Increase the Peace: How Toronto’s Bestival Provided an Escape from Global Hate

Photos via Facebook

Festivals are often scoffed at for the capitalization of that late ’60s Woodstock free spirit—something that culture has actively attempted to revive and reimagine for decades since. These weekend-long musical gatherings are loaded with warm, nostalgic imagery—peace signs, costumed attendees and technicolor branding—making for an experience that feels like a consciously curated escape from reality.

For the cynic, this warrants inevitable criticism, as an event that’s perhaps forced and disingenuous. But for others, and probably most, this recreation of music’s heyday is just fine, allowing them to fully slip away from the stress of everyday living.


At Bestival 2016, which Toronto adopted for a second year, the boutique music festival rolled through Canada June 11-12 like a mega-carnival overflowing with updated Woodstock allusions. The slogan, “Increase the Peace,” grounded Bestival’s entire experience, which upon first impression, drove me closer to the cynic’s perspective. Wrapped into a cute rhyme, the phrase was smart, though “peace” has nearly lost all meaning today. During the ’60s, it had a certain fortitude that’s been replaced with empty aesthetic value, trading effective calls to action for fleeting Instagram posts.

Has peace distilled to hula hoopers, blow-up wedding chapels and expensive beers? Does this high level of escapism serve a greater purpose? I couldn’t help but think about the undercurrents of Bestival’s marketing.


But immediately after the night of Bestival’s opening, a peaceful early morning in Orlando shifted dramatically when gunman Omar Mateen shot 49 dead and injured another 53 in Pulse nightclub. A record-breaking hate crime against the LGBTQ community, this news completely shifted my perspective entering day two.

Though I was lost inside a melancholic cloud of mourning for my brothers and sisters, the Toronto park grounds’ colorful displays certainly helped ease the shock of scrolling through news about the unfathomable massacre. This was all before #WeAreOrlando became a global mark of solidarity, so being in a foreign, untouched place when your native country’s in pain is a feeling I’ll never forget.


When I bought drinks from a woman whose smile looked permanent, she gushed about her love for Toronto—an incredibly diverse city she said welcomes all walks of life and this year even extended its annual Pride festivities to last an entire month. The sun caused her glitter eyeshadow to flicker, and I became overwhelmed by the difference between my immediate environment and what I knew was taking place down in Florida. “We’re all really welcoming here,” she assured, as I thought about the gunshots of an American man who wanted hundreds of LGBTQ people dead.

Looking around, the Bestival grounds were brimming with love—not just for live music, but love for one other, their differences, their similarities. We were all happily coddled inside the festival’s magical utopia, where hate was seemingly nonexistent despite it overwhelming my immediate conscience. “Increase the Peace” was printed in giant letters across the top of the main stage, as I watched The Cure close out day two. Just 24 hours before, those three words felt empty to me, but now I latched onto them all dearly.

“Increase the Peace.”


A parade of festival-goers danced by waving flags with giant yellow smiley faces, some patterned with big red hearts; strangers bonded in the pit over The Cure, one simple thing they found in common; gender identities were proudly flaunted and accepted, sexualities were fully liberated and races in the crowd were as colorful as the flags that dotted Bestival’s grounds. “This is how things should be everywhere,” I thought, finding comfort in a space where love and unity trumped hate and segregation.

It’s too easy to criticize the intentions of a festival that promotes inclusivity for the sake of ticket sales—a festival that commodifies Woodstock’s core values that were first developed without money-hungry motivations. But in a time of extreme sorrow surrounding Orlando’s unfolding events, Bestival’s storybook escapism was the temporary distraction I needed.

Yes, they’re right—we must absolutely “Increase the Peace,” and hopefully one day this rose-tinted ideal, which has lost much of its meaning in today’s fast-paced culture, will move beyond the walls of a utopian festival and into the streets where it belongs.

“Increase the Peace.”

Caitlyn Jenner Wants to be Ted Cruz’s ‘Trans Ambassador’

Photo via Instagram

Caitlyn Jenner’s celebrity efforts are arguably effective when used to advance trans visibility, but they’re toxic, and quite contradictory, when they begin crossing into politics. The sheer imbalance between producing her E! series I Am Cait and actively supporting Ted Cruz—a man with openly anti-trans ideologies—is shocking.

Now she’s taken her advocacy for the Republican presidential candidate a step further, suggesting a rose-colored arrangement where he’d warmly welcome trans ambassadors’ opinions into his discriminatory politics.

In a new interview with The AdvocateJenner spoke about the man, whom she called a “great constitutionalist” and “very articulate,” suggesting she’d love to personally advise him on trans politics:

“Wouldn’t it be great, let’s say he goes on to be president […] And I have all my girls on a trans issues board to advise him on making decisions when it comes to trans issues. Isn’t that a good idea?”

As the conversation continued, Jenner began tying her fiscally conservative values into this shaky rationale:

“Number one, if we don’t have a country, we don’t have trans issues. We need jobs. We need a vibrant economy. I want every trans person to have a job. With $19 trillion in debt and it keeps going up, we’re spending money we don’t have. Eventually, it’s going to end. And I don’t want to see that. Socialism did not build this country. Capitalism did. Free enterprise. The people built it. And they need to be given the opportunity to build it back up.”

But, how will these trans individuals get jobs if the man who’s supposedly going to create opportunities questions the legitimacy of their gender identity? Last November, Cruz argued that the Obama Administration’s support for trans school-aged children was “lunacy,” criticizing the federal movement to enforce a non-binary social structure within public schools:

“You know, the funny thing is, my 5-year-old knows there’s a difference between boys and girls, and yet modern Leftists can’t figure that out.”

Sure, Jenner—this sounds like just the man who’ll not only welcome a trans ambassador into the White House, but also consciously create a national environment where trans bodies can fiscally thrive and be viewed as legitimate.



Balmain Recruits Naomi, Claudia and Cindy for New Campaign, a Promising Return to Fashion’s Golden Age

Photo via Vogue

The #BalmainArmy just enlisted some needed recruits, hopefully marking the militant march away from Olivier Rousting’s fixation on all things Kardashian. Three of the original supers—Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford—stepped in front of photographer Steven Klein’s lens for a newly unveiled series of high contrast black-and-white images.

Speaking to Dazed Digital about the campaign, Rousting had this to say: “I used to stare at them—on TV and in video clips; in magazines and in campaigns… They made fashion relevant, as relevant to pop culture as music, cinema and sport…”

For the past few years, Balmain has defined the fashion ethos: over-the-top commercialism, marked by fast turnarounds and a major sidestepping to true artistry. Though the clothes are often striking and certainly well-constructed, they don’t propel fashion forward. They’re stagnant in a sense, with no meaning behind them.

Gone are the days of fashion as thought; challenging works, such as Alexander McQueen’s Highland Rape cannot exist in fashion today, at least in a lucrative sense. People want easy and accessible, and Balmain is partly responsible for that.

Add that to the brand’s squadron of reality TV poster children—Jenners, Hadids or Kardashians— and you’ve got one hell of a boring mess. Don’t even get me started on that tragic H&M campaign, which attempted to capture Balmain’s excessive materiality through cheaply produced and ill-conceived garments.These fashion shifts, helmed by Rousting’s Balmain, have left artists like Raf Simons, Alber Albez and Alexander Wang reeling from the current state of fashion affairs. Simons and Albez, specifically, have been quite vocal with their bleak outlooks on the industry’s future.

“We designers, we started as couturiers, with dreams, with intuition, with feeling.” Albez said in the New York Times. “We became ‘creative directors,’ so we have to create, but mostly direct. And now we have to become image-makers, creating a buzz, making sure that it looks good in the pictures. The screen has to scream, baby.” But, he said, “I prefer whispering. Everyone in fashion just needs a little more time.”

So, let’s take this latest campaign as a call to action for both Balmain and our industry. It’s time we bring fashion back to the Golden Age. We need thoughtful garments that propel society and fashion forward, not just clothes that look pretty for a fleeting span of time. Slow everything down and make it matter.

Let’s Stop Sensationalizing Jaden Smith’s Louis Vuitton Campaign

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There’s absolutely nothing new about genderless fashion. For the past few years, blurring the lines of womenswear and menswear has been an obsessive fixture of media attention and designers have all used this approach as a means to assert surface level, aesthetic rebellion. Beyond mainstream culture’s attention—or curiosity, rather—toward gender, this is something that’s been explored in the Underground for decades with marginalized people bravely mining their identities and capitalizing on the malleability of “man” and “woman” as it pertains to dress.

These unknown, unnamed figures have fearlessly gone against the grain of popular opinion, some potentially risking their lives for simply donning a dress or skirt way before the androgynous look became one widely embraced by fashion. These are the true trailblazers, though Jaden Smith, celebrity son to Hollywood actor Will Smith, has been deemed a “historical” tastemaker for starring in Louis Vuitton’s SS ’16 womenswear campaign. Posing alongside three female models, the famous 17-year-old is shown “boldly rejecting standards of masculinity” and “rising above socialization” by wearing Vuitton womenswear.

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Creative Director Nicolas Ghesquiere knew exactly what he was doing in casting Smith—a move that’d ensure media attention (like this) and fuel a fury of polarizing commentary across social media. The campaign seemingly attempts to project Ghesquiere’s “progressive” agenda to dismantle fashion’s gender binary, but falls flat by ultimately sensationalizing Smith’s outfit. He’s the only male model in the campaign dressing “against” his assigned sex, which inevitably depletes any potential assertions of normalcy. “Wow, Jaden Smith’s wearing a skirt in Louis Vuitton’s new campaign? Ghesquiere is a genius. Jaden’s an icon for a generation.” 

Smith has oft been photographed wearing womenswear in his everyday life, so this pairing comes as no surprise, but Ghesquiere’s transparent intentions and the media’s excited response are both counterproductive for any real social change inside and outside of fashion. As major news outlets continue to praise Smith’s “radical” Vuitton campaign, they’re not only erasing an age-old marker of queer culture in exchange for celebrity and capitalism, but they’re feeding the endless fascination with all things “gender-bending” and making it harder for this to be viewed as everyday. 


Girl Walks Home Alone: An Ode to the Upper West Side

I go on walks late at night. 11 p.m. is too early; there’s still a buzz then, swirling bodies prancing and gabbing up and down the street. I want pitch dark; I want the darkness to bleed into my bones. The lamppost and stars can be my company, and then I’ll be content in the silence, invisible like a phantom unstuck in air.

I travel in circles, kicking out restless energy one step at a time. Sidewalks don’t have names anymore; I recognize the places. There’s the gate where someone once pulled me back for a kiss. And the church that felt so peaceful the first time I sat on a pew. That’s the building where I once got lost and laughed, because it was okay to be lost in those days. And that park—I never did visit the peacocks.

A few streets below is my favorite Thai restaurant, where I usually meet my friends to grin and almost never cry. There’s the corner where pitiable, harmless men heckle; they wouldn’t dare touch me after my eyes make them weak. And here, the daisies. This store has the prettiest daisies, but I’ve never bought a bouquet.

I started going on walks when I moved to New York City for school. I would jaunt around campus, waving at security guards and smiling, or sometimes not smiling. I’d pause to look out on our library from across the quad, its lights dancing in the hazy winter wind. The sight made me feel calm for the first time in my life.

But campus became too small, and too repetitive. I knew people. They would stop me, on my walks, at 11 p.m., and I would politely nod and say, “How are you?” and my mind was not with them. The question was not whether I liked them or wanted to see them. I liked them very much, but I needed the navy sky to envelop me so I could feel like I existed and didn’t exist in the very same moment, and I couldn’t do that over conversation.

So now I walk later, around a wider circumference. And I put my headphones in, and they make me feel real things for the first time in 24 hours. If I’m anxious, I listen to “Later On;” or “Raise Hell” when I’m stir-crazy; or “Stone Cold” when I’m very, very sad and nostalgic.

I start the walk shaking and frozen, my body protesting, pleading for the warmth of my apartment. But as I keep moving, my cheeks feel warm and all of a sudden I can’t feel my face and it’s glorious. It’s glorious, to feel and not feel all at once. And my eyes—I can see without a veil shrouding them. The veil of stress, of tension, lifts. I’m free.

Rarely, I invite others to join me on my walks. They have to be a particular type of person, the walking type. I don’t mean avid exercisers; most anyone with lungs should be able to keep up with me in my heels. They have to be the type of person who could talk, who could say something interesting that made me want to sigh instead of scream.

But usually, I walk alone. I look at stones and bricks and towers and cracks in the concrete and think of bittersweet memories, and it fills me with hope. I peer up at the architecture that hangs above and wonder how bad man can be if he can make something so beautiful. I stare past that, squinting, and imagine a light lodged in the blue expanse. Maybe it’s a star, but probably it’s an airplane. I don’t care—to me, it’s a star, and I make a wish.

Why I Don’t Get the Military

It’s 3 a.m. and I should be reading Red Cavalry. Instead, I’m thinking about how little I know of war. Not really what war is, but why we war.

A few hours ago, a reminder popped up on my laptop screen: November 11 is Veteran’s Day. As I stared at the icon, I couldn’t shake a feeling of complete ignorance. I’ve been trying to understand combat for years now, but maybe I never wanted to know how it truly felt—to be an 18-year-old boy caught in crossfire.

As the child of two lawyers whose family’s only veteran was my doctoring grandfather during Korea, I honestly can’t place where my interest in war came from. What I’ve heard from legends and fables, though, is that it’s in my genes. While in college, my mom marched off to boot camp one summer, not to train per se, but to try to imagine what it felt like to enlist. She wanted to go into politics and justified her curiosities about the army with lofty ideals on the need to understand war as a government official. She lasted three days, I think; like me when I went to the Naval Academy Summer Seminar, she couldn’t swallow the system mandated by the military. People joked that we were both like Private Benjamin, except we never overcame our frou-frou tastes for a heroic conclusion.

Family anecdotes aside, I read my first “war book” in high school. I was home-schooled as a kid, and my curriculum included watered down versions of Homeric epic, but it wasn’t until Flags of Our Fathers that I came face to face with a modern war narrative. I remember thinking it was boring until the end, when the soldiers came home. I devoured that section like brunch on a Sunday morning because it was emotional and made me feel something. The other stuff—bombs and bullets—didn’t grip me. In fact, for the first 300 pages, I regretted not choosing one of the other optional readings. In Cold Blood sounded especially enticing and everyone was raving about how provocative it was. Flags of Our Fathers was so alien that I didn’t even know how to talk about it.

Then, my teacher assigned The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam sketches. Simultaneously, my junior English class had a project: we were each given a name on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, and we had to put together a mini-documentary on our subject. I think most people saw the work as tedious, but I got into it, tracking my soldier’s past. I reached his sister, mother and friends, all still alive and grieving half a century after the death of their loved one. They found solace in talking about him, and it made me feel happy to think I had helped them in some way. I didn’t know what it meant to grieve then; I had never lost anyone. But the idea that I had done something good bonded me to the project—I always wanted to do something good, but never knew how.

During the aforementioned stint at the USNA a few months later, I wore a flower in my hair every day, and would wake up at 5:30 am to put on makeup before morning exercise. Suffice it to say that after the recruiting trip concluded, I knew military life wasn’t for me. But that weekend, on my way to college visits, I asked my dad to let me visit the Vietnam Wall so I could see my soldier’s name etched in stone. Now, it seems voyeuristic, but then I just crouched by it, sobbing. I couldn’t explain it; I didn’t know him. I had never known him. He died two decades before I was born, or even conceived of. But somehow, he was mine.

Four years later, and I’m taking a college course on “How to Tell A War Story.” I signed up because last year it popped in my head that one day I might want to do some war journalism. I figured it could be useful to see how the greats wrote about combat; after all, books are made to teach. In theory, I wanted to learn about war, so I could know what it felt like to straddle the line between life and death. Admittedly, I’m a masochist and enjoy danger, but I’m too jumpy to ever seek it out with reckless abandon. So to envision it and place myself in the characters’ shoes seemed like the next best thing.

A week and a half before the term started, my father died of cancer. I was not home, but I had watched him fading for a year now. I knew what death was like, I thought. I could relate to stories of war because I had witnessed the destruction of a human body. Plus in war, soldiers usually die quickly. Logically, I had seen something much worse—a slow, painful crash of the limbs that took the spirit with it.

As I plunged into my “How to Tell A War Story” coursework—nearly a book per class—a recurring motif irritated me. Almost every author told me that I was reading for no reason because I could never understand war. This spurred the question: then why read? I was spending entire days taking in texts that apparently taught me nothing, because I couldn’t get it. If I hadn’t been there. At the front. The thought was recapitulated over and over, with only one breath of fresh air from Phil Klay, who urged his reader to try to imagine. I thought he was right, that I could get it if only I tried hard enough. I just had to keep reading, and I would picture it—what warfare looked like.

Until we studied All Quiet on the Western Front. It was then that I realized I didn’t want to know what it was like to be in World War I, Vietnam or Afghanistan. I couldn’t stomach it, reading about the Germans who were just as human as us, and who were well-intentioned, and who had families, and who didn’t have to die. I didn’t want to feel how Paul did after stabbing a Frenchman, staring at his withering corpse for hours. It frightened me. I put up a block, deciding I would not understand, not because I couldn’t theoretically, but because practically it might make me explode.

Still, I continued to talk in class. I’m a garrulous person, and I like driving a point home, even if my voice is so quiet that nobody can hear the wisdom spouting from my mouth, which is more often than not complete garbage. One night, to my surprise, a colleague told me I was wrong about something I had said in discussion. “I don’t believe in forcing a dichotomy between right and wrong,” I laughed. “I do,” he said, and he was serious. He told me why I was wrong, and I felt steam gurgling in the pit of my stomach. I was ashamed, because he was right, I was wrong.

Yesterday, a friend of mine who served in the military asked me why I never wrote articles about war—why when given a platform, I chose to dash off pieces on pop culture instead of something that could really make a difference. I didn’t respond because the steam was gurgling again and I knew my answer wasn’t good enough. “Because I wouldn’t know what to say,” I thought. “Because I don’t understand. Because I haven’t wanted to understand.”

The truth is, civilians have plenty of tools at our disposal to learn, but we decide we’d rather just watch. I have tried to use books to figure out what war is, not why we war. It’s the distinction between a picture and the text beneath it; I never searched for the explanation, and I had never considered my role in stopping war. I just wanted to feel good, selfishly, like I had done my part to tell and take in the soldier’s story. I didn’t really think about my part in making him a soldier, idly sitting by as he risked his life and saw friends die.

With my non-military family in South Texas, recent wars haven’t touched me. But they’ve touched someone. They’ve touched the people who are fighting, and the families who mourn them.

So maybe it’s time we try to rethink the “why.” This Veteran’s Day, we can stop regurgitating one-liners like “thank you for your service” and start proactively educating ourselves on how to create a world where fewer people have to serve. If we haven’t been there, we won’t understand war, but if we get why it’s waged, that’s enough to make a difference. And a difference—well isn’t that the start of something good?

Why I’m Sick of ‘Sex’

“Sex” gets boring.

Not sex itself. I love sex, but sex is, by definition, an act. It’s something we do, not something we brainstorm about at a pow-wow. I’m sick of sex dominating the public dialogue, always creeping into pop culture to make something “sexy,” “sensual” or “orgasmic.” Most of my life subscribes to none of those adjectives and I’m ready to consider the billions of topics that aren’t so trendy, but that reflect reality, where even if you have sex for an hour every day (lucky), 95% of your time is still free for drudgery.

Just logging onto Facebook gives a decent sample of our obsession with talking about sex. My newsfeed is filled with Cosmo, Bustle and Jezebel articles about the best ways to get off, like that’s the most urgent item on the national agenda. Recently, a story from The Tab went viral—contributing idiot William Lloyd penned a personal essay on why he doesn’t do cunnilingus, and the Internet exploded as even self-proclaimed “fuck bois” implied that Lloyd was a misogynist. A new reveal about hookups dots Thought Catalog or The Odyssey’s homepage every few minutes—I would know, I wrote a few of them. They’re constantly published because they make for awesome clickbait. People want to read about sex: why it’s good, why it’s bad, why it’s good and bad. Why did you tap on this headline?

As a theater critic, I go to a Broadway or off-Broadway show almost every week. I used to be excited whenever I climbed down the subway stairs en route to midtown, but now I know exactly what I’ll see performed: some variation on sexual angst. A woman sleeps with her husband’s best friend; a tapper in the ’30s rouses two hours of innuendos; a governess in the 19th-century crushes on her mistress; a few teenagers sing about how much they want to be touched, as they masturbate. All of the subjects are engaging, if a bit trite, and they should be explored. But after you’ve seen the same themes manipulated to fit new plots over and over, they become tiresome.

Even books, so sacrosanct with their printed pages that remind you of libraries, are wet and hot. Fifty Shades is obviously the abomination of our age, shaming great authors like Virginia Woolf, Erich Maria Remarque, Toni Morrison and Tony Kushner. The fact that I’ve met someone casually toting around a book about polyamory makes me feel things—not good things.

“I don’t make love…” #FiftyShades

A photo posted by Fifty Shades Of Grey (@fiftyshadesmovie) on

Some people say this pop-culture-inspired conversation raises “awareness” about “sex positivity,” but Cosmo’s sex tips are more likely to get you sent to the hospital than give you an “education.” Our sex culture is one of voyeurism. We want to hear about the most absurd, dramatic situations that can happen in coitus, but when push comes to shove, the U.S. is still home to a sexually repressed population. In fact, Millennials may be less freaky beneath the sheets than our parents (and that’s embarrassing). A Time article from May cited a study, which “found that millennials were likely to have had an average of about eight partners, while Boomers were more likely to have had 10 or 11.” This seems significant as is, but Time also came up with a separate survey that claimed “almost half of twenty somethings have not had sex at all in the last year.”

I blame Kant (perhaps illogically—he was, after all, a philosopher in 18th-century Germany). I never liked Kant; I knew that he was inciting something dangerous when he advocated that his Enlightenment contemporaries “argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey.” He, and others like him, championed talking and not acting. And now that’s all we do: gab. Sex is apparently always on our minds, but seldom anywhere else.

This isn’t really a new problem. Critics have demonized pop culture’s promiscuity for decades. According to some, Elvis’ existence meant the end of civilization as they knew it. But with the Internet, there’s so much “sex” establishing a new normal. As consumers, we talk about sex because sex is what’s cool. It’s what trends; it’s what sells tickets. It’s what we know.

It’s a shame—paradoxically, we philosophize about our animal instincts. Sex isn’t rational, so it shouldn’t be rationalized. It also shouldn’t be the primary source of discussion in the media, and then on the street. Remember Friends, the TV show? I’m not saying that’s what my life looks like 24 hours a day, but it gets a whole lot closer than William Lloyd and Fifty Shades. Even Girls, which is supposedly the millennial version of Friends, has sex represented in nearly every scene. Had Lena Dunham’s writing been more honest, pre-graduation Shoshanna would have been crying about the midterm she had to turn in by midnight, not the boy who didn’t want to pop her cherry.

If I’m being frank, most of my time is spent either with friends or alone working. Not with an S.O., or a friend with benefits or even a date—definitely not with a boyfriend. The people, who are there for me, and the ones I truly care about, are those who grab Starbucks after class, or who go to Dig Inn for a quick catch-up on a Tuesday night, or who order Seamless and watch a documentary with me in my room. Sometimes, those people are romantic, but usually they’re just friends. Maybe I’m a naïve 20-year-old who’s awkwardly caught in a land where buds trump lovers, but that’s where I’m at.

I’m sick of “sex”—not of having sex, but of talking about it. I’d rather discuss things like Syria, or climate change, or the U.S.’ deteriorating education system. But if our entertainment—our talking points—must be about everyday life and the gossip that consumes it, can’t it at least portray who we are? I want to see me and my friends on stages, in pages and on screens, talking about our lives, our work, our dreams and our breakdowns. And if need be, show sex 5% of the time.

My point is this: let’s do it, but not constantly dwell on it.


The Rise of the Moneyennials?

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The influential Pew Research Report on Millennials lists three defining character traits of the generation: Confident, Connected, and Open to Change. Not surprisingly, “Money Hungry,” didn’t make the list. Nope, Pew pretty much parrots the lore that the next big generation harbors a positively Panglossian view of financial affairs. “Despite struggling (and often failing) to find jobs in the teeth of a recession, about nine-in-ten either say that they currently have enough money or that they will eventually meet their long-term financial goals.”

But could that mentality of acceptance and hopefulness be giving way to a ruthless, self-directed focus on making it rain? Could the very generation that was caught “in the teeth of a recession,” as Pew puts it, be trying to bite back with full financial force?

Last week, the webernet went wild when New York Magazine and the New York Post reported that a high school student at an elite public high school in New York City and his group of friends had made 72 million dollars trading futures and stocks! The news caused many a mouth to mutter, “I thought these kids were too busy Snapchatting to be making snap decisions in the markets.” Well, we quipped, you thought wrong, old person.

We were thrilled to hear about a kid beating the crap out of the market. We started kidding about how the new “SELLfie” will be a snap of a tech savvy Darien Gecko smiling while she’s shorting some overvalued stock in Gramma’s IRA. (In case it’s not immediately apparent, here’s how we named our model millennial trader, “Darien Gecko”: We made a Wall Street portNAMEteau by fusing “Darien Taylor,” the name of the ultimate ‘80s femme fatale played by Daryl Hannah with “Gordon Gekko,” the name of the ultimate ‘80s ruthless profiteer played by Michael Douglas.)

And then it turned out that the story was made up. Yesterday, the New York Observer reported that the investment returns were fabricated and merely the outcome of simulated trading. But when the dust settles, we think the real story will be that millennials are interested in financial markets enough to engage in simulated trading. He was, in effect, playing a videogame based on the real stock market.

Around a month ago, when we spoke with Morgan Downey, founder and CEO of, a financial information platform that provides the same real-time information used by traders, hedge funds, investment banks for a fraction of the price, he described what he views as an epic expansion of interest in financial markets and information. “People you wouldn’t traditionally associate with ‘Wall Street’ are now interested in the financial markets and now want real-time access to sophisticated financial information — people like students, creatives and retirees — and I believe it’s happening for two reasons: First, it’s extremely empowering, and in some cases essential, to have that information for making investment and trading decisions and monitoring the decisions of others. Plus, in the age of real-time feeds, people are just no longer comfortable waiting. Imagine if you had to wait 15 minutes to see what your friend had just posted on Instagram? Perhaps ten years ago maybe that was acceptable, but now everyone wants everything in real time. Second, new technology has made the cost of providing access to the information dramatically cheaper. I mean, at, we provide access to information that costs professional traders as much as $24,000 for only $50 a month. I’ve seen jaws drop at that difference in price,” said Downey.

But that doesn’t address our own jaw-dropping cultural question: Do the children of Zuccotti Park now think that money is cool? We may have to wait a couple of years to uncover the answer to that question. But, for now, we can read the green tea leaves by analysing the fantasies of gifted high school students and the pecuniary shift in messaging of the quintessential platform for ephemeral millennial self-expression, which recently launched a new product that’s, literally, called Snapcash.