Just being supportive.

I want to be fair and openminded, so let me say it in public: It’s around this time every year that I decide Texas is perhaps somewhat forgivable, although it will be decades before any of us forget George Bush, big hair and Enron, and centuries before the world does. Those red grapefruit that make their way north in the cold hard winter are damn tasty. I had half of one for breakfast, and friends, it brightened my morning.

Doesn’t counterbalance the Bush family, but there are many more days left in winter. It’s a start.

January 5, hello, how are you? Why is my week filling with static already?

Let’s start with a few questions from yesterday. Jeff wondered if the Detroit auto show is still on. Answer: Hell yes it is. It’ll take more than a recession, bankruptcy, collapse, bailout and multiple-limb amputation to kill that throwdown. I don’t think I’ll be going this year, alas. I would like to see the auto-show version of this ad:

You really can’t beat the automotives for b.s., and their ad agencies for polishing it to a high-gloss shine. I like where the car breaks through the wall and frees a few dozen doves of peace. Because that’s what I think of when I think about Chrysler. Peace. Style. Lech Walesa.

Someone mentioned Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book, “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Notion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.” Haven’t read it, probably won’t, but I appreciate the effort and I have always felt the same way, that the relentless emphasis we place on “positivity” and other happy-talk claptrap is probably not the best thing we can do for ourselves in times of trouble, although it can play a role. Ehrenreich was moved to tackle the topic after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and found the endless platitudes about positive thinking and will-yourself-well to be grating. Having read
“Illness as Metaphor” once upon a million years ago, I remember how appalled I was to learn that cancer and other chronic illnesses were once seen as manifestations of various character flaws, that doctors spoke of a cancerous personality, i.e., you brought this on yourself.

It’s not so far from there to where we are now, when the failure to be relentlessly brave and optimistic in the face of the same illness is silently disapproved of, because why? You can think yourself well? That seems to be the unspoken reproach. Argh.

Optimism has its place in the world. But it’s one of those things it’s probably best to keep to yourself sometimes, too. Especially when you’re not the one having chemo.

That said, a doctor friend of mine once observed that his most peaceful patients at the end of the line, the ones most equable about the presence of the Reaper in the room, were the most religious ones. What is death to a Christian? Just a major change of address, as Anne Lamott says.

It all kind of ties back in with the Chrysler ad, which is “dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, still prisoner in Burma.” What does that even mean, “dedicated to?” Athletes are always dedicating their victories to their mothers or some plucky kid with cancer or, in this case, a political prisoner. I’m sure it gives her a warm feeling to know someone is working on her behalf, but I’m not sure how a car commercial is part of the solution to anything other than selling cars.

Look at Ms. Grumpypants! Turn that frown upside down!

OK, how about some bloggage, then:

Thanks to Detroit Moxie and various retweeters, from whom I learned about the Belle Isle Ice Tree, now under construction at Detroit’s signature park. It has humble beginnings, but I hope it begins its transformation soon.

Rachel Maddow’s been on this story for a while, but even a grump can find the dark humor in it: American evangelicals travel to Uganda, spew hatred, and are astonished to discover someone actually listened and took them seriously:

KAMPALA, Uganda — Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks. The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

A gay friend of mine told me once gets occasional mailings from his religious family, alerting him to various “cures” available through our brothers in Christ. He shrugs, and I carry the outrage on his behalf, as he is a wonderful person in every way, and the idea of someone who should know him best of all subjecting him to this is maddening. Here’s the logical end, I guess.

New book on the nightstand, an oldie but a page-turner: “American Odyssey,” which I picked up intending only to read in, and now find myself reading through it. Riveting.

Tuesday static commences! Go tune yours out.

Posted at 10:05 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

44 responses to “Just being supportive.”

  1. brian stouder said on January 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Honestly, on the first go, I read the word “retweeters” as “RET-weeters” (and scratched my head); and then as “ret-WEETERS” (and wrinkled my brow) – and only then did “reTWEETers” hit me. (I suppose if the little bird that Sylvester the cat is always trying to eat said “retweet”, we’d conduct an about-face and countermarch in an orderly fashion)

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  2. coozledad said on January 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

    A gay Christian I used work with at the bookstore told me that the historical Jesus is fairly explicit about who gets to go to heaven. Turns out it’s about 500 Jewish males. I’m no theologian, but that reading doesn’t seem inconsistent with the prerogatives of the classical world, upon which the entire notion of the West is predicated.
    I don’t know when the Church fathers decided to adopt the Roman window dressing of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, but they did it so feebly that even the spinoffs of the mother church produced cultures that encouraged a “Spartan” educational system for their ruling classes. We even have our own version of Rum, buggery, and the lash here, and it goes by a couple of names: High school Football and Wrestling.
    I believe the novel most emblematic of the West after a couple thousand years is Petronius’ Satyricon. Probably still the best, most economical prose on the shelf, too. Too bad they can’t find the rest of his stuff.
    Suck on that, Rick Warren.

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  3. Deborah said on January 5, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Texas. I lived there in my former life for 7 years, did not like it one bit. My daughter was born there and has to say that from time to time, I kid her about that.

    Thanks to well wishers about my heart. It’s really nothing, I shouldn’t have mentioned it, it was just surprising to return from vacation and have this thing wired on to me for 24 hours. I have a little over one hour to go and then I can remove it and shower. I wore it at work under my sweater and jacket yesterday (since I had no choice), but decided to work from home this morning since I can’t shower till it’s over. Sleeping wired wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

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  4. paddyo' said on January 5, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Gotta admit, those Rio Star ruby-red grapefruit from TX are amazing. I’ve become something of a grapefruit snob now because of them.

    I await someone to debunk them as really being filled with poisons of one sort or other. Then I can go back to unreserved hatred for the Lone Star State.

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  5. Peter said on January 5, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I did a project in Jakarta once and when I visited the project site one of the employees was off by himself – he had a stroke and lost use of his right hand, and the devout workers thought that was God’s way of saying the guy was bad news.

    I guess I’m a glass half full kind of guy – I’m surprised that the visiting evangelicals said they were shocked that the Ugandans took them so seriously. I thought they would have said that the Ugandans are cutting edge and we could learn from them…

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  6. LAMary said on January 5, 2010 at 11:17 am

    There is a pink grapefruit cake recipe in the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook that came out just before Christmas. It’s good.

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  7. Snarkworth said on January 5, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November, and am now doing fine. This I attribute not to my sparkly personality, but rather to my excellent surgeon, aided by Modern Medical Science.

    I do, however, think there are some non-mechanistic factors that help the healing process. Love and support from family and friends may not shrink tumors, but they sure don’t hurt.

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  8. Sue said on January 5, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Sort of related:
    Regarding Brit Hume’s suggestion to Tiger that everything would be ok if he would just convert to Christianity –
    I would love it if Tiger did just that, and went with Unitarian or one of those ultra-lib inclusive denominations. The ensuing “Uh, Tiger, that’s not what we meant” scramble would be so much fun to watch.

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  9. Jeff Borden said on January 5, 2010 at 11:26 am

    It’s fascinating to see how the most basic premises of the philosophy espoused by Jesus Christ are routinely ignored by those who claim to be guided by them. I’m thinking J.C., who walked among lepers, beggars, prostitutes and the dispossessed and the destitute, would’ve been ministering to gay men and women,too. Of course, I’m thinking he also would be appalled by the enormous wealth that has been gathered in his name, whether its the treasury of the Vatican or the ability of Rick Warren to raise a million bucks within a day or two.

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  10. LAMary said on January 5, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Jeff, I go out of my way to refer to Jesus as the Prince of Peace around my fundy right wing coworkers. Let’s start a Beatitudes revival, I say. Blessed are the meek…blessed are the poor…blessed are the peacemakers…

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  11. Jeff Borden said on January 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm


    Have you heard about the conservative effort to rewrite the Bible? It’s being led by the son of Phyllis Schafly, the lady with the law degree who ran around for decades telling other women to stay home and get pregnant and was instrumental in the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment. Sonny boy says the real words of Christ have been altered over the years by liberal translators, so it’s up to he and his he-men Christians to put the butt-kicking back into verses and parables. Stephen Colbert sliced ‘n’ diced him a few weeks ago.

    I think your tactic is great. I often try to mention, in an off-handed way, of course, that Jesus was an anti-authoritarian hippie drifter when I’m around the fundies.

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  12. Linda said on January 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    It’s being led by the son of Phyl­lis Schafly, the lady with the law degree who ran around for decades telling other women to stay home (while she herself ran for congress several times while her own kids were growing up) and get preg­nant and was instru­men­tal in the defeat of the Equal Rights Amend­ment.
    Fixed it for you.

    Re: positive thinking. It’s not all bad. For people prone to depression–like me–it can be a lifesaver. Some people have the luxury of wallowing in negativity, but I have to avoid it like alcoholics need to stay away from booze. It’s attractive and deadly.

    As for illness being a sign of “bad character,” that’s the American impulse to see everything as controllable or fixable. We are not nearly so moralistic as we are desirous of controlling outcomes. We just don’t want to admit we aren’t in charge of everything.

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  13. LAMary said on January 5, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I’ve shared the URL for Moe’s website with some of the folks here who are putting together our new cancer center. When we hire the next nurse navigator I’ll take Moe’s experience with me to the interview.

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  14. Julie Robinson said on January 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Snarkworth, I share your appreciation for Modern Medical Science. I’d have died a couple of times without its intervention.

    Jeff and Mary understand Jesus and his message much better than most of the fundies. Those people give Christians a bad name. My aunt from Iowa regularly sends me religious tracts along with the farm news. She is sure I’m not saved because I left her church for one that is slightly more liberal. The tracts go straight to the recycle bin.

    Our daughter, who spent some months in Texas, calls it the butthole of the universe. That would be our daughter the future pastor, the one with kind words for everyone. If it can bring her to that, I don’t ever want to go.

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  15. moe99 said on January 5, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    LAMary, I am honored and humbled by that. Thank you.

    And as to the paeans to grapefruit today–that is the only thing that I am not allowed to eat while on the Tarceva oral chemotherapy. Of course, it sounds mighty good to me right now. Oh well.

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  16. Jeff Borden said on January 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm


    I was more disappointed in Texas than any other emotion. We drove into the Lone Star State on the Indian Nation Highway from Oklahoma, hitting Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Corpus Christi. The nightlife and cuisine in Austin was pretty great, but the city itself is blah. The Gulf Coast is lovely aside from all the oil tankers making their way toward the channel for Houston. But, overall, Texas looked no different than Oklahoma. Hot, flat, brown. Dallas and Houston look like movie sets after the offices close: lots of tall structures but no one on the streets. I did appreciate the laissez-faire enforcement of speeding laws as we were routinely doing 90 mph on the interstates.

    Advertisements for Texas stress that it’s like “a whole ‘nother country,” but that was definitely oversell. To this son of the Midwest, California, Arizona and New Mexico all seem far more exotic than Texas.

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  17. Dorothy said on January 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Can I just say that I think that’s very cool, Mary? What you plan to do with Moe’s website etc. A most excellent decision in my book.

    Wishing you many days of grapefruit in the near future, Moe!

    And Julie I just want to say thank you for typing “I may have…” correctly instead of what I see all the time on Facebook: “I may of ….”. That grates on me in a most officious manner.

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  18. MichaelG said on January 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks for all the encouraging talk about Texas. My daughter and son-in-law are getting transferred to Ft. Hood this year. I’ll let them find out for themselves.

    You’re a nice person, Mary.

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  19. LAMary said on January 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    As it turns out, the nurse navigator position I’m looking to fill right now is for lung cancer. I don’t know much about clinical skills so I need to have my own reasons for recommending an applicant for consideration. I use the core values of this organization (respect compassion excellence justice stewardship) and what I know from my experience and the experience of others. When I interview nurses for postpartum I bring my own experiences from having two kids among other criteria. I will forever remember the nurse who kept forgetting to bring me water when I was finally allowed to have some. I have never been thirstier and being overlooked never seemed so bad.

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  20. LAMary said on January 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I’m a semi nice person. I revert to NJ attitude at the drop of a hat.

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  21. Rana said on January 5, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Regard­ing Brit Hume’s sug­ges­tion to Tiger that every­thing would be ok if he would just con­vert to Chris­tian­ity – I would love it if Tiger did just that, and went with Uni­tar­ian or one of those ultra-lib inclu­sive denom­i­na­tions.

    It’s a common mistake, but Unitarian Universalists aren’t Christians. That’s the point of the whole “unitarian” part – it’s a rejection of the concept of the trinity – and it is part of the reason why you can have things like pagan or agnostic UUs, and why it’s often the church of choice for Catholic-Jewish mixed marriages.

    (A lesser beef, but since I’m here… properly speaking we’re UUs or Unitarian Universalists, not Unitarians. “Unitarians” tends to connote rather scary old-school Eastern European denominations, or grim, rigid New Englanders, within the UU universe. Consider this one more joke that Garrison Keillor has played on us poor UUs over the years.)

    The United Church of Christ is a much better example of an ultra-liberal Christian denomination.

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  22. Jeff Borden said on January 5, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    One of my poker buddies, who was not religious but a figure of considerable stature at the University of Chicago, was honored with a memorial service in the Unitarian Church at the edge of the campus after his sudden and untimely death. As Rana notes, the symbols of all faiths were present. In this case, as flags hanging on the wall featuring the cross, the star of David, the crescent, etc. No altar either.

    I doubt I’ll ever be as deeply in thrall to religion as I was when younger and the One True had a firm grip on my psyche and my soul. But, if so, I could imagine myself in a Unitarian setting. It’s all about respecting the views and beliefs of others. . .and couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

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  23. Sue said on January 5, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    From UUA.org:
    “Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots.”
    Maybe that’s where the confusion comes in.
    As to the UCC being a good example of an ultra-liberal Christian denomination, that works as far as it goes. Nationally, yes, but it’s also a denomination that gives great leeway to its member churches, which is why my previous (fortunately retired) pastor could use the words “rampaging lesbians” in a sermon and my current (fortunately interim) pastor is pushing Promise Keepers from the pulpit.

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  24. LAMary said on January 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    You have to wonder about someone who conjures up the image of rampaging lesbians. I wonder if gay men rampage or if it’s just lesbians.

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  25. Little Bird said on January 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Deborah does kid me about being from Texas from time to time. To which I now point out that she was the one to blame for that.
    Texas is weird, it is a whole ‘nother country, but not in any way exotic. I’m VERY glad not to live there anymore.
    Why is it that the more vocal the “Christian”, the less they seem to follow the “golden rule”?

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  26. Julie Robinson said on January 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Do you mean like the guy who fully reclined his airline seat so that his greasy head was in my lap and I could read the gold-stamped name on his large leatherette Bible?

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  27. Kirk said on January 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    That’s when it’s time to find out whether he’s a truly forgiving Christian, with a few knees to the seat back.

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  28. Jen said on January 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    As Dave Barry would say, “Rampaging Lesbians” would be a good name for a rock band.

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  29. James said on January 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Rebecca and I were married in an Universalist congregation – It was called the Existentialist Congregation of Candler Park. We jumped over a broomstick, literally. We went to a few services afterwards. They sang union organizing songs, and on Christmas Eve, they sang:

    “Humanists, humanists, Humananists are we,
    Oh what fun it is to be, superstition free— eeee…”

    (sung to tune of “Jingle Bells”)

    In regards to this nonsense:

    Regarding Brit Hume’s suggestion to Tiger that every thing would be ok if he would just con­vert to Christianity —

    I wrote and drew this cartoon today in response. It’ll run next Sunday.

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  30. shabbat mater said on January 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    My UU friends describe it this way: “It’s for atheists with children.”

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  31. basset said on January 5, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Mrs. Basset and I were married in a Unitarian church which shared its building with several other denominations, all of which pretty much left their equipment and insignia out on the walls and wherever between services, which greatly confused at least one member of the wedding party.

    How do you drive a UU out of town? Burn a question mark in his front yard…

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  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 5, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Ah, may Odin snow upon you all! (Tomorrow’s his day, you know, Wodenstag. Consider it well, and tremble.)

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  33. LAMary said on January 5, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    It’s also epiphany, Armenian Christmas and the birthday of Joan of Arc, Danny Thomas, Loretta Young, E.L. Doctorow and myself.

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  34. moe99 said on January 5, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Happy Birthday LA Mary!!

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  35. Dave K. said on January 5, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Nice one, Jen. I think you get the gold star….. Uncle Dave

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  36. Little Bird said on January 5, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    LA Mary, also the birthday of my best friend, and of my father. I can only assume that April was a busy month.
    Happy Birthday!

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  37. LAMary said on January 5, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    It’s also the birthday of my black lab Smokey. Last year he celebrated by taking a huge bite of my birthday cake before anyone else got any. This year I’m hoping he’ll let me get the first slice without dog cooties.

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  38. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    A good watchword for folk of any religious tradition, IMO — “Live your faith, share your life.”

    (Borrowed from Brother Maynard.)

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  39. Rana said on January 6, 2010 at 12:24 am

    *laughing at the image of rampaging lesbians* Sounds like fun!

    One thing I’ve always appreciated about UUs is the mixture of serious focus with the willingness to make fun of ourselves.

    I’m suspicious of any group or religious tradition that can’t recognize that everything has a bit of the absurd about it, and is unable to laugh at itself. Life is strange, and a sense of humor keeps you flexible enough to adapt to its changes. I also think being able to laugh at your own oddities keeps you from becoming arrogant or cocky, while suggesting a certain confidence. It’s the defensive and rigid who tend to have no sense of humor.

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  40. nancy said on January 6, 2010 at 12:27 am

    You only hear “Jesus Christ” in a UU church when he janitor falls down the stairs. (Attrib: old joke)

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  41. Dexter said on January 6, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Happy Birthday, LA.M.
    I danced so much at the big parties Saturday that I threw out my sacroiliac.
    My Shiatsu massaging chair which sat in a closet for 2 years is working me back into shape, along with exercises prescribed by my daughter who studied muscles and bones for three years.
    I went to a chiropractor once and man, what a quack that asshole was. I will never go to one again.

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  42. Dorothy said on January 6, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Rats I got busy at work yesterday and didn’t see the info about Mary’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mary!!!!

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  43. Michael said on January 6, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I second the recommendation of “American Odyssey”. One of the absolute best histories of Detroit in print.

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  44. Becks Davis said on January 7, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Thank you for the shout out for Detroit Moxie. I just found your blog last week through the Detroit News article. Kudos! I have a lot of reading to catch up on.

    I plan/hope to cover the evolution of the Belle Isle Ice Tree this year. I’m a bit obsessed with it.

    But you probably don’t want to read my blog. I fear I am far too optimistic. I’ll try and keep it to myself.

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