Everything Is a Remix!


We copy everything. Sometimes we don't realize it. Sometimes we do. In “Everything Is a Remix” we see how prominent this phenomenon of copying is, and why it's not a negative habit of our species. Even Nature does it!


This is a great four-part series (it's only about 40 minutes), going through the most famous remixes in music and movies, and showing how we've copied everything. The first three videos detail copying in media. The fourth video discusses copyright law and how extreme copyright enforcement has gotten (and how little sense it makes to have gone so far).

It's one thing to copy a theme or reuse an idea, and it's another to steal someone's creation, using it as your own when it's not, and never will be, yours. The advice this little series gives at the very beginning is that there's a difference between copying/remixing and out-right theft. We humans copy, yes, but when we do we infuse enough of our own personality and essence into what we copy to make it our own, to make it better, or at least different.

There's nothing “original” in this world. No human being ever “invented” fire, but tamed an already active force of nature. The wheel and the space shuttle are the same. Darwin discovered Evolution, and Einstein discovered Relativity. They did not invent an original idea. It was there already for anyone to see, and others had seen it, or had come close to seeing it before or at the same time.

In literature there are no “original” stories. Frankenstein was not an original idea. Not the occult theme of galvanism, nor the way the story was written (it's structure), not to mention the many stereotypes within. Mary Shelley took all she had already known and spun it in a new pattern.

There are new patterns  in art and media. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dune are all new patterns, but none of them contain original ideas in and of themselves. All of them are great, but their parts have been seen countless times before. They use the same few colored threads to get a slightly different design, which we enjoy.

Every human copies. We give each other a hard time for being brainwashed sheeple, but the truth is, even the most original people are carbons of others; it's just that these people copy stranger patterns and forms than the average man or woman.

It could be said that people who deride others for being average, especially in terms of art (think of all those who dump on “Twilight”), are the biggest ripoffs of all. They're angry that today's generation can't create anything original, so these elitists  do something completely, wholly unoriginal: they attack people for it.

Likewise, there's nothing new and original about feeling misunderstood. Or about being compassionate. Or about having a new idea.

I've stopped trying to be original. I'm more interested in remixing what has already been done. Forming a new pattern from those same few colored threads. Putting my personal stamp on life.

You are already doing this, whether you're a creative artist or not, whether you realize it or not. You do it on a biological level, a psychological level, a personal level. From having your parents' mannerisms to dressing like your friends. We imitate from our earliest movements, consciously and unconsciously.

But we're supposed to be original, right? Wrong! No wholly original idea has ever been successful. Not a one. In fact, nearly everything that has ever contained a hint of originality has either failed by its own faults, or has been pushed out of the way by more familiar contraptions. What has succeeded has contained enough of the familiar to be acceptable, and to work.

Life is a slow burn of evolution, not a sudden and random time travel.

Life is a mash-up of a bunch of copies, and that's cool, because within the familiar there are a million ways to see the old in a new light.

I don't think this is cynical. I think it's important not to waste time reinventing the wheel, but to improve the wheel we already have. Make it faster, make it stronger, make it more durable, make it more beautiful.

How can we invent colors we've never seen before?

Isn't it better to blend the colors we have?

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22 Responses to Everything Is a Remix!

  1. How true mate except the Harry potter bit it's rubbish. I love films games and books and yes it's true everything is a remix but my word there are some wonderful remixes out there.

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  2. Yep! Nothing new under the sun, just a new way to express it.
    Great reflection! :)

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  3. Great blog post! Indeed things are reused and recycled though many may not see this. I agree that we should save time, and improve on what we have. But don't you think there might be an original idea out there that started off as crazy, that one day by time was actually picked up in history and then became popular? I think we can see this in history. Centuries ago what we do today would have been considered heretical in some places or times, yet today it is common. There must be those who kept new inventions (or OK twists on those ideas) alive and well until they actually do gain acceptance. What do you think? Take care!

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    1. I don't really see that. Things that were considered heretical like the world being round, were actually well known to be true among anyone who actually studied the planet in antiquity, and the idea was certainly not "new" when Columbus sailed to the new world.

      The Founding Fathers weren't using a new idea when they made the United States of America into a Republic. The Romans and Greeks had done much to revolutionize that, but I bet it wasn't even new in their time.

      Things can be spun differently, and looked at differently, and some things that have been long forgotten can be "discovered" again, but I'm hard pressed to point to anything and say that is "truly" original. Like it came out of a vacuum with no influence by the rest of the world. Things like that just don't exist. Even ah-ha! moments are glued into the big think tank that is culture.

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  4. I will be the first to disagree with this post. Most of what you say is true, but out of context. There are indeed many Original stories out there these days, as in generations past. It's the concepts at the bases of these tales that is recycled. Yes, there are plenty out there that are clearly not original tales, but with many stories, you'd have to strip them down to the basic conceptual elements for them to be considered recycled. I agree there are no original concepts anymore, for the basics of storytelling can only go so far, but as they say "The Devil is in the Details", and the details are what make any story original (Or not if they clearly stole it) Great post though.

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    1. That's exactly right, and what I'm saying. That's what separates "our" stories from the rest of the stories in print. It's a matter of infusing our personality into what we're writing, to give it our unique flair. That's what I mean by "patterns". We're still using the same needle and same colored threads, but we're doing something different with them. Otherwise we'd just be stealing, instead of copying and improving on old themes.

      It's like a combination lock with a million numbers. There are, for practical purposes, an infinite amount of possible combinations. Each one of us owns one of those unique combinations, but we're still working with the same numbers everyone else is. If that makes sense...

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    2. That makes sense :) you should have said that in the first place :) lol

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  5. so true as I haven't had an original thought in my life LOL

    A

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    1. I'm not sure I have either, though I fancy some of them were clever enough to warrant attention :D

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  6. Hi J.R.! Did you know that Mary Shelley dreamt the story of Frankenstein? Even when ideas come from the unconscious, they come from somewhere deeper than ourselves, don't you think?

    Thought this quote from C.S. Lewis was pertinent here. "Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

    In other words, we needn't try too hard to be original; waste of time ;-) Just be real.

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    1. I like that! Both "just be real" and what C.S. Lewis said. All the parts are there to come up with something different and unusual, but if we try, we're only going to focus on what has already been done. If we let go we at least have a chance for something else :)

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  7. i enjoyed reading your post thoroughly. yes nothing is original except nature. we extract from the source and personify our creation by indulging our intelligence to create a new art form.

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    1. Not even nature is original. It builds off itself. It evolves. It doesn't "create" but changes. I think when I look at it that way it takes the edge off that "need" to be something special. I can simply be a part of the process and enjoy that.

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  8. Excellent, excellent post! This is why I cringe when I hear critics lambasting a decent or even a good work for not being "original". It's extremely hard to be truly original and most of the time being original is not necessarily what makes something great.

    I once heard that there are seven original stories that all stories ever told around the world originated from. Maybe it was Carl Jung? Or Joseph Campbell? I don't remember but I think this is very true. And I think the C.S. Lewis comment is spot on!

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    1. Well said, Victoria. Thanks for your input!

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  9. I love that you've covered this topic. It's one I've thought about plenty before, as a writer, as an editor, as a human!

    All I know is, when someone manages to write something that feels *new*, I fall in love. :3

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  10. They say that there are only a handful of stories to be told and we (humans, whatever variety we are) continue to tell the same stories over and over again. As you say, we remix as we go along. Honestly, I never think about this when I am writing. I don't try to be too this or that, the words 'remix' themselves on my page.

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    1. I think it's good not to try. The devil is in the details and we bring our own details to the table when we create anything. But if we force it we'll ruin it.

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  11. theres one thing i can think of thats original ...nature everything made by man isn't

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