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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Queen’s Gambit, Sabrina, and Fran & Marty Talk About Stuff

January 19th, 2021 | 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

The Queen’s Gambit (Television Miniseries, US, Netflix, Scott Frank, 2020)  Child genius (Isla Johnston) Introduced to chess and substance abuse during her time in an orphanage grows up into a killer player (Anya Taylor-Joy) mowing down an array of male opponents on her way to an epic confrontation with her cold-eyed Soviet nemesis. From gorgeous production design to a star-making performance from Taylor-Joy, to the stunning achievement of making not just a few but many chess games cinematically riveting, this Walter Tevis adaptation excels on every level.—RDL

Recommended

Barry Sonnenfeld, Call Your Mother (Nonfiction, Barry Sonnenfeld, 2020) In a series of well-honed, often hilarious, always unsparing, anecdotes, the director of Men in Black and Get Shorty recounts his adventures in film and the upbringing that made him into the industry’s most notorious bundle of neuroses.—RDL

Pretend It’s a City (Television Miniseries, US, Netflix, Martin Scorsese, 2021) Following a train of thought not unlike the one that led to a certain podcast, Scorsese turns his enjoyment of hanging out with acerbic writer and speaker Fran Lebowitz into seven episodes of delightful snark on such erudite topics as book ownership, talent, transit, and the then-and-now of New York City.—RDL

Good

Mank (Film, US, David Fincher, 2020) While bedridden, Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) looks back on his drunken, cynical career and attempts to justify it by writing Citizen Kane. A movie about the evils of the Big Lie committing a Big Lie itself, a movie about idiosyncratic lefty genius that tries to hollow out Orson Welles (a downright elderly Tom Burke) while riding his coattails — the flaws of this film don’t stop with the stagy, tell-don’t-show, talky screenplay (by Fincher’s dad). But Fincher loves shooting in black and white, and Amanda Seyfried (as Marion Davies) like Oldman often overcomes the material. The period-style score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross swings along, too. –KH

Okay

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season (Television, US, Netflix, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, 2021) Sabrina and gang take on a succession of eldritch horrors intent on cosmic destruction, including one of deeply familiar octopoid aspect. Idiot plotting and time-killing musical numbers foretell a structural waywardness leading to a classic instance of series finale letdown.—RDL

The Cotton Club Encore (Film, US, Francis Ford Coppola, 1984 / 2017) Stardom-bound cornet player (Richard Gere) becomes an unwilling errand boy for Dutch Schultz (James Remar) and falls for his girl (Diane Lane) as ambitious hoofer (Gregory Hines) woos a singer at the eponymous, mob-run nightclub. Coppola again shows his interest in scenes over narrative, in a film with a way longer run time than any of the 30s movies it homages.—RDL

Sylvie’s Love (Film, US, Eugene Ashe, 2020) Amid the cool glamour of 50s New York, an aspiring TV producer (Tessa Thompson) catches feelings for the stardom-bound sax player (Nnamdi Asomugha) who takes a day job in her dad’s record store. Lush romantic drama switches throughlines for its final act, a feat more readily accomplished in prose fiction than within the unforgiving confines of the screenplay format.—RDL

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Episode 428: Only a Modernist Horse

January 15th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we return to that perennial, not at all distracting topic of the red herring, as beloved Patreon backer Kevin Greenlee asks how to work player-generated herrings into the drama.

Then we take Interstate 71 to the Architecture Hut, where esteemed Patreon backer Tom Abella wants to know what the deal is with the old Public Library of Cincinnati.

Cinema Hut Horror Essentials continues with the early 40s, over which the shadow of Val Lewton looms large.

Finally the Consulting Occultist dons his paisley smoking jacket for an inquiry into the occultism of LSD advocate Timothy Leary.

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: Discovery, WW84, and Korean Time Phone Horror

January 12th, 2021 | 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

The Call (Film, South Korea, Lee Chung-hyun, 2020) Returning to her mom’s house while she’s in the hospital, a young woman receives a series of landline calls from inside the house—and from 20 years in the past. Tense timey-wimey horror thriller keeps the twists coming and the tension ratcheting.—RDL

Death Takes a Holiday (Film, US, Mitchell Leisen, 1934) To experience life as a mortal, the grim reaper (Fredric March) takes on mortal form for a long weekend as an aristocrat’s guest, falling for a restless ingenue (Evelyn Venable.) Stagy but atmospheric adaptation of an interwar Italian play that marries Symbolist and Romantic motifs.—RDL

Valdez is Coming (Fiction, Elmore Leonard, 1970) Mild-seeming town constable reveals the killer inside him when a cattle baron maneuvers him into gunning down an innocent man and then refuses to compensate his widow. Laconic western fable of racism and gun-handling expertise.—RDL

The Widow Couderc (Film, France, Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1974) Escaped convict (Alain Delon) hides out as farmhand to a lonely widow (Simone Signoret) whose former in-laws hope to push her out of her home. Naturalistic rural noir set against a background of rising fascim, based on a Simenon novel.—RDL

Good

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 (Television, US, CBS All Access, Alex Kurtzman & Michelle Paradise, 2020-2021) The Discovery crew signs up to fix a gritty far future where an interstellar catastrophe has reduced the Federation to a vestige of its former glory. Every season of Discovery becomes a markedly different show, finding new ways to get Trek right, while also embracing another narrative bête noire—this time, relentless cheerleading for its heroes. Star Sonequa Martin-Green dares to escalate her performance to Shatnerian heights.—RDL

Okay

Vampires vs. the Bronx (Film, US, Oz Rodriguez, 2020) Area tweens (Jaden Michael, Gerald W. Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV) notice vampires behind the gentrification of their Bronx neighborhood and fight back. “What if Lost Boys, but just about the Frog Brothers and in the Bronx” could still have worked, but not with the tiny budget and un-terrifying vampires available. It’s hard to blame the child actors for not doing better with the metronomic script, but they’re no Stranger Things kids. Points given for Method Man as a priest and for actually going there and using the Eucharist wafer as a plot coupon. –KH

Wonder Woman 1984 (Film, US, Patty Jenkins, 2020) When the Dreamstone resurfaces in 1984 Washington DC, Diana (Gal Gadot) wishing for the return of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) is only the first thing that goes wrong. Random clumps of ill-thought-out scenes (including literally handwaving the invisible plane) capped by whatever the opposite of sticking the landing is may authentically recall Bronze Age comics, but it’s not always good movie making. Although Gadot and Pine remain great, Jenkins whiffs badly on the villains: Kristen Wiig twitches endlessly as proto-Cheetah, and Pedro Pascal (possibly overcompensating for his Mando minimalism) somehow hits every wrong note as Maxwell Lord. Jenkins’ fight and action scenes also suffer by comparison with the first film, regressing to the mean with a vengeance. –KH

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Episode 427: Poor Bactrian Saps

January 8th, 2021 | Robin

We’re back for another year, starting in the Gaming Hut, where beloved Patreon backer Nicola Wilson wants to know how to incorporate the relatively high cost of clothes and food in the Middle Ages into an investigative game.

In the Tradecraft Hut we examine the mid-2000s Pentagon-sponsored first-person shooter Iraqi Hero, and the use Dracula made of it.

The second installment of the Cinema Hut’s Horror Essentials series tackles that most fertile of eras for the genre, the early 30s.

Finally Ken’s Time Machine creates a timeline where papermaking surfaced in Europe not long after its invention in China, instead of waiting for around a thousand years.

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: Wonder Woman, Palm Springs, Midnight Sky

January 5th, 2021 | 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

The Book of Lamps and Banners (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2020) Increasingly strung-out punk photographer Cass Neary tries to leverage the hunt for a rare occult manuscript into a payout for her and her lover, but of course murderous complications intervene. Hand presents all four books in the series as rapid frames in Neary’s dramatic dissolution rather than episodes in an iconic hero’s career; this one, therefore, has to manage the trick of shifting Neary into her final stage without derailing its momentum. Fortunately, the titular Book (and the weird tech implications Hand gives it) have enough power to drive the novel around the turn. –KH

Joe Gould’s Teeth (Nonfiction, Jill Lepore, 2015) As a demonstration of the biographical researcher’s art, Lepore delves into a great unanswered question of New York literary lore—whether portions of the allegedly massive oral history of everything by literary eccentric Joe Gould, as made famous in two iconic Joseph Mitchell New Yorker articles, survive or ever existed. What she discovers deromanticizes Gould’s madness, revealing him as both a victim of institutional psychiatry and a harasser and stalker.—RDL

The Night Comes For Us (Film, Indonesia, Timo Tjahjanto, 2018) Triad enforcer (Joe Taslim) goes rogue to protect a girl he’s orphaned, endangering his friends and setting up a showdown with his former running buddy (Iko Uwais.) Artfully shot grand guignol martial arts action from alumni of The Raid showcases top-notch prop/improvised weapon use.—RDL

Palm Springs (Film, US, Max Barbacow, 2020) Checked-out wedding guest (Adam Sandberg) fails to prevent the sister of the bride (Cristin Miliotti) from entering the infinite time loop he’s trapped in. Charming, funny romcom assumes you’ve seen a time loop movie before and makes clever hay with those expectations.—RDL

Good

The Evidence for Phantom Hitch-Hikers (Nonfiction, Michael Goss, 1984) This short treatise applies the standards of parapsychology, rather than the usual standards of folklore studies, to three specific incident groups in the UK. An interesting exercise, which would be Recommended had Goss expanded the scope of his treatise to any of the main American incidents or to more complete coverage of the myth-pattern he scants in his last chapter. –KH

The Manifestations of Sherlock Holmes (Fiction, James Lovegrove, 2020) Twelve short stories of Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, half of them “normal” pastiches, two told by minor Holmesian figures (Toby the dog and rival detective Clarence Barker), and four nerdtroped in some way: Lovecraft, Stevenson, Doyle again (Prof. Challenger and a murderous pterodactyl), and supers. “The Adventure of the Botanist’s Glove” is by far the best in the collection, and “The Adventure of the Yithian Stone” while too full of exposition does offer a nicely cruel glancing view of the Mythos. None of them are overtly bad (two Recommended, three Okay), but Lovegrove’s Doyle-voice quavers a bit even at the best of times. –KH

Shazam! (Film, US, David F. Sandberg, 2019) Resistant foster kid (Asher Angel) gains the ability to transform into an adult-shaped superhero (Zachary Levi.) Fun, cape-wearing riff on Big bookended by the usual over-elaborated exposition and CGI final fight sequence of superhero origin movies.—RDL

WW84 (Film, US, Patty Jenkins, 2020) In the era of pastel shades and high-cut leotards, a lonely Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) deals with the fallout when a wishing stone falls into the hands of an awkward pal (Kristen Wiig) and a wannabe tycoon (Pedro Pascal). Jenkins takes DC movies full circle to the lighthearted tone of the Donner/Lester Superman flicks—bringing with it their disjointed storytelling. Over time WW84 may come to be appreciated for its sincere dedication to weirdness, which is two thirds attributable to picking scenes and set pieces and trying to shoehorn them into a narrative, and one third from the freaky ghost of William Moulton Marston manifesting into the material.—RDL

Not Recommended

The Midnight Sky (Film, US, George Clooney, 2020) Terminally ill researcher (Clooney) remains behind on an Antarctic base to warn a returning spaceship crew to turn around, avoiding the devastation that has destroyed the world during their journey. An unrelieved series of down beats substitute dourness for profundity, with the entire proceedings wrapped around a leaden, cheap reveal.—RDL

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Hand, le Carre, and, once more, The Mandalorian

December 29th, 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

Curious Toys (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2019) Living in Chicago’s Riverview amusement park in 1915, gamine Pin stumbles onto a serial killer of young girls. Featuring cameos by Charlie Chaplin and Ben Hecht, Hand’s assured thriller prods and pokes (and gazes) at femininity and the images thereof. Story elements such as Chicago’s film industry and especially Pin’s erratic confidant Henry Darger bring those themes effortlessly into focus. –KH

Hard Light (Fiction, Elizabeth Hand, 2016) Pill-popping punk photographer Cass Neary gets dragooned into a series of murders with roots in the 1970s groupie scene and in an experimental occult film shot in Cornwall. Hand’s almost-occult crime series again satisfyingly walks several high-wires: broken but appealing protagonist, forgotten past and collapsing present, crime and horror. Hand’s Cass Neary series by now withstands comparison to William Gibson’s Bigend trilogy. –KH

Hunter with Harpoon (Fiction, Markoosie Patsauq, 1970) Inuit hunters embark on a deadly journey to find and kill a rogue polar bear. Harrowing novella of life and death in an unforgiving environment, packed with incident and told with startling, straightforward authority.—RDL

Lord of Light (Fiction, Roger Zelazny, 1967) The Buddha attempts to destroy the rule of the Hindu gods; alternately, an immortal culture-jamming spaceship crewman named Sam sabotages his fellow immortals’ attempt to keep their descendants’ planet culturally static. Zelazny deliberately wrote this SF novel in a fantasy register, or vice versa, in a critical test of Clarke’s Third Law. Cosmic scope packed into 250-odd pages makes for a heady read, as does Zelazny at the height of control over his own style. –KH

The Mandalorian Season 2 (Television, US, Jon Favreau, Disney+, 2020) Mandalorian fundamentalist (Pedro Pascal) quests to fulfill his geas and return Grogu (Baby Yoda) to the Jedi for further training. Punchy, minimalist episodes (again inspired by 1960s serial TV such as The Rifleman and Kung Fu) let the production design and interstitial dialogue build upon (and build out) the Star Wars universe while the themes (and Ludwig Göransson’s theme) carry the emotional weight. All this, plus the return of Space Bill Burr! –KH

A Perfect Spy (Fiction, John le Carré, 1986) When his con man father dies, the M16 Head of Station in Vienna drops out of sight with the embassy burnbox, to write a memoir addressed to his son and his mentor. Literary fiction techniques come to the fore in this quasi-autobiographical novel from the tail end of le Carré’s Cold War phase.—RDL

La tête d’un homme [A Man’s Head] (Film, France, Julien Duvivier, 1933) Chief Inspector Maigret (Harry Baur) suspects that the bumpkinish delivery man arrested for the murder of a wealthy American matron is merely a patsy. Simenon adaptation builds from clipped police procedural to a crescendo of expressionist dread and melancholy.—RDL

Good

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life (Nonfiction, John Le Carré, 2016) The celebrated spy novelist presents his finest anecdotes about his encounters with heads of state, warlords, movie people, and other shady characters. With the possible exception of his piece on his con man father, the real David Cornwell remains as staunchly in the background as George Smiley ever could.—RDL

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Mandalorian, Ma Rainey and Streep/Soderbergh

December 22nd, 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

Let Them All Talk (Film, US, Steven Soderbergh, 2020) Superstar literary author (Meryl Streep) invites formerly close friends, the centered Susan (Dianne Wiest) and desperate, embittered Roberta (Candice Bergen) on a transatlantic cruise. Multiple unanswered questions lend narrative suspense to deceptively light drama driven by improvised dialogue. Soderbergh makes canny use of Streep’s star persona.—RDL

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Film, US, George C. Wolfe, 2020) At a Chicago recording date for indomitable blues performer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) an ambitious young trumpeter (Chadwick Boseman) makes his grab for stardom. Wolfe’s darting camera bridges the cinematic and the theatrical to give this contemporary stage classic a filmed treatment in accordance with its stature. This difficult feat requires electric performances, which Davis and Boseman unsurprisingly deliver.—RDL

The Mandalorian Season 2 (Television, US, Jon Favreau, Disney+, 2020) Aided along the way by a rotating roster of bad-asses, the Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) seeks a Jedi to take custody of the Kid. Lives up to the brilliance of the first season by keeping its arc the simplest of strings to connect independently satisfying episodes. Also of note: the way it leans into the cruelty of the setting, which the franchise has been fleeing since the Ewoks showed up. Where do I fall on the thing that happens at the end? I had both reactions!—RDL

The Two-Penny Bar (Fiction, Georges Simenon, 1932) Acting on a tip from a condemned prisoner regarding an old murder, Inspector Maigret infiltrates a community of Sunday revelers. The Maigret books don’t need to be read in order, making this structurally straight ahead entry, as usual favoring social observation over a puzzling mystery, an excellent starting point.—RDL

Good

The Flight Attendant Season 1 (Television, US, Steve Yockey, HBOMax, 2020) After a night of sex with millionaire passenger Alex (Michiel Huisman), alcoholic mess/flight attendant Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) wakes up next to his murdered corpse. This series wants so badly to channel Hitchcock’s mid-period neo-screwball man-on-the-run films that you kind of root for it. (It’s far from easy — even Stanley Donen just barely did it once!) Cuoco’s comedy experience gives her the needed timing in the role, and Cassie’s traumatic mental collapse (illustrated among other things by Alex reappearing to her throughout) mostly plays well. Zosia Mamet as her lawyer/best friend is a treat, too. But four hours (tops) of story across eight episodes means some arbitrary choices, second-tier dialogue, and (of course) divagating subplots. –KH

Okay

Autumn Leaves (Film, US, Robert Aldrich, 1956) Lonely typist (Joan Crawford) discovers the pathological side of her quick-talking young suitor (Cliff Robertson) only after she marries him. Aldrich, a specialist in caustic portrayals of tormented people, undercuts the therapeutic message of the script’s final act with every fiber of his noirish being.—RDL

Mannequin (Film, US, Frank Borzage, 1937) Anxious to escape poverty, a hard-working seamstress (Joan Crawford) marries a no-good fight promoter (Alan Curtis) who pushes her into the arms of a besotted shipping magnate (Spencer Tracy.) The antagonist never offers a credible threat to the happiness of the leads in this well-directed romantic melodrama.—RDL

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Episode 426: Licensed Mumming

December 18th, 2020 | Robin

In our last episode of 2020 we lurch, masked and tipsy, into the Kringle Hut, to fashion a horror scenario around the Newfoundland tradition of mummering.

Beloved Patreon backer Noel Warford convenes a session of Ask Ken and Robin to inquire into the cosmology of his Hellenistika project.

In the Cinema Hut we kick off a series exploring Horror movie essentials. We’re going chronologically so let’s start with the silent era and see how far 15 minutes will take us.

Finally the Eliptony Hut whisks us to Brazil in the 60s for the sinister and enigmatic Lead Mask Case.

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: 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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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
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Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister