Reading The Bible Every Day

I’ve read the Bible with Jenine once a day for the entirety of 2018. We’re on day seventy-eight. They say it takes ninety day to make a habit, but it already feels quite habitual. I realized that no matter how busy I am, if I make it a priority, I can always take less than ten minutes to read a few passages of Scripture.

The fun part about reading it with Jenine is that I get to experience it through her eyes. See, this is her first time reading the entire book. I accidentally spoiled that Jesus rose from the dead, but she didn’t mind.

Dang, this “writing every day” thing is getting tiring. Especially when I approach the blank screen with nothing on my mind. I need to go to the new Pacific Rim movie premiere in a few minutes, so gotta make this quick.

We’re doing the chronological Bible reading plan, so I’m trudging through the Old Testament rules and laws right now. It can get a bit boring. If I wasn’t reading with a partner, I might’ve lost motivation. It’s true. Yet in a day and age where many preach a God of love and leave out the wrath, it’s a good reminder of who God truly is, and not who we want Him to be.

Yes, some of the rules are strange and archaic. But they’re not scary. Instead, it makes me more curious. What about the nature of God have I not yet discovered? Seeking these answers is, in a way, my life’s purpose.

That certainty makes me confident. Alright, reading the bible and writing every day. My two new habits that will define 2018 for me. I’m already wondering, how different will I be at the end of the year compared to the beginning because of these new habits?

Only time will tell.

Josh out.

Pornography: Apples and Cookies (repost)

Welp. I finally missed a day, and I’m about to miss another one. I have a VFX project and editing project due tomorrow, so when I say I need to hustle…I actually need to hustle.

I’m not going to do this often, but for today I’m reposting an old blog post from about three years ago. I was going to write about porn anyways, but what I wrote here was pretty good and I wasn’t sure if I could top it in the fifteen minutes I have left to spare today. Anyhoo. Back to work.

Josh out.


I once saw a video on GodTube (yes, that exists) on how to deal with porn addiction. An enthusiastic pastor held out one hand and said, “Imagine a cookie. Satan’s handing you a cookie and telling you that you’ll like this.” The pastor switched hands and continued, “Now imagine God handing you an apple and telling you that this will be good for you. I promise you, if you imagine this every time you’re tempted to view pornography, you will overcome your addiction.”

I love cookies. Cookies are delicious. Especially the white chocolate chip ones. I don’t know how white chocolate chip is different from regular chocolate chip, but I just get more excited when I eat them.

Clearly that analogy didn’t work for me. If it works for Mr. Apple Loving Pastor or anyone else, great. But I feel like overcoming addiction is more complicated than tricking your brain into liking apples.

When I was fourteen, I started working at my grandma’s office. I made sure people paid their rent, helped with the computer stuff…and looked at porn online. It was my first time having unlimited access and freedom to check out naked women. My parents weren’t around. My grandma would work in the other room. I almost gave the computer a virus.

Every so often, you come across a dilemma in which the choice you make, a single choice, will forever alter the trajectory of your life. For me, that choice was to ‘fess up to my dad about my addiction. I would miss hanging out with my grandma, getting paid at the end of the week, and interacting with tenants, but fourteen-year-old Josh decided his morality was worth it.

My dad was reading the Bible in his bedroom alone. I nudged the door open. It creaked. “Dad? I have something to tell you.”

What transpired was one of the most defining moments I’ve had with my father. Instead of berating me, he helped me understand what I was feeling. No punishment, no condemnation, just love and acceptance. Sure, I’d have to quit the job, but I understood why. Often, we win or lose our battles before they begin. If I were to start breaking free of my addiction, I needed to avoid situations where I was prone to watch porn.

I’ll always be grateful to my dad for guiding me through the first step. But it was far from the end of the battle.

In an attempt to escape addiction, I got involved in ministry. It helped a lot, knowing that if I was responsible for the spiritual welfare of others, I should at least be somewhat spiritually healthy myself. Yet every couple weeks, I’d find myself falling back into the same vicious cycle. “Okay Josh, from this moment on, you are NOT doing that again.”

Fast forward one month later. “Really Josh? Are you kidding me? You are leading worship in a few weeks, get your act together!” Mondays were opportune moments to view porn. Then I’d have an entire week to get holy with God before Sunday came around. Ridiculous, yes. But it worked. I’d totally fall in love with God one morning, then check out a set of boobs the next. Ministry, while positive in all sorts of ways, only served as a temporary distraction from my porn battle. For years, I was stuck in a cycle of watching porn, then serving God, watching porn, then serving God. It eventually became depressing, causing me to believe that I’d be struggling with this until the day I died.

Writing that last paragraph disgusted me. Some of you may be wondering why I’m bothering to cover this topic. It’s safe to say a majority of us deal or have dealt with pornography. So why not talk about it? Problems remain problems when they’re kept secret. Darkness, when exposed to light, is vanquished. Simple as that.

So how did I eventually overcome my lust? I won’t lie and say I’ve been completely victorious and in control, but I struggle less with it after recognizing that porn was never the real problem.

I once heard a pastor say that if you’re dealing with lust, look out for anger. Keeping track of when I felt most susceptible to binge-watching XXX vids, I realized I’d often watch porn when I was resentful or bitter, especially toward my dad. Whenever I was pissed at him, the one who taught me to flee temptation, I googled naked women as if to spite him. Or maybe some crappy life events had just occurred and I succumbed to pornography, seeking relief. But why would I seek relief from something that increased the burden of guilt and shame? Did I really think I could spite God by sinning?

No matter how far I ran away from porn, I would always return to it if I hadn’t dealt with the core issues. My hurts, my anxieties, my grudges….God promised He would bring healing and peace to them all, if I let Him. But sometimes, I don’t trust God. Porn gives me a sense of control, like I could create my own joy or my own rest. It never works for long, though. When I surrender to His ways, which are far better than my own, porn loses its appeal. Why settle for artificial pleasure when I have the eternal love of my Lord and Savior?

After wrestling with porn for so long, I finally realized that despite all my filth, God never stopped loving me. He loved me when I was viewing porn; He loved me when I had self-righteous pride from not viewing porn. He loved me even when I hated myself. That stupid, stupid fourteen year old, look at him waiting for his grandma to leave the room so he could waste her time and money. God, you love that kid? That kid who promised you a million times that he would stop looking at your daughters that way, only to break his promises a million times plus one. I hate him, God. He’s me at my worst. Please don’t keep looking at him. Why are you still looking at him???

Gently, I hear His voice:

I love fourteen-year-old Josh. I love twenty-two-year-old Josh. My love for you never changed. My promises remain the same. Come to me child, and I will give you rest.

That was it. That was all I needed to hear from Him. The hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done was say yes.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)

I Need To Be Popular

I’m lucky to live in a spacious house with fairly cheap rent, good for throwing parties. In fact, my flatmates and I have thrown a number of them. It’s fun. Since we’re all co-hosting these gathering, it’s pretty stress free. There’s never that awkward moment where early on, the only people at the party is the host and one other guest.

I did throw a party by myself one time. That was difficult. It felt like I was constantly trying to make everyone happy and keep the atmosphere alive. I remember collapsing into bed after everyone left, completely exhausted and annoyed. What’s the point of having a party if it drains me?

We’re always looking for an opportunity to throw parties. Some odd holiday, or a friend’s birthday, doesn’t matter. Recently, I had a unique party idea. Not gonna say what it is, because it hasn’t happened yet. I’m going to reveal all sorts of insecurities, so maybe after I publish this post, it won’t happen at all.

While hanging out with a friend, I told him my idea. Let’s call him Pete.

PETE
Dude, cool idea. We should have it at my house!

Pete lists several reasons why his house would be ideal. Well okay, I thought. Doesn’t really matter where the party is, right?

I mention the idea to some other people. They really like it. Okay, this is happening!

A few days later, Pete has an announcement.

PETE
Hey everyone, we’re having a get-together at my house. If you don’t come, you can’t come to the *INSERT COOL PARTY IDEA HERE*!

He said it in a joking manner to everyone at first. Then he reiterated it to my face. I paused. Wasn’t this my idea to begin with? So if I don’t go to your upcoming party, which I can’t because of work, I won’t be able to attend the *INSERT COOL PARTY IDEA HERE*, the idea I told you about?

Pete continued to talk about the party over social media. Several comment threads insinuated that he was planning this party with other people. Without me.

Well. This feels horrible.

So I vented to my flat mate. Does Pete realize he’s stealing my idea? Why am I even getting so upset over this?

FLAT MATE
Because it directly taps into your desire to be popular and well-liked. Everyone deals with it, but it can hit homeschoolers more.

Oh.

This isn’t about parties anymore. It’s about something broken inside my soul.

Ever since I was little, I needed to defend being homeschooled. All my friends would think it weird that I didn’t attend public school. Ha. Jokes on them, because homeschooling is so much better! I have my teacher’s full attention and can go at my own pace, so I can learn faster and become smarter and more successful!

That wasn’t exactly true. But it’s how I reassured myself that nothing was wrong with me. I was still someone worth liking.

As I grew older, I noticed a trend in my social habits. Whenever I entered a new group of people, whether that be a youth group or office job, I would play “the cool guy who didn’t talk to anyone except the people he needed to talk to.” I would wait for people to talk to me before I talked to them.

I never thought about why I did this. Maybe I wanted to make a good first impression, so I would become introverted until I found the perfect moment to reveal my cool, extroverted “true” self.

PEOPLE I’M TRYING TO IMPRESS
Wow, that introverted guy seemed so introverted at first, but he’s actually cool, talkative, and engaging! Let’s be his friend!

Yeah, that never happens. You’d think eventually I’d realize this “strategy” wasn’t working, but now it’s my default. Whenever I’m with a bunch of strangers, I don’t engage right away. I shy away. I become another version of Josh, a version who’s waiting until it’s safe to show his true personality.

Fast forward to the present. Why do I love throwing parties so much? Because it’s a social environment where I’m totally in control. If the party’s great, then I’m great because I’m the host. If the party’s bad, it wrecks my soul because I was the host.

I need to solve this problem. Writing is my therapy. Helps me get it out of my system and view myself objectively.

There exists a version of Josh that I want to be. A Josh who doesn’t care whether people like him or not. A Josh that just cares about people.

So what if my friend steals my idea and throws a rad party without me? I should be happy for him. Don’t take this lying down, Josh! Make sure you throw this party before he does! No, that’s not actually important. My development as a person is more important. Overcoming my insecurities is more important.

Loving my friend is more important.

Because God first loved me.

How Does A Roomba Show Emotion?

I shot a short film last December. It’s called “A Roomba’s Tale.” It should be done around late April, since I’ve been taking my sweet time with it.

Directing short films is always a privilege, since I get to work on a movie project with all my close friends. I’m not editing this film myself, which is a first. Instead, I’m working with my friend Daniel from work.

I don’t really remember how Daniel and I became friends. We kept bumping into each other at work, and I knew he had gone to film school at USC, so we both the same people. We both have a passion for superhero movies and video games…wait, now I remember we met!

When I first saw him, I commented on his cool Spider-man hoodie. No, Spider-man wasn’t on the hoodie, it was Spidey’s outfit in hoodie form. Nerdy, but cool in my opinion.

The next time I saw him, he was wearing another Spider-man hoodie. A different one. So he had two.

The next time after that, he was wearing a Spider-man t-shirt. “You really like Spider-man, don’t you?” I asked.

He did.

So now he’s editing my short film. We just finished a six-hour editing session today. Pretty dope. I’m a bit of a control freak, so I constantly need to remind myself that this is how real directors work (sorry Daniel). Not editing my own film allows me see the big picture and not get boggled down with minute details.

It’s also good practice to verbalize my vision and be able to communicate it to Daniel. At one point today, I started blabbering about how this clip should be blah blah blah, and realized that I didn’t even understand myself. Wow. Directing is harder than I thought.

Fortunately, Daniel is a great editor and shares a lot of the same editing sensibilities as me. Sometimes he’ll fix my notes before I give them to him. Psychic.

In the end, it’s all about telling a good story in the best way possible. As the title implies, this film is about Roombas. You know, those little robot vacuum discs. They have no face. No limbs. Nothing to express themselves with besides singular body motions. Somehow, it works. Or at least, I think it does. You’ll have to tell me when it’s finished.

At one point in the film, a Roomba has to show affection to another Roomba. Yes, it’s weird. Daniel and I scrolled through the footage we shot, gaping at the sight of Roombas bumping into each other until—

“Wait…did that Roomba just nuzzle the other one?”

“It looks like it’s kissing its cheek.”

We played it back. And burst into laughter. Somehow, we felt these two plastic discs managed to show emotion. It’s incredibly dumb and stupid, but hopefully when you watch it, you’ll laugh like we did.

Anyhoo, glad I was able to slip in my blogging for the day. I have a ton of work coming up, so these post may get shorter much to your disdain, all seven of you readers out there, according to my WordPress analytics.

Just kidding, there’s more than seven. There’s eight.

Josh out.

 

I Loved The Last Jedi, But…

Spoilers ahead, obviously.

Rian Johnson is one of my favorite filmmakers. I’ve seen Brick, Looper, and of course, his amazing work on Breaking Bad. All of them are fantastic films and television episodes. If anyone could make a thrilling, emotionally rich Star Wars film, it would be him.

But why do we set such a high standard for Star Wars movies? Why aren’t they viewed as fun, playful escapism (e.g. Marvel films), but instead as mythological lore scrutinized to the last frame?

I believe every Star Wars movie is trying to recapture the incomparable catharsis of the original. The feeling of finding your destiny and taking down an evil Galactic Empire in the process. Some succeed, some don’t. People hold that feeling sacred. Yet they are let down again and again when a new movie comes along, promising more of what’s come before, but it isn’t the same.

I don’t have a religious attachment to Star Wars. I just like lightsabers. They’re cool.

Google “The Last Jedi” and you can find a plethora of criticisms, nitpicking every single thing wrong with the movie. Cinemasins, the worst Youtube channel in the history of Youtube, is going to have a joyride with this flick. Look, it’s tough enough to make a movie, even tougher to make a Star Wars film. The amount of planning and coordination to create a believable sci-fi universe is insane. You know you’re not going to please everyone. I knew this might not be the perfect movie, or even a great movie. All I wanted was a good movie. That’s all we can ask for, right?

Snoke’s death? Amazing. I was practically hopping in my seat, squealing with joy as Rey and Kylo Ren teamed up against those badass red-armored guards. I later discovered they are called “Elite Praetorian Guards.” So freaking cool. I need to hit up Toys R’ Us before they go bankrupt and get some of those action figures.

Leia using the force? Makes sense, she’s Luke Skywalker’s sister. Rey’s parents turning out to be nobodies? Doesn’t matter, #reylo is happening. Finn and Rose’s random side story? Whatever, it’s Asian representation. My point is, I thoroughly enjoyed every part of The Last Jedi.

Up until Luke Skywalker died.

I remember sitting in the theater, thinking “Don’t do it, Rian, don’t do it.”

Then Luke faded out of existence. I threw my hands up. Are you kidding me?

As I’ve said, it’s difficult to make a movie, harder to make a good one. I respect all of Rian’s decisions as a director. But for the next few months, I still could not grasp WHY IN THE WORLD LUKE SKYWALKER HAD TO DIE?

Let’s Buzzfeed this up. Here are my top three reasons why Luke shouldn’t have died. I’ve thought this through. A LOT.

1) Luke’s death renders his final words meaningless.

I loved Rian’s dialogue for Luke, turning him into a sassy, old man. Luke was never the wittiest person in the series, so seeing him banter with other characters was delightful. When he looked at Kylo and went “See you ’round, kid” I just lost it. What a badass thing to say to an opponent whom you psychologically overpowered.

Then he died. Okay sure, he could come back as a force ghost, but I don’t think Kylo is afraid of Luke haunting his dreams like Casper.

You could argue that Luke has inspired hope for the, I don’t know, five people still left in the Rebellion, but as soon as Kylo discovers Luke lied to him, I doubt he’ll be afraid of ONE ship revolting against his supreme leadership. It’s literally one ship left. The Millennium Falcon. Iconic, but not threatening against an empire.

2) Some say Luke’s death was necessary for the trilogy to focus on the new characters, but I believe that’s BS.

Luke was going to appear in Episode Seven, but supposedly the writers struggling with making the new cast members relevant when one of the most iconic characters in cinema history was in your face.

Let’s face it. The audience wants to see more Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill knows that. It’s publicly known that he argued for Luke’s death to be pushed to the last movie. Give the audience a little more time with this legend!

There’s going to be other Star Wars movies. Two more trilogies are already in the works, completely original stories. You don’t need to rush Mark Hamill off the stage to make room for the newbies. You only get one shot to make a new trilogy with Luke Skywalker. Killing him off one movie early is just a missed opportunity.

3) Keeping Luke alive wouldn’t have diminished the message of the film.

Would it have ruined the story if Luke Skywalker came out of the cavern and completely obliterated all the giant gorilla robots with his lightsaber and force powers? Maybe. Would it have been awesome? UM. YES.

But let’s say we keep the whole Force projection gimmick in the film. The point was for Luke to spark a flame of hope that would continue the Rebellion. And he did that. He doesn’t need to die in order to light the fire.

I could even understand if Luke sacrificed his life for the good of the Rebellion. Slightly cliché, but noble. Instead, he died from…exhaustion.

It feels like he died because the writers wanted it, not because it served the story.


Alright, I’m going to stop here. I could go on about how Mark Hamill is an underrated actor, or how the story of him accidentally raising the next Darth Vader is a more fascinating tale. I’m confused why they didn’t make that movie.

In the end, it’s just a movie. I wanted to see Luke Skywalker kick butt, but it didn’t happen and will never happen now that he’s ghosty. I can still say Rian Johnson’s a great director who made a good Star Wars movie. This quote from him sums it up:

During filming, Johnson had told Hamill that “they can’t always give the audience what they expect and what they want” but that they “can give them something they don’t expect and what we want.”

I have another rant about how Rian disregarded almost everything JJ Abrams set up in The Force Awakens, but I’ll save that for another post.

Josh out.

Should I Pursue A VFX Career?

I’ve been playing with Adobe After Effects for over ten years now. For those of you who don’t know, After Effects is used to do, well, a lot of things. It’s like Photoshop for videos. It’s intended for visual effects and motion graphics, but I’ve used it to design book covers, websites, logos, etc. Unconventional, yes. That’s why it’s my favorite program.

Early 2007, I was planning my next epic superhero movie. Little fourteen year old Josh had big dreams. The problem was, I didn’t know how to do all those “special effects” they did in real superhero movies (it’s technically called visual effects, but I didn’t know at the time).

So I borrowed every single book in the library I could find about visual effects. I mistakenly checked out a book about CGI: Common Gateway Interface, not Computer Generated Imagery. Disappointing. I just wanted to know how to make lasers come out of my eyes, not program a website.

Then I found it. The book that would change my life.

Adobe After Effects 6.5 Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques.

Wordy title, but it blew me away. Everything I wanted to learn was inside this book.

“Mom!!! Can you buy me this program?”

We found it for thirty-five bucks off eBay. I was so happy that I even mentioned it during my baptismal testimony. Praise the Lord I was able to make lasers! Obviously I hadn’t been through much trauma in my life at age fourteen. Homeschooled.

Quick side-story: I was working on a lightsaber battle, part of a film that would be shown at my church’s retreat. Due to karate lessons, I didn’t have enough time to finish all the shots, so I taught my mom and my siblings how to rotoscope in order to finish the shots on time. My mom was bewildered when one of her lightsaber shots got covered by a lens flare. “All that work and you don’t even see the lightsaber!” My bad, mom. But that’s visual effects. I would put an LOL here, but this is a blog, not some…ah, whatever. LOL.

Flash forward seven years. I had moved to Los Angeles, becoming known as the “After Effects guy” around USC. No, I didn’t attend the film program there. I just hung around the students, offering my VFX know-how to anyone who needed a hand. Making connections, you see. Wow, I really want to put a winky face here. Not gonna do it. I have to draw the line somewhere.

The path before me was clear. With even more training, I could have a whole career in visual effects. I was good at this. Maybe I could become an expert.

However, as much as I love visual effects, the industry sucks. There’s no union. The only way VFX companies get work is by bidding on movie projects, meaning they often undersell themselves and their artists to get the job. Ever heard of Rhythm and Hues? They used to be one of the greatest VFX studios in the world, doing films like Life of Pi, X-Men, Lord of the Rings, winning multiple awards while doing so. They were the Kobe Bryant of visual effects. Yet they filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

Besides the lack of job stability, I also hated when I would work several hours on an effect, only to have the director come in and go, “I don’t like it. Change it.” Yes, I know it’s part of the job. I’m lucky to frequently work with friends whose artistic visions I admire. And when a director approves the work I’ve done, it feels like a million bucks. But would I be able to handle a job where rejection is part of the pipeline?

The biggest reason I’m not pursuing a VFX career is that it’s not my passion. What I truly love is telling stories. VFX is a good tool, but it’s not my focus. But who knows, maybe I’ll be desperate for money soon and go this route.

Alright, time to wrap up this post with a conclusion. I’m sure you can tell, but I never know where I’m going with these posts. If I wasn’t blogging every day, I could probably put some more time into giving you a satisfying ending, something like “This is the profound statement I want to communicate!”

Nope. My real life doesn’t have clear answers either. Some days I’ll stumble upon them, other days I’ll be slapping my keyboard trying to make sense of this world. Until then, I’ll keep on writing.

Josh out.

The Fear of Water

I’m working on a couple visual effects (VFX) shots right now for a friend. Usually when I do VFX, I turn on a podcast and click my computer screen for hours until a car explodes. Or a tripod gets erased. The latter is much less interesting.

However, I’m also dedicated to blogging every day, so I’m taking a break to let some words loose. Here we go.

When I was about nine years old, I was terrified of water. I used to take swimming lessons with a few childhood friends and I hated it. When I told our instructor that I didn’t want to put my head underwater, she moved me to the beginner’s side. Away from my friends. By myself. At that moment, I realized: being afraid sucks. But I’m still afraid.

I told my parents I didn’t want to take swimming lessons anymore. They warned me that if I didn’t learn how to swim, I wouldn’t be able to hang out with my friends at pool parties and whatnot. Great. Now I’m not just afraid of water, but also being a social outcast.

This story has a stupid ending. I overcame my aquaphobia after chilling in a hot tub with my dad. He challenged me to put my head underwater. I did, because it was a hot tub. The end.

Also my current friends don’t have pool parties. Not now, not during my teenage years, and probably not ever. In fact, I’ve never received one invite to a pool party and thought, “Wow, it’s a good thing I learned how to swim when I was nine!”

This isn’t to say I actually know how to swim. I know how to float long enough to not drown if thrown into the Atlantic.

I’m realizing now how interesting my relationship with water has been. For all my life, it’s made me feel inferior to, well, everyone. I continued to take swimming lessons as a teenager, flailing my limbs around the pool in attempt to swim a lap, while every other person Michael Phelpsed their way to the other side.

This inferiority complex also applies to basketball. For the first half of my life, my dad couldn’t figure out why his abnormally tall son couldn’t make a lay up.

I don’t like being bad at things. If I wrote my own life story, all skills would come naturally, and I would only struggle with managing my time from being so talented. It’s the dream.

Suffice to say, I am not talented at most things athletic. So I pursued the things I perceived to be talented in. Filmmaking. Writing. Visual effects, like I’m doing right now.

But I would run into failures in those areas as well. My self-published book sold about fifty copies. Not exactly the Eragon level of success I was hoping from another a homeschooled writer. One of my first short films I can barely watch anymore. It’s an action/drama film about spiritual warfare named…wait for it…Prebirth.

I called it Prebirth. What is this, some medical procedure? It’s funny because I remember a bunch of people trying to convince me out of it. And I shut them all down because I was the skilled and talented filmmaker extraordinaire who could do no wrong. This wasn’t swimming or basketball! This was something I was talented in until I discovered I wasn’t.

I’m not really afraid of water. I’m afraid of failure.

I’m twenty-five now. I’ve failed many times and will fail many more. It’s part of life. There are so many things I love that I stopped pursuing because I wasn’t naturally good at it.

As with most of my posts, this blog doesn’t ever have a clear ending. I used to not blog because it would take so damn long, tweaking my writing, editing the structure, making sure the ending was perfect. But now I’m thinking…who cares? I write because it’s fun. And if I stumble across a profound conclusion worthy of a college essay, so be it. Otherwise I’m going to keep writing every day because I want to get better and it’s fun.

Josh out.

P.S. HOLY MOLY I’m not even twenty-five yet! Why did I write that I was already twenty-five? I sense a quarter life crisis arising…