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.

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Embracing The Beauty In Life

Feb 14, 2013

Judy Van der Veer is an American author (1912-1982) who wrote books that are too little remembered now. In her works of fiction and non-fiction, Van der Veer beautifully brings alive small California worlds close to nature.

The novel November Grass (1940) tells of a 23-year-old woman (called "the girl") who lives on a ranch in the valleys east of San Diego. Surrounded by animals, she observes the small details of their lives. She notices the cow who labors in pain, then turns to greet her calf "with all love in her eyes."

This is no cute-animal story, however. The girl fattens calves then takes them from their mothers for sale; this the girl both accepts as necessary and as a weight on her heart. Out walking the hills, she finds signs of death:

Skulls of cattle, eyes no longer empty, but filled with grass. ...

The ivory whiteness of these bones made her think that death treated them better than it did the buried bones of men who had owned the cattle. ... Here at least the bones were free of the flesh that kept them from wind and sun. But the poor bones of man were ever in darkness. She wished that her own bones, when she was done using them, could rest cleanly in the sunshine.

The book is not in the least a downer; rather, Van der Veer's words thrum with all of life's emotions. In my own writing, I work to support with evidence my claims that non-human animals — from ducks and cats to chimpanzees and dolphins — feel love, joy, vexation and grief. In Van der Veer's books, these emotions emerge naturally from farm animals' lives.

A black cow's calf dies, and that night the mother calls out for her lost one:

All night long she grieved until by morning her voice was hoarse.

A young bull explodes into joy:

He was in ecstasies of delight. Being a little bull, he couldn't write a poem or sing a song, and the need to express himself was very great. So, until dark, he praised the earth with all the exuberance of his stocky young body. And when he was tired at least it seemed that he might well have gathered a lot of the goodness of the earth into his very bones.

From A Few Happy Ones, Van der Veer's memoir (1943), we learn of the experiences that fueled her fiction. The wise person knows, she concludes, that, despite life's inevitable suffering, he will be all right if "he can still enjoy the good moments that come at times to all living things, if he can still take pleasure in what beauty he chances to see."

I thank my California friend and fellow primatologist Joanne Tanner for first sending "Judy books" my way. With this little Valentine to Van der Veer, I pay it forward: she's a gift to lovers of literature and the natural world.


You can keep up with more of what Barbara is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape

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