Miskatonic University Press

Mary John's Coffee Shop

alc archives toronto

I was looking through some 1943 issues of the Canadian Review of Music and Art and came across this page of ads in the April issue, volume one number three:

Have you ever strolled “down in the village”—Toronto’s own Greenwich Village—intentionally or—just casually?

There you shall find a group of some thirty little shops offering anything from originally designed jewellery, new conceptions in wearing apparel, photographic art, paintings, and a distinctive variety of objets d’art and bric-a-brac—from ceramics to wood and wrought-iron novelties. Just through curiosity, go “down in the village” some day for lunch, tea or dinner, and eat at “Mary John’s Coffee Shop,” founded by the pioneer of the village—the late Mrs. Abbie Gray Jensen—or at “Martha’s”—the only Viennese Restaurant in Toronto. The change in menu and atmosphere will delight you.

And then, browse around into the typically and quaint [sic] little shops—so different to anything you have ever seen.

(Whoever proofread the ads should have added a hyphen between “charcoal” and “broiled” in the Mary John’s ad.)

I’d never heard of this village, or Mary John’s, but John Lorinc’s article Looking back at Mary Johns, an artists’ haven in mid-century Toronto (Toronto Star, 19 July 2015) explains all about it in one of his typically excellent pieces on Toronto and its history.

The inn opened in the 1920s across from Hester How Public School and the Elizabeth St. playground, which sat on the site of the new wing of the Hospital for Sick Children.

A great source for detailed maps of older Toronto are the Goad’s fire atlases. Here I’ve picked out details from 1924, Plate 15 and 1924, Plate 12 to show the north and south sides of Gerrard St. West and Elizabeth St. Unfortunately Gerrard is the dividing line between two maps so you can’t see both sides of the street at once (at least, not without some digital editing, which I didn’t attempt).

Goad's map of Gerrard St, north side
Goad's map of Gerrard St, north side
Goad's map of Gerrard St, south side
Goad's map of Gerrard St, south side

We see 79 Gerrard St. West at the south-east corner of Gerrard and Elizabeth, across from the playground. That’s Mary John’s.

OpenStreetMap centred on Elizabeth and Gerrard shows what the area looks like now. Almost every house is gone. The northeast corner of the intersection is a large parking lot, but east of it, across the small street, is Jimmy’s Coffee in an original building. The southeast has a big office tower.

Map of the area as it is now
Map of the area as it is now

Lorinc continues:

The restaurant, which had adjoining dining rooms and tables packed closely together, catered to hospital and office workers, as well as local residents. [Daughter of the owners Lynda] Franklin, now a 71-year-old retired high school teacher, recalls typing out the menus on carbon paper. Her parents served hearty dishes like Salisbury steak, shepherd’s pie and charcoal blackened chicken, as well as salad, mashed potatoes and that staple of Anglo-Saxon cuisine, peas and carrots. Desserts included pie, ice cream and homemade butter tarts that, Franklin says with a chuckle, “were known throughout the land.”

Charcoal-broiled chicken indeed!

When she was growing up, Franklin’s friends included the children of some of the Village artists (and Mary Johns regulars), such as Judy Pocock, whose mother, Nancy Meek Pocock, was a well-known metal artist and peace activist.

For more details I looked in the 1943 City Directory to see who was listed. (See the Toronto Public Library’s Digital Toronto City Directories list for more.) On the north side of the street, across from Mary John’s, there’s Nancy Meek at 92 (she’s also in the ad above), in the same building as Mrs. Helarion E. Adams, “aura reader.”

City directory for Gerrard St. West, north side
City directory for Gerrard St. West, north side

And on the south side at 73–75 is Perry Hardy (“Percy” in the directory, but “Perry” in the ad above), who does “Particular Portraits for Particular People.” And Mary John’s Coffee Shop is at 79, along with Mrs. Helen Pope, “tea cup reader.”

City directory for Gerrard St. West, south side
City directory for Gerrard St. West, south side

There’s more about the village in Nicole Baute’s Our lost Greenwich Village (Toronto Star, 26 December 2008), Rick McGinnis’s Vanished Bohemia: Remembering Gerrard Village and the Golden Age of the Coffee House (14 October 2009) and in John Lorinc’s chapter “Before Yorkville” in The Ward: The Life and Loss of Toronto’s First Immigrant Neighbourhood (edited by John Lorinc, Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg and Tatum Taylor; published by Coach House Books, 2015) (which I own but have neglected reading; I will remedy that soon).

Mary John’s ran ads regularly in the Canadian Review of Music and Art. Here’s another one from issue number six, October 1942.

Godfrey Ridout was 24 at the time. Adelmo Melecci and Eileen Law both deserve Wikipedia entries. Randolph Macdonald and Ridout were both members of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, as I am now.

Yellow Car again

john.finnemore literature

Further to the Yellow Car in London Rules, there’s a Yellow Car in the next book in Mick Herron’s Slough House series, Joe Country (2019).

Traffic shunted forwards, and came to a halt again. The lane heading back to London was moving freely, if with wariness; the snow was drawing black lines on the road where tyres had cut through it. It occurred to River that the lanes up ahead, the far side of the spilled load, might be inches thick by now. But we’ll plough that furrow when we come to it.

“Yellow car,” said Shirley.


But she didn’t explain.

And the snow kept falling.

Alfred Stieglitz hurts his finger and goes to emergency

art listening.to.art podcasts quotes

From episode 536 of The Modern Art Notes Podcast, with Barbara Bloemink interviewed about Florine Stettheimer, about whom she has written a biography: Florine Stettheimer: A Biography.

A very funny story—the reason I found Stettheimer—is, my professors all wanted me to work on Homer or Eakins for my PhD, and I was reading a letter from O’Keeffe because I was determined to work on a woman. The letter was about how her husband, Stieglitz, hurt his finger pulling on his underwear after taking a bath in the bathroom. She wanted him to just put a popsicle stick and a tape on it and go to Lake George with her, but he insisted on going to the emergency room, and after several hours of just sitting there, they finally found a doctor, who put a popsicle stick and a tape on it. She wrote to this woman, Florine Stettheimer, “Aren’t men ridiculous?” So I went to find who Florine Stettheimer was.

Stettheimer’s works are the subject of two issues of Listening to Art: volume four number nine, Picnic at Bedford Hills and volume four number ten, Portrait of Marcel Duchamp. Georgia O’Keeffe is featured in volume two number seven, Black Door with Red.



The other day I was in a Mark’s (formerly Mark’s Work Wearhouse) getting some new winter boots. I picked up a few other things, including socks. Here’s one pair.

Aggressor socks
Aggressor socks

The brand name is Aggressor. It’s a house brand. Several departments worth of people at Mark’s came up with the Aggressor name, tested it, got it approved, designed logos, marketed it, and are now selling it across the country.

My Chambers dictionary (thirteenth edition) defines aggressor: “the person who or force which attacks first.”

My new socks are comfortable and warm. They stayed up on my calf and did not fall down to my ankles, and were very pleasant to wear on a cold Toronto February day. Socks are meant to be comfortable and warm. Socks do not attack first. Socks do not attack at all.

Other Aggressor offerings include “Aggressor Women’s 8 Inch Steel Toe Steel Plate Work Boots.” Steel toe, steel plate. Aggressive? Not in and of themselves. That would be up to the wearer. Defensive, definitely. Safe, absolutely.

Aggressor boots
Aggressor boots

There are also “Aggressor Men’s Cowhide Winter Work Mittens” in cream white. Mittens are not aggressive. Stranglers use gloves. (Black gloves, not cream white.) They do not use mittens.

Aggressor mittens
Aggressor mittens

Finally there is the “Aggressor Dickie.”

Aggressor dickie
Aggressor dickie

Aggressor Dickie.

Pi-hole reinstall


This is my Raspberry Pi Zero W hanging from the USB cable that powers it. It runs Pi-hole, which blocks ads and trackers for every device on my home network.

My Raspberry Pi Zero W
My Raspberry Pi Zero W

I run uBlock Origin in my browsers (and NoScript and Cookie AutoDelete and so on), but the power of Pi-hole is that it blocks things at the network level: whatever is requesting an ad or sending information you’d rather it didn’t, this will block it, from applications down to the operating system. The change on phones is most noticeable: the CBC News app runs ads, but at home I never see them (and they can’t track me). I don’t play any games with built-in ads, but I bet the effect on them is wonderful.

Pi-hole runs silently, magically and reliably, but it’s nontrivial to set up. It worked for over two years without any trouble, but a couple of days ago I noticed I was seeing ads in the CBC News app: something was wrong!

I logged in and ran pihole -up (to update) and some other things, but there was some kind of networking problem, and the machine couldn’t resolve any hostnames. pihole -r (to repair) said this:

[✗] Retrieval of supported OS list failed. dig failed with return code 10.
    Unable to determine if the detected OS (Raspbian 10) is supported
    Possible causes for this include:
      - Firewall blocking certain DNS lookups from Pi-hole device
      - ns1.pi-hole.net being blocked (required to obtain TXT record from versions.pi-hole.net containing supported operating systems)
      - Other internet connectivity issues


    If you wish to attempt to continue anyway, you can try one of the following commands to skip this check:

    e.g: If you are seeing this message on a fresh install, you can run:
           curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | PIHOLE_SKIP_OS_CHECK=true sudo -E bash

         If you are seeing this message after having run pihole -up:
           PIHOLE_SKIP_OS_CHECK=true sudo -E pihole -r
         (In this case, your previous run of pihole -up will have already updated the local repository)

    It is possible that the installation will still fail at this stage due to an unsupported configuration.
    If that is the case, you can feel free to ask the community on Discourse with the Community Help category:

I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. The Pi’s name server was still working, so my laptop and phone could still connect to the internet without any trouble, which was great. (The Pi has a static IP and my router is configured so that when devices connect with DHCP they use it for DNS. I didn’t need to do anything about this for this reinstall, but it is necessary on a first install.) Confusingly, the Pi itself couldn’t. Also, the little green light was flashing, which it had never done before.

The easiest thing to do was reinstall a fresh system on the Pi. Maybe the little microSD card had a problem—it had been working for two years solid, after all. I picked up a 32 gig SanDisk Extreme from Canada Computers and got to work.

The first thing was to put the Raspberry Pi OS on the microSD card. The Raspberry Pi Imager makes this easy … once you get it to work. Following the “Download for Ubuntu for x86” (I’m running Ubuntu and it detected that) lets me download a .deb file, but there are no instructions about what to do with it. This is a stopper for many people. I happen to know I need to run dpkg --install at the command line to install it, but then this happened:

$ sudo dpkg --install imager_1.7.1_amd64.deb
(Reading database ... 510890 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack imager_1.7.1_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking rpi-imager (1.7.1) over (1.7.1) ...
dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of rpi-imager:
 rpi-imager depends on qml-module-qtquick2; however:
  Package qml-module-qtquick2 is not installed.
 rpi-imager depends on qml-module-qtquick-controls2; however:
  Package qml-module-qtquick-controls2 is not installed.
 rpi-imager depends on qml-module-qtquick-layouts; however:
  Package qml-module-qtquick-layouts is not installed.
 rpi-imager depends on qml-module-qtquick-templates2; however:
  Package qml-module-qtquick-templates2 is not installed.
 rpi-imager depends on qml-module-qtquick-window2; however:
  Package qml-module-qtquick-window2 is not installed.
 rpi-imager depends on qml-module-qtgraphicaleffects; however:
  Package qml-module-qtgraphicaleffects is not installed.

dpkg: error processing package rpi-imager (--install):
 dependency problems - leaving unconfigured
Processing triggers for gnome-menus (3.36.0-1ubuntu1) ...
Processing triggers for desktop-file-utils (0.24-1ubuntu3) ...
Processing triggers for mime-support (3.64ubuntu1) ...
Processing triggers for hicolor-icon-theme (0.17-2) ...
Errors were encountered while processing:

There’s nothing on the Pi page about dependencies. This is a stopper for more people.

I ran this:

sudo apt install qml-module-qtquick2 qml-module-qtquick-controls2 qml-module-qtquick-layouts \
  qml-module-qtquick-templates2 qml-module-qtquick-window2 qml-module-qtgraphicaleffects

That worked, but there was some kind of error and the system suggested I run this:

sudo apt --fix-broken install

That worried me, because every time I’ve seen that before there’s been a major problem, but this time it worked and all was well. Phew. Looking at the GitHub repo for the imager, next time I’d run this first to install all the build dependencies (some of which I already have installed, but not everyone would) and avoid any problems:

sudo apt install --no-install-recommends build-essential devscripts debhelper cmake \
  git libarchive-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev qtbase5-dev qtbase5-dev-tools \
  qtdeclarative5-dev libqt5svg5-dev qttools5-dev libssl-dev \
  qml-module-qtquick2 qml-module-qtquick-controls2 qml-module-qtquick-layouts \
  qml-module-qtquick-templates2 qml-module-qtquick-window2 qml-module-qtgraphicaleffects

All of that is a lot of work to do just to get the Raspberry Pi OS image installer working, and there’s no help about it on the site. Ideally I guess there would be an Ubuntu package that would handle everything, but that would mean packages for other Linux distros, and that’s work. I’ll submit a bug report with some suggestions about documentation.

Once I could use the image installer I was very impressed. It’s great.

Pi OS image installer writing to the microSD card
Pi OS image installer writing to the microSD card

It saw that I had the microSD card plugged in, and let me choose which operating system I wanted to put on it (it would do the downloading for me). And it let me do some basic system configuration! I put in the wifi information, enabled sshd and set up a password for the user pi (the only user on the system). With all that in place I just unplugged the Pi, took out the old card, put in the new one, plugged it back in, waited a bit … and I could ssh in! No more trouble hooking it up to a monitor and using a wireless keyboard to configure. This is a major improvement, and I congratulate and thank everyone that worked on it.

Now I could configure my account. (This is not necessary to get Pi-hole working, but I do this on all my systems.) To set up the en_CA.UTF-8 locale, there was an extra step: I needed to uncomment that line from /etc/locale.gen before I could run sudo locale-gen en_CA.UTF-8; sudo update-locale LANG=en_CA.UTF-8 to generate the files. Then I put in all my dot files with Conforguration.

Next was installing Pi-hole. The controversial way is this:

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash

I trust Pi-hole, so I ran it, but then this happened:

E: Failed to fetch http://raspbian.raspberrypi.org/raspbian/pool/main/s/sqlite3/sqlite3_3.34.1-3_armhf.deb
Cannot initiate the connection to raspbian.raspberrypi.org:80 (2a00:1098:0:80:1000:75:0:3). - connect (101: Network is unreachable)

Cripes, I thought, what’s going on? I’ve got a fresh install here and there’s some sort of networking problem where it can’t connect to a site that is definitely up and working. I ran sudo apt install sqlite3 and that worked without trouble, which was good. I thought I’d try the other installation method:

cd /tmp/
wget -O basic-install.sh https://install.pi-hole.net
sudo bash basic-install.sh

That worked perfectly. Why, when the first attempt didn’t? Who knows. Another one of those fiddly problems that can be confusing. I accepted all the defaults, and when it was done reset the admin password:

pihole -a -p "My fancy new admin password"

Because my network has the Pi-hole as my name server, once it was working everything was back to where it had been (except that I was still seeing some ads on my phone, so I rebooted it and then they went away).

Pi-hole dashboard
Pi-hole dashboard

Now I’m back to an ad-free home network.

Yellow Car

john.finnemore literature

It was a treat to read this in London Rules, the fifth in Mick Herron’s Slough House series of spy novels.

“Yellow car,” said Shirley.

“Yeah, not really.”

“Yes really.”

“Not really,” said Louisa. “On account of one, it’s a van, not a car, and two, it’s orange, not yellow. So orange van, not yellow car.”

“Same difference.”

Louisa suppressed a sigh. Until ten minutes ago, the rules of Yellow Car had seemed pretty straightforward: when you saw a yellow car, you said, “Yellow car.” There wasn’t much room for controversy. But that was before she’d introduced Shirley to the game.

From the Acknowledgments:

The rules of “Yellow Car,” as cited by Louisa, were laid down by Mr. John Finnemore in his delightful BBC Radio 4 series Cabin Pressure. But American readers should note that this is a British game designed for British conditions. Attempts to play it in—say—New York City will result in madness and death.

The Slough House series is great. Very highly recommended.

Sherlock Holmes movie stills

film sherlock.holmes

Three stills from Pursuit to Algiers (1945), the twelfth in the series of Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson.

First, a menu from a Soho restaurant. Hors d’oeuvres include fillet of herring, sardines and anchovies, each for a shilling. There are three soups: “Clear Turtle” (three shillings; see other menus with this dish at the New York Public Libraries What’s On the Menu?), “Consomme Perles” (one shilling) and “Creme Dubarry” (one shilling; it’s a cream of cauliflower).


Watson and Holmes enter Fishbone Alley.

Fishbone Alley streetscape
Fishbone Alley streetscape

Watson says, “I don’t like it.”

I don't like it, says Watson
I don't like it, says Watson

And one from Dressed to Kill (1946), the last in the series.

This book, India’s Love Lyrics by Laurance Hope, is a real one. Laurance Hope was a pseudonym of Violet Nicolson, who lived a short but remarkable life from 1865 to 1904. India’s Love Lyrics is the American title of Garden of Kama (1901), though Dressed to Kill is set in London, so that’s the title we should have seen. It’s available at Project Gutenberg. One of the poems in it is “Kashmiri Song:”

Pale hands I love beside the Shalimar,

Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?

Whom do you lead on Rapture’s roadway, far,

Before you agonise them in farewell?

Oh, pale dispensers of my Joys and Pains,

Holding the doors of Heaven and of Hell,

How the hot blood rushed wildly through the veins

Beneath your touch, until you waved farewell.

Pale hands, pink tipped, like Lotus buds that float

On those cool waters where we used to dwell,

I would have rather felt you round my throat,

Crushing out life, than waving me farewell!

This was adapted and set to music, and is the song Hugh Moreland and Nick Jenkins talk about at the beginning of Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant.

LaTeX letters in Org

emacs latex

When I need to send a formal (or at least not handwritten) letter, I want to do it in LaTeX, and if I do something in LaTeX, I want to do it in Org and then export it. LaTeX’s letter class is made for this purpose (see also this), but making it work in Org takes a small bit of configuration and some attention to how the letter is set up. Here’s how I made it work.

First, you need to tell Org about the letter class, because it’s not one of the defaults. Letters don’t have chapters or sections so you just specify the document class.

(with-eval-after-load 'ox-latex
  (add-to-list 'org-latex-classes '("letter" "\\documentclass{letter}"))

Here’s the Org file with the sample letter I used. It’s from chapter five of Dracula by Bram Stoker. I removed some of the content of the letter to keep things shorter. It looks very plain here because there’s no syntax highlighting in this web page to fancy it up.

# #+title: Comment out, or do not use
#+date: Wednesday

#+options: toc:nil

#+latex_header: \usepackage[osf]{Baskervaldx}

#+latex_class: letter

#+latex_header: \signature{Lucy}
#+latex_header: \address{17, Chatham Street}

#+latex: \begin{letter}{[s.l.]}
#+latex: \opening{My dearest Mina,---}

I must say you tax me very unfairly with being a bad correspondent.
I wrote to you /twice/ since we parted, and your last letter was only your /second/.
Besides, I have nothing to tell you.  There is really nothing to interest you.
Town is very pleasant just now, and we go a good deal to picture-galleries
and for walks and rides in the park.  As to the tall, curly-haired man,
I suppose it was the one who was with me at the last Pop.  Some one has evidently
been telling tales.  That was Mr. Holmwood.  He often comes to see us, and he and
mamma get on very well together; they have so many things to talk about in common.
We met some time ago a man that would just /do for you/, if you were not already
engaged to Jonathan.  He is an excellent /parti/, being handsome, well off, and
of good birth.  He is a doctor and really clever.  Just fancy!
He is only nine-and-twenty, and he has an immense lunatic asylum all under his own care.

#+latex: \closing{Sincerely,}
#+latex: \ps{P.S.  I need not tell you this is a secret.  Good-night again.}
#+latex: \end{letter}

It looks like this in Emacs (the image is linked to a larger one).

Screenshot of Emacs editing this file
Screenshot of Emacs editing this file

Some notes:

  • Don’t use a title. If you want one for your own reference, comment it out.
  • The table of contents needs to be turned off.
  • I found it safest to use the #+latex: way of including LaTeX fragments. It doesn’t mess up the syntax highlight or the exporting.
  • The letter class needs some options to go in the header and some in the body, as shown here.
  • The “[s.l.]” is for sine loco, Latin for “no location.” (Library cataloguers used to use this when no place of publication was known.) This is where the recipient’s address would go; there isn’t one in this letter, but I wanted to show how to set it up.
  • The letter class has lots of other options. They work like the ones shown.

The only extra thing I’ve added is the Baskervald X typeface, which is LaTeX’s Baskerville. I really like it. The [osf] option turns on text figures: notice how the 7 in “17” descends below the 1.

When exported (C-c C-e l o, the command for “export to PDF and open the file;” C-c C-e is “export,” l is “to LaTeX,” o is “then open the PDF”) the letter looks like this.

The full letter
The full letter

This is the text block, larger so easier to see.

Close up of the text block
Close up of the text block

It looks very nice. Now I have a good template to use for formal letters.

The House of Fear

film sherlock.holmes

Continuing on with the classic Universal Sherlock Holmes films (this list on YouTube has good quality versions of them all (for now, at least)), The House of Fear. It’s a good one, with marvellous characters actors with great faces.

Holmes and Watson in an lonely old Scottish castle, caught up in a mystery. A great image of the immortal pair.

Holmes and Watson
Holmes and Watson

(The castle, I must note, is on the North Atlantic shore, but the ground floor rooms facing the ocean have walls of French windows with inadequate latches, which burst open at every storm. Why this wasn’t fixed one or two hundred years ago is an unsolved mystery.)

A shelf full of mystery novels, including Murder in the Cellar, Death by Night by Archibald Brown and Murder as a Fine Art. I think these are meant to look like the Crime Club series.

Mystery books on a shelf
Mystery books on a shelf

The Pearl of Death

film sherlock.holmes

Further to yesterday’s post about Miles Mander: he’s the villain Giles Conover in the next Rathbone/Bruce movie, The Pearl of Death (1944). This one is also available on YouTube. Look for a good digitization; they all seem to have varying versions available, and some are much better than others. The Pearl of Death is much better than The Scarlet Claw.

The villain in the back of a cab.

Mander as Conover annoyed that Evelyn Ankers (as Naomi Drake) has been outsmarted by Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Nigel Bruce as Watson looking jovial after Holmes just made witty remark.

Rondo Hatton as the Hoxton Creeper. His first major named role. He did a few more but was dead within two years.

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