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Episode 225: Just Make Up a Bunch of Dwarves

January 20th, 2017 | Robin

Episode 225: Just Make Up a Bunch of Dwarves

Patreon backer Zachary Joyner poses some Gaming Hut questions about improvising a GUMSHOE game. How quickly do you give out clues? How do you maintain pace without leading the players?

Though our latest trip to London has faded into the mist of nostalgia, we would be remiss not to paw through the books Ken raided while there, in another edition of Ken’s Bookshelf.

Still on a bibliophilic note, Ask Ken and Robin fulfills the desires of backer Christopher Kalley for the secret scoop on our personal libraries.

Finally we enlist the Consulting Occultist to reveal the esoteric weirdness lurking in your bowl of Chex cereal, as he tells all about Ralstonism.

Support the KARTAS Patreon! Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic. Get yourself some flat plastic Ken and Robin miniatures by supporting Arcknight’s Flat Plastic Miniatures 2 Kickstarter.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store. Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! 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. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Rats, Djinn, and the Vampyre

January 17th, 2017 | 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

A Crack in the Wall (Fiction, Claudia Piñeiro, 2009)  Thwarted, middle-aged architect falls for a young woman who drops by his office to ask about a man he and his superiors at the firm buried in the foundations of an apartment building three years previous. Sharply conceived literary crime novel provides a master class in setting up expectations and then going somewhere more interesting.—RDL

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: The Gangster Film (Nonfiction, Phil Hardy, 1998) Sadly the last in Overlook’s exceptional series, this massive crime-film reference covers 1,500+ films from Gang War (Bert Glennon, 1928) to Underworld (Roger Christian, 1997), including plenty of French and Hong Kong classics alongside the caper films, policiers, Mafia movies, and other subtypes of this fuzzy genre. (It excludes some “individualist” crime and noir films, which Hardy was saving for a sadly never-completed detective film encyclopedia.) Entries’ critical judgements are a little wonkier than in Hardy’s horror and Western compendia, but you can’t beat the scope. –KH

The Poet and the Vampyre (Nonfiction, Andrew McConnell Stott, 2014) Gossipy, divagatory, and hence entertaining, discussion of the menage (Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin, John Polidori, and Claire Clairmont) that briefly met in the Villa Diodati in June 1816 and galvanized the horror genre in between bouts of fornication, bickering, and laudanum. Not quite the hour-by-hour blow-by-blow I was looking for, but I found lots of other good stuff in it nonetheless. –KH

Rats (Film, US, Morgan Spurlock, 2016) From the hardboiled exterminators of NYC to pathologists in New Orleans, from the restaurant tables of Vietnam to a Hindu temple in India, humans confront the ingenious, disease-ridden, ever-multiplying rodent that swarms wherever we do. Urban nature documentary jazzed up by horror movie techniques revels in unflinching gross-out. I sure was surprised by the moment where about a dozen rats rise up on their haunches to chitter, “Your friee-e-e-ee-end Ke-e-e-e-enne-e-e-e-th, we are coming for him, we are coming for Ke-e-e-e-enne-e-e-e-th…”—RDL

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Film, US, Joseph Sargent, 1974) Mister Blue (Robert Shaw) leads a fractious team of criminals in the hijacking of a New York City subway car, locking horns with coarse improviser Lt. Garber (Walter Matthau) of the NYC Transit Police. A profane, ironic tribute to New York City, its infrastructure, and its irritated, wiseass officials and citizenry, it’s now a period piece that doesn’t seem dated. David Shire’s score likewise nails it, a 70s jazz groove veering between atonalism and funk. –KH

Under the Shadow (Film, UK/Qatar/Jordan/Iran, Babak Anvari, 2016) As missiles rain down on Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War, a woman whose career ambitions have been stifled by the regime reluctantly concludes that maybe her preschool daughter and her neighbors are right to say that djinn have invaded their apartment building. Lays down a baseline of naturalism that makes its ever so incremental shift into jump scares and supernatural imagery all the more unsettling.—RDL

Good

Inspector Pancakes Helps the President of France* (Fiction, Karla Pacheco, 2014) Presented as a charming kids’ board book with fun illustrations by Maren Marmulla, this tale of a dog in a little hat finding a stolen croissant conceals a mystery! Specifically, a brutal, hardboiled mystery full of very bad words, told in tiny print throughout the book, which I am not kidding you do not want your kids to read. The joke is funny and carried off well, but I don’t envy any parents who forget to filch this from the nursery once little Abigail learns to sound out words. –KH   *solve the white orchid murders

Okay

The Limits of Control (Film, US, Jim Jarmusch, 2009) Taciturn assassin (Isaach de Bankolé) travels through Spain, making a series of rendezvous with mysterious messengers (Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, Paz de la Huerta) on his way to a  hit. Jarmusch’s most experimental feature mostly cares about beautiful compositions, the feeling that comes when you’re waiting to act, and paying homage to fellow director Claire Denis.—RDL

The Outfit (Film, US, John Flynn, 1973) Flynn’s adaptation of my favorite Richard Stark novel is great when it sticks to its source material, which sadly it only does intermittently. Watching Robert Duvall care about people and laugh and discuss his backstory badly damages what could have been a really great Parker performance, because hey Robert Duvall. Joe Don Baker, on the other hand, exceeds himself as a composite Parker sidekick; the all-hey-it’s-that-guy cast is the other reason to watch. –KH

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Episode 224: Without Checking, Because That Spoils the Fun

January 13th, 2017 | Robin

Gather in the Gaming Hut as we ask ourselves when one should take historical license when running or designing a game set in the real past. Spoiler: we also answer ourselves.

In the Book Hut, Patreon backers Scott Haring and Kalin team up to demand a rundown on the works of Tim Powers.

Sorting one’s research is an important part of How to Write Good, and thanks to a question from backer Trung Bui we discuss our methods for whipping it into shape.

Finally, at the behest of backer Vana Stillwater, we pop into the Eliptony Hut to make up, er, uncover reasons behind the perhaps mysterious demise of cryptozoologist Tom Slick.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.

Get yourself some flat plastic Ken and Robin miniatures by supporting Arcknight’s Flat Plastic Miniatures 2 Kickstarter.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store.

Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! 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. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: It’s Recommendations All the Way Down

January 10th, 2017 | 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

1636: The Ottoman Onslaught (Fiction, Eric Flint, 2017) The latest installment in the Ring of Fire series returns to the main line of German history following the 1632 appearance of a 20th-century West Virginia town in Thuringia. Murad IV and his up-gunned Ottoman hordes (complete with airships and flame-tanks) blitz Vienna in what I suspect is really the first half of a long novel; fans of the series like myself have little to complain about once the action starts. –KH

Anomalisa (Film, US, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, 2015) Star business writer headed for a breakdown (voiced by David Thewlis) instead embarks on a hotel room affair with an awkward fan (Jennifer Jason Leigh.) Carveresque tale of quotidian despond rendered surreal by depicting the action with stop-motion puppets.–RDL

Arrival (Film, US, Denis Villeneuve, 2016) Persuasive linguist (Amy Adams) joins a joint military-CIA effort seeking to communicate with alien beings inside one of twelve spacecraft to land across the globe. Atmospheric realization of a script that brilliantly fuses its hero’s external problem solving and inner transformation. Folks watching this in the future will think, “Well, that sure was a product of the Obama era.”–RDL

Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 (Television, Starz, 2015-2016) After 30 years of relative quiet, badass butthead Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) once again reads from the Necronomicon, summoning Deadites and prompting an alliance with two young proteges. Gleefully spins the gore, cartoonishness and frights of the second movie, plus the characterization of Ash from the third, into the series format.–RDL

The Ghost Army of World War II (Nonfiction, Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles, 2015) History of the US Army’s WWII deception unit, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troop, which recruited artists, engineers and audio experts to trick the Germans into attacking imaginary units represented by inflatable tanks, recordings, and other camouflage techniques. Hybrid of art book and military history beautifully showcases the drawings and watercolors the unit’s many inveterate sketchers, including Ellsworth Kelly, Art Singer and even some comic artists, made during the conflict.–RDL

The Incendiary: the Misadventures of John the Painter, the First Modern Terrorist (Nonfiction, Jessica Warner, 2005) Reconstruction of the life and crimes of James Aitken, a young Scottish loner who in 1776 and 1777 set fires in the naval yards of Plymouth and Portsmouth in solidarity with the hated Americans. Convincingly researched account of a drift into ideological violence driven by a still-familiar psych profile, told with refreshing spareness.–RDL

The Interestings (Fiction, Meg Wolitzer, 2013) Friendships formed at an arts summer camp set a woman on a path balanced between love and envy, from Watergate to Facebook. Bullseye social details and authentic characterizations tied together by a narrative voice that isn’t afraid to be either omniscient or acerbic.—RDL

Jackie (Film, Chile/France/US, Pablo Larrain, 2016) Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman), furious with grief in the hours and days after her husband’s assassination, plans his funeral. An affecting emotional trajectory, driven by a tour de force performance, becomes an origin story of American myth-making.–RDL

Zootopia (Film, US, Byron Howard and Rich Moore, 2016) First rabbit cop on the force (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) teams with smooth-talking fox con artist (Jason Bateman) to crack a missing otter case. Cleverly applies world-building principles to a Carl Barksian funny animal setting as it delivers a surprisingly layered take on bigotry.–RDL

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Episode 223: There’s No Blood in a JPEG

January 6th, 2017 | Robin

The contents of this podcast become too horrible to correlate as we slip into the Gaming Hut to answer a question from Patreon backer Laurel Halbany about handling secret mythos knowledge in an age of ever-present information.

In Ask Ken and Robin, backer Jeff Kahrs ask us to expound on the contradictions of opting out of challenging or uncomfortable subject matter at the gaming table.

Then Ken and/or Robin Talk to Someone Else, in the ever so irrepressible form of Burning Wheel and Torchbearer designer Luke Crane. Warning: adorably sweary.

Finally the Consulting Occultist, somewhat to his surprise, realizes he has yet to tell us about Eliphas Levi, and so tells us about Eliphas Levi.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store.

Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! 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. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Spicy Start to 2017

January 3rd, 2017 | 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 podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

The Book of Spice: From Anise to Zedoary (Nonfiction, John O’Connell, 2016) Alphabetical entries cook up the erudition on spices as history, fable, remedy and, oh yes, food. Covers everything from the deadly snakes reputed to swarm in pepper trees, to the murderous rapacity of the spice trade, to the flavorings preferred by The Canterbury Tales’ cook. Did you know that when a mummy attacks, you should be able to tell it’s on its way from the smell of cinnamon, pine resin and bitumen? OK well that one’s an extrapolation on my part but you get the idea.—RDL

Finders Keepers (Film, US, Bryan Carbery and Clay Tweel, 2015) In North Carolina, a custody battle erupts over an amputated calf and foot, between the man who lost it in a small plane crash and the wannabe-Barnum who found it in a cooker bought at a storage container contents auction. Documentary finds pain and pathos behind the surface black humor of a weird news story.—RDL

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Film, New Zealand, Taika Waititi, 2016) After the sudden death of his loving new foster mom, a precocious delinquent (Julian Dennison) winds up a backwoods fugitive, along with her cranky widower (Sam Neill.) Sweet and funny outlaw pursuit flick finds Waititi widening his visual scope.—RDL

Maggie’s Plan (Film, US, Rebecca Miller, 2015) Sweetly controlling woman (Greta Gerwig), realizing that marrying a charming academic (Ethan Hawke) has allowed him to actualize into his full self-centeredness, contrives a scheme to return him to his high-strung ex-wife (Julianne Moore). Urbane NYC comedy of manners artfully bounces its stars’ established personae off of one another. Moore portrays her twitchy cultural theorist as if Madeline Kahn had played Maude Lebowski, but with a sympathetic emotional core few actors would even shoot for.—RDL

Other People (Film, US, Chris Kelly, 2016) Comedy writer (Jesse Plemons) returns home to help care for his terminally ill mom (Molly Shannon), neglecting to tell his family that he’s just broken up with his longtime boyfriend. Beautifully balanced between character comedy and drama, with skilled direction eliciting the best from a great cast. Shannon in particular gives a career-best performance.—RDL

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (Film, US, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, 2016) As homefront interest in the Afghan war wanes, an acerbic TV journalist (Tina Fey) tries to pry herself from a career rut with an assignment to Kabul. The decision to frame the proceedings as an observational comedy, abetted by winning turns from Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman and a calmly scene-stealing Billy Bob Thornton, brings a fresh spark to the usual structure of the war correspondent sub-genre.—RDL

Good

Elvis & Nixon (Film, US, Liza Johnson, 2016) Although Michael Shannon’s weirdly disconnected Elvis is actually capable of holding the spotlight with Kevin Spacey’s manic Nixon, and a strong supporting cast backs them up, the movie doesn’t really know what it wants to do when it gets to the iconic moment. It’s not long enough for that to be a real problem, but it steps on its own mythology too much to be its own justification. –KH

La La Land (Film, US, Damien Chazelle, 2016) Actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) meet in Los Angeles while chasing impossible dreams in an old-school musical that also aims to be an old-school city symphony, an old-school romance, and an old-school showbiz picture. It almost squares the circle of “fresh nostalgia,” and looks great throughout regardless. –KH

Okay

Rounding the Mark (Fiction, Andrea Camilleri, 2007) Irascible, food-obsessed Police Inspector Salvo Montalbano finds a link between a waterlogged corpse and a child trafficking ring. There comes a time in every mystery series’ life where what was once taut goes slack, and judging from prose style and plotting this appears to be that point for this one.–RDL

Not Recommended

Phantom of the Theatre (Film, China/HK, Raymond Yip, 2016) In 30s Shanghai, a warlord’s son finds that life mirrors art, plus spontaneous combustion murders, when he directs a romantic ghost movie in a haunted theater. This bid to refashion the HK ghost genre into something sensible enough to support a lavish production might just work, if lead Tony Yang had screen presence to go with those cheekbones of his.—RDL

Ire-Inspiring

La La Land (Film, US, Damien Chazelle, 2016) Aspiring actress falls for struggling jazz pianist. As in his better wrought Whiplash, Chazelle presents an ethos in which creative recognition is the only thing that matters—here in a slow-starting quasi-musical where the leads sing and dance effortfully, the characters don’t deserve the sympathy the script extends to them, and the songs fade into memory on impact.—RDL

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Fixers, Palookas, Gaslighters and Star Warriors

December 27th, 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

Creed (Film, US, Ryan Coogler, 2015) Illegitimate son of Apollo, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) seeks out Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him as a boxer, and in a reprise of the original, takes his shot when the world champion (real-life boxer Tony Bellew) picks him for a bum-of-the-month publicity payday. The Rocky series has always been, appropriately, A-treatments of B-movies, and this seventh installment is no exception. (Unlike Rocky V.) Cliche becomes legend, and the cycle finally gets a mythically appropriate conclusion. –KH

The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany (Nonfiction, Donald E. Westlake, 2014) Levi Stahl of the University of Chicago Press has assembled this too-short collection of Westlake (and briefly, Richard Stark) writing about crime fiction, writing, and Donald Westlake. If you appreciate any of those three you appreciate all of those three, and so too this book. –KH

Julieta (Film, Spain, Pedro Almodovar, 2016) Woman recalls the tragic events that led her daughter to mysteriously break off all contact with her. Fuses three Alice Munro stories into a melodrama drenched in passion, menace, and color–qualities that no one but Almodovar would find in her material.–RDL. Seen at TIFF16; now in North American theatrical release.

Murder Me For Nickels (Fiction, Peter Rabe, 1960) Slightly loopy yet completely straight hard-boiled crime novel features the fixer for a juke-box racket getting caught in his ambitions — romantic and professional — when the Chicago Outfit starts muscling in. The dialogue and prose are weirdly and beautifully clipped, like drunken telegraphy. –KH

Total Balalaika Show (TV Special, Finland, MTV3, 1993) Following the recent tragic death of 64 members of  the Alexandrov Ensemble, someone has uploaded all 107 minutes of Finnish TV footage of their wonderful, giddy 1993 Helsinki Senate Square performance with the Finnish rock’n’roll art project Leningrad Cowboys. Indifferent sound mixing mars some of the music, but nonetheless the special captures that glorious, larger-than-history moment. Watch it with joy before it vanishes again into night and fog. –KH

Good

Aleister & Adolf (Comics, Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Avon Oeming, 2016) Media theorist Rushkoff’s take on the hoary fable of Crowley working (and Working) against Hitler in WWII catches Oeming in an inventive mood that feeds the theme of warring Signs and Sigils. Too many of the details are wrong or elided in the name of pacing to make this a classic of the genre, but its signal still beats its noise. –KH

Asylum (Nonfiction, William Seabrook, 1935) Seabrook turns his patented jazzy, ethnographic eye upon the doctors and inmates at Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, where he had himself committed in 1933 to cure his own alcoholism. Useful but not mandatory for Trail of Cthulhu Keepers. –KH

Rogue One (Film, US, Gareth Edwards, 2016) Criminal vagabond (Felicity Jones) embittered by the kidnapping of her scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) gets a chance to rescue him from the Empire’s Death Star project. Too overstuffed with characters to give the hero’s transformational arc the screen time it needs to register emotionally. It is bracing though to see a Star Wars film that isn’t trying to evoke the feel and style of the original, going so far as to place itself in an entirely different moral universe.—RDL

Okay

The Saint (Film, US, Philip Noyce, 1997) Buried somewhere in this $70 million misfire is a charming spy film starring Val Kilmer as an updated version of Leslie Charteris’ suave mercenary thief. Despite some great Moscow locations and one or two good caper bits, the sputtering action and vague characterization combine to display the limitations of the script. –KH

Not Recommended

Chase a Crooked Shadow (Film, UK, Michael Anderson, 1958) Heiress (Anne Baxter) struggles to maintain her grip when a man (Richard Todd) shows up at her Spanish villa claiming to be her dead brother. Dialogue-driven suspense film with one of those misconceived twist endings that punishes the viewer for identifying with its protagonist.—RDL

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Episode 222: Suddenly You’re Eating Mustard Lettuce

December 23rd, 2016 | Robin

Finally, after ceding all recent chapeaus to Ken, Robin seizes control of Among My Many Hats to talk about Cthulhu Confidential and the design of the GUMSHOE One-2-One system. Because it’s finally up for pre-order over at the Pelgrane store.

While we’re mulling Cthulhu Confidential, Ken and/or Robin Talks To Someone Else has a word with Chris Spivey, creator of that book’s African American science investigator Langston Wright. And what fine timing, as Chris’ exciting new GUMSHOE project Harlem Unbound is currently Kickstarting.

Then Ken presents us with a thick layer of rant between two slices of bread, as he calls us to order in the Food Hut to tell us how to make a damn sandwich.

Finally our hero, perhaps still spackled with mayo, tries not to look too tasty to large felines as Ken’s Time Machine fulfills a John Kingdon request for the real truth behind the hungry hungry lions of Tsavo.

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Sleepers awake, and travel through the secret pathways of the occulted world to preorder the new edition of Unknown Armies from Atlas Games. From the deluxe printed edition to ebooks in a variety of formats, the weird wonders of UA beckon!

 

Want to plunge headlong into Lovecraftian mystery, but lack a gaming group? Want to introduce a friend or loved one to the roleplaying hobby? GUMSHOE One-2-One has come to your rescue! Find this new system by some guy named Robin D. Laws, in the line’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential. Now pre-ordering at the Pelgrane Press store.

Do intervals between episodes plunge you into Hite withdrawal? Never fear! 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. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Galaxies Far Far Away and Also Regular Far Away

December 20th, 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

All These Worlds Are Yours (Nonfiction, Jon Willis, 2016) Succinct yet meaty tour of the various likely spots to look for extraterrestrial life, and the costs and difficulties associated with finding them. Spoiler: Willis is an Enceladus man. Bonus points for dropping the boring personal anecdotes required by editors of popular science books in favor of the occasional witty aside.—RDL

The Mermaid (Film, China, Stephen Chow, 2016) Guileless young woman falls for the environment-despoiling tycoon her fellow merfolk have sent her to assassinate. A big CGI budget gives Chow all the resources he needs to precision-execute his Chuck Jones riffs in this comedy-fantasy-actioner. Those unsteeped in the rapidfire tone shifts of the Hong Kong movie tradition may be taken aback by its veer from slapstick violence to distressingly bloody violence.—RDL

Neruda (Film, Chile, Pablo Larrain, 2016) Cynical secret policeman (Gael Garcia Bernal) hunts politician-poet Pablo Neruda after the Chilean government issues a warrant for his arrest in 1947. Magical-realist manhunt biopic shot in the blues and purples of a faded photograph.—RDL. Seen at TIFF ‘16; now in North American theatrical release.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Film, US, Gareth Edwards, 2016) In cold rationality, this is a Good war movie bumped up a rank by the presence of AT-ATs and similar delightful Empire chic. The story sprawls a lot, and with the exception of Donnie Yen’s wannabe Jedi and Alan Tudyk’s smartmouth droid, the characters never come to even Hammill-level life. But Edwards can shoot fights and apocalypses well, which is what matters here. –KH

Good

Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show (Film, Ireland, Des Doyle, 2014) Anecdote-rich documentary casts a wide net of interviews, but hauls in a basic primer on the topic with little focus or direction. It’s enjoyable while you’re watching it, but it doesn’t really say or illuminate anything except “showrunning is hard work” and “showbiz is a lottery,” which most viewers probably knew already. –KH

Okay

The Fade Out, Volume 1 (Comic, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, 2015) Screenwriter prone to alcoholic blackouts goes about his business after finding a murdered starlet in his apartment. Brings in all the requisite elements for a 50s-set Hollywood noir, but saddles itself with a passive, checked-out protagonist who drifts through scenes instead of driving them.—RDL

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Episode 221: Live at Dragonmeet 2016

December 16th, 2016 | Robin

If it’s December, Ken and Robin must be coming to you live from Dragonmeet, the little London convention that isn’t so little any more. Join us as Ken emerges triumphant from a draw of the nerdtrope deck that definitely, definitely happened exactly just as Robin describes it. Plus red herrings, steak, and more stupid gnomes. Also in a Dragonmeet tradition, the f-bomb gets dropped–and the dropper might surprise you!

Support the KARTAS Patreon!

Snag Ken and Robin merchandise at TeePublic.


Get trapped in Lovecraft’s story “The Call of Cthulhu” in Atlas Games’ addictive new card game Lost in R’lyeh. Take a selfie with your purchased copy of the game at your brick and mortar game retailer and send it to Atlas to claim your special Ken and Robin promo card. Do intervals between Ken’s Time Machine segments leave you listless, bored, and itchy? Then you’re in luck, because TimeWatch, the wild and woolly GUMSHOE game of chrono-hopping adventure has now blasted its way into our reality. Brought to you by master of over-the-top fast-paced fun Kevin Kulp and our reality-maintaining overlords at Pelgrane Press. For those seeking yet more Ken content, 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. John Scott Tynes’ Puppetland is ready to knock the stuffing out of a game store near you in its gorgeous new full-color hardcover edition. Join the good folks at Arc Dream in battling the horrific forces of Punch the Maker-Killer!

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister