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.


The Oscars Broadcast, Zooming Way Past Cheeky To Land Squarely On Crass

Feb 25, 2013
Originally published on February 25, 2013 4:36 pm

If you like Argo (which won Best Picture), the movie Chicago (which made a couple of appearances) and jokes about women (which just kept coming), you probably had a substantially better night than the average viewer, who was subjected to Seth MacFarlane's delivery of one of the worst hosting performances in Oscar history.

In fact, David Letterman is writing Seth MacFarlane notes of gratitude right now for taking all the pressure off of "Uma, Oprah, Oprah, Uma," the most famous bomb of 1995, and more recent troubled hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway are feeling a little less heat as well.

MacFarlane opened with a perhaps predictably juvenile and overlong bit in which he sang about all the actresses he'd seen topless in movies, trying to have his cake and eat it too by framing it in a bit where William Shatner visited from the future to show him what it would look like if he were bombing.

Unfortunately, it was very difficult to tell the difference between pretending to bomb and actually bombing — the laughter he received seemed polite at best, and his conviction that saying "boobs" enough times would cause a room full of tuxes and gowns to quake with hilarity seemed misplaced. And then there were sock puppets. It's better forgotten.

Throughout the night, MacFarlane returned over and over to the topic of women and how silly they are — how Jessica Chastain's character in Zero Dark Thirty is an example of how women never let anything go, for instance — to the point where it seemed like his shtick would have benefited from a simple count of how many times he was returning to the well of "Women, am I right?"

He kept apologizing for and reframing jokes so that he'd be less responsible for them: If the audience didn't like the joke, he'd comment on how much worse it would get, or how unfair that was, or how he'd thought they weren't doing that joke. He showed none of the willingness to say what you're going to say and not walk it back 10 seconds later that characterizes every legitimately daring comedian.

His sexist jokes were in poor taste, sure, but if they'd been funny, nobody would have cared. People are forgiving when your women-are-crazy material is funny; they're not so forgiving when it's dull. It didn't help that the patter written for presenters was almost as bad. It takes a lot to make the charismatic guys from The Avengers come off like charmless dolts, but they managed.

It wasn't just MacFarlane making the entire telecast look bad, particularly in the early going. What seemed like a cheeky decision to play people off the stage with the Jaws music when they talked too long seemed brutal and tasteless when it was used on the guy who was explaining that a visual-effects company responsible for Life Of Pi was going under, or against the guys who made the documentary Searching For Sugar Man.

Fortunately, there's a lot more to the Oscars than the written patter. Shirley Bassey emerged to sing "Goldfinger" — and there's nothing that's not fun about listening to Shirley Bassey, after all. Adele performed the Skyfall theme that would later win for Best Original Song. There were also numbers from Chicago, Dreamgirls and Les Miserables, in addition to an appearance from Barbra Streisand, singing "The Way We Were" as part of the In Memoriam tribute to Marvin Hamlisch.

And the nominees, too, can always be counted on to introduce a little humanity into the proceedings. Winners including Ang Lee (Best Director, Life Of Pi), Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress, Silver Linings Playbook) and Daniel Day-Lewis (Best Actor, Lincoln) gave charming speeches that reminded people why they're well liked. That went, too, for the last speech of the night — from Ben Affleck, whose thriller Argo won not just Best Picture, but also Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.

Other big winners included Brave for Best Animated Feature, Amour for Best Foreign Language Film, Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables and Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained for Best Supporting Actress and Actor, and Quentin Tarantino for Django's Original Screenplay.

It seems like it's very difficult for awards show organizers to learn the lesson that an awards show is not a roast. It's not there to pull the rug out from under Hollywood and zing the heck out of everybody and show 'em a thing or two. People are wearing millions of dollars in borrowed jewelry; trying to teach them a lesson in humility at that moment, you are doomed to fail before you begin.

When MacFarlane and a poorly served Kristin Chenoweth ended the broadcast — after Best Picture was announced — with a song calling out all the "losers," by name, it seemed like a discordant, nasty note on which to end right after Affleck's appreciative, upbeat speech. People don't watch awards shows to see the host dump on the show he's hosting unless he's very, very, very good at it. The best hosts tease sharply but graciously; that's what made Johnny Carson a good Oscars host, and Jimmy Fallon at the Emmys, and recent Golden Globes hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

Seth MacFarlane demonstrated Sunday night, perhaps as well as anyone ever has, that hosting the Oscars is not about proving how clever you are. Like being a good talk-show host, it's about making everyone look good, which makes you look confident and capable. And while you're worrying about how blue you can work, how much humor about Jews you can do in your bit with Mark Wahlberg, and how many times you can say "boobs," it's important to keep in mind that the most important thing is that you be funny.

If you're funny, people are pretty flexible. If you're not, no stuffed bear can save you.

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