2019 In Review: Games

I had promised myself I was going to restore my habit of doing end-of-year media lists for 2019. This is one of what was supposed to be four posts in the series but became only two: movies, music, television, and games. Spoilers ahead.

Look, there are plenty of good-game-writing-folks out there doing the good-game-writing thing with thoughtful year-end lists. If you want to understand why you should play the many great games released this year – Control, Disco Elysium, The Outer Wilds, take your pick – go read those.

You know I’m only going to recommend some off-the-wall nonsense.


Recommended: Ed Scissor

Ed(ward) Scissor(tongue)

Note: there’s a few Apple Music embeds below that don’t quite illustrate some of the points I’m making if you’re not signed in. The same music is on Spotify, but it’s easier for me to embed these. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In the summer of 2017, I stumbled through tangential blog posts recommending music and somehow landed on Edward Scissortongue, bucketed broadly, and perhaps confusingly, under UK’s grime scene. (About a year later, his performing name shortened to just “Ed Scissor”.)

He quickly entered a hallowed tier of reverence in my music library: complete discography loaded, with about ten different songs hitting the coveted “keep this in my constant rotation” rating. A year later, I would impulse buy four of the albums on vinyl from his record label and have them shipped over. (His releases are not going to appear in the shops over here.)

Ed’s music is layered in a way that puts its hooks into you quietly. There is his delivery and lyricism: dense, literary, tense, deep baritone, driving. There’s a semi-regular theme of societal breakdown and post-apocalyptic life, but it’s weaved so well into the lyrics you might not immediately notice unless you go dig into Genius. This is well illustrated in “The Calculator” off Theremin EP:

The production on his backing tracks suit his lyrical style well. The melodies lean more towards trip-hop than grime, with international elements and rich instrumentation coming in frequently. Tension, mystery, melancholy all come through the songs. Samples are used sparingly but meaningfully – snippets of Godspeed!, You Black Emperor’s “Dead Flag Blues” bookends the title track of the Theremin album. Here’s “Gypsy Tart” off his collaboration with Jam Baxter, Laminated Cakes, where a vocal whine coils into the melody:

Lastly, his albums each have their own thematic cohesion, independent from each other. This is best illustrated on Tell Them It’s Winter, which Lamplighter paints a cold, dark winter picture underneath Ed’s steady delivery. Here’s the title track:

More tracks to explore if you like what you’ve heard: “Rosegarden“, “Wastewater“, “Sink“, “The Dust Don’t Lay“, and “The Wipeout Soundtrack


Hunter Rawlings, on Liberal Education

“As you have no doubt noticed, many people in the U.S. have lost faith in liberal education. From governors to legislators, from pundits to parents, Americans increasingly view higher education as purely instrumental—as a ticket to a job, nothing less, nothing more. This vocational view sees college as a commodity: you purchase education the way you buy a car, and the return on investment is measured in strictly financial terms:

How much do graduates make?

How much do individual majors make?

What percentage of new graduates get jobs?

Why major in subjects that do not lead directly to high-paying jobs?

The Arts College does not see itself as a vocational school. Neither do our other colleges, which depend significantly upon the Arts College for many of their fundamental courses.


What is liberal education? I take “liberal” in its original Latin sense as an education for free people; that is, people who do not live in a dictatorship, but have an active role to play in the life of their society. Liberal education liberates students to think for themselves as individuals, to develop their creative capacities, and to contribute to public life, not just earn money as a cog in a machine.


A university’s curriculum says a lot about what that university purports to be. The Stanford faculty recently published a well-conceived report on the Stanford curriculum. Princeton is about to release its report on the same topic. In its turn, I would like to see Cornell give strong and clear answers to the following questions:

For tomorrow’s world, what should a well-educated person know?

What should she be able to do with her mind?

To contribute to her society?

These are tough questions. They are particularly pertinent now, given the state of this country, when our national discourse has descended to the language of the gutter. It is the responsibility of universities to do what they can to raise the level of discourse. Here are a few thoughts:

First, we need citizens who can read closely and critically; otherwise they will be easy prey for political and Internet nonsense.

Second, we need citizens who can reason intelligently and ethically; otherwise, we will continue to suffer from shallow arguments and dishonest leadership.

Third, we need citizens who can speak and write clearly and persuasively; otherwise, they will be incapable of convincing others of their views.

Fourth, we need citizens who can do independent research; otherwise, they will depend upon someone else to tell them what the facts are.

Fifth, we need citizens who can analyze quantitative arguments common to math and the sciences; otherwise, they will be unable to assess issues of critical importance.

Finally, we need individuals who have intellectual curiosity and a lifelong desire to keep learning; without those assets, they will not escape the vapid consumerism and celebrity culture that is all around us.

Those are general goals, as I see it, of a liberal education.”

Cornell University President Hunter Rawlings, “State of the University”, October 28th 2016. Comments have been condensed and reformatted.