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.


'Inescapable' Ambiguities In Prewar Syria

Feb 21, 2013

It's hard to imagine an upside to the civil war now causing unspeakable suffering in Syria. But the conflict has turned out to be a break for the makers of Inescapable, a feverish political thriller written and directed by Ruba Nadda, a Canadian of Syrian origin whose last film was the languorous 2009 romance Cairo Time.

Set in Damascus in 2011, on the eve of the uprising against President Bashar Assad, the movie minces no words about the brutal police state he has kept in trim since the 2000 death of his father, Hafez Assad. Yet it's also a story of redemption for one of the late dictator's former intelligence operatives.

Adib Abdel Kareem (played by Alexander Siddig, a character actor whose quiet intensity and panther grace recall Omar Sharif) left Syria abruptly 20 years ago and is now comfortably resettled in Toronto with a cushy job in computers, a loving wife and two grown daughters whom he adores.

Adib is affable, confident with a touch of arrogance and prone to flashes of temper. When the murky past he has kept from his family returns to haunt him, the affability vanishes. While traveling in the Middle East, Adib's daughter, a photographer, takes a sudden detour to Damascus and disappears, forcing him to return to his native city to find her.

Since he left, nothing much has changed, his former colleague and fiancee Fatima tells him on his arrival. And yes, that is Marisa Tomei under several tons of mascara. Except that this terrifically versatile actress has little to do but lounge in doorways working up a sullen smolder tinged with wistful regret while struggling to push along a redundant romantic subplot.

The rest is mostly chase scenes as Adib tries to dance his way past agents from several secret services, who spend as much time warring with each other as they do trying to corner him. Inescapable is Nadda's first foray into thriller territory, and her inexperience shows in awkwardly mounted fight scenes and clumsy car chases, not to mention an almost fatally explanatory script.

Nadda is very good, though, at juxtaposing Damascus' tranquil beauty with the terrors of everyday life in a police state. You'd never guess the movie was shot (beautifully, by Canadian cinematographer Luc Montpellier) in South Africa; we feel in our bones the beauty and danger of a lovely Middle Eastern city blighted by the presence of heavily armed soldiers on every corner.

There is, too, an ambiguity to the characters that slyly complicates an otherwise pro forma plot. Adib is far from the only slippery customer in a growing ensemble, among them a suave Canadian embassy official (a very good Joshua Jackson), a Russian relic from the old days (Danny Keogh) who can still pull strings on demand, and Adib's former friend Sayyid (Israeli actor Oded Fehr), now a ranking intelligence chief who seems less than delighted to see his old buddy resurface.

As the Biblical moral parable it clearly means to be, though, Inescapable is a stew of muddled thinking. Must we like Adib better because he, too, was once betrayed? Should we be as jazzed as he is that his skills as a former professional bully prove crucial to his quest?

Siddig's soulfully expressive performance aside, Adib himself is written as a frustratingly thin character who gives little sign of inner torment or of coming to grips with the deep stains on his integrity. Adib's search for his child is framed as a journey of expiation that will wipe his slate clean. As atonement goes, aren't we talking apples and oranges?

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