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.


Toy Fair: Markers That Don't Blot Walls, Sand Without The Mess

Feb 11, 2013
Originally published on February 11, 2013 2:00 pm

Toy Fair 2013 in New York started Sunday and runs until Wednesday. NPR's Neda Ulaby had the tough assignment of sizing up the acres of fun offerings. She brings us this report:

The venerable industry convention Toy Fair celebrates its 110th anniversary this week. But it might as well be the 1970s or '80s within the great glassy expanse of New York City's Javits Center.

Vast acres of displays baldly appeal to the nostalgia of today's 30-to 40-something parents. Whole city blocks worth of booths are crammed with Mario Bros., Pacman and Star Wars figurines, Hello Kitties, Slinkies, and Big Wheels The main difference between those toys of thirty years ago and today, it seems, is the presence of USB ports.

More than 30,000 people have registered to attend Toy Fair this year.

Actual children are not allowed.

It's all buyers and sellers, makers and takers. The biggest trends besides nostalgia are building toys — the most popular toy segment on the market right now — and toys tapping into design and style, exactly what parents tend to follow on their favorite TV reality shows.

Kids have always enjoyed imitating the ways of grownups in play. And sure enough, my own unofficial survey of the 1,000-plus booths revealed trends in temporary tattoos and extravagant fake mustaches. One booth sold a combination: fake mustache tattoos. Had it also involved a nostalgic nod to ZZ Top, that booth may well have been mobbed.

Some of the biggest purveyors of play — Lego and Crayola, for example — did not have booths at Toy Fair. Instead, they had fortresses: Giant, bright dividers guarded by stern PR types separated casual lookie-loos from the trendiest, most cutting-edge, new toys.

One had to be approved in advance for an appointment. The Crayola people kindly took me around for a private tour. That's where I learned that holiday shopping season starts in late summer for the biggest toy makers. (It takes that long to create buzz.)

Among the Crayola products coming out in July are magic markers that magically only write on proprietary paper developed by the company. That way, when your three-year-old wreaks havoc with a fat red marker and scribbles all over the couch, the walls and herself, the only visible red marks will be seen on that special Crayola paper.

The company's also developed digital graphic design tools allowing young children to play with digital effects with their drawings and photos, including airbrushing — a skill I suppose can't be taught too early these days.

Innovation was hardly lacking outside the corporate compounds. I was fascinated by the "Sand Puff," perhaps best described as high-tech sand. Imagine lighter, fluffier bread dough, but sandy. It's malleable enough to twist and mold into shapes — even castles! — but also fun to stretch, finger and tear. Sand Puff comes from South Korea and it's made, said the booth attendant, from "seashell powder and natural moisturizing oil."

Stuffed animals have somehow gotten even cuter since I was a kid — more cuddly, more personable, more convincing. It's possible my favorite toys at the fair were the plush horses, as large as Newfoundlands, so soft and sensitive you could almost hear them nicker. Best of all, they're outfitted like tricycles, so you could actually ride these giant stuffed animals around.

I mean, you could if you were little.

(Neda Ulaby is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk.)

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