87 posts categorized "Books • Films • TV"

August 26, 2018

Educated by Tara Westover


I just finished reading Educated by Tara Westover. I first learned of this book by listening to Tara being interviewed by Jason Gots on the SUPERB Think Again podcast. It is a memoir of a woman who grew up in a family living WAY outside of society's mainstream, in the mountains of Idaho. That she would find her way out of the mountains and onto elite universities to not only gain an education but to write words that would educate the world is told with jaw-dropping accounts that I won't forget.

It's temping to classify uneducated mountain folks as bad, and educated university folks as good. And vice versa. It's tempting to speak with certainty about such things ... with zero tolerance for this, that and the other.

What this book presents is that doubt and uncertainty have a way of generating its own unique strength. And that what might seem like pure strength when in the presence of aggressive dogma and certainty and abuse ... is frequently not strength at all.

When I used to work as a social worker within child protective services, it never ceased to amaze me that kids ... no matter how severely mistreated, can never completely reject their families. The ones who tried to convince themselves that their families and histories didn't matter were the ones who suffered most of all.

I am inspired to look at Tara's education as a call for my continued education ... to never stop inquiring, to constantly learn, to welcome doubt, and find ways to become better educated in order to better understand me, my family, my world.


July 21, 2018

To Fight for the Now

KareemThere are so many parts of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's book: Coach Wooden and Me have deeply touched me. I want to talk about them all. But maybe I'll talk just about a couple and how they connect to other dots floating in my mind.

Like when Jabbar explains that when he was a young player, he felt a desire to find meaning in the game, and the fact that he was playing this game galled basketball: "I wanted the game to make sense in my life beyond just having a skill set."

Jabbar also explains that practices with Coach Wooden were highly structured because rather than just running familiar drills from a list, Coach spent hours preparing for each practice, making sure he was coaching per the uniqueness of each player: "... he [Coach] realized that a particular player was not the same player one day that he had been the day before ..." Like Heraclitus who said: You can never step in the same river twice.

I think Wooden knew that the player, like the river was always evolving, always becoming and that a good coach needed to be aware of that.

My favorite podcast as of late is ThinkAgain. Every episode is so packed with interesting info that I often listen to it twice. The latest episode is with Jason Heller whose insights really enriched my appreciation for David Bowie ... and how in his quest to be "inauthentic" and arguably disconnected from community ... with startling and almost non-sensical invocation of scifi fantastic into his music ... that his work became authentic and connected. Free jazz.

Heller also wonders if artistic authenticity is even possible, given that the artist (like the basketball player) changes and evolves ... almost immediately after the art is made. After the play is played. Like the river. Always the same. Never the same.

In Celeste Ng's Everything I never Told You, the character Lydia dies. That fact is not a spoiler alert as it's the first thing we learn. How she dies is a spoiler alert so don't read on if you don't want the spoiler.

So Lydia decides to enter the body of water even though she doesn't know how to swim. She is in that moment who she is and she does what she feels is right in the moment.

Having lost my brother to suicide, I often wonder if in the middle of the act he changed his mind but couldn't take it back. That's the one thing that really bothers me. What if in the middle of Lydia's decent into the water she evolves and changes but can't take it back?

It makes me think about the delicate balance of life. To be in the moment and have the courage to step in that water, knowing we will change and the water will change tomorrow.

But isn't that also true with other choices we make? Like to fall in love? To say yes? To walk away? To say no? To fight for the now?

Coach Wooden lived to be ninety nine ... who said about the game, which applies to life and death: "Players with fight never lose a game, they just run out of time."

Kareem2 Three

September 29, 2016

A Prayer for Owen Meany

OwenmeanyThis is one of the my favorite passages from the book, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

It's a book that delves into the topic of The Vietnam war, but also topics related to friendship, baseball, love, and faith. It does this as deeply as an author might feel allowed to do, when the particular literary pond for the story is 543 pages-deep. Certainly a deeper pond than those that I wade in in this modern day ... where I wake up in bodies of water so shallow that the liquid feels evaporated before the sun fully rises. Simple sentences everywhere that boil down complexities within 4x4 inch graphics that bottom line it for everyone. No need for critical thinking or in-depth journalism or robust discussion about the ironies, the wit, and the true conundrums of life.

Yesterday, I heard a podcast about research that points to how contrary to the popular notion that  stating our intentions out loud and publicly might help make that intent come true, there is research that points to the opposite. That is, when a person states that "In one month I am going to become healthier" that the brain sometimes tricks that person into thinking that just by having expressed that intention out loud, they actually think they ate healthily and took brisk walks around the block. And because of this phenomenon, the research shows that the person who declares a plan out loud has a less likelihood of doing anything to make that plan come true, compared to the person who just does the plan and declares nothing beforehand.

This particular passage by Irving presents so many non-simple facets with that war ... including those who protested it. Which makes me think of modern times ... and how our brains trick us into thinking that by declaring that "I am against" or "I am for" X, Y, or Z, that not only do we not do anything in support or against it, but that just that lofty utterance can add fuel the fire for the opposite thing to happen. 

I also heard an interview with journalist Bob Woodward who points out how shallow our ponds of discourse are really getting. And that as a journalist, even if he spends any time feeding the simple sentence platforms, it is the responsibility of journalists and writers and thinkers to continue doing in-depth work and presenting deeper ponds of thought ... regardless of whether a single person steps foot in it.


May 20, 2015

More Creative Lettering

More Creative Lettering"Please sir, I want some more."

(Charles Dickens :: Oliver Twist)

I am excited to announce my brand new book titled MORE CREATIVE LETTERING, a sequel to my popular book titled CREATIVE LETTERING (one of Amazon's Best-Of books). Many thanks to the amazing contributors who rock the lettering in this book, from cover to cover.

Available here and other places where books are sold.

March 14, 2015

Lemon Drops in the Well

IMG_4657Lemon Drops in the Well
10 x 10 x 2 inches :: Original oil painting on gessobord

Click here to buy (and have it shipped to you) or contact me to make arrangements to pick it up from my studio in Santa Ana, California

The lemon drops are an homage to several novels by Haruki Murakami. I used actual lemon drops and a bottle and paper boat as references. The entire composition reflects my efforts at creating magical realism with oils.

January 28, 2015

More please

Today was a fantastic day. Some of my art friends made the time to come all the way to my gym to box with me and Coach Tee. Here's a shot that my friend Josie took during our time together. I love it.

Kick2The reason they all came to my gym is because they had asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and ... though we had toyed with the idea of doing something grand like going to NYC, plans evolved into something much simpler and I said I really wanted all of us to go boxing together.

After boxing, we all met up for a lovely brunch where we ate yummy food and I was showered with presents ... mostly beautiful books, both new and old. My friend Jennifer asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to have happen this coming year.

"More," I said.

More of what I have right now. Art. Boxing. Food. Family. Friends. Studio. Reading. I think more than ever before, I am able to be in the moment and appreciate the brush strokes when I'm painting. The punches when I'm boxing. The ingredients when I'm cooking. My voice  when I'm conversing with the people I love. The words when I'm reading.

To be in the moment not wanting the moment to be different, or worrying about a past or future moment. It's as good as it gets.

Last night a young gal I know messaged me asking for a book recommendation. She's been through a rough period in her life and is looking for a book that might help her move forward. I told her I'm not much into self-help books but that I could recommend some good fiction. She was open to it. I'm still thinking about what I'll recommend. To me, the subject of the fiction doesn't have to be uplifting per se, to help a person move forward. It simply has to be deeply engaging ... perhaps intoxicating ... so much so that we drink the book in wanting every drop of it to seep into who we are so that we can feel it and we can imagine it, we can get lost in it ... and when we are lost, a moment when perhaps we become separated from the troubles we may have ... to realize how deeply moving a piece of fiction is ... and how our problem about ... you know ... the problem ... now what was that about again? ... starts to fade to unimportance. After all, there are more beautiful books to read, more good food to eat, more boxing sessions to go to, and more deep, beautiful conversations to have with humans who are equally adept at having conversations ... perhaps about the same book that you have read, or a different one that you decide to pick up because their description and the epiphanies they had while reading it as shared over coffee is highly engaging. No, intoxicating.

January 10, 2015

CBP: Crescendoh Bridge Press

Crescendoh Bridge Press (CBP) is a program that provides the following services for those who would like to self-publish a book through Amazon's Create Space program:

  • copyediting, technical editing, and proofreading
  • graphic design and layout
  • photography
  • project management
  • technical know-how

More details about the CBP program are outlined below.

One of the main reasons self-published books look "self-published" is because frequently, they are produced with one or more elements involved with book publishing that lack the expertise needed for the end product to look professional. The elements usually involve words, and sometimes photography, and sometimes illustration and always graphic design and layout. You may be a professional photgrapher who needs help just with the words and the graphic design. Or maybe you need photography services and you need major copyediting services. Whatever your needs may be, CBP can help as much or as little as you want.

If you are interested in using CBP services, you can send an email to mailbox@crescendoh.com. From there, we will ask you some questions about your book project and then assuming that your project is ready for our services, we will create a unique estimate of costs for services, based on your projected needs. If you are agreeable to that estimate, we will develop an editorial schedule with deadlines that we all move forward with.

Believe it or not, what we do is the easy part. The hard part is actually developing the actual content. The hard part may be something that takes you a lifetime to achieve. Maybe you've already achieved it. Maybe there is a manuscript you've written and it's just sitting there but you just don't know how to get the technical parts done. If that's you, you're ready for CBP. If you haven't written anything yet, but just have a dream, or if you want to write something but you don't really know what you want to write about, you're probably not ready for CBP. We are a program that can take your quality content that you've worked diligently on from start to finish, to the final phase of getting it self-published.

Think of it this way. You're an aspiring playwright. You're at a party and you realize that you are sitting next to a great producer of plays. So you tell the producer of your aspirations. And the producer says "Show me what you've written and maybe I will consider producing it." So ... do you have something that you've written that can be produced or do you not?

If you are interested in making a book with beauty shots of your finished art AND step-outs of your art in-progress, we will let you know how to prepare the art both in the in-progress stages and final stage to ship to us. Once that is done, we will take all the photos that are required to create a project-based art book. Don't worry. We know how to do this. Very very well. :)

One of the services that CBP does NOT offer is marketing. We will offer you tips on how to utilize social media platforms to get your book noticed but CBP will be unable to provide marketing services.

So you want to write and self-publish a book? Go write it. And then if you feel you are ready for us and want the services we have to offer, let us know. We'll be ready.

December 22, 2014

Announcing My New Book! Fangs and Flaws: FangGrrr Adventures

I am thrilled. BEYOND thrilled, actually, to announce my newest book NOW available on Amazon:

Fangs and Flaws: FangGrrr Adventures. A dream come true.


Here's the official description ...

Fangs and Flaws introduces readers to the metaphorical world of FangGrrr, Lion, and their friends, with beautifully simple illustrations and a message that transcends background and culture. 

Readers will tag along as FangGrrr meets Lion, her best friend. The unlikely duo will grow and laugh and play and love, but they'll also make heart-wrenching mistakes along the way — just like the rest of us. In Fangs and Flaws, FangGrrr and Lion will teach readers the power of humility, self-realization, friendship, and forgiveness — with adorable character illustrations that are sure to touch any reader. 

The brainchild of ever-evolving artist and writer Jenny Doh, Fangs and Flaws is the first in a creative and powerful series featuring FangGrrr, Lion, Butterfly, Fox, and all their friends.

Many thanks to the entire Crescendoh Bridge Press team for making this dream a reality.

Order the book here. If you want to.

October 27, 2014

Marathons, Baselines, and the High Ponytail

Marathons, Baselines, and the High Ponytail
Art Camp 2014
by Jenny Doh

I’ve been here before. With Terri, and with many others who are in this room, to help us focus on the value of art and creativity. The value of art and creativity.

Since the last time I was here at art camp, I’ve aged. And so have you. We all have.

Another thing that has changed since I was here last is my hairstyle. Last time I spoke at art camp, my hair was short but now, after patiently growing it out for over a year, it is finally long enough to wear in a high ponytail. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll share with you that one of the many reasons why I love wearing it in a high ponytail is that it gives my face a natural lift! A natural facelift without having to go to a plastic surgeon! I love it. So most likely these days, when you've seen me, you’ve seen me wearing a high pony tail … but I also hope that I have the strength of character to occasionally let my hair down and to comfortably be with myself and with everyone else without the benefits of a high ponytail.


There are two books that I’ve recently read that I want to reference in this talk. One is The Great Gatsy by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the other is a piece of non-fiction written by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Aside from writing novels, Murakami has been an avid runner for many years. Since the time he was in his 30s, he started to run marathons and then eventually doing triatholons. By the way, a marathon is 26 miles in length. And Murakami was born in 1949 which makes him now 65 years old.

In his memoirs, he describes his running life with irresistible humility … he describes it as an activity that he was dedicated to … not to become a marathoner per se, but to be someone who decided to consistently do an activity that simply put, was suited for him and his personality.

He goes on to explain something that happened to his running. He says that he reached his peak in terms of speed in his late 40s, where he could run 26 miles in about 3 hours and 40 minutes. He says that even on his off days, it was inconceivable for him to not meet his baseline of coming in under the 4-hour mark for a 26-mile run. But he describes that as he was getting older, he was shocked to find that regardless of his consistency and dedication, the time it took for him to complete a 26-mile run started to consistently fall below the baseline.

He realized that though his efforts and sincerity remained steadfast, the effects that age was having on his body in terms of speed was beyond his sincerity and beyond his control. He could no longer beat the time that he could run as a 40-something person when he was now a 50-something person. With the change in season, a new baseline would need to emerge.

I’m not sure if any of us are marathon runners. I know that I’m not. But I do like to do things like running and boxing and other things that suit me, to stay in shape. My son likes to swim because that’s what suits him. My husband likes to run and bike and those activities suit him. And in my own universe of fitness, I do have goals that I set and try to beat. But like Murakami I have also realized as of late, as a woman in her late 40s rather than in her early 30s, that no matter how disciplined I am, there are certain baselines that I need to occasionally reformulate, as I recognize and accept the effects of time, aging, and gravity.

After reading The Great Gatsby, I saw the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. I thought both the book and the movie were great.

In the movie, there’s a scene where Gatsy has Daisy over to his home, so that he can show her that through lots of work over several years, he has made something of himself … a house, cars, clothes, parties, servants … fruits of labor that served as evidence that Gatsby is worthy of Daisy’s love. As they are soaking it all in, the married Daisy says to Gatsby that she wishes that they could run away. To which Gatsby responds with confused alarm … Run away?! No, we’re not gonna run away. This is what I’ve built for us. This is reality. I want us to stay. I want us to embrace all of this. I want you to declare that you love me. I want you to embrace what I’ve built and accept it as our destiny.

I won’t spoil the plotline for those who have yet to experience the entire story … but I want to segue from this scene between Gatsby and Daisy to the other big change aside from my ponytail that has happened to me since the last time I was here at art camp.

When I was here at art camp last time, I was sister to two brothers. Today as I stand before you, I am sister to one brother. I have been very open and honest and public about the fact that last Thanksgiving I lost my brother Jinil to suicide.

When that happened, I was so struck with grief and found tears pouring out of me 24 hours a day that I was convinced that I would forever be a person who would be crying all the time. I was convinced that there would never be a day when my heart would not feel completely torn and completely broken.

I was convinced that even though the sun would rise, I would never again feel its warmth. Oh how I wished like Daisy to be able to run away.


If speed were the only measurement that Murakami the runner would use to value the act of running, he may have thrown in the towel and stopped the activity that so suits him because his declining speed would be evidence of running losing value to his life.

Thankfully, Murakami shares that though speed has been an interesting measurement, it has not been the primary reason that he values running. He values running because of how it makes him feel. Whether he runs a mile in 4 5 6 7 8 9 or 10 minutes, he does so not because of how many minutes it takes, but because he loves how it makes him feel, at any pace.

An interesting note that Murakami makes is about art. He points out that though activities like running require new baselines as humans age, there are certain activities like art with many examples of where the finest and most brilliant works are created by artists in their later life seasons. For example, Dostoyevsky wrote his two most profound novels including The Brothers Karamazov in the last few years of his life. Scarlatti wrote most of his piano sonatas during the ages of 57 and 62. Henri Matisse dazzled us with his masterful paper cutouts also during his later years, something he did when he could no longer keep up with the physical rigors of painting. 

Perhaps all of this is so because it takes decades of running, walking, cycling swimming, cooking, singing, painting, paper cutting, soldering, wire wrapping or dollmaking for us to sincerely build up a beautiful patina of wisdom … a patina that can’t be hurried … a patina where we have the strength of character to give birth to new baselines of discovery where we honestly embrace all of the joys and tragedies of life.  

In a year’s time, my grief for Jinil is still there but it looks very different. By embracing the sadness, I’ve also been able to embrace joy. By not running away and accepting the reality of my destiny and life season, including the highs and lows, I feel that every facet of my life has become enriched for the better.

I am excited to be here as together we share laughs as we pull our hair up if we want to, share tears and let it down when we want to, as we create beautiful art. But more importantly, as we continue to develop a strength of character and beautiful patina of wisdom from where we can honestly celebrate baselines from the past and accept the new and beautiful baselines that have yet to blossom in each of our lives.



Per the invitation of Terri Brush, I was honored to deliver this speech to Art Camp 13, October 25, 2014, in Lincoln City, Oregon.

August 14, 2014

Memories and History :: Haruki Murakami

As I write this post, I am enjoying a homemade ice-blended banana-cocoa smoothie, and halves and pieces of cashews (much cheaper than whole cashews but just as delicious). Delectable, after having fasted all day to do blood work, in a hot house that'll cool down in a few hours.

Once the post is done, I'll start reading more of my new book that I got at Barnes & Noble today. I was there wanting to pick up another piece of fiction to read after just having finished Karuki Murakami's masterful novel as recommended to me by my daugher: Norweigian Wood.

The fact that I did this (that is, reading a complete novel) is a pretty big deal for me because I haven't read a novel in like 2 or 3 years. Novels are all I used to read ... and then things shifted a few years ago when all that I read became non-fiction (primarily copy for art and crafting books).

I knew that Murakami had just released his newest work: Coloress Tsukuru Tazaki ... and I loved the idea of continuing with a second Murakami book ... but I wasn't sure if now was the time to move forward with his latest or to move backward with his earlier works.

So I sat down in the bookstore and started reading.

Photo 3There's something about his translated words. Each one so crisp and lucid and engaging. No confusion. No complicated tangles, yet with great depth.

I was pretty sure with each page that I read that I was going to buy this book—with gratitude for having found myself back in the delicious world of fiction. But it's when I got to page 44 and read the 10th line from the bottom that I stood up and went to the cashier to buy it.

"You can hide memories, but you can't erase the history that produced them."

IMG_5395I noticed the receipt listed other books that I may also like, based on my purchase. Not sure how long that's been going on but I noticed it for the first time today. Just five titles fished out as recommendations, out of the thousands out there. I know I can't ever read them all, even if I spent the rest of my waking hours reading fiction. This truth sort of bums me out. But I guess that's how it goes. I read what I read. I don't read what I don't read.

How I choose to read what I read is related to who I meet and don't meet, what I do and don't do, who I love and don't love, and ultimately how I allow myself to get influenced and live.

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