Secret history of freemasons

Secret history of freemasons

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.

Secret history of freemasons

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.

Can your smartphone really handle all your finances?

Can your smartphone really handle all your finances?

Would you be prepared to manage all your finances through your smartphone?

This is the hope of many financial technology – fintech – start-ups aiming to transform our money management habits. They think we now trust our mobile technology enough to carry out banking, money transfers, investments and loan applications without ever stepping into a bank branch or writing a cheque.

But are they right? One start-up is going a step further, bringing many financial services together onto one app so that you have complete visibility of all your cash transactions in one place.

The app, called Bud, has been developed by 26-year-old Ed Maslaveckas. He says: “Many people simply don’t have the time or expertise to track down the apps that can help them manage their money.

“So we’ve created an independent, universal banking app for my generation and anyone else who wants to make their money work harder for them.”

Can your smartphone really handle all your finances?

The idea is that customers will be able to aggregate all their bank and credit card accounts into one place and switch money between them quickly and easily, as well as make payments to other people at the click of a button.

“The Bud app fits into a wider trend in the market as banks battle it out to make their online services as effortless as possible,” says John Rakowski, director of technology strategy at AppDynamics.
“As consumers become increasingly used to intuitive tools such as Siri and Google Now… the idea of using multiple apps to do their banking is becoming outdated.”

But Bud has its work cut out to raise awareness, given that its own research suggests nine out of 10 young people have never even heard of fintech.

Anna Laycock, lead strategist at the London-based Finance Innovation Lab, warns that while the market is exploding with innovative ideas, those that succeed will be the ones that people can easily understand and engage with.

“Companies need to be able to articulate how their products help people,” she says. “Anything that empowers people with information they can understand and that can help their money management is a positive development.”

‘In your face’

The advent of smartphones and apps has given the global financial services industry – and tech-based start-ups in particular – the opportunity to change the tone and style traditionally associated with finance, believes Mr Maslaveckas.

“For years financial services were loud and in your face. Companies were always trying to sell something to you that often wasn’t to your benefit,” he says. “We’re looking at things the other way round and offering people services that will benefit them.”

In June, Bank of England governor Mark Carney, said: “Fintech will change the nature of money, shake the foundations of central banking and deliver nothing less than a democratic revolution for all who use financial services.”

Smartphone-only banks, like Atom Bank and Mondo, are aimed at younger people comfortable running most of their lives on their phones. At the moment Mondo only offers prepaid debit cards that can be topped up at cash machines and online, but it hopes to get a full banking licence later this year. This will enable it to offer standing order, direct debit and faster payments features.

Money management apps such as Loot and Moven aim to help consumers set a budget and keep track of their spending. “You don’t need to be a professional finance manager to be really good with money,” reckons Mr Maslaveckas. “You can get control of your finances simply by making the most of the fintech innovations that are already available to you on your phone.”

High stakes

High claims, but is it a reality? There has certainly been an upturn in the number of new app-based fintech firms attracting serious investment across the world in the last few months.

Payments providers, peer-to-peer lenders, “robo advisers”, trading platforms, and foreign exchange companies have all been catching investors’ attention. For instance, global Bitcoin-based payment app Circle raised $60m (£45m) at the end of June in a cash-raising exercise led by Beijing-based venture capital company IDG Capital.

The company has launched a Chinese venture and plans major European expansion. And the aforementioned banking app Mondo raised £8m, some £1m of which was crowdfunded in just 96 seconds earlier this year. Globally, consultancy Accenture says fintech investment has risen from about $3.2bn in 2012 to $22.2bn in 2015, with the volume of deals nearly doubling over that period.

Innovation

Behind all this investment activity is the belief that technology is simplifying and democratising finance, putting control back into the hands of consumers.

Investment incubators, accelerators and innovation hubs are cropping up everywhere to encourage this flourishing sector.
For instance, Spanish banking giant Santander has set up a venture capital fund to back fintech start-ups working in areas that may improve its banking service.

“Any investments we make need to have potential commercial applications for Santander as a bank, and ultimately benefit our customers as the end users,” explains Mariano Belinky, managing partner at Santander InnoVentures.

Two fintech projects already up and running as a result of the investment are Ripple and Kabbage. The former allows banks to transfer international payments securely without the need for a middleman, while Kabbage provides quick online loans of up to £40,000 to small businesses.

But such convenience and flexibility doesn’t necessarily come cheap. A £40,000 Kabbage loan repayable over 10 months – the maximum period allowable – will cost you an additional £11,000. Hi-tech doesn’t always mean low-cost.

Fight back

Banks are having to respond to the fintech challenge with innovations of their own, whether that is voice biometrics or mobile codes for authentication purposes.

Some are experimenting with personalised video to improve customer service, while others are expanding the way they communicate, using social media platforms such as WeChat, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.

Others are even moving beyond banking. For example, Poland’s award-winning Idea Bank focuses on providing services to entrepreneurs, including a cloud-based space where people can work, meet and collaborate.

All this innovation should mean that, as Mr Carney said: “With time, fintech could mean a more open, more transparent, and more democratic global financial system.”

Wisdom in 140 characters: Return of the aphorism?

Wisdom in 140 characters: Return of the aphorism?

“We each have two lives,” a wise person once said, “and the second begins when we realise we have only one.”

I can’t tell you which wise person, sadly; the internet attributes it in roughly equal measure to Confucius and Tom Hiddleston. (It’s not a very Confucian sentiment, so I’m going with Hiddleston.) But it hardly matters. It’s an aphorism, and like all the best ones, it feels as if it always existed, and only needed someone to discover it. Or rediscover it: judging by various new books and essays, this oldest of philosophical forms is making a comeback. Our era of dwindling attention spans and 140-character content-burps is generally held to be one of escalating stupidity. But it’s also ideally suited to aphorisms. So maybe we’ll end up imbibing some wisdom accidentally, too.

There are two species of aphorism, James Lough explains in Short Flights, a recent modern collection. The more irritating is the “instructional” kind: pompous nuggets on how to behave, of the sort dispensed by Benjamin Franklin. (“Early to bed and early to rise.” OK, we get it, Ben. You’re perfect.) Not all instructional aphorisms are terrible: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” is useful advice. But juicier by far are “aphorisms of insight”, which don’t tell us what to do, but radically shift our view of how things are. As Lough writes: “An insight aphorism is anarchic, a bomb exploding in an empty house, blasting out the windows, blowing the doors off their hinges.”

Of these, my favourites are the ones that land at first like a bucket of cold water, issuing a bleak assessment of life, yet turn out to contain a liberating truth. Take Rilke, translated by the Jungian psychologist James Hollis: “The purpose of life is to be defeated by ever greater things.” The economist Thomas Sowell: “There are no solutions; there are only tradeoffs.” (You’ll never solve all your problems. So which ones are worth putting up with, to solve the others?)

A line attributed to Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Or the therapist Sheldon Kopp: “You are free to do whatever you like. You need only face the consequences.” And, yes, I’m aware these are all by men: aphorisms usually are. (The aphorists in Short Flights are three-quarters male.) I’m stereotyping, but I wonder if that’s partly because women writers are less fond of the glib signoff that silently follows every aphorism: “And that’s all that’s worth saying about that!”

But a good aphorism never really draws a line under things. Instead, it keeps on giving, unfolding further meanings. I’m convinced that Earle Hitchner’s quip – “Americans think 100 years is a long time, while the English think 100 miles is a long way” – explains more about transatlantic relations than you’d think. And the whole of human happiness may be encapsulated in Carl Rogers’s line: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” There are whole books – lots of them – that don’t contain nearly that much wisdom.

Television in the Sixties

Television in the Sixties

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.”

Star Trek in the Sixties

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.”

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Fashion Illustration in Popular Culture

Fashion Illustration in Popular Culture

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.

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Sixties Bands – Music was so loud and so heavy

Sixties Bands – Music was so loud and so heavy

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).

Shay Mitchell’s Ed-inspired outfit is just plain cool

Shay Mitchell's Ed-inspired outfit is just plain cool

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!

Kneeling Hitler statue sells for $17.2 million

Kneeling Hitler statue sells for $17.2 million

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.

McDonald’s can’t keep up with demand for new Garlic Fries

McDonald’s can’t keep up with demand for new Garlic Fries

McDonald’s next menu sensation may be garlic fries—at least if you ask residents in Northern California.

That’s because the fast food chain can’t keep pace with demand for the Gilroy Garlic Fries it’s testing at four South Bay locations. McDonald’s representatives told SFGATE they will be out of the specialty fries, which are made from locally-sourced garlic, for the next few weeks.

“In less than two weeks, our small, four restaurant test of Gilroy Garlic Fries has been a huge success, and we are now experiencing a temporary shortage of supplies,” they said in a statement. “We are excited about how many people have visited our restaurants to try the fries, and we apologize for any inconvenience to our customers.”

It might be a further testament to the tastiness of the fries that McDonald’s ran out of supplies at locations near Gilroy, which is known as the Garlic Capital of the World and hosts the Gilroy Garlic Festival every July.

McDonald’s can’t keep up with demand for new Garlic FriesMcDonald’s can’t keep up with demand for new Garlic Fries

The news might actually be a blessing in disguise for garlic aficionados. The chain previously said if the trial run goes well, Gilroy Garlic Fries will be made available to all 250 Bay Area McDonald’s locations.

McDonald’s said it will resume selling garlic fries in several weeks. Bay Area aficionados should stay tuned to its local Twitter account, @McD_Bay Area, for news of the fries’ return.

The garlic fries are another effort on the part of the chain to ramp up its to efforts compete with deals offered by other fast food chains. It launched its popular all-day breakfast menu in October 2015 and tested new items like the Chicken McGriddle sandwich in certain locations.

If that’s not enough to bring you into your local Mickey D’s, the chain is also planning a new loyalty program, which in many markets would give customers a free McCafé drink after they purchase five.

People likes to buy vinyl. Who listens?

People likes to buy vinyl but don't listen to them

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.”

People likes to buy vinyl but don't listen to 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.”