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.

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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.


Sheen's 'Swan' Is One Ugly Duckling

Feb 7, 2013
Originally published on February 7, 2013 5:40 pm

There's no separating Charlie Sheen from Charles Swan, the titular representation of the male id at its most self-obsessed in Roman Coppola's uneven A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. But for better and decidedly worse, that's the point.

Like Charlie Harper, the allegedly charming ladies' man Sheen played on Two and a Half Men before his dramatic split with the show two years ago, Charles Swan is a variation on the recent Sheen type. He's improbably successful professionally, despite drug and alcohol abuse; even more incredibly, he has to use a stick to beat back the throngs of gorgeous young women constantly falling for him.

The role of Charles Swan softens Sheen's persona from notorious womanizer to aging cad, the kind of misguided romantic who hangs on to Polaroids of the women he's slept with for sentimental value. Swan's treatment of women can't be excused, exactly, though Coppola sets the movie in a stylized '70s Hollywood and characterizes Charles, ever behind a pair of dark-purple shades, as a product of his time and place.

And this time around, it would seem, it's different: Charles has been dumped by a beautiful blond cipher named Ivana (Katheryn Winnick), and he's taking it hard. His heartbreak and an ensuing car wreck land him in the hospital, where his oversexed imagination leaps to flights of fancy — fantasies of heroism, hedonism and romantic revenge, all populated by Charles' many ex-girlfriends.

A graphic designer and absentee head of his own agency, Charles renders these vivid daydreams in a bright, cartoonish '50s style that speaks to his superficial — even naive — conception of relationships. In one transporting moment, Charles imagines the women once in his life as mourners at his funeral, where, after rising from the grave, he dances a moonlit softshoe in the cemetery. (Ivana watches, having none of it.)

Coppola, who collaborated with Wes Anderson on The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom, brings a similar transparently artificial quality to Charles' fantasies, underlining their function as escapes from the reality of his relationship's demise.

The director is clearly having fun with his protagonist's heartbreak — only Sheen isn't. He plays Charles' longing as listlessness, but with technical line readings better suited to a laugh-tracked sitcom than to a role that asks an actor to embody being lost and lovelorn. Even when Sheen's Charles is believable, he's neither compelling nor likable.

And yet the film insists that some, anyway, still like him. He's cobbled together a tolerant support system of friends and family who haven't given up on him yet: his caring sister (Patricia Arquette); Kirby Star (Jason Schwartzman), a popular comedian as baffled by women as Charles; and Saul (Bill Murray), Charles' business manager, who first appears in a fantasy as a stern John Wayne figure, only to turn up in real life as romantically befuddled as his client.

Schwartzman and Murray might be playing Charles' past and future — Kirby, a young creative type at the top of his game; Saul an over-the-hill man-child still pining for the girls 40 years his junior. The difference for Saul is that he's married with two kids; he feels too old to attract anyone younger, and too boring to keep his wife interested.

Alas, the moments in which the script lets Charles try to redeem himself by stepping outside his own narcissism to listen to his friends fall flat. Schwartzman and Murray create believable characters, so it's painful to watch as Sheen — who can't manage to project the compassion required in those scenes — leaves both actors out to dry.

At the other end of the spectrum, though, Sheen fully embraces the few flashes of Charles' mean and manic sides. His best acting comes when he plays against himself, on one end of a phone call. In an extended take, he sits, then paces, then sits again, moving from anger to jealousy to true yearning — all this just over the question of returning Ivana's ski equipment. And when Charles goes on a drunken destructive binge, Sheen's warlock tiger blood runs hot, which works, oddly enough. With Charles' faults on full display rather than hidden behind his delusions, the character seems briefly sympathetic.

Charles Swan might have have been successful if its sensibilities weren't so aligned with its constantly disappointing protagonist's. The moody picture even swings toward hopeful in its final minutes, as it tries to celebrate Charles as the man he is, faults and all. It's enough to leave you wondering whether even a glimpse inside this mind is too much.

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