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Archive for August, 2018

Episode 308: A Stargate in His District

August 31st, 2018 | Robin

 

 

Another all-request episode opens in the familiar confines of the Gaming Hut, where Patreon backer Trung Bui wants to know how we pull out all the stops for climactic campaign-ending episodes.

In the Horror Hut, backer Samwise Crider asks how to incorporate the newly discovered Icelandic and Swedish versions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula into a Dracula Dossier series.

The Cinema Hut hosts another movie 101, this time on the fantasy film, at the command of backer Corey Pierno.

Finally we heed the cries of backer Steve Sick, who bids us enter the Eliptony Hut’s coruscating doorway to talk about Sumerian stargates.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


The White Box is a game design workshop in a box, bursting with inspiring theory and the basic components to turn that theory into playable reality. Brought to you in tandem by Atlas Games and Gameplaywright, it’s the perfect gift for the aspiring game master in your life—who might well be yourself.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available for preorder from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agent hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hybrid Nomads, Jane Birkin and Loads More Noir

August 28th, 2018 | 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 a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

Keep On Keeping On (Nonfiction, Alan Bennett, 2016) The latest collection of diary entries from lauded playwright Bennett (The Madness of King George, The History Boys) covers 2005-2015, including historic church visits, the perils of privatization, funerals for lost colleagues, crap architectural renovations, bad reviews, aging, and what various birds are up to. The best two anecdotes feature Bennett’s fellow Beyond the Fringe alum Jonathan Miller’s quixotic stands against public urination.—RDL

Jane B. by Agnes V. (Film, France, Agnès Varda, 1988) Deconstructed documentary profile of actress and singer Jane Birkin interweaves quasi-conventional interviews with clips from hypothetical films ranging from a western and an art heist thriller to a Joan of Arc biopic. A visually lush exploration of star charisma from cinema’s most playful formalist.—RDL

Pickup (Film, US, Hugo Haas, 1951) Elderly railroad dispatcher Jan Horak (Haas) meets gold-digger Betty (Beverly Michaels), who plays him for a sap, of course. Or worse, if she can get Horak’s co-worker Steve (Allan Nixon) to do her dirty work. Often derided as a kind of 1950s Russ Meyer, Haas was actually a great actor and director in Prague before the Nazi takeover; both qualities show here in this stark moral fable. Beverly Michaels’ marvelous disdain helps power the film past its Poverty Row budget. –KH

The Scarlet Hour (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1956) After overhearing a planned jewel theft, adulterous lovers Marsh (Tom Tryon) and Paulie (Carol Ohmart) plot to hijack it to fund their escape from her husband (James Gregory). Curtiz peppers this capable noir with some simply amazing shots; based on her wonderfully feral performance, Ohmart deserves more fame than she got then or now. Elaine Stritch is only the best of the stalwart supporting players. –KH

The Turning Point (Film, US, William Dieterle, 1952) Naïve crusading special prosecutor John Conroy (Edmond O’Brien) needs help from cynical reporter Jerry McKibbon (William Holden) to bring down racketeer Neil Eichelberger (Ed Begley, Sr.). Superb noir narrative punishes feckless good and ironic detachment, along with the regular sins of corruption and cheating, amidst great LA location shots. Well worth seeing. –KH

Good

Empires of the Silk Road (Nonfiction, Christopher Beckwith, 2009) This enthralling narrative history of Central Eurasia from the proto-Indo-Europeans to the War on Terror fills notable gaps in world historiography, not least by its sympathy with the hybrid nomad-sedentary cultures of the area often libeled as “barbarians.” Beckwith is a Tibetologist and linguist, so while the book is cranky, it is not a crank book. That said, two whole chapters fulminating against Modernism (basically the post-1900 section) stand out as particularly weak regardless of one’s sympathies, and even I know you can’t just posit that Old Chinese began as an Indo-European language and expect to get away with footnoting your own work. –KH

I Was a Shoplifter (Film, US, Charles Lamont, 1950) Judge’s klepto daughter Faye Burton (boring Mona Freeman) gets pinched for shoplifting, drawing her into a ring of thieves headed by Ina Perdue (Andrea King). King runs this movie like she runs her criminal enterprise, with raised eyebrows and clever patter; her sizzling repartee with detective Scott Brady is what the Breen Office should have been concerned with, not the nugatory shoplifting advice. –KH

The Man Who Cheated Himself (Film, US, Felix Feist, 1950) When rich Lois Frazier (Jane Wyatt) kills her husband, her cop boyfriend Ed Cullen (Lee J. Cobb) helps her cover her tracks while his brother (John Dall) investigates the crime. Cobb and Dall and some terrific San Francisco location shots make this film worth watching despite the casting misfire of Wyatt as the femme fatale. –KH

The People Against O’Hara (Film, US, John Sturges, 1951) Shortly after recovering from a stress-related alcoholic breakdown, attorney James Curtayne (Spencer Tracy) takes a murder case defending Johnny O’Hara (James Arness). Despite noirish lensing by John Alton, its domestic subplot lumbers this fully conventional courtroom drama, which gains tension only when it becomes a policier in the last act. Future squire of Gothos William Campbell has a star turn as an improbably Czech hoodlum. –KH

The Spiritualist (Film, US, Bernard Vorhaus, 1948) Pining for her dead husband, Christine Faber (Lynn Bari) proves an easy mark for fake spiritualist Alexis (Turhan Bey). Bey gives good charming weasel, and the script and John Alton’s cinematography go the extra mile despite the limitations of the budget and Bari (cast at literally the last minute). Worth extra notice for genuine magician Harry Mendoza as a detective, and the attention to the details of Alexis’ racket. –KH

Okay

Suspiria (Film, Italy, Dario Argento, 1977) American dancer (Jessica Harper) newly enrolled at a strange German dance academy suspects a malign connection between the murder of her predecessor and various ominous manifestations. Commanding soundtrack and visuals, including a super-saturated color scheme, overshadow a rudimentary script.—RDL

Episode 307: Nobody Wants to Be a Gate

August 24th, 2018 | Robin

 

Patreon backers, specifically Patreon backer Brian Malcolm, demand yet more dungeon talk from us in the Gaming Hut. How do you lend a dungeon complex a narrative quality, instead of making it a random collection of rooms and fights?

In Ken and/or Robin Talk to Someone Else, Christoph Sapinsky tells us about his new hard SF game Free Spacer, now Kickstarting.

In Ask Ken and Robin, backer David Shaw wonders what would happen if you managed to engrave the Elder Sign on Cthulhu.

Finally backer Hal Mangold asks the Consulting Occultist to review the career of Australian illustrator and wiccan Rosaleen Norton.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


The White Box is a game design workshop in a box, bursting with inspiring theory and the basic components to turn that theory into playable reality. Brought to you in tandem by Atlas Games and Gameplaywright, it’s the perfect gift for the aspiring game master in your life—who might well be yourself.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available for preorder from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agent hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

Ken and Robin Consume Media Takes a Turn For the Noir

August 21st, 2018 | 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 a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

Conflict (Film, US, Curtis Bernhardt, 1945) In love with her sister, Richard Mason (Humphrey Bogart) murders his wife — or does he? Sydney Greenstreet is the suspicious psychiatrist in this unique role-switch that screws tension and interest to a fever pitch for 98 percent of its length. Bogart plays Mason’s disintegrating self so well that the noir script holes just flit past unremarked. –KH

Devil in a Blue Dress (Film, US, Carl Franklin, 1995) Unemployed black veteran “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) stumbles into detective work, and into murders, when white fixer Albright (Tom Sizemore) hires him to find the missing Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals). Excellent transposition of Walter Mosley’s novel to film relies equally on Washington’s intelligence, Tak Fujimoto’s expertly sun-faded camera work, and a manic turn by Don Cheadle as Rawlins’ psycho ace in the hole, “Mouse.” –KH

I Walk Alone (Film, US, Byron Haskin, 1948) Released from prison after fourteen years, gangster Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster) seeks a reckoning with his old partner Noll Turner (Kirk Douglas), but finds that times have changed. Come for the Lancaster-Douglas showdown, but stay for the jaw-dropping set piece in which Frankie discovers the real crime of business accounting. –KH

Love Education (Film, Taiwan, Sylvia Chang, 2017) After her mother’s death, a stubborn schoolteacher (Sylvia Chang) launches a campaign to relocate her father’s grave, over the objections of his equally indomitable first wife, the ear-grabbing honorary granny of a close-knit rural community. Moving and funny drama with a wry eye for character observation.—RDL

Love Season 2 (Television, Lesley Arfin & Paul Rust & Judd Apatow, 2017) Despite her resolve to keep her distance, and his inability to navigate her boundaries, love addict Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and awkward Gus circle ever closer to official relationship status. In an era of sophomore slumps, it’s exciting to see a series, especially one so dependent on a keen balance between sharp comedy and real behavior, understand and deliver on what made it great in the first place.—RDL

One False Move (Film, US, Carl Franklin, 1992) Three crooks (Michael Beach, Cynda Williams, and Billy Bob Thornton) fleeing a multiple murder in LA bring big-city cops and gritty violence to the cornpone flyspeck of Star City, Arkansas, and its exuberant police chief Dale “Hurricane” Dixon (Bill Paxton). Franklin blends the crime film and the Western better than most directors handle either genre. Williams’ character anchors the movie, allowing Paxton and Thornton to blow up their parts gloriously. –KH

Understudy For Death (Fiction, Charles Willeford, 1961) When a well-to-do housewife in a small Florida town kills herself and her children, the cynical local reporter assigned to pry into the case stumbles into infidelity. Revived after half a century and still mis-marketed as a crime novel, this features Willeford’s unsparing hardboiled voice but is really an exercise in mid-century American alienation. As if a typical noir cast decided to set aside mystery and murder and stick to the behavior of Cheever or Yates characters. If you don’t know Willeford, start with Cockfighter.—RDL

The Unsuspected (Film, US, Michael Curtiz, 1947) A seeming suicide, a return from the dead, and a mysterious marriage throw the household of radio true-crime host Victor Grandison (Claude Rains) into dramatic disarray. Although Rains oils and conspires beautifully, if Curtiz had gotten his first casting choices (Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine) this would have been another of his Pinnacles. The dialogue crackles, the cameras zoom and float, and shadows loom and stab in this not-quite-flawless thriller. –KH

Good

Blind Spot (Film, US, Robert Gordon, 1947) A drunk writer (Chester Morris) may have murdered his publisher in a locked room right after coming up with a locked-room mystery plot. Strong viewer identification and the beautiful Constance Dowling (as the publisher’s pawed-at secretary) push this light work up to Good for me, but Morris’ ridiculous “drunk” performance in the first act and the lack of true mystery may drop it to Okay for others. –KH

Bodyguard (Film, US, Richard Fleischer, 1948) Dismissed from the LAPD, maverick cop Mike Carter (Lawrence Tierney) finds bodyguard work, and skullduggery afoot, in the Dyson meat-packing clan. Either you want to see Lawrence Tierney bully, slink, and growl his way through plenty of vital, interesting Los Angeles location shots or you don’t. –KH

Strange Impersonation (Film, US, Anthony Mann, 1946) Biochemist Nora Goodrich (Brenda Marshall) experiments on herself with a new anesthetic, sending the viewer on a thrill ride of blackmail, identity theft, alembics, and post-surgery cigarettes, with a terrific Anthony Mann shot every so often to goose the emotional stakes. Even William Gargan as the inexplicable bone of romantic contention can’t stop things dead. –KH

Okay

Escape in the Fog (Film, US, Budd Boetticher, 1945) Recuperating nurse Eilene (Nina Foch) has a nightmare of seeing a man stabbed on the Golden Gate Bridge — and then meets him when her waking screams bring him running. Budget limits and a hack script waste the appealing Foch and a great premise on a rote spy-smashing B-picture. Boetticher doesn’t really bother trying here. –KH

Episode 306: Gen Con 2018

August 17th, 2018 | Robin

 

We’re scratchy voiced and mushy headed from our journey to Gen Con 18. The Best Four Days in Gaming got bigger than ever this year, and we’re here to sort through the awards, the announcements, and perhaps a spot of food.

Also at Gen Con we talked to Emily Reinhart, whose magical girl RPG Domina Magica is Kickstarting now. We tuck that interview in among our loop-brained observations.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


The White Box is a game design workshop in a box, bursting with inspiring theory and the basic components to turn that theory into playable reality. Brought to you in tandem by Atlas Games and Gameplaywright, it’s the perfect gift for the aspiring game master in your life—who might well be yourself.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available for preorder from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agent hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Aquatic Humanoids and the New Tim Powers

August 14th, 2018 | 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 a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

Alternate Routes (Fiction, Tim Powers, 2018) A former Secret Service agent who now works for a ghost-proof courier service in LA collides with an ongoing government program that’s weakening the walls between worlds. This is a very Powers-y novel, albeit one more rooted in the present than his usual. The ghost cosmology bubbles inventively, a blend of Expiration Date and “Down and Out in Purgatory,” with a few new wrinkles. Although the action seldom lets up, it’s not quite the barn-burner that the Powers Pinnacles are, with only one truly vertiginous revelation. –KH

Black is the Color (Graphic Novel, Julia Gfrörer, 2013) Sailor set adrift by his desperate shipmates attracts the attentions of an affectionate but sinister mermaid. Deadpan, haunting weird tale told in spare, almost monoplanar line art.—RDL

Cold Skin (Film, France/Spain, Xavier Jens, 2017) Weather station operator (David Oakes) newly arrived on a remote, barren island joins with its only other human inhabitant, a truculent lighthouse keeper (Ray Stevenson) to fend off nightly attacks from aquatic humanoids. Stark, beautifully shot period horror reminiscent of William Hope Hodgson.—RDL

Good

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (Film, US, Lou Adler, 1982) After minor celebrity makes Corinne “Third Degree” Burns (Diane Lane) unemployable in her small town, she talks her (awful) band The Stains (Lane, Marin Kanter, and Laura Dern) onto the tour of the Metal Corpses (various Tubes) and the Looters (Ray Winstone fronting various Clash and Sex Pistols). What ensues, murkily directed and recorded, is the origin myth of the Riot Grrrl movement via All About Eve. Nancy Dowd took her name off the script, which as shot and cut can’t figure out if it’s indicting the Spectacle or Burns or both. Lane and Winstone are great, though. –KH

Episode 305: I Put My Whole Head In and I am Fine

August 10th, 2018 | Robin

 

Once more we’re in the same room together with an episode recorded in our hotel the day before Gen Con. Hmm, what easy topics shall we tackle?

Does the game system you’re playing expect you to generate a plot hook for your character? We’re waiting in the Gaming Hut with tips and advice.

The Tradecraft Hut keeps insisting we keep it topical, so what choice do we have but to cover the Maria Butila story?

In the Food Hut, we journey to Food Valhalla, where dwell the favorite meals we will never again eat in the mortal realm.

Speaking of topics we can’t not address, we close in the gridded-off confines of the Archaeology Hut, where we ponder that giant sarcophagus everyone has been talking about.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


The White Box is a game design workshop in a box, bursting with inspiring theory and the basic components to turn that theory into playable reality. Brought to you in tandem by Atlas Games and Gameplaywright, it’s the perfect gift for the aspiring game master in your life—who might well be yourself.

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available for preorder from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agent hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

Episode 304: We’re Not Running a Party of Death Here

August 3rd, 2018 | Robin

 

Mystery scenario construction is once again on our minds in the Gaming Hut, as we discuss ways to run a mystery in which the investigators respond to an ongoing spree of murders, monster attacks, or the like.

We make sure the roof of the History Hut is well-patched as we consider the cosmic terror that was the passenger pigeon.

At the request of Patreon backer Timothy Coram, we pop into the Cinema Hut to chat about the giallo, and its application to The Yellow King Roleplaying Game.

Finally the Consulting Occultist profiles Alexander Dugin, a Russian philosopher who combines fascism, synarchy, nationalism and chaos magick under the banner of an oddly familiar eight-pointed arrow star.

Want to pose a question to the show? Get your priority question asking access with your support for the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


The island of Al Amarja may have moved from its classic 1990s location, but don’t be fooled. Over the Edge is indeed back, with Jonathan Tweet updating his classic and influential game design. Get ready to duck New Age cultists, baboon-wielding gangsters, twisted assassins when the roleplaying game of weird modern danger is Kickstarting now!

Ken’s latest roleplaying game, The Fall of Delta Green, is now available for preorder from Pelgrane Press. Journey to the head-spinning chaos of the late 1960s, back when everyone’s favorite anti-Cthulhu special ops agent hadn’t gone rogue yet, for this pulse-pounding GUMSHOE game of war, covert action, and Mythos horror.

Grab the translated riches of FENIX magazine in a special bundle deal from our friends at Askfageln, over at Indie Press Revolution. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, a cornucopia of articles, complete games, plus the cartoon antics of Bernard the Barbarian. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish.

Just in time to save the world, though perhaps not your team of hardened covert agents, from the Mythos, the Delta Green Handlers Guide from Arc Dream Publishing is now in print and either at or headed to a game store near you. The slipcase print edition includes both the Handlers’ Guide and Agents’ Handbook, fitting snugly into your go bag along with your extra passports and list of weapons caches.

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Robin
Film Cannister