Showing posts from September, 2021

See That My Grave is Kept Clean: a Family Tree

Blind Lemon Jefferson first recorded his song "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" in 1927. Then he recorded it again in 1928. In that version, it ends with a verse that begins "Did you ever hear them church bells' tone?" after which he hits the E string like a sad ringing bell: bongggg.  In 1930, Son House recorded "Mississippi County Farm Blues," which had the same melody, and ended with a verse that began "I hate to hear that big bell dong" letting that note ring out just like Blind Lemon Jefferson. This 78 rpm single had "Clarksdale Moan" on the B side, but all known extent copies were so badly damaged that the B side was unplayable and nobody heard the song for decades until a single playable copy was discovered in 2005. It's one of the rarest and most valuable records in the world. In 1937, the Carter Family recorded "Sad and Lonesome Day." It has the same melody as "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" a

Looking Forward to the Beginning of History

  A while ago, I wrote about how, after capitalism, we will all be like characters on the TV show, The Hills.  Of course I was kidding (kind-of), but let's get serious.  What can we expect in the foreseeable future, as we transition out of capitalism? Karl Marx once wrote that the end of capitalism brings "the prehistory of human society to a close." (Preface to a Critique of Political Economy, 1859)  In other words, we, who are still living during the capitalist mode of production, are still living in prehistoric times.  History has not yet begun.  This is, of course, the opposite of the opinion of people like Francis Fukuyama, who wrote about the "end of history".  There have been people on the left, as well, who saw the coming conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as the climax of history - think of the famous anthem, "The Internationale," written by Eugene Pottier and translated into English by Charles Hope Kerr, whose chorus begins

The Philosopher is Not at Home

  At Home He's a Tourist Novalis got it exactly wrong: what a philosopher desires is not to be at home - a philosopher desires not to be at home even when she is at home.  The philosopher desires alienation, estrangement, distance - critical distance - perspective.  At least enough perspective to be able to ask the question - the question no one else is asking - the question no one else can ask, because they are too embedded in... in their lives.   It is a kind of uncanniness that the philosopher seeks.  The philosopher seeks the uncanniness that gives rise to the question. When the philosopher is at home everywhere - that is the moment of utter disappointment.  Or rather, the spur to action.  The philosopher works toward perpetual creative alienation - that is the very purpose of philosophy: to confront the world in its total unfamiliarity, its uncanniness.  The philosopher learns not know anything, learns not to recognize anyone.  To see every text as if for the first time.  In