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What’s With That: Charles Manson, Israel, and monkey business

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What’s with the news: Maybe you’ve heard of this guy, Charles Manson? He’s one of the nation’s most beloved murderous sociopaths. Also, he recently released an album.

Okay, okay, he did not technically release the album. Manuel Vasquez, small business owner and part-time music producer, did. Using funds he raised on Kickstarter, Vasquez released 500 copies of never-before-heard Manson recordings.

Surprisingly, despite Vasquez’s belief that Manson is a misunderstood man who deserves a retrial, he didn’t find a ton of support for the project. I guess some people just can’t get over a grisly rampage now and again.

Yet the money was raised and the album released. Though the single track previously available to the public has been removed from the Kickstarter page, you can still sample some of Manson’s musical stylings from his debut album “Lie: The Love and Terror Cult.

This man has the voice of a songbird.
What’s with us: Bradley Abbey plays electric guitar with the other Sacramento-based “retro-inspired folk rock darlings” that make up the band Musical Charis. He’s got a weakness for vintage vinyl and is here to share his thoughts on Vasquez’s project and Manson’s merits as a musician.

“Upon reading the article, I was first intrigued, then curious,” said Abbey. “I think it’s really interesting that someone would create a Kickstarter for such a project. It’s admirable in my opinion. I know many would disagree with Vasquez’s pursuits, but I believe he is a fellow ‘muso,’ — simply in it for the love of music.

“I believe music is the foundation of the project, but the blocks used to build it were laid by Manson’s hands, which is what I find so intriguing! It’s known that he grew up in an era littered with drugs, and everyone knows what he did and who he was, but that only adds to the aesthetic of the album. And I feel Vasquez’s motives are genuine — I am no one to judge.

“Upon listening to ‘Lie: The Love and Terror of Cult,’ I was happy to hear some of Manson’s work. It really reminds me of Devendra Banhart — I wouldn’t be surprised if he took a lot of inspiration from Manson himself. Their music has very similar characteristics, both have a lo-fi sound, and at times their songs start off with some kind of interaction, generally with someone sitting in the room while they were recording. Manson is a good writer. I like listening to lyrics, and some of his songs are well-written in my opinion. I was honestly expecting it to be rather drab, but the few songs I listened to were pretty short and upbeat. I am most fascinated with the thoughts behind Manson’s mind when writing these songs, and that’s what I feel Vasquez’s inspiration for this project is as well.

“I think there would be a few folks interested in being a part of something like this,” Abbey said in closing. “My first thought was, ‘I wish I would have known about this.’ I love history, and vinyl, and I love listening to new music. It’s not to be discredited just because it’s Charles Manson.”

Interesting.  Chris Brown is probably totally pissed about some old guy vying for his crazyass misogynistic d-hole spotlight.

What’s with the news: Maybe some of you watched the Republican National Convention at the end of last month (not everyone did, if you’ll recall). In response to presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech, a reader emailed me, of all people. If you’d like and need to get up to speed, you can find both an audio and textual version of the speech in question here.

Robert writes in,

At 33:52 of Romney’s acceptance speech, he makes reference to Obama throwing Israel under the bus. What’s with that? One, he hasn’t. Two, is it really ok to falsely accuse the President of murdering Jews? Given the tendency of some to actually murder Jews, it doesn’t seem it’s ok to cry wolf here, let alone accuse the President in such a way.

According to Nat’l Geographic, only 30% of us are totally not judging the rest of you for not knowing where Israel is on a map.
What’s with us: Zeev Maoz is a political science professor at UC Davis, and also a distinguished fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. Formerly he served as head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy at Tel-Aviv University. He was kind enough to offer a breakdown of the U.S.’s Israeli policy, both past and present.

“On the issue of throwing Israel under the bus, and the broader issue of abandoning allies and engaging nonallies — or enemies,” said Maoz, “there is a significant debate in the policy community. With regard to Israel, U.S.-Israeli relations have always had many elements of agreement and mutual support — the U.S. sends Israel $2.6 billion every year in military and economic aid. At the same time, there were quite a few disagreements on policy. The most salient issue of disagreement was Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied territories, which the U.S. — under all administrations, Democratic and Republican, viewed as ‘an obstacle to peace.’

“There were cases where Republican presidents — Reagan, George Bush—have severely criticized Israel. Under the Reagan administration, there were a number of cases of high tension, with the U.S. suspending weapon shipments to Israel. Bush (Sr.) refused to provide loan guarantees to Israel due to its settlement policy.

“Obama’s Israel policy is not different. The U.S. continued to be critical of Israel’s settlement policy, but at the same time blocked a Palestinian attempt to be admitted to the U.N. as a member state. The U.S. under the Obama administration also intensified sanctions against Iran way beyond those that had existed under the Bush administration. Currently, the key issue of contention concerns American refusal to draw a ‘red line’ for Iran, as the Israelis request. On the other hand, U.S.–Israeli military cooperation continues, and involves Israeli provision of port services to the Sixth Fleet, joint maneuvers and strategic coordination on a large number of issues.

“During presidential campaigns, both sides compete in who is more pro-Israeli while accusing the other of not being pro-Israeli enough,” Maoz said in closing. “In practice, there are really no significant differences between Republican and Democratic administrations (Obama’s administration is no different) in terms of the level of friendship or disagreements between the U.S. and Israel.”

So. There you have it. Mitt Romney’s comment was just another inconsequential sound bite during an election that is, once again, rife with inconsequential sound bites that offer voters nothing of much substance. I bet you’re all just itching to get to those polls, right?

What’s with the news: Monkeys! Not just monkeys, but new monkeys! Way to go, scientists in the Democratic Republic of Congo!

The lesula is only the second new species of monkey to be discovered in the last 30 years. Don’t make him feel weird about it though; lesula are reportedly hella shy.

What’s with us: R. Harrison Edell is the general curator at Sacramento Zoo, where he manages resources and operations for Sacramento Zoo’s Department of Animal Care, supervising animal husbandry programs that lead to the highest quality of care for a diverse collection of approximately 500 animals of 120 species. He agreed to share his thoughts regarding the scientists’ finding, as well as some other fun monkey facts!

“Depending on which biologist you speak with, there may be as few as 2 million, or as many as 100 million nonbacterial species on our planet,” Edell said. “New species are discovered all the time. However, most newly discovered species are not big vertebrates. Instead, most ‘new’ species are small, and easier to overlook, while a ‘new’ vertebrate is unusual. Humans have explored most of the Earth’s habitats, and have cataloged most big vertebrate species, so when a mammal (like a monkey) that is new to science is discovered, many of us wonder how we missed it previously!

“The discovery of any new species is exciting, as it gives us the ability to better understand the world around us, as well as the relationships between the species with which we share this planet. Central Africa is a difficult place for wildlife, though. Unfortunately, this species may be threatened with extinction, despite the fact that we’ve only just recognized that it’s here.

“The recently published ‘Handbook of the Mammals of the World’ lists 470 species within the order ‘Primates,’” Edell continued. “The order, however, is extremely diverse, having evolved to fill lots of different niches in lots of different habitats. Even within only one habitat, like the Congo’s rainforest (home to the Lesula Guenon), biologists have cataloged a huge diversity of primates … Each of these species is characterized by its own distinct geographic range and social systems, and in situations where related species share the same habitat, we find that, in the interests of limiting competition with one another, they often make use of different food resources. Primates are very diverse. Unfortunately, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature currently lists 206 primates as being either ‘Critically Endangered,’ ‘Endangered’ or ‘Vulnerable,’ which means that nearly half of the world’s primates are headed for extinction unless we can do more to protect them.

“While we like to think that we’re very different from animals, scientific data indicate that we’re not that different at all from our closest relatives. Genetically, humans and chimpanzees differ by less than 2 percent. Much of our biology links us very closely to primates (including not only apes, but also monkeys); we have the same internal organs, the same bones, many of the same blood type systems and individual-specific fingerprints. Behaviorally, we demonstrate some of the same characteristics, including significant parental care, maintenance of close family bonds over multiple generations and the ability to build tools and solve puzzles. On a more complex level, primates can understand certain aspects of language and recognize relatives, even after periods of separation.”

I also asked Edell to explain the stereotype of primates as disease-spreading psychopaths (think “Outbreak,” or “Dead Alive,” if you’re into that sort of thing). He had this to say:

“In order to extract resources from rainforests, we build roads. These roads carry timber and minerals to shipping centers, so that they can be exported to factories around the world. Unfortunately, in the case of African rainforests, these roads also allow hunters to transport meat to urban markets. Hunting which once put food on the table, and which was at that time sustainable (since subsistence hunters rarely killed more than they needed), now satisfies commercial demands. Animal populations in many African rainforests are crashing as the impact of the ‘bush meat’ trade grows. Antelope, elephants, buffalo, pythons, tortoises, birds, apes and monkeys are all now hunted, often at unsustainable rates. One of the scarier side effects of this trade is a higher exposure rate to diseases carried by primates. Primates don’t carry more diseases than any other taxon, but their biological and genetic similarity to humans makes it very easy for their diseases to ‘jump’ to humans. Monkey carcasses are now sold commercially in some of Africa’s largest cities; exposure rates to primate pathogens, therefore, are likely much higher than historic rates.”

I don’t have any jokes to make about this. Here’s a picture of a monkey, though – OMG ISN’T HE ADORABLE?

He’s like a little simian Albert Einstein!
One more thing guys: I’ll be taking another brief hiatus whilst I attempt to get my life shit straight. Finding out what’s with stuff is way more time-consuming (and enjoyable!) than I had ever imagined, and my other writing projects miss me like lost little puppies. Give me a few weeks max and I’ll be back atcha. Until then keep it classy, and email me!

Each week(ish) "What’s With That" will find local experts from the Sacramento area to weigh in on national and international news stories. Stumble across an interesting item? Wondering, "What’s WITH that?" Email [email protected] with your ideas! Or, if you’d like to be added to the WWT mailing list, send me an email with the subject line “LIST.


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