This weekend, Veronica Mars fans were delighted by the release of the long-awaited film sequel, which was partially funded through a Kickstarter campaign to the tune of $5.7 million last year. But now that the excitement of a new Veronica Mars adventure has worn off, critics can start evaluating the content of the film — and NPR's Linda Holmes has a particularly thoughtful critique of the movie's troubling philosophy on relationships. (Spoilers for the Veronica Mars movie to follow.)
The Veronica Mars movie offers a textbook example of what Holmes dubs "The Bad Caterpillar Theory": The idea that a "mean, jealous, possessive, violent, angry, emotionally unavailable," guy will evolve into a noble, trustworthy, good-hearted man if the female protagonist simply waits long enough. In this case, Veronica's boyfriend of nearly a decade is pushed aside in favor of Logan Echolls, a bad boy with a heart of gold:
By the time the movie starts, Logan has emerged as the Butterfly to a degree that's almost comical. He no longer has any flaws whatsoever; he shows up in Navy whites that weirdly look like they're too big for him, but the message is clear: he's all grown up. There's effectively no edge left to the character at all, and although the movie co-opts the language of addiction and recovery to have Veronica talk about the relationship as an addiction, there's no indication that any of it is actually bad for her or that she's even legitimately conflicted about it. He's transparently innocent of the crime she's trying to get him off the hook for, he's in the Navy ... he's basically been transformed into a cartoon prince.
At last, her patience, her faith, her unwillingness to give up has paid off. The Butterfly has arrived.
So of course she has to dump her nice, generous, supportive, unexciting boyfriend. Of course she does. [NPR]
Liver cancer is the second-deadliest type of cancer worldwide, and the London-based World Cancer Research Fund has a new report out examining what factors appear to contribute to liver cancer, and what helps people survive it. On the contributing-factor side, the WCRF study found that three or more alcoholic drinks a day increases the risk of liver cancer — the same conclusion as in the body's last look at liver cancer in 2007.
In new findings, though, the WCRF discovered "strong evidence that drinking coffee is linked to a decreased risk of liver cancer," for reasons that aren't yet clear. "Both coffee and coffee extracts have also been shown to reduce the expression of genes involved in inflammation, and the effects appear to be most pronounced in the liver," the researchers suggest. This evidence comes largely from animal studies, "although some human studies contribute to the evidence," the study adds.
Other risk factors for liver cancer are obesity and being overweight — a new finding — and consuming aflatoxins, produced by a type of mold found on food stored improperly in warmer parts of the world. The researchers based their conclusions on 34 studies from around the world involving 8.2 million adults, 24,500 of whom had liver cancer. You can read the report at the WCRF's site.
On Monday, the Jerusalem District Court found Ehud Olmert guilty of accepting bribes before becoming Israeli prime minister in 2006. Olmert had been acquitted of the charges, which include accepting envelopes stuffed with cash from U.S. businessman Morris Talansky, in 2012. But after former top aide Shula Zaken turned state witness and produced recordings of him and Olmert talking about the cash payments, Olmert was retried. His lawyers say they will probably appeal the verdict. Before Olmert was forced to resign over the bribery allegations in 2009, he maintained that he was on the verge of an historic peace deal with the Palestinians.
This year's Passover is the last for the Streit's matzo factory on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and Streit's is the last company making the traditional Jewish Passover bread in the rapidly gentrifying, formerly Jewish neighborhood. Streit's has been in the Lower East Side since World War I, and at its current location — occupying four former tenement buildings — since 1925.
Strait's is America's last large family-owned matzo manufacturer — its main competitor is Manischewitz — and it isn't closing shop, but rather moving to a more modern facility somewhere else in the New York City area. Already selling some 5 million pounds of matzo a year, for $20 million in sales, the company is actually finding it hard to keep up with growing demand.
Still, this is a loss for the neighborhood, says historian Annie Polland at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. "For decades, immigrant Jews and their descendants have made 'pilgrimages' back to the Lower East Side — the Jewish Plymouth Rock — to reconnect with their history, and of course, delight in the shopping and eating that gives the neighborhood its flavor," she tells The Associated Press. "With the Streit's closure, you have a significant chapter of Jewish Lower East Side history closing." Watch AP's video report on Streit's below. —Peter Weber
On Sunday night, No. 1 seed Duke beat No. 2 Gonzaga, 66-52, sending the Blue Devils on to the men's Final Four semifinals in Indianapolis. In their 16th Final Four appearance — the 12th with Coach Mike Krzyzewski — Duke will face Michigan State, which beat Louisville in an exciting overtime upset. The seventh-seeded Spartans topped the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals, 76-70. The Gonzaga Zags haven't made it to the Final Four in 17 straight NCAA tournament appearances. With 12 Final Four contests, Duke's Coach K will tie UCLA's John Wooden for most appearances by a head coach.
On Sunday, New York City fire fighters pulled two bodies from the wreckage of the three buildings in Manhattan's East Village that collapsed after an explosion on Thursday. The two bodies have been identified as Nicholas Figueroa, 23, and Moises Ismael Locón Yac, 27, the only two people reported missing. Figueroa was on a lunch date at Sushi Park, a restaurant in the building at the center of the explosion, and Yac, a Guatemalan immigrant, was a busboy at the restaurant.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the explosion, but early indications point to unsafe tampering with a gas line in Sushi Park's building at 121 Second Ave. Watch an emotional New York Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro announce the discoveries in the Associated Press video below. —Peter Weber
John Oliver does not like pranks, or any day encouraging them. "April Fools' Day is to comedy as St. Patrick's Day is to Irish culture," he said in this Last Week Tonight video posted Sunday night: "That is to say, it is a very mockery of the concept that usually ends in a fist fight." Pranks make people sad, he added, and "anyone who claims to be excited about April Fools' Day is probably a sociopath, because what they're really saying is, 'I cannot wait to hurt the people close to me.'" If you agree with Oliver at the end of his well-thought-out spiel, you can take his No-Prank Pledge. And, as this is HBO, some of the language is mildly NSFW. —Peter Weber
If President Obama had The Rock's build, he would have a much easier time getting Republicans to do what he wants. Or, at least, he would have a much easier time tossing them out windows and ripping off their limbs when they made him angry, as was the case in this Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Dwayne Johnson as "The Rock Obama."
"Don't be alarmed," Johnson says after some maddening Republican subversion causes him to hulk out and rip through his suit. "The Rock Obama much like Barack Obama, only larger and more violent." —Jon Terbush