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.


'Tropic Death' Presents Life's Horrors In Beautiful Prose

Jan 16, 2013

Tropic Death, the blunt, specific title for Eric Walrond's story collection, first published more than 85 years ago, couldn't be more apt. These 10 stories indeed have tropical settings — namely, British Guiana, Barbados and the Panama Canal Zone — and death is ever present, as palpable as the bludgeoning heat and suffocating racism that characterize many of these tales.

The title's terseness also signals to the reader she is about to enter an almost unbearably cruel world, one in which Walrond unsentimentally if elegantly observes his themes: envy and lust; power and pride; the paranormal; a natural world that is as savage as it is beautiful; and what it means to withstand debasement by a society perverted by codes of race and class.

The book, if you haven't guessed already, is not comforting. For one, there's the challenging text. As acclaimed Ralph Ellison biographer Arnold Rampersad notes in his thoughtful, informative introduction, "Walrond's commitment to dialect makes Tropic Death difficult reading at times." That's something of an understatement. The regional dialects reproduced on the page are at times so hard to decipher that they must be read aloud to make sense of them. But there's a much bigger reason why this book, which Rampersad calls "one of the outstanding works of fiction of the so-called Harlem Renaissance," is so tough. These stories are disturbing reminders of how utterly vulnerable we are to the injustices of the heart and of community, to say nothing of a wider universe indifferent to our happiness.

Yet among all this brutality and sorrow, Walrond finds splendor, which he captures in his alluring prose. In the story "Panama Gold," about an independent woman who misses her chance at love, he writes this of the punishing Caribbean sun:

"The western sky of Barbadoes was ablaze. A mixture of fire and gold, it burned, and burned — into one vast sulphurous mass. It burned the houses, the trees, the windowpanes. The burnt glass did amazing color somersaults — turned brown and gold and lavender and red. It poured a burning liquid over the gap. It colored the water in the ponds a fierce dull yellowish gold."

And in "The Palm Porch," which details the ruthless machinations of a brothel within the Canal Zone, here's his stark yet gorgeous portrayal of the ransacking of the land:

"After the torch, ashes and ghosts — bare, black stalks, pegless stumps, flakes of charred leaves and half-burnt tree trunks. Down by a stream watering a village of black French colonials, dredges began to work. More of the Zone pests, rubber-booted ones, tugged out huge iron pipes and safely laid them on the gutty bosom of the swamp. Congeries of them. Then one windy night the dredges began a moaning noise. It was the sea groaning and vomiting. Through the throat of the pipes it rattled, and spat stones — gold and emerald and amethyst. All sorts of juice the sea upheaved. It dug deep down, too, far into the recesses of its sprawling cosmos. Back to a pre-geologic age it delved and brought up things."

Tropic Death was published in 1926 by Boni & Liveright, and with its republication this year it's clear new attention is being sought for an overlooked book and its author. Walrond himself was born in in 1898 in what is now Guyana, and moved with his mother to Barbados in 1906, then joined his father in Panama in 1911, where he became fluent in Spanish and worked as a reporter. He moved to New York City in 1918, and eight years later saw published this remarkable story collection rooted in a world he knew so well. Reading Tropic Death, you have to be impressed by his ability to confront life's pitilessness in such exquisitely crafted prose.

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