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.


Lance Armstrong, Tragic Hero? Not Exactly

Jan 18, 2013

Annalisa Quinn is a freelance writer for NPR Books.

Lance Armstrong, in the interview Thursday night with Oprah Winfrey in which he admitted to doping, understood the role that storytelling played in his fall: "You win the Tour de France seven times, you have a happy marriage, you have children. It's just this mythic, perfect story. And it wasn't true."

Since the news of his admission of doping broke earlier this week, a remarkable number of news outlets have likened him to a type of mythic figure — a hero from Greek tragedy. CNN, ABC, MSNBC and Kojo Nnamdi have all used the comparison — and one eager and slightly confused piece in the Irish Examiner last month compared him to Achilles and Dr. Faustus all at once.

Let's break this down. It's true that Lance Armstrong was once powerful and is now disgraced. The rise to glory, the fatal twist and the long, dark fall into infamy — it's all there.

But this journalistic tic of comparing fallen public figures to Greek tragedy is a lazy habit, intended to add an erudite flourish to a piece of writing and to give the story grandeur and scope. In fact, the idea of pride before a fall is not necessarily classical. The concept of "the fatal flaw" that causes a hero's demise is based on an errant translation of Aristotle and is, frankly, very Catholic. It owes much to the "sin" that causes eternal banishment. Helene Foley, an expert on Greek tragedy at Columbia University, confirmed that it is "most probably a Christianization" and added that in Greek tragedy, "heroes do not fall because they lie or cheat."

In Greek epic, at least, cheating and lying is not necessarily anti-heroic, and it certainly isn't a cause for disgrace: Odysseus is the consummate cheater. He lies and tricks his way into Troy, and then lies and tricks his way home again. His epithet is "polumetis" — the man of many wiles.

The concept of "fairness" in competition is also very modern: In the world of Greek warfare, it was often a mark of success to acquire special advantages. If you are clever enough and brave enough to get special treatment, then you earned it. Achilles — the greatest warrior of all — doped, in a sense: In the Iliad, when he is too grieved by Patroclus' death to eat, the gods feed him strengthening nectar and ambrosia before battle. He had performance-enhancing armor made for him by Hephaestus. Why? Because he was a magnificent warrior, the son of a goddess — and he deserved it.

Usually, when we talk about the "fatal flaw" — in modern usage, the thing that makes someone great and then destroys him — we mean pride or ambition, as with any number of fallen despots. Even Henry Kissinger called Richard Nixon's demise a Greek tragedy, and added, "Nixon was fulfilling his own nature."

Armstrong himself implicitly played into this narrative in the first part of the two-part interview with Winfrey, calling his own (pre-fall) story "mythic" and speaking of his "flaw" as the "ruthless desire to win ... at all costs." Although, of course, it's tempting to suggest that it wasn't the desire but the drugs that were his "fatal flaw" — the doping made him great; the doping destroyed him

In the Iliad, Achilles is given the choice between "nostos" (homecoming) and "kleos" (glory). He chooses to die, to never see his father again and never grow old. Armstrong made a similarly extreme choice: He ravaged his already cancer-ravaged body with drugs and blood transfusions. He risked (and lost) his reputation and career. He lied to everyone. The irony, of course, is that the steps Armstrong took to secure his glory, when discovered, destroyed that glory forever.

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