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Episode 6
Cult leader and serial killer Charles Manson dies; designing a livable city on Mars
Plus English phrases “hold a grudge” and “come about”

Charles Manson, a cult leader whose followers brutally killed nine people and terrorized Los Angeles in 1969, died in jail of natural causes at age 83. A team of students submitted a design for constructing a sustainable city on Mars. The team envisions a series of domes covering a network of underground tunnels that could house up to 10,000 people. We also practice English phrases “hold a grudge” and “come about.”

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Transcript


  • Hi everyone, this is Jeff and welcome to Plain English—officially episode number six for the week of November 30, 2017. Plain English is a new weekly audio program for English language learners. The show goes at the right speed for learners and we post a full, word-for-word transcript of each show as soon as it’s released on PlainEnglish.com. To get to this episode’s transcript, just go to PlainEnglish.com/06 and you’ll see a full transcript. If you’re listening on an Apple device, you can click inside the Podcasts app where it says episode web site and get to the transcripts that way. And great news if your first language is Spanish: the transcripts have interactive, instant translations of key words and phrases from English to Spanish so you should never have to pause the program to look up the meaning of any words.

    On each episode, we talk about two things in the news and then review a couple of English expressions that appeared in the first half of the program. This week, we’ll talk about the death of Charles Manson, one of the most infamous serial killers in American history, and about the winner of a design competition for a new city on Mars. In the second half of the program, we’ll practice English expressions, “come about” and “hold a grudge.”

    Ready to go? Let’s get started.


    Serial killer Charles Manson dies

    First up this week is the death of Charles Manson, one of the most famous, and one of the most bizarre, serial killers in American history. He died in jail of natural causes at the age of 83, closing a chapter in one of the strangest crimes ever in the United States. Charles Manson was responsible for nine gruesome murders in Los Angeles in 1969. His killing spree terrorized LA and the nation for a variety of reasons: first of all, the crimes were especially brutal stabbings; one of the victims was stabbed 16 times, while other victims were left with words carved into their bodies. Second of all, these murders were seemingly at random. And in addition, the victims were generally wealthy people in the entertainment industry and were killed in their own homes. After these crimes, which all happened in a short period of time, people in LA started to wonder if they could feel safe at home. All across the region, people started buying guns and guard dogs to stay safe.

    So who is this Charles Manson and how did this all come about? Well, how much time do you have—because it’s a complicated backstory. Let’s start toward the beginning.

    It probably won’t come as a surprise that Manson had a rough childhood. He was abandoned by his mother and was sent to various reform schools and group homes for kids. He ran away multiple times, seeking out his mother—who told him she didn’t want him. As a young adult, he turned to a life of crime; he was eventually sent to jail for stealing a car at age 22.

    After spending a number of years in jail, he moved to California, where his life took a strange turn. He became a hippie, singing songs on the street, meeting random people, and capturing their attention with spiritual monologues and revolutionary ideas. He eventually lived with 18 women at once. They survived by stealing and raiding dumpsters. He was what we call a cult leader. He started an informal group that believed in some crazy ideas, he established himself as the leader of the cult, and then manipulated his followers (the other members of the group) to do what he said.

    After spending some time in Berkeley with the 18 women, Manson and a smaller group of about eight followers, most of them female, set off in an adapted school bus to travel the west coast of the United States. They went as far north as Washington state and as far south as Los Angeles, eventually settling in an abandoned ranch in the desert.

    This is when the serious crime started. Manson convinced four of his followers to take a gun and a knife and go to a house in Los Angeles and kill everyone inside. Why that house? Manson held a grudge against the person who once lived there. It didn’t matter that this person wasn’t there anymore; he still wanted to kill everyone in this house. So four of his followers killed all six innocent people they found in that house, including the actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant, four people who had been visiting her, and an 18 year old kid who was visiting an employee at the house.

    This was insane. There was absolutely no motive to the murder; the victims died by the mere coincidence of having lived in this one house. Sharon Tate was stabbed 16 times and the killers scrawled words in blood on the front door.

    That wasn’t all. The next day, Manson picked a house completely at random in an upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles, and instructed his followers to murder the people inside. They did so—they found a husband and wife living inside, tied them up and killed them.

    Charles Manson didn’t actually commit any of these crimes, but he manipulated his followers into doing so. And for this reason, both he and his followers were eventually convicted of murdering a total of nine people. And the trial was as strange as the crimes. At one point, Manson tried to attack the judge, who then started carrying a gun under his robe to the trial for protection. At another point, a lawyer for one of Manson’s followers was found dead—probably another murder victim.

    Manson was sentenced to death for the crimes he committed, but the California Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty, meaning no one else in California would get the death penalty, so Manson served the rest of his life in jail. Oddly, the cult, or following, he developed lived on even as he served his sentence. Various people over the years were tempted by his ideas, and Charles Manson memorabilia is still sold on the Internet today. Manson received fan mail—actual pieces of mail sent by people who supported him—for his whole life in prison. When he was 80, he convinced a 27 year old woman to marry him, though they didn’t actually go through with it. He was cited over 100 times for bad behavior.


    Designing a sustainable city on Mars

    Will people ever live on Mars? I don’t pretend to have the answer, but every year an organization called Mars City Designs holds a design competition that aims to envision what life on Mars could be like for humans. The contest is sponsored by NASA and ESA, the space agencies in the United States and Europe, respectively. Entrants are encouraged to answer the question of how to build a sustainable and livable space on Mars with either things that humans can bring from earth or with materials known to be on Mars itself. Of course, Mars has an extremely harsh surface, with barely any atmosphere and a lot of dust, so the challenge is pretty intense.

    This year, one of the winning designs was submitted by a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, one of the United States’ best universities for engineering. Their design is called Redwood Forests, named after one of the most majestic forests in the world, located in Northern California. Their idea is to create a series of domes that can each hold 50 people. In the drawings, these domes look like big golf-ball shaped bubbles sitting on the surface of Mars. Each one would have lush plant life inside and would be supported by trees. The clear domes would collect energy from the sun via solar panels and use the energy to circulate water throughout the community. Water, incidentally, is found on Mars, so we would not need to carry it up from Earth. Underneath each dome would be a network of tunnels on many levels below ground. Humans would be protected from the elements in these underground passageways.

    This design envisions a network of 200 domes, providing a home for up to 10,000 people, who could use the water in the domes for fishing and farming. The MIT students said the idea could even be adapted to harsh environments here on earth, such as extreme deserts or even the ocean floor.

    The competition is hosted by an organization called Mars City Design, which was founded by Vera Mulyani, an engineer who grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. The goal of her organization is to think big—not only about how humans can reach Mars, but also about how people can actually live there in the long run. Mars City Design raised money on Kickstarter, a fundraising web site, and plans to use 3-D printing technology to create a prototype Martian city in the Mojave Desert.

    Mars City Design isn’t the only organization thinking about putting life on Mars. SpaceX, the company founded by the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, says it wants to put a million people on Mars by the year 2060. In the shorter term—because, let’s face it, I can’t even think about what might happen in the 2060s because I’ll be 80 years old—in the shorter term, SpaceX thinks it can start sending equipment and supplies to Mars by the year 2022—just five years from now. We’ll have to see about that; even the company admits that target is “aspirational!” That sounds like a stretch to me.

    If all of this is of interest to you, then I recommend you look for the book or the movie called The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s about an astronaut from the United States that accidentally gets stranded on Mars after the rest of his mission thinks he’s dead. The book is about this lonely astronaut’s quest for survival and it’s a real thriller. I don’t know much about the science behind it, but I’ve heard it’s fairly accurate—or, at least as “accurate” as a science-fiction book can be. I don’t think I want to tell you in this podcast how the main character grows potatoes, but let’s just say he has to get creative. The same author has a new book out this month called Artemis—at least I think that’s how it’s pronounced. This one is about establishing a human colony on the moon.


    That was quite a variety – a crazed serial killer and life on Mars. We’ll try to bring things back to earth next week. But we still have two English phrases to review on this episode. They are “hold a grudge” and “come about.”

    Hold a grudge

    To hold a grudge means you stay angry at someone because they did something bad in the past, and you took it personally. Charles Manson held a grudge against a music producer in Los Angeles. Without getting into the details on this particular grudge, it just means that Manson was angry at a music producer because the producer declined to sign him to a music contract. Manson held this grudge for a long time, meaning he stayed angry at the producer for not giving him a contract. Do you hold a grudge against anyone? I hope not; it’s not healthy. But here are some examples when you might hold a grudge. What would happen if your coworker stole money from your employer, but you got fired for it? If that happened to me, I think I would hold a grudge against the coworker and also against my boss for firing me without justification. I think I would continue to hold the grudge—I would continue to be angry—until someone made it right and hired me back. What would happen if your best friend asked your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend out on a date? Would you hold a grudge for that? I think most people would. You can probably see the pattern here. You don’t hold a grudge for a misunderstanding or an accident; you hold a grudge when you think someone does something to you personally. For example, if another driver hit your car, you wouldn’t hold a grudge; you’d just be mad. But if that driver hit your car and then tried to blame you when the police came, then you might hold a grudge.

    Come about

    Our second phrase this week is “come about.” It’s one of those small, innocent-sounding phrasal verbs that are nonetheless hard to use. In the original context, I asked, Who is this Charles Manson and how did all of this come about? This means, where did this whole situation come from? How did this come about? You use this phrase when you want to say, how did this situation develop? How did it happen? Where did this situation come from? How did this come about? Pretend you find yourself in a confusing or disappointing situation. Maybe you find yourself with credit card bills you can’t afford to pay. You would ask yourself—or your family—how did this come about? Why are we in this situation? Maybe this situation came about because we spent too much money on our most recent vacation. It doesn’t always have to be negative situation. The idea for this podcast came about because I was learning Spanish and I appreciated a podcast that went at a slower speed. This podcast came about because I did some research and thought that there would be an audience for an English-language podcast at a slower speed. The program came about, or developed, for these reasons.


    How did you come about to learn English? Tell me on Twitter or Facebook; you can find the show under the user name, PlanEnglishPod on both of those platforms. And that brings us to the end of the program for this week. Remember that the full episode transcripts are available online. If you’d like to test out your new vocabulary, suggest a topic for next week, or give me some feedback on the show, please do so on Facebook and Twitter; remember, PlainEnglishPod is the user name. You can also email me at jeff-at-plainenglish.com. Until next time, have a great week and try not to allow any grudges to come about.

  • Hi everyone, this is Jeff and welcome to Plain English—officially episode number six for the week of November 30, 2017. Plain English is a new weekly audio program for English language learners. The show goes at the right speed for learners and we post a full, word-for-word transcript of each show as soon as it’s released on PlainEnglish.com. To get to this episode’s transcript, just go to PlainEnglish.com/06 and you’ll see a full transcript. If you’re listening on an Apple device , you can click inside the Podcasts app where it says episode web site and get to the transcripts that way. And great news if your first language is Spanish: the transcripts have interactive, instant translations of key words and phrases from English to Spanish so you should never have to pause the program to look up the meaning of any words.

    On each episode, we talk about two things in the news and then review a couple of English expressions that appeared in the first half of the program. This week, we’ll talk about the death of Charles Manson, one of the most infamous serial killers in American history, and about the winner of a design competition for a new city on Mars . In the second half of the program, we’ll practice English expressions, “come about” and “hold a grudge.”

    Ready to go? Let’s get started.


    Serial killer Charles Manson dies

    First up this week is the death of Charles Manson, one of the most famous , and one of the most bizarre , serial killers in American history. He died in jail of natural causes at the age of 83, closing a chapter in one of the strangest crimes ever in the United States. Charles Manson was responsible for nine gruesome murders in Los Angeles in 1969. His killing spree terrorized LA and the nation for a variety of reasons : first of all , the crimes were especially brutal stabbings ; one of the victims was stabbed 16 times, while other victims were left with words carved into their bodies . Second of all, these murders were seemingly at random . And in addition, the victims were generally wealthy people in the entertainment industry and were killed in their own homes. After these crimes, which all happened in a short period of time, people in LA started to wonder if they could feel safe at home. All across the region, people started buying guns and guard dogs to stay safe.

    So who is this Charles Manson and how did this all come about? Well, how much time do you have—because it’s a complicated backstory . Let’s start toward the beginning.

    It probably won’t come as a surprise that Manson had a rough childhood . He was abandoned by his mother and was sent to various reform schools and group homes for kids. He ran away multiple times, seeking out his mother—who told him she didn’t want him. As a young adult, he turned to a life of crime ; he was eventually sent to jail for stealing a car at age 22.

    After spending a number of years in jail , he moved to California, where his life took a strange turn . He became a hippie, singing songs on the street, meeting random people, and capturing their attention with spiritual monologues and revolutionary ideas . He eventually lived with 18 women at once. They survived by stealing and raiding dumpsters . He was what we call a cult leader . He started an informal group that believed in some crazy ideas, he established himself as the leader of the cult, and then manipulated his followers (the other members of the group) to do what he said.

    After spending some time in Berkeley with the 18 women, Manson and a smaller group of about eight followers, most of them female, set off in an adapted school bus to travel the west coast of the United States. They went as far north as Washington state and as far south as Los Angeles, eventually settling in an abandoned ranch in the desert.

    This is when the serious crime started. Manson convinced four of his followers to take a gun and a knife and go to a house in Los Angeles and kill everyone inside. Why that house? Manson held a grudge against the person who once lived there. It didn’t matter that this person wasn’t there anymore; he still wanted to kill everyone in this house. So four of his followers killed all six innocent people they found in that house, including the actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant , four people who had been visiting her , and an 18 year old kid who was visiting an employee at the house.

    This was insane. There was absolutely no motive to the murder; the victims died by the mere coincidence of having lived in this one house. Sharon Tate was stabbed 16 times and the killers scrawled words in blood on the front door .

    That wasn’t all. The next day, Manson picked a house completely at random in Los Angeles, and instructed his followers to murder the people inside. They did so—they found a husband and wife living inside, tied them up and killed them.

    Charles Manson didn’t actually commit any of these crimes, but he manipulated his followers into doing so . And for this reason, both he and his followers were eventually convicted of murdering a total of nine people. And the trial was as strange as the crimes. At one point, Manson tried to attack the judge, who then started carrying a gun under his robe to the trial for protection . At another point, a lawyer for one of Manson’s followers was found dead—probably another murder victim.

    Manson was sentenced to death for the crimes he committed, but the California Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty , meaning no one else would get the death penalty, so Manson served the rest of his life in jail . Oddly, the cult , or following, he developed lived on even as he served his sentence . Various people over the years were tempted by his ideas , and Charles Manson memorabilia is still sold on the Internet today. Manson received fan mail —actual pieces of mail sent by people who supported him—for his whole life in prison. When he was 80, he convinced a 27 year old woman to marry him, though they didn’t actually go through with it . He was cited over 100 times for bad behavior.


    Designing a sustainable city on Mars

    Will people ever live on Mars? I don’t pretend to have the answer, but every year an organization called Mars City Designs holds a design competition that aims to envision what life on Mars could be like for humans. The contest is sponsored by NASA and ESA, the space agencies in the United States and Europe, respectively . Entrants are encouraged to answer the question of how to build a sustainable and livable space on Mars with either things that humans can bring from earth or with materials known to be on Mars itself. Of course, Mars has an extremely harsh surface , with barely any atmosphere and a lot of dust , so the challenge is pretty intense .

    This year, one of the winning designs was submitted by a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , or MIT, one of the United States’ best universities for engineering . Their design is called Redwood Forests , named after one of the most majestic forests in the world, located in Northern California. Their idea is to create a series of domes that can each hold 50 people. In the drawings , these domes look like big golf-ball shaped bubbles sitting on the surface of Mars. Each one would have lush plant life inside and would be supported by trees . The clear domes would collect energy from the sun via solar panels and use the energy to circulate water throughout the community . Water, incidentally , is found on Mars, so we would not need to carry it up from Earth. Underneath each dome would be a network of tunnels on many levels below ground. Humans would be protected from the elements in these underground passageways .

    This design envisions a network of 200 domes, providing a home for up to 10,000 people, who could use the water in the domes for fishing and farming . The MIT students said the idea could even be adapted to harsh environments here on earth, such as extreme deserts or even the ocean floor .

    The competition is hosted by an organization called Mars City Design, which was founded by Vera Mulyani, an engineer who grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. The goal of her organization is to think big —not only about how humans can reach Mars, but also about how people can actually live there in the long run . Mars City Design raised money on Kickstarter, a fundraising web site , and plans to use 3-D printing technology to create a prototype Martian city in the Mojave Desert.

    Mars City Design isn’t the only organization thinking about putting life on Mars. SpaceX, the company founded by the tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, says it wants to put a million people on Mars by the year 2060. In the shorter term —because, let’s face it , I can’t even think about what might happen in the 2060s because I’ll be 80 years old— in the shorter term , SpaceX thinks it can start sending equipment and supplies to Mars by the year 2022—just five years from now. We’ll have to see about that ; even the company admits that target is “ aspirational !” That sounds like a stretch to me.

    If all of this is of interest to you, then I recommend you look for the book or the movie called The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s about an astronaut from the United States that accidentally gets stranded on Mars after the rest of his mission thinks he’s dead . The book is about this lonely astronaut’s quest for survival and it’s a real thriller . I don’t know much about the science behind it, but I’ve heard it’s fairly accurate —or, at least as “accurate” as a science-fiction book can be. I don’t think I want to tell you in this podcast how the main character grows potatoes , but let’s just say he has to get creative . The same author has a new book out this month called Artemis—at least I think that’s how it’s pronounced. This one is about establishing a human colony on the moon .


    That was quite a variety – a crazed serial killer and life on Mars. We’ll try to bring things back to earth next week. But we still have two English phrases to review on this episode. They are “hold a grudge” and “come about.”

    Hold a grudge

    To hold a grudge means you stay angry at someone because they did something bad in the past, and you took it personally . Charles Manson held a grudge against a music producer in Los Angeles. Without getting into the details on this particular grudge, it just means that Manson was angry at a music producer because the producer declined to sign him to a music contract. Manson held this grudge for a long time, meaning he stayed angry at the producer for not giving him a contract . Do you hold a grudge against anyone? I hope not; it’s not healthy. But here are some examples when you might hold a grudge. What would happen if your coworker stole money from your employer, but you got fired for it? If that happened to me, I think I would hold a grudge against the coworker and also against my boss for firing me without justification . I think I would continue to hold the grudge—I would continue to be angry—until someone made it right and hired me back . What would happen if your best friend asked your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend out on a date ? Would you hold a grudge for that? I think most people would. You can probably see the pattern here. You don’t hold a grudge for a misunderstanding or an accident ; you hold a grudge when you think someone does something to you personally . For example, if another driver hit your car, you wouldn’t hold a grudge; you’d just be mad. But if that driver hit your car and then tried to blame you when the police came, then you might hold a grudge.

    Come about

    Our second phrase this week is “come about.” It’s one of those small, innocent-sounding phrasal verbs that are nonetheless hard to use. In the original context , I asked, Who is this Charles Manson and how did all of this come about? This means, where did this whole situation come from? How did this come about? You use this phrase when you want to say, how did this situation develop? How did it happen? Where did this situation come from? How did this come about? Pretend you find yourself in a confusing or disappointing situation . Maybe you find yourself with credit card bills you can’t afford to pay. You would ask yourself—or your family—how did this come about? Why are we in this situation? Maybe this situation came about because we spent too much money on our most recent vacation. It doesn’t always have to be a negative situation . The idea for this podcast came about because I was learning Spanish and I appreciated a podcast that went at a slower speed. This podcast came about because I did some research and thought that there would be an audience for an English-language podcast at a slower speed . The program came about, or developed, for these reasons.


    How did you come about to learn English? Tell me on Twitter or Facebook; you can find the show under the user name, PlanEnglishPod on both of those platforms. And that brings us to the end of the program for this week. Remember that the full episode transcripts are available online. If you’d like to test out your new vocabulary, suggest a topic for next week, or give me some feedback on the show, please do so on Facebook and Twitter; remember, PlainEnglishPod is the user name. You can also email me at jeff-at-plainenglish.com. Until next time, have a great week and try not to allow any grudges to come about.
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