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.

Alabama authorities say a home burglary suspect has died after police used a stun gun on the man.  Birmingham police say he resisted officers who found him in a house wrapped in what looked like material from the air conditioner duct work.  The Lewisburg Road homeowner called police Tuesday about glass breaking and someone yelling and growling in his basement.  Police reportedly entered the dwelling and used a stun gun several times on a white suspect before handcuffing him.  Investigators say the man was "extremely irritated" throughout and didn't obey verbal commands.

It can be hard to distinguish among the men wearing grey suits and regulation haircuts on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. But David Margolis always brought a splash of color.

It wasn't his lovably disheveled wardrobe, or his Elvis ring, but something else: the force of his flamboyant personality. Margolis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, didn't want to fit in with the crowd. He wanted to stand out.

Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

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'Umbrella' Is A Twisted Modernist Masterpiece

Jan 10, 2013

Will Self's latest novel, the Booker-shortlisted Umbrella, is a strange and sprawling modernist experiment that takes the human mind as its subject and, like the human mind, is infinitely capacious, wretchedly petty and ultimately magnificent, even in its defects.

In the bleak Britain of 1971, psychiatrist Zachary Busner is working in a North London mental hospital. He begins to notice a strange tic afflicting several of his patients, and diagnoses them with encephalitis lethargica — a catatonic state caused by an untreated brain infection. Busner's narration is interspersed with that of one of his patients, the variously named Audrey Dearth (Death; Deeth; Deerth; De'Ath), an elderly patient and an "enkie," or encephalitis sufferer, who wakes from a coma of some 50 years.

That is the novel's narrative heart, but worrying about traditional plotlines in Umbrella would be something like hunting for a nativity scene in a Jackson Pollock painting.

The narrative switches perspectives without warning and sometimes in the space of a single word. (One memorable transition occurred in the middle of the word "enigmarelle," enigma belonging to one world, elle to another, and enigmarelle — a vaudeville automaton — somehow, to both.) You could try to keep track of such switches, but it's far nicer to stop worrying and fall into the slipstream, to find yourself sometimes in a drab and dank mental hospital, sometimes being shelled in a World War I trench, sometimes in a munitions factory, sometimes in the floral boudoir of a weeping adulteress, and to enjoy the way the worlds dance around and within each other.

The title, Umbrella, is lifted from a line in James Joyce's Ulysses: "A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella." And the whole novel is intensely modernist, sharing Joyce's continuous narration, disregard for anything resembling readability, and flamboyant delight in knowing more words than his readers (Niblick? Dekko? Verbigeration? Coprolite?).

Self writes that suicidal patients have "sprightliness fizzing in their melancholy," a description that somehow fits his own sentences perfectly — grim and dense, but also antic. The novel is full of his grotesque and brilliant coinages: "homolog" for the records of a man's same-sex encounters, or the evocatively sibilant pissmist for the back-spray of urine.

And like Joyce, Self is exuberantly, ostentatiously allusive — toying with phrases from King Lear to Kant to the Beatles — and he also shares Joyce's rhythmic, ungrammatical style: The narrative is laced with snatches of songs or slant rhymes (Busner walks "sea-sluggishly through the greeny-briny.")

But the opening line of the novel is the most telling allusion. Busner walks through the hospital singing the Kinks song "Apeman" in his head: "I'm an apeman, I'm an ape-apeman," goes the chorus. The first verse continues: "I'm no better than the animals sitting in their cages in the zoo," a philosophy that's evident in the sheer physicality of the novel — it luxuriates in the grisly details of battlefield wounds and bed sores and bad sex and old age.

Umbrella is also deeply uncomfortable with medicine and technology. The influence of R.D. Laing — the controversial existentialist psychiatrist who posited that mental illness might be a social construct — is clear throughout the novel. Self delights in subversions, merrily punching holes in sacred institutions like medicine, warfare and industry. He skewers psychology's over-analysis of basic human instincts: One sex scene has Busner narrate, "Only when we touched did she unlock, did her synovial fluid flow, so that I felt her muscular rigidity liquefy into spasticity."

Umbrella is exactly what Virginia Woolf called Ulysses in her journal: "egotistic, insistent, raw, striking and ultimately nauseating." It may not be beautiful, but it is extraordinary.

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