Grimoire
Cthulhu
Dracula
Abraham Lincoln
Ken
Grimoire

Episode 197: Obviously She Fought Radium Ghosts

July 1st, 2016 | Robin

Ever-prolific Ken dons a knit cap like all the youngsters wear to bring us the scoop on Bubblegumshoe in Among My Many Hats.

In the Gaming Hut, we satisfy Patreon backer Sean McAuliff’s request for advice on playing historical figures.

Finally the sound of bookseller cash registers ringing in New England tell us that it’s time for another erudite installment of Ken’s Bookshelf.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Ken and Robin have oft been accused of being cards. Well, we can deny it no longer. We have become super-limited promo cards for Murder of Crows, Atlas Games’ fast-paced card game of murder and the macabre, for two to five players in the mood for something a little morbid. It’s Edward Gorey meets Caligari, by way of Edgar Allan Poe. Wait a minute, what does that graphic say? I’m not so sure about this… Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted. This episode also brought to you by Joe Dever’s Freeway Warrior, Kickstarting from now until July 7th. Survive the apocalypse with the blazing return of Joe Dever’s classic game books, now from Askfageln. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Fashion Victims, Far-Flung Travels and a Hospital Shoot-Out

June 28th, 2016 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Instruments of Darkness (Fiction, Robert Wilson, 1996) Can noir exist in a setting where everything is already known to be corrupt? Hired to find a missing expatriate, fixer Bruce Medway gets beaten up, meets femme fatales, drinks, and talks fast at gunpoint in this assured mystery set in 1990s West Africa. The setting fascinates and compels, and the rest of the novel doesn’t disappoint. –KH

The Neon Demon (Film, France/Germany, Nicholas Winding Refn, 2016) A beautiful ingenue (Elle Fanning) on the verge of becoming the next “it” girl in Los Angeles’ modeling scene falls into a vortex of gorgeously shot art cinema and ritualized horror. See it in the theater to fully experience the powerful sound design and Cliff Martinez’ subdermal score. The emptiest and least moral of Refn’s three major films, but hey … as the characters in this film all believe, beauty is everything. –KH

The Night Manager (TV, UK, BBC, Susanne Bier, 2016) War vet turned hotel concierge (Tom Hiddleston) turns into an undercover operative to bring down an urbanely sinister arms dealer (Hugh Laurie.) Yeah, the John Le Carre source material includes some over-familiar plot devices. That said, director Susanne Bier’s mix of glossy surfaces and constricting suspense, and the acting duel between the two leads, meet or exceed the spy genre specs. Plus bonus Olivia Colman! —RDL

Orphan Black Season 4 (TV, Canada, 2016) The clone conspiracy circles back toward its past as Sarah and the sestras uncover the fertility clinic that acts as Neolution’s latest front operation. Season 4 finds the show pruning previous plot threads on a welcome back-to-basics initiative.—RDL

Three (Film, HK, Johnnie To, 2016) A cop engaged in a misconduct coverup (Louis Koo) and a risk-taking neurosurgeon (Vicky Zhao) play out a tense waiting game as a factoid-spewing armed robber with a bullet in his head waits for buddies to effect a guns-blazing rescue. Watch the master of spatial relationships methodically put all the dominoes in place for one of his trademark explosions of elegant chaos.—RDL

Three (Film, HK, Johnnie To, 2016) To intertwines the medical drama and the policier as three wounded protagonists — a workaholic neurosurgeon (Vicky Zhao), a rule-breaking cop (Louis Koo), and a criminal mastermind with a bullet in the brain (Wallace Chung) — collide in a Hong Kong hospital ward. Effortlessly layered and beautifully designed genre film builds even beyond the hyper-theatrical gunfight to a true catharsis: healing through pity and terror. –KH

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Nonfiction, Randall Munroe, 2014). Yes, it’s just as great as you think it is. If you’re a fan of xkcd but somehow haven’t visited his “What If” page, do so. This is that, only bigger and heavier. Asimov and Sagan are gone, but we can still find out what happens if you pitch a baseball at light speed. (Everything blows up.) –KH

Good

Adventures in Arabia (Nonfiction, William Seabrook, 1927) A relatively sedate piece of travel writing from the adventurous-minded Seabrook, who enjoys the ironic contrast of his own romantic and sensationalistic tendencies against the reality of 1920s Arabia. The chapter on the “Yezidee Devil Worshipers” is paradigmatically wry, and Seabrook an engaging tour guide throughout. –KH

Memories of Baku (Nonfiction, Nicholas V. Iljine (ed.), 2013) From 1872 to 1920, Baku in Azerbaijan pumped half the world’s oil, and drew millionaires, sharpers, spies, and inventors to its medieval walls and Belle Epoque mansions. Lavishly illustrated with period postcards, maps, and photographs, this collection of essays and thumbnail sketches lays out the world of the first great oil-boom town in chamber-of-commerce fashion, which is a shame given the wealth of gameable chicanery, violence, and subterfuge it glosses over. –KH

Return of the Badmen (Film, US, Ray Enright, 1948) Retired rancher (Randolph Scott) defends Oklahoma’s banks from a gang of robbers including the Youngers, the Daltons, Billy the Kid, and trigger-happy psychopath the Sundance Kid (Robert Ryan.) I can’t make an argument for this but nonetheless found myself enjoying it not in spite of, but because of, its unpredictably oddball script choices. Most notable of these: establishing the cheerfully ahistorical premise of an all-star outlaw team-up and then relegating it to the background for one of those good girl / bad girl love triangles postwar Hollywood couldn’t get enough of.—RDL

Wandering Spirits: Traveling Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Nonfiction, Selena Chambers, 2016) Slim collection of letters by the SF/horror writer describing her encounters with three places of Frankenstein: the Villa Diodati, Ingolstadt, and Mont Blanc. Slight and not particularly incisive literary criticism, but enjoyably Romantic in tone and thought; if you’re as big a Frankenphile as I, you might even elevate it to Recommended. –KH

Okay

Bridge of Spies (Film, US, Steven Spielberg, 2015) As the wall goes up in Berlin, an American  lawyer (Tom Hanks) deniably negotiates a swap of his Russian spy client (Mark Rylance) for downed pilot Francis Gary Powers. The corny, ham-fisted Spielberg of yore comes back to take the reins from the darker, more restrained Spielberg we’ve seen more of lately. On a formal level, it is cool to see him take something you’re not supposed to do—move a camera outfitted with spherical anamorphic Cinemascope lenses, because its curves distort the image—and do it constantly in as many ways as possible.—RDL

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (Film, UK, Gareth Carrivick, 2009) To the extent anything does, Chris O’Dowd and Anna Faris anchor this amiable nerdtroping of “three blokes in a pub.” There’s a lot of potential in the premise — boy meets time traveller, temporal hijinks ensue — but this watery brew was probably all the budget would buy. –KH

Ire-Inspiring

The Neon Demon (Film, Denmark/US, Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016) Teen model imbued with an irresistible innocence (Elle Fanning) enters the predatory world of L.A. fashion. Giallo-inflected outre drama in which Refn flips from his usual exploration of self-destructive hyper-masculinity to a world of exaggerated hyper-femininity–plunging off a diving board into risible misogyny. Reaches depths of terrible available only to highly talented filmmakers.—RDL

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Episode 196: Conspicuously Non-Assassinated

June 24th, 2016 | Robin

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Philip asks for ways to incorporate the beat cycle from Robin’s book Hamlet’s Hit Points into game systems that don’t already support it.

The Tradecraft Hut peers into the dossier of Yakov Blumkin, the so-called Soviet James Bond.

We gather in the Gaming Hut to wonder why breaking the fourth wall was ever considered poor form.

Then we lurk our way to the Conspiracy Corner, where Patreon backer Darren Hennessy wants to know what we know about the Business Plot.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Ken and Robin have oft been accused of being cards. Well, we can deny it no longer. We have become super-limited promo cards for Murder of Crows, Atlas Games’ fast-paced card game of murder and the macabre, for two to five players in the mood for something a little morbid. It’s Edward Gorey meets Caligari, by way of Edgar Allan Poe. Wait a minute, what does that graphic say? I’m not so sure about this… Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted.

This episode also brought to you by Joe Dever’s Freeway Warrior, Kickstarting from now until July 7th. Survive the apocalypse with the blazing return of Joe Dever’s classic game books, now from Askfageln.

Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Mermaid, A Disfigured Anti-Hero, and Alien Brainwash

June 21st, 2016 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

This week Ken consumed Origins instead of media, and Robin spent the weekend attending the Canadian Writer’s Summit. Hence a slimmer than usual list of capsule reviews.

Recommended

Cooked (TV, US, Netflix, 2016) Ostentatiously beautiful HD photography brings a rich glow to this docuseries adaptation of Michael Pollan’s food book of the same name, with instalments themed around the four elements: fire (meat), water (pot cooking), air (bread) and earth (fermentation.) There must not be much to say about pot cooking, as episode two spends most of its time critiquing the processed food industry’s impact on health and society.—RDL

The Face Behind the Mask (Film, US, Robert Florey, 1941) Once hope-filled immigrant burned in a hotel fire (Peter Lorre) dons a mask to conceal his disfigured features and turns to masterminding armed robberies. Aside from Lorre’s wonderfully extravagant performance, the genre-blending combination of gothic horror themes in a hardboiled crime setting provides the chief point of interest.—RDL

Night Tide (Film, US, Curtis Harrington, 1961) Naive sailor (Dennis Hopper) falls for a sideshow mermaid with a dark secret. Lewtonesque weird tale makes atmospheric use of location shooting in and around the Santa Monica amusement pier. Put a copy of Unaussprechlichen Kulten next to the pickled hand on the retired sea captain’s curio shelf, toss in a reference to Dagon, and you’ve got yourself a Mythos movie.—RDL

Simon (Film, US, Marshall Brickman, 1980) Amoral scientific geniuses brainwash flailing psychology prof (Alan Arkin) into believing he’s an alien being. Droll satire skewers futurism and messianic arrogance. To update it to the present you’d only need slicker-looking tech and a scene where Austin Pendleton’s smug chief antagonist gives a TED talk. Solid cast of comic character actors includes Wallace Shawn, Max Wright, Fred Gwynne and Madeline Kahn.—RDL

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Episode 195: All Its Guns in Norman Rockwell

June 17th, 2016 | Robin

Patreon backer Trung Bui asks us to assemble in the Gaming Hut to tell him who the murderer is, and also to discuss the challenges of investigative scenario construction.

The gore runs thick but the design sense runs high as the Cinema Hut answers a Marc Kevin Hall request for an introduction to Italian horror films.

In the Culture Hut backer and Parisian dreamhound Josh Rose wants to know what the Communist Party would have looked like if it had embraced surrealism.

And hey, it’s another all request episode, as backer James Griffin quizes the Consulting Occultist on past life regression. Why isn’t it a thing any more?

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Ken and Robin have oft been accused of being cards. Well, we can deny it no longer. We have become super-limited promo cards for Murder of Crows, Atlas Games’ fast-paced card game of murder and the macabre, for two to five players in the mood for something a little morbid. It’s Edward Gorey meets Caligari, by way of Edgar Allan Poe. Wait a minute, what does that graphic say? I’m not so sure about this… Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted. You say that’s still not enough Ken for you? Very well, my friend. His brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Spies, Celts and 30s Beefcake

June 14th, 2016 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

The Americans Season 4 (TV, FX, 2015-2016) The best show on television turns up the Cold War heat, slowly breaking some characters (especially KGB sleeper Elizabeth (Keri Russell)) and destroying others, but annealing FBI bulldog Stan (Noah Emmerich) and especially spy-daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) into ever more interesting and powerful roles. The narrative arc is if anything even stronger than the amazing Season 2, and a bio-weapons plotline pays off in spades not only as the setup for superbly lo-fi spycraft thrills but as a multi-faceted metaphor for the sleepers, their hunters, and their diseased home life. –KH

Dark tales by Guy de Maupassant (Fiction, 1880s-1890s) Spare, observant, ironic and anecdotal, the weird tales of Guy de Maupassant never unequivocally invoke the supernatural but sometimes introduce intimations of it. More often his horrors are entirely the work of humankind: “Man is the worst!” declares one of his adventurer characters, comparing us to the animals he has hunted. A key influence on Chambers, and therefore on the subsequent horror tradition. Absent an immediately available anthology, I curated one myself from Gutenberg and other online sources. Key stories: “The Horla”, “Fear”, “Magnetism”, “The Apparition”, “Terror”, “On the River”, “The Case of Louise Roque,” “Who Knows?” and “Mother Sauvage.”—RDL

Recommended

The Children Are Watching Us (Film, Italy, Vittorio De Sica, 1944) Young boy watches helplessly as his mother conducts an affair. More visually sumptuous, and, because of its emotional complexities, even more heart-wrenching, than De Sica’s later classic The Bicycle Thieves. A small-scale tragedy filled in by the director’s eye for social observation.—RDL

Kill the Messenger (Film, US, Michael Cuesta, 2014) Investigative journalist at second rank paper (Jeremy Renner) finds that publishing a story about CIA complicity in cocaine smuggling is only half the battle. Taut news procedural differs from the genre’s usual structure by focusing less on breaking the story than on weathering the ensuing backlash.—RDL

Search For Beauty (Film, US, Erle C. Kenton, 1934) Recently sprung con artists take over a health magazine, using two Olympic athletes (Ida Lupino, Buster Crabbe) as respectable fronts to deflect attention from its racy contents. Snappy sex comedy from the dying moments of the Pre-Code era, whose camera ogles the men with greater enthusiasm than it does the women, juggles enough contradictions to launch a thousand gender studies papers. The text may take the side of the squares, but the subtext tweaks the cruelty of their virtue and roots for the libertines. —RDL

Good

The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention? (Nonfiction, Simon James, 1999) An archaeologist specializing in Iron Age Britain, James slightly outruns his evidence while arguing (from the archaeological record) against any “Celtic invasion” of the British Isles. Instead, he posits local elites of no particular ethnos self-acculturating with “the La Tène aristocratic package” in much the same way later British elites self-acculturated with an Italian “aristocratic package” during the Renaissance. Prolix without being detailed, it still frames one side of the debate well. More recent DNA research tends to bear his argument out, but “invasions” such as that of the Belgae recorded by Caesar remain more likely than James wants to admit. –KH

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (Film, UK, Piers Haggard, 1970) After a plowman (Barry Andrews) uncovers the hairy skull of the demon Behemoth in a rustic 17th century English field, its cult (and bodily infection) spreads to the manor’s children until the Judge (Patrick Wymark) reluctantly realizes the supernatural is afoot. Combining a naturalistic, earthy rustic mise-en-scène with a 1970s post-Manson “youth problem” plot somehow creates a truly unnerving experience sadly let down by the cheap monster effects and arbitrary ending.. Linda Hayden is wonderful as the cult priestess, and Dick Bush’s camera work seals the anti-Hammer feel in this deliberately formless horror. –KH

Okay

Doctor X (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1932) Medical research institute head (Lionel Atwill) hunts the cannibal serial killer who must be one of his colleagues. Mad science horror from the future director of Casablanca and The Adventures of Robin Hood shows his flair for montage and serves up a cool monster transformation but is otherwise creaky. Easily adapted into a Trail of Cthulhu scenario though. Shot in the sickly cyan and orange of the early two-strip Technicolor process.—RDL

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Episode 194: Knocking Off Early For Gin and Lemonade

June 10th, 2016 | Robin

The Gaming Hut becomes a boat we might just die in as Patreon backer Luke Wassink asks us to make environmental obstacles suspenseful and compelling.

In Among My Many Hats, Ken tells us about his new Dark Osprey book, The Cthulhu Wars: the United States’ Battle Against the Mythos.

Hey, who covered the floor of the Eliptony Hut with Toynbee tiles?

And Ken’s Time Machine tackles its deepest mystery yet, as Phil Masters asks Ken why he claimed to be from Porlock.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Attention, class! Anchor sponsor Atlas Games wants to enrol you in Mad Scientist University, the card game of evil genius, insane assignments, and unstable elements. Act now, Ken and Robin listeners, and they’ll throw in the Spring Break expansion set for free. Shipping within the US is also free. Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted. You say that’s still not enough Ken for you? Very well, my friend. His brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.   

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Speedsters, Ghosts, and a Bus to the Moon

June 7th, 2016 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Flash Season 2 (TV, CW, 2015-2016) Flash discovers Earth-2, and Earth-2 discovers him right back in an epic season-long battle between Flash and Zoom. The Flash writers still need to fine-tune the series’ pacing, but they feel brave enough to tackle multiverses, the Speed Force, and ever more metahumans while setting up Wally West, Jesse Quick, and Flashpoint for Season 3. This shows a proper Silver Age confidence in the material, a confidence absolutely vital to making a silly superhero show good. –KH

Girls Season 5 (TV, HBO, 2016) Life choices and betrayals send Hannah and friends into their own separate tailspins. This is the hardest season to watch for the same reason it’s brilliant: the writing lets us see the already narcissistic characters hit the emotional skids in a way that calls our sympathy for them into question.—RDL

Nothing Lasts Forever (Film, US, Tom Schiller, 1984) Fresh-faced kid (Zach Galligan) looks for the art form that will bring him fame in an alternate-history NYC ruled by the Port Authority, little suspecting that a secret society of the homeless waits to send him on a bus ride to the moon. Whimsical, bizarro, strangely beautiful contemporary fantasy shot like a 30s movie. Featuring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Clancy Brown, Eddie Fisher, Imogene Coca, Sam Jaffe, Mort Sahl and Calvert deForest. From a director best known for similarly lovely and off-kilter SNL shorts, this is the kind of film you doubt exists even as you’re watching it.–RDL

Good

Crimson Peak (Film, US, Guillermo del Toro, 2015) Creepy siblings (Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain) lure innocent and tiresome girl (Mia Wasikowska) into a literally decaying family built on death and blood-red clay. Del Toro mostly lets the momentum of the genre carry the film (along with Fernando Velazquez’ score) while he, production designer Thomas E. Sanders, and cinematographer Dan Laustsen build an honest-to-Eyre old-dark-house gothic in a giallo-Hammer palette marred only by crap CGI. As in the true gothic, the setting commands the story, mood and image trump narrative, and characters feel rather than think. –KH

The Fall of Paris (Non-fiction, Alistair Horne, 1965) Sweeping narrative history connects the Franco-Prussian War, most especially the Siege of Paris, to the establishment of the Paris Commune and ensuing civil war. Drips with sardonicism that would make Edward Gibbon proud, but not for the uninitiated: oddly for a popular history, it assumes a reader already versed in the subject matter.—RDL

Nameless (Fiction, Matt Rossi, 2016) Two Rhode Islanders discover magic, their true love, and their grandmother’s monstrous plot against them in this rambunctious debut novel from the eliptonic essayist behind Bottled Demon and At Last, Atlantis. Although strong echoes of Tim Powers and (of course) the Cthulhu Mythos manifest, this postmodern fantasy most recalls the feel and flavor of Matt Wagner’s Mage. Call it Recommended if that all sounds neat enough to forgive various typos, editing infelicities, and occasional lacunae of definition in the name of stakes-raising. –KH

The Nice Guys (Film, US, Shane Black, 2016) Alcoholic private eye (Ryan Gosling) and oddly honorable thug-for-hire (Russell. Crowe) team up to find a missing girl somehow mixed up in the porn business. Comic banter between the leads takes center stage, backstopped by 70s style and eruptions of entropic violence. Just don’t think about the believability of the situation they’re investigating .–RDL.

Not Recommended

Phantom of the Opera (Fiction, Gaston Leroux, 1910) Grotesque master of traps who dwells in the Paris Opera extorts its management and stalks the beautiful soprano he’s been teaching to sing. In a flaw common to serialized material, starts strong but gets lost in the weeds as it goes along. Iconic moments from later adaptations, like the chandelier drop and the reveal of Erik’s hideous face, are thrown away early on. Aside from these memorable images, its strength lies in the journalistic evocation of the setting. —RDL

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Episode 193: Bonaparte Eyes

June 3rd, 2016 | Robin

In Ask Ken and Robin, Patreon backer Andrew Jones asks about working with Greg Stafford.

The History Hut looks at the post-WWI occupation of Istanbul, as requested by Alexander Perman.

How to Write Good rips the lid off of our least favorite fake stock moments in fiction.

Finally the Conspiracy Corner finds Timothy Coram asking us to make something of the Westfield Watcher.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!


Attention, class! Anchor sponsor Atlas Games wants to enroll you in Mad Scientist University, the card game of evil genius, insane assignments, and unstable elements. Act now, Ken and Robin listeners, and they’ll throw in the Spring Break expansion set for free. Shipping within the US is also free. Ken fans who did not partake of the Kickstarter can now sink their fangs into the general release of the Dracula Dossier from Pelgrane Press, consisting of the Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted. You say that’s still not enough Ken for you? Very well, my friend. His brilliant pieces on parasitic gaming, alternate Newtons, Dacian werewolves and more now lurk among the sparkling bounty of The Best of FENIX Volumes 1-3, from returning sponsors Askfageln. Yes, it’s Sweden’s favorite RPG magazine, now beautifully collected. Warning: not in Swedish. Attention, operatives of Delta Green, the ultra-covert agency charged with battling the contemporary forces of the Cthulhu Mythos! Now everything you need to know to play Delta Green: The Roleplaying Game, perhaps extending your valiantly short field life, can be found in the Delta Green Agent’s Handbook.

 

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Stone Cold Jane Austen

May 31st, 2016 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Love & Friendship (Film, US/EU, Whit Stillman, 2016) Adventuress and manipulator Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) dodges scandal while seeking suitable marriages for herself and, if she must, her daughter. Comedian of manners Stillman adapts and expands on an early Jane Austen novella (q.v.), with just the joy and elan one would expect from the pairing. Beckinsale delightfully recalls her performance as the similarly egoistic Charlotte in Stillman’s Last Days of Disco; Sophie Corra’s editing adds still more sharpness. –KH

Love & Friendship (Film, US/EU, Whit Stillman, 2016) Scandalous widow Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) doesn’t let her desire to marry off her daughter get in the way of her yen for two separate handsome gentlemen. Stillman’s eye for the inner workings of insular social milieus and ear for sparkling dialogue make him the perfect director to showcase the side of Austen most screen adaptations downplay–the wit. Tom Bennett enters the all-time cinematic upper class twit hall of fame with his hilarious portrayal of hapless suitor Sir James Martin.–RDL

The Mind Reader (Film, US, Roy del Ruth, 1933) Carnival fortune teller (Warren William) falls for a decent girl who believes his powers are real. Satirical drama crackling with pre-Code cynicism and the usual delightful performance from pencil-mustached William, who was George Sanders before George Sanders was George Sanders. Steal all the characters and locales, add tentacles, shake in a bag till you have a new plotline, and you’ve got yourself a Trail of Cthulhu scenario. —RDL

Nice Guys (Film, US, Shane Black, 2016) Wannabe do-gooder thug Healy (Russell Crowe) and feckless drunk P.I. March (Ryan Gosling) stumble into a tangled web of murder in an aggressively production-designed 1977 Los Angeles; a riotous Shane Black movie ensues. Solid character writing and performances keep the film on an even keel throughout the hard-boiled near-farce. –KH

Supernatural Season 11 (TV, CW, 2015-2016) Sam and Dean keep on hunting monsters in between attempts to deal with God’s sister, the darkness, and her plans to destroy his creation. It’s quite an achievement to keep ringing the changes on the show’s tight parameters after over a decade on the air; this season keeps the plates spinning by tipping the balance toward the show’s lighter side. —RDL

Good

Lady Susan (Fiction, Jane Austen, 1794?) Epistolary novella archly describes the manipulations of Lady Susan Vernon, less moral and more intelligent than everyone around her. Its truncated conclusion (Austen apparently couldn’t figure out how to continue it in epistolary format) is its great flaw, but the letters crackle with Austen zingers. In a better world, Lady Susan Vernon eclipses even the wonderful Becky Sharp in the pantheon of English adventuresses. –KH

Mirage Men (Film, UK, John Lundberg, 2013) Documentary based on writer Mark Pilkington’s book of the same name enters the world of U.S. government UFO disinformation via the amiable, slightly defensive, irrationally plausible Richard Doty, an outed and self-confessed disinfo/counter-intelligence officer in the USAF Office of Special Investigation. As one might expect, it loses its narrative thread a few times, but the production is much better than made-for-cable bumf. If you know the field already, bump it up to Recommended. –KH

Okay

Altman (Film, Canada, Ron Mann, 2014) Affectionate look back at the career and family life of director Robert Altman. Altman left such a vast filmography that the documentary feature format allows only time for a zip through the basics. Bump up to “Recommended” if that’s what you’re looking for.—RDL

The Glory Guys (Film, US, Arnold Laven, 1965) Brooding cavalry captain (future horror writer Tom Tryon) and bullheaded scout (Harve Presnell) vie for the affections of a hot-blooded widow (Senta Berger) while awaiting an attack on the Sioux under a general with a rep for callously sacrificing his men. Stab at colorful widescreen entertainment with the black tar of screenwriter Sam Peckinpah’s doom-laden cynicism bubbling into it from below. Might be more than a curio if any of the three leads had a lick of star charisma.—RDL

Gotham Season 2 (TV, Fox, 2015-2016) While Jim Gordon has his hands full with various multi-villain assaults on the city, young Bruce Wayne continues to investigate the murders of his parents. Drops the case of the week structure in favor of straight-up serialized storytelling but still puts the characters through changes too fast for most of them to land.—RDL

Trail Street (Film, US, Ray Enright, 1947) Legendary marshal Bat Masterson (Randolph Scott) teams up with stand-up land agent (Robert Ryan) to protect farmers from a murderous cattle man. Comfortably formulaic entry made watchable by its stars and coot-specialist character actor George ‘Gabby’ Hayes. Up with wheat! Down with beef! —RDL

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