Category Archives: Remarkable

Mangos in Wyoming

I was in Riverton, Wyoming, this weekend.  Among its other attributes (and it really is a very picturesque place, but that’s not what this post is about), it has a Wal-Mart.  I stopped there on my way out of town for snacks for the 5-hour drive home.  I headed for the produce, which in a Wal-Mart is invariably fresher and offers a wider selection than anywhere else.

Let us not reflect on what imperial machinations the corporate behemoth inflicts to keep its produce section in tip-top shape.

Reaching for the apples, I noticed that mangos were on sale.  63¢ each.  How far is Riverton, Wyoming from mango country?  I don’t know, but a hell of a long way.

No mangos grow here.

Through the marvels of the modern global supply chain, Wal-Mart caused a crop of uniform-sized mangos to be grown, transported from some distant hacienda, and placed at my eye-level.  In Riverton, Wyoming.  For less than the price of a candy bar.

My grandfather homesteaded a hardscrabble farm just outside that town in 1948.  He weathered the blizzard of ’49 with a wife and an infant in a shotgun shack constructed from materials taken from a nearby WWII POW camp, going on to eke out a living raising corn and wheat and cattle so paltry it nearly did him in.  Sixty-two years later, I am buying mangos for pocket change.

I don’t believe in miracles.  But this is progress so radical as to be nearly miraculous.  Unnatural, even.  Luxury beyond the wildest imaginings of the 99% of history’s greatest potentates.  Is it good?  Yes.  Is it sustainable?  I don’t know.  I’ve got some doubts.  What will the scionness’ children, my grandchildren, be doing in Riverton?  Teleporting in sashimi for the cost of a snapped finger?

And they say America isn't a meritocracy

Facing a stint in the Federal big house?

[vodpod id=Video.3021129&w=425&h=350&fv=%26rel%3D0%26border%3D0%26]

You could come out an embittered ex-con who goes on to to fail to rob more banks.  Or, you could transform yourself into a jailhouse lawyer who presents briefs to the Supreme Court:

Shon R. Hopwood was not a particularly sophisticated bank robber.

“We would walk into a bank with firearms, tell people to get down, take the money and run,” he said the other day, recalling five robberies in rural Nebraska in 1997 and 1998 that yielded some $200,000 and more than a decade in federal prison.

Mr. Hopwood spent much of that time in the prison law library, and it turned out he was better at understanding the law than breaking it. He transformed himself into something rare at the top levels of the American bar, and unheard of behind bars: an accomplished Supreme Court practitioner.

He prepared his first petition for certiorari — a request that the Supreme Court hear a case — for a fellow inmate on a prison typewriter in 2002. …

“It was probably one of the best cert. petitions I have ever read,” said Seth P. Waxman, a former United States solicitor general who has argued more than 50 cases in the Supreme Court. “It was just terrific.” …

The former solicitor general showed the bank robber drafts of his briefs. The two men consulted about how to frame the arguments, discussed strategy and tried to anticipate questions from the justices. …

In January 2004, Mr. Waxman called Mr. Hopwood at the federal prison in Pekin, Ill. They had won a 9-to-0 victory. Justice O’Connor wrote the opinion.

Then keep on on keeping on:

By 2005, the Supreme Court had granted a second petition prepared by Mr. Hopwood, vacating a lower court decision and sending the case back for a fresh look. Mr. Hopwood has also helped inmates from Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska get sentence reductions of 3 to 10 years from lower courts …

Mr. Hopwood, who is 34, said he hoped to apply to law school next year. Richard Friedman, a law professor at the University of Michigan who worked with Mr. Hopwood on the briefs for a recent Supreme Court case, said that he had already talked to the admissions office there about saving a spot.

Mr. Hopwood’s personal life is looking up, too. He married in August, and he and his wife had a son on Christmas Day.

So a Federal convict crashes the Supreme Court.  What’s stopping you?

And they say America isn’t a meritocracy

Facing a stint in the Federal big house?

[vodpod id=Video.3021129&w=425&h=350&fv=%26rel%3D0%26border%3D0%26]

You could come out an embittered ex-con who goes on to to fail to rob more banks.  Or, you could transform yourself into a jailhouse lawyer who presents briefs to the Supreme Court:

Shon R. Hopwood was not a particularly sophisticated bank robber.

“We would walk into a bank with firearms, tell people to get down, take the money and run,” he said the other day, recalling five robberies in rural Nebraska in 1997 and 1998 that yielded some $200,000 and more than a decade in federal prison.

Mr. Hopwood spent much of that time in the prison law library, and it turned out he was better at understanding the law than breaking it. He transformed himself into something rare at the top levels of the American bar, and unheard of behind bars: an accomplished Supreme Court practitioner.

He prepared his first petition for certiorari — a request that the Supreme Court hear a case — for a fellow inmate on a prison typewriter in 2002. …

“It was probably one of the best cert. petitions I have ever read,” said Seth P. Waxman, a former United States solicitor general who has argued more than 50 cases in the Supreme Court. “It was just terrific.” …

The former solicitor general showed the bank robber drafts of his briefs. The two men consulted about how to frame the arguments, discussed strategy and tried to anticipate questions from the justices. …

In January 2004, Mr. Waxman called Mr. Hopwood at the federal prison in Pekin, Ill. They had won a 9-to-0 victory. Justice O’Connor wrote the opinion.

Then keep on on keeping on:

By 2005, the Supreme Court had granted a second petition prepared by Mr. Hopwood, vacating a lower court decision and sending the case back for a fresh look. Mr. Hopwood has also helped inmates from Indiana, Michigan and Nebraska get sentence reductions of 3 to 10 years from lower courts …

Mr. Hopwood, who is 34, said he hoped to apply to law school next year. Richard Friedman, a law professor at the University of Michigan who worked with Mr. Hopwood on the briefs for a recent Supreme Court case, said that he had already talked to the admissions office there about saving a spot.

Mr. Hopwood’s personal life is looking up, too. He married in August, and he and his wife had a son on Christmas Day.

So a Federal convict crashes the Supreme Court.  What’s stopping you?

I think Nagai would have approved of The Road

Doubtless Nagai Kafu was being sarcastic in his envisioned movie plot, but I think he would have approved of Cormac McCarthy’s earthshattering uber-post-apocalyptic The Road being made into a film.  After many long delays, it is evidently set for US release on November 25, according to Imdb.  Evidently they’ve hewed closely to the plot, meaning the movie has a chance to follow in the book’s footsteps and become possibly the darkest and finest production of the 21st century. cmccarthy_theroad

The trailer seems to indicate as much.  I was stunned into a state of despondency by the book, yet I immediately turned back to Page 1 to re-read.  Anticipating the movie, I’ve never been excited to be made so gloriously unhappy.

Technical difficulties prevent me from embedding the trailer in this post.  You can watch it here.

Space shuttle solar transit makes one hell of a photo

I don’t normally get geeked about space photos.  Maybe it has something to do with lingering Challenger trauma.  (The teachers in my elementary school, tears streaming down their faces, marched the whole school into the library to watch endless reruns of the explosion on the news.)  But this is one hell of a photo: the space shuttle passing in front of the sun.  If this didn’t come from NASA’s photostream, I’d almost think it was fake.

In this tightly cropped image, the NASA space shuttle Atlantis is seen in silhouette during solar transit, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, from Florida. This image was made before Atlantis and the crew of STS-125 had grappled the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo Credit: (NASA/Thierry Legault)

In this tightly cropped image, the NASA space shuttle Atlantis is seen in silhouette during solar transit, Tuesday, May 12, 2009, from Florida. This image was made before Atlantis and the crew of STS-125 had grappled the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo Credit: (NASA/Thierry Legault)