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The Jane Austen Society is Hooping it up for the Bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice

March 5, 2013

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I spend a surprising amount of time in meetings in coffee shops. And I’m not the only one. I was in a Starbucks in Toronto this morning and it was completely crowded. Some of them were students between lectures, but for the rest of them I have no idea why they were there on a Tuesday morning. We live in a wonderful world if large segments of people can sit around in coffee shops for long stretches of time don’t you think? Of course some of them were probably using the place as office space, but still, there is a lot of sitting around and drinking coffee going on.
As I was picking up my tea (I can never remember to say Venti instead of large) I noticed a poster on the wall about a Jane Austen Festival. A Jane Austen Festival! Visions of Brigid Jones and her diary came flooding back. Perhaps the next best thing for a reluctant bachelor after attending numerous showings of chick flicks would be to spend a weekend in Toronto in regency attire waiting to be mistaken for Mr. Darcy by some impressionable young woman lost in Ms. Austen’s confections.
Well fear not lonely Mr. Darcy’s your time has come! On the weekend of April 19-21 the recently formed Jane Austin Society ( will be holdinging a Jane Austen weekend in Toronto, and Regency attire is encouraged. Will a horde of cosplay enthusiasts from Harajuku show up to drive lovers of both anime and Jane Austen absolutely crazy?
And it’s not just the Toronto folks who should rejoice. Porter Airlines is assisting the Jane Austin deprived of Eastern North America with a seat sale, according to the Jane Austen Society website.
Of course prospective Mr. Darcy’s are more likely to sweep a Jane Austin heroine of her feet if they know how to dance regency style. Unfortunately the special introductory lessons was on February 18. Perhaps the Jane Austen society will offer further lessons if there is enough demand.
I’m a bit beyond my Mr. Darcy prime, but I’m wondering if I should attend as a portly vicar or something, just in case the girls from Harajuku show up and I can  watch the mashup of cultures.
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Toronto has a Snow Day, and Most of the East, but No-One Called in the Army

February 9, 2013

The first thing to say about snow is that it comes and goes. For some it brings recreational opportunities, for others it just makes getting anywhere really tough. When I was growing up in New Zealand you would see snow flakes in winter but it would hardly ever settle. But every few years you would get snow that would last a day or two and it would be heaven for a kid and a nuisance for everyone else. There were no snow ploughs or salt, and everything became a slushy mess. At least we didn’t have a ton of salt everywhere. I’m surprised that Lake Ontario hasn’t turned to salt water yet with all the snow they throw around Toronto during the winter. And you’d think that Toronto, as a large Canadian city would be able to handle lots of snow, but that’s not the case. Compared with cities like Ottawa and Montreal, Toronto doesn’t see that much snow. And we had that embarrassing little incident a few years ago.

Maybe you know the story, it was 1999 (yes, I was there) and Toronto had already got a meter of snow with more on the way. So Mayor Mel Lastman called in the army. Besides calling the army to deal with the snow, the other thing that Mayor Lastman is famous for is putting decorated statues of bulls on ever street corner. I never really understand the Bull thing, but I have to admit that there was an awful lot of snow when Mel called in the army. The Canadian army is not that big, but maybe 400 people showed up in their state of the art equipment (see below).


Historically Toronto gets between 1 and 2 metres of snow a year, on average. But in 1999 it got that all in one storm. But we are lucky. In the 1860s and 1870s they would get close to 3 metres of snow in a Toronto winter, and there was no central heating or thinsulate in those days. People must have been tough. I expect that we’ve softened up a lot since then.

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And here is a chart showing the top 5 recent (last 50 years) snowfalls in New York and Boston. Boston tends to get bigger snowfalls, but what’s interesting is that in New York the five biggest snowfalls in the past half century have been in the past 15 years. Add that to Hurricane Sandy and it looks like New York City might be one of the losers in terms of the impacts of global warming. But most people probably can’t get their head around that fact that global warming might mean more snow in some places, at least in the short run.


Here’s a graphic from the BBC showing the impact of the storm on the east coast (


But for me this storm is personal. We had a speaker coming in on the Friday when the storm hit Toronto and he couldn’t get his flight from Boston that morning. So all my scheduling went out the window. I don’t mind trudging through snow, but when the weather messes up my schedule, then it’s time to do something! But what I’m not sure. I decided not to ask the mayor to call in the army. The rest of Canada enjoys laughing at Toronto’s expense way too much.

Here’s an example:

Major snowstorm headed to southern Ontario, but don’t worry — Toronto city hall has the military on speed dial.
— ThisHourHas22Minutes (@22_Minutes) February 7, 2013

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New Fashion Stores in Toronto

January 5, 2013

I recently came across a nice blog post about new fashion stores in Toronto ( and it got me thinking about how fashion retailing might shake out in the next few years. I don’t expect big box retailing to survive much beyond the end of this decade but perhaps there is a place for small local fashion stores that provide funky and unique clothing that caters to local tastes and relatively narrow demographics.

In recent years there has been an explosion of small fashion stores in the Queen West District of Toronto (

There is a surprising number of stores on Queen Street running between Bathurst Street and Dufferin Street as shown on the following map (go to the link above if you want to interact with the map).


I don’t think this is an accident. A lot of people are becoming more ecologically aware and more interested in buying locally. At the same time a lot of people aren’t interested in conventional careers even when such jobs are available. There is an interesting dynamic of artistic, idealistic, and entrepreneurial spirit. If you want to see a possible vision of the future of fashion, take a walk down Queen Street west and check out all the funky fashion shops. You’ll have plenty to choose from. I don’t know how many of them are making money, but I do know that they are making Toronto a richer place.

And here is the list of best new fashion stores in Toronto, 2012 as reported in by Alexandra Grigorescu. Not being a fashionista I’m not able to comment on how great a list this is (I think it was made on the basis of reader votes), but it looks interesting.


1 – V by 69 Vintage
This is a store on Queen West that showcases a wide range of carefully curated, top-drawer vintage goods. There are fur stoles, a wall of surprisingly modern-looking shoes, and a house line from designer Evan Biddell.

2 – Bridge + Bardot
This one is on Dundas West just north of Queen Street. It includes vintage clothing and “hyper-local” designers in a small, minimalist shop. According to Alexandra G., new designs are well-paired with Bridge + Bardot’s tailored and re-worked vintage pieces.


3 – Canon Blanc
Canon Blanc is another Queen West shop but this one covers wearable up and coming fashion brands from Paris (like Charlotte Sometime and Florian Wernert). Apparently everyone has a “general aura of understated elegance”. This place does not sound like my office!


4 – Philip Sparks
Philip Sparks is located on Ossington, which runs off Queen. Queen and Ossington has become a really trendy Toronto area in the past few years, with a ton of interesting bars and restaurants just steps away from the Queen West fashion district. Philip Sparks is unusual for a Queen West shop in showcase products in a two-level shop. Philip Sparks has his own “line of well-tailored, colourful, and beautifully designed coats, dresses and accessories for men and women on the ground level, while also offering a spacious layout for his collection of shoes and bags downstairs.”

5 – Contraband
You’ve got to love the name of this store, but no, it is not carrying knockoffs from China. The shop carries modern streetwear, sportswear, and high fashion menswear brands such as Brooklyn Circus, Thom Browne and Nike in a “barebones space that also sports a flat-screen and video game console (for bored female companions).”


6 – Untitled and Co.
I’m going to quote Alexandra G. on this one as I don’t think that paraphrasing the description would do it justice. “Walking into Untitled and Co. is like walking into some fabulous eccentric’s closet. Now boasting two locations (on Bathurst and Queen West, respectively), the shop is decorated in vintage finds (some culled from the owner’s apartment), and displays re-worked vintage, newly-established local and international brands, as well as the owner’s own line.”


7 – Sauvage
“Sauvage is also Queen West, flaunting women’s clothing and accessories from across the globe, with a special focus on unique shoes. Expect far-flung brands such as Senso and Miista, all upholding the shop’s style thesis of mixing hard and soft looks.” From the comments I’ve seen, this store seems like a favorite for some people.

8 – Gravitypope
Is another two-floor shop, at Ossington and Queen. It has a range of men’s and women’s footwear, accessories and clothing, at a wide variety of prices. Shoes run all the way from Comme de Garcons to Vans, to its affordable house brand.


9 – Life of Manek
Life of Manek is a veteran of the Toronto fashion industry. It includes brands as well as following current trends. Brands include J-Brand and GLish, as well as Versace and Dior.

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