The Boston Citgo sign, all 3,600 square LED feet of which has served as the backdrop to Red Sox games since 1965, is now officially a "pending landmark."

Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí spent much of the 1940s in the U.S., avoiding World War II and its aftermath. He was a well-known fixture on the art scene in Monterey, Calif. — and that's where the largest collection of Dalí's work on the West Coast is now open to the public.

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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


Appetite For Destruction: A Deadly, Delicious Rock Memoir

Feb 3, 2013
Originally published on February 4, 2013 8:16 am

Alex Stone is the author of Fooling Houdini.

I first saw Guns N' Roses on MTV when I was in middle school. Mary Jordan had just ended our rocky three-week relationship — by phone — and I was sulking on a friend's couch. "Check it out," he said, gesturing at the TV. "Sweet Child O' Mine" was playing. "These guys are my new favorite band." Four minutes and 12 seconds later, they were mine too.

Much like a seventh-grade infatuation, Guns N' Roses ran hot and burned out fast. Reading It's So Easy (and Other Lies), GN'R bassist Duff McKagan's entertaining autobiography, one wonders how the band survived as long as it did. Between singer Axl Rose's raging mood swings, the junkie lifestyles of drummer Steven Adler and lead guitarist Slash, and McKagan's own addictions to alcohol and cocaine, the band's self-destruction seemed all but assured.

Indeed, while GN'R's debut album, Appetite for Destruction was an instant classic, by the time "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit the airwaves in the early '90s, the band had become a bloated pop parody of itself — as much a casualty of the changing cultural climate as of its suicidal tendencies. Soon enough, GN'R's original band members split up and, not long after, McKagan's solo label dropped him. By phone.

Synched to the standard rockumentary click track, It's So Easy hits all the usual beats: the early lean years — during which McKagan slept in alleys and treated his STDs with pet medicine; the meteoric rise; the Caligulan excess; and the cataclysmic fall. Finally, after much soul-searching and sobering up, our hero finds solace in a new band, marriage to a former centerfold, and kids.

Tales like these are remarkable for their ability to make things like burning through your septum and drinking your own vomit appear glamorous — pinging, at every turn, that rock star daydream American males cling to like a life raft well into adulthood. If, as Don DeLillo wrote, "there is a motel in the heart of every man," then inside that motel is a band waiting to make it big.

McKagan's band really did make it big. GN'R sold 100 million records worldwide and sits alongside The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It marked the end of an era — the last of the great stadium rock bands, a legacy forged in the '70s by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

Though, like some of his hard-partying antecedents, McKagan dabbled in smack, he was partial to coke, crack and — above all — booze. At the height of his addiction, he drank 10 bottles of wine a day, an oddly elegant choice McKagan rationalized as a less caustic alternative to vodka. Eventually, he drank so much his pancreas exploded. The ruptured organ sent acid shooting through his body and left much of his viscera seared by third-degree burns. The pain was so excruciating, McKagan begged his doctor to kill him.

After that, McKagan cleaned up. He took up mountain biking and meditation. He ran a marathon and studied martial arts. He even went to college to study business. Unlike many rock burnouts who went bust when fame took its business elsewhere, McKagan minted a fortune going long on Seattle stocks — Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon. Now married with kids, McKagan owns a wealth management firm that caters to musicians. He also fronts a band called Loaded.

Though it's the guiltiest of pleasures, It's So Easy is the kind of indulgence I'm willing to allow myself from time to time, if only because it's intoxicating — in a pancreas-wrenching sort of way — to revisit an age when rock music was still dangerous and politically incorrect, before irony and vocoders gave everyone the right to bear amps, and I still held out hope that Mary Jordan and I would end up together.

My Guilty Pleasure is edited and produced by the team at NPR Books.

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