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 Sorcerer, A White Snake, And Lots Of CGI Magic

Feb 7, 2013
Originally published on February 7, 2013 8:14 pm

In the opening sequence of The Sorcerer and the White Snake, two monks step through a giant gate and find themselves in a new world — one made entirely of computer-generated images. Only Fahai (Jet Li) and his disciple Neng Ren (Zhang Wen) are human.

"Don't believe everything you see," the older man warns.

It's an apt prologue for a movie that's based on a venerable Chinese folk tale and packed with unreal creatures and impossible scenery. For decades, Chinese-language fantasy flicks were known for realistic fight sequences and laughable special effects. This China/Hong Kong co-production flips the formula: The fantastic images are solid, but the action is less substantial.

But then action is a relatively small part of director Ching Siu-tung's scheme. The movie, opening only in smaller U.S. markets but available nationwide via VOD, devotes much of its time to romance, comedy and Disney-like critters. Any film that features a helpful talking mouse is more Kung Fu Panda than John Woo thriller.

The central element is the love of poor, good-hearted herbalist Xu Xian (Raymond Lam) and glamorous, white-clad beauty Susu (Eva Huang). In reality, she's a 1,000-year-old reptilian demon, White Snake. But her love for Xu is real, and she has respect for humans, unlike her mischievous green sister (Charlene Choi). (The emerald sibling was the protagonist of Tsui Hark's edgier 1993 variation on the story, Green Snake.)

Soon after meeting, Xu and Susu set up house as a husband and wife. He labors to cure plagues, unaware that the essential ingredient in his potions is his new companion's magic. In this enchanted era, apparently, no one gets sick from viruses or bacteria; all human illnesses stem from demonic possession.

Enter Fahai, traveling abbot of a Pure Land Buddhist monastery. He recognizes disguised demons and banishes them, although not without major metaphysical combat. Fahai can handle a sword or a spear, but his principal weapon is a Buddhist rosary — which will probably disappoint fans of Li's earlier career as an earthier style of brawler.

These showdowns feature spectacular, Lord of the Rings-style CGI settings, but not much in the way of thrills or terror. When Fahai exorcises a band of fox demons, they devolve into bushy-tailed little white canines, cute enough to be contestants in the Puppy Bowl.

Fahai meets Susu and instantly knows what she is. Human-demon relationships, even ones as seemingly chaste as the herbalist and the snake's, are anathema to him. Susu pleads that her feelings for Xu are genuine, but the abbot is intent on being a home-wrecker.

Intriguingly, the movie's demons invariably take human form as seductive young women, while their stalwart opponents are all abstemious monks. A slyer film might have suggested that Fahai is so vehemently anti-demon because he's jealous of Xu's relationship with the sexy Susu.

But subtext isn't on offer from The Sorcerer and the White Snake, which is concerned mostly with spectacle, slapstick and romance. There's even a love-theme duet, offering a Buddhist salve to the brokenhearted: "We'll meet again / In our next lives."

Actors aren't the primary attractions of movies like this, but Li's earnestness does endow Ching's artificial universe with some genuine gravity, and Lam, Huang and Choi are all engaging. Besting supernatural villains is easier, however, than making much of an impression in a universe where you can't believe just about anything you see.

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