Free stuff

I love free stuff. It’s irresistible. From McDonald’s coffee to roadside office chairs to tickets to the Bata shoe museum, if it won’t cost me any money, I’m always hard pressed to think of a reason not to indulge.

The Internet is full of free stuff, although it’s not always of a high calibre. So when something comes along that is both free and worthwhile, I’m always on board. One place to get quality free stuff is NoiseTrade, a website run by singer/songwriter Derek Webb (who himself just released this video coinciding with the new EP he recorded with his wife, the equally talented Sandra McCracken):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

NoiseTrade provides independent artists with a platform to share their music for free, using a widget that can be easily embedded in other sites. Many of the artists on the site provide a whole album for free download! Anyone can go to the site and get the music  in exchange for their email address, although there is also the option to leave a variable “tip” using PayPal. There is great music available from both Webb and McCracken, as well as a range of other artists that I’ll hopefully be exploring over the summer months. (So far, however, my summer playlist has consisted of CDs available at the public library, another great place to find free music: there’s a pretty good selection, so far I’ve borrowed some great records by Tegan & Sara, Matthew Barber, M. Ward, James Taylor, Roy Orbison, Aimee Mann and Carole King. Plus the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof.)

Shifting gears a little: As I have previously mentioned, I am very much interested in the concepts of appropriation, re-mixing and recycling when it comes to art and culture. From “found footage film,” which is the medium I have worked in on my last several projects, to the way cultural memes and movements disseminate, re-occur and evolve over time, I find the whole re-using, recombinant process fascinating. A new book by York professor Marcus Boon explores the whole issue of copying from an ontological (and, intriguingly, Mahayana Buddhist) perspective. Isn’t copying (of course related to mimesis) a basic human activity? Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite, I’ve been enjoying it so far especially with its references to Baudrillard, Disneyland and zen koans:

As I rode the rides at Disney World, attempting to experience the fact that Space Mountain and the mythical Mount Meru of Buddhist scriptures, hegemonic oppressive late capitalism in all its cheesy negativity and the highest meditation practices of the Tibetan Kagyu lineage, are, to use a Buddhist formula, “of one taste,” I found myself thinking about an apparently very different project that I was working on, relating to imitation in contemporary culture. Wasn’t part of the point of this meditation that we are always in some kind of mimetic framework, even in the act of dying, being tossed in the air, or at home asleep? And that one could investigate such a framework? But suppose copying is what makes us human—what then? More than that, what if copying, rather than being an aberration or a mistake or a crime, is a fundamental condition or requirement for anything, human or not, to exist at all?

I love this opening – Space Mountain as a spiritual experience… and creative appropriation being literally in our DNA. Best of all, however, especially considering the subject matter, Boon and Harvard University Press have made the book a free PDF download which can be re-published, re-mixed, quoted etc. freely under a Creative Commons agreement. It’s my dream come true – a free copy of a book about copying.

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