Monday, December 28, 2009

How to change

When it comes to change the first hurdles are always mental. Firstly people don’t believe it’s possible at all. Then even if they concede it’s possible, they doubt how much can be changed.

Being the fundamentalist I am, I wouldn’t be interested in change if the answer to all those questions wasn’t a complete and utter yes.

I propose change of almost any part, and any proportion of your actions, mentality, and personality is possible. Far from being a mutant, Mimic from X-Men, is really the most truthful representation of human nature.

But there is a third question, which is also the trickiest one: ‘should I change?’ If we have the power to create our own characters should we use it?

This is the most philosophical, and complex, and interesting question of all (and deserves a post of its own).

Here I’m arguing that absolute change is possible. So, how exactly?

It lies in the interplay between the conscious and the subconscious. Character is formed in the subconscious by integrating millions of strands of experiences and meanings, like candy floss, or a ball of wool, into a somewhat coherent whole.

People think there’s a wall between the two minds, and the subconscious is a dark, tumultuous source of problems and instincts they can’t control. That’s where the blueprint of their personality has been set, ‘that’s just who I am’ they say.

Psychologists compound the problem by blaming your shitty early upbringing, parents or biological settings for current problems. Of course it’s in the past which can’t be changed.

But there are many hidden doorways between the conscious and subconscious. With these the conscious mind can reach in and slowly unravel that ball of wool, then reintegrate and re-engineer it to whatever form you want.

The doorways are not obvious because the subconscious is such a complex, amorphous thing, there’s no direct path to its door. I also think it contains much more than just our character. Rather it’s our oracle containing scripts from millions of years of evolution, and all our potential in the future. It’s a box that we haven’t come close to unpacking yet.

One doorway is art, which opens that mysterious potential. It generates ideas and is a bridge between this world and the next. But it’s very fickle with unpredictable results.

To consciously craft who you are, you need a more humble but reliable channel that goes from the conscious mind to the subconscious.

I used to think it was just repetition, but this blogger does a much better, more thorough analysis of it using computer programming. I totally agree, being a former programmer as well (long story, former life I'd rather forget). I tried it, and I'm the most sceptical person in the world, but it changed my mind like flipping a switch.

Thus you can shine the light of self consciousness on the dark corners of your nature.

If this is done over a wide enough range, then it changes an entire worldview. Even the most deeply ingrained character traits can be worked out like a knot with enough repetition, time and effort.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy, and here is where traditional motivation strategies fail.

Repetition is a deceptively simple concept to grasp, but the hardest thing to actually do because it involves the deeply philosophical questions of motivation – the same three questions posed at the beginning of the post.

Moreover it’s not enough to answer them just the once. For every change you pay a price of time multiplied by effort – quite often the time of change takes years. During that time those three questions will come up again and again, and you will have to constantly re-answer them.

Of the three the last, ‘should I change?’ is the deadliest, and is the crux of motivation.

But at some point the subconscious takes over – and that’s when change really starts, it gets compounded and magnified and escalated. When it gets into the realm of the subconscious, character has been unravelled and reintegrated.

Change asks a lot from the conscious mind, but that’s the price of courting the powerful subconscious.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I’ve always changed continuously beyond recognition. A curious, slippery chameleon character, I discard identities at every stage of the past. People now don’t recognise me from five years ago, or even a year, or six months ago. I imagine this is what it’s like to be an international spy, putting on a different array of masks and wigs and fake passports. In the end you become the process of change itself, that’s the only thing left to you – leaving friends at their limited place in time in the past, staring after you.

Why is virtue defined as having unchanging values, when the ability to change is the greatest of all human abilities?

An acorn always grows into an oak tree, but a person can become anything. It’s evolution by design, adaptation by learning. We don’t have to wait for death or mutation to find better solutions. It’s the result of wielding self consciousness like a tool.

Character takes shape like a tangled ball of wool. It’s integrated and wound, knots and all, over time. But with enough time, decision and courage any part can be unravelled and reintegrated differently.

This makes me ultimately mouldable and rescuable.

Can you rescue people from a lack of ideas?
- from a lack of love?
Can you rescue people from themselves?

Of the array of life’s defectives sitting on the shelf, it’s a wise investor who picks me out to take under their wing. I return hope for hope. I promise. My black, greedy eyes are searching out those who feed me even a little of what my potential can be, so that I can grow stronger than they can handle.

I see the hungry future like an eagle flying over the landscape. But reality moves at the pace of evolution, over millions of years, through small accumulations of changes, sedimentary rocks and geological shifts, moving tiny, inching steps forward.

Does the worm writhing in transformation also feel the way I do? Does it struggle to see through the chrysalis its tiny patch of sky? Trapped on this side of what I want to be, claustrophobic. We are arrows of longing shooting for the other shore.

Nothing can happen soon enough because, as the Smiths said, “How soon is now?”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The artistic type

“There are times, when my crimes
Will seem almost unforgivable
I give in, to sin
Because you have to make this life liveable” - Strangelove

This week I’ve been in a strange state of disarray. I took up dancing recently and met someone with the artistic temperament. He’s basically an unpleasant person - bad tempered, unfriendly and inconsistent. But when dancing he becomes totally different – gentle, warm and creative.

This is what always gets me about artistic types. The duality of extremes. You get a glimpse of the naked soul across an abyss of masks that’s impossible to cross. They are trying to reach for themselves, like a mute trying to speak.

There’s a desperation and romanticism in it that captures my imagination. It reaches into my unconscious and rearranges things there. Some connections reach right into your soul, sidestepping all the usual checks and gatekeepers. But it threatens to open boxes in my psyche that I went to a great deal of trouble to close – like the dangerous tendency to rescue.

In the Unbearable Lightness of Being, the soul is described as the crew of a ship that hides, fearful below decks until something or someone calls it forth. I’m normally unashamedly selfish and uninterested in helping other people. But rarely and inconsistently I see sparks of trapped, frustrated potential, beautiful and fragile, and it’s like making sudden eye contact with that fitful crew.

I see myself in my earliest attempts to be a person and to learn to love. I see the same sparks that no one saw in me when I needed it the most.

And then again, I’m interested in desperation. If sex and relationships are only a reflection of who we are, then desperation forms the core (at least for me).

One of my favourite films is The Piano Teacher, famous for its explicit and perverted sex scenes. But people miss the point because it’s not actually about the sex. It’s about the desperation of her hopelessness and lack of control, isolation and inability to connect with any other person in the world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


There’s a great deal of talk about relationships and sex as if it's this fixed concept that can be applied across the board. As if it has rules. But being a relativist as always I think a better analogy for a relationship is a book. Though every book has two covers and letters on a page, the similarities end there. The content of each and every one is different, so is its mood, its depiction of the world, its view of reality.

There are endless possibilities and varieties. Maybe that's why some people are addicted to new relationships. How can you ever read enough books? There is always more to learn.

Similarly sex is not a thing in itself. It can be as complex, and varied and take on as many forms as the individual person who engages in it. It is a mirror held up to the soul. Anything ugly or beautiful in a person, will be reflected and intensified in sex. When people talk about what sex is, I think they're missing the point. Rather I want to ask them, who are you? What can or can't you express?

We are owners of souls like a big house with floors and stairwells and rooms we don't even know exist. The public sitting rooms and master bedroom are for the official spouse (someone who can help you pay the rent), but what about exploring the whole house?

I've always found this duality between appropriate partner material – financially or personality wise – and the inappropriates. But connection has nothing to do with that distinction. It's much wider, more flexible, more capricious than that.

The inappropriates slip in easily by the back door. They take me by the hand down unused corridors and unlocks secret rooms. And inside I look out of a whole new window with a completely different angle on that house, revealing endless facets of myself.

Monogamy is neither natural nor unnatural, it is simply one of many possibilities.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Two Lessons

Recently Iveve taken up two hobbies: running and investing in stocks. They teach me surprising and contrasting lessons about life.

Running is about determination, planning and controlling your life. The stock market is all about unpredictability and not being able to control the wider world.

There's a saying that life's a marathon – I can definitely see how this is true. Running is like a simplified version of life where you can see your self doubt, self sabotage and sheer laziness at work. It's not the running that's hard, it's self management.

At the heart of self management is planning and persistence. Planning gives you a picture of the light at the end of the tunnel so that you don't lose hope. Persistence is simply tolerating immediate frustration to get to the end of the tunnel. Doing something well repeatedly is the key as it forms habit.

Without all the above, which makes up discipline, I realised I wouldn't be able to keep something good in life even if it came along and slapped me.

Actually it's not hard to understand, or even do. But most people trip up at the ‘repeatedly’ part – which is also the most important. I found it almost magical that profound changes in life are made through mundane habits like these.

I guess running is a lesson in how to order our own lives and the space within our control. By contrast the stock market is about complexity and chance.

It's unpredictable because there are so many inputs of information, forming so many combinations of outcomes – just like life itself.

Yet bafflingly it's also highly rational. Every number is based on certain criteria. In the long term there are even patterns, prompting money managers to think they can outperform the market. Of course they consistently fail.

This is also true of life. There seem to be patterns, and yet we can't predict much about the future. Chaos theory and determinists battle it out over whether things happen for a reason, and whether we can control or change fate.

The way to deal with the market is to go with the flow. Obviously it's futile to insist on it doing what I expect it to do. Yet this is what many people expect from life. You can only try to time the market and ride the waves up and down, hoping the millions of other conditions will come together fortuitously to a high. Then you sell your stock and get out quickly before those conditions dissolve again, which it will inevitably.

In life we also need to learn how to shift gears – between hard headed determination, and learning to let go, waiting for the time to be ripe.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Between this world and the next

The lifelong business of self creation involves two things: looking for new possibilities and bringing them into reality.

We are driven to create something new, and uniquely ours – this is evolution by design. We are innately creative.

In imagination we can consciously find new versions of ourselves. But there's a much greater, deeper pool of possibilities contained in the unconscious. To be the most that we can be, we search in these pools of potential and realise them through action. We move constantly between that murky world and the cold light of reality.

Self creation is difficult because it is balancing between two worlds: the imminent and the transcendent. It's all too easy to get lost in one or the other, and madness is the result.


Artists for example live most of the time in potential, with neglected material lives. They explore the realms of possibility until they are lost. Madness in artists is no longer even a surprise.

There's an ingrained romantic myth that living in dreams is somehow more noble than being a materialist. The most famous Chinese novel, "Dream of the Red Chamber," is about the struggle between Taoism and Buddhism (on the side of transcendence), and Confucianism (realism). Like many dreamers the hero gives up the world to become a monk in the end.

But potential is only ever an empty promise until it is realised. It is a ‘nothing’ because nothing exists except in reality. It is a dead end.

Plato dealt in ideal forms – some greater truth out there we can neither see nor touch. Aristotle in contrast collected evidence of what he saw in the real world – and gave birth to science which changed our world beyond our wildest dreams.

There is a complex interplay between imagination and reality – they change each other.


The other example is interesting. Relentlessly materialistic people who spend their lives pursuing wealth and success are just as likely to be unhappy when they get there. This is a different kind of madness – that of never exploring alternatives.

Buddhists say this is the fault of endless desire, even when we get everything, we want more. Therefore they say desire is bad. But I think this is missing the point. Endless desire comes from our endless potential – which is simply a part of human nature.

Desire is the driving force of life and meeting its challenges with grace is the stuff of adulthood.

It's like a tug of war. We can get lost in either world, but for the pull of the other one pulling you back. It's strange how opposites melt into each other. Try to escape from reality through art or religion and you get lost in endless, empty potential. But try to cling to reality and you find it is itself a manifestation of endless potential.

The only real solution is to face endlessness directly.

This requires coming to terms with freedom and choice (more later), which is the only remedy to being lost.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who am I?

Say there was a god that made the world in seven days, including all the animals, and then he made human beings. Each species gets to choose a gift. The cow chooses many stomachs to digest grass, and the big cats want physical strength and agility.

But man chooses something strange and abstract. He chooses adaptability and potential. He is a blank slate on which anything can be written, and from which anything can be formed.

Human nature is like Pandora's Box containing infinite potential, and its slow unpacking is the unfolding of human progress.

But how do these big ideas about human nature help with everyday life?

That's my roommate's complaint when I talk to her about philosophy. "Life is just about two things: finding a good career, and a nice family," she says, being a practical girl who works in finance.

It's simple according to her - but I despise simplicity, and here's why.

When you look at any self evident truth closely they slither and multiply, becoming impossible to pin down.

Finding the right career and the right partner, or even knowing what 'right' means, leads directly to the big, existential questions of who you are and what you're doing with life.

Our adaptability creates many solutions to any problem. If that Pandora's Box is full of mysterious creatures, our various potentials, life involves picking the things you want to unpack from the box.

If we are a blank slate then life is writing a narrative, bringing ideas into black and white from an infinite sea. It's creation of a story and of a person. We are self-creators
and it's our longest, biggest, most complex project.

'Who am I?' is our challenge, and our handiwork. We are all project managers.

Of course complex projects are never easy. It requires discipline, delayed gratification, big picture thinking, and persistence. Many try to escape from the task (more on neurotics later).

This project is also unavoidable because life must have meaning (more on why later).

The idea that human life is inherently suffering has been knocking about in religions since forever. Maybe it's related to this difficult, long, and unavoidable task hanging over our heads, and which comes with the package of human existence.

Imagine how traumatic birth is, but we are constantly being born. Existential self creation is one of the roots of suffering.

A related suffering is how we pick potentials to realise, and which potentials to forgo.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I often define depth as 'sensitivity to complexity,' or what Keats terms 'negative capability.' It's a theme I'll return to again and again, because there's such a bias in conventional thought that the most profound truths are simple.

But why would you say that about human beings, when you wouldn't dream of saying it about space travel?

Yes, space travel.

I make this weird comparison because space travel is the most high complexity technical system we have. And human life is even more complex than that.

Take the Grant Study for example, an extraordinary longitudinal experiment that followed a group of 268 promising Harvard students from 1930 until they died. Their lives turned out to be utterly beyond prediction.

As one NYT columnist said in this article, "There is a complexity to human affairs before which science and analysis simply stands mute."

A good analogy is a PIN number. Just four digits and you can create millions of combinations that a supercomputer couldn't crack. But there are many more than four elements in the make up of a person – like background, physicality, temperament and random experiences.

Societies and economies are even bigger PIN numbers as they combine millions of hugely complex individuals. This is why stock markets, and history itself, is non-predictable.

But that's not all. A ball rolling down a hill has many forces acting on it, and yet science can tease out its basic course by separating and simplifying them all, then adding it back together.

This works well on the physical world, but human nature has the added dimension of free-will. There is a mysterious gap between cause and consequence in human actions that does not exist in the natural world. It's a gap for which, as yet, we have found no tools to investigate.

And it's this mysterious gap that defines human nature, and which I want to explore.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Self rescue

I've always been in the business of self-rescue. Not just self help, or self development but a massive intervention in the cycle of dysfunction, abuse and despair.

But I did it mostly without therapy (and a bankful of money), or the great industry of self help. Instead I leaned on the ancient art of philosophy.

Some people say that in the post-modern world philosophy is dead. But I want to show with this blog that it weaves every strand in the narrative of life.

I've been absent for a while because blogs have been banned here. But the distance was good because I realised I need greater focus.

So I've decided to tackle self development because it's simply a travesty. Commercialization has made it a flippant, shallow industry of new age nonsense and charlatans.

But really changing reality is the most ancient, and complex project undertaken by the human race. It calls on our most profound ability - philosophy - to decisively intervene in the tyranny of fate and nature.

Also I have a problem with shiny, glossy, catchy motto's. They ignore the darkness that give life shape and dimension. Positive psychology reduces the magnificent beast of life into a squeaky, plastic toy.

I want to document the narrow path of change with the abyss lying close on either side.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

..that thing is love

"I'm not frightened, not of anything. The more I suffer the more I love. Danger would only increase my love, sharpen it, give it spice.

I will be the only angel you need. You will leave life even more beautiful than when you entered it."

- The Reader

I've been thinking about love in a relationship, and desire. It struck me these are quite different things. A long term relationship, by definition, has to be practical and maintainable. It's like finding a joint venture partner. It's about the practicalities of how you want to live and where you want to end up. But desire is a totally different beast.

Desire ignores appropriateness because it worships different laws.

It is that door at the end of that corridor one flight up and at the back of your house.

It answers the siren call of black holes that were never filled.
Things lost and paths not taken.

Why would any of these things coincide with practicality?

They say in this sex obsessed society, that you can have one night stands, but it won't make up for a real relationship. What about the things real relationships can't possibly cover? It's far more than sex.

The French knew the lost art of the 'Affair' - and the difference between an affair and a one night stand is like the difference between a French Arthouse film and a porn film.

A haunting book I read once about love was titled simply, "Open the Door!"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Metropolis I

Big metropolises are a special world unto themselves, especially Asian metropolises where the forces of development, inequality and globalization come together. What does this do to the individual? I wanted to write a series of vignettes to explore this issue, but then days of self loathing got in the way. Inspiration comes and goes, and self doubt steps in to fill the remaining minutes and hours and days. Anyway I finished the first one of the series, based loosely on a conversation I had on the top floor of the Jinmao Tower. Comments welcome.

So many aspects to look at...


Clinking between cocktail glass and gold clad table, 85 stories above the city. We were laughing absurdly, carefree at the top of the world. For once the blur of speeding highways that took me from party to party, bar to bar wasn't an echo of bleeding loneliness. A wide-eyed companion was by my side and we moved at the speed of light, with the beat of the metropolis, hearts pulsating neon.

He looked out of 360 degree windows at the man made world glittering madly outside. The skyscrapers were alien giants winking lewdly back at us. "This view is amazing," he said. He was leaving in two days. "It's my favourite place here, and I wanted to show you." He turned to me with dark eyes holding something as other-worldly as the night outside.

I turned away. My absurdly expensive rings clinked against my absurdly expensive cocktail. "It's progress, and potential," I said turning the conversation to the abstract, "but pursuing potential is not the same as happiness."

His eyes refused to let go, "potential for what?" he asked.

And that's when I knew he really was an innocent who believed there was a difference. Potential for good, potential for evil.


In the spring of years ago I arrived - it was bitterly cold but bright. I was one of a great movement from countryside to city. The girls used to giggle, "maybe a rich city boy will fall in love with us." Our fertile, human hearts couldn't help receiving the seeds of spring.

But in the great seas and seas of human lives I soon realised I was just another dot. And in the crowded dormitories shared with ten other girls, snoring loudly after days of backbreaking work, I stared at the dark patches where paint had peeled and rust had come through on the bed posts.

I thought of my days in the countryside - escaping from school to steal oranges and dropping out at 16 with dreams of the city. My grandparents who lived with their illnesses because it was a choice between medical fees and eating. And I thought of the sister after me given away because she was a girl and there were already too many girls in the world.

And I knew I had nothing to offer.

But this machine of concrete limbs and fleshy heart pumped on, its metal mouth gaping open and hungry.


He was from a wealthy family, but he never talked about it as if he never cared. His mind was on other things and he threw away his birthright like handfuls of gold dust. I clutched my low cut designer dress - always successful - and the white gold necklace a gift from another man. All of it suddenly felt cheap. Like I had taken my
mother's heirloom to a pawnshop and got back two dirty notes.

"What happened to you?" he asked.

In all our previous 24 hours together he had asked questions, one after the other. Breathlessly curious it was all new to him, as if his imagination could devour all the night stars blazing. He thought he could uncover the truth about this convulsing human mass with just his open, searching heart. But it was he who brought humanity within him to our gaudily lit farce.

I tried to think of a plausible story. But what came out was the most impossible yarn, yearning to tell the truth.

"My family and I were moving to a better place, and we packed everything we owned on a boat," I fabricated, talking through layers and layers of years wasted and steps taken from that first spring.

"On the sea the boat sank, taking everything and all their lives. Except me. I survived on a tiny boat, just me between endless sky and endless sea."

The metropolis was waiting for me, always waking, arms and legs open. Every weekend a one night stand that I called paradise.

"When you have lost everything important, and still survived," I heard myself say through the giddyness of the height and the alcohol and the glittering madness, "you realise you never needed it in the first place."

He listened. He had no answers.

So eager was he to pose questions he never listened to the replies. That was the ephemeral nature of his being, his questions, and his passing through.

But he paused then.

And the heart of the machine missed a beat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My muse

I found my muse.. a fact I can't talk about in real life so it's spilling onto my virtual world. A guy so deliciously unsuitable, and yet so poetic. A person I met in the depths of the Chinese winter, and who melted my heart. But by spring who knows if I'll need him anymore as the whole world thaws. That's the tragedy of muses.

He's a migrant worker, the lowest of all classes in this class concious society. But his spirit is unbroken, unlike these pampered, white collar kids who have grown up as emperors in their families. He has a wild streak, and yet no opportunities. He's smart but vulnerable and he remembers every single thing I said. I find the differences between us endlessly fascinating. I want to go with him to his native Henan province, see what it's like to grow up close to nature and the community.

We met at Christmas time, and when I came back to my real life to go to the parties, sip the drinks, and pretend to laugh with the people in my world all I could thinkk about was, "life has got to be more than this." I was just bored, bored, bored without the struggle and the injustice that opened a window into what really mattered, and who I could be.

But I don't have the courage to go forward with this. I'm a coward and a hypocrite and a liar. There's a reason why middle class Chinese people treat these workers like they're not human. There's too many people and too few resources in this country. Wasted lives and wasted potential is just par the course.

There's a danger to treating everyone like a human being. You can be polite and generous to the lowly waitress, or the scruffy builder but it's only at the very basic end of treating someone like a human being. At the other end is falling in love.

I don't want to fall for someone that can't even afford a coffee. Sounds bad but how can it possibly work? And it's worse because I know I'm capable of falling this way, ever since I decided to follow my heart.

It couldn't possibly end well.. and yet I am a moth to a flame.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The road less travelled

Everyone remembers these two lines from the Robert Frost poem, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - took the one less traveled by."

But I looked at the poem recently and the more important part is the verse above:

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

When I was at my soul destroying finance job many people advised me to stay there for three years, get a professional qualification and then pursue my dreams. Others justified their lives there by dreaming about some vague time after retirement.

In my mind this is about as logical as planning to marry a rich man, wait til he dies and leaves you all his money before marrying the poor painter you're in love with.

But this simple minded solution was an incredibly difficult and frustrating thing to argue against, because it papers over a point that no one wants to hear. The point made in that verse - that choices lead to other choices and you will never come back to that fork in the road again. It's impossible to keep the other road for another day.

It's impossible to have it both ways. And nowadays, that's a very controversial thing to say.

I recently met an aspiring, female writer in her late twenties. She was looking for a husband, and with it all the trappings of surburban respectability - 2.4 children, house and white picket fence. She concluded that the only way to have it all is to find a highly paid businessman who would support her while she writes. In her words "there can be only one artist in the family."

I wanted to shake this woman so hard - she's symptomatic of all that's wrong in the world.

What kind of writing would she produce with this kind of set up, this kind of mentality? Maybe she'd write great chick lit about women finding rich husbands. A conventional life produces conventional work. She didn't seem to understand that her means have defeated the ends because writing is a mirror for the soul.

Being an idealist, an artist, means really living on the edge of life, reporting back from the extremes of human experience. The edge of the abyss.

For me it's not about being a writer, it's about being that type of person. Writing is only the wrapping for a present. Too often I read bloggers who want to be writers with long, winding entries that have nothing to say, no point to make. Like a gorgeous present that's empty when opened.

I blame in part the relentless consumerism of modern life that tells us we should have it all because we're worth it, and we can have it all if only we try hard enough. But in that case what's the meaning of decisions? How do you find out who you are? Or what is worthwhile vs what's not?

The road less travelled leads to inbalance, and I'm struggling to accept my choice. To be unafraid of extreme experiences, and to not require the conventional.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year, Old Problems

... and here's is my problem in a nutshell:

"they danced down the street together like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, beause the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop"
- On the Road

On a brighter note, one of my new year resolutions for 2009 is to enter a ktv competition! (which I'm actually quite good at) followed by visions of me making a side-living crooning at jazz bars...