Category Archives: Links

The Purity of Narcos and Narco Novelas

I started watching Narcos, the Netflix drama on the DEA’s war against Pablo Escobar. I’m more than halfway through and so far the show is very engaging and well-shot with a good cast (the voice-over work can be a bit much at times, however). Wagner Moura’s performance as Escobar captures a brooding mood that is very different from other portrayals of the Colombian drug titan than I’m used to seeing. However, there was something amiss as I continued watching. Sure, the translation was more than serviceable and the on-location shooting was pristine. But the total product wasn’t pure.

Regular American viewers have memories of Breaking Bad and The Wire as the destination for drug-heavy TV drama. That’s not always the case for Spanish-speaking viewers. From there comes the path of narco cinema and narco corridos, movies and music glorifying the drug trade. Narco cinema has its roots firmly in the B-movie aesthetic, with its shoddy film-making and even more suspect acting. But something intriguing happened when those themes crossed the border into TV. What came is an interesting hybrid that takes the format of telenovelas and the spirit of low-rent Mexican/Colombian drug movies. Instead of 15-20 some-odd episodes, you have shows past 60. All romantic arcs of forbidden love are replaced with plots of violence, treachery and the drug lord’s lust for power. These narco-novelas are international productions with huge fanbases both in both the Americas.

Narcos also has all of those ingredients, but why didn’t it appeal to me more than the narco-novela have? It’s a simple matter of creative authenticity. The best example comes from El Cartel de los Sapos, a narco-novela from a while back that set the tone for many others. Yes, the acting could be lacking at times, but the dialogue was so true to the character of the drug lords, the sicarios, and others that one can’t help but feel more engrossed in their actions. What made it standout was the source material that came from author/screenwriter Andres Lopez. He wrote the show based on his novel, inspired on his experience as a drug trafficker, and made the right adaptation to TV – something very similar to what David Simon did with his journalism experience and The Wire.

But the very truth of narco novelas isn’t that they are critically acclaimed. The shows tread a very fine line between schlock and gritty realism, most of the time veering to the former. It’s popcorn entertainment at its core, but the inherent feeling of a deeper reality, even when it digs into its telenovela roots, makes it better. And the quality is increasing – Escobar, el Patron del Mal, was a 2012 sprawling drug series entailing the life of the kingpin. Like Narcos, it was made on location, but this time it was created by Colombian television, not only adding to the authenticity but the controversy in glorifying the man. Telemundo’s hit show El Señor de los Cielos has stepped up its game every season – the fact it even has seasons shows its strength, most novelas are standalone stories – and constantly evolves from its barely-autobiographical story of a high-flying drug lord to the show’s conversion of real-life drug icons into fictionalized villains, all the way to the use of the 2014 mass kidnapping  of Mexican students as a plot point.

So while it is exciting that Netflix made its route for audience-addicting drug television, know this – there’s been other, more established paths bringing in a product that is superior in some ways, even when they get over-the-top. Enjoy its trashiness, because within it lies a truth you may not find in the classy veneer of the other.

The Post Millennial 2014 Top Five Albums

The gleaming and digesting is complete, and the ears are awash with all the cuts dropped. Overall the year hasn’t be an album-heavy year for me. Granted, the ones that made the cut are my favorite, yet I wonder how many will infect me and stick in my aural DNA for years to come. It has been more of an exploratory year filled with mixtapes and solo YouTube clips heard in the middle of the night. I have a Spotify playlist that I have developed a blog post, sitting in draft form, describing them. I’m going to expand it tomorrow and post it as well. Now, on to the albums.

Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

“212” was not the greatest of songs when it was dropped in 2011. In its proper place, however, it is the true banger people made it be a while back. Banks’ debut combines a variety of sounds – house beats, R&B, garage, Latin music – and melds it with her sing/rap combo, creating an extended party playlist best played on a sound system in the best clubs. Which is a far better home for her songs than anywhere else, and I don’t mean that in any denigrating manner. This is fun hip-hop the radio shouldn’t get in its filthy goddamn hands.

Favorite song: “Gimme A Chance” – Azealia goes hard over horns, turntables, then brings her Harlem on and belts out lyrics and rhymes in Spanish. Can’t say no to that.

Caribou – Our Love

What kind of emotion does Our Love achieve? It has a steady undercurrent of subtle happiness hidden beneath many of the songs in this album. Even when it picks up on songs like “Julia Brightly” it has this downtempo joy embedded under the faster BPM. The music drives you and cools you down at the same time, which is an interesting prospect to have for an electronic album to have.

Favorite Song: “Mars” – Snaith masterfully started that drum sample to start the song, serving as the backbone for the rest of a frenetic mix of repetition of other samples. What came out: a danceable, amazing semi-paranoid jam.

St. Vincent – “St. Vincent”

The breadth of Annie Clark’s work is quirky and enjoyable before the self-titled. They had pop sensibilities, but not enough to really grab a sizable amount of people. This album, however, changes that.   In a less-crappier world where the radio would allow at least decent music, a couple of the songs on this album would have been on the cycle. This really is the most accessible St. Vincent album as she comes at you, guitar riffs and all, and pulls you in.

Favorite Song: “Digital Witness” – Her normal singles are good guitar-infused jams, but this one has sonic maximalism  that comes from the brass and electronic sounds in the chorus.

EMA – The Future’s Void

What EMA does on this album is take the desolation found in cyberpunk and at make it into music. If you have heard her work in the past you have see her do similar things, but this time around it is refined, like a short film shot in 4K-quality, shot through a distorted fliter. Her zine/manifesto on the creation and basis of the album really goes into this, I highly suggest you read it. The next time you feel the internet is filling up your mind, your lungs, you bones, go and give this a listen for a purge.

Favorite Song – “Neuromancer” – An electronic tribe song taking down Instagram whores, reminding them Big Brother is not in your PC, your phone, and your tablet – he’s in you as well.

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

On their debut album, Mike and El bounced a rap grenade off one another, waiting to pull the pin. Well, it was finally time to toss the motherfucker into the general population. RTJ2 is threatening, political, dirty as hell, but retains the humor of the previous album.  So many parts of the songs can’t help make the listener let out a devilish smile as Mike paints the picture of a prison riot or El reps his NY so hard it messes with his gait, or the uber-lewd romantic masterpiece that is “Love Again”. The duo give no fucks about your sacred cows, and it’s apparent here –  people are robbed and waterboarded, all to the soundtrack of El-P’s signature dystopia beats.

Favorite Song: “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) (Feat. Zack De La Rocha)” – There are a lot of amazing guests on the album, but bringing De La Rocha out to grace us with 18 bars of fury with Miles Davis and Blade Runner references? Done.

Honorable Mentions

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

RATKING – So It Goes

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

Banks – Goddess

Christian Löffler – Young Alaska

Phantogram– Voices

Can’t Let Them Catch The Midnight Writer

The first time I can remember writing alone was in third grade. It was well past my bedtime and I barely sat on the kitchen table enough to scribble down on one of those composition books with the scattered black-and-white patterns throughout the cover and back. I don’t quite remember what it was on – insects, perhaps – but I remember the time being past the 11 o’clock news and no one being in the room with me. The only reason my parents didn’t try to stop was because these were the days in which my mom went into work around six in the morning and my dad’s hours were completely fucked from all the residency he did at multiple hospitals.That was around 1995.

It’s 2002 and my sister is fast asleep. Years of staying up late writing or playing games have added up by then and the internet have mixed it all up and made me into a huge mess of insomnia and information addiction. The Compaq PC was the only computer my family had  at the time, and I was the one that was on in more than anyone else. When I wasn’t downloading music at the speed of Congress getting any work done, I pulled up document files while I talked to other friends with sleep problems – mostly girls – and wrote. I played music at very low volumes so that no one noticed I was awake, at least not until it was two or three in the morning. I pulled many all-nighters writing topic and country papers for Model UN (yes, I was that kind of nerd, and I’m not ashamed of it). My brother introduced me to energy drinks because of my nocturnal writing patterns, and I learned the concepts of deadlines and how to produce quality work. It just took the darkness.

More sleep disappeared in college, as I wrote my fiction/poetry out of boredom at night when I wasn’t working on lab papers during the day. There was less sunlight there, creating days with an illusion of perpetual twilight. And that was all I needed to keep the words flowing. I was pretty much a wreck at that point and well on my way to the major crash that would occur near the end. Every night has a dawn, and some are painful and blinding.

When I finished school and my brain finally decided it was time to go haywire, I had to give into a set sleep schedule. I had help from someone, but the more I slept the more I lost the night, and there went the dark and the silence and the click-clack of my fingers on something. The first rounds of medication didn’t help either – they dulled everything, from my physical hunger to my thoughts. I took a considerable amount of time to write again, and to no surprise it came back to me in the dark, when I was working a night job with a bunch of Mexican guys. During breaks I would take out a small notebook and jot down pieces of a story inspired by what I was doing.

As of this writing, it’s almost  6 AM and the sun is just making its way up. The sensation is the same as it was years ago, and I am spell-checking and fixing any grammatical errors on my sister’s paper after doing some of my own personal work. The rush of night writing, the liberation and isolation it allows me to have, is amazing, but there is a new thought that crosses my mind – will this always be the way it works?  I hoped I could find a way to do this with the sun but I never can. This thing, this path that gives me strength, it’s unhealthy and this will hurt eventually but I don’t see any other way to do this. I’ll just continue writing until the light comes, then find my way to sleep if the day allows it.

Weekly Tumblr Dump – 5/3/2014

Via my friend Harmony, This is “Swoon”, a song from the Soul Visions album. It is a collaboration made by The Human Experience and Rising Appalachia. Buy the album here.

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And then there’s Kieron Gillen’s post on Sister of Mercy’s “Alice”, for his upcoming The Wicked & The Divine:

We’re all monsters, at least for a few seconds at a time. I don’t believe you if you’re saying otherwise. Everyone I’ve ever met have failed that particular test of being inhumanly humanistic. Especially you. Yes, you.

There’s music about how you wish you are. There’s music how you wish you aren’t. There’s music which looks the world in the eye and tells it exactly who you are, and asks if they want to make something of it.

I remember Warren Ellis reading the script for Aaron Sorkin’s pilot episode for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and saying something to the effect of having the urge to quit writing. I’m still trying to get my shit off the ground and This motherfucker drops a post that questions my goddamn skills.

AND I DON’T EVEN LIKE SISTERS OF MERCY. Just…fucking…ahhh.

Anyway, onward.

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I’m still bummed I didn’t get to meet Molly Crabapple at her talk with Warren Ellis in early April. She’s a great artist and this is a prime example of it.

From her Talking Points Memo article “Istanbul: Before the Tear Gas”:

Used to battling cops at games, football fans formed Gezi’s frontlines. Now, the police are so afraid they plead with protestors to please disperse. “Children of whores,” the fans chant back. It’s a sweet change from the last few years of New York demonstrations, where cops often forced demonstrators into pens, beat them, and arrested them like cattle. Next to hundreds of football fans spoiling for a fight, I finally feel safe from the police.

I dive to the front. Amidst the A.C.A.B. (All Cops Are Bastards) scarves and E-ticket fuck no graffiti spray-painted on the sidewalks, a masked boy holds up a flare. It burns neon. From Galatasaray gates, fans have hung a banner emblazoned with the words “There is no description for our love.” Flyers fluttered like ten thousand birds.

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This is from a Harbor Magazine photo shoot with model Dino Busch holding fancy owls in impeccable suits.

Source: http://evenghostandhorse.tumblr.com/

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I saw Massive Attack at the Warfield in San Francisco in 2010, and I remember seeing this during their performance. United Visual Artists took care of the lighting design of the Massive Attack shows, and they put up a lot of digital protests playing the back while they performed. There were some that I can recall, like the rising digital number of money spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the phrase ” WHAT THE FUCK, ARIZONA?” in digital typeface in regards to the recently enacted SB 1070 law.

Weekly Tumblr Dump 4/18/14

Cien años de soledad  is one of my favorite books from the magic realism style he created. While I don’t think it’s apparent, my writing DNA has a considerable amount of Gabo in it. Que descanses en paz.

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Rod McKuen, from Listen to the Warm, 1967

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Via Laughing Squid is a great 8-Bit Cinema of The Fifth Element,  including the taxi chase scene and Zorg ZF-1 test demo.

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St. Vincent at the State Theatre in Minneapolis. Photos by Nate Ryan. Her new album is really good, I recommend “Rattlesnake” and “Prince Johnny”.

Weekly Tumblr Dump 4/13/14

This week’s Tumblr dump includes Lovecraft/Bible mashups, demigod genetics, samurai and body wall art, and ladies punching things.

 

Charlie Stross put together this odd combination of the King James Bible with some H.P. Lovecraft via some bootleg Markov Chain. I’m a big fan of putting original work though processes to make new stuff – I made this poem through a posts on the topic of rules and put it up on my own tumblr ( “We Of Knowing”).

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This is the first the first image of an amazing step-by-step instructional post on making this mural painting on a wall. I don’t know if I’d do this particular one on my wall even though I love Seven Samurai, but the technique is something I’d definitely keep in mind.

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This is an interesting post on simple Punnett squares/hereditary genetics in respects to demigods. Credit goes to Erin:

OK this is kinda weird but I’ve been thinking about if two demigods had a kid, would there be a chance their kid could be immortal, or completely mortal? still a demigod, or more like a fourth of a god?

I mean on the surface, it seems like one of those things where the fractions would just keep dividing, but if you would think about them as alleles and dominant / recessive traits, for this example, lets use Mm (for mortality im clever) and the dominant M would be immortality and recessive m would be mortality. In the case of PJO, mortality would be incompletely dominant, showing signs of both parents (eg. being susceptible to both godly and mortal weapons; able to eat ambrosia, like their godly parent, but also able to eat regular food like their mortal parent). So if you have a god, they are completely immortal, MM, and their completely mortal partner, mm.

Now when you cross the two homozygous people, all the offspring would be Mm, a demigod, that is. Do a Punnett Square if you don’t believe me.

So you have a demigod (Mm) and they can produce offspring with a god (MM), another demigod (Mm), or a mortal (mm). If a demigod has children with a god, theoretically, their children would have 50% immortal, and a 50% chance of being a demigod. If a demigod has children with a mortal, their children theoretically have a 50% chance of being demigods, and a 50% chance of being completely mortal. Finally, if two demigods had children, their theoretical children have a 25% chance of being mortal, and 50% of being immortal, and a 25% chance of being mortal.

That doesn’t even scratch the surface though, I mean, what about mortals who have the power of Sight? Could immortality be a sex-linked trait? Does immortality work differently in demons and monsters, or is it the same? What about nymphs and naiads? Centaurs? Possibilities are endless with genetics guys get excited.

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That’s not Photoshop – an artist painted that on her body. You can see the whole process of the artist putting it onto her via gifs. it’s pretty cool.

 

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That is ex-MMA fighter/actress Gina Carano beating the ever-loving crap out of a theoretical jaw. The post has this to say about her:

“Gina can land all 8 blows in a blistering 3 seconds. And how much does this maelstrom combine to generate? An amazing 4,800 pounds of force. That’s like a North Pacific giant octopus pounding you with all 8 of it’s arms. Translation: In 3 seconds, Gina could brake your ribs, give you a concussion, shatter your nose, rupture your spleen, cause internal bleeding, and put you down for the count.”

I think she’s doing a superhero movie now but I hoped she be in one of the DC/Marvel ones and not with Rob Liefeld. Oh well.

The Weekly Tumblr Dump – 4/4/14

This week’s Tumblr extravaganza includes new media quotes, LoL cosplay, retro music posters, funny haikus, and Blade.

Here’s a part of Laurie Penny’s on The Feted Future of New Media ( via Kieron Gillen’s tumblr):

Those who have the power right now, in tech but also to some extent in media, see themselves as rejects, weirdos fighting for their place, and there are reasons for that. The emotional patterning laid down in puberty is hard to shake. If you got used to being excluded, being left out, having to fight to survive because you were smart or nerdy or different or all three, that’s a mentality that stays with you. That sort of trauma can be useful later in life – it gives you stamina, drive, a determination to carry your ideas through against the odds, a hunger to prove yourself, fierce dedication to your fellow oddballs and weirdoes, and I could go on. But it is still trauma, and it comes with baggage. Part of which is that long after you’ve stopped being an outsider and instead become a privileged pillar of the new establisment, not only do you fail to notice, but when someone points it out to you, you get angry – you get reaaaally, really frustrated – because being an “outsider” has always been a forming part of your identity, and being told there are people further out than you is hard to handle.

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Check out this amazing cosplay of Lucien, a champion from League of Legends. I got excited about seeing a black champion in that game, even though I’m not a particular fan of playing as him. Still, Those guns, man…

 

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This retro posterization of Outkast is part of a series made by the Ads Libitum tumblr. There is another one of Andre 3000 all Uncle Sam’d out, along with Kanye, Daft Punk, Nirvana, and more.

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I love the humorous poetry posted on Haikutes. They range from sex, relationships, and just random funny-ass stuff.

 

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This is still  my favorite Blade quote, but Kris Kristoferson as Whistler wasn’t no slouch either:

The Weekly Tumblr Dump – 3/28/14

 

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From the post:

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is an entomopathogenic (it acts as a parasite and can kill or disable the host) fungus. It is known as the mind controlling fungi and in the 1st picture it can be seen growing out the head of a “zombie” ant in the Brazilian forest. It can control the behavioral patterns of the host it has attached onto. It takes control of an ant so it can move to an ideal location for the fungi to grow and spread its spores, after that it kills the ant.

I’ve always been a fan of this weird-ass organism. I know that it was used in The Last of Us, and I’d like to see it used in more fiction.

 

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This comes from a series of photos taken by Jonathan Hobin. He took children and recreated horrible tragedies (like the Jonestown massacre above). There’s a 9/11 and JonBenet Ramsey one, of course, but I was surprised he made one for the Lady Diana death.

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From an IndieWire interview with Robert Rodriguez about why he created the El Rey Network (via http://peaceloveandafropuffs.tumblr.com/):

When I was doing “Spy Kids,” the Weinsteins asked me — not that they were being jerks at all, they were just wondering — “Why are you making the characters Hispanic? It doesn’t make any sense, isn’t this supposed to be for everybody?” “Well, it’s based on my family.”

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(via http://fitoraemusic.tumblr.com/)

I love the original (probably listened to it hundreds of times when I was in junior high) and this spin on it is really goddamn good. I went on and listened to more of  Banks’ songs, and they are really good. I recommend “Before I Ever Met You”:

The Weekly Tumblr Dump – 3/21/14

 

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Sipho Mabona wants to make a life-size origami elephant using a 2,500 sq. ft paper. I’m a big fan of paperfolding so I am excited to see it happen.

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From writer Chuck Palahnuik’s latest essay on writing (from his own Tumblr site). Apparently you have to sign up to the mag that has the full one but this quote is good enough, I think:

Whether you’re making music or films or painting pictures… play to the strengths of your medium.

One of the aspects of written narrative I appreciate most is the ambiguity that’s possible and sustainable before the true nature of a fictional situation is confirmed. Like the roadster in The Great Gatsby which is green or yellow, depending on the moment, I love to keep the details of a story in flux. One thing morphs into becoming another, sometimes even a third thing.

My classic example comes from the story “Guts.” Whatever is holding the narrator underwater, first it’s a snake, then a sea serpent, then it’s a prolapsed colon, finally it’s a “thick rope of veins and twisted guts.” This gradual evolution from the fantastic to the horribly real is something films have less success depicting. There are good examples. In A Portrait of Jennie Joseph Cotton gradually realizes his girlfriend is dead. A ghost. In Jacob’s Ladder Tim Robbins slowly comes to terms with the fact that he is, himself, dead. But too often the ambiguous thing must be made real in order to be filmed, and that robs it of the power of being debatable, undecidable. So often, once we see the monster, it’s no longer scary.

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This made me laugh as a man who’s felt those.

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From Lev Grossman’s post titled ‘Small Batch Writing” (via http://kadrey.tumblr.com/):

I’m always on the lookout for little gaps like that in my schedule: anytime I can get a block of 10 minutes or more, I take it. I write in waiting rooms. I write in cars while other people are driving (this is very boring for them, but I do it anyway). I write while pasta is boiling.
Sometimes when I’m taking care of my kids they fall asleep, or lose consciousness for other reasons. The second they do I’m at my keyboard. Ninja writer strikes! Then I go back to changing diapers.

The Weekly Tumblr Dump – 3/7/2013

I spend a lot more time on my Tumblr blog than this site, but I feel guilty not giving this blog any love (especially now that it is actually jesusgaray.com). That being said, I’m selling out and putting up some of the likes I’ve clicked on this week [NOTE: I will always put the source for any of these posts, as I don’t want to be one of those douchebags who put up art/writing playing it off like it’s mine]:

Source: joshfranfuckthis.tumblr.com

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Source: geek-art.tumblr.com

This a part of  Marko Manev and Matt Ferguson’s art show (check it out here).

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A quote from David Lynch, via mariomayfire:

“I hate slick and pretty things. I prefer mistakes and accidents. Which is why I like things like cuts and bruises – they’re like little flowers. I’ve always said that if you have a name for something, like ‘cut’ or ‘bruise,’ people will automatically be disturbed by it. But when you see the same thing in nature, and you don’t know what it is, it can be very beautiful.”

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Click on the image and you’ll be able to see close-ups on all the characters. I really like the Hellfire ones.

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I’m a big anti-fan of the whole ancient aliens thing, but the utsuro bune urban legend is interesting.

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From the Vice News article:

China’s environmental problems have become such an embarrassment to its leadership that the country suddenly finds itself on a war footing. On Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang, the second-ranked political leader and head of economic policy, formally declared a “war on pollution” in a speech before the annual gathering of the National People’s Congress. The reform is welcome news, but overdue — and the outlook of the strategy Li outlined is about as clear as the morning sky on your run-of-the-mill, suffocating Beijing day.

Li called for the closure of 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces, the removal of 6 million old, emissions-belching vehicles from the streets, and new guidelines for air quality improvement in seriously affected northern Chinese cities. He described the state of Beijing’s air as “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”