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.


'Dead Man Down': A Gang-War Drama That's Practically D.O.A.

Mar 5, 2013
Originally published on March 8, 2013 12:17 pm

Dead Man Down is the first American film from Niels Arden Oplev, director of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but it's not very American. This twisty existential thriller is set in a New York City that's as sun-deprived as Stockholm in January — and one in which nearly everyone speaks English as a second language.

The principal players are Victor, a ruthless thug portrayed by Irish actor Colin Farrell, and Beatrice, a scarred beautician embodied by Hispano-Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, the original dragon-tattoo girl. Victor is supposed to be Hungarian-born, while Beatrice is so French that her mother is played by Isabelle Huppert. (Seriously. Isabelle Huppert.)

The story gets going at full speed, as two tough guys — Victor and his earnest pal Darcy (Dominic Cooper) — are summoned by their boss, Alphonse (Terrence Howard). One of their cohorts has just turned up iced in a freezer, and the elegant but excitable Alphonse wants revenge.

So the well-dressed, carefully pomaded gangster leads a raid on a rival drug lord, who's Jamaican. Cue heavy patois, heavier gunplay and a nearly naked hooker's quick exit. Only then does Oplev get around to rolling the opening credits.

Dead Man Down is a tangle of plots and counterplots, propelled by surprises that are — sometimes — actually surprising. The plot can't be summarized without doing major damage to the experience of watching the movie .... well, of watching the movie lurch, whirl and tease its way to the inevitable climactic shootout.

Let's just say that Victor (the title's "dead man") and Beatrice are both fixated on revenge, and while their causes are entirely separate, they eventually come to overlap. And that both live in a world where justice is available only to people who seize it. There is some talk of cops, lawyers and judges, but all major disputes are finally settled by warring clans or obsessed loners.

Ethnically, the battle pits a polyglot New York gang against an Albanian one against a lone Hungarian with a Magyar support group led by F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus' Salieri). Armand Assante takes a quick spin as a Mafia type who has some sort of supervisory power over Alphonse. The Jamaican drug dealers are included mostly as cannon fodder, and so the score can feature some thumping dance-hall reggae.

J.H. Wyman's script is grim and fairly audacious, without anything so goofy as the silliest stuff in Dragon Tattoo. The story involves some Grand Guignol violence, but its wildest notion is that a suicide-mission plot might somehow yield a happy ending.

Among Dead Man Down's attractions are vigor, panache and — if you like that sort of thing — a bracingly sour worldview. Drawbacks include a palette so dark that viewers will be tempted to clean their glasses or scan the theater for a contrast knob.

The movie's biggest problem, though, is that it just isn't very much fun. The filmmakers recognize that the premise is fairly absurd and try to show they're in on the joke with some comic relief involving cookies, a lucky rabbit's foot and Isabelle Huppert. (Seriously. Isabelle Huppert. As comic relief.)

The shtick seems extraneous, however, and it fails to ease the movie's severity. This is a tale about the sacred obligation of vengeance, and watching it is a bit of a chore.

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