The Big Short an unpretentious portrayal of the financial crisis

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Charles Randolph, Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling

Now that we’ve gained enough distance from the financial crisis, we’re sure to see more films like The Big Short. In the years since, films about the financial crisis have mostly been limited to documentaries with the topic occasionally coming up in character backstories or in very earnest, matter of fact dramatizations like the 2011 film Margin Call. The Big Short is definitely not a film that takes itself too seriously. It’s a lively film that has a noticeably fun time indicting the behaviour that led to the 2008 collapse.

The Big Short starts a couple years before the key event. It’s the mid-2000s and everybody in the financial industry – from investment bankers to mortgage brokers – is living large. Shady investment practices are legitimized by the widely-held belief that anything backed by mortgages is solid because “who doesn’t pay their mortgage?” One hedge fund manager, Dr. Michael Burry, begins to look into the individual mortgages that make up the mortgage-backed securities, which not many have bothered doing, and notices that they are not as reliable as they’ve been described. So Burry predicts that this credit bubble, which everyone doesn’t want to acknowledge, will burst in 2007 and begins approaching big banks to buy insurance against mortgage-backed securities. Of course, the banks are only too happy to provide this because they can make big bucks off the premiums Burry must pay while they sit pretty in their belief that nothing will ever happen to the housing market. Other players, including the crusading Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his hedge fund, and two savvy young investors, Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley, catch wind of Burry’s actions and begin to do the same. Essentially, as one character puts it, they are betting against the U.S. economy.

Ryan Gosling is an engaging narrator as Jared Vennett. From the jump, he informs the audience that he isn’t the hero of the story, but you develop a respect for his ability to not let his self-interest cloud his ability to see the truth. While everyone dismisses Burry as a lunatic creating big paydays for Wall Street, Vennett is eager to see what’s up. Carell is an audience favourite as the designated bullshit sniffer and caller. One of the standout performances is by Jeremy Strong as Vinnie Daniel, a member of Carell’s hedge fund team. He is refreshing to watch as the brash New Yorker who hasn’t allowed his fancy job to turn him into a brown noser or a liar. But the – dare I say Oscar? – biggest props must go to Christian Bale in his role as Michael Burry. His portrayal of Burry’s awkwardness is generous without being glamorous. You root for Burry throughout the movie, but that’s because we already know he’s the hero of the story. If you’d just met him you may have possibly been one of the many people who dismissed Burry, or in the cases of some of the characters in the movie, laughed while taking his money. But we also grow to like him due to his honest and – despite his self-described social awkwardness – self-assuredness.

The Big Short is a spirited and self-aware depiction of the financial crisis. Its portrayal of the colourful characters and outcasts who challenged the status quo by asking questions and refusing to place their trust in authority figures position them as ready made heroes. Their commitment to their work (in Burry’s case), the truth (in Baum’s case) and their future (in the case of Jamie and Charlie) is a source of mild frustration to their families and derision by their colleagues.

It’s also a self-reflective film. Wall Street made much of what they were doing sound incredibly complex leaving the average person eager to leave it to the guys in suits, and the guys in suits to trust what they’ve been told. Past movies that handle the financial industry often fall into the trap of using this same jargon, leaving the audience unable to follow along with the technical details and just satisfy themselves with the obvious drama. Through The Big Short, characters break the fourth wall to explain different concepts. Actors and entertainers make cameo appearances to explain certain concepts, hence why Margot Robbie shows up in a bubble bath to explain mortgage-backed securities and subprime mortgages. And it’s a great way to remind the audience that The Big Short knows what it’s doing. For instance, as the events of the film move from 2005 up to the financial crisis, the story is punctuated by pop culture references in the form of clips from The Hills to music videos, as a way to remind us of all the things we were distracting ourselves with while all of this was happening. By including those cameos, the movie recognizes the irony in using itself, a form of media, to tell people to stop being so damn distracted by media.

But beyond hilarious clips of Lauren Conrad on The Hills, The Big Short does something even more remarkable. It reprimands us as individuals – not simply for our distraction but for our own actions that contributed to the culture of self-interest and dishonesty that led to the crash. Throughout the film, we’re introduced to different characters that work in important institutions, albeit in the middle ranks. A woman at the ratings agency that isn’t responsibly evaluating the securities outright says that her hands are tied because she has a boss to answer to and anyway, the banks will just walk on over to the competition. We all use that justification in our everyday lives, so at what point do we stop? Naturally, if you’re using the go along to get along mentality to get ahead once you get to the top it’s most likely you’ll continue compromising your integrity because you’ve convinced yourself that’s the way things are. While the movie does not place the blame on average people – it’s clear in its criticism of the financial industry – it doesn’t allow the audience to consider itself victims.

We learn that Burry goes on to focus his investment interests on one resource: water. Who hasn’t heard the saying, “Today’s wars were fought over oil. Tomorrow’s wars will be fought over water.” After spending two hours wondering why on earth no one will listen to this Burry guy, we go off to dinner unconcerned about the future he’s currently thinking about. Perhaps the most disturbing takeaway from this movie isn’t how little we knew, but what little action we’re willing to take even once we do know.

An intro to rock climbing at Boulderz

“This guy’s frustrating me. Let’s do something fun.”

“Wanna go rock climbing?” suggested my best friend and roll dog, Brianna.

And so off we went to Boulderz Climbing Centre on Dupont, a short bus ride away from St. George station. When we got there we were greeted by enthusiastic climbers scaling the walls, the smell of feet, and a upbeat girl at the front desk named Ann who promptly directed us to fill out waivers essentially saying that should we maim ourselves at Boulderz it was on us.

“Have you guys ever been rock climbing before?” she asked.

We both shook our heads. “There’s gonna be some sort of tutorial, right?” I asked nervously, staring at one of the climbers who had just dropped to the padded ground.

“Yup! I’ll give you a beginner’s lesson once I get you guys some shoes.”

I was already starting to feel clingy. Ann would be the person that ensured we didn’t die. “Can I leave my phone with you?”

Once we squeezed into our rented shoes, Ann took us over to the beginner’s section where she pointed out the coloured markers that indicated the difficulty level of each rock. Bright yellow, which marked the easiest routes, would be our guide. Brianna and I warily eyed the tiny rocks labelled to show that they were for experienced climbers. The tutorial involved a quick demonstration of how to shift our hands and feet, and a warning to look out for experienced climbers coming down over the wall.

After she sent us off to hopefully not break our necks, I realized I’d left my phone on and asked Ann if I could quickly turn it off, so it didn’t disturb the front desk. She looked at me, deadpan, and said:

“Because you get a lot of calls, huh? So popular.”

We tentatively climbed three inches at different spots of the gym threading through obvious regulars climbing up and down, side to side – every which way that we wouldn’t be able to copy anytime soon. The “rocks” were extremely challenging to hold onto, even with the bag of chalk, and we were making more calluses than progress.

On the second level we found a kids area that did wonders for our ego. Perhaps a little too much for our egos because we ambitiously went back downstairs to tackle the difficult wall that had already daunted us, realized we were still in no position to overcome those, and slinked back to the kids section. As Ann warned, a climber who had managed to scale the wall from the level below leaped over Tarzan-style to where I was standing, effectively scaring the life out of me. Later, my eleven year old brother would tell me that this is how you flirt in rock climbing.

It was fun, but we had basically paid to be intimidated by a bunch of colourful walls. We would need to do what everyone in the twenty-first century does to justify a paid experience: before leaving we needed to post something on social media. I went to get my phone from the front desk, but since Ann was busy with a customer I had to ask someone else.

“Hi,” I said to the guy behind the counter. “I’d just like to grab my phone. I left it behind the counter. If you want to check, I spoke with Ann…”

He handed me my phone. “I was here when you gave it to her. Miss. Popular, right?”

I was never gonna live it down.

Featured image from Boulderz

Making Picture Perfect Painless

To be honest, I’m not sure what happened. I can’t remember if I had a headache. Perhaps I was just a little tense. Whatever the reason, when I got my grad photo proofs back I looked like the person behind the camera had been aiming a gun at my head and shouting, “Smile!” My eyebrows were cocked funny and I looked extremely tense.

This wouldn’t do. I had a mother to make proud, after all. And while I knew my mom would say I looked nice regardless, I was going to spare her the pain of pretending to like the originals. So I called New Paramount Studios and scheduled a retake. I had to commute all the way down to St. Clair West and Bathurst, but for the opportunity not to look like a distressed deer, it was worth it.

I got there about half an hour early. The person at the desk, Selina, was the friendly woman I’d spoken to over the phone about booking a retake.

“So what was wrong with the photos?” she asked.

“Nothing except the fact that I look like a madwoman, and I want to make my mom happy.”

She told me that once the set was free she could take my photo. Fair considering I was early, but I had gone over my data and had nothing to keep me busy, so like a child I started asking a bunch of inane questions.

How do you pose people in a way that looks, like, natural?

 How do you decide how to position people? Do you prepare in advance or do you just know?

“How did you get all these babies to sit up at the same time?” I asked pointing at a photo on the wall. In it were roughly half a dozen babies sitting up, in a row, and looking up at the camera.

She laughed. “That’s photoshopped. Their photos were taken separately, and then they were put together. There’s no way you’d be able to get all of them to sit up like that.”

“Photoshop,” I repeated. “That makes so much more sense. I’m sorry, I’m asking a million questions, and you’re trying to work.”

She waved her hand and then gestured for me to come over to her desk. “Since you’re so curious, come here. I’ll show you something.”

On her screen were two copies of a black and white photo of a woman. One had a piece missing from the bottom left corner and the other copy was complete with everything from the woman’s clothing to her intricate necklace seamlessly continued all the way to the originally non-existent corner.

“You did that?” I asked.

“Yup. With Photoshop. We do restoration work, too. It takes time, but it’s doable.”

She clicked around and then opened another file with wedding photos. “This family had one member who was so busy taking care of one of the smaller children that he was barely in the photos. So they requested that we edit him into some of the pictures.” She pulled up one group shot with an adorable flower girl standing in the front with her hands held behind her back. Selina pointed at the girl. “She was photoshopped in.”

I looked closer. “Yeah, I’d never be able to tell. So what random details do you have to take into consideration to make it look legit? Obviously you make the edges neat and stuff, but beyond that what do you have to think about?”

She motioned for me to look closer at the photo. “You see how she has her hands behind her like that? In the original photo, she was holding someone’s hand, and that had to be cut out. But then I had to edit her arm’s muscle because it would look different if she actually had her hand behind her back as opposed to reaching up to hold someone’s hand. And then obviously, we need to account for differences in lighting. If you’re inserting an image from a photo taken indoors into a photo taken outdoors, the lighting will be different so you have to fix that.”

“So can you edit the glasses marks on my nose out of my grad photos?” A stupid question considering she’d just talked about manipulating people’s anatomy through photoshop – of course she could airbrush my face.

“Yup. That’s included in the price if you choose to buy a photo. People get rid of a lot of things. I’ve removed someone’s braces from their photo for them before. And it’s cool to see how many people use Photoshop themselves. When I saw Kate Middleton’s family photo it was obvious that it had been photoshopped.”

The photographer using the set had since finished, so it was time to take some grad photos. Selina stood up.

“Okay,” she said, smiling. “Let’s make mom happy.”

A happy ending. Thanks Selina!

With Your Woman Wednesday: Ana Laura Vianei

This week on With Your Woman Wednesday, we’re featuring citizen of the world, Ana Laura Vianei. Born in Brazil and raised in the U.S. as an undocumented migrant, she moved to Canada in 2012 to pursue a degree in International Studies. She shares with us how she found her current passion amidst the uncertainty that comes with pursuing a liberal arts degree, her experience volunteering at a refugee and migrant house in Mexico, and her straightforward networking advice: Just do good work and people will notice.

I imagine the career paths youve considered have changed over your four years in university. What industry are you leaning towards as you approach the end of your undergraduate degree?

After flirting with going to law school or grad school, I gave up trying to figure out what I was going to do and hoped that I would have an epiphany before graduation. Thankfully, that epiphany finally came after I got off my butt and did some real work. Through the international internship program at my university, I was able to travel to Mexico and work at a migrant and refugee house and that experience absolutely changed my life and my perspective on what success means. It also made me more eager and engaged in the classroom, so the thought of law or grad school no longer seemed like such a soul-sucking cop out. Considering my personal history with migration and now my work experience, I feel like I have finally found the fuel to chase something I know will make me really happy and professionally fulfilled. But this wasn’t random. I started by looking for internships that interested me and that were in fields I wanted to learn more about. Thankfully, there were ideal circumstances: The university provides a grant that pays for interns’ living expenses, so I didn’t have to worry about making money, and I also had a free summer. Following that experience, I am now certain that I want to work in the nonprofit sector, ideally focusing on migration.

Our current job landscape involves a lot of networking not just to advance a career, but also to simply start one. What aspects of the university experience have proven helpful in this regard, and in what areas do you feel our institutions are lacking in terms of preparing students for the workforce?

My most important contact to date is someone I met during my internship at the migrant and refugee house in Mexico. It was a complete coincidence, and I was fully unprepared to meet this person that may potentially offer me a job post-graduation! What wasn’t a coincidence was my ability to impress him enough to warrant his request for my e-mail. I did my little job in that little refugee house very well, and I made the best out of my internship. I could’ve had a completely crappy experience filing papers for three months. Instead, I got out of it exactly what I put into it and what I put in was a lot of hard work, initiative, and enthusiasm. This showed to everyone I encountered during my time there, and it is what prompted him to approach me. So I think that’s the most important networking advice that no university or student leadership group can teach you – do your job, however menial it is, well, and people will notice. What I think universities, and my program in particular, are missing and could do more of is to help students meet alumni that can aid them with their careers. I would have really loved to meet people who graduated from my program and to hear stories about where they are now and how they got there.

Many students are unfamiliar with the ways in which they can leverage their degree by obtaining specific qualifications that position them to work in certain fields such as project management or supply chain management. Have you considered any post-graduate certificate programs?

I have very seriously considered project management as a really versatile and incredibly useful post-graduate certificate. I think it would give me an edge and make me more employable, but beyond that I think I would gain actual skills. Though I value my degree very much, especially after travelling and working abroad, I realize the need for practical skills and acknowledge my lack of them. Before my internship, I had decided that in the event I didn’t get a job straight out of university, I would pursue a post-graduate certificate in project management. I still think it’s a good option, but with my newfound enthusiasm for the academic field of migration and refugee studies, I may also consider graduate school.

Has your experiences living in different cities made you eager to pursue an international, perhaps nomadic, career or do you feel a desire to establish yourself in one city?

When I moved to Toronto I loved it so much that I never wanted to leave. After two years here, I cried like a baby after I decided to leave for a two month long Spanish course in Mexico. Then I fell in love with Mexico and cried like a baby when I had to go back to Toronto. I realized that I loved new places and I loved travelling for long periods of time. I want to spend enough time in a place to know it intimately in a way I wouldn’t be able to as a tourist. Having said that, I do want to establish a home base at some point, but who knows when that will be!

Is there a specific problem youd like to tackle either through your professional work or on a volunteer basis?

Movement from place to place in the search for food and safety has been characteristic of our species since the beginning of time. Borders, and the fences and officers they come with, are a recent invention of the ever-cruel human mind. Because of pretty serious national security concerns they have become a necessary evil, but that does not mean that nations need to close their doors to those fleeing violence, poverty, or both. We see the consequences of this kind of public policy every day on our Facebook feeds and are beginning to become numb to it. My own history as a migrant and my experience working with migrants and refugees makes me want to help reshape immigration policy on a global scale.

What is your preferred spot for getting things done in the city?

I love the Glendon Library! Its big windows let in lots of light and offer a beautiful view of the Manor gardens.

Learn more about Toronto Discursive’s new Q&A series At Your Man’s House Mondays and With Your Woman Wednesdays here.

Spotlight an intelligent film about institutions and responsibility

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams

The first thing you notice about Spotlight is all the greys and blues. Decidedly dreary, the lighting and colour scheme is a fitting choice since there is absolutely nothing cheerful about the subject matter. Focused on the story of the widespread sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic Church, the film focuses on the investigative reporters of The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team that broke the story in 2003.

Prior to the start of their investigation, the team is anxious about their future in the midst of a changing media landscape. From the beginning of Spotlight it’s clear that this is a movie that highlights the self-preservation of institutions not only by the Church, but by the newspaper industry as well – the Church when it comes to a monopoly on morality, and print media when it comes to relevance. Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) is brought in as the new editor of the Globe and quickly questions why the smattering of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has not been more thoroughly investigated. It is the sort of long-term investigative work that the Spotlight team specializes in, and it’s clear that tackling this story is one way to prove the team’s relevance to a changing audience beginning to prioritize quick news stories over in-depth reporting. The script allows room to incorporate factors like timing and proper coverage of a story, effectively demonstrating how complicated it is to do something as simple as tell the truth.

Consequently, the audience is able to feel the same frustration as Spotlight’s journalists. Victims are understandably hesitant to talk, there is resistance from high profile figures and profiteering lawyers, and maddening legalities that stand in the way of giving the team access to damning documents. Incidentally, using the challenging nature of accessing sealed documents as a key plot device effectively maintained an appropriate degree of suspense during the movie.

I say appropriately because injecting this film with high drama would have been ludicrous, and mildly inappropriate. It’s a biographical drama; a thriller it is not. Spotlight is an exploration of individual responsibility in the context of institutions. It’s exceptionally easy to condemn horrific acts after the fact, but it is desperately hard to point it out while it remains protected by the institutions whose credibility could be undermined by such exposure. These institutions, which are not just limited to churches, but schools and even the family, provide a convenient framework for dismissing unacceptable behaviour through constant reminders of the chaos that would ensue should they no longer exist to provide structure. That lack of structure is portrayed as infinitely worse than the institution’s flaws. Instead it’s seen as better to suffer in silence for the greater good, even if a great number of people are suffering.

Spotlight is not a movie that condemns religion. In fact it spends a fair amount of time examining the prominent role religion plays in the lives of the Spotlight team, all of whom were admittedly raised Catholic though they’ve largely lapsed. Sasha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) is unable to take her grandmother to church anymore once she learns more about the widespread abuse. As an audience, we witness her concern over shaking her grandmother’s faith, but beyond that we watch the Spotlight team losing a religion they didn’t know they still had. Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) admits to Pfieffer that while he did stop going to church, he enjoyed it as a kid, and always thought that someday he’d want to go back – a feeling that is broken now. Instead of being a film that condemns religion it examines the difference between faith and organized religion. Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), a lawyer advocating for abuse victims, admits that he is Christian; he just doesn’t go to church. For him, the Church is an institution made up of men and is fleeting, but faith itself is eternal.

Garabedian’s words are one of many references to the fact that institutions are simply a collection of ideas and individuals. Throughout the movie we hear stories of families who cooperated by keeping the abuse quiet in an effort to honour the directives of the Church. At one point a cop, whose ideology, if any, should be to serve and protect, tells one of the Spotlight reporters, “Nobody wants to cuff a priest.” Finally, a system’s vulnerability to change is made clear by Garabedian who explains that it takes an outsider to come in and change things – in his case he is an Armenian while Baron is Jewish. Makes sense considering an outsider will experience more difficulty and confusion about the flimsy logic of “how things have always been”. They are less accepting of people’s reasoning that they are just doing their job, keeping their heads down, or protecting themselves. Garabedian says at one point, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”

The film – if not entertaining due to its subject matter – is engaging. The script is smart, it doesn’t waste time on long-winded dialogue about guilt and shame, and it effectively conveys what we need to know about Boston’s people and culture. In one great scene, Baron is given a copy of the Catechism and told to consider it his guide to Boston. Spotlight is made up of an all-star cast that is enjoyable to watch no matter how hard the hair, makeup, and costume teams worked to make them look like burned out journalists. Spotlight is a great film, and easily worthy of its Oscar nods.

Good food and even better people at Scaddabush

I’ve had plenty of foods with artichokes in them, but I’ve never actually met an artichoke. You know what I mean? I wish I could say there were more sophisticated thoughts going through my mind while eating the spinach and artichoke dip at Scaddabush, but that was about it. Well that and “damn, this is some good dip…”

Located at Yonge and Gerrard, Scaddabush is a rustic and cozy restaurant with an unpretentious take on Italian cuisine. But unpretentious doesn’t mean unprofessional. Each time I’ve gone to Scaddabush the service has been unbelievable thanks to servers who manage to take care of you and keep tabs on you without hovering. The food takes a bit longer than expected to come out, but the wait is easily forgiven once you take a bite of your meal. The ingredients are fresh and there are rarely issues with your order.

When you first take a seat, the ambiance is misleading in its seeming impracticality. The restaurant is quite dark, with a few overhead lights and a candle per table for lighting; at first it’s almost tempting to turn on your cell phone’s flashlight to read the menu. But you quickly adjust and realize that the owners know what they’re doing – it works. I’m curious though about whether the many mirrors hanging on the exposed brick walls are a mixture of interior design and inside joke considering it’s almost impossible to actually check your reflection in the dimly lit restaurant.

For first time visitors, the fresh mozzarella is a must. The Naked, which comes with extra virgin olive oil, focaccia crostini, and a dollop of tomato jam, is a great appetizer to share as a starter, but it will definitely go quickly. Keeping in line with the restaurant’s rustic, but controlled decor, the components are neatly presented right on a wood cheese board, and the first sight of it will instantly perk your table up. Made fresh in-house each day, the mozzarella is creamy, supple, and – forgive the cliché – will quite literally melt in your mouth. An alternative appetizer is the spinach and artichoke dip I mentioned earlier served with unlimited crostini. It’s a tasty version of the easy potluck dish, but it is heavy and if you are someone who gets full easily not a good idea if you’re planning to order an entrée.

When it comes to the entrées, do not shy away from the sandwiches and pizzas. People are often hesitant to order these items because it feels like a cop out. Why order something you can get in a fast food restaurant? This is definitely not a fast food restaurant, and Scaddabush’s pizzas and sandwiches are certainly worth a try. The Diavolo, a spicy chicken pizza served with caramelized onions, grape tomatoes, and a variety of cheeses, is a highly recommended choice and nicely presented on its cutting board. The pizza scissors mean you’ll have to get your hands a little extra dirty, but that way you can say you played a part in preparing your food. For vegetarians, the grilled vegetable sandwich served on focaccia is jam packed with goodies and seasoned with an olive tapenade. I’m of the opinion that the vegetarian options are the best-kept secret of a lot of restaurants, since the lack of meat leaves the dishes with so much more to prove. While I did not try the pasta – seems a bit remiss considering Scaddabush is an Italian restaurant – I have it on good authority that the pesto pollo is “lit”.

While a reservation is always the classy way to go – don’t be the party of sixteen that shows up unexpectedly on a busy night – for a small party, it isn’t really necessary. I’ve always been able to get a table even on a Friday or Saturday evening and have yet to wait.

I cannot end this review without shouting out a very important person from my last visit. This past weekend, I uncharacteristically forgot my phone (and all my ID, debit, and credit cards in the case) on the table. Someone that I am assuming is the bus boy ran outside and down the street to call us down and return the phone. He was not our server, and we didn’t interact with him once that night, so the fact that he could identify us was remarkable on its own. He could have easily got away with leaving it at the bar and hoping we return but instead chased us down and started running back before I could finish thanking him.

“What’s your name?” I shouted down the street.

“Nathan!” he called back.

Now I understand that moment in superhero movies where the rescued person demands to know the name of their hero. I’m a little worried I’m calling him by the wrong name and that his name is actually David, but my friend assures me he said Nathan. So to Nathan at Scaddabush on Yonge and Gerrard, thank you for saving me from an incredibly crappy and stressful night. You the real MVP, babe.

Featured image from Scaddabush

At Your Man’s House Monday: Edwin White Chacon

This week on At Your Man’s House Monday we’re chatting with Edwin White Chacon, a student at the University of Toronto studying Political Science and Ethics, Society & Law. A motivated Torontonian passionate about urban issues and youth engagement, Edwin kindly took the time to speak with us about his studies, some exciting upcoming projects, and his hopes for the future of the 6ix.

So first tell us a little bit about what you’re studying.

I’m studying Political Science and Ethics, Society & Law at the University of Toronto. My last two years I’ve been focusing on Canadian politics, specifically cities and their growing role and importance in Canada and income inequality in Toronto. I come from a low-income neighbourhood, and since high school I’ve been interested in how policy can help address income inequality.

What are your immediate goals after university?

The two options I’m considering are finding an internship or getting a master’s degree in public policy. Ideally, I would like to get into a Master’s program, defer my acceptance, and work for a year.

Do you have a preference about the kind of internship you’d like to obtain?

I’d want it to be local and related to municipal politics. I realized there’s two options: Either the more traditional political route or this new socially innovative route. If I could get into something like the Ontario Internship Programme, which is a more traditional route, that’s fantastic, but there’s the other route that leads to more innovative ways of dealing with Toronto politics and issues.

You almost have to be creative about how you get your career started because a lot of these traditional routes (internships, entry-level jobs) are inaccessible if you don’t have certain connections – or money when it comes to great opportunities for experience, but that are for no pay.

Exactly. CivicAction released a report that discusses the importance of the first 1000 days of a child’s life. Those first 1000 days have a critical impact on childhood development and their adult life. So money isn’t the only advantage higher income families have. They benefit from growing up in an environment where their parents know how to navigate the system, and have additional sources of enrichment whether that’s piano lessons or a tutor or connections. Low-income families don’t have those same resources available to them.

What causes are you passionate about, and how do you go about incorporating them into your studies and volunteer work?

Sara Urbina, Joe Becker-Segal, and I started CivicSpark in early 2015. The idea was to create a chapter of CivicAction. CivicAction is a nonpartisan organization that focuses on tackling issues that affect the GTHA. They’ve been so amazing and supportive in this entire endeavour. They agree with our mission that youth have valid opinions and creative ideas to tackle these issues. Our group focuses on bringing youth together, and giving them an opportunity to share their solutions.

Our activity revolves around two main forms of engagement. Our first initiative is hosting conversations. We hold an event with a 10-15 minute panel, but then we split the panelists up with 6-7 people, and they work together to find solutions for a given problem. There are panel discussions at universities, but they often have a barrier where even though the audience can ask questions, you’re mostly listening. We wanted a collaborative event where the two sides can engage with each other and share ideas.

Our second initiative is to host an undergraduate case competition called Building Up the 6ix. Typically, case competitions are for business students. A company or organization will present a problem to them with all the challenges and details, and then students use everything they’ve learned in their studies to come up with a solution. That model is very useful for putting students in situations where they can analyze issues and contribute innovative ideas. We want to expand that model to all students. So Building Up the 6ix would hopefully include students from multiple universities and disciplines to create solutions to specific problems. The issues we’d like to focus on this year are public transportation and public spaces. So for instance, if you and I form a group and we’re tackling public transportation, we may say that we think there should be a downtown relief line. We then have to present the reasons why, how we would implement that, and so on to a panel of judges. The hope is that these judges will have diverse backgrounds, being from the private sector, public sector, and non-profit sector. Our very first case competition is going to be on March 12, so stay tuned. We are also hoping to have workshops as well so that in addition to doing presentations, delegates are learning and gaining valuable skills.


You’ve been quite proactive about seeking out real life experiences where you can apply your studies by obtaining internships with the City of Toronto, participating as a Crisis Manager at U of T’s North American Model United Nations and as a Legislative Usher at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. What are some key skills and lessons you’ve acquired from these positions?

As a Legislative Usher I get to observe Ontario Politics on the front lines, and I’m constantly aware of what’s happening in the province. I’ve had the opportunity to observe debates on healthcare and the privatization of Hydro One. In regards to NAMUN, I joined to gain an international perspective and learn about international issues. I noticed NAMUN provided a platform for all these students interested in international politics, but there wasn’t a similar platform for local matters. Why don’t we do something focused on issues right here in the GTHA? That way, students that have a passion for policy and the city have an opportunity to contribute ideas and be part of the dialogue. All of these positions have helped me improve my interpersonal skills and my ability to connect with people on a genuine level.

What do you do in order to support yourself financially, and how do you find ways to incorporate your studies and career goals into your existing jobs?

Currently I have three jobs. Like you mentioned, I have a position working at Queen’s Park as a Legislative Usher. I’m a Residence Don at U of T, and a Youth Engagement Coordinator at York University. They’re all relevant because as an usher I get to observe Ontario Politics directly and see what I’m studying in practice. At York, my job is to help a youth advisory council create a keystone action project. Right now the project that we’re working on is focused on creating a documentary on youth issues across Ontario. It’ll show the challenges youth face, so it allows me to learn about and engage with youth. And as a Residence Don I get to engage with youth on a more personal level. It’s great because it gives me an opportunity to build community and help residents with any issue they may have. I love engaging with youth, and that’s what inspired me to start CivicSpark.

If you had VIP connections, and it were simply a matter of being qualified for the job, what position would you like to hold or project would you like to work on?

I’d like to see Building Up the 6ix grow and become sustainable. If I had VIP connections I would like to see how I can work with the City of Toronto and with community members from low-income neighbourhoods in contributing to the city’s 20-year poverty reduction plan. If I had the connections, I definitely would want to be part of that project.

What is your favourite spot for getting things done in the city?

Home or the library. I just need music to do work, really. So long as I’m listening to music and can focus I’m good.

Learn more about Toronto Discursive’s new Q&A series At Your Man’s House Mondays and With Your Woman Wednesdays here.

With Your Woman Wednesday: Erin Kanygin

Photo credit: Andrew Stripp

This week on With Your Woman Wednesday we’re talking to Erin Kanygin. Born and raised in the small fishing town of Prospect Bay in Nova Scotia, Erin moved to Toronto to study at the Randolph Academy of the Performing Arts before embarking on a cross-country (then international) journey and eventually returning to Toronto to obtain her Specialized Honours BA in International Studies. She is currently living in Australia and preparing to start law school at the University of Melbourne.

Past education:

Study abroad experience in Brazil through NACEL Canada while in high school

Two-year intensive Musical Theatre college program at the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts

International Studies program at Glendon College, York University

Tell us a little bit about yourself and the journey that led you to where you are now.

After graduating from Randolph in 2008, I moved out west to Vancouver (then considered to be Hollywood North) in order to chase the dream. I lived in Vancouver for two long and difficult years and managed to find some successes, however, by the end of 2009 I was already realizing that I did not want to be an actress for the rest of my life. This was a massive epiphany for me as I had always identified myself as an actress and the decision to change my career path (even though I was only 20 years old) felt like breaking up with a part of myself.

I decided I wanted to go to university and started researching programs online. I had a feeling I wanted to live in Toronto again, and when I read about Glendon’s bilingual International Studies program, it felt like the perfect fit. Glendon was the only university I applied to.

In the meantime, I got a job at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which was not only an incredible experience, but also a lucrative one. I had just turned 21 and I had a bunch of money in my pocket. I was waiting to hear back from the University, and nothing was holding me to Vancouver, so I decided to move to London, England. Almost the minute I landed, I got my acceptance letter from Glendon College. I was elated, however I knew that I did not want to leave London so soon, so I deferred my acceptance and lived in London for nine wonderful months. I was working like crazy at a restaurant, travelling all over Europe (I never had a plan – I just flew to whichever city was cheapest that month) and falling in love. It was an amazing experience that had to come to an end so that I could begin my studies in January 2011.

During my third year of studies, after returning from another four months in Brazil, I decided that I wanted to apply for law school, instead of pursuing a Masters degree. One month after writing the LSAT, I was accepted to the University of Melbourne’s Juris Doctor Program and recently moved to Australia in order to start this new chapter of my life.

You’ve worked with the Two Brothers Foundation, an NGO that promotes education and social services in Brazil. You’ve done quite a bit of volunteer work that includes time spent at the Women and Trans Centre at Glendon College where you earned your Specialized Honours BA in International Studies. The thread that seems to run through all of your work is a commitment to social causes, particularly on a global level. So what came first: An interest in making the world a better place and then the decision to pursue law, or the decision to pursue law followed by a desire to use law as a tool for improving the world?

Ever since I was a little girl, my plan had always been to become an actress. I had been in a number of professional productions at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre, including Gypsy and Evita, and I had dreams of finishing theatre school in Toronto and then moving on to Broadway or perhaps even film and TV. When I graduated from theatre school and moved to Vancouver, I quickly realized how unfulfilling the life of an actress was for me. This was mainly due to the fact that it all felt so self-involved. After living in Brazil and seeing the massive financial gap that exists between the rich and the poor, I felt as though even if I did ever make it big as an actress, I would not be contributing towards society in a way that I felt mattered.

This was the epiphany that pushed me towards applying to university. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine becoming a lawyer or even applying for law school, mainly because my impression of lawyers was that they were money hungry and good liars. The fact that many of them also use the law to defend those who are defenceless was not something that I had considered. My mother was a social worker, so when I thought of the people who help others I associated them with that career. It was not until going back to Brazil in 2013 and working with the Two Brothers Foundation that I saw how useful an understanding of the law could be. So, to answer your question, first came my interest in social justice, and much later my desire to learn the law in order to apply it as a tool to help people.

This may be an irritating question to ask someone entering law school since the point of the program is to introduce you to different areas of law, but do you have an idea of what type of law you’d like to specialize in?

This is not an irritating question at all, however I do not have a precise answer for you yet because I truly have no idea what law school will bring, and I want to keep an open mind. For now my areas of interests are International public law (human rights law, immigration law) and also International private law (commercial law – how do businesses interact between states?) I have a massive interest in learning about commercial law and I imagine that straight out of law school, I will most likely work for a commercial law firm in order to pay off my debts. I do not see this as selling out. I think it is important to learn how the devil operates if you are ever going to take it down.

Did you consider graduate school as a way of pursuing your career goals? What ultimately made you decide on law school?

I absolutely considered grad school as a way of pursuing my career goals. I was considering programs like International Development or something policy related. After working for the Two Brothers Foundation and living in a favela (the word used for Brazil’s slums) for four months, my mind changed. I saw how effective NGOs could be, but I also saw their limits. I also saw how terribly exploited the residents of the favela were, and I felt that this was mainly due to the fact that they did not know their rights. Then came yet another epiphany in my life that I myself did not have an understanding of my own rights, so how could I ever help others if I did not have a true and deep understanding of the system? This thought, paired with the fact that I had taken some amazing legal philosophy courses at Glendon (Law & Social Thought and Law & Morality) brought me to the conclusion that I wanted to apply for law school. I had no idea what I was getting into or how challenging the whole application process would be, but from the moment I decided to apply, I knew deep down that it was the right decision.

You’ve dedicated quite a bit of time to drawing attention to different social issues, particularly in Brazil, on social media. How do you manage to stay, if not optimistic, then proactive when it comes to working towards positive change? There’s the risk of becoming cynical, I think, and it can be hard to maintain hope that things can get better especially when we are taught about the large-scale systems behind so many of the world’s problems. How do you combat this?

I think that I maintain a strong belief that there is possibility to create a better world. Especially today, our world is a constantly changing and evolving place. There are a lot of horrible things happening, but also so many glimpses of good. I am not delusional in the sense that I don’t think that I am going to single-handedly “change the world”, but I do believe that I can make a small and positive impact. In my mind, cynicism is pure laziness. It is so easy to be dismissive and say that it’s all shit and there is nothing anyone can do. It is also empirically false – there is so much that can be done and as easy as it is to make this world a worse place, it is possible to make it a better place. It can be daunting when you consider that there are so many supra powers operating way out of reach of general society’s grasp, but that is why it is okay and even a good idea to start small. I surround myself with engaging, intelligent, driven people, and I think that is one step I take to keep me driven and inspired.

I also love to do community work and see the way people are working with each other to leave this world a little better off than when we found it. My concern right now is giving people access to justice, and I am so excited to learn more about how to do that. I am sure I will confront many challenges along the way, but nothing good ever came easy, and I will continue to take on the next chapter of my life with an open heart and a positive outlook.

Australia. You are literally a day away. In summary, you’re from Halifax, went to school in Toronto, and have also spent a significant amount of time in Brazil. The decision-making process overwhelms a lot of people who consider making big moves, and when it comes to school, there is concern about how their qualifications will be weighed. How do you ultimately decide on a new location? Is it a gut reaction to a beautiful place? Is there some sort of strategy you’ve developed involving an assessment of career and life goals? A combination of those two, perhaps?

Well Neya, honestly, most of my decisions have been based on the heart coupled with a desire for adventure. I don’t over think things and for the most part, I have moved places without having much of a plan. It is impossible to plan for the unknown, so I tend to just go with the flow.

The choice of applying to the University of Melbourne was based on a few things; I have always wanted to visit Australia and not just for a three-week vacation. I have met many Aussies whilst travelling, whom I have loved and who call Melbourne home. After the past two winters in Toronto I knew I emotionally could not handle another bleak and depressing 6-8 months. Finally, the University of Melbourne is currently ranked the eighth best law school in the world.

I always knew that I wanted to do my Bachelors degree in Canada and then my Masters somewhere abroad, however originally I was thinking the U.S. or the U.K. When I started looking into it though, Australia was more affordable not only in terms of university fees, but also as a citizen. With my student visa I am permitted to work 20 hours a week and minimum wage here is 20 dollars (AUD) an hour. A living minimum wage! Imagine that! The U.S. and the U.K. simply can’t compete with that.

As far as how my qualifications will be weighed, it’s not something I am too worried about right now. I also have a gut feeling that I will not be calling Canada “home” again for a very long time.

For a lot of undergraduates, balancing multiple extracurricular activities, course load, and a part time job is quite the task. For those who have to take care of rent and living expenses, even more so. As I understand it, in your last two years of your undergraduate degree, you were working, organizing the International Studies Symposium (a conference on a chosen country organized and run by students at Glendon College), working on your senior thesis, and preparing for the LSAT. What are some concrete steps you took towards time management and, most importantly, staying committed?

In the last two years of my undergrad, it’s safe to say that I bit off almost more than I could chew. I have always been highly ambitious and as I mentioned previously, I tend to go with my gut, so when I take on projects it’s because they feel “right” to me. Staying committed has never been an issue, since I don’t commit to something unless I am genuinely interested. To say that I have “balance” though would be a lie. I missed many nights of sleep during my undergrad and totally ran myself into the ground. The only way I was able to get through it was because I was genuinely passionate about the work I was doing. I chose to do my thesis because I cared about the subject matter. I chose to apply to law school because I knew it was the right choice for me to get to where I want to go. Working was something I had to do in order to pay rent. I do not do anything half-assed, and if I feel uninterested or uninspired in the work that I am doing, it tends to show. I think the key for me is to just “get ‘er done”. The longer you put a task off, the more daunting it becomes. I am not saying that I don’t procrastinate – I do – but I am getting better at it. I also learned to prioritize. In other words, whatever project was worth the most would be the project that got more of my time. Earlier in my undergrad I would study ten hours or more for exams that were worth 15%. It was not worth my time. I over studied. As I got busier and busier, I no longer had time to make those mistakes. I allotted the amount of time I felt each project deserved, and I tried to accomplish tasks that were given to me right away so they didn’t get lost in the storm of chaos that was my life. I also gave myself strict deadlines, made lists, and always kept an actual agenda. I write everything down or else I will forget it.

What are obstacles you’ve encountered while pursuing your studies, and what did you do to overcome them?

I have encountered many challenges during my degree. Probably the biggest one was a health issue that presented itself in January of 2014 and was directly linked to stress. I have an autoimmune disease called Psoriasis that was triggered by stress. Psoriasis not only affects you physically (which was devastating), but also left me utterly exhausted and greatly impacted my ability to focus. This was all made even more difficult by the hospital visits I had to make twice a week for six months, which would leave me very drained and in severe pain.

This was also the year that I helped run the International Studies Symposium, wrote my thesis, applied for law schools, and wrote the LSAT all the while going through some pretty serious emotional trauma due to my sickness. My big mistake was that I didn’t talk about it and only began to open up about it AFTER it started affecting some of my work. I should have been more open with my professors about what I was going through because I think I missed out on a lot of support trying to fight the battle alone.

That being said, being sick also forced me to really start taking care of myself. I had to totally revise my diet, my sleep and my life and the stressful way I was conducting it. I think that because I got so severely ill, I will manage myself in law school in a healthier and more balanced way to avoid ever becoming that sick again.

You are no longer living in the greater Toronto area (our loss), but when you were here what were your preferred spots for getting work done?

When I was living in Toronto I was lucky enough to have an incredible home that I shared with my two best friends in Kensington Market. I spent a bunch of time working in our bright, naturally sunlit kitchen and beautiful living room. When I wasn’t at home though, my favourite spots to work were;

  1. FIKA Café, on Kensington Avenue in Kensington Market
  2. Pamenar on Augusta Ave. in Kensington Market
  3. Voodoo Child on College St.
  4. The Green Grind on College St.
  5. Boxcar Social at Yonge and Summerhill

Learn more about Toronto Discursive’s new Q&A series At Your Man’s House Mondays and With Your Woman Wednesdays here.

A Q&A on money management with financial educator Aly Hirji

We’re more than halfway through January, and that means many New Year’s Resolutions have fallen by the wayside. But a few impulse purchases are no reason to forget about your goals. In fact, they should be even more reason to get up and get back on track.

Aly Hirji - Headshot - PL
Photo credit: Aly Hirji

Aly Hirji is a Toronto educator who focuses on Financial Literacy and Digital Technologies. Hirji is a proactive and motivated collaborator, teacher, and mentor who has implemented numerous initiatives to foster students’ academic success. He is actively involved in financial literacy workshops, career counselling, guidance on post-secondary pathways for youth and their parents, and much more. He kindly took the time to share his knowledge and advice for readers looking for ways to get serious about saving, set financial goals, and effectively manage their money.

A lot of financial advice is geared towards serious investors or families. Rarely do you see helpful articles about students and money that go beyond “buy your textbooks used”. It appears as though there isn’t a lot students can do to get serious about saving and investing aside from spending wisely. Do you think this is an accurate assessment?

I can pretty much agree that many articles – and much exposure and attention – are focused on youth, young professionals, and adults (middle age and elderly). Post-secondary students tend to be overlooked due to many factors from not fully partaking in the work force to not being a target market for financial institutions and certain products and services.

What are the biggest financial mistakes you’ve noticed that students make?

Many students do not take advantage of various funding mechanisms such as scholarships, bursaries, and grants that are easily accessible to fund post-secondary education. There is also the mismanagement of OSAP monies that students have access to after paying their tuition and fees, and feeling as if they’ve received a small lottery to enjoy and spend. I can speak from experience. I needed to ask my parents for assistance after my first few years of university. I learned that I needed to manage my money effectively and ensure that it would last for the school year. Any monies that I didn’t have to manage my loans, fees, costs of food, transportation, and clothing, came from taking on a part-time job and taking on a lighter course load of four instead of five credits per semester. This allowed me to balance my grades and effectively manage my money and that in turn enabled me to save some for the following year for any future increases in the cost of tuition, transportation, food, and school-related expenditures.

For many students or new graduates with loans – OSAP or otherwise – saving is something they believe they can only start doing after they’ve paid off their loans completely. On the other hand, tackling such a large amount of debt can leave one feeling overwhelmed or simply passive about actively paying off their balance. Do you think it is smarter to work on multiple financial goals concurrently when you are young and if so, how does one go about achieving this?

It is always good for students to manage multiple financial goals concurrently along with their other expenditures while in school. To start, a student should adjust their lifestyle and their budgeting. Start by looking at how you spend your cash and income for the month. Record all of your expenditures such as coffees, drinks, eating out, apps for your phone, etc. Then begin to determine which of these are your Needs and which are your Wants. You’ll quickly notice that many of those Wants (such as coffees, eating out) can be removed from your life. These habits will become a part of a student’s lifestyle and allow them to make more informed decisions when they make other important financial decisions regarding mortgages, car payments, managing credit card debt, and more.

Students need to understand that making good financial choices along with being disciplined about their expenditures is not only a short-term goal, but a long-term goal as well and one with impactful consequences. It’s very common for many young professionals (after undergrad and post-grad) to complain about making rent or saving for a home or car, while making poor everyday financial choices that add up.

There’s this perception that financial responsibility comes at the expense of an enjoyable life. What are some concrete strategies students and young adults can employ to strike a healthy balance between planning for the future and living in the moment?

Financial responsibility comes with making good choices and decisions. Buying a brand new car, without knowing that it will depreciate after it’s driven off the lot to purchasing a new cell phone plan with a new phone without understanding that the plan and cost of the phone is built into the cellphone plan. The same goes for doing research and shopping around for furniture or a rental unit to live in. Look at all the details and be knowledgeable through research. Access the various group benefits you have as a student through associations, parent alumni groups, and work-connected group discounts. You can enjoy life in many ways by going for walks, taking the local transit, partaking in programs offered by various community groups, and networking with alumni and various industry associations. Reading books, participating in art clubs and groups, as well as giving back to the community by volunteering are also good options. Many of these activities are free or have minimal to no costs. Start by seeing what truly makes you happy internally, and what gives you a sense of peace and balance.

I’ve come across a lot of writers online who are critical of the lack of compulsory financial education in schools. A few times a year you see posts on Facebook like, “I can tell you that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, but no one ever taught me how to do taxes”. Do you believe it is necessary to incorporate lessons about budgeting and accounting into the elementary or secondary school curriculum, and what are a couple simple concepts people out of school can google or read about to start their own financial education?

Yes, it is very necessary for Financial Literacy to be mandatory in curriculum. Financial Literacy is already in Ontario Curriculum through the Ministry of Education’s Scope and Sequence that has been added to Secondary School Curriculum, but it’s all based on the educator’s comfort level, understanding, and competence to deliver the material to their classes. There are resources available through the Canadian Bankers Association’s Your Money program, The City by the FCAC (Financial Consumer Agency of Canada), Junior Achievement’s Dollars with Sense program, Investor’s Education resources, and much more. There are plenty of resources to access to complement and help deliver Financial Literacy across curriculum. In addition, reading articles by Ellen Roseman and books like The Wealthy Barber and The Intelligent Investor can help start the dialogue between teachers and their students. 

In one or two sentences each what quick advice would you give to:

A student in their last year of high school living at home with a part-time job and planning to attend a post secondary institution the following year.

I would research and apply to as many External Scholarships (prior to acceptance) and Internal Scholarships (after acceptance) to help offset the cost of post-secondary education. Your part-time job may count against your OSAP eligibility so be aware of that. Also, in regards to working a part time job, you may want to take a lighter course load or do night school so that you can better manage the part-time job and the course load and have a smoother transition.

Someone in their second year of university, living in residence, who is on OSAP and working part-time.

Consider Internal and External scholarships to offset the costs of residence and tuition. Since you’re on campus, look for work-study and part-time work on campus to help lessen the travel time between school and work. Any extra monies from the part-time job would be good to use for savings for a rainy day in the future such as paying a good chunk of OSAP upon graduation. Build your experiences related and unrelated to your field so that you can network, develop more skills, and connect with people for future jobs and advancement. Networking is very important at this stage. Also, look into post-graduate studies, but do look at the career and industry trends in the job market.

A new grad working an entry level job.

Network after work through alumni and industry events, build your group of mentors and manage your income so that you’re paying off your high interest debt first and low interest debt last. Also, any extra income from overtime, part-time jobs and so forth should be put towards any debt so that you can be debt free quickly and can save for your future and long term goals. When it comes to your mentors, job shadow, ask for advice, guidance, and any wisdom to help in your journey of life.

What resources or websites would you recommend to our readers who are eager to learn more about handling their money?

Some helpful resources are:

Thank you for your time!


5 Depressing Facts about Toronto for Blue Monday

Does it make sense to say Happy Blue Monday?


Source: City News

You won’t be able to Ride the Rocket anywhere new anytime soon. The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension will now cost $3.2 billion instead of $2.6 billion and be finished at the end of 2017 as opposed to 2015. The TTC would like you to know that they are experiencing an extreme delay, and they apologize for the inconvenience.



Last year, Toronto was ranked the second unhappiest city although no specific reasons were mentioned. Guess everyone was too bummed out to elaborate. Here’s hoping we cheer up in 2016.



Toronto has the crappiest “traffic stretch” in Canada. This means the amount of time it should take to travel a certain distance compares poorly to how long it actually takes thanks to factors such as traffic and weather. The good news is that your road rage is backed by science. The bad news is that it still sucks.



Our beloved Blue Jays may have taken us for an exhilarating ride, but Toronto’s hockey team, the Maple Leafs, continues to disappoint. So much so that it was ranked the worst team in North America. Not just in hockey, my friends, but in all the major leagues. I’m talking the NHL, MLB, NFL, and NHL. OMG. Yikes!


toronto skyscraper.jpg
Source: CCI Group

A new study, which looks at data from Toronto and Peel Region, found that the higher up you live, the lower your chances of surviving a heart attack. So if you started from the bottom and now you’re here in a penthouse make sure you stay healthy because your lofty digs won’t help paramedics get to you any faster.