again read these basic stories that had been told that had service with the ongoing notion that the animation a permanent, was the monastery and the Inca Paint building was the number they had different little pet name, but in for
if the EU and have essentially a kind of dating pool that was started, the match, dot com and because you had this poem of women, but again placing them to content This is a pre, unique area because the other areas of industry, women were relegated to separate areas, pepper pool in some instances of various office. Buildings had separate elevators Mozilla better than men celebrated as women are moving into industry and, above all, others subject on a whole on her pod gap. But as women are moving into a tree. It presented new challenges for the very male dominated entrenched data, day factories and and other instances,
where women were beginning to move into and ass the numbers grew circumstances the cage, but for the most part it was always challenging at me in within animation at busy and not others do to him they produce they at the other studious as well sure you do have men and women in separate divisions in an apartment. Women were there a in secretarial role and making advancement in who editorial end and in other areas, but working side by side being a paint teams always seem to be heard of the dating pool, and they were always activities
he's got a friend and people were much more social activity, dances things like that were a big part of the scene as well, so there were contracted a baseball games at the one shower Latham really great opportunity to make the need back. There would be bored com, oh and take a jedi. Eight band would play and the lunch hour in one of the sound pages or right outside the animation building until couples one pair often damn them the great weight, a kind of get so swollen and speed, Your lunch hour gathering and seeing people, because the work they weren't doing with very focused, very sudden Terry needed at those desk shall wall realize it was important to have a kind of a good. Will. We then a good out what to keep his artist balance.
There were lots of romance a number of the lady who said I met in all three of my husband or do we want a great source of buying good dating material. There a lot of character than a lot of unsuccessful relationship two, but there were always showers in baby showers and who was an interesting progression where the first generation of young women coming in were career women, which were trailblazing at the time, and as they were dating in meeting and getting married, as was the standard in the twenty thirty or forty days and beyond one you got married, women left the job and and then it was expected to be raising family being at home
for some women. That was too much. It was a challenge. I have a couple of with tat. You know when that occurred. My first marriage I had my son, my child and out, I died. I was expected to stay at home and they cookies old. and here I had trained, but I wanted my career and animation and yet society permit in a lot of weight, partially politically, economically, even in here the nineteenth dab. Indeed, one of the women who, with the head of a major part and when she and her husband, were applying for their first home loan. The bank would not look at her income,
they wouldn't come here. She had what ran a department at a major studio, but they wouldn't factored into what they qualify core, because she was a woman show with regard to dating yeah. Even walk was kind of the workplace was an interesting forum for him to find social companionship In fact, the very first employee of the wall to think company was a woman whose name was counselling dollars. Issue is a friend of actually a friend of Lillian Disney. Oddly enough, but Love Kathleen went to work for the young brother and its verified to the family, and she felt sorry for the young bachelor boy. She would often make dinners and push for them are big things for them, and it is verified, hear her.
Only about a very young Walt Disney proposed to her, and she turned him down because you didn't think you'd amount to anything When things were getting busier and there was more work to be done and a young bullion bound came into town what is new, Lillian Hazel. In fact, Hazel match Young mocked me when he was setting up his animation vandalism, got garage. She was in the neighborhood there, and so she was quite of vibrations force and apparently the one person who could go total tell with Walt Disney paid attention, and she also made a mean chicken dinner. So that made me out his young bachelor heart, quite the resounded with him, but a hazel was quite out of a fourth and she
is the one who recommended her friend. Coupling is their first employee and when they were expanding in the million made her way down, Romania, how, after she graduated inserted, live with her sister and then have a began life in the big city, see coupling said. Well, you know we're looking to hire someone, but don't they the bar. No, we don't ever verify the third. It makes sense that you would like it. I dont horn in on what I'm thinking here, but then she gave up on Yemen. Walk sort of cute. Little Burnett came in and started as a czech rotarian was doing the blackening early blackening on the film. He would take the girls home after they were born,
long hours, Hallo Automobile and he went dragged them home and Lillian kind of figured. Something was up when he would take Kathleen who lived further away home first, and then he circle back, so that really would be dropped off my birthday and the rest is history on that, when a very different kind- oh yes, you mentioned a few moments ago. Elisa Reynolds, will you talk a little bit more about may be her and one or two of the other trailblazers that you featured in your book there? How many great cowboy believed it was pretty you ain't. She was an artist in Kansas City and had helped out and worked on Walter early. Laugh a gram shale
Oh, please get a little bit of work on the Alice in Wonderland, the very first that the AL comedy, but when the money was running out on his little studio there that went bankrupt, she had to go off and find other work show a lethal inserted at a very early but unique person better of personnel in the earliest days of work, life and career, and I felt it was important to include heard, because you really does speak to the fact that he really wasn't gender biased. It was about your talented billowy and in fact, in many ways very early on, he was very progressive about getting women in two places that many first which the likely there were many first within the Disney period as we get into the late twenty table who was brought in while the automobile like a rabbit, curious, is under way, and things are expanding at though the little Hyperion studio,
people with the first woman to had a major department within animation overall in New York, where many of the other studios had been running brace studios and, at all events Maxine. your video, they had women working there and I'm. My research continues into binding, possibly but records are sadly incomplete because they were women and men is a testament to how it, The ball women really were considered to be, even though they were doing the bulk of the blackening or celluloid aspects of the animation action process. So women were there, but it was all men overseeing. There are department we do have a couple of other early exception, but with
going to give me. There were many many first, her women again starting with Paypal to all who was the first woman had a major department within animation over all. She ever saw what was called the black in there. at that time. She transition that role and if you look pretty early, if Thou comedies and wall is simple, black barely outlining the pencil Linda by allied with allowing pen and then blackening in so have now is actually the lowest of the animation hierarchy, and it was a training The men were doing this as well, but it was Hazel who said you know. Women are better, and it's a much more exacting thing, because you can see anywhere waterborne wiggly lies shone upon the screen so in an effort to tighten the arctic
three and expand the artist tree. Hazel tool is a real pioneer with that she transition to the first to have an all female team of black at her and she separates out the artist. So we have tracers and open curse at that point. She then later advances that into inking and painting and that's when in the early mid thirties and that when we really see the artist trio, tapered line said aloud and sweeping collar graphic stroke of incoming begin to it, to expand and and have the animation profit
Then we also have painting and initially to release her to making the failure like a pig so that there is no lightly for anything in there. But it's women activity studios, starting with Mary Hab, did some of the earlier inking and painting on this silly symphony. The skeleton them which is one of the best ever isn't that mind like a little fun fact of I work, of course, is now, for doing the animation, but he had a couple of other gentlemen helping him. Let that Mary Tab, one woman, did all of the tracing pecking at that point on that some one woman did every
Currently, there are a lot of Michael Bomb there, but he oversaw and handled all of it and you're talking roughly anywhere from eight to thirteen thousand pieces of dialogue showed that was a remarkable feat on. It fell as your Newbury to homer the advent of color. At that point, with the advent of the company. The women are working with black white and about three or four shape of gray pate, and this is painted. You get from local hearts. Hardware store, they cheered paint your bedroom with her a piece of furniture,
thing until it was not really divine toward here, a very effectively to tell you Lloyd and nitrate calculated that, but it was also if you want to achieve a certain color, they purchased a couple of hate mail, for they could refine the paint you get them to blend and work towards a hearing. But then they began to abandon color in nineteen thirty, two wires and trees. They were working with eighty shades of paint of different colors, literally pulled off the shelves of a hardware store, and it was incredibly problematic because some colors would not convey properly under the light with a camera tat. They really had to build their way on. If we want to achieve the look of a fire or what shade there really going to work for that, for they almost had to go to him at mix a deep orange into a red in order for that
could not be washed out on the screen and once the felt or under the camera like Joe, is a very challenging an accomplished within it incredibly short about time and then went on to achieve the First Academy award Garner translation, not so much for the animation that barter for the application of coloured with all women working in that area. Hazel fool in her by the way, if you have never seen the skeleton dance I highly recommend you, Google? It is an absolute and you will gain a true appreciation for Mary Tabs work, inking and painting throughout that entire short. We're going to pause for just a minute to take a break with our a word from one of our sponsors that keeps the show going on. Then we will get back to this interview, support for this, had cast comes from pico pico is helping homes and businesses. Save money with energy, efficient, LAPD's alleys last up to fifteen times longer than traditional bulbs. Andy's up
eighty. Five per cent less energy, so they're good for your pocketbook, Andy Environment, elegies, come in all shapes and sizes, and are available in a variety of light temperatures, whether it's warm lighting for living rooms, dining room in bedrooms or bright cool waiting for catches and bathrooms. There's an elite every socket and for businesses are we do? can help you manage energy costs, improve your bottom line and reduce maintenance swap out. oh bulbs for energy saving, Ladys and get instant savings as a pico customer stock up while discounts and incentives last forever, on how you can start saving today is a pico dotcom, slash a lady, The most one were actually gonna pick a right up with Monday. It's not me asking a question: it's just her talking in this deck segment as she continued discuss the challenges of working with paint that the women of the studio had to overcome, and there is a god bit of information coming up about how a woman chemist real.
He figured out how to move the entire industry forward as they continued and expanded with companies in color again, he as they will get a different paint. type that they were using, they wouldn't bland. Probably they lose attention, they wouldn't dry, properly or even land. Get it under me now, I'm a hundred pounds latin in the camera, suddenly get peace bladder and would stop production aid up to clean up the lehne. But I plan to start all over again and read it to tell It was a very problematic and even trying to achieve proper Colin Powell was getting problematic because each film, it short, had its own palette. They moved into their brand new state of the art in can paint building in nineteen. Thirty, five at the Hyperion studios, Walter brought out a young artists from Chicago. Her name was Mary, wiser and
He saw the problem happening and she said you know we can do better until she went to his will to Walter. I and she began to study chemistry, got her degree in chemistry and then walked Roy Centre off the different paint vendors in New York and to establish the first and only paint lab in the world, creating pain, exclusively presario, light animation. I well yeah, nothing like it in the world and by the time we get. This has been roughly banking five thirty pick within about a year a year and a half. She moved from a couple of hundred colors that were pulled off the shelf, that they would try
to work with you creating their own pay up in the first year alone that they were under way. She saved that duty of six thousand dollars in white paper alone, but went on to ban the palate going from think about it. Eighty collars office help for flowers and trees and nineteen thirty two to over fifteen hundred shades of color in nineteen. Thirty seven For now, I can endorse hoof its comprehensive without thinking and she had teams of women camera. It was all women and she created around manual. Nothing like this and existence, nor has it
for them, and she created around team and wrote the typed out the original manual, which, though, exist and her experimentation, log, Sholto Mary Home to patent. She created a what was called the blend technique, which Harkin's back to the early die technique that were used in the silent days of hand, polarization on live action, films and early paragraph and tintint photograph which is why, in telling the sweeping story, I gave you over a century or more of history. History, because you have they kind of call back to the earlier die techniques in order to create the blend, You know why cheek founders terming little myth that the lady view thereon make up to get that look of hers on her cheek,
if the myth that was actually Marian Harkin's than they develop, this dietary make merry, and we have the log report, hundreds of experimentation, each one. Each variants is law on the M mean this one, not Betty crackers, can this with Madame Curious LAB, and these women were redefining Howie Sciatic Baron, animation and a large part of what brought and made no white with seven dwarfs possible. You think about it. Story has to change, and you have the first woman credited for story and animation earning with Dorothy and blank. She came in a couple of years before snow. I want with leading towards the Dorothy, did many of the basic story breakdown,
really story, development concept, exploring indifferent or shoot and narrative idea. She did whole character, breakdowns in description and establish the basic template of how we still approach nature, lank, animated jury telling today she did this in the nineteen thirty them back. She was story concept for Peter PAN and the little mermaid in the nineteen thirty allow Jones in one Box of camp in the city and the Eightys and Ninetys Joe going back to the very beginning. She was a real trailblazer with but we still there today and yet nobody knows I now it's an astonishing to think about really
The level of advancement these various women achieved in their not common everyday names, and they probably should be likely. They should definitely be right up there with the window. My case as well then another, certainly in the hierarchy to the work, but when you look at the nine old man they often times when, I'm speaking, I speak to panic, ordinary women and beyond their work, so many men, as we aware of there were many incredible women trailblazing in editorial in writing in back in writing in boys, work and in libraries reference modelling and virtually every aspect of animation, who is still a big feeling to crack in directing yeah, but that's changing. Yes. This is
We believe leave things for today's episode, but there is so much more to come with many on our next episode. She is so fond of information in the meantime, if you just cannot wait for more. Maybe you can find her online at Mandy, Johnson, creative dot com that many of them. I Andy. Why will also have that link in our shared out for the episodes day? Do you also have the listener mail, I do. And since we are talking to someone about innovation, we are going to have the continuing discussion of something that came up in our way Mackay Episode Rear bit the ongoing saga. Rarebit, which is the best I mean a cheese saga I'm totally and for this is from our listener Eric and he wrote real. It is indeed a cheese on us, but it can be a lot more complex What you put over macaroni, one of our other listeners mention that that was how it was explained to them when they were traveling, shred or great cheddar into a and with a bit of butter, disturb it melting and then comes the tricky part that consistency, you're, gonna abba liquid
often beer milk. If you avoid alcohol, Queen Victoria appear use champagne and also a bit of flower or be egg to buying the mixture and make it smooth. It can be either a portable sauce or thick enough to be spoon onto toast or crackers as a finger snack, I'm not detailing the recipe, because there are so many the best time to make rarebit as a stand alone. Dish is in the evening with friends the vessel, to make it is at the dining table in an old fashioned chafing dish over a flame, the stern out chief this company, which later became the stern company published this verse eating at bedtime, quote wise old doktor. used to say: do you're eating in the day never eat a thing may said. Just before you go to bed. Modern doctors differ quite and say just the opposite food at bedtime. They explains who's, the nerves and calms the brain. So we cannot go astray
eat both night and day and a chafing dish at night brings to life a new delight. I love that I kind of warm and get it. Now beautifully and may be framed. Anything that is marriages, eating cheese day and night, I'm in four and also an opportunity to say opposite instead of opposite. I know I sky. I skipped because I just sounded too weird in my that is very cool. I did not know this detail about Queen Victoria and champagne in her rarebit yeah is all interesting because, unlike a lot of cheese or cream Bay, sauces you'd make today, it doesn't start with a rule. It starts with the cheese, yes and then the flower gets added later. We also note that there are a lot of different ways to make. Makin trees are all like: they vary across cultures and very
cross regions- and there are some MAC and cheeses that start with a real and others that do not start with a review. And if you ask people in different communities about their MAC and cheese, you make it vastly different answers. If you ask different people in the same family, reunion. You may end up with fisticuffs radial strongly about Makin jeez, which is because it is delicious event, but he also wants to share more of their rarebit information feel free to do so, because I am loving the ongoing discussion Eric. Thank you so much this very cool- and I love that you included this verse, which I had never seen before. If you would like to write to us, you can do so at history. Pine cast a house of work start come. We are also across the spectrum of social media as missed in history and MR history. Dot com is also our website, where you will find every episode that has ever existed while a show notes on any owns ones. That Tracy and I have worked on immigration, other goodies and we
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