Thursday, January 29, 2009

The contender

[Yes, I'm on a pre-Oscar viewing-and-reviewing rampage, thanks to my fellow Hollywood hound John Tan, who burned me copies of almost all the nominated films (love you John!).]

The past few years, the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture have included at least one little-movie-that-could, usually an indie flick or critical darling that becomes the perceived dark horse, posing a potential threat to the bigger, more box-office friendly entries. Last year it was Juno; the year before, Little Miss Sunshine, and the year before that, Crash (which stole the Oscar from Brokeback Mountain, much to my consternation). This year's underdog is, aptly enough, Slumdog Millionaire, a Cinderella story of a boy named Jamal who grows up in the slums of Mumbai, then winds up a contestant on India's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" through a set of tragic/comic/romantic circumstances. As if by fate, each question asked on the game show is somehow related to a memory or experience from Jamal's colorful, chaotic, cruel life, and flashbacks are interspersed throughout the movie to piece together the events that shaped him.

I was prepared to be disappointed with Slumdog, given all the (what I thought was overblown) pre-Oscar hype surrounding it, not to mention its unexpected win for Best Motion Picture - Drama at the Golden Globes. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how thoroughly charming and entertaining a film it is. From the remarkably talented cast of relative unknowns (all Indian), to the novel and engaging plot, to the impressively captivating cinematography, to the superb direction, I couldn't find fault with Slumdog, even with its improbable fairy tale premise. Ultimately, it's a feel-good movie, but it is also poignant, even heart-breaking at times, with none of the sentimentality or sanctimoniousness that tend to suffuse Hollywood dramas. There is also an unself-conscious quality about Slumdog, a refreshing honesty that makes all the emotions of joy, pain, anger and love all the more real, and buoys the movie throughout. Right down to the obligatory Bollywood-style dance number that accompanies the closing credits, I loved every facet of this cinematic gem.

Props to British director Danny Boyle (the mad genius behind Trainspotting) for his fine work adapting Indian author Vikas Swarup's story to film, and yet not imposing his Western orientation on what is very much an Indian movie at heart. Kudos too must go to co-director and casting director Loveleen Tandan, who I suspect was instrumental in bringing Slumdog Millionaire to life, if only because of the terrific cast she assembled. The child actors who play Jamal, his older brother Salim, and Jamal's childhood friend and long-lost sweetheart Atika give wonderfully natural, convincing performances, while the older actors who play the three main characters, particularly Dev Patel who plays Jamal, also acquit themselves well. Veteran Hindi actor Anil Kapoor deserves special mention for his expert turn as the slick game show host who tries to unnerve the young protagonist. In hindsight, Slumdog's cast did rightfully earn the Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture... although I have yet to see Milk and Doubt, so perhaps I should reserve judgment until then.

In any case, I think Slumdog Millionaire has an excellent shot at snatching Best Picture honors from its "heavier" competition, and I wouldn't mind seeing such an upset this time. After all, it would only be a fitting result for this underdog of an underdog movie.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Simply put, Frost/Nixon is a truly good movie. Not blockbuster material, but a solid, good film that will stand scrutiny from all angles. One gets a sense of how far Ron Howard has come as a director in the capable way he handles such a heavy subject. Retellings of historical political drama-- fictionalized or otherwise-- tend to be dreary, unentertaining stuff, especially when presented in a faux documentary format, as in this movie. But not only does Howard effectively translate to film Peter Morgan's stage play about British TV host David Frost's landmark interview with deposed American president Richard Nixon, he also elicits great performances from his powerhouse cast, particularly from erstwhile unrecognized Frank Langella, who plays Nixon with a ferocity I never knew he possessed. More impressive than fellow Best Actor nominee Brad Pitt's restrained acting in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Langella's turn as the disgraced Nixon is magnetic, from his oh-so-subtle yet oh-so-eloquent facial expressions, to getting Nixon's rumbly, growly voice and signature mannerisms down pat without making them seem like a comic impersonation.

The only distraction in the movie for me was Kevin Bacon, who was cast as Nixon's loyal right-hand man Jack Brennan. Not that the fabulous Mr. Bacon didn't deliver (indeed, I believe he remains one of the most underappreciated actors of our time). He just seemed an incongruous fit for the role. On the contrary, I was delighted to see the prodigiously talented Sam Rockwell get some much-deserved screen time as author James Reston Jr., who in Howard's version of the tale behind Frost and Nixon's televised duel helped the former dig up dirt on the latter. Also, British hottie Matthew MacFadyen (of Pride and Prejudice fame), virtually unrecognizable as Frost's producer John Birt, was a welcome addition to the ensemble.

And it would be grossly unfair to review Frost/Nixon without making mention of Michael Sheen (not MARTIN Sheen, but the British dude who played Tony Blair from 2006's magnificent Helen Mirren-starrer The Queen). Sheen portrayed ambitious, cocky showboat David Frost with a certain vulnerability and lovability that kept me rooting for him in spite of Nixon's apparent intellectual superiority in their battle of wits. Well done, old chap.

Frost/Nixon is one of those serious "talking" movies that merits all the award nominations it has received, but barring any shockers, probably won't win anything major (though I reiterate that Langella totally kicked Pitt posterior, as fine a posterior as it may be). I was surprised that I enjoyed the movie as much as I did, and though it won't become a commercial hit (if they show it here in brain activity-averse Manila at all
), I highly recommend it to anyone who's a fan of political history, and good, solid film-making. I give it two Nixon V-for-victory signs, and four and a half stars.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Moot and academic?

"I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing." - Neil Gaiman

I came across this quote in my student Jo's blog. Now, I'm a Gaiman fan, and though I'm a former teacher, I too subscribe to the belief that there are many, many things school does not teach a person, and that often what one learns outside the classroom is far more valuable than what are printed in textbooks or asked in exams.
But I bristled at the last line of the above quote. I'm sure Mr. Gaiman did not mean to dis formal education as a whole (he wouldn't be a world-famous author if he hadn't learned to read and write in school, would he?), but I do wish he had phrased it differently. Maybe it's also because I am a former teacher, but I think school unfairly gets a bad rap as it is, without having Gaiman dismissing it as insignificant. We have athletes who forego college for careers in pro sports, movie stars who achieve fame and fortune sans even a high school diploma, tycoons who establish business empires with nothing but a degree from the school of hard knocks... and in a push-button age where technology makes everything ridiculously easy and convenient, we are raising a generation of complacent, lazy kids who regard school as a mere chore and necessary-- if not unnecessary-- evil.

This scornful attitude toward school is increasingly apparent in students' shoddy study habits AND ethics, shockingly poor literacy and communication skills, lack of respect for teachers, and lack of respect for rules set by the administration. What's worse is that instead of pushing these youngsters harder, schools lower their standards for them, resulting in a continuously devolving educational system. They cut class hours, set gentler and kinder rules, give easier exams, curve grades, and look the other way when cheating happens. As if it's not bad enough governments worldwide don't prioritize problems involving education-- sometimes it's the educators themselves who are contributing to perpetuating the idea that school is really not such a big deal. Not when you can Google and Wikipedia everything these days.

When I was still teaching, I tried to impress on my students that in the long run, in the so-called "real world", grades won't matter. Grades don't measure intelligence, much less the real worth of a person. But I was always careful not to belittle the value of a good education. Because while it's true that some of what is taught in school is meaningless bullcrap that cannot be applied in life, the process of sifting through all that bullcrap builds character and develops skills which WILL come in handy after graduation. And like it or not, one's scholastic track record says something about a person-- that he had put in the time and effort to pass all his classes, that he had strove for self-improvement,
that he had attained growth intellectually, socially and culturally in an environment of serious study and learning.

Jo had quoted Gaiman as a reaction to "the other extreme (i.e. snooty academic types [who] look down on people without a scholastic pedigree)." I definitely agree there are those who think a couple of letters appended to their name elevate them to some sort of demigod status, and I plead guilty to scoffing at the notion that having an MA or MBA automatically makes one better equipped in his chosen field. Diplomas mean jack when one can't back them up with actual skills or concrete achievements. And an asshole with a PhD is still an asshole.

But the Gaiman quote made me realize that while higher learning may not prepare us for the truly important things in life, school still teaches us SOME stuff worth knowing. It may not seem that way to students suffering through interminable, insomnia-curing lectures and migraine-triggering tests, but in the long run, in the real world, what they pick up in school does count for something.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Red Mango: the real fro-yo deal

Yesterday, after attending a meeting at TriNoma, I took some time out of conducting store visits to drop by Red Mango, the newest and perhaps most notable addition to the passel of frozen yogurt purveyors in the country. I say "notable" because Red Mango has the distinction of being the pioneer fro-yo chain from Korea that spawned many copycat chains in the US. What sets Red Mango apart and above the rest is that its frozen yogurt is all-natural, non-fat, and not powder-based (most fro-yo brands pass off the powdered stuff as "yogurt" when it actually doesn't contain the live, active cultures natural yogurt has).

With the fro-yo fad taking the US by storm, it was only a matter of time before it hit our shores. I've noticed nowadays frozen yogurt is becoming an increasingly popular, healthier alternative to sinful ice creams and decadent desserts
(my friend Yang and my student Rach are self-confessed fro-yo junkies). With its arrival in Manila, Red Mango is bound to raise the fro-yo phenomenon to the next level. Now, I would cut off my left arm before I'd ever forsake ice cream, but I must say, of all the frozen yogurts I've tasted so far, Red Mango is the only one that could make me consider replacing my favorite sweet treat. I sampled both the Original and Green Tea variants of their frozen yogurt, and they were surprisingly, delightfully creamy (and I mean creamy, not your run-of-the-mill soft-serve stuff). They also hit the ideal balance of tart and sweet, and as I licked my spoon clean I thought, hey I could seriously get hooked on this. I preferred the Green Tea yogurt, and ordered a 4 oz. cup topped with strawberries and mangoes. The mangoes were a little too sour for my liking, but the strawberries were perfect, just like the yogurt.

Pricing is pretty reasonable, given the excellent quality of the product. A small cup (4 oz.) is P80, medium (6 oz.) is P115, and large (8 oz.) is P150. There's also a "family" size for P220 (12 oz.). Toppings come at P20 for one, P30 for two, and P40 for three. Red Mango offers an impressive assortment of fruit toppings (there's even pomelo!), as well as cereal, chocolate chips, crushed graham crackers and nuts to jazz up their frozen yogurt.

If I hadn't been in a hurry it would have been nice to have had my fro-yo served in one of Red Mango's pretty bowls and with one of their cute dessert spoons. Also, I would have loved to try the Banana Almond Waffle (topped with yogurt cream cheese, yum). I will have to make more time during my next visit to TriNoma just for that! The design and set-up of the open dining area are inviting, and the red chairs are very comfy-- making it even more tempting to just sit for hours and enjoy multiple servings of fro-yo.

I'd also like to commend the service of Red Mango's counter staff. Not only did they cheerfully and thoroughly answer all my pesky questions, while I was waiting they invited me to take a seat and offered me a drink of water.
They're only on their soft opening, but the operations seemed to be as smooth as the frozen yogurt they were serving.

Red Mango is on the 3rd floor of TriNoma,
in front of Fitness First and Toys R Us. They will soon be opening their second branch in Megamall building A (ground floor, beside Bread Talk), followed by a third in the new Eastwood Mall (2nd floor, right behind Arrow). Looks like I now have a good reason to look forward to store visits in at least three malls.

[photos courtesy of the multi-talented Mylene Chung]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A letter to Barack Obama on my 28th birthday

Dear President Obama:

Today, on my birthday, the world is celebrating something far more significant than the anniversary of my birth. Even I am regarding this day as not mine, but yours. For today you embark on an incredible journey that I with my 28 years of life experience cannot fully apprehend, and would never dare undertake.

I have long admired you, but now I find myself in awe of you. Today you accept an enormous responsibility, one that has grown exponentially not just since your country went into economic recession, but as far back as when your esteemed predecessor made the brilliant decision of going to war. Today you are knowingly and willingly inheriting a nation on the brink of some form of collapse, which makes you either the biggest idiot in modern America's history (second to George W. Bush), or its potential messiah.

You are also sacrificing perhaps a bit more than the presidents who went before you, for you face a very real danger from people who refuse to come to terms with an African-American president. And yet today you are officially putting your security and safety, and that of your family's, at risk in order to lead your country during this very trying time, no matter how thankless the job or bleak the outlook.

For all I know, you might be clueless, confused, and absolutely terrified as you assume office. But today, at least, I am certain you will once more display the quiet confidence and calm sagacity that belie your relative inexperience, and that have inspired the billions who witnessed the remarkable campaign you ran in 2008. Yes, throughout your term as president, you will feel lost and helpless. You will falter, and you will fail on occasion. You may, tragically, even fall. But because the fears and apprehensions of your nation and the international community are being thrust upon you, today you will be brave enough for all of us. Today we need you to be brave for all of us.

Today, even as I turn another year older, you make me feel young, because you make me feel hopeful. You have restored in a generation of cynics to which I belong the ability to believe once more-- in change, in progress, in unity, in human decency. You have reminded us that yes we can grasp possibility, yes we can create our own destiny, yes we can make a difference. You have rekindled our passion and given us renewed reason to care, beyond our individual lives and our own countries. Today, you stand as a symbol of all that's right with the world, even as everything is going so patently wrong.

I sometimes wonder if I am not more than a little foolish in my hero worship of you, especially considering I'm not even American. But in my fellow Filipinos, I see the same admiration and respect for you. Yes, Mr. President, this is how far-reaching your influence and inspiration are: today, the people of a Third World island nation in Asia are cheering you on, looking to you for the ideals and principles and moral character that we no longer find in our own government leaders. You represent what should be, and what could be. Today, more than ever, the scrutinizing eye of the world is trained on you. And more importantly, today, the world pins its
collective faith and hopes on you.

Today is not so much my birthday as it is yours, for with your inauguration as President of the United States, people across the globe who still hold fast to the values of democracy, liberty, equality and integrity are wishing you well, and celebrating that you exist as a living example of those values. Today we salute you, all that you might become, and all that you might help us become. And today, in turn, gives birth to a tomorrow that could be better and brighter for all of us.

Because of you, Mr. President, today is a happy birthday.

Sincerely yours,
Aileesa Lim
Manila, Philippines

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bookworm's (belated) progress report #4, 2008

Last year was not such a good year for this bookworm. I only crossed off 16 books from my reading list, which is a respectable number, but not as impressive when compared to 2007's output of 20 (26 if I count Books 1 to 6 of the Harry Potter series, which I reread prior to reading Book 7). Moreover, the books I read in 2007 were much more... substantial. In 2008, I indulged in lighter fare like Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, and The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. I also started and stalled on John Updike's Rabbit, Run... twice. The book's just so thick that it's impractical to bring it with me on trips, so I kept bypassing it for slimmer volumes. I hate it when I can't make any headway on a book, but this is even more frustrating because I already have the entire Rabbit series, so that's 4 books I have on indefinite standby that I actually want to finish.

Hopefully the pace of my leisure reading picks up in 2009.
I also want to improve on the quality of my reading selections, so I should forego trivial novels (although I might make some time for Brisingr and *gag* Twilight) and prioritize "important" titles I've been meaning to read for a while now.

In the meantime, here are my reviews of the last 3 books I managed to finish in 2008:

American Psycho

Not since Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted has a book elicited an almost physical reaction of disgust from me. Bret Easton Ellis' critically acclaimed masterpiece features a protagonist so seriously disturbed, there's a sense of surrealism one gets reading about the casual, almost careless way he goes about sadistically mutilating and murdering people. Scarier still is the dissonant double life Patrick Bateman leads: spoiled rich kid by day, sick violent psycho by night. Bateman is obsessed with designer labels, personal grooming, working out at the gym, making reservations at New York's finest restaurants, scoring drugs at the hippest clubs, screwing the hottest "hardbodies", and getting the precise shade of white for his business card. The ludicrous superficiality of his lifestyle provides a stark contrast to the inhumanity of the grisly acts he commits. Set in the 80s, American Psycho is chock full of familiar pop culture references and brand names, but it is unsettling precisely because everything is so familiar, and to an extent, relatable-- if not having intimate knowledge of the decadence and depravity of Bateman's life, then at the very least harboring the unspoken desire for such. The American Dream masks the American Psycho within all of us.

I was expecting more from Bret Easton Ellis' writing, since he's such a celebrated author, but I wasn't blown away. I'm guessing I'll need to read another of his novels to get a more accurate assessment of whether or not his style works for me. With this book, his most popular, I was too engrossed (and grossed out) by the content to focus on the form. All things considered though, it was a stimulating read, in more ways than one.

Gods Behaving Badly

I bought this book by Marie Phillips because I'm a sucker for anything that has to do with Greek mythology, and I found the author's premise amusing: the mighty gods of Olympus, their powers severely depleted after centuries of overuse and abuse (and lack of mortal believers), have been relegated to living in a rundown flat in London, working ordinary jobs and getting on one another's nerves just like any ordinary dysfunctional family. Then they hire a human house-cleaner, and things get even crazier. Beyond the cute concept, I wasn't really impressed by Phillips'
amateurish writing, and the plot complications were a bit lame, like something out of a corny British sitcom. But the witty references to mythology and smart use of the gods' personalities kept it entertaining enough to satisfy the Grecophile in me.

The Complete Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel is truly a gem, and my favorite read of 2008. Persepolis offers a very personal, poignant perspective of growing up in Iran during the 70s and 80s, a turbulent time for the now much-maligned nation. Satrapi shows us a different Iran, an Iran where loving families and good men and women live, an Iran with educated individuals and independent thinkers, an Iran that is home to people who are not very different from you and I. That Satrapi is female lends her story added pathos, particularly in the way she depicts her resentment over having to wear the oppressive veil, and her coming to terms with her self-identity and sexuality in spite of cultural taboos.

Aside from her straightforward and unsentimental writing style, Satrapi's black-and-white art also pleases. Both her words and drawings are at times funny, at times melancholic, and always engaging. I look forward to watching the film adaptation to see if it captures the charm and candor of Satrapi's comics. I highly recommend reading Persepolis to gain a fresh outlook on Iran's modern history and culture, as well as the beliefs and ideologies of its people. And Marjane Satrapi really has had an extraordinary life to write-- and draw-- about.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pushes almost all the right buttons

Any idiot making a movie about a man who becomes younger in appearance as he grows older would know that casting Brad Pitt in the lead role is the only obvious option, if only because watching Brad Pitt age backwards is almost a religious experience. As the titular character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad's transformation from wizened old man-child to smooth-faced Adonis is glorious to behold. Yes, his acting (which has improved significantly in recent years) is to be credited too, but more than anything this film reminds the world that Brad Pitt is one helluva gorgeous guy.

Now that I've wiped the drool off my chin, let's buckle down to business. I found the Hollywood adaptation of Benjamin Button engaging and enjoyable (what with the eye candy and all), but was a bit underwhelmed by the movie as a whole, given its slew of Golden Globe nominations and the pre-Oscar buzz it's generating. It didn't help that while watching,
I couldn't quite shake off the nagging thought that it was like Forrest Gump all over again: a protagonist who is "special", raised by a doting mother, sets off on a journey of self-discovery and in pursuit of the childhood sweetheart he never forgot. Granted, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his short story about Benjamin decades before Winston Groom finished his novel about Forrest (which makes me question Groom's originality), but the latter's film adaptation having had a 14-year headstart takes some of the novelty off the former's movie version.

Moreover, while I got teary-eyed several times throughout the movie, I never got to turn on the waterworks full blast. Even the most emotional moments seemed to lack that extra oomph to set me off (although a girl seated beside me in the theater had to bring out her Kleenex). Maybe it was the
the lack of a pivotal power scene, or the languid Southern drawls the actors were speaking in, but I was never really wowed at any point.

Nevertheless, I did appreciate the controlled and nuanced performances delivered by the cast, particularly by Taraji P. Henson, who's come a long way from playing the short-lived Whitney from Boston Legal. As Benjamin's adoptive mother, she exuded warmth minus the gooey sentimentality, spunk sans the sass, and strength without the overbearing manner both reel- and real-life moms tend to have. Brad, as I've mentioned, has grown as a thespian and proved it in this potentially award-winning turn as the odd-but-charming tragic hero, although he still occasionally slipped into a blandness that luckily for him can easily be overlooked, simply because he's so effing hot. And then there's the always magnificent Cate Blanchett, who is one of my favorite actresses because of her majestic onscreen presence. She was absolutely, startlingly beautiful as Benjamin's beloved Daisy (
mad props go to the brilliant makeup artists of this movie), and thanks to her naturally regal bearing and demeanor, Cate is thoroughly believable as a ballerina (props also go to the people behind the seamless editing for helping her pull it off). Cate also showed surprisingly good chemistry with Brad, so the romantic angle to the story was bolstered by it.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button may have fallen slightly short of my expectations, but I will give it this much distinction: it's been a while since I last saw a movie that made my chest tighten with sympathy pain, and perhaps even more than tears, that is testament to how much it moved me, and how effective it was as a love story. In that department at least, Benjamin gives Forrest a run for his money.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Worth the waste

"Out of sight, out of mind." This phrase came up in conversation recently with a friend based abroad, and the same concept was mentioned again in a YM exchange with my homegirl Ria last night. I find it all too true that when someone is not around, it is easy to forget to care. Presence is such an important factor in a relationship, which is partly why I don't believe in long-distance ones. It is also why one of the truths I hold most dear and try to live by is that immortal line from The Little Prince: "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.... You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." Over the years I've learned that cultivating relationships calls for investing time and effort-- time and effort "wasted" on showing up to a barkada dinner or family gathering, sending and replying to emails and text messages, organizing a high school reunion or a friend's despedida... they serve to strengthen and enrich the bonds among friends and loved ones. And I consider that time and effort well wasted.

A former student remarked that I seem to be "glowing" in my Christmas and New Year photos, and while her presumption was the usual "Are you dating someone?", I attribute it to the flush of joy that comes with the holidays, when one is surrounded by family and friends. Last December was particularly joyful because I met up with so many people I haven't seen in ages, and some whom I never get tired of seeing: Bev came home to Manila for the first time in 6 years; I sat in Sir Tirol's HI166 class; Mini-me and I had coffee during the short time she was in town from Lah-lah Land; AP-Annex, the TRAK stars and Rated R got together; I had lunch with my fellow former Philam MAs on the day before Mark left for the US; Chef actually showed up to our LM post-Christmas dinner with balikbayans Pia and Inigo; the Lim clan got together for Sa-pe's birthday lunch; I attended Gerry's wedding; and Auntie Nene spent New Year's with us in Baguio. So much time and energy wasted on so many roses. Who wouldn't be glowing?

But as Ria pointed out to me, it needn't always be physical presence. It's enough to get a sense of being there for each other in spite of distance. The other night I got to speak on the phone with my dear "twin" and former co-teacher Tangsoc, who gave birth to a bouncing baby boy last December 30 in New Jersey. Hearing Tangsoc's signature raspy voice brought back a flood of warm memories of our shared days in ICA, and it was wonderful to be reminded that we've managed to remain friends while living in two polar time zones. So I guess "out of sight" doesn't apply all the time, as long as there's the motivation to reach out and reconnect through any way available.

A week into 2009 and I'm just starting to recover from the endless parade of parties and get-togethers that filled my holidays with cheer and gave me that nice "glow". But the physical fatigue's a small price I was more than glad to pay. I've always valued my friendships, but it's only been the past few years when I've made the conscious effort to work at being a better friend. It's tiring, at times frustrating, and often consuming (time- and self-), but in the end, it's always worth it.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Facing down my fears

New year's resolutions are not really my style, but I've decided that this year I'm going to at least try to get over the following things that scare me:
  • driving
  • babies
  • schmoozing with strangers
  • hugging
  • letting go
I just came to the realization that at my age, it's ridiculous to still be afraid of maneuvering a vehicle (because I might hit something) or carrying an infant (because I might break it) or coming into close physical contact with someone (because... well I don't know why, really). And I really have to learn how to warm up to people I meet for the first time (if only for the practical reason that my work calls for it), and also how to deal with saying goodbye to certain people, items, and hang-ups (if only for the reason that I'm not getting any younger and I can't keep carrying all that back-breaking baggage).

I don't know if I will be able to conquer my fears, or at least manage to quell them, but it will be interesting to see how I fare, and how my life changes as a result.

Have a fear-free year, everyone.