Category: Popular Culture
With its cobblestone paving and Georgian façades, tranquil Hill Street is a haven in Edinburgh’s busy New Town. Compared to the Scottish capital’s looming castle or eerie closes, it doesn’t seem like a street with a secret.
Walk slowly, though, and you might notice something odd. Written in gold gilt above a door framed by two baby-blue columns are the words, “The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No 1”. Further up the wall, carved into the sandstone, is a six-pointed star detailed with what seem – at least to non-initiates – like strange symbols and numbers.
Located at number 19 Hill Street, Mary’s Chapel isn’t a place of worship. It’s a Masonic lodge. And, with its records dating back to 1599, it’s the oldest proven Masonic lodge still in existence anywhere in the world.
That might come as a surprise to some people. Ask most enthusiasts when modern Freemasonry began, and they’d point to a much later date: 1717, the year of the foundation of what would become known as the Grand Lodge of England. But in many ways, Freemasonry as we know it today is as Scottish as haggis or Harris tweed.
From the Middle Ages, associations of stonemasons existed in both England and Scotland. It was in Scotland, though, that the first evidence appears of associations – or lodges – being regularly used. By the late 1500s, there were at least 13 established lodges across Scotland, from Edinburgh to Perth. But it wasn’t until the turn of the 16th Century that those medieval guilds gained an institutional structure – the point which many consider to be the birth of modern Freemasonry.
Take, for example, the earliest meeting records, usually considered to be the best evidence of a lodge having any real organisation. The oldest minutes in the world, which date to January 1599, is from Lodge Aitchison’s Haven in East Lothian, Scotland, which closed in 1852. Just six months later, in July 1599, the lodge of Mary’s Chapel in Edinburgh started to keep minutes, too. As far as we can tell, there are no administrative records from England dating from this time.
“This is, really, when things begin,” said Robert Cooper, curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and author of the book Cracking the Freemason’s Code. “[Lodges] were a fixed feature of the country. And what is more, we now know it was a national network. So Edinburgh began it, if you like.”
I met Cooper in his office: a wood-panelled, book-stuffed room in the Grand Lodge of Scotland at 96 George Street, Edinburgh – just around the corner from Mary’s Chapel. Here and there were cardboard boxes, the kind you’d use for a move, each heaped full with dusty books and records. Since its founding in 1736, this lodge has received the records and minutes of every other official Scottish Masonic lodge in existence. It is also meant to have received every record of membership, possibly upwards of four million names in total.
That makes the sheer number of documents to wade through daunting. But it’s also fruitful, like when the Grand Lodge got wind of the Aitchison’s Haven minutes, which were going for auction in London in the late 1970s. Another came more recently when Cooper found the 115-year-old membership roll book of a Scottish Masonic lodge in Nagasaki, Japan.
“There’s an old saying that wherever Scots went in numbers, the first thing they did was build a kirk [church], then they would build a bank, then they would build a pub. And the fourth thing was always a lodge,” Cooper said, chuckling.
That internationalism was on full display in the Grand Lodge of Scotland’s museum, which is open to the public. It was full of flotsam and jetsam from around the world: a green pennant embroidered with the “District Grand Lodge of Scottish Freemasonry in North China”; some 30 Masonic “jewels” – or, to non-Masons, medals – from Czechoslovakia alone.
Of course, conspiracy theorists find that kind of reach foreboding. Some say Freemasonry is a cult with links to the Illuminati. Others believe it to be a global network that’s had a secret hand in everything from the design of the US dollar bill to the French Revolution. Like most other historians, Cooper shakes his head at this.
“If we’re a secret society, how do you know about us?” he asked. “This is a public building; we’ve got a website, a Facebook page, Twitter. We even advertise things in the press. But we’re still a ‘secret society’ running the world! A real secret society is the Mafia, the Chinese triads. They are real secret societies. They don’t have a public library. They don’t have a museum you can wander into.”
Some of the mythology about Freemasonry stems from the mystery of its early origins. One fantastical theory goes back to the Knights Templar; after being crushed by King Philip of France in 1307, the story goes, some fled to Argyll in western Scotland, and remade themselves as a new organisation called the Freemasons. (Find out more in our recent story about the Knights Templar).
Others – including Freemasons themselves – trace their lineage back to none other than King Solomon, whose temple, it’s said, was built with a secret knowledge that was transferred from one generation of stonemason to the next.
A more likely story is that Freemasonry’s early origins stem from medieval associations of tradesmen, similar to guilds. “All of these organisations were based on trades,” said Cooper. “At one time, it would have been, ‘Oh, you’re a Freemason – I’m a Free Gardener, he’s a Free Carpenter, he’s a Free Potter’.”
For all of the tradesmen, having some sort of organisation was a way not only to make contacts, but also to pass on tricks of the trade – and to keep outsiders out.
But there was a significant difference between the tradesmen. Those who fished or gardened, for example, would usually stay put, working in the same community day in, day out.
Not so with stonemasons. Particularly with the rush to build more and more massive, intricate churches throughout Britain in the Middle Ages, they would be called to specific – often huge – projects, often far from home. They might labour there for months, even years. Thrown into that kind of situation, where you depended on strangers to have the same skills and to get along, how could you be sure everyone knew the trade and could be trusted? By forming an organisation. How could you prove that you were a member of that organisation when you turned up? By creating a code known by insiders only – like a handshake.
Even if lodges existed earlier, though, the effort to organise the Freemason movement dates back to the late 1500s. A man named William Schaw was the Master of Works for King James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England), which meant he oversaw the construction and maintenance of the monarch’s castles, palaces and other properties. In other words, he oversaw Britain’s stonemasons. And, while they already had traditions, Schaw decided that they needed a more formalised structure – one with by-laws covering everything from how apprenticeships worked to the promise that they would “live charitably together as becomes sworn brethren”.
Scotland’s true Masonic history, it turns out, is more hidden than the church that Dan Brown made famous. It’s just hidden in plain sight: in the Grand Lodge and museum that opens its doors to visitors; in the archivist eager for more people to look at the organisation’s historical records; and in the lodges themselves, tucked into corners and alleyways throughout Edinburgh and Scotland’s other cities.
Their doors may often be closed to non-members, but their addresses, and existence, are anything but secret.
On September 23, 1961, NBC introduced its new series, “Saturday Night at the Movies,” featuring Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable in “How to Marry a Millionaire.” This broadcast was an astounding success and pointed to Hollywood’s growing inclination to release its post-1948 movies to television. Seven more series representing all three networks and every night of the week appeared over the next five years.
The culmination of this trend was an ABC Sunday telecast of “The Bridge on the River Kwai” in September 1966.” It would be some time before anyone tried to make the same case for American television, which had changed little from the way Newton Minow, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, had described it to its producers in 1961, as “a vast wasteland”. Minow had just been appointed to his post by John F. Kennedy, and many in his audience might have expected gentler treatment from a president who had been elected, they believed, on the strenght of his appeal on television.
The precise birth date of the telefilm is arguable, although only a handful of contenders exist prior to 1961. Claims range from Ron Amateau’s 60-minute Western, “The Bushwackers, ” which appeared on CBS in 1951, to Disney’s “Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier,” which was broadcast as three separate segments during the 1954-55 debut season of “The Wonderful World of Disney.”
Also, it was not uncommon during the late 1950s for TV’s dramatic anthologies to present some of their teleplays on either film or videotape. Three shows especially, “Desilu Playhouse,” “Kraft Theatre,” and “The Bob Hope Show,” filmed a number of their one-hour offerings, while a few of these presentations were even expanded into a second hour airing the following week as a finale of a two-parter. Still, these haphazard examples have really more to do with trivia than historical precedent, as the man primarily responsible for pioneering the formal properties of the telefeature is Jennings Lang, a New York lawyer who became programming chief for MCA’s Revue in the late 1950s.
Television obliged politicians to become performers in a way radio never had. Kennedy, youthful, authoritative and almost handsome enough to play the lead in a TV doctor series, seemed perfectly cast. Pursuing a policy of accessibility to the camera, he held live press conferences, delivered an ultimatum to Khrushchev via television during the Cuban missile crisis, and encouraged his wife to take the nation on a Tour of the White House. The impact of his assassination was intensified by the fact that he was not just the President, but a television celebrity whom the viewing public had been encouraged to feel they knew through the intimacy of the medium. For the four days between the assassination and the funeral all three networks suspended their regular schedules and carried no advertising.
By 1960 half the population of the United States depended on television as its prime source of news. Network prime time had settled into a mixture of half-hour comedy shows and hour-long action/drama series. Drama, like comedy, was constructed around a repeatable situation, usually provided by a professional activity. Lawyer- and doctor -shows provided an ideal format for hourlong stories featuring guest stars as clients or patients, but the same formula was used for series on teachers and social workers.
The formula had its limitations. The central characters had to remain unchanged by the episode’s events, in order to be in their proper places by the following week’s episode. The serial form provided the programming stability necessary to deliver viewers to advertisers on a regular basis. Networks tried to carry their audiences from one show to the next, employing the principle of Least Objectionable Programming. This meant that the majority of viewers who simply watched television, rather than selecting specific programs, would wacth whichever show they disliked least.
As mentioned earlier, the fall of 1966 was when ABC first decided to begin telecasting a number of Hollywood “blockbuster” films, including “The Bridgeon the River Kwai” on the River Kwai” and later “The Robe.” CBS, on the other hand, strove for prestige programming to counterbalance its lineup of popular, though pedestrian situation comedies, such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Green Acres,” “Petticoat Junction,” the “Andy Griffith Show,” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”
These specials were composed mostly of important American plays, like “Death of a Salesman” and “The Glass Menagerie,” which actually pulled moderate, though respectable ratings for a time. Most important, however, Lang was first able to interest NBC in financially promoting the made-for-TV form in the spring of 1964. By 1966, it was apparent to both Universal TV and NBC that they had gambled themselves into developing a television genre of enormous potential, as economic dividends were realized almost immediately from this feature-length hybrid. In contrast, however, much of the aesthetic and socio-cultural possibilities inherent in the telefilm would lie dormant for another five years.
The unit of television viewing was not the individual program but the daytime or evening schedule as a whole. As a result, television placed little emphasis on the distinction between fact and fiction. In sports and game shows it offered its audience an engagement with an endless dramatic experience, in which consequences and conclusions mattered less than the exuberance of competition, choice and performance. Television had a peculiar capacity to dissolve distinctions between comedy, drama, news and commercials.
Television’s other typical form, the talk show, perfected its formula in the early 1960s with The Tonight Show, hosted by Johnny Carson. Talk shows packaged personality as a commodity, but all television employed it; even newsreaders became celebrities.
NBC and MCA, Inc., inaugurated 1964 by creating “Project 120,” a never fully actualized weekly film anthology whose very name echoed the live dramatic series of the 1950s. NBC allotted $250,000 for the first telefeature, as MCAUniversal hired Hollywood journeyman Don Siegel to direct “‘Johnny North,’ an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, ‘The Killers,’ starring John Cassavetes, Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, and Ronald Reagan in his last role. The movie that resulted eventually cost over $900,000 and was deemed by the network “too spicy, expensive, and violent for TV screens.”
Clearly, it was evident to both NBC and MCA from the outset that the budgetary constraints and the dictates of content would be different for the telefilm from what was previously expected for the usual theatrical picture. As a result, “Johnny North” was retitled “The Killers,” and the film was subsequently released to movie theaters nationwide. Mort Werner, NBC-TV vice president in charge of programming at the time, reflected upon this experience: “We’ve learned to control the budget. Two new ‘movies’ will get started soon, and the series probably will show up on television in 1965.”
Socio economic changes that occurred during the First World War 1914-18 and became accepted, changed the role of women in a way that no amount of campaigning by a few liberated ladies could have achieved. High fashion until the twenties had been for the richer women of society. Poiret had commissioned leading avant-garde photographers to photograph his work in the early 1920s; however, until after World War II fashion magazines and store catalogs most often used line drawings in iliustrations.
Illustrators such as Patou and Erte produced highly stylized work; Benito, Christian Berard and the American artist Eric provided an image of the clothes themselves, and their designers’ intended style, elegantly and economically.
In the twenties and thirties, however, black-and-white photography was becoming an important art form and photo portraits of famous personalities of the day highlighted their clothes as well as their looks (for example, Cecil Beaton’s photographs of Nancy Cunard wearing an armful of ivory and ebony bracelets). The Hollywood portrait publicity still in the 1930s added to the association between photography and glamor.
From the 1940s, photography came completely to dominate the fashion magazine although illustration was still common into the 1960s. Initially prized for its “truthfulness”, it is often less informative than line drawing, and can be just as mannered. Irving Penn in the United States, and Anthony Annstrong-Jones in Britain moved fashion photography towards a new informality and movement in the 1950s.
Music was so loud and so heavy that it did have an aggressive quality—so that it is no surprise that in 1969 a group formed that called itself War.
This use of high culture came from the fact that a new socio-ethnic group entered popular music in the years 1964-69: middle-class white kids who had gone to good suburban high schools as well as college. Aside from the Motown groups, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, and a few others, the major rock acts were white. Let’s take the personnel of the following sixties bands: Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, The Doors, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and the Mamas and the Papas.
In the specific case of the Buffalo Springfield, the group consisted of: Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richle Furay, Dewey Martin, and Bruce Palmer. No ethnic names there at all. In fact, there are only three ethnic names in all of these groups put together: Zal Yankowski of the Lovin’ Spoonful (Jewish); Ray Manzarek of The Doors (Czech); and Norma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane (Finnish).
Js on my feet, Js on my feet, Js on my feet… so get like me.”
Miley Cyrus’ “23” is the perfect anthem for Shay Mitchell’s latest actress off-duty outfit. Is it possible for her to look any cooler while being crazy-cozy? Don’t think so. That’s what makes this look so appealing.
It’s most likely been a while since you rocked a hoodie in public (because of their I-just-don’t-care-anymore nature), but it’s time to lengthen that hemline and reconsider. Whether it’s an oversized sweatshirt you found in the men’s section or one that was purposely made into a dress, throw a denim jacket over top (those are SO hot right now), a pair of Air Jordans on your feet and call it a day.
It’s the ideal combination of style and (insane) comfort…you can’t really get more effortless than that. So, enjoy our interpretation of the ballin’ ensemble!
A 2001 statue of a kneeling Adolf Hitler sold for a record $17.2 million at a Christie’s auction in New York.
“Him,” a wax statue of a child-like Hitler by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, fetched a record for one of the sculptor’s works. The statue, originally estimated at $10 million to $15 million, was part of the auction house’s “Bound to Fail” sale of themed artwork. Cattelan’s work, which features real human hair, is from an edition of three depicting Hitler praying.
“Him” has caused outrage several times when exhibited. In 2010, the mayor of Milan forbid the reproduction of a poster illustrating a black-and-white photograph of Him, and in 2012, the work was publicly exhibited in a former ghetto in Warsaw, where an estimated 300,000 Jews died of starvation or disease or were sent to their deaths in concentration camps under Nazi rule, Christie’s said in its press release.
“I wanted to destroy it myself,” Cattelan has previously said of the work, according to Christie’s, “I changed my mind a thousand times, every day. Hitler is pure fear.”
The statue was sold Sunday to an anonymous bidder by telephone.
New research suggests that streaming is boosting vinyl sales – but a lot of records being bought aren’t actually getting played.
This Saturday is the annual Record Store Day extravaganza, once again set to be marked with a slew of limited edition records, live performances and in-store events. But new research suggests that while more people, notably young people, are buying into vinyl, a lot of them aren’t actually playing the records.
An ICM poll, shared with the BBC, says 48% of people who bought vinyl last month have yet to play the record. Some 7% of those surveyed said they didn’t even own a turntable, while a further 41% said they have one but don’t use it. We humbly suggest people could rectify this situation with one of our recommended turntables.
Jordan Katende, a student, told BBC News: “I have vinyls [sic] in my room but it’s more for decor. I don’t actually play them.”
Meanwhile, while the record resurgence was driven by a desire to own something physical, nearly half of vinyl buyers (45%) said they had listened to the record on a streaming service before buying the physical copy, proving people still buy after they try – great news for Spotify and co.
As for where people are spending their money, despite the popularity of Record Store Day, which last year saw sales up 742% compared to the previous Saturday, only 7% of music is actually bought from a high street record shop. ICM reports 73% of music is bought online, with Amazon accounting for 27% of all music sales.
How old are vinyl buyers? The research reports around 33% of vinyl consumers fall in the 25-34 age bracket, while 22% of buyers are aged 35-44. 16% of vinyl buyers are aged 18-24. The poll also suggests – set face to ‘stunned’ – that more men than women are buying vinyl, but only just. Around 8% of men surveyed had bought vinyl in the last month, compared to around 5% of women.
In case there was any doubt, Andrew Wiseman, head of ICM Unlimited, told the BBC that vinyl remained relatively niche: “It is still the case that less than 1 in 10 people are buying vinyl, and we shouldn’t forget that it’s still a relatively small part of the market.”