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.


Hamid's How-To for Success, 'Filthy Rich' In Irony

Feb 27, 2013
Originally published on March 5, 2013 6:20 pm

Novelist Mohsin Hamid lives in Lahore, Pakistan, quite some distance from the Long Island of Jay Gatsby. But his new novel — his third and, I think, best so far — reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's quintessential American work. As I read this novel about the dark and light of success in a world of social instability, I kept asking myself how much I might be inflating the value of Hamid's novel by rating it so highly. After all, this story takes the form of a gimmick, and gimmicks usually work against real quality.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia uses the conceit of a how-to book for South Asians; the book's exemplar is a country boy on the make, always referred to in the second person, as "you." Though there's a danger some will find this structure and form of address forced or artificial, you, the reader, quickly get caught up in Hamid's extremely detailed account of a life of upward social mobility in what we usually regard as a caste- and classbound part of the world.

In Chapter 1: Move to the City, the narrator first introduces — and addresses — the nameless hero, a village child "shivering, on the packed earth" under his mother's cot one cold, dewy morning. The narrator continues:

"The whites of your eyes are yellow, a consequence of spiking bilirubin levels in your blood. The virus afflicting you is called hepatitis E. Its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral ...

"Your mother has encountered this condition many times, or conditions like it anyway. So maybe she doesn't think you're going to die. Then again, maybe she does."

In this fashion, the writer informs both character and reader as he tracks his hero through every subsequent stage of life. From city delivery boy to quick-witted (and fraudulent) petty entrepreneur to the owner of a major urban water company, this fellow is almost always on the rise, his story soaked with aspiration, drenched with irony and pathetic at the core.

How, then, does one Get Filthy Rich? Each of the chapter titles offers a sometimes straightforward, sometimes ironic imperative. By the end of the first chapter, our man has put country life behind him. And then comes Chapter 2: Get an Education (which he does, both in school and on the street). Then Chapter 3: Don't Fall in Love (advice he doesn't exactly follow, thus changing his life forever). Chapter 4: Avoid Idealists (he manages this OK). Chapter 5: Learn from a Master (oh, yes, he does!). And so on, toward his striking success in making cash and avoiding assassination and, eventually, his inevitable fall.

Thanks to Hamid's meticulous use of detail — and his sympathy for a man on the make in a society of endemic poverty — we engage deeply with a serious character whose essence remains his own yet who stands as a figure representative of his time and place, an effect only the best novelists can create. The secondary characters — his mother and father, for example, and to a lesser extent his wife and children — fit beautifully into this scheme.

And there's another fine and moving example of this in our hero's lifelong attraction for one of his neighbors, a streetwise young woman whom Hamid calls "the pretty girl." Our hero first encounters her when both are adolescents, wandering the streets of the nameless city where they both scratch out a living. "The pretty girl" grows up to join what passes for big-city bohemian life and eventually becomes a savvy show-business presence. More important, she blossoms into a devoted friend — sometimes a sexual companion, mostly not, but always the object of our hero's overarching longing for something to assuage his essential loneliness.

By the final chapter, Have an Exit Strategy, we have a full cast of particular characters and a life story that includes familial devotion; the pangs and pains of affection; poignant depictions of love, lust, marriage; and business, business, business — Pakistani style. Some of you may find yourselves reminded of Carlos Fuentes' hero in The Death of Artemio Cruz, a man who embodies all of the soul and flaws of his time and place. Or, as suggested earlier, this tale of an unscrupulous striver may bring to mind a globalized version of The Great Gatsby. Given the unabashed gimmickry of Hamid's how-to design, it's a pleasant surprise to find that his book is nearly that good.

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