Archive for May, 2016

The Vision of Escaflowne, “The Day the Angel Flew.“ Written by Hiroaki Kitajima. Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe. Music by Yoko Kanno. May 21, 1996. 

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Soledad Miranda in Eugenie / De Sade 2000. Directed & written by Jesús Franco.  Transunivers, 1973/1975.  Soledad Miranda is about the only good thing in this movie.

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Casket Girls, “Tears of a Clown,” The Night Machines. Graveface, 2016.

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May 14, 2016: a new episode of The Anatomy Lesson at 11pm EST on CFRC 101.9 FM. Music by Mich Cota, Animalia, Sophia Loizou, Dirty Inputs, Surgeon, Janel Leppin, Rashad Becker, Jeremy Gara and more. Tune in at 101.9 FM, stream at http://audio.cfrc.ca:8000/listen.pls or download the finished show at cfrc.ca.

Animalia – “Fever Dream” Dissonance
Dirty Inputs – “Dead Malls” The Runcible
Janel Leppin – “In A Dream” Songs for Voice and Mellotron
Jeremy Gara – “Chicago” Limn
Random Gods – “Milito” Genezon.avi

Rashad Becker – “Dances II” Traditional Music for Notional Species, Vol. 1 (2013)
Border Patrol – “B2” Motionless (2015)
Sophia Loizou – “Singularity is Near” Singulacra
Mich Cota – “To Destroy What Is Left” Sapphic
Surgeon – “A1703 zD6” From Farthest Known Objects

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“On a cool day in April 1922 thousands
of people  gathered in front of a cluster of tobacco  warehouses that
huddled at the entrance to the town of Stanimaka (re-named Asenovgrad
in 1934). The strains of the Plovdiv military orchestra echoed
through the valley, entertaining a variety of guests, from Sofia
dignitaries to legions of villagers who gathered in the street
between nine and ten that morning. After opening remark s by the
Minister of Agriculture, Alexander Obov, the more prominent guests
were led into the “salon” of one of the warehouses owned by the
hosts of the event, the tobacco cooperative “Asenovgrad Krepost.”
There they observed  demonstrations of tobacco sorting and packing, a
kind of performance for well-chosen spectators as part of the
ritualistic celebration of the already ample achievements  of
“Asenovgrad Krepost.”  Stanimaka was the first stop on the
tobacco trail that led from the dense tobacco warehouses and
factories of nearby Plovdiv into the rugged Rhodope Mountains, where
the soil and climate were ideal for tobacco cultivation.  Nestled
along the northern slopes of the craggy Rhodope peaks, it was an
ideal location for a tobacco growers’ cooperative and processing
center that served both the town and its  environs as well as
adjacent villages.  Stanimaka’s proximity to Plovdiv assured a
constant exchange, not just of raw and processed tobacco, but also
of people, technologies, goods, and ideas, as daily coaches and later
buses ran between the town and the much larger metropolis of Plovdiv.

On that morning in 1922, local and
visiting dignitaries sampled and admired the high-quality tobaccos
and then proceeded down the road along with the leaders of the
“Asenovgrad Krepost” and a parade of cooperative members. Coming
into town, orchestra and all, the parade crossed an iron bridge and
suddenly “the majestic picture of the Stanimaka gorge” opened up
before them, topped by cliff-like peaks and the ruins of the
Asenovgrad Krepost (Asenovgrad Fortress). The Asenovgrad Krepost,
the namesake  of the tobacco cooperative that organized the day’s
events, was the ruined fortress of the Medieval Slavic Tsar Asen who
ruled from 1189-1196, and was best known for both defying and openly
battling the Byzantine Empire. In direct reference to Asen,
“Asenovgrad Krepost” quite literally claimed it was a “fortress”
in which tobacco peasant-growers were protected against the predatory
intrigues of speculators, merchants, and other “foreign”

With the ruins of Asen’s fortress still in
view, the crowd preceded to the north side of town, where it gathered
in the  yard of the cause of the day’ s celebration, the
soon-to-be-opened cooperative-owned cigarette factory, the first of
its kind in in terwar Bulgaria. The dedication ceremony was opened
with prayers and good wishes by the local Orthodox clergy, a student
chorus, and more speeches amidst the “acclamation and applause”
of the thousands gathered.  Finally guests were ushered into the
factory, and  with a rush of sound the cutting machines were started,
state-of-the-art equipment recently purchased and shipped from
Germany. The rest of the afternoon was spent celebrating at the
cooperativ e restaurant and on the public square where food, music,
drinks, toasts, dances, and a box of cigarettes for every guest made
the event both lively and popular.

The fact that an agricultural
cooperative was able to  build a five-story, state- of-the-art
cigarette factory in 1922 was a rather remarkable  achievement, one
of many that brought “Asenovgrad Krepost” into its own in the
1920s.  In its peak years (1919-1923) “Asenovgrad Krepost” (“AK”)
was an extraordinary paragon of tobacco-grower entrepreneurship  and
cooperative achievement. By 1923 “AK” brought together 2,466
members and not only built numerous tobacco processing facilities
and a cigarette factory (that employed 1,500 people), but also its
own hosp ital, fire sta tion, restaurant, and two movie theaters.
More importantly, “AK”—with the support of the Bulgarian
Agrarian National Union (BANU) that  ruled Bulgaria from 1919-1923
—beat local “capitalist middlemen” at their own game,
conducting direct and highly  profitable trade with  global partners.
High tobacco prices in the immediate post-war years brought
remarkable “AK” success, which some criticized as excess, but
also fiscal depe ndence on the revenues of “Bulgarian Gold.”

The meteoritic rise of Asenovgrad
Krepost as  an economic and social force represented both the
potential of cooperative organization and tobacco to bring security
and prosperity to wide segments of the Bulgarian population. But
ultimately, “AK” successes and later failures were deeply
embedded in the specific rhythms of  the tobacco trade and the
political landscape of interwar Bulgaria, which were both exceedingly
and not coincidentally tumultuous. A detailed biography of
“Asenovgrad Krepost”  in fact reveals the close links between
tobacco and politics in this period, especially within Bulgaria but
also in terms of the international arena. The sudden appearance of a
post-war tobacco “bubble” was arguably a critical factor in
catalyzing the smoldering social and political tensions that made
this one of  the most turbulent periods in Bulgarian history.

But while a surge of women and worker
protests wracked Bulgarian cities, a larger and more menacing tsunami
of peasant protest moved rapidly toward Sofia. By September of 1918,
Bulgaria had signed a belated armistice and some 15,000 peasant
soldiers returning from the front were swept up in an uprising based
in  the hamlet of Radomir, approximately forty kilometers southeast
of the Sofia.  Fear of the peasant storm forced the reigning Tsar
Ferdinand to release Alexander Stamboliski, the popular leader of
the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU), from prison where he
was serving time for his anti-war stance. With a peasant mandate,
Stamboliski essentially ruled Bulgaria from 1919-23 as a “peasant
republic”, or as many have charged, a peasant “dictatorship”,
albeit under a nominal monarch, the young Tsar Boris.

Among a range of agrarian initiatives,
Stamboliski’s regime gave an immediate and colossal lift to the
agricultural cooperative movement, with unprecedented and unqualified
governmental support. Agricultural cooperatives were by no means new
to Bulgaria, and state support was far from a radical departure from
past policy. Indeed, cooperatives as bases for credit, seeds, tools,
and information for peasants had expanded across Bulgarian since the
1890s, both as a result of grass-roots  agrarian organization, namely
BANU, and lines of government-subsidized credit.  Cooperative
organization took off especial ly after the 1903 establishment of the
Bulgarian Agricultural Bank (BAB), whose explicit focus was the
funding of cooperative credit and the coordinating of cooperative
formation. Although the subject of some controversy, a wide range of
Bulgarian thinkers saw cooperatives as an answer to poverty and
“backwardness” connected to the onerous “peasant question” in
the provinces.  But they were also an answer to perceived ravages of
capitalist speculation in the rural milieu. Indeed, the widespread
resonance  of the “cooperative idea”  within Bulgaria can be
explained as  a “self-defensive” reaction of an impoverished and vulnerable peripheral
economy to  the perceived incursions of capitalism and the “West.”

With the steady rise of tobacco
production since the turn of  the century, tobacco cooperatives had
begun to appear in the environs of Haskovo and Dupnitsa by 1909.
These tobacco cooperatives were formed w ith the same general
rationale as other agrarian cooperatives: to protect the peasantry
from “predatory” creditors and middlemen, many of them “foreign”.
In the early  years of the industry, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and
other local “foreigners” were included in the ranks of th e
“exploitive” merchants,  but Bulgarians too had quickly made a
name for themselves in the tobacc o trade, and in that sense agrarian
goals were by no means Bulgarian nationalist-or ethnic-exclusionary.
Indeed, among the ranks of most cooperatives, including “Asenovgrad
Krepost”, were non-Bulgarians, primarily local Turkish or Pomak
Muslims, as the local Greek population had largely emigrated by this
time. Like BANU, the cooperative focus was primarily social, and
indeed social or intra-ethnic tensions largely eclipsed ethnic ones
in this period.  With an agrarian leader in pow er, creative answers
to Bulgaria’s rural plight were critical and the cooperative
development was moved to front  and center of state priorities. In
Stanimaka, economic transformation since the  turn of the century as
well as  specific post-war conditions provided fertile ground for the
organization of a large scale tobacco cooperative.

Though Stanimaka traditionally had a
largely ethnically  mixed population —primarily Turks, Greeks,
Bulgarians, and Roma—the town and its surroundings were rapidly
Bulgarianized by destitute and dislocated Macedonian and Thracian
refugees in this period. Many brought skills and seeds from their
tobacco-rich villages and towns and immediately became involved in
tobacco growi ng and processing. In the immediate post-war period
tobacco —that is, the Oriental type of tobacco grown in Bulgaria
—was a virtual savior to the state in its efforts to find
livelihoods for th e tens of thousands of refugee populations that
settled in the Rhodope and Pirin regions,  as it was labor- but not
land-intensive. Tobacco, unlike other agricultural export crops, also
required a great deal of processing before export, and so refugee and
other landless and unemployed Bulgarian population could  be engaged
in the tobacco-processing towns of the region. With th is in mind,
the tobacco economy absorbed the refugee populations as well as
occupied Bulgaria ’s own rural and urban proletariat (many of them
also refugees from earlier waves of migration).   Tobacco as a local
cash crop had been on the gradual ascent since late in the century,
when cultivation surged in response to the appearance of foreign
buyers. But  it was not until World War I, when Bulgaria became a
primary supplier of tobacco to the Central Powers, that a mass market
for its tobaccos emerged.  

This market expanded astronomically in
th e immediate post-war years and provided an immediate impetus for
“Asenovgrad Krepost” to  build its “fortress” on the
foundation of favorable post-war political, economic, and social
conditions. Within a short period of time tobacco was catapulted to a
centr al place in the Bulgarian national economy, as it went from
0.9% of export earnings in 1912 to 79% in 1918. This, as well as tax
revenues from internal tobacco consumption, were critical to post-war
fiscal solvency. Bulgaria was saddled with reparations of 2.25
billion francs, or two  times the total nation income of 1911.
Tobacco revenues were tied directly to  serving the debt caused by
reparations and was Bulgaria’s best collateral on the world market,
since real gold was in short supply.

With this in mind, the Stamboliski
regime was intent upon promoting tobacco production in the provinces,
and the coopera tive structure was the perfect ve hicle for mass
organization and education of tobacco growers. Between 1918 and  1923
the number of tobacco cooperatives in Bulgaria grew from two to
forty-one, while  the kilograms of tobacco produced within
cooperatives grew from 137,704 out of a total 20  million produced in
Bulgaria, to 6,936,797, out of a total of 54 million kilograms
produced.  Not only did the amount of tobacco produced in these years
nearly double, but the percentage grown within cooperatives dr
amatically increased.  

“Asenovgrad Krepost” was very much
at the forefront of the tobacco cooperative movement, which led the
cooperative movement in general in Bulgaria. Tobacco cooperatives
were a “flagship” by all accounts. Although decidedly a beacon of
hope and enthusiasm, the “AK” leadership was far from naïve
about its  inherent vulnerability. Though the favorable tobacco
market provided an enormous opportunity  for the new cooperative, it
also increased the mad scramble among merchant buyers in Bulgaria, a
“gold rush” for control of the ever more valuable leaf. Indeed,
the very concept of the “fortress” assumed an awareness of
“enemies” and the pervasive defenselessness of the tobacco
peasant. It also assumed the  feasibility of building a fortress
against Bulgarian  and “foreign” middlemen.  Indeed, “AK” was
determined to “gather up the ripe fruit of our  own labor”
emboldened by the “moral  and material support” of the
Stamboliski regime and the unprecedented credit lines made available
by the Bulgarian Agricultural Bank.

As new tobacco firms and cooperative s
mushroomed across Bulgaria, bitter struggles over the massive profits
of “Bulgarian gold” seethed under the surface. From the very
beginning, however, the goal of “Asenovgrad Krepost” was to
mitigate such struggles in favor of an almost utopian tobacco
community in which the cooperative protected members from both
speculation and risk. Early on, Asenovgrad  Krepost’s leadership
envisioned an almost transcendent messianism  to their enterprise,
which they thought could provide a blueprint for a “new future”,
not just for the tobacco industry, but for Bulgaria as well.  With
Stefen Ivanov, a former local representative of  the Bulgarian
Agricultural Bank (BAB), at  the helm as cooperative director, the
cooperative rapidly expanded and soon emerged as by far the most
enterprising, inventive, and exte nsive cooperative in Bulgarian
history.  Support of the regime and the BAB allowed Ivanov and his
cohort of BANU supporters to promise consistently good prices, two to
four times higher than what was offered by merchants, as well as
timely and generous advances on tobacco to growers.  Ivanov used
member land and projected tobacco harvests as collateral to borrow
large sums of money from the state-subsidized BAB, which were
promptly re-invested into the cooperative enterprise.  

this capital, along with enormous tobacco profits in the first
several years, Ivanov presided over the building of a cooperative
empire that by 1921 included a network of tobacco-drying facilities
and processing warehouses , a fleet of cars and trucks, a  member
restaurant with its own  orchestra, a “cultural center”, as well
as summer and winter movie houses. “Asenovgrad Krepost” also
supplied free medical care to all of its members. It had doctors,
nurses, and midwives on staff who visite d members in the adjacent
villages monthly, while holding regular hours in a small hospital in
Stanimaka. “AK” cars were frequently used to transpo rt sick
peasants into town or even to Plovdiv for issues that needed more
intensive care.  An “AK” legal section also offered members free
legal advice and services, and, through a cooperative newspaper and
field labs, experts o ffered advice on tobacco growing and
processing.  “AK” also built its own cigarette factory in 1922…
to assure control of all stages of tobacco processing and maximize
profits to the cooperative members. In addition, the cooperative
bought a house in Sofia that served as a headquarters for trade
deals, but also was open to all cooperative members as free lodging
in the capital.  Finally, unlike most cooperatives in Bulgaria in the
period, “AK” was also a consumer cooperative, which meant that
the cooperative purchased and offered members  beans, wheat, flour,
gasoline, leather, and  textiles at wholesale rates.  It also gave
financial support for members and communities to  build houses,
tobacco-drying structures, and schools, including even a Turkish
school in 1922.  With the slew of benefits in mind, “AK”
membership grew astronomically  in its first few years  of existence,
from a mere 105 members in 1919 to 2,466 members in 1923!”

– Mary Neuberger, “The Tobacco Fortress: “Asenovgrad Krepost” and the Politics of Tobacco In Interwar Bulgaria.” An NCEEER Working Paper, August 5, 2010.

Photographs are top: View of ‘Asen’s fortress’ in Asenovgrad; above: Celebrating May 1 in Asenovgrad/Stanimaka, 1921.  Source.

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The Vision of Escaflowne, “Unexpected Partings.“ Written by Ryota Yamaguchi. Directed by Shoji Kawamori. Music by Yoko Kanno. May 14, 1996.

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“The Path of Arms Profit Leads But To The Grave,” Toronto Star, May 10, 1935. Page 23.

“Preparation. Then fear.  And after that – catastrophe.  Such is the inevitable path trod by nations which heed the salesmen of armament manufacturers.  These agents warn one nation that other countries are arming.  Rearmament begins immediately on a broad scale.  A world-wide arms race is soon underway. Small nations begin to fear that their most aggressive armament programs will not avail against the potential strength of their mightier neighbours.  They are advised to plunge into battle while yet there is time.  War is declared.  Millions of innocent victims – men, women, and children, peaceful as well as militant – are sent to untimely graves.  Only crosses, row on row, are in prospect again in this war-mad world if the armorers have their way – and their profits.”

Remarkable anti-arms dealer, anti-profiteer, anti-militarist photospread from the Toronto Star.

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