Bottom line: A bruising third album that eliminates any trace of melody and viciously dominates those who step in the way.
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The factory, built in 1933, was the brainchild of Anastas Mikoyan, the People’s Commissar for Food.
But as happened with many formerly Soviet enterprises in the free-market era, the Mikoyan plant fell victim to opportunistic businessmen who were more interested in scrapping it for parts than producing food.
Demin went to the prestigious Moscow Agricultural Academy, and from 1977 to 1990 was deputy chairman of the State Committee on Prices, taking part in the market reforms during glasnost and perestroika. Customers wait in line at Mikoyan’s sausage outlet, located at the entrance to the historic plant. Anastas Mikoyan, People’s Commissar of Food in the 1930s, got the recipe for frankfurter sausage during a trip to the United States. His account makes it sound as if the previous owners had used Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle as a playbook for committing human rights atrocities in a meatpacking plant. Mikoyan is a reminder that, while Russia focuses on building it’s meat industry almost from scratch, there are vestiges of the Soviet food industry that can be made great again. The Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship is a component of the Fulbright Program, the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship Digital Stories is not an official Fulbright Program site. How Fulbright Changed My LifeNational Geographic explorer, television correspondent, and book author Mireya Mayor tells how the Fulbright Program changed her life. Janice Cantieri is a journalist and researcher from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who will be documenting the stories of displacement and adaptation between the Pacific Island nations of Kiribati and Fiji. Hiba Dlewati is a Syrian American journalist and writer who will be spending nine months moving throughout Jordan, Turkey and Sweden to document and narrate the stories of the Syrian diaspora. Daniel Koehler, of New York City, filmed a documentary on the San living near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, focusing on the loss and change of their culture. A New York City-based researcher, artist and educator, Mimi Onuoh was in the United Kingdom to explore the chasms and overlaps between the online and offline lives of a demographically diverse group of Londoners. Ann Chen, an artist and researcher from New York City, focused on mapping the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada through collective storytelling and citizen science. Place d'Armes in RodezClearly, it is always a mistake to arrive in a French provincial capital on a Sunday, unless you are looking to understand why Madame Bovary felt she had to have some action or die. Here are a thousand castles, more than a thousand megalithic tombs, innumerable Gallo-Roman ruins, and some of the most remarkable Romanesque architecture in Europe, as well as Norman Foster's architectural marvel, the Millau Viaduct—the world's tallest bridge and an unmatched feat of engineering and green planning.
I intend only to glance at the other exhibits on my way out but wind up staying until the museum closes, inspecting objects used by the Ruteni tribe when the city was a hub of southern Gaul (ruteni from the Latin for red, the color they dyed their hair). I'm growing increasingly fond of speaking with people in the storefront offices de tourisme in Aveyron's villages. The other word one hears constantly in Aveyron is terroir—meaning both soil and region.
Michel Bras' restaurant entranceThe next morning, I am permitted to visit the kitchen, in which more than 20 people chop, mix, and stir at the customary stations, and at one more station, dedicated to vegetables, two young men peel and trim abundant brightly hued roots, leaves, and flowers.
Michel Bras's gargouillouAt lunch, that light, pale and beautiful, fills the restaurant, which is cantilevered over the plateau of Aubrac, giving diners the impression that they are in a sleek and calm spaceship hovering above the countryside. Véronique Bras mentions a great view near the hotel, so when I leave that afternoon, I continue up the road that climbs the mountain. La Domerie d'AubracI can only get myself back in the car by promising myself, like a child, that I can return.
Farther up, there are no more houses and no more road, just the drailles, the paths made by cattle ascending to high pastures for the summer and descending in autumn. ConquesAubrac to Conques is the route that was followed 1,000 years ago by pilgrims walking across Europe to Galicia, now in Spain, where relics of the apostle James are said to be buried. Before they set forth on the journey that would ensure the forgiveness of all their sins, pilgrims took a vow of poverty and gave their fortunes to Conques's abbey. It's even possible to think of the pilgrimages in the High Middle Ages as Western culture's first organized tours, and the apogee of tourism and wealth for the Rouergue. Millau ViaductIn a way, Aveyron leaped from the Middle Ages directly into the 21st century with the Millau Viaduct. On my way out of town, I spot a little shack of a pizzeria, high up on the road above the Abbey.
Paragliding around MillauMillau is a smaller, more gracious southern city than Rodez, and any of the hotels and chambres d'hôtes in town or nearby villages put you 10 to 20 minutes' drive by car from irresistible sites and pleasures.
Gorges of the Tarn RiverWhen I spot the Grand Hôtel de la Muse et du Rozier, nestled at the bottom of a gorge, I feel like throwing away my list of Places to Return to.
On my last day, I stayed just outside of Rodez in a renovated château called L'Hostellerie de Fontanges. The top-notch production values cover up any faults or inconsistencies, usually making for a great sounding, if lifeless, album. The Secreta€™s idea of slowing down in the midst of a brutal jam is to crank out hazardous guitar feedback. There arena€™t any throwaway tracks, though some may find it hard to pick apart the cluttered grind material that dominates the middle portion of the album. The design was based on the slaughterhouse at the Union Stockyards in Chicago, which Mikoyan visited during a three-month tour of the United States. Demin piloted his first when a farm worker asked the boy to drive his tractor for a while, so the man could sneak away to visit a girlfriend in the village. When the Iron Curtain came down, Demin started a successful food distribution company called Exima. Through privatization, a company consolidated shares in the factory and took over ownership, renaming it Mikomsk. It was rumored the owners had connections to the Russian mob, making Demin worry that a corporate takeover could end in violence. Seventy years later, his namesake plant had fallen on such hard times that the historic recipe book was left mildering on the floor. Demin was short on capital for investing in the factory, but he did have a network of international contacts who he’d nurtured as a food distributor.


But it fell on hard times in the 1990s, when privatization caused the plant to be preyed upon by businessmen whose priority wasn't so much to produce food for the Russian people, as to scrap the plant for parts.
Within 60 days, Mikoyan Meat Processing Plant was again producing the famous “Doctorskaya” brand of sausage. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow, he will travel through Russia and Kazakhstan where farmers are working to rebuild their cattle industries. She is a designer, researcher, and educator whose project gives voice to the communities of the Ciliwung River through an interactive website, mapping stories that expose the relationships between urbanism, ecology, and politics. She herself is deaf and uses video, text, photographs, maps, and drawings to document the lives of deaf Cambodians as they encountered each other for the first time and learn Cambodian Sign Language. There is no slower clock in all of space and time than that which ticks and tocks in the south of France on the day of rest, and no bell tolls with less urgency than that of the cathedral in Rodez. The collection is astounding, starting with fossils more than 300,000 years old, continuing through the Gallo-Roman heyday, then into the tumultuous Middle Ages, when Aveyron (then called Rouergue) was successively invaded by Visigoths, the counts of Toulouse, and, of course, the English, during the Hundred Years' War.
These are found all over France, but the staffs' encyclopedic knowledge of their domain seems especially indispensable in heritage-rich Aveyron. Michel Bras is a master of cuisine du terroir and Aveyron's most famous native son, and his Michelin three-starred restaurant is reputed to be one of the best in France.
The plan is only to drive through, but after about 15 minutes, I stop the car and get out: I see now why the plateau of Aubrac is often described as lunar. It all went downhill after the Black Plague and the Reformation stanched the flow of devotees.
Now the economy seems to be awakening, as some farmers' collectives are thriving by combining modern and traditional techniques, but luckily, Aveyron's revival, if it is one, is being cautiously conducted, guided by tenacious regionalism, pride, know-how, and tremendous respect for nature and history. One day, I eat at a table outside a crêperie in Najac (one of the "Most Beautiful Villages"), with a lush ravine on my right, and, 100 feet or so up the hill, a 12th-century fortress looming fantastically high above the town.
While I watch the Aveyron River flow under a 500-year-old bridge, it occurs to me: at worst, tourists will continue to cause the occasional summertime traffic jam in the bigger cities like Rodez or Millau, or camp by the dozens in brightly colored tents on the more picturesque mountainsides.
Once the world capital of fine glove making (there are still ateliers here that furnish the haute-couture houses), Millau now claims the title of world capital of hang gliding.
The road is sometimes so close to the edge that if you look out your window you might think you've taken off; far, far below, the Tarn flows sometimes gently, sometimes wildly. All of these vistas function like children's-book illustrations, making you gaze and daydream of what it might be like to enter this or that magic place. The Secreta€™s third album, a€?Solve Et Coagula,a€? is an exception, thanks to the expertise of Kurt Ballou behind the boards. Opener a€?Cross Buildera€? does this technique better than any other track, with curdling screams the only other element in play. The blasting is kept to a minimum on the former, as the guitars take to the background to cast a desolate air.
It may seem like The Secret has a limited mindset at first, but beneath the bile and vinegar is a calculating foursome capable of tugging at the deepest depths of evil within every one of us.
Then he pulls you close and says, with a mixture of sincerity and urgency, how glad he is to meet you. It was an era when boys across the Soviet Union were inspired by Yury Gagarin, the charismatic Air Force pilot who became the first man in space.
The fields were so big, Demin drove seven kilometers in one direction before needing to turn the wheel. With Russia’s own food industry flatlining, Demin found foreign suppliers to fill the dearth of food being produced in the Russian countryside. But the new owners seemed more intent on scrapping the plant for parts, and prospecting on the prime real estate location, than upholding the meat-producing traditions of the Mikoyan brand. He hired a private security firm run by General Mikhail Zaitsev, who had been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, a medal equal to the Medal of Honor. Instead, he wanted Zaitzev to dress in his military uniform, with the Hero of the Soviet Union medal pinned to his chest, and go with Demin’s team of lawyers to arrange a meeting. He made deals with European equipment suppliers and got the factory running with updated equipment. Then, a well-intentioned businessman took over control of the plant and rehabilitated the Miliyan brand. Mind you, this bell tower, rising up nearly 300 feet and surmounted by a Virgin, is a sumptuous gem of late Gothic Flamboyant style, surging out of a colossal red sandstone edifice begun in the 13th century and finished in the 16th. Luckily, I order a traditional Aveyron dish called aligot, for which an astonishingly elastic local cheese is slowly stirred into garlicky mashed potatoes, producing a dense, instantly addictive purée. I myself knew next to nothing about it, although I often travel in France, where I was born. My favorite objects are the statue-menhirs, anthropomorphic standing stones several feet high, carved 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. But they could also read and write, and the extraordinary exhibit that re-creates one of their pottery shops includes remnants of their bookkeeping. Here in mountainous northern Aveyron, the architecture is plainer, the aesthetic more austere. According to Bruno da Silva in the Laguiole office, connoisseurs come here year after year—many of them choosing to avoid summer and arrive in May and June, or September and October.
Ten minutes up the road from Laguiole, at the end of a longish driveway, there it is, a futuristic metal-and-glass structure lightly poised on an immense carpet of vegetation, which in the waning light seems bright with flowers.
I believe I will remember this extraordinary pleasure forever, if only for the contrast between the complexity of its preparation and the exquisite simplicity of its final presentation.
The vista seems otherworldly, illimitable, sci-fi, shimmering slightly in the extraordinary silence.
Nobles, too, made sure that gold and jewels accumulated in the abbey, a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture with its amazingly high dome and its famous "flying tribunes"—galleries on either side that seem suspended just below the ceiling. The population shrank: a town like Conques, where 3,000 people lived in the heyday of the pilgrims, has dwindled over time to 300. That's why, as disparate as they seem, you get both Conques and the Viaduct in the gargouillou. For all the eagerness of the offices de tourisme, most of the land here is carefully protected: the pastures by the steadfast farmers, the great canyons and plateaus by their status as national parks. I cannot report firsthand knowledge of that pursuit, but I can testify that a tour of the nearby Caves of Roquefort will turn you into a lover of Roquefort cheese if you aren't one already.


Wearing a halter, one delighted or petrified tourist after another leaps like a life-size puppet from one tree to the next. On the other bank is a bald limestone cliff topped by odd rock formations that seem to tell a story one almost knows. In the late afternoon it was warm enough to swim in the pool, then lie down on a chaise longue, daydream, and grow delightfully sleepy. Like Ballou has done before with Trap Them and Converge, the unpolished and rough production fits The Secret well. Even when the rest of the band comes in and some discernible notes are played, the ominous mood lingers around. The tracks are short enough not to run thin, and tracks like a€?Weathermana€? bring out the crushing breakdowns that cause fits of throwing inanimate objects at anybody in sight.
The latter is a terrorizing plague of hatred that fades into another extended feedback marathon that will cause the ejection of the disc before the dull noise disappears.
This one-two punch of a first impression is the secret of success for a man who has salvaged a bastion of the Soviet food industry: the Mikoyan Meat Processing Plant. Mikoyan saw industrial food items like hot dogs, ice cream, and hamburgers as the future of Soviet cuisine, which he eventually included as mainstays of the official Soviet cookbook, The Book of Healthy and Delicious Food. The Mikomsk company borrowed heavily just to keep the plant running, but during the economic crisis of 1998, it defaulted on $33 million it owed to its main supplier of raw material for making sausage: Exima. He negotiated a licensing deal with Mikoyan family to return their name to the brand, which held truck with Russian citizens because Mikoyan sausages were the best meat a Soviet citizen could buy under the USSR. It's comforting enough to push aside thoughts of eternity and even my anxiety about the immediate future: figuring out a trajectory for the next few weeks with a guidebook that fails to tell me much of anything about most of the points on the map, not to mention the wide spaces between. This is la France profonde, the heartland, which Parisians seldom visit and cannot fathom, where there is some of the world's most stunning, geologically diverse countryside—much of it unspoiled. Still, having glimpsed some of the gorgeous towns nearby, I am surprised by Laguiole's modesty. Just beyond, a few low-lying structures constitute the hotel, recalling the shape of the traditional long, squat, gray Aveyron farmhouse, the buron, one of Europe's earliest forms of architecture.
Every detail of the meal and the environment is surprising and nuanced and, incidentally, also adds up to an object lesson in the passionate regionalism of old Aveyron families like the Brases.
Here, somehow, time seems actualized, accounted for, and expressed by the eloquent layers of soil, ages ago combining and recombining metamorphic rock, granite, and lava—debris torn from the mountain and carried down by glaciers to the high plain where now almost 2,000 species of plants grow.
Much of the countryside is unchanged since then, and the same road winds down to the village of Conques, curling like a snail shell around the abbey at the bottom. There are boat rides on the Tarn River that pass under the colossal bridge of Millau, with cormorants and herons flying close by for company. On this day the sky is an unearthly pale blue, cloudless, a playground for eagles and falcons. It occurred to me that this was the first day in the two weeks I had spent in Aveyron that I had merely relaxed.
A good grind album like this gets in and out with nothing left but a migraine the size of Tom Cruisea€™s ego.
He and some friends were following the train tracks when a locomotive came up quickly from behind. Sernin, the most famous piece here, is so well preserved you can see every marking—the hands, the feet, the strange tattoos or scars on her cheeks, the dots for eyes and small circles for breasts, though she has no mouth. The municipal parking lot is dominated by the statue of an egregiously stocky bull—no doubt in honor of Aubrac cattle, famous throughout France for their hardy spirit and delicious meat.
So much here, on and around the plates, speaks of the place and its traditions, down to the graceful knives for which Laguiole is famous, the chair legs in the shape of bull horns, the waiters gliding about in blue farmers' smocks.
During winter's terrible blizzards, when the winds called tourmentes made the snow whirl so densely that paths became invisible, the bell would ring without stop to guide those who were lost and in fear of bandits, wolves, or death from the cold. You walk the same narrow streets, pause at the travelers' fountain, and look up, as they must have, at the abbey's glorious tympanum, depicting the Last Judgment.
In the evening, at around nine, without warning, the monks begin their chanting by candlelight, an unforgettable spectacle, as it must have been a thousand years ago. The Brases' restaurant and hotel are booked months ahead of time, but innumerable charming places to eat and stay are not.
While the other boys managed to get off the tracks in time, Demin’s right arm got tangled in a low hanging ladder, dragging him for a long distance before he could wrestle free. But then, that's one of the attractions of medieval architecture, created by people who didn't even have a word for the future or a concept of progress.
Peaceful lakeside resorts are an hour's drive from vertiginous peaks, waterfalls, and mind-blowing chasms, under which flow subterranean rivers. When I come out of the museum, it's easy to see Rodez as a 2,000-year-old city, Gallo-Roman ruins as more immersion course than tourist attraction, and Aveyron as a place with a rare relationship to time—an intimate, uninterrupted connection to the past. Two of the walls are mostly glass, and there is hardly any sense of separation from the sumptuous, slightly undulating green expanse outside. Heaven and Hell still seem more divine and horrendous, respectively, than anything you have ever imagined.
Deep valleys alternate with eerie and vast limestone plateaus, or segue into undulating meadows, peat bogs, and hot springs.
Mesmerized by dusk's invasion, I don't draw the curtains until the sky is dark and a faraway sprinkling of lights materializes in Laguiole.
If you can get yourself to lean over the edge, you'll see the river hundreds of feet below, a few kayaks floating downstream like flowers. You eat side by side with mountain climbers, medievalists, and botanists, and maybe a few glam cosmopolites who stay at the table and talk until very late, drinking local wine.
There's no time to memorize the particulars of an almost wild sense of well-being before I fall asleep. Sometimes, as if by plan, the diners pause in their various conversations and gaze out at the mountaintops, or down into the irresistible void.



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