Reading Resolution: “The Knight of the Burning Pestle” by Beaumont and Fletcher

16. A book older than 100 years: The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher

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List Progress: 2/25

Picture the scene:

You go to see a play. It’s kind of cheesy, but okay overall. But two people sitting in the front row don’t like it and start heckling the actors. They think the play can be done better, and by their employee at that, so they shove their guy up on stage and demand that scenes be written around him. The cheesy play continues with occasional interludes of some random guy spouting high drama and two hecklers commenting on it the entire time. It’s basically a play with its own MST3K treatment written in.

This bit of meta madness is The Knight of the Burning Pestle, by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher.

It was written in 1607.

And it’s amazing.

One of the first truly meta plays, The Knight of the Burning Pestle is one of the rare classics that is still actually funny. Not just “I understand why this was amusing to audiences of the time” funny, but something I actually laughed at. I first heard of it when a local theater put on a production (that I was unable to make it to), and having read it, I can see why it is still being performed. And I really want to see this thing on its feet at some point.

I wonder if the play seems funnier to me because I have a theater background and the absurdity of the audience-actor relationship hits home for me, but it was just a great time to read. Rarely do you get to see something this both clever and stupid at the same time, satirizing the middle class culture of the time, the stilted overdramatic constants of the theater, and the absurd fluff that audiences crave and demand.

My only real criticism would be that the fourth and fifth acts drag a bit as they delve into more topical-for-the-time humor that is still amusing but doesn’t ring as timeless as the more meta jokes do. But the ending was so delightfully stupid, with the hecklers demanding a dramatic death scene, that I was back to laughing along. And I want to play the female heckler character so badly.

I don’t have much else to say other than I really liked it. A level of comfort with archaic language is necessary, but with a bit of effort to get started, you’re in for a treat.

Would I Recommend It: Oh yes.

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Reading Resolution: “Sourdough” by Robin Sloan

9. A book recommended by someone:  Sourdough by Robin Sloan

List Progress: 1/25

You know those pieces of media where you reach the end and say “I don’t really know what the creator was trying to say”? Sourdough by Robin Sloan is definitely one of those. Received as a gift, I dove into this novel that seemed to appeal directly to my interests: it is about a hobbyist baker in San Francisco who gets caught up in the magic of making sourdough bread after she is gifted a very special starter. The book moves quickly and has a lot of things to say. I’m just not sure if Sloan sat down and decided what it was all supposed to amount to. As such, the end result feels somewhat (if you will forgive the bread pun) underproved.

The main character is a machinery programmer named Lois working at a tech startup in an incredibly detailed depiction of San Francisco. (Seriously, I live in the Bay Area and some scenes were spot-on descriptions of real world places I’ve been to, in both physical and tonal details.) Lois is feeling spiritually and mentally drained from the demanding yuppie tech world until she discovers a new takeout place that makes amazing soup and sourdough bread, run by two brothers of the “mysterious quirky foreigner” type. They develop a friendship and shortly thereafter the brothers have to leave the country, leaving Lois a parting gift of some of their sourdough starter. This all was maybe the first two chapters, and I would have preferred a book with a lot more of it, especially given the direction the ending goes in. But instead we get Lois’ entry into the world of foodie tech hipsters.

You see, this book is about a white woman using a personal gift of a man of color’s culture (as in bacterial culture, but the book draws the wordplay parallel many times) and using it as a tool of personal discovery and financial gain. It is so on the nose that I was assuming the book was going to make a point of it, especially as Lois stumbles into the professional culinary success that the chef brother Beoreg is consistently denied, but…nope. It goes without comment. I’m not even sure if author Robin Sloan realizes the situation he painted here, but the nomadic foreign brothers exist only to give Lois a new perspective and lease on life. And considering part of the novel’s conclusion is a debate about ownership of the starter between Lois and a different character entirely, it’s a bit of an uncomfortable dynamic.

Weird cultural appropriation subtext aside, the book has a muddled view of who it is rooting for, with sides in culinary debates being declared antagonists with no real rhyme or reason. Oh no, this character wants to mechanize and bring science into the magic of the starter! Ignoring the fact that Lois uses a tech startup robot in the production of her bread… Oh no, that character has stuffy, affected old-world ideas about food! Ignoring that Lois’ journey is all about her hand-making bread, one of the most affected old-world things you can do these days… It all just comes across unclear and muddled about what the book is trying to say, if it’s trying to say anything at all.

Sourdough is the epitome of a beach read. The prose moves fast, the characters are quirky and fun, the settings are well-painted and the escapist fantasy of giving up your soul-crushing job to bake bread and talk to foodies all day is fun to indulge in. But if you’re looking for something to dig into, try to find something with a bit more meat. (Had to get one more food pun in, sorry.)

Would I Recommend It: Yeeees, but not highly. Good to read during a long plane trip or sitting on a beach.

Come see my short play performed at Monday Night PlayGround on Jan 15th! Also, announcing my People’s Choice Award for December!

For the second month in a row, I am pleased to announce that my ten-minute play, “Sh*t Farming for Fun and Profit”, has been selected for the Monday Night PlayGround series. It will be performed in a staged reading on January 15th at Berkeley Rep, and everyone is welcome to buy a ticket and come see! This month’s performance is a collaboration with Planet Earth Arts and uses the prompt “Probable Future vs Possible Future”.

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In addition, I would like to announce that my previous play, “There’s No Place Like Hell for the Holidays”, was selected for the People’s Choice Award in December. Read the first two pages here!

Thank you for everyone’s support and I cannot wait to see a second month of my work go up for Monday Night PlayGround. Come see it if you can!

Watching Resolution: Room (2015)

7. A film based on a book: Room (2015)

List Progress: 1/12

Trigger warning: rape, abduction.

What better way to start out my 2018 list than with some harrowing trauma and misery? On a whim, I watched the 2015 film Room last night, based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay. I have not read the novel, but I had heard a lot about this movie. It is about a young woman who has been held captive in a small enclosed room for seven years, where she has given birth to a son, who at the age of five has never seen the outside world and has no conception that anything exists beyond the walls of his home. The story is told from the son, Jack’s, perspective, and the first half is of the movie is almost entirely dialogue between Jack and Ma in their claustrophobic little home. And it is So. Good. The second half suffers a bit in trying to be too neat, but on the whole it was a great way to spend two painful hours.

Given how much of the film is just two actors, the whole thing is grounded by the performances of Brie Larson as Ma and Jacob Tremblay as Jack, who was eight years old during filming. And this is really one of the best performances I’ve seen out of a child actor. Jack feels like a real kid, from his cutest moments to his most obnoxious lashing out, and his and Ma’s relationship inside Room is great to watch. The back end of the film feels weaker when Jack is made a little too inspirational and cute to balance out the turmoil Ma is going through, but it is still a great showing from both actors.

The subject matter should make it clear that this movie comes with some trigger warnings. Ma was kidnapped as a teenager and has been held by her rapist for seven years, with Jack’s conception as one of the results. Nothing explicit or gratuitous is shown on screen, and I really respect how the director, Lenny Abrahamson, filmed some things: Ma is shown comfortably bathing in a bathtub with Jack, but it is never played for titillation and she is never shown undressed or sexualized in relation to her attacker. Her brutal reality is kept on the edge’s of Jack’s awareness, shown more through Brie Larson’s raw, emotional performance than by any voyeuristic camera work. It is a delicate, respectful depiction of a victim and makes for a great movie.

Despite being a bit unbalanced and weaker in the back half, I definitely recommend watching Room. Just go in prepared for a hard watch.

Would I Recommend It: Yes, definitely.

Introducing my Reading and Watching Resolution Lists!

Happy New Years! So for the last couple of years, I have set a New Year’s Reading Resolution for myself, along with a couple of friends. We read books that fit in certain categories, in an attempt to push the boundaries of our reading habits, and write up little reviews of what we have read. As the year is starting fresh with a new list, I have decided to share my book reviews here, to hopefully spark some good literary discussion in 2018.

In addition, I am giving myself the extra challenge of a movie-watching list as well; I will be the first to admit that I have lost the determination to sit down for full movies, and I hope this will push me to try more of the medium over the course of the year.

If you would like to try this list for yourself, feel free to jump in. I will be updating this post as I complete parts of the list. I wish you all a happy year full of good reading and viewing!

2018 Reading Resolution


  1. A book written in North/Central America:
  2. A book written in South America:
  3. A book written in East Asia:
  4. A book written in South Asia:
  5. A book written in Africa:
  6. A book written in the Middle East:
  7. A book written in Australia/Oceania
  8. A book written in Europe/Russia:
  9. A book recommended by someone: Sourdough by Robin Sloan
  10. A biography:
  11. A non-fiction book:
  12. A collection of short stories:
  13. A collection of poetry:
  14. A play:
  15. A graphic novel:
  16. A book older than 100 years:
  17. A debut novel:
  18. A novel by a famous author, other than the one(s) they are best known for:
  19. A book we have lied about reading:
  20. A book we read in high school/college and hated:
  21. A book we read in high school/college/law school and loved:
  22. A book by an author you have never given a fair shot:
  23. A 2017-2018 New York Times bestseller:
  24. A book you’ve started but never finished:
  25. Wild Card:

List Progress: 1/25

In addition, I am trying a film list again!

2018 Film Watching Resolution

  1. A foreign film:
  2. A black and white film:
  3. A silent or dialogue-free film:
  4. An animated film:
  5. A film based on a true story:
  6. A documentary:
  7. A film based on a book: Room (2015)
  8. An Oscar-winning movie:
  9. A trashy movie (B-list, straight to DVD):
  10. Your best friend’s favorite movie:
  11. A children’s film:
  12. A film released in 2018:

List Progress: 1/12

Come see my short play “There’s No Place Like Hell for the Holidays” performed at Monday Night PlayGround on Dec 18th

I am happy to announce that my short play, “There’s No Place Like Hell for the Holidays”, has been chosen to receive a staged reading on Monday, December 18th as part of the Monday Night PlayGround series!

This piece was written in four days using the prompt “Home for the Holidays”. So of course I decided to add demons from Hell. My piece will be one of six readings for the night.

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If you would like to see actors put on a staged reading of my piece, guided by director Lauren Spencer, you can buy tickets here for the 8pm show. In addition, this PlayGround has a special holiday celebration, a Holiday Cookie Bake-Off at 7pm. Bring your best homemade cookies and your love of the arts to see an evening of great theater.

Announcing the launch of the “Hard as Stone” Anthology, by Circlet Press

(The following post is Not Safe for Work.)

Do you like fantasy dwarves?

Do you like erotica?

Have you ever considered the combination of the two?

The “Hard as Stone: Dwarven Erotica” anthology, published by Circlet Press and edited by Julie Cox, is the perfect place to find this union. It includes my short story “Cave Dwellers”, which should satisfy all of your genderqueer dwarf porn needs.

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Check it out and find all sorts of fun things dwelling in caves!