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Archive for the 'Music' Category


Well, it’s been an awful long time since I’ve written anything on this blog, so I figured I’d throw an update.

Recently addicted. Addicted to Facebook. I’ve been avoiding social networking sites like the plague for the last few years, refusing to sign-up on Friendster or MySpace. Then along came Facebook. And now I find myself checking it multiple times a day, like everyone else. You’re probably reading this blog entry as a syndicated note on Facebook, you addict you.

Recently purchased gadgets. I finally bit the bullet and bought that lens I’ve been eyeing for the last few months: the Canon EF 70-200 f/4L IS USM telephoto zoom. I love it. It’s oh-so-sharp, and I’ve been taking it around on walks around Toronto. It takes beautiful portraits, and great photos of random people, which has been nice with all the nice weather! In the past, I’ve never been able to take pictures of random strangers, but it’s much easier with this lens since you’re usually standing 20-30 metres away. See recent photos, amongst others, at photos.grchiu.com. I’ve also recently loaded up on 10 gigabytes of compact flash. This should be sufficient for about 1400 photos in Rome… enough, I hope?

Recent reading. In preparation for an upcoming trip to Italy (next week!) I’ve been reading Rick Steves’ Rome and Rick Steves’ Italy. Both excellent reads, packed with information and lots of nice maps of the different sight-seeing venues. The Lonely Planet Best of … guides are also nice and small for carrying around.

Before that, I rediscovered the public library system and borrowed Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald, a surprisingly gripping and outrageous true store of the boom and subsequent demise of Enron in its corporate accounting scandal. It’s a great read, offering a unique look into the politics and inner workings of big corporations. On the lighter side, Spin, the 2006 Hugo Award winning novel by Robert Charles Wilson, is captivating, with an interesting premise and memorable characters full of vigour. Also recently read was the classic The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. I’m looking forward to reading The God Delusion.

Recent Listening. In the past few months I’ve started listening to vocal/instrumental jazz. It all started when I saw Melissa Stylianou, a Toronto jazz vocalist, perform at Hugh’s Room on the home stretch of her tour. Her latest album, Sliding Down, is great. Check it out.

Italy next week. Some stories and pictures to follow when I return. Arrivederci!

a minor inversion, or a major diversion?

The mass e-mail was terse and to the point. I have a daughter who is starting piano lessons, it read. Is anyone interested in selling an old upright piano?

So for what would be the first time in years, I sat down today and played the piano. The piano and I have always have some sort of love-hate relationship. I love to play the piano. I just hated to practice.

I started playing the piano at the age of six under the tutelage of Mrs. Zilberman in her North York home. Eleven years and three piano teachers later, I’m taking my grade 10 exam. I remember preparing half-heartedly for that exam: it was the end of May of 2000, one month left in high school, worrying about university responses possibly lost in the mail, or final final exams. And a few weeks before a departure for Shad. Piano exam? Frankly, I don’t remember practicing at all.

I remember walking out of that exam with a sense of release, a sense of freedom. Never having to practice that goddamned instrument anymore. I also remember passing with honours — barely, as just one mark lower would require me to take supplemental exams before attempting ARCT. Hah, ARCT. Yeah right.

And I didn’t touch my piano for a few weeks… months… years.

So for what would be the first time in years, I sat down today and played the piano. A little Chopin, some Bach, and little Brahms. Some hacky attempts at Rachmaninov. Some Norah Jones, for good measure. I love to play the piano. But my fingers are brittle and slow, now adapted and practiced for the keyboard of a computer rather than of a piano.

So I sit there for an hour, hammering out bar after bar, repeating left hand until perfected, and then right. I get out the wind-up metronome, but discover that it’s broken. For the first time in years (and probably years while I was still playing), I’m really practicing. And hey, it’s not so bad. I manage to play a Chopin prelude almost up to speed. I sight-read the first few bars of a Beethoven Sonata. I finish, like I used to, with a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen, with powerful thundering chords that resonate through the house.

Me? Sell my piano?

I took a picture, my piano and I. We’ve always had some sort of love-hate relationship, and it looks like we’ve finally made our peace.