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Grimoire

Episode 444: Axe Democracy

May 7th, 2021 | Robin

Prepare to reverse polarity as the Gaming Hut looks at scenarios that revolve around science mysteries.

Beloved Patreon backer Tennant Reed asks us to unfurl the Crime Blotter for the story of penal colony escapee and confessed cannibal Alexander Pearce.

In Ask Ken and Robin, estimable Patreon backer Kaijuthulu seeks tips on running a Mutant City Blues game with hardboiled 30s private eyes.

Finally in a thrilling Food Hut / Ken’s Time Machine crossover event, perspicacious Patreon backer Martin Rundkvist assigns Ken to change American condiment history.

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.


Bears need hairstyles! Lumberjacks need beards! Be friends to both in Yukon Salon, a quick, humorous, family card game in a tin, from our snow-dappled pals at Atlas Games. Take Your Place at the Frontier of Style !

A murderous mystery lies beneath the gladiatorial arenas in the majestic, dragon-patrolled city of Axis. Only your first level 13th Age characters can confront it, in Crown of Axis, by Wade Rockett, now available at the Pelgrane Press shop.

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!

Fear Is a Fractal …and your world is a lie. A horror freed from an antique book reverberates through reality. But don’t despair. There is hope. A King waits for us. And Impossible Landscapes, the  first campaign for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game waits for you. In PDF now, hardback in May. Hailed as “one of the best RPG campaigns ever made” and “a masterpiece of surreal horror!”

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Without Remorse, the Bulgarian Front, and the Impossible Middle-Deck Deal

May 4th, 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

Captain Conan (Film, France, Bertrand Tavernier, 1996) The aggression and disdain for authority that makes the leader of a ragtag shock troop on WWI’s Bulgarian front (Philippe Torreton) a hero on the battlefield turns him into a loose cannon after the Armistice. Experiential novel adaptation with energetic, chaotic combat sequences centers on the relationship between the hardnosed protagonist and his intellectual right hand man (Samuel Le Bihan.)—RDL

The Ghost of Peter Sellers (Film, UK, Peter Medak, 2018) The director of The Ruling Class and The Changeling recounts the nightmare of making an ultimately shelved pirate comedy a) without a polished script, b) shot largely on the water, c) with notoriously recalcitrant superstar Sellers. Documentary examines an emotional wound that still eats at Medak half a lifetime later, when other surviving participants have long since written off the debacle as the cost of doing show business.—RDL

The Friend of the Desert (Fiction, Pablo d’Ors, 2009) Czech office worker joins an eccentric society whose members share a fascination with the mysteries of the desert. Spare, absurdist-adjacent novella of achieving selfhood through the abandonment of identity.—RDL

The Magician and the Cardsharp (Nonfiction, Karl Johnson, 2005) In 1932, close-up magician supreme Dai Vernon tracked down card mechanic Allen Kennedy to learn the secret of the impossible center-deck deal. Johnson’s indefatigable research provides ample background to both men and their milieus: Pendergast’s Kansas City, small-town Missouri, and Vernon’s stage-magic subculture. Infectious, fascinating, and earnest, like all the best magic tricks. –KH [Note: The link goes to the hardback; the paperback is cheap POD that shames the good name of Henry Holt.]

Woman of Water (Film, South Korea, Kim Ki-young, 1979) To qualify for a land grant, a wounded Vietnam vet (Kim Chung-chul) marries a lonely young woman (Kim Ja-ok) whose shame over her speech impediment prevents her from speaking in public. Subtlety is for the weak in this scathing domestic melodrama with elements of rural noir.—RDL

Good

Buffaloed (Film, US, Tanya Wexler, 2020) Blue-collar hustler Peg Dahl (Zoey Deutsch) picks herself up after a prison sentence by climbing to the top of Buffalo’s debt collection racket. Manic wing-eating riff on The Wolf of Wall Street takes the easy way out too many times for me to give it a Recommendation, but Deutsch’s shining energy dominates the screen in a way that makes me wish for about a thousand more comedies — ideally comedies that decide whether they want to be screwball, caper, or social-problem pieces — she could run roughshod through. Also noteworthy for never condescending to Peg, and for Judy Greer’s terrific performance as Peg’s mom. –KH

Okay

Without Remorse (Film, US, Stefano Sollima, 2021) Navy SEAL John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan) pursues his wife’s killers and uncovers a nefarious plot. Literally none of this film’s story was surprising in any way (except that it’s surprising that a Taylor Sheridan script could be so dull), and very little of it was particularly thrilling. A seeming commitment to realism (which renders many of its gunfights murky) disintegrates when plot contrivances require it; Sollima wastes Jordan’s charisma by likewise enmeshing it in dim murk. The high point by far is Jónsi’s discordant score, which deserved a better movie. –KH

Not Recommended

Time to Hunt (Film, South Korea, Yoon Sung-Hyun, 2020) Trio of young small time crooks seeks to escape the hopelessness of an economic collapse by knocking off a gambling den, attracting the attention of a determined assassin who likes to toy with his prey. A brilliant formal device—action thriller scenes shot and edited with horror techniques—drowns in an undisciplined hodgepodge of a script.—RDL

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Episode 443: Ruined by Farm Children

April 30th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, we help you, the player, bring your character’s narrative hook, in this case a Freaking Weird Moment for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, into play.

As befits this weird year, the Cinema Hut finally gets around to our Top Ten Films of 2020, right in time for you to have already seen the Oscars.

Finally the Eliptony Hut looks at the 1882 disappearance of stage magician De Le Mano.

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.


Bears need hairstyles! Lumberjacks need beards! Be friends to both in Yukon Salon, a quick, humorous, family card game in a tin, from our snow-dappled pals at Atlas Games. Take Your Place at the Frontier of Style!

A murderous mystery lies beneath the gladiatorial arenas in the majestic, dragon-patrolled city of Axis. Only your first level 13th Age characters can confront it, in Crown of Axis, by Wade Rockett, now available at the Pelgrane Press shop.

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!

Fear Is a Fractal …and your world is a lie. A horror freed from an antique book reverberates through reality. But don’t despair. There is hope. A King waits for us. And Impossible Landscapes, the  first campaign for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game waits for you. In PDF now, hardback in May. Hailed as “one of the best RPG campaigns ever made” and “a masterpiece of surreal horror!”

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Q: Into the Storm & 30 Coins

April 27th, 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

30 Coins Season 1 (Television, Spain, HBO Europe, Álex de la Iglesia, 2021) Small town mayor (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) and veterinarian (Megan Montaner) become reluctant occult investigators when demons, witches, and a Gnostic conspiracy pressure the weird new priest (Eduard Fernández) to surrender an unholy relic in his possession. Though its cosmology is pure horror Catholicism, the spirit, as befits the author of a recent Call of Cthulhu campaign, is weird pulp adventure, with Iglesia’s zest for big cinematic suspense beats, huge visual spaces, and actorly physicality cranked to the max.—RDL

Forbidden Science 2: California Hermetica, The Journals of Jacques Vallee 1970-1979 (Nonfiction, Jacques Vallee, 2008) From the heart of the eliptonic 70s comes a motherlode of contemporary observations covering UFOlogy and those who spied on it, with an added ground zero view of the Silicon Valley revolution. What really surprised me is that the computer science projects that became the Internet didn’t just develop in parallel to the Bay Area’s occult, cult and psychic scene, but were absolutely intertwined with it.—RDL

I was going to class both of the above as Recommended, with a bump up if you’re into the subject matter, momentarily forgetting just which audience I was addressing.

Recommended

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 (Television, US, Disney+, 2021) Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan) clash with the government’s unsuitable new Captain America (Wyatt Russell) as they track the leader (Erin Kellyman) of a displaced persons terror group. The Captain America thread of MCU movies already took its structural cues from television, so it makes sense that this extension of it plays as an engaging gumbo of callbacks and serial elements. Then it succumbs to the emerging pattern of this wave of Marvel shows with a muddled finale, in this case one that fails to grapple with the implications of its sympathy for the antagonist.—RDL

Q: Into the Storm (Television, US, HBO, Cullen Hoback, 2021) Hoback explores the Q conspiracy theory with special attention to the creator of Q host site 8chan, Frederick Brennan, and its later owner and admin, Jim and Ron Watkins. By focusing on process (and on the question of Q’s identity) rather than hair-on-fire moral panicking, Hoback adds a measure of value and clarity to the discussion, while illuminating the consequences of this particular LARP gone amuck. –KH

Good

Love and Monsters (Film, US, Michael Matthews, 2020) Feeling useless in the underground bunker that protects his small community from a world of mutated beasties, a young man (Dylan O’Brien) decides to undertake the deadly overland journey to the bunker run by his high school girlfriend (Jessica Henwick.) Amiable, initially over-explanatory mash-up of A Quiet Place and Zombieland finds the emotional space for themes of isolation and survivor guilt. Wait a few years and you’ll be able to well actually people who confuse their dates and take this for an allegory of the pandemic.—RDL

Okay

The China Governess (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1962) Timothy Kinnit, adopted child of privilege, finds his elopement complicated by the question of his true parentage; Campion and Inspector Luke investigate the crimes seemingly connected to that question. The novel begins with its most interesting setting demolished by the Blitz, leaving a not-particularly-involving protagonist stuffily annoying his betrothed in the near-vacuum of his caricatured family. The murder, when it eventually happens, seems more like an afterthought than a consequence. –KH

HyperNormalisation (Film, UK, Adam Curtis, 2016) Tracks the rise of financialized government in the US and suicide bombing in the Middle East from 1975 to 2016, mildly hectoring politicians and cyber-utopians who avoid the complexities that both mask. Something of a dorm-room bong rip after a Poli Sci 102 class, Curtis’ neo-Situationist collage film avoids plenty of complexities in its own right despite spending nearly three hours talking. Curtis does find the time to express his distaste for Patti Smith, Jane Fonda’s aerobics, tween girls on Vine, and Kim Kardashian. –KH

Minari (Film, US, Lee Isaac Chung, 2020) Seeking a new start, dream-chasing immigrant dad (Steven Yeun) moves his wife and small kids to Arkansas to start a Korean vegetable farm. Visually and sonically pretty family drama uses a sudden melodramatic event to cheat its way to character resolution.—RDL

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Episode 442: Mad at Unicorns

April 23rd, 2021 | Robin

Bravely we enter the Gaming Hut, at the behest of beloved Patreon backer Scott Wachter, to roast the cockatrice and other weaksauce monsters.

The History Hut runs aground as estimable Patreon backer Stephen Dosman asks how the Yellow Fleet, marooned in the Suez Canal after the Six Day War, might fit into a Fall of DELTA GREEN scenario.

With its 17th installment, our Cinema Hut horror essentials series reaches its inevitable conclusion, as we bring our list of top fright flicks up to the present.

Finally the Consulting Occultist again shows you his picture collection as an erudite but anonymous Patreon backer asks for the lowdown on Art Nouveau illustrator and occult theorist Austin Osman Spare.

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.


Human problems are out of hand, so thank goodness, and Atlas Games, for Magical Kitties Save the Day, a fresh, fun roleplaying game for players of all ages, and for GMs from age 6 and up!

A murderous mystery lies beneath the gladiatorial arenas in the majestic, dragon-patrolled city of Axis. Only your first level 13th Age characters can confront it, in Crown of Axis, by Wade Rockett, now available at the Pelgrane Press shop.

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!

Fear Is a Fractal …and your world is a lie. A horror freed from an antique book reverberates through reality. But don’t despair. There is hope. A King waits for us. And Impossible Landscapes, the  first campaign for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game waits for you. In PDF now, hardback in May. Hailed as “one of the best RPG campaigns ever made” and “a masterpiece of surreal horror!”

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Nobody, Another Round, Let Them All Talk

April 20th, 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

12 Hour Shift (Film, US, Brea Grant, 2020) Arkansas night nurse Mandy (Angela Bettis) hits an ever-mounting series of complications to her organ-legging sideline during the titular shift. Aiming for screwball neo-noir and achieving black situation comedy, Grant’s film never quite hits the savagely awful momentum it craves. But Bettis’ glowering performance (and the casting in general), along with effective lensing and a lively, jazzy score both by Matt Glass, power it across the Recommended line. –KH

Accident (Film, UK, Joseph Losey, 1967) Doom portends when an Oxford tutor (Dirk Bogarde) sublimates his desire for an aristocratic student (Jacqueline Sassard) by setting her up with an age-appropriate  suitor (MIchael York) and inviting them to spend time with his family. Subtly disturbing, stylized domestic drama written by Harold Pinter, based on a novel by Nicholas Mosley.—RDL

Another Round (Film, Denmark/Netherlands/Sweden, Thomas Vinterberg, 2020) High school history teacher Martin (a terrific, underplayed Mads Mikkelsen) and three fellow teachers (and sufferers of male midlife crises) impulsively decide to test the theory of philosopher Finn Skårderud that mankind suffers from a blood alcohol deficit. What the inevitable American remake will inevitably turn into a preachy message movie Vinterberg mixes into a full portrait of drinking: its alchemy, its mystery, its terrors and disasters, and finally its joys. –KH

Bacurau (Film, Brazil/France, Kleber Mendonça Filho & Juliano Dornelles, 2020) Cut off by governmental indifference, a small Brazilian town discovers even worse things happening. Part social sci-fi, part anti-imperialist Western, a little bit magical realism, this movie exists to confound viewer expectations — among them, who precisely counts as a protagonist here (although that’s part of the explicit political point). The downside of this diffuse focus is very little in the way of character emerging, not counting the villainous Michael (Udo Kier, making his own gravy). –KH

Let Them All Talk (Film, US, Steven Soderbergh, 2020) Aging literary lioness Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) inveigles her agency into paying for her (and her mere mortal friends Susan (Dianne Wiest) and Roberta (Candice Bergen))  to cross the Atlantic in the Queen Mary 2 to receive a UK literary prize. A somewhat improv script shot in two weeks during an actual ocean crossing, it can’t really compare with Soderbergh’s more polished pieces, but man it is such a delight to watch, part hangout film and part actors’ duel. –KH

Madeline’s Madeline (Film, US, Josephine Decker, 2018) Bright teen with serious mental health issues (Helena Howard) escapes from her anxiously protective mom (Miranda July) by joining an intense experimental theater troupe run by a charismatic director (Molly Parker) who may have boundary issues of her own. Jagged cutting and aggressive close-ups infuse this drama of personal discovery with nail-biting emotional peril.—RDL

Nobody (Film, US, Ilya Naishuller, 2021) A hapless home invasion attempt awakens the top-secret, ultraviolent past of a plodding, gray-faced family man (Bob Odenkirk.) Driven by a standout performance from Odenkirk as an unlikely killing machine, this tongue-in-cheek actioner delivers the cleverest, tightest variation on its classic premise since John Wick.—RDL

Tommaso (Film, Italy/US/Greece, Abel Ferrara, 2020) Film director Tommaso (Willem Dafoe), living in Rome with his much-younger wife Nikki (Cristina Chiriac), struggles with his past as an addict and with his present-day frustrations and temptations. Dafoe’s expressive face and movements, and Ferrara’s repeated intercuts of dreams, fantasies, imaginations, and temptations, illuminate the war within every man in this deep, slow dive into a broken soul. There is no closure, because to recovering addict (and Catholic) Ferrara, none exists in life, either. If there’s such a thing as slice-of-life unrealism, this is it. –KH

Good

Synchronic (Film, US, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, 2020) New Orleans paramedics Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) pick up after the detritus wreaked by an experimental designer drug that unmoors the user in time. A strong high concept and winning performances on the one hand, Benson & Moorhead’s least oblique and least multidimensional (excuse the pun) script on the other. The oddly toothless nature of the threat wins the coin toss, dropping this to Good. –KH

Zombi Child (Film, France, Bertrand Bonello, 2020) At an exclusive girls’ boarding school, lovelorn Fanny (Louise Labeque) connects with Haitian girl Mélissa (Wislanda Louimat); their lives eventually intersect with the 1962 Clairvius Narcisse zombie case. Essentially missing a fourth act, it’s thus at heart an uncomplicated story of teen heartbreak and despair, which somewhat diminishes both its ostensible theme and its respectful and riveting exploration of Vodou. –KH

Not Recommended

The Belko Experiment (Film, US, Greg McLean, 2016) Employees in a remote office tower must kill one another to survive. Cruel slaughterfest guised as social commentary. Beware the scripts a writer-director, in this case James Gunn, hands off to someone else.—RDL

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Episode 441: Cheese Made of Cheese

April 16th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, beloved Patreon backer Joe Webb asks for a Fall of DELTA GREEN / Night’s Black Agents crossover inspired by a Cambodian pop song. (After we recorded this segment Ken remembered that Tod Browning’s Dracula uses the Swan Lake theme as its title music, but if he had done that in advance you wouldn’t have gotten owl vampires, would you?)

Our Cinema Hut horror essentials series reaches the home stretch as we span the late oughts and early teens of this shudderific century.

In Ripped From the Headlines, we riff on the gaming potential of NFTs, whether they be from Carcosa or a server farm in Tashkent.

Finally, estimable Patreon backer wonders what happens when Ken’s Time Machine saves Will Rogers and aviator Wiley Post from the 1935 crash that claimed their lives.

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.


Human problems are out of hand, so thank goodness, and Atlas Games, for Magical Kitties Save the Day, a fresh, fun roleplaying game for players of all ages, and for GMs from age 6 and up!

A murderous mystery lies beneath the gladiatorial arenas in the majestic, dragon-patrolled city of Axis. Only your first level 13th Age characters can confront it, in Crown of Axis, by Wade Rockett, now available at the Pelgrane Press shop.

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!

Fear Is a Fractal …and your world is a lie. A horror freed from an antique book reverberates through reality. But don’t despair. There is hope. A King waits for us. And Impossible Landscapes, the  first campaign for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game waits for you. In PDF now, hardback in May. Hailed as “one of the best RPG campaigns ever made” and “a masterpiece of surreal horror!”

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Tulpa Investigation, Cubist Crime, and Dirty Energy Deeds

April 13th, 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 Empty Man (Film, US, David Prior, 2020) Following a taut prologue in the mountains of Bhutan, we meet traumatized former cop James Lasombra (James Badge Dale), investigating disappeared high-schooler Amanda (Sasha Frolova) and discovering the urban legend/cult of the Empty Man. Not quite as clever as it thinks it is (especially to anyone who was watching similar films in 1987, he said obliquely to avoid spoilers), but still very effective at deepening atmosphere and spiraling mystery. Prior repeatedly, ably deploys the shocking-but-not-jump-scare techniques of his mentor David Fincher to borderline Lovecraftian ends. Plus vanished Amanda wrote the word “tulpa” on a flyer so you know I recommend it. –KH

Hide My Eyes (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1958) Chief Inspector Luke suspects a killer operates from the London backwater of Garden Green; Campion agrees. After a riveting prologue, Allingham reveals the killer cubist-fashion from multiple perspectives over the course of one day’s investigation. Superbly constructed crime thriller with Allingham’s gifts for character and observation (especially of the grimier parts of London) tuned to perfect pitch.–KH

The Mattei Affair (Film, Italy, Francesco Rosi, 1973) Former partisan (Gian Maria Volontè) becomes a thorn in the side of colonialists and oil multinationals while running Italy’s nationalized energy company with hard-charging disregard for convention or political consequences. Polemical docudrama morphs into full on documentary as it examines Mattei’s aviation crash death, a likely assassination with a long list of suspects. What it doesn’t entirely spell out is that the journalist murdered by the Mafia while investigating the case was doing research for Rosi’s film!—RDL

Mississippi Grind (Film, US, Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden, 2015) Woebegone gambling addict (Ben Mendelson) latches onto a poker road trip with a younger, more confident loser (Ryan Reynolds) as his ticket out of suffocating debt. Mendelson brings heartbreaking depth and sympathy to a character you’d back away from at top speed in real life, in this moody evocation of the American New Wave.—RDL

My Last Supper: One Meal, a Lifetime in the Making (Nonfiction, Jay Rayner, 2019) Using as a conceit the thought experiment of planning one’s final dinner, food critic Rayner examines foods from oysters to pork to the elusive Mont Blanc, with digressions autobiographical, musical and medical along the way.—RDL.

Slings & Arrows Season 3 (Television, Canada, The Movie Network, Susan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinney, 2006) Naive CFO Richard (Mark McKinney) turns into a monster when he gets a whiff of creative input; Geoffery (Paul Gross) coaxes a retired, mercurial Shakespearean (William Hutt) out of retirement to play Lear. The show goes out with a touching valedictory showcase for Hutt, a titan of the Canadian classical stage who almost never appeared on screen.—RDL

Good

The Beckoning Lady (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1955) Rusticating in Suffolk with eccentric friends, Campion suspects a recent murder is linked to another friend’s seemingly natural death. Allingham’s reach exceeds even her considerable grasp, as she attempts to cast a detective novel in the shadows of a Shakespearean comedy. Sporadic authorial attention to key emotional and plot beats, and a truly annoying supposedly sympathetic character, bounced me out of tune with the work even as Allingham’s descriptive and inventive gifts kept me eagerly turning pages. A near and beautiful miss from Recommended, but a miss all the same. –KH

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Episode 440: All the Van Helsings

April 9th, 2021 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut the beloved Patreon backer known as Ed, Speaker in Digressions, asks us to envision a game that that arcs from a state of nature to civil society.

The Tradecraft Hut steams open the career of Alexandrine, Countess of Taxis, and Postmistress of the Holy Roman Empire.

The ongoing Cinema Hut Horror Essentials series reaches installment 15, and the mid-oughts.

Finally, estimable Patreon backers Bill Durfy and Gray St. Quintin fall for our sinister plan and ask for the full Eliptony Hut story on the Highgate Vampire.

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.


Human problems are out of hand, so thank goodness, and Atlas Games, for Magical Kitties Save the Day, a fresh, fun roleplaying game for players of all ages, and for GMs from age 6 and up!

A murderous mystery lies beneath the gladiatorial arenas in the majestic, dragon-patrolled city of Axis. Only your first level 13th Age characters can confront it, in Crown of Axis, by Wade Rockett, now available at the Pelgrane Press shop.

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!

Fear Is a Fractal …and your world is a lie. A horror freed from an antique book reverberates through reality. But don’t despair. There is hope. A King waits for us. And Impossible Landscapes, the  first campaign for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game waits for you. In PDF now, hardback in May. Hailed as “one of the best RPG campaigns ever made” and “a masterpiece of surreal horror!”

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: A Hermetic Neighborhood, A Social Realist Vampire, and Bird Crime

April 6th, 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

Dancers in Mourning (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1937) Called to investigate a poison-prank campaign against revue star Jimmy Sutane, Campion finds himself in love with Sutane’s wife and increasingly convinced of Sutane’s guilt in a string of murders. Only someone as gifted at characterization and observation as Allingham could make a top-shelf mystery work around a detective who refuses to detect. Campion’s agonies refract marvellously in the cracked mirror of stage society. –KH

The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird (Nonfiction,  Joshua Hammer, 2020) Eccentric thrill-seeker Jeffrey Lendrum engages in multiple thefts of endangered falcon eggs around the world, allegedly for a high-ranking clients in the Gulf states; wildlife officers including Andy McWilliam of the UK’s National Wildlife Crime Unit try to shut him down. Acutely chosen digressions augment a tale rife with details too unbelievable to be untrue.—RDL

Hands Over the City (Film, Italy, Francesco Rosi, 1963) Neapolitan city councilor/real estate developer (Rod Steiger) schemes to retain his power base after a fatal accident at one of his building sites. Political procedural shot and staged with documentary realism depicts the famous paralysis of Italian bureaucracy as an enabler of corruption.—RDL

More Work for the Undertaker (Fiction, Margery Allingham, 1948) Rather than ascend to the respectable governorship of an island colony, Campion allows himself to be drawn into investigating a poisoning in the weirdly hermetic neighborhood of Apron Street. It would not amaze me to learn that Christopher Fowler is a fan of this novel, given its heaps of urban strangeness and large cast of local oddballs. I hesitate to recommend it as a detective story, but as a weird near-Symbolist tour de force it has few equals in its time. –KH

Slings & Arrows Season 2 (Television, Canada, The Movie Network, Susan Coyne, Bob Martin & Mark McKinney, 2005) Geoffrey (Paul Gross) butts heads with a cocksure stage star (Geraint Wyn-Davies) who intends to play Macbeth as he has always played him; CFO Richard (Mark McKinney) falls into the clutches of a bizarro marketing agency. Strong sophomore season revolves around the boil and bubble of an all-too-classic directing roadblock.—RDL

The Transfiguration (Film, US, Michael O’Shea, 2016) Socially isolated high schooler (Eric Ruffin) who periodically leaves his Brooklyn housing project to commit vampire murders gets  close to the new girl (Chloe Levine) who moves in upstairs. Social realist vampire film focuses on moral horror over scares. If you’re wondering if the homage to Martin is intentional, the movie-obsessed protagonist cites it as his number one fave.—RDL

Good

News of the World (Film, US, Paul Greengrass, 2020) Traveling newspaper reciter (Tom Hanks) reluctantly agrees to take a young girl raised as a Kiowa to her German immigrant relatives. Greengrass adjusts his you-are-there immediacy to the classical form of the Hollywood western as Hanks likewise re-embraces the laconic simplicity of movie star acting.—RDL

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
d8
Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister