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.


Undercurrents Of Unease In Kasischke's 'Stranger'

Feb 20, 2013
Originally published on February 20, 2013 10:18 am

As writers churn out novels about zombies and the apocalypse — books that portray our shared anxieties about the early 21st century — Laura Kasischke's first collection of stories, If a Stranger Approaches You, describes a world haunted, not by the undead, but by the phantoms of unemployment, increased airport security and missed credit card payments. The signature confluence between realism and the uncanny found in much of Kasischke's writing, both as poet and novelist, makes this book an important addition to her own body of work and to the contemporary literature of end times. If a Stranger Approaches You aptly depicts the mundane and ephemeral forces propelling us to our fates; not even the unspeakable escapes Kasischke's eye.

Inside the tidy suburban homes she writes about, her characters feel an impotence that pushes through the surface of their lives to make strange disturbances. In "Melody," a newly separated father walks down his former street to his daughter's birthday party. He's both distracted and enraged by his wife's insistence on a normalcy that belies the tension between them. He reviews their shared history and finds himself trying to halt the force of his hurtling and desperate momentum, which leads him to a point of no return. Kasischke accurately describes the psychodynamics of a little girl's birthday party, complete with gossiping queen-bee mothers and their daughters who cheat at Pin the Tail on the Donkey. The story veers from the bone-chilling tedium of the domestic to the sinister dread we feel when our lives are getting away from us. Of the family's neighborhood Kasischke writes: "Here, no one had to be reminded to mind his or her own business. Your neighbors could be lying on their front lawn, moaning in agony, and you'd just politely pull your curtains closed so you wouldn't offend them by noticing. It was that kind of suburb in which, every ten years or so, something horrifying might happen."

Kasischke notices the agony. In this slender collection packed with tight, dark stories, she replaces exposition with a keen compression that, perhaps paradoxically, renders the world more accurately than mere realism. In the story "The Foreclosure," a young woman is consumed with a desire for a new home to replace the apartment she pays for by working in a cubicle, so she navigates her neighborhood to appease her needfulness. In describing the tidy, seemingly haunted homes, Kasischke writes, "If people were losing their houses, selling them in desperation for songs, they were hiding their troubles well. Everyone, it seemed, had a rocking chair, a calico cat, a flowering shrub under a picture window." The book's title story, a tale about a woman waiting for an airplane who accepts a package from a stranger, portrays what it is to be a working mother, but it also functions as an allegory for the post-9/11 world.

From her first poetry collection, Wild Brides, in which she chronicles the poignant desires of an adolescent girl, to her 2011 novel The Raising, which describes the mysterious death of a girl in a college town, Kasischke's work has always been tinged with the fabulous and visceral. While unease envelops the suburbs, many of the characters in If A Stranger Approaches You still find hope in the sometimes irreparably changed circumstances of their lives. Kasischke writes beautifully about this strange form of recompense, as in the ending of the story "Somebody's Mistress, Somebody's Wife":

Karen nodded ... feeling the tears gather in the corners of her eyes, but also feeling swollen with wonder at this strange life and her own role in it, full of a kind of regret that was also a kind of genuine awe.

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