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.


Doing The Work: What '30 Rock' Meant For Women On Television

Jan 31, 2013

I have never considered Liz Lemon a feminist icon of any kind, nor have I ever considered 30 Rock especially strong when it comes to gender politics.

I don't care for the obsessive joke-making about how Liz is ugly/mannish/old/awkward, and I haven't always been comfortable with the way some of the "she's baby-crazy!" or "she's relationship-crazy!" comedy has played. I was ambivalent about the way the Jezebel parody and the "women aren't funny" storylines were executed.

And yet, I think it's been one of the most important, helpful, meaningful, landscape-altering shows for women in the history of television for one simple reason: whatever the positives and negatives of the show's voice and aesthetic, it is Tina Fey's voice and her aesthetic, and everyone knows it.

Women in television comedy — even the great ones, even the icons — have traditionally been presented mostly as gifted performers or, at the very least, people whose sensibilities primarily advanced their own performing careers. They might run successful production companies, as Mary Tyler Moore did and as Lucille Ball did, and they've often been their own producers and had substantial power over their own shows, as Roseanne was and as Cybill Shepherd was. But they haven't generally become known for creating, as writers, a style of comedy that didn't have to revolve around their own performances and translated to writing for others. That's not to say they weren't doing it, not at all — I don't know how to even process the fact that more people don't know who Paula Pell is — but they didn't usually become famous for it.

Certainly, Tina Fey became famous as a writer hand-in-hand with her portrayal of Liz Lemon, and that performance has been much decorated and is one key to the show's success. But 30 Rock has such a bent, frantic, absurdist tone that it reads as a tremendously specific comedy style unto itself, and it's a style that is understood, here and everywhere, to belong to Tina Fey the writer, not just Tina Fey the performer. While she obviously collaborates with other writers in executing that style, it belongs to her, it travels with her, and it's benefited other performers, especially Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan (not to mention what it's done for Jon Hamm, Matt Damon, Jason Sudeikis, James Marsden, Will Arnett, Carrie Fisher, and countless others), at least as much as it's benefited her. I'm not even sure Liz Lemon is the standard-bearer for Tina Fey creations; I think Tracy Jordan might be, or Jack Donaghy might be.

Jen Chaney at Slate asked the other day whether 30 Rock has changed the landscape for women, and seemingly concluded that it mostly hasn't, because most shows are still run by men. That's certainly true, and the small numbers of women in writers' rooms is still one of those problems that's so depressingly resistant to change that it's hard to know what anybody can say about it that's new.

But there's more to the question than that. 30 Rock may not have undone years and years of gender imbalance in running shows, and it may not have changed hiring practices, but it's hard to remember now that before it came along, the entire idea of a woman having a comedy brand that translated to comedic opportunities for people other than herself was depressingly shaky as a public proposition. Again, that doesn't mean women couldn't do it or weren't writing comedy — there were women writers from the very beginning at Saturday Night Live and elsewhere. But comedy's creative centers of gravity in the public imagination were not generally women.

In recent years, that discussion has started — just started — to shift. I don't like Chelsea Handler's style of comedy, for instance, but it is hers, and it is associated with her, and it is assumed to be something a network can translate into a comedy she isn't performing on. While that comedy, Are You There, Chelsea? failed (justifiably), it made it on the air, and it's spun out into Whitney Cummings not only creating a show for herself, but also co-creating 2 Broke Girls. And Mindy Kaling, while she does perform on her show (as Fey does), works more in the Tina Fey model. She had a relatively small on-screen role on The Office and a much larger one in the writers' room, and she came to The Mindy Project known as much for her style and her writing as for her performance. And of course, there's Lena Dunham, who appears on Girls but whose public image — both positive and negative — is at least as driven by what people think of her as a creator and writer as it is by her acting.

It's true that a lot of comedies created or co-created by women have been canceled — Don't Trust The B, Ben & Kate, to name two particular bummers — but it's also true that comedy in general is struggling mightily with ratings issues. That those shows happened, and that their sensibilities were so closely identified with their female, non-performing creators, is something.

We've all seen enough purported Years Of The Woman in every field you can think of to be skeptical of any claims to real progress. But Tina Fey The Writer certainly moved the ball at least a yard or two in a couple of important ways. First, anyone still trying to remain above water while clinging to the theory that women aren't funny now has Tina Fey tied around one ankle like a 20-pound stone — and it's not just because of 30 Rock. She and Amy Poehler breezed into the Golden Globes and blasted just about every host that silly show has ever had clean out of the water. That doesn't mean everyone has given up, and heaven knows it must be a soul-battering drag to be the most visible public face of this dumb debate, but she put her head down and made her show, and it helped. She talks in her book, Bossypants, about ignoring sexism as much as she can, and there's a decent argument that not everyone has that luxury. But no matter what she had said, or how out-front she'd chosen to be about it, the most important thing about her work was always going to be the fact that she did it, rather than what she said about doing it.

Second, she created an example to aspire to for women who want to enter comedy known primarily as writers and creators, without necessarily expressing themselves primarily through their own performances. It's one thing to create a comedy persona, but it's another to be known as a creator of a distinct style.

I don't think it was ever the intent that 30 Rock would be feminist; it was the intent that it would be hilarious, and it often was. I don't think Tina Fey came to prove anything about women; she came to write jokes. She came in as an underdog to Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, and she wrote the show for seven seasons. It was strange and uneven and wackadoo, like it was being held hostage by the Dread Pirate Roberts and would likely be killed in the morning, but it went on through boyfriends and marriage and kids and Jack finally getting his big chance to run GE. What makes it important for women is not its storylines about work-life balance or adoption or body image; what makes it important for women is its indelibility and its specificity. It could be and could have been no one else's.

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