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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Tiger King and Vengeful Ghosts

April 7th, 2020 | Robin

Recommended

The Doorway to Hell (Film, US, Archie Mayo, 1930) Sharp-minded bootlegger (Lewis Ayres), abetted by less competent right-hand man (James Cagney), organizes the Chicago rackets, then announces plans to get out of the business while he’s ahead. Rarely mentioned early entry in the Warners gangster cycle is less mythic and more grounded than its successors.—RDL

Kill, Baby, Kill (Film, Italy, Mario Bava, 1966) Coroner assigned to conduct an autopsy in a remote village finds its hostile inhabitants terrorized by a child’s ghost bearing a deadly curse. Hammer-influenced gothic with touches of surreal reality horror stands among Bava’s most consistently realized films.—RDL

Nobody Lives Forever (Film, US, Jean Negulesco, 1946) Con artist back from WWII (John Garfield) reluctantly fronts a plan to fleece a sheltered widow (Geraldine Fitzgerald), arousing the ire of his sleazier confederates when he catches feelings for her. W. R. Burnett’s script shows the insight into underworld characters that also drives his better-known The Asphalt Jungle. Walter Brennan appreciators will enjoy his poignant turn as a rueful grifter on the downslope.—RDL

A Place of One’s Own (Film, UK, Bernard Knowles, 1945) Retired Leeds haberdasher’s (James Mason) purchase of an abandoned manor seems like less of a bargain when his wife’s charming new hired companion (Margaret Lockwood) succumbs to ghost possession. The suspense of this cozy Edwardian gothic slowly builds in the background as Mason hams up his old man role.—RDL

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness (Television, Netflix, Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, 2020) Exuberant private zoo owner Joe Exotic’s indictment for the attempted murder-for-hire of animal rights activist (and private big-cat refuge owner) Carole Baskin anchors a dive into the extremely weird subculture of big cat trafficking, resulting in the most Unknown Armies thing you are likely to see on Netflix. As with any documentary, ritual, or roller-coaster, it exists to manipulate you, and it is all of those things. –KH

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 1 (Television, US, Prime, Carlton Cuse & Graham Roland, 2019) Earnest CIA analyst (John Krasinski) tracks an ambitious Lebanese terrorist (Ali Suliman) and struggles to right his relationship with a skeptical new boss (Wendell Pierce.) Focus on character moments anchors this update of the character, and the technothriller genre, to the latter-day war on terror era.—RDL

Under an English Heaven: The Remarkable True Story of the 1969 British Invasion of Anguilla (Nonfiction, Donald E. Westlake, 1972) In 1967 the Caribbean island of Anguilla, fed up with its partner islands St. Kitts and Nevis, declared its independence … in order to convince Britain to take Anguilla back over as a colony. So the British invaded to put down the rebellion. Of course. There’s a lot more to the story, and born storyteller (if not born historian) Westlake tells it with the perfect spice rub of irony and honesty. –KH

Good

All the Colors of Giallo (Film, US, Federico Caddeo, 2019) Some talking head interviews are more informative than others in this modestly produced but thorough survey of the Italian mystery-horror cycle.—RDL

And So To Murder (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1940) After her bodice-ripper becomes a best-seller, Monica Staunton gets hired as a screenwriter for Pineham Studios — and gets targeted for murder. A tight mystery novel wrapped in a satire of film work, with a somewhat restrained Sir Henry Merrivale to sort it all out. There’s a switchback that doesn’t play entirely fair, but the end result is entirely satisfactory (if not brilliant) Carr. –KH

Okay

As Above So Below (Film, US, John Erick Dowdle, 2014) Relic hunter Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks) enters the Paris catacombs — and the gates of a low-budget Hell — in search of Nicholas Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone. This really keen idea turns out to not be enough to hang a whole film on, and also to have a risibly weak ending. A found-footage cheapie that could have worked if the characters weren’t just pawns shoved down a literal hole in the ground. –KH

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Episode 389: The Owl Costume Never Pulled

April 3rd, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we spitball ideas for GUMSHOE One-2-One scenarios enterprising listeners might turn into self-published PDF products under the auspices of its Creative Commons license.

We enter the History Hut to find rocker Frank Black prompting beloved Patreon backer to ask us about the Llano del Rio commune of the 1910s.

The Cinema Hut gathers up its leopard and evening attire for a screwball comedy 101 segment.

Then esteemed Patreon backer Shinanoki summons us to the Eliptony Hut to delve into the esoteric mysteries of the Takenouchi Documents.

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.


The place you only think you remember explodes with weird danger in Welcome to the Island, the first adventure anthology for Over the Edge from Atlas Games. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots that bring the weird to your gaming table.

You’ve heard him talk about it. Now you can get it at retail or in the Pelgrane Press store: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Shatter your world with this eerie, physically imposing GUMSHOE game of decadent art and multiple existences. For a limited time only, enter the voucher code YELLOW at the Pelgrane shop to get 15% off all Yellow King items when you combine the core set with Absinthe in Carcosa and/or The Missing and the Lost.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing’s Shane Ivey brings you Swords and Sorceries, fifth edition adventure in a sea-swept world inspired by ancient myth. Seek your fortunes, or find gruesome death in the tombs of forgotten gods and evils best left buried. Seize all three adventures, Sea Demon’s Gold, Song of the Sun Queens, and Tomb of Fire, today!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Picard, Hobbs & Shaw, and Korean Political Thrills

March 31st, 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

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (Film, US, David Leitch) Federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and freelance spy Shaw (Jason Statham) swallow their mutual loathing to save the latter’s equally capable sister (Vanessa Kirby), and the world, from fanatical cyborg Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba.) Dials down the sentimentality, and dials up the sass, of the franchise it’s spinning off from, to less absurd but rousing results. Likely the last mainstream entertainment in a good while that will use an apocalyptic virus as its McGuffin.—RDL

The Hellbenders (Film, Italy, Sergio Corbucci, 1967) Having massacred the army guard for a money shipment, a family of Confederate revanchists led by a fanatical patriarch (Joseph Cotten) trick a gambler (Norma Bengell) into aiding their imposture as they return home with a coffin full of loot. Caustic fable of doom from the other auteur of the spaghetti western cycle. Also known as The Cruel Ones, with music by Leo Nichols, and by “Leo Nichols” I mean Ennio Morricone.—RDL

I Married a Witch (Film, US, Rene Clair, 1942) Revived after centuries of magical imprisonment, a witch (Veronica Lake) pursues vengeance on a gubernatorial candidate (Fredric March) descended from her witchfinder, only to quaff the love potion intended for him. Breezy supernatural romantic comedy gives Lake, now better remembered for femme fatale roles, room to break out the charm.—RDL.

Picard Season 1 (Television, US, CBS, Alex Kurtzman & Michael Chabon, 2020) A Romulan conspiracy that kills one possible heir to the late Data and endangers another draws a disaffected Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) from his vineyard and back to danger in space. Gripping, sometimes unnecessarily harsh, serial narrative paradoxically shows deep-dive love for Trek continuity while jettisoning everything about the Roddenberry ethos that makes it hard to write for.—RDL

Steel Rain (Film, South Korea, Woo-seok Yang, 2017) After a coup-turned-massacre, an intense North Korean agent (Woo-sung Jung) flees to the south with a wounded Number One Leader, teaming up with a mordant South Korean presidential security advisor (Do-won Kwak) to avert catastrophic war. Briskly executed thriller fills its hand with geopolitics, action, and buddy dynamics.—RDL

Good

Lawyer Man (Film, US, William Dieterle, 1932) Shabby but honest downtown attorney (William Powell) tests his moral compass by heading uptown and brushing up against machine politics, to the concern of his wiser, loyal secretary (Joan Blondell.) Light-hearted melodrama exemplifies the scrappy underdog social awareness of 30s Warners Brothers.—RDL

My Generation (Film, UK, David Batty, 2018) Documentary examines the Swingin’ Sixties youth culture explosion in England as a rising of the working class. Treatment of an oft-covered subject finds a surprisingly emotional pang in its contrast between youth and remembrance, by having Michael Caine deliver much of his narration as on-camera monologue, which he acts the subtle hell out of.  Too bad it devolves into a trite video montage during the obligatory “and then it all went bung” third act—in part because the disciplined, drug-declining Caine took a pass on the spiral-out phase.—RDL

Not Recommended

Madness (Film, Italy, Fernando Di Leo, 1980) Escaped killer (Joe Dallesandro) seeks loot buried inside a hunting cabin occupied by a macho lunkhead, his dutiful wife, and the calculating sister-in-law he’s having an affair with. Blends Di Leo’s hardboiled crime sensibility with psychosexual social critique typical of Wertmuller or Cavani, to dubious results.—RDL

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Episode 388: The Toppling is the Point

March 27th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut we ask when a historical event the players can research might also be a spoiler.

Ripped From the Headlines allows beloved Patreon backer Chris Lydon to discover the hidden significance of Las Vegas’ political hat wearing pigeons.

Our round of Yellow King Roleplaying Game Belle Epoque biographies shifts to the Culture Hut as we look at a potential patron for your occult investigators, the most famous actor in the world, Sarah Bernhardt.

Then the Eliptony Hut ventures to California’s Santa Lucia mountains, where esteemed Patreon backer David Shaw submits us to the gaze of the Dark Watchers.

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.


The place you only think you remember explodes with weird danger in Welcome to the Island, the first adventure anthology for Over the Edge from Atlas Games. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots that bring the weird to your gaming table.

You’ve heard him talk about it. Now you can get it at retail or in the Pelgrane Press store: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Shatter your world with this eerie, physically imposing GUMSHOE game of decadent art and multiple existences. For a limited time only, enter the voucher code YELLOW at the Pelgrane shop to get 15% off all Yellow King items when you combine the core set with Absinthe in Carcosa and/or The Missing and the Lost.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing’s Shane Ivey brings you Swords and Sorceries, fifth edition adventure in a sea-swept world inspired by ancient myth. Seek your fortunes, or find gruesome death in the tombs of forgotten gods and evils best left buried. Seize all three adventures, Sea Demon’s Gold, Song of the Sun Queens, and Tomb of Fire, today!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Monkey King, and Classic Cheng Pei-Pei

March 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

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol IV: The Tempest (Comics, Top Shelf, Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill, 2018-2019) A revived James Bond goes to war against the surviving Leaguers and the Blazing World while Satin Astro attempts to avert a future catastrophe. Moore’s final word on comics* incorporates all his terror and wonder at the heroic medium in a deliberately tangled narrative that when cut apparently argues decisively for drowning his books and breaking his staff. But like Milton, his hymns transcend his argument, and we’re all richer for the ambiguity Moore cannot avoid in his indictment of the unambiguous. –KH

[* At this time]

Recommended

Immortal Demon Slayer (Film, China, Derek Kwok, 2017) Monkey-like demon (Eddie Peng) forges unlikely alliances with a trio of young immortals as he rebels against the sterile authority of the Heavenly Kingdom. Peng reveals a flair for physical comedy in one of the more satisfying of the recent cycle of CGI spectacle movies based on the Monkey King legend. Also known as Tales of Wukong or Wukong, this one downplays the story’s Buddhist elements.—RDL

Ivory Apples (Fiction, Lisa Goldstein, 2019) Adolescent Ivy’s great-aunt Maeve wrote the beloved novel Ivory Apples with the help of the muses — supernatural beings that enter Ivy’s life and bring desperate, dangerous occult seekers there as well. Goldstein veils female bildungsroman with imagination and myth in another assured modern fantasy reminiscent of her excellent 2011 modern fairy tale The Uncertain Places. –KH

Marc Maron: End Times Fun (Television, US, Netflix, Lynn Shelton, 2020) Pulled back from the personal to the political by the tenor of the times, Maron’s latest stand-up special takes an atypical turn for Rabelaisian, with guest appearances from Jesus and Iron Man. Warning: contains strong language and apocalyptic prescience.—RDL

The Shadow Whip (Film, HK, Lo Wei, 1971) Inn proprietor (Cheng Pei Pei) whose whip-handling skills are exceeded only by the reclusive uncle who trained her, learns secrets of her past when security officials and bandits show up for a long-awaited reckoning. Delightfully pulpy star vehicle for Cheng features snow-swept vistas and top-notch large-scale fight choreography, with more wire work than you’d expect for the early 70s.—RDL

Supreme: Blue Rose (Comics, Image, Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay, 2015) Obsessed tycoon Darius Dax hires reporter Diana Dane to investigate the disappearance of Ethan Crane from Littlehaven during a bizarre impact event. Warren Ellis playing a riff on Alan Moore playing a riff on Mort Weisinger may be a little too meta for some, but if you enjoyed Moore’s run on Supreme seeing Ellis cover it (in the key of Planetary) brings magic jazz thrills. Lotay’s art is exactly the right blend of clear and uncertain, washes and chalks establishing unmistakable moods behind Ellis-driven techie details. –KH

Good

Nothing Sacred (Film, US, William A. Wellman, 1937) Small town watch factory worker (Carole Lombard) who has just discovered she is not dying of radium poisoning covers it up in order to become a New York celebrity squired about by a hardbitten reporter (Fredric March). Screenwriter Ben Hecht puts his journalistic cynicism on full blast, pushing a romantic comedy premise into caustic satire.—RDL

Odds On (Fiction, Michael Crichton, 1966) Trio of crooks use a computer to plan their heist of a luxury hotel on the Spanish coast, so nothing can go wrong. Except cops, girls, the weather, and … Crichton’s first novel fulfills a clear promise to the publisher to have a sex scene about every fifty pages, and shows clear promise of the high-concept plotter (and cinema-minded author) he would become. A fast-moving froth in the spirit of the decade’s heist movies. –KH

Okay

Lost Girls (Film, US, Liz Garbus, 2020) When Mari Gilbert’s (Amy Ryan) daughter goes missing on Long Island, the cops (Gabriel Byrne and Dean Winters) fumble (or obstruct) the investigation into what becomes the Craigslist Killer serial murder case. Documentarian Garbus nobly keeps the focus on Mari’s fight for justice, but at the cost of characters who mouth cliches and platitudes between luminous camera shots through the tall grass. The interesting real story, and the potentially interesting drama, both get short shrift although Ryan and Byrne do all they can. –KH

Love For All Seasons (Film, HK, Johnnie To & Wa Ka Fai, 2002) Needing to perfect a sword technique based on shattered love to defend her all-female martial arts temple against its rogue master, a celibate swordslinger (Sammi Cheng) enlists a womanizing millionaire (Louis Koo) to break her heart. Very broad romantic comedy in which one of the leads just happens to have wuxia powers is one of the fluffy flicks that keeps the lights on at To’s production company, enabling him to make the tough crime films he really cares about.—RDL

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Episode 387 – Yell Down Into the Hollers

March 20th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, beloved Patreon backer Peter McAveney asks how to set up a Night’s Black Agents game as if it is, at first, some other less vampire-infested game.

The Tradecraft Hut goes to 50s Canada, a tale of a KGB mole turned double agent and the corrupt RCMP officer who gave him up to his Soviet masters. For more, see Donald G. Mahar’s Shattered Illusions: KGB Cold War Espionage in Canada.

Ask Ken and Robin features a query from discerning Patreon backer Louis Sylvester about the process behind Robin’s Yellow King novel The Missing and the Lost.

Then Ken’s Time Machine undertakes a mission, sparked by Time Incorporated’s giant bull ire, to erase the Iowa Caucuses from the timestream.

This episode was recorded on March 10. We’ll address our plans to keep plugging during the pandemic at the top of next week’s show.

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.


The place you only think you remember explodes with weird danger in Welcome to the Island, the first adventure anthology for Over the Edge from Atlas Games. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots that bring the weird to your gaming table.

You’ve heard him talk about it. Now you can get it at retail or in the Pelgrane Press store: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Shatter your world with this eerie, physically imposing GUMSHOE game of decadent art and multiple existences. For a limited time only, enter the voucher code YELLOW at the Pelgrane shop to get 15% off all Yellow King items when you combine the core set with Absinthe in Carcosa and/or The Missing and the Lost.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing’s Shane Ivey brings you Swords and Sorceries, fifth edition adventure in a sea-swept world inspired by ancient myth. Seek your fortunes, or find gruesome death in the tombs of forgotten gods and evils best left buried. Seize all three adventures, Sea Demon’s Gold, Song of the Sun Queens, and Tomb of Fire, today!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Stolen Game Pieces and a Split Party

March 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

American Made (Film, US, Doug Liman, 2019) Charming dope of a TWA pilot (Tom Cruise) goes off on his own to fly for the CIA, Medellin cartel, and other clients in need of a seat-of-the-pants smuggling fleet. Breezy crime/espionage biopic reconfigures the trajectory of the classic Cruise striver character to a series of upward failures toward inevitable comeuppance.—RDL

The Clowns (Film, Italy, Federico Fellini, 1970) Staged documentary sequences complement performance set pieces as the famed director inquires into the history of European clowning. Alternating the wistful with the anarchic, this essay film provides a corrective to the notion that there’s anything off-model about a disturbing clown.—RDL

Die Vol 2: Split the Party (Comics, Image, Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans, 2020) Trapped in the world of Die not by their malevolent ex-GM but by their own divisions, our heroes recombine and re-split while uncovering another layer of the world’s origin. Having built compelling characters in a fantasy game and game-world, Gillen reaps the story rewards of clashing personalities while deepening and strangefying his world. Hans’ versatile art pulls out all the stops, a toccata of story and craft in ideal complement. –KH

Forced Perspectives (Fiction, Tim Powers, 2020) Former Secret Service agent Vickery and TUA operative Castine re-unite when a tech guru gets hold of Egyptian magicks to restart a God-mind project that went somehow wrong in 1926 and 1968. This sequel to Alternate Routes feels more like a standard Powers novel than that one, which went big on the fantasy at the cost of some coherence. This novel’s relatively constrained high concept and cast of fucked-up (and fuckup) villains puts us (and Powers) back in the scope and zone he’s been working comfortably since Expiration Date. –KH

Invention for Destruction (Film, Czechoslovakia, Karel Zeman, 1958) Kidnapped by submariner pirates, the assistant to a naive scientist realizes he must keep them from taking over the world with his super-weapon. Stylized sets and an array of animation techniques reproduce the look of a 19th century engraving in this must-see for any steampunk enthusiast. Based on the lesser known Jules Verne novel Facing the Flag, alternately known as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne and a clear influence on Brothers Quay and The Life Aquatic.—RDL

McMillion$ (Television, US, HBO,  Brian David Lazarte, 2020) Documentary miniseries follows FBI investigators and a tough prosecutor as they unravel a late 90s / early 2000s conspiracy to divert every single high-dollar prize from the McDonalds Monopoly game. Although it develops a weird sentimental streak toward one of its unsavory characters, I’m nonetheless recommending this as an entertaining deep dive on contemporary investigative techniques useful to any GUMSHOE GM.—RDL

Good

Madam Satan (Film, US, Cecil B. DeMille, 1930) A society wife’s efforts to win back her philandering husband get decidedly weird when she adopts the titular persona at a masked ball on a tethered dirigible. Tepid farce shifts into the utterly bizarro at the halfway mark, as we’ve all come to expect from musical comedy art deco disaster movies.—RDL

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Episode 386: The Apache Helicopter of Toaster Ovens

March 13th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, beloved Patreon backer Trung Bui asks us for tips and tricks on running open-ended games without interfering with player agency.

The Food Hut remains just as crispy, with a fraction of the calories, as Robin discovers air fryer cooking by way of the Breville Smart Oven with Air Fry.

Our tour of the Belle Epoque setting featured in The Yellow King Roleplaying Game moves to the Crime Blotter and a look at troubling forensics pioneer Alphonse Bertillon.

Finally the Eliptony Hut listens to signals from esteemed backer Jamie Twine, who needs to know about numbers stations.

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.


The place you only think you remember explodes with weird danger in Welcome to the Island, the first adventure anthology for Over the Edge from Atlas Games. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots that bring the weird to your gaming table.

You’ve heard him talk about it. Now you can get it at retail or in the Pelgrane Press store: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Shatter your world with this eerie, physically imposing GUMSHOE game of decadent art and multiple existences. For a limited time only, enter the voucher code YELLOW at the Pelgrane shop to get 15% off all Yellow King items when you combine the core set with Absinthe in Carcosa and/or The Missing and the Lost.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing’s Shane Ivey brings you Swords and Sorceries, fifth edition adventure in a sea-swept world inspired by ancient myth. Seek your fortunes, or find gruesome death in the tombs of forgotten gods and evils best left buried. Seize all three adventures, Sea Demon’s Gold, Song of the Sun Queens, and Tomb of Fire, today!

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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Painted Love

March 10th, 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

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Film, France, Céline Sciamma, 2019) In 1770, love kindles when painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) travels to a remote manor in Brittany to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), an unwilling bride. Sciamma’s restraint, Claire Mathon’s Mannerist camera eye, and the actors’ chemistry creates a series of beautiful cameos marvellously punctuated by emotion and sparingly (but devastatingly) deployed music. –KH

Recommended

A Dandy in Aspic (Film, UK, Anthony Mann, 1968) An assignment to hunt down a KGB assassin gives a burned-out M16 desk agent (Laurence Harvey) a case of the nerves, as the man he’s supposed to kill is himself. Lonely widescreen compositions and a playing style of fey ennui place this existential spy thriller midway on the spectrum between Fleming and le Carré.—RDL

Emma (Film, UK, Autumn de Wilde, 2020) Rich, young Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) takes a poor girl (Mia Goth) under her wing, and gets in over her match-making head. Adapting Austen’s novel well requires three things: a lead actress who can play a sympathetic sociopath, faithfulness to the book and its comic heart, and a proper dance scene. Extra points to de Wilde for keeping her film brightly lit and not full of over-mixed footsteps. –KH

The Invisible Man (Film, US/Australia, Leigh Whannell, 2020) After fleeing her abusive boyfriend, Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) discovers he’s using his invisibility suit to gaslight and stalk her. Whannell’s fluid direction and cleverly omniscient script keep this “killer B” interesting, while Benjamin Wallfisch’s score glories in horror potential. But it’s Moss’ expressive gaze that fascinates throughout. –KH

Men in the Shadows: The RCMP Security Service (Nonfiction, John Sawatsky, 1980) History of the counterespionage arm of the federal Canadian police from inception to a few years before the trouble-plagued division was replaced by a separate civilian agency. That this is still the definitive book on the subject four decades later speaks to a small media market that doesn’t turn out much spy nonfiction, and to Sawatsky’s clear, detail-rich storytelling.—RDL

The Spymasters: CIA in The Crosshairs (Film, US, Jules & Gedeon Naudet, 2015) Documentary surveys the failures and controversies of the Global War on Terror from the perspective of CIA directors and other top officials. Key interview subjects speak with surprising candor on both the emotional toll of the job and the drone strike program, which does not officially exist. What struck me most watching this now was not anything in the film, but the extent to which its central issues have been so backburnered in our present Orange Times that the GWOT seems like another historical era altogether.—RDL

Good

He Who Whispers (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1946) Historian Miles Hammond finds himself falling for his new librarian Fay Seton: a woman at the heart of a murder from a decade ago that could only have been committed by a vampire. Again, Carr’s blend of tension, intricate plotting, and Gothic horror — this time imbued with the threadbare feel of postwar England — lives up to its billing. However, it involves a whopping coincidence and a psychological key that I found resoundingly unconvincing. To many, though, one of Carr’s best. –KH

The Lost Gallows (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1931) Visiting London, Surete detective Henri Bencolin investigates a dead chauffeur and a terrorized Egyptian playboy. With Egyptian curses, sex, a dwarf, and a missing London street, this reads more like a particularly unstrung Stevenson novel than a Carr construction. Atmosphere it has in abundance, but in this early work Carr still can’t reliably set his metronome. –KH

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Episode 385: Shill for the Macedonians

March 6th, 2020 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut beloved Patreon backer Gray St. Quintin asks us to expand on our past fleeting discussion of the various voices and modes used in a roleplaying session.

The Tradecraft Hut has no choice but to address recent reminders that Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger, whose story is already wild enough, was subjected to MK-ULTRA brainwashing experiments.

Esteemed backer Derek Upham bids to enter the Archaeology Hut to paw over ancient curse tablets found at the bottom of a Greek well.

Then we conclude our Consulting Occultist series on key figures of the magical Belle Epoque with dynamic duo Oswald Wirth and  Stanislas de Guaita.

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.


The place you only think you remember explodes with weird danger in Welcome to the Island, the first adventure anthology for Over the Edge from Atlas Games. Launch brand new stories, add intriguing complications to your existing arcs, or create exciting one-shots that bring the weird to your gaming table.

You’ve heard him talk about it. Now you can get it at retail or in the Pelgrane Press store: The Yellow King Roleplaying Game. Shatter your world with this eerie, physically imposing GUMSHOE game of decadent art and multiple existences. For a limited time only, enter the voucher code YELLOW at the Pelgrane shop to get 15% off all Yellow King items when you combine the core set with Absinthe in Carcosa and/or The Missing and the Lost.

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!

Arc Dream Publishing’s Shane Ivey brings you Swords and Sorceries, fifth edition adventure in a sea-swept world inspired by ancient myth. Seek your fortunes, or find gruesome death in the tombs of forgotten gods and evils best left buried. Seize all three adventures, Sea Demon’s Gold, Song of the Sun Queens, and Tomb of Fire, today!

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Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
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Flying Clock
Robin
Film Cannister