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.


'Hava Nagila: The Movie' Pays Homage To Unlikely Jewish Touchstone

Feb 28, 2013
Originally published on March 3, 2013 8:47 am

I grew up on "Hava Nagila," and I'll admit it's not the catchiest of tunes. The ingenuous Hebrew lyrics ("Come! Let us rejoice and be happy!") don't wear well in our age of knowing irony and ennui.

Hip young Israelis wince at the very mention of the song, and for many Diaspora Jews, a few bars of the tune are all it takes to recall that excruciating moment late in a fancy wedding or bar mitzvah, when the band invites all remaining guests (tipsy uncles included) to kick up their heels — and then go home already.

Yet according to Hava Nagila: The Movie, an infectiously high-spirited new documentary by Roberta Grossman, the most cornball song in the Jewish repertoire has a colorful history that has carried Ashkenazi Jews through the joy and sorrow of 150 years of being thrown around the world.

That's saying nothing of the tune's many covers by goyish entertainers from Harry Belafonte to Elvis Presley, not forgetting ambivalent Jews like Bob Dylan, who butchered the tune to within an inch of its life (needless to say not innocently). And to judge by the many movie clips that pepper the film, from Yiddish silent films through Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights to Wedding Crashers, "Hava Nagila" has more than earned its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Grossman (who also made Blessed is the Match, a respectful decanonization of the Hungarian-Jewish resistance fighter Hannah Senesh) deftly tracks the song's path around the world from the shtetls of Eastern Europe through the Holocaust to Israel and the American suburb. There, through no fault of its own, it played its part in family celebrations as a symbol of Jewish upward mobility, as well as a tool of self-satire for the likes of comedian Allan Sherman.

As it traveled around the globe, "Hava Nagila" was repeatedly reinvented as a celebration of happiness in defiance of misery and oppression. Today, residents of the small Ukrainian village where it began as a nigun, or wordless melody, have either never heard of the song or learned about it only on television.

But its reason for being survives in the neglected ruins of a beautiful old synagogue. Hasidim danced to it in the teeth of pogroms; Israelis commemorated the Holocaust and gave their fledgling nation a national culture by pairing it with the hora. Somewhere along the line the melody acquired upbeat lyrics and became the object of feisty tribal infighting about who actually wrote the darned thing.

Grossman finds lively, often passionate and funny interpreters — among them rabbis, historians, musicologists and klezmer musicians — to guide us through the song's many transformations. Today, "Hava Nagila" sits squarely (in every sense) in Jewish suburbia, where often as not the ability to fumble one's way through the words is about as Jewish as the singer gets.

Never mind: As a lovely clip of a Belafonte duet with Danny Kaye shows, in the entertainment business just about anyone can be Jewish, if only for a few minutes. The last, wickedly funny word surely has to go to Connie Francis. An Italian Catholic who is pictured belting out "Hava Nagila" in a dirndl and with a tambourine, the singer, when asked if she was Jewish, always replied with a poker face: "I'm one-tenth Jewish on my manager's side."

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