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Grimoire

Episode 183: Eaten By a Ghost

March 25th, 2016 | Robin

Pull your swords out of your stones and step into the Gaming Hut for a consideration of the Chosen One trope.

How to Write Good explores a phenomenon Robin calls Nigeling, when you make one character look good by painting others as rubes.

You’ll place great stock in… no, I’m sorry, I can’t. Let’s just say the Food Hut is talking soup and leave it at that.

Then we close on an most unusual Ken’s Time Machine mission: getting a notorious criminal cast as James Bond before he commits his famous crime.


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.

If you’re like every roleplayer we know, you strive to outshine others in showing your love of dice. Well, now you can arouse the envy of friends and foes alike with Askfageln’s dazzling coffee table photo art book dedicated to all things pipped and many-sided, Dice: Rendezvous with Randomness. Luxuriate in the photo artistry of Mans Danneman. Grab the book or gorgeous prints through their Kickstarter!

In a move that surely violates someone’s security clearance, this episode is also brought to you by our friends at Arc Dream Publishing. The Kickstarter for Delta Green: the Roleplaying Game has come to an end, but don’t let that stop you from indulging your fever for this classic game, or that pinnacle of the Cthulhu game zine world, The Unspeakable Oath.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Daredevil, Red Hook, and the Scottish Play

March 22nd, 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

Macbeth (Film, UK, Justin Kurzel, 2015) Scottish warlord (Michael Fassbender) finds himself trapped in a waking nightmare by witches’ prophecy and his wife’s (Marion Cotillard) hatred of the world. Tight adaptation of Shakespeare turns medieval Scotland into a dreamlike apocalypse; Jed Kurzel’s lowering score seals you in, and Fassbender and Cotillard force you to believe in it. –KH

The Wannek (Fiction, Jack Vance, 1969) Strange beings and stranger social customs impede the attempts of an Earthman castaway on the planet Tschai to acquire a spaceship.. Second installment of the series formerly known as Planet of Adventure blossoms into 100% Vancianness, as his hero evolves from a jut-jawed American problem solver into a figure of acerbic wiles. You may remember this as Servants of the Wankh, because in 1969 Google wasn’t around to tell you that elsewhere in the English-speaking world your name for an alien race carried unintended connotations. —RDL

Recommended

The Ballad of Black Tom (Fiction, Victor LaValle, 2016) Re-tells Lovecraft’s “Horror at Red Hook” from the perspective of cultist-magus Robert Suydam’s heretofore unknown African-American sidekick. Short, scary, effective. –KH

Daredevil Season 2 (TV, Netflix Original, 2016) Matt Murdock loses himself in his Daredevil persona as he confronts separate conspiracies involving, respectively, a killer vigilante and his ninja ex-girlfriend. Running competing storylines in parallel robs this season of the original’s focus. Scores points however for a radical retake on the Punisher that immediately eclipses all previous interpretations.—RDL

Europe at Midnight (Fiction, David Hutchinson, 2015) Sequel to Europe in Autumn (previously Consumed here) reads more straightforwardly SFnal. The innate Kafkaism of the spy genre mostly substitutes for the previous novel’s weirdness. –KH

Kingsman: The Secret Service (Film, Matthew Vaughn, 2014) Wildly and weirdly reactionary, this over-the-top spy actioner pits a young recruit (Taron Egerton) to the Kingsman order of gentleman spies against a cosmopolitan tech billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) trying to stop global warming. Propulsive and hyperviolent, a Nolan Batman movie on Bond-flick acid. –KH

Memories of the Sword (Film, South Korea, Park Heung-shik, 2015) Impetuous young martial artist learns the tale of love and betrayal that requires her to seek vengeance against a power-hungry rebel-turned-general (Lee Byung-hun.) Beautifully staged Korean wuxia features a resolution for its melodramatic hook to stand alongside any in Asian action cinema. If it’s in your Netflix region, you’ll  have to search for its original-language title, Hyeomnyeo: Kar-ui gi-eok. —RDL

Old Venus (Fiction, Gardner Dozois & George RR Martin, eds., 2015) Crammed with above-average short stories from Joe Haldeman, Allen Steele, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Bear, et al. set on the wet, monster-filled, fantastic retro-Venus of Brackett, Kline, et al. My fave: Lavie Tidhar’s beautifully Weird Tales-ish “The Drowned Celestial.” –KH

Good

Duns on Bond (Non-fiction, Jeremy Duns, 2015) Top-notch spy novelist investigates the lost script of The Diamond Spy (based on Fleming’s The Diamond Smugglers), a lost Bond novel by South African thriller writer Geoffrey Jenkins, the lost Ben Hecht script for Casino Royale, and other topics from SmerSH to amnesiac agents. Bump up to Recommended for Fleming die-hards. –KH

Punisher: War Zone (Film, US, Lexi Alexander, 2008) Vigilante’s attack on the mob grotesquely disfigures a gangster (Dominic West), who dubs himself Jigsaw and vows revenge. Alexander directs the hell out of a laboriously plotted script, infusing its ultra-violence with the midnight movie sensibility that built its rep as an unheralded cult fave.—RDL

What We Do in the Shadows (Film, New Zealand, Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi, 2014) Amiable if toothless (sorry) mockumentary about a quartet of vampire flatmates in Wellington, NZ. The steady humor comes almost exclusively from the incongruity of sad-sack supernaturals in petty trouble, although there’s a lot of murder for a romp. –KH

Not Recommended

Flaked Season 1 (TV, Netflix Original, 2016) Detritus manchild (Will Arnett) dwells among the “colorful” characters of Venice, CA making his, and their, lives steadily worse through lies, selfishness, and apathy. Supposedly a drama-comedy, it’s neither, although there are one or two good character turns and one or two funny bits. In four hours. –KH

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Episode 182: Much Like the Person In It

March 18th, 2016 | Robin

Now that backers of our exciting and handsome Patreon campaign get priority access to pose questions for the show, we have a bunch of great questions in the hopper. So let’s get to four of them in a special celebratory all-request episode.

In the Gaming Hut Paul Stefko asks us for tips on running games set in artificial realities.

Drew Clowery takes us into the History Hut for a look at the Know Nothings.

Ask Ken and Robin features a Scott Bennett question on keeping a fresh attitude toward older projects.

And finally Steven Hammond revs up Ken’s Time Machine to ask why our sagacious time hero hid a door in King Tut’s tomb from Howard Carter.

To move your questions to the front of the line, hop on board our 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.

If you’re like every roleplayer we know, you strive to outshine others in showing your love of dice. Well, now you can arouse the envy of friends and foes alike with Askfageln’s dazzling coffee table photo art book dedicated to all things pipped and many-sided, Dice: Rendezvous with Randomness. Luxuriate in the photo artistry of Mans Danneman. Grab the book or gorgeous prints through their Kickstarter!

 

In a move that surely violates someone’s security clearance, this episode is also brought to you by our friends at Arc Dream Publishing. The Kickstarter for Delta Green: the Roleplaying Game has come to an end, but don’t let that stop you from indulging your fever for this classic game, or that pinnacle of the Cthulhu game zine world, The Unspeakable Oath.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Dracula, Sandman, and Wong Fei Hong

March 15th, 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

Anno Dracula (Fiction, Kim Newman, 1992) In a world where the titular count defeated van Helsing to become England’s Prince Consort, a secret agent and a sympathetic elder bloodsucker pursue the vampire slayer dubbed Jack the Ripper. Deft plotting propels a veritable blood feast of slyly deployed literary and historical references. —RDL

The Nightmare (Film, US, Rodney Ascher, 2015) Sufferers of extreme, chronic sleep deprivation share their horrifying experiences, brought to life in deeply unnerving re-enactments. Another compelling exploration of radical subjectivity from the director of Ken and Robin fave Room 237. —RDL

Proof (Non-fiction, Adam Rogers, 2014) Engagingly colloquial tour through the science of drinks and drinking, from the mysteries of yeast to the scant evidence on hangover cures. Fill up on alcohol factoids to share with friends the next time you gather to raise a glass. —RDL

Rise of the Legend (Film, HK/China, Chow Hin Yeung, 2014) Determined young martial artist Wong Fei Hong (Eddie Peng) walks a dark path when he infiltrates Guangzhou’s Black Tiger Gang, led by wily waterfront kingpin Master Lui (Sammo Hung.) Lavishly mounted origin story shows Chinese cinema’s most filmed hero acquiring his defining trait—his moral authority. —RDL

Sandman: Overture Deluxe Edition (Comics, Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III, 2015) The tension drained out of  the original Sandman once Gaiman realized that Morpheus was an asshole, but it remained a triumph of tight plotting and mythic scope. For this space-operatic prequel, Gaiman’s plot tightens dramatically, Williams’ superb art limns cosmic scope, and Morpheus is still an asshole. –KH

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Wine, Chile) Global wine overproduction means some delicious wines can be had for next to nothing, if you know what you’re looking for. This red comes out of the bottle sugary and quaffable, and acquires depth if you use an aerator. You do use an aerator, right? Make a tomato sauce with the first third, then drink some of the rest with your meal. —RDL

Good

10 Cloverfield Lane (Film, Dan Trachtenberg, 2016) A young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is trapped (?) in a bunker with a weirdo (?) survivalist (John Goodman) after a chemical attack (?) poisons the atmosphere (?). Shaggy dog construction renders the whole less than the sum of its well-done parts; like three great Twilight Zone episodes in a row. –KH

What Mad Universe (Fiction, Fredric Brown, 1949) A rocket crash blows pulp SF editor Keith Winton into a parallel universe AH based on Winton’s notion of what a pulp SF superfan wants to see in a pulp SF magazine. Like all Brown’s stuff it’s equal parts masculinity, style, and bananas; not a definitive classic like Night of the Jabberwock or Knock Three-One-Two but well worth bouncing your skull off of. –KH

Okay

Enemy (Film, Canada, Denis Villeneuve, 2013) In a sickly orange, brutalist Toronto, a history prof (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his bearings when he discovers he has an exact duplicate, a bit player in movies, living in the same city. Long on influences (Cronenberg, Polanski, Kieslowski) but short on passion for the material. —RDL

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Episode 181: Taking Latitudes with Longitude

March 11th, 2016 | Robin

In this special theme episode, we start in the uncharted waters of the Cartography Hut, to look at the struggle to accurately measure longitude at sea, and its underdog hero, clockmaker John Harrison.

We shift to the Gaming Hut to ask ourselves how to introduce navigational uncertainty into magic-rich F20 worlds.

Then the Consulting Occultist tours us through the colorful career of privateer, courtier, cookbook author and magic powder maker Kenelm Digby. The connection? The rejected magical dog injury method of longitude measurement.

When the astronomer Giovanni Cassini wanted to establish a reference point for longitude he went to the ruins of Uraniborg, the observatory erected by Tycho Brahe. Can Ken’s Time Machine prevent it from being destroyed in the first place?


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. In a move that surely violates someone’s security clearance, this episode is also brought to you by our friends at Arc Dream Publishing. The Kickstarter for Delta Green: the Roleplaying Game has come to an end, but don’t let that stop you from indulging your fever for this classic game, or that pinnacle of the Cthulhu game zine world, The Unspeakable Oath.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Rediscovered Photos, Wonder Woman and a Classic in 70mm

March 8th, 2016 | Robin

March 8, 2016

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

2001: A Space Odyssey (70mm) (Film, US, Stanley Kubrick, 1968) One of the few films to achieve the actual sublime, 2001 demands to be seen in its original 6-track sound and 70mm format. Petition your local art house cinema today! Try to forget Clarke’s novel and watch it on the nonverbal level it’s written and filmed at. –KH

Recommended

Europe in Autumn (Fiction, David Hutchinson, 2014) Magical-realist spy novel set in Europe ca. 2050 as it disintegrates back into microstates. Plausible tradecraft and arch tone disguise the growing weirdness in the life and world of chef-courier-smuggler Rudi until the vertiginous fourth-act turn. –KH

Finding Vivian Maier (Film, US, John Maloof & Charlie Siskel, 2013) Man buys a cache of photo negatives at auction, leading him to discover the work of a world-class street photographer who worked in reclusive secrecy until her death, supporting herself as a nanny. Documentary investigation into the layers of mystery surrounding the life of its subject finds revelation within revelation, not all of them redemptive.–RDL

The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Non-fiction, Jill Lepore, 2014) New research into the unconventional family life of Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston traces the surprising mix of early feminism, psychology, showmanship and kink behind comics’ iconic superheroine. Engagingly fills in the blanks on a secrecy-shrouded founding figure of geek culture. –RDL

Vanishing Point (Film, US, Richard C. Sarafian, 1971) Enigmatic man (Barry Newman) hired to drive a car from Colorado to San Francisco turns the gig into a quixotic, Benzedrine-addled multi-state police pursuit. Drive-in exploitation meets the American New Wave in this existential distillation of 70s culture. —RDL

The Weapon Makers (Fiction, A.E. van Vogt, 1952) Like KARTAS itself both Canadian and nuts, Van Vogt wrote crazy dream-logic stories in a seemingly straight-up SF idiom, but I hadn’t known he’d written a sequel to The Weapon Shops of Isher. This novel nearly blows up that one while dropping a half-dozen mindfreezing revelations into 220 pages, then stops. Or wakes up. –KH

The Witch (Film, US, Richard Eggers, 2016) This eerie film about “the witch of the wood” harrowing an exiled Puritan farm family tells its very standard horror story with very gripping freshness, not despite but because of its 400-year-old idiom. Score and casting are particular triumphs. –KH

WTF Podcast Ep. 638, Sacha Baron Cohen. Baron Cohen notoriously ducks interviews as himself in favor of in-character appearances, so this long talk with the maestro of in-depth comedy chat provides a rare opportunity. Like Steve Martin, the real self turns out to be studious and thoughtful, especially when delving into his background in classical clowning and buffon. —RDL

Good

How Strange to be Named Federico (Film, Italy, Ettore Scola, 2013) Through mix of documentary and biopic techniques, the director (We All Loved Each Other So Much, La Nuit de Varennes) recalls his lifelong friendship with Federico Fellini. The most interesting bits aren’t about their respective filmmaking careers but their shared background as cartoonists for the satirical magazine Marc’Aurelio. Its elegiac passages take on an extra poignancy knowing Scola passed away a few weeks ago.–RDL

Hunting Che (Non-fiction, Mitch Weiss and Kevin Maurer, 2013) Tells the story of the capture of Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967 from the unusual perspective of the US Green Berets who trained the Bolivian Army Rangers who got him. The Bolivian hunters and their CIA allies also get spotlight time. Too journalistic (just say “no” to invented dialogue and inner thoughts) for hardcore military history buffs, but provides a wealth of previously unknown detail about this paradigmatic brushfire mission. –KH

Okay

Warrior: Frank Sturgis, CIA’s No. 1 Assassin-Spy (Non-fiction, Jim Hunt and Bob Risch, 2011) Hunt is Sturgis’ nephew, so when he provides Uncle Frank with his alibi for November 22, 1963, it’s not that convincing. Neither is the book’s slapdash research, but goodness me did Uncle Frank have a life! From running guns to Fidel to trying to kill him, to Watergate and Angola, it makes you want to read a better book on Sturgis that doesn’t exist. –KH

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Episode 180: Nordic Tamborine Cult

March 4th, 2016 | Robin

Sneak up on us very carefully as Ask Ken and Robin responds to a Josh Kroger question regarding stealth systems in RPGs.

Recent events force us to reconsider past Politics Hut pronouncements as, with increasing trepidation, we ask once more, is Donald Trump America’s Rob Ford?

In the Mythology Hut we pry under the ecclesiastical floorboards to look for Finnish frog coffins.

Then it’s just a hop skip and jump across a bridge patrolled by the grim forces of Chris Christie to the Eliptony Hut, where we hunt the elusive Jersey Devil.


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. In a move that surely violates someone’s security clearance, this episode is also brought to you by our friends at Arc Dream Publishing. The Kickstarter for Delta Green: the Roleplaying Game has come to an end, but don’t let that stop you from indulging your fever for this classic game, or that pinnacle of the Cthulhu game zine world, The Unspeakable Oath.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Inaugural Edition

March 1st, 2016 | Robin

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Ken and Robin Consume Media, a new feature brought to you by the diligent largesse of our Patreon backers. In each installment we will provide capsule reviews of all the books, movies, and TV seasons that cross our paths, with perhaps the occasional podcast episode, longform article and maybe even cooking ingredient thrown in for good measure. If you’re a Patreon backer head on over there to find the mirrored version of this post and comment on the items you’d like to hear more about in our new upcoming podcast segment Tell Me More. If you’re not yet a backer consider this your none-too-subtle hint to join in the fun, taking us to such upcoming milestones as Ken and Robin t-shirts, show notes, and transcripts.

The Pinnacle

Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Reference, Karel van der Toorn, et al., 1998) I just used this magnificent encyclopedia (the inexact title is chosen for alliteration) again for the Starry Wisdom KWAS, (to look up Kaiwan — a Syriac god thought to represent Saturn — and the Pleiades, since you asked) and it may be the second- or third-best single-volume reference work on any topic I own. It’s a specialist work for specialists, which may be why I love it so very much — if you don’t think paragraphs arguing about Hebrew transliterations are for you, neither is the DDD. –KH

Recommended

The Admiral: Roaring Currents (Film, Korea, Han-Min Kim, 2014) Dying, disgraced 16th century admiral (Oldboy’s Choi Min-Sik) plots an underdog naval battle against the invading Japanese. Rousing historical epic recreates the Battle of Myeongryang, a watery tactical counterpart to Thermopylae. —RDL

The Confession (Film, France, Costa-Gavras, 1970) Czech government official (Yves Montand) whose Communist past goes back to the International Brigades in Spain faces brutal interrogation to prepare him for his prosecution in a show trial. I wasn’t sure I needed to watch another man-ground-down-by-tyranny movie but wound up fascinated by the very particular pathological details of the Stalinist process. Costa-Gavras meant to tell an anti-Stalinist story, not an anti-Communist one, but his film has other ideas about that. —RDL

Deadpool (Film, US, Tim Miller, 2016) Fourth-wall breaking antihero tracks the super scientist who cured his cancer by turning him into a disfigured mutant. Improbable miracle of tonal balance juggles the crass, the clever and the charming. —RDL

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (Film, Australia, Mark Hartley. 2014) If your parents let you alone with the cable TV in the 1980s you likely marinated in the testosterone madness of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, producer-owners of the Cannon Group studio. This documentary, by far the best thing ever associated with Brett Ratner (its producer), tells the familiar but insane story of two wannabe moguls’ rise and fall in a zippy, even explosive, style not unlike their own. –KH

The Guards (Fiction, Ken Bruen, 2004) Galway ex-cop-turned-PI’s investigation of a teen girl’s suicide crashes and burns under the pressure of his escalating alcoholism. Crime novel in which spare evocation of character and place pushes to the expected investigative sequences to the far margins. First in a long-running series. —RDL

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (Film, US, David Gregory, 2014) Interesting, and creepy if you let it be, documentary about the disastrous production of the dire 1996 film Island of Dr. Moreau. Director and co-writer Stanley lost control early, and the studio panicked and brought in John Frankenheimer to salvage the project. Surprise, it was Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando that wrecked it, although it was studio hubris (and Bruce Willis’ divorce) that made the wreck possible. –KH

Not Safe (Podcast, Nikki Glaser & Dan St. Germain) Quentin Tarantino once described the pleasure of “hang movies”, like Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, where you enjoy spending time with the characters more than you care about forward momentum. Not Safe, an offshoot of the Comedy Central show of the same name, is an ideal hang podcast, in which you listen in on the friendship and banter of two very different funny people who love each other’s company, with kibbitzing from the rest of the show’s writer’s room.  —RDL

Police Story: Lockdown (aka Police Story 2013) (Film, HK, Ding Sheng, 2013) Veteran cop’s tense meeting with his daughter in her new boyfriend’s nightclub puts him in the middle of a hostage crisis. The long-running series takes a gritty, suspenseful, character-driven turn. It’s that rarest of birds, a late period Jackie Chan movie you don’t have to make allowances for. —RDL

Good

The Detachment (Fiction, Barry Eisler, 2011) Another installment in the lefty-thriller series about ultra-assassin John Rain, which means first-rate competence porn and excellently choreographed set-piece kill scenes; high-protein game fodder for Night’s Black Agents. Eisler’s prose is generally serviceable, but this one doesn’t do what it might with its killer premise — Rain is drawn into a modern redress of the thwarted 1933 coup against FDR. –KH

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (Non-fiction, Dava Sobel, 2005) Popular history follows the career of John Harrison, who invented the clock that allowed ships to accurately measure longitude, then had to do bureaucratic battle with a bunch of astronomers who wanted to keep the prize from him. Concise, straightforward account of navigation, math and cross-disciplinary infighting. To be featured in an upcoming all-longitude episode of the podcast.  —RDL

The Martian (Film, US, Ridley Scott, 2015)  Astronaut (Matt Damon) tries to survive after being stranded on Mars. Refreshing to see Scott direct a cohesive, well-wrought script, which happens surprisingly rarely. —RDL

The Quiller Memorandum (Film, UK, Michael Anderson, 1966) Based on the rather better novel The Berlin Memorandum by Adam Hall, this “thinking man’s spy film” still depends on the bad guy (Max von Sydow) being arrogant and the girl (Senta Berger) being helpless to resist George Segal. (Quiller is British in the novel, of course.) Segal takes the time to play his various covers differently, and Alec Guinness as his control is delightful. Harold Pinter’s script is too self-congratulatory by half, but there’s a truly great surveillance-escape set piece toward the end. –KH

Okay

Spooker (Fiction, Dean Ing, 1997) Someone is killing spies for their “spooker” bug-out bags — nontraceable cash, gold, and other portable wealth socked away for unofficial retirement. What looks like a really clever spy novel is actually a less clever serial killer thriller, but the pages do keep turning. –KH

Trumbo (Film, US, Jay Roach, 2015) Big-time screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Brian Cranston) fights the blacklist, as personified by gossip gorgon Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren.) By-the-numbers Oscar-grist biopic picks up when it focuses on the procedural challenges of running a black market screenplay ring. —RDL

Not Recommended

Imagine That: The History of Music Rewritten (Non-fiction, Michael Sells, 2013) Short would-be alternate histories of music: Elvis gets drafted before his first recording session, Nelson Rockefeller sends the National Guard to Woodstock, Leo Fender doesn’t build guitars. Sound interesting? Well, that’s all you get, the premise. No follow through on any of the what-ifs and some much lamer premises (what if musicians had spurned recording technology?) make this the Coldplay of AH books: sounds like it might be decent, but naah. –KH

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Episode 179: Art Film with Explosions

February 26th, 2016 | Robin

Let’s schmooze a while in the Gaming Hut as we spitball a game based on social experience points.

Get in touch with your inner cave dweller as the Conspiracy Corner checks out Neanderthal conspiracy theories, most notably those of painter and sculptor Stanislav Szukalski.

Finally it’s that time of year again: in a bumper segment of the Cinema Hut, we list our top 10 films of 2015. Get your golf pencils ready; they’ll be needed to overcome a shocking clerical error that threatens to tear the world of Ken and Robin apart!


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. In a move that surely violates someone’s security clearance, this episode is also brought to you by our friends at Arc Dream Publishing. The Kickstarter for Delta Green: the Roleplaying Game has come to an end, but don’t let that stop you from indulging your fever for this classic game, or that pinnacle of the Cthulhu game zine world, The Unspeakable Oath.

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Special Minisode: Our Patreon Launches

February 25th, 2016 | Robin

Long have we teased it! Now it’s finally here, for your keeping-the-show-alive convenience: our Patreon campaign. In this special mini-episode we talk the whys, the wherefores, and the long-coveted extra stuff we can do if we hit particular milestones. Jump on board to make show notes, transcripts and the new Ken and Robin Consume Media feature happen.

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister