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.


Making Up A History For The 'Dutch Mona Lisa'

Feb 3, 2013
Originally published on February 3, 2013 7:24 am

Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of his most famous paintings, but very little is actually known about it. The girl herself is a mystery who has inspired both a novel and a movie speculating on her true story.

The painting is back in the United States for the first time since 1995, at San Francisco's de Young museum. In honor of the painting's return visit, The Guardian newspaper asked its readers to supply their own stories about the girl, her earring, and the painting that immortalized them.

Ruth Spencer, community coordinator for The Guardian, tells NPR's Rachel Martin that stories came in from all over the world. "Some people wrote from the perspective of the girl, others wrote from Vermeer's perspective. We asked readers to really go wild in their imaginations."

One story imagines that Vermeer's wife, left alone while her husband works in isolation, begins to fear he is having an affair and sends the young girl to be both his muse and his downfall. But the girl is herself a painter, using Vermeer as a false front to avoid attention — making the famous image a self-portrait.

Another, more comic take, posits that the painting is a failed marketing gambit by a pearl earring manufacturer, who went out of business before being able to add its logo to the finished work.

"The mystery is part of the allure," Spencer says. "You look at her, you read the novel, you can even watch the movie and you might think that you know the story of the girl, but you never really do. That's really what continues to feed our desire to see this portrait."

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The mysterious identity of the subject of Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring has inspired many interpretations as to who she was, including a bestselling novel by Tracy Chevalier that was adapted into a film. "The Girl with a Pearl Earring" - the painting - is back in the United States for the first time since l995. It's now at San Francisco's De Young museum. And in honor of the painting's return visit, The Guardian newspaper asked readers to supply their own story of the painting. The paper has just posted its 25 favorite stories online. And the Guardian's Ruth Spencer joins us to talk about what kind of response they got. Welcome to the program, Ruth.

RUTH SPENCER: Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So, did you get a lot of submissions and were there any kind of common threads from readers?

SPENCER: We did get a lot of submissions from all over the world. Some people wrote from the perspective of the girl. Others wrote from Vermeer's perspective. We asked readers to really go wild in their imaginations.

MARTIN: So, what were some of your personal favorites?

SPENCER: Well, I brought a couple of excerpts today here actually that I could read from. And this one is from Simon Fox: (Reading) Vermeer is lauded as a great painter in his region and enjoys the fruits of his labor. However, he always insists on working in isolation, sometimes for months at a time. His wealthy wife believes he is having an affair and dispatches a young woman to become his muse in the hope of trapping him. But the young woman is also a painter and, not wanting to become famous, is using Vermeer as her stooge. The girl with the pearl earring is in fact a self-portrait.

MARTIN: Ooh. Twist ending. I like that one. Any of these particularly comical, funny interpretations?

SPENCER: Yep, definitely. This one from Steven Taylor: (Reading) As the man responsible for the marketing strategy at the Pearl Earring Company, it was my responsibility to come up with something more alluring than the poem by Carol Ann Duffy we'd been hoping to use. Vermeer's painting seemed the perfect fit. It's just a pity that the company went bust before our logo could be added to the top right of the painting. It makes a mockery of commerce. We got the girl through the Nathaniel Hawthorne Scarlet Letter Agency. No mystery there, unfortunately.

MARTIN: Very clever. What do you think is the root of this fascination?

SPENCER: Well, I think, you know, the mystery is part of the allure. You look at her, you read the novel, you can even watch the movie and you might think that you know the story of the girl. But you never really do. You know, that's really what continues to seed our desire to see this portrait.

MARTIN: Ruth Spencer is the community coordinator for the Guardian's U.S. digital newsroom. Ruth, thanks so much for talking with us.

SPENCER: Thank you. Thanks so much.

MARTIN: For more on the Guardian's Vermeer contest, go to our website at


MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.