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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Leary in Love, Selena in the Zoom Kitchen

December 15th, 2020 | 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

My Psychedelic Love Story (Film, US, Errol Morris, 2020) Joanna Harcourt-Smith recounts her cameo-studded tale of lysergic acid and international intrigue as Timothy Leary’s lover and confidant from his fugitive years to his coming out as an FBI informant. Master documentarian Morris gives the archival clips and images suitably trippy graphic treatment while hewing closely to his protagonist and her story.—RDL

Strange Cargo (Film, US, Frank Borzage, 1940) Irresistible hardened criminal (Clark Gable) escapes from the French Guiana penal colony, accompanied by a tough saloon performer (Joan Crawford) and a mysteriously prophetic Bible-toter (Ian Hunter.) Expressionistic parable of survival and redemption.—RDL

The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth  (Nonfiction, Mark Mazzetti, 2013) The Global War on Terror sends the eternal CIA pendulum between analyst and cowboy swinging hard to the latter, as it transforms into a people-killing agency intertwined with the Pentagon. This ably organized account of post-9/11 to Obama spy games crisply paints a cast of bureaucratic infighters, freelancers and loose cannons.—RDL

Good

Selena + Chef Season 1 (Television, US, HBOMax, Aaron Saidman, 2020) Pop star and cooking novice Selena Gomez makes dishes under the Zoom supervision of LA chefs. Provides suitable amounts of Selena, chefs, and cooking to fit the bill — it won’t really rock the world of any experienced home cook, but that’s not really its job. Attempts at byplay with Selena’s family and friends mostly stay out of the way of the cooking. –KH

Under Occupation (Fiction, Alan Furst, 2019) In 1942 Paris, thriller writer Paul Ricard stumbles into a Resistance operation and joins up. Ricard’s story is not so much a novelistic arc as a series of episodes, some gripping some oblique; Furst’s (still considerable) gift for evocative description is all some stretches have going for them. Furst should probably be praised for avoiding the “real thriller echoes fake Ambler thriller” throughline, but should not be left off the hook for avoiding a throughline altogether. –KH

When Pigs Fly (Film, Germany/US, Sara Driver, 1993) In a rough hewn town somehow both in New Jersey and in Ireland, the gift of a haunted chair saddles an alcoholic jazzman (Alfred Molina) with ghostly houseguests, a child and a bartender (Marianne Faithfull) he once knew. Ramshackle hipster ghost comedy alternates whimsy and melancholy. —RDL

Not Recommended

Evelyn Prentice (Film, US, William K. Howard, 1934) Brilliant attorney (William Powell) defends a young woman charged with the murder of a cad, not knowing that his neglected wife (Myrna Loy) was also dallying with the victim.  Most 30s movies turn into hot nonsense the moment they enter a courtroom and that’s certainly true of this labored melodrama, which gives the frequent costars little opportunity to sparkle together.—RDL

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Episode 425: Pork Chop of the Truth

December 11th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, beloved Patreon backer Jacob Boersma asks how, with conspiracies theories going mainstream, we should create them for our horror games.

In Ripped from the Headlines, backer Gray St. Quintin asks for the real story behind Carpathian tree poaching.

We talk for a while and then get abruptly canceled in the Television Hut, as we look at the impact of streaming on TV structure.

Finally the Consulting Occultist reviews the case files from the 1968 robbery of Israel Regardie’s Los Angeles library.

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.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Mank Writes Kane and H. G. Wells is Full of Himself

December 8th, 2020 | 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

Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine (Film, US, Scott Crawford, 2019) Documentary chronicles the scrappy, dysfunctional crew behind the scenes of the scrappy, proudly unrespectable rock magazine that published Lester Bangs and Dave Marsh. Another reminder that the story of any outsider culture institution includes volatile personalities and a hand-to-mouth balance sheet .—RDL

Die, Vol. 3: The Great Game (Comics, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, 2020) Balletic precession into the third act of this story of gamers returning (with their adult baggage) to the fantasy world that trapped them 30 years ago. Gillen’s story slows down just enough to let you feel the blows; Hans’ art if anything intensifies, with seemingly small decisions paying off like depth charges. Bonus points for H.G. Wells being full of himself. –KH [Full disclosure/gratuitous plug: An interview with Ken and Robin appears in the back matter of this volume.]

Night Editor (Film, US, Henry Levin, 1946) To cover up his affair with a rich psychopath (Janis Carter), a spiraling homicide detective (William Gargan) fails to report a murder they witness together. Carter turns in a performance for the villain hall of fame in a B-movie noir so perverse and brutal you wonder how the heck it got past the Hays Office. The title refers not to the main action but to an intrusive framing device set in a newspaper office, meant to launch an anthology series.—RDL

Good

Blackhat (Film, US, Michael Mann, 2015) The FBI releases self-made hacker/ubermensch Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) from prison to help the Chinese MSS (Wang Leehom) track down a malevolent hacker. Mann cannot frame a bad shot, and in the moment the set pieces work amazingly well; but the story needed at least one more dimension to truly ensnare, and Hemsworth needed at least two more dimensions to portray his character. –KH

The Long Dumb Road (Film, US, Hannah Fidel, 2018) Uptight art student (Tony Revolori) receives unwanted life lessons from the extroverted oddball mechanic (Jason Mantzoukas) who fixes his car on his way to his school in L.A. Mantzoukas gets to play a grounded version of his chaotic comic persona in this winning road buddy flick, though its commitment to realism rules out a climactic finish.—RDL

Mank (Film, US, David Fincher, 2020) Convalescing from a car accident, charmingly caustic screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) holes up on an isolated ranch to write the screenplay for Citizen Kane. Dreamlike Hollywood fantasia focuses less on the credit tussle with Orson Welles than the question of why Mank decided to stick it to erstwhile host William Randolph Hearst and, by way of collateral damage, Marion Davies. Points for including periodic cigarette burns to signal the changes of nonexistent reels.—RDL

Okay

21 Bridges (Film, US, Brian Kirk, 2019) Brilliant homicide detective with a strangely long list of kills on his record (Chadwick Boseman) races against the time to catch the coke heisters who gunned down eight of his colleagues. The script sets up the sealing off of New York’s titular bridges as a central premise and then does absolutely nothing with it. Boseman gives it more star power than it deserves as it oscillates between an action-movie reality level and serious drama.—RDL

EMMA. (Film, UK, Autumn de Wilde, 2020) Charismatic landowner’s daughter (Anya Taylor-Joy) meddles in the love life of her socially precarious friend (Mia Goth), to the tart dismay of hunky neighbor Mr, Knightley (Johnny Flynn.) Even the camera moves are broad in this fondant-colored Austen adaptation, which immediately telegraphs character traits that are meant to slowly reveal themselves over the course of the narrative .—RDL

JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell (Comics, Warren Ellis and Butch Guice, 2006) A sentient ancient alien weapon lands on Earth, and confronts the Justice League with its greatest fears. The set-up of this comic is by far the best part, as Ellis’ technophile imagination sets up a great hook; the payoff is more than correspondingly weak, however, a repetitive, simple story beat unworthy of Ellis. Grant Morrison did basically the same story vastly better in 1997.

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Episode 424: Reverse Darwinism

December 4th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we discuss a key difference between RPG settings and the real world: imaginary politics has a lot more smart people in it.

Beloved Patreon backer Andrew Miller lures us into an especially osseous Archaeology Hut to contemplate the mammoth bone temple of Kostenki.

In Ask Ken and Robin, esteemed backer Craig Maloney doesn’t want us to forget the Motor City as he demands the hidden Mythos secrets of Detroit.

Then in Ken’s Time Machine we check out the timeline where the First Sino-Japanese War never happened.

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.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Vintage European Noir and Genre

December 1st, 2020 | 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.

The Pinnacle

… And the Fifth Horseman is Fear (Film, Czechoslovakia, Zbyněk Brynych, 1965) Forbidden to practice medicine and seeking only to avoid the eye of the government, Dr. Braun (Miroslav Macháček) nevertheless sets out on a perilous quest for morphine to treat a wounded resistance fighter. Every frame and shot of this film and more (especially the discordant sound design and score) channels and accentuates unease, shading into surreal paranoia. The film pitilessly exposes compromise for what it is while spotlighting a system that makes simple humanity immoral and impossible. Ostensibly set during the Nazi occupation, but filmed without historical costumes or trappings to indict the Communist Party as well. –KH

Recommended

Arcana (Film, Italy, Giulio Questi, 1972) Money-hungry fortune teller (Lucia Bosè) fails to entirely discourage her hot, fey son as he schemes toward an enigmatic inbreak of apocalyptic witchcraft. Surreal Marxist psychosexual urban folk horror benefits from the occasional jaggedness of its execution.—RDL

Ashes and Diamonds (Film, Poland, Andrzej Wajda, 1958) On the night of V-E Day, Polish Home Army fighter Maciek (Zbigniew Cybulski) gets the order to assassinate the new Communist commissar of a small town. Subverts the Communist propaganda of the source novel by casting the charismatic Cybulski and focusing on his moral struggle between duty and love, and includes powerful imagery that resonates through every major successive Polish film (and then some). A beautiful near-Pinnacle; only the lengthy subplot about a double-dealing apparatchik slackens its power. –KH

Black Gravel (Film, West Germany, Helmut Käutner, 1961) Truck-driver Neidhart (Helmut Wildt) finds his carefully compartmented life and his black-market gravel scheme unraveling after his ex-girlfriend Inge (Ingmar Zeisberg) comes back to town as the wife of a USAF Major. Neidhart is a fascinating noir protagonist, as he’s not the classic “man who makes one mistake” but a man who only ever acts slightly better than you expect. Käutner’s bleak portrayal of contemporary German society implies he thinks Germany suffers even by that comparison. Unfairly neglected and denigrated by the New Wave. –KH

The Devil Strikes at Night (Film, West Germany, Robert Siodmak, 1957) In 1944, Berlin police commander Kersten (Claus Holm) tracks a serial killer that the SS and Party don’t want to admit exists. Based on the historical Bruno Lüdke case, Siodmak uses noir conventions to transform a policier into the uncovering of societal evil and incompetence. Slightly arbitrary plotting (and an off-kilter love story for Kersten) yields to the pleasures of the redirected signifier. –KH

Le Doulos (Film, France, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1962) Ex-con Maurice (Serge Reggiani) doesn’t know who he can trust, and given that his best friend Silien (Jean-Paul Belmondo) talks to the cops, who can blame him? “Le Doulos” means “the informer,” and much of the movie plays out as a series of ultra-cool scenes that don’t get Maurice (or the audience) any closer to understanding who’s informing or what’s going on. Just enjoy the ride and let Melville tell you when he wants to. –KH

The Facts of Murder (Film, Italy, Pietro Germi, 1959) Inspector Ingravallo (Germi) of the Rome police doggedly investigates a burglary and a murder that happened a week apart in next-door houses, and suspects a connection. Claudia Cardinale takes over the screen as a housemaid; the script hints at even darker secrets left not-quite-hidden. Germi resolves the contradictions between neo-realism and noir by playing up their common features: stern morality, black-and-white starkness (mirrored in the “high and low” sets), and pitiful motives. –KH

Four Ways Out (Film, Italy, Pietro Germi, 1951) Four thieves rob a soccer stadium and split up; the film follows their various attempts to escape the law and their own inner demons. Slightly repetitive structure still works thanks to well-drawn characters and a modicum of interwoven stories. Gina Lollobrigida gets top billing for a brief guest role; Cosetta Greco actually deserves it as one thief’s proud wife. –KH

Story of a Love Affair (Film, Italy, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1950) Private eye Carloni (Gino Rossi) uncovers a deadly secret while investigating a millionaire’s wife Paola (Lucia Bosè), driving her old lover Guido (Massimo Girotti) to reconnect with her. Antonioni’s first feature, a loose riff on The Postman Always Rings Twice, is a sheer joy to look at. He refuses to show anything straight-on, except for Bosè (a former Miss Italy who he was sleeping with), creating a vertiginous quality enhanced by the jazzy score. –KH

Good

L’Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home (Nonfiction, David Lebovitz, 2017) Baker and pastry chef Lebovitz returns with another hilarious, recipe-strewn account of the multitudinous exasperations Paris throws at Americans who dare to live there, this time when he makes a host of rookie mistakes buying and renovating an apartment.—RDL

Okay

May God Forgive You… But I Won’t (Film, Italy, Vincenzo Musolino, 1968) Fast-drawing rancher (George Ardisson) systematically avenges the murders of his family. Racks up a John Woo-level body count as it pushes Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western framework to almost Gothic extremes. The protagonist is called Cjamango McDonald, a totally real name that actual people would in fact have.—RDL

Not Recommended

Bitter Rice (Film, US, Giuseppe De Santis, 1949) On the lam after a jewel robbery, a woman (Doris Dowling) escapes pursuit by throwing in with seasonal rice pickers, arousing the jealousy of a hot-blooded rival (Silvana Mangano.) The schlock instincts of producer Dino De Laurentiis bubble up into this lurid rural noir as it struggles against its socially responsible Neorealist outer layer.—RDL

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Episode 423: The Mysterious G

November 27th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, Lisa Steele and Neil Fortier ask how to adjust Robin’s police procedural superhero game, Mutant City Blues, in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

George III’s topographical collection has gone online, prompting a Cartography Hut focused on one of its treasures—a very RPG-looking map of the fort and barracks at Mount Pleasant, Maryland.

Beloved Patreon backer Jesse Lowe calls for a Culture Hut field trip to the Maryhill Museum, founded by Queen Marie of Romania and Yellow King Roleplaying Game historical figure Loie Fuller.

Finally in a crossover between the Crime Blotter and Eliptony Hut we examine the case of Ira Einhorn, the paranormalist 60s scenester later known as the Unicorn Killer.

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.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

The second edition of Mutant City Blues, by Robin D. Laws, and now with added Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, is now in print from Pelgrane Press. Grab your Quade Diagrams and solve the crimes of a near future where one per cent of the population wields super powers. Use the voucher code DIAGRAM2020 to get 15% off at the Pelgrane Store.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Dickinson & Noir from Around the World

November 24th, 2020 | 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.

The Pinnacle

Any Number Can Win (Film, France/Italy/US, Henri Verneuil, 1963) Aging ex-con Charles (Jean Gabin) recruits hot-blooded young ex-con Francis (Alain Delon) for one last perfect job: a casino robbery on the Riviera. Verneuil uses the acting to drive the story, allowing the script to beautifully lay out the heist and its obstacles; low-key tension throughout flares up in a final tour-de-force scene. –KH

Recommended

The Assistant (Film, US, Kitty Green, 2020) Diligent film company assistant (Julia Garner) can’t help but spot the accumulating evidence of its top exec’s extensive sexual harassment. Exacting, hyper-naturalistic examination of the ambient complicity baked into most any work hierarchy.—RDL

Cold War (Film, Poland, Paweł Pawlikowski, 2018) The tumultuous love of a musical director (Tomasz Kot) and a singer (Joanna Kulig) play out over many years on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Drama of hurtful love between people whose relationship only works under external oppression, with crystalline black and white photography by Łukasz Żal.—RDL

Dickinson (Television, US, Alena Smith, Apple+, 2019) Between colloquies with Death (Wiz Khalifa) in his ghostly carriage, teen poet Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld) defies her loving but forbidding father (Toby Huss), loves her brother’s fiancee (Ella Hunt), and generally commits to keeping it weird. Biographical comedy knocks the stuffiness from the 19th century with contemporary dialogue and needle drops, with emotionally truthful performances from Steinfeld and cast to keep the archness at bay. Zosia Mamet and John Mulaney vie for funniest guest spot honors as commercially-minded Louisa May Alcott and pompous dickweed Henry Thoreau.—RDL

Leave Her to Heaven (Film, US, John M. Stahl, 1945) Obsessive beauty Ellen (Gene Tierney) latches onto writer Richard (Cornel Wilde) and does anything to keep him for herself. Lush Technicolor and surging melodrama lull you into watching perhaps the most blood-freezing murder scene in American film history. Even a pre-plummy Vincent Price as a fixated D.A. can’t equal the threat of Gene Tierney in tortoiseshell shades. –KH

Out of the Dark (Fiction, Patrick Modiano, 1996) In mid-60s Paris, a callow bookhound falls for the magnetically elusive girlfriend of a small-time gambler. Sparely told tale of love and memory with noirish undertones.—RDL

Panique (Film, France, Julien Duvivier, 1947) Local ne’er-do-wells Alice (Viviane Romance) and Alfred (Paul Bernard) frame sad-sack Monsieur Hire (Michel Simon) for murder in a lovely clockwork noir based on a Simenon novel. Simon’s performance, alternately off-putting and sympathetic, establishes the human truth at the heart of the story. –KH

Penn & Teller: Fool Us, Season 7 (Television, US, Penn Jillette & Teller, CW, 2020) Magicians Penn and Teller invite fellow magicians to perform a trick; they try to figure out how it’s done. Basically a variety/competition show, except with generosity, wonder, and kindness as the emotional keys. I find its world of professionalism, history, fellowship, and honesty makes for ideal lockdown viewing; I picked this season just because it’s the most recent one I’ve watched, but they’re all Recommended. –KH

Good

Razzia sur la Chnouf (Film, France, Henri Decoin, 1955) Gangster Henri Ferre (Jean Gabin) returns from America to take a crucial middle-management role in a heroin ring getting slack. Gorgeously shot, this  hangout film of the French drug underworld keeps us at a distance as Henri seemingly tours aimlessly through his new empire. The last act tightens considerably, though almost arbitrarily, so I’m not sure the combo scores. Marc Lanjean’s jazzy score absolutely scores, though. –KH

Rusty Knife (Film, Japan, Toshio Masuda, 1958) While the cops fruitlessly try to bust local yakuza boss Katsumata, ex-con (and ex-yakuza) Tachibana (Yujiro Ishihara) tries to keep his murderous rage from boiling over. Like many Nikkatsu directors of the era, Masuda ladles on scenes and developments without any particular care for logic or tone, creating a layered urban setting almost despite himself. The underplayed yet powerful romance between Tachibana and a pretty journalist on the crime beat provides a throughline if you want one. –KH

Not Recommended

Ad Astra (Film, US, James Gray, 2019) Spacecom sends closed-off astronaut (Brad Pitt) on a mission to contact his father (Tommy Lee Jones), whose long-lost craft is bathing the Earth in deadly cosmic radiation. Centering a heaping serving of daddy issues inside a pastiche of 2001 and Heart of Darkness, this exemplifies the very specific kind of bad that results when talented filmmakers devote wholehearted seriousness to a dumb idea.—RDL

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Episode 422: Sumerian GM Screens

November 20th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we look at narrative coherence and whether GMs should enforce it by trying to make all introduced story elements pay off.

Something sufficiently definitive has happened that we are willing to risk the wrath of our ten day lead time and reopen the dusty Politics Hut to chew over the results of the US election.

Speaking of which, I guess it’s finally time to duck into Conspiracy Corner and talk about QAnon.

Finally, the Consulting Occultist for the first time trains his eye on a subject who is both a paranormalist and an RPG designer, James “Herbie” Brennan.

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.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

Send your 13th Age characters deep below the Dragon Empire, and even deeper into danger, with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Book of the Underworld. Get all the subterranean exploration and menace your adventurers can handle at the Pelgrane Press store. For a limited time only, get 10% off print or PDF with the voucher code STUFFWORLD.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: David Byrne, The End of Supernatural, and the Foucault of the UFO

November 17th, 2020 | 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

David Byrne’s American Utopia (Film, US, Spike Lee, 2020) Stringing beads from his forty-odd-year discography, Byrne fronts 11 barefoot musicians in a deliberately stark and minimalist stage show that perversely attempts to be open and optimistic. (Coldness inviting warmth is a weird vibe, it must be said.) Lee captures the show from every angle, but prefers a deliberately human-scale theater-style frame that emphasizes the common humanity of the performers; Byrne mostly remains at the center but Lee only rarely shoots him as the icon that he is. –KH

Forbidden Science 1: A Passion for Discovery, The Journals of Jacques Vallee 1957-1969 (Nonfiction, Jacques Vallee, 1992) Early diaries by the Foucault of the UFO take him from intellectually precocious university student to the software pioneer author of Passport to Magonia—that is, from a character in a Francois Truffaut movie to the character Truffaut would later portray in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Takeaways from this rich, erudite journal: 1) the French take second place to no one in being annoyed by the French. 2) Boy howdy, the entire UFO scene sure was steeped in the straight-up occult.—RDL

Supernatural Season 15 (Television, US, Andrew Dabb, CW, 2019-2020) Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles) wrap up their epic battle against sinister cosmic forces with a battle against that malign thug, God (Rob Benedict.) Brings nerddom’s longest-running series in for a satisfying landing, with a conclusion both grounded and cosmic. In a TV ecosystem shifting to the short, serialized seasons and hasty cancelations of the streaming world, we likely won’t see another show log 320 episodes of the episodic-with-continuity arcs format. The achievement becomes all the more remarkable when you consider the tightness of its template it rang its variations on.—RDL

(Edit: Whoops, am informed that despite the apparent finality of last week’s ep there’s still one more to go.—RDL)

Good

Fast Color (Film, US, Julia Hart, 2018) In a slowly collapsing, water-starved America, a recovering addict (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) on the run from scientists studying her paranormal powers seeks refuge with her mother (Lorraine Toussaint) and young daughter, who share her abilities. Scores points for restrained atmosphere, despite a script that spends a lot of time explaining itself without ever entirely making sense.—RDL

Netflix vs the World (Film, US, Shawn Cauthen, 2019)Documentary traces the rise of Netflix from scrappy strip mall startup to streaming giant, with particular emphasis on the tit-for-tat battle of its battle with Blockbuster during the DVD rental by mail phase.—RDL

Two Monks (Film, Mexico, Juan Bustillo Oro, 1934) A monastery murder attempt triggers a tale of romantic woe told from the perspectives of victim and perpetrator. Monumental deco expressionist sets add gothic overtones to a love triangle melodrama. Bump up to Recommended if you are Guy Maddin.—RDL

Okay

The Crowd Roars (Film, US, Howard Hawks, 1932) When his kid brother joins his team, a champion race driver (James Cagney) becomes a controlling bully, also junking his relationship with his long-suffering girlfriend (Ann Dvorak.) Later in his career Hawks would learn to give his redemption arcs to secondary characters, but here the protagonist doesn’t much deserve one.—RDL

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Episode 421: The Lawful Evil Parade [Corrected]

November 13th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, beloved Patreon backer David Sowa asks us how to incorporate machine politics into an F20 game.

Ken beckons us into the Cinema Hut to discuss his discoveries at this year’s virtual edition of the Chicago Film Festival.

Ask Ken and Robin features a request from flinty Patreon backer to find the gaming fun in a field of abandoned President heads.

Finally we use Ken’s Time Machine to see what the world looks like if an attempted hit on the Shah of Iran in 1949 went off as planned.

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.


Fans of Robin’s action movie roleplaying game, Feng Shui 2, can now have more gun fu, martial arts and sorcery in their lives as the Feng Shui 2 subscription series blasts its way into your mail slot. Score free PDFs, early access to new adventures, and 10% off cover price by joining Atlas Games’ band of scrappy underdogs today.

Send your 13th Age characters deep below the Dragon Empire, and even deeper into danger, with Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Book of the Underworld. Get all the subterranean exploration and menace your adventurers can handle at the Pelgrane Press store. For a limited time only, get 10% off print or PDF with the voucher code STUFFWORLD.

The treasures of Askfageln can be found at DriveThruRPG. Get all issues of FENIX since 2013 available in special English editions. Score metric oodles of Ken Hite gaming goodness, along with equally stellar pieces by Graeme Davis and Pete Nash. Warning: in English, not in Swedish. In English, not Swedish. While you’re at it, grab DICE and Freeway Warrior!

Suit up, agents of Delta Green. Your battle to save humanity from unnatural horrors is going beyond the Beltway. Delta Green: The Labyrinth is now shipping to a secure dead drop near you. Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations dives deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium.

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
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Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister