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.


March Kids' Book Club Pick: 'The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz'

Feb 28, 2013
Originally published on March 1, 2013 8:50 am

Our next book club adventure takes us on a journey that is familiar to people across generations: We will be taking a trip down the yellow brick road with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900. It is one of the most beloved stories in popular American culture, but over the decades, the book has taken a back seat to the wildly successful Wizard of Oz film.

Indeed, the mere mention of The Wizard of Oz calls to mind an image of the stumbling Scarecrow, the rusted Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion or the actress Judy Garland, clad in gingham and braids, singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." It's a film that is in our national DNA, viewed usually not just once, but over and over again. The 1939 musical is said to have been seen by more people more times than any other movie ever made. For years it was broadcast annually on television in the U.S. and also in several other countries.

In March, a new film is rolling into theaters called Oz: The Great and Powerful. It's produced by Disney and is meant to be a prequel to The Wizard of Oz film, with a story line that explains how the Wizard found his way to magical land of Oz in the first place.

Here at NPR's Backseat Book Club, we've decided go back to where the yellow brick road began, with the original fairy tale authored by a man named L. Frank Baum. In many ways it is a simple story of a girl who gets swept up in a Kansas cyclone and wakes up in a mystical land with flying monkeys, treacherous trees, scarecrows that sing and a scary green witch who rides bicycles.

In the centennial edition of The Annotated Wizard of Oz, children's book historian Michael Patrick Hearn said, "Frank Baum knew at once he had written something special when he completed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Before introducing readers to Oz, Baum had achieved success as a children's book author translating Mother Goose into prose and publishing a popular collection of nonsensical Father Goose poems. He had a strong sense that the Wizard of Oz would be a smash hit because it was a fairy tale that touched on timely themes at the turn of the 20th century, but also timeless questions such as where does courage really come from? And why do humans always long to go back home? Baum also realized that the story had stoked his own creative flame. He told his brother Harry that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the best thing he'd ever written. So smitten was Baum by The Emerald City that he eventually wrote more than a dozen novels based on the Land of Oz.

Historians say there was another reason for the blockbuster success of the first Oz book: It featured magical illustrations by William Wallace Denslow that captured the imagination of adults as well as kids. The original book was published with 24 color plates and contained more than 100 textual illustrations. Hearn said it was "the most lavishly illustrated American book of the twentieth century." Hearn also noted that reviewers heaping praise on the Oz book could not decide who deserved more credit, Baum the author or Denslow the illustrator.

A fairy tale that carried such visual punch and visceral emotion was tailor-made for a musical production. Baum and Denslow began laying the groundwork for a stage play almost immediately after the first Oz book was published. After a series of fits and starts, a stage version opened in 1902 bearing the name that would eventually appear in film as well, The Wizard of Oz. The popular stage version had a plot line that veered from the original book. The witch disappeared. Toto said "ta ta" and was replaced by a cow named Imogene. Overall, the theme and subtle jokes in the stage play were aimed primarily at adults.

The story line eventually leaned back toward a younger audience with early attempts at film adaptations and the eventual 1939 classic film made by Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The movie, like the stage productions, is quite different from the original book, but we don't want to give too much away before our Backseat Book Club readers launch into reading the story that started it all: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

We hope this book will reach readers across the age spectrum, and we would love to hear from those who have special memories attached to the Land of Oz. We're hoping that our trip down the yellow brick road will send you on a trip down memory lane. Did you sleep with the light on for weeks after seeing the flying monkeys? Do you have a pair of red slippers tucked away in your closet or a cherished vintage toy version of the Tin Man? Do you find that you can't hum a certain song when you see someone on an upright bike with a wicker basket on the handlebars? Please share your Oz memories with us here.

And if you or your kids have ever dressed up as a character from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we'd love to see you in costume. You can submit your photos here.

Happy reading. And you know what? There really is no place quite like home.

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