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.


'A Good Day': Wake Me Tomorrow

Feb 14, 2013

In a dark, dusty vault beneath a studio back lot, are there stacks and stacks of unproduced Cold War-era screenplays? A pile of untapped bad movie potential, like a hidden stockpile of enriched uranium, just waiting for a film crew that's looking to make a quick buck with a dirty bomb of a movie?

A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth entry in the annals of hard-to-kill New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis), is not that explosively bad movie. It's the decaying radioactive wreckage left behind after that bomb goes off.

It doesn't even feel like it was ever intended to be a Die Hard movie: It's like someone went into that Cold War boilerplate pile, found a buddy-cop script about two mismatched heroes out to thwart the nefarious plans of some generic Russian bad guys, and substituted McClane and his son for the leads.

That son, Jack (Jai Courtney), is an undercover CIA operative working to bring down a corrupt Russian official; to accomplish that take, he's after a file that's supposedly in the possession of whistle-blower Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch). Komarov is being sent to trial on trumped-up charges to keep him quiet; the younger McClane, too, is up on charges, having publicly assassinated another Russian government official in what seems like a particularly boneheaded CIA ploy designed to get him close to Komarov.

Back in the U.S., the (increasingly) senior McClane finds out his son is in a Russian prison — the movie's version of the CIA is terrible at keeping secrets, it seems — and hops on an Aeroflot flight overseas to ... well, it's not entirely clear what he's hoping to accomplish by just wandering into the courthouse unannounced.

But never mind all that. Plot is incidental to this franchise nowadays, and the needless convolutions of this particular story seem largely like mere ploys to make it seem more interesting than it is. Suffice it to say, things start exploding right before the trial, and pretty much keep exploding, in more and more ludicrous ways, right up to the end of the movie.

This is the Magpie School of action filmmaking: Anytime things start to make so little sense that you might lose the audience, just throw something shiny up on screen to distract. Hence lots of slow-motion jumping and falling while fiery explosions billow up in the background. Cars seem to do more flying than driving, jumping off of overpasses or over other cars, rolling and flipping through the air. In one particularly inspired bit of lunatic misdirection, one of the Russian thugs chasing McClane delivers a menacing speech to the hero ... while loudly eating a carrot.

I have no recollection of what plot details were conveyed in that speech. But I do remember the carrot — and I'm guessing that's exactly the effect director John Moore was going for.

There's little left of the qualities that made the original Die Hard such a masterpiece — or even the things that made the substandard sequels marginally watchable. Where before McClane was out to save the life of a family member or a school full of kids, here — after the self-preservation that drives him in the opening sequence — he's fighting mostly to save his son's reputation and also to thwart a vaguely defined potential terrorist threat.

Humor has always been an essential element of McClane's appeal, but the attempts here aren't even in character. Are we really meant to believe that McClane would answer a cellphone call from his daughter in the midst of a car chase? Or knock out an innocent civilian who's (justifiably) yelling at him for running out into traffic?

Even McClane's trademark one-liners are fewer in number, generally clunkers, and often nearly drowned out by things going boom. It's difficult to tell if the mildly bemused air Willis carries with him through much of the movie is a character choice or just smug satisfaction that he's actually getting away with getting paid for this.

A Good Day to Die Hard does have one redeeming aspect: It has finally ended the debate over whether Die Hard 2 or 4 is the worst of the series. We finally have a clear loser.

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