Good interpreters copy, great interpreters steal

thiefcartoonI stole this quote.

Actually, I stole the form, and then modified it to fit my specific need. Pablo Picasso is most often credited with the form (good artists copy, great artists steal), but I can find references from T.S. Elliott (the immature poet imitates; the mature poet plagiarizes), Igor Stravinsky (lesser artists borrow; great artists steal), and William Faulkner (immature artists copy, great artists steal). I suspect that they all stole the form from someone else.

Simplicity and Repose


Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things  – Isaac Newton

Interpretation gravitates to the complex. Maybe all human systems have a natural inclination toward convolution, like stormwater sprinting downstream. Bureaucracies certainly hint at this drift. There is refuge to be found in the minutia of complexity.

The principles of interpretation aren’t complex. The rules are limited; the doctrine is easy to grasp. The role of the interpreter is to simplify the complex, not to complicate the simple.

What is a theme?

Sunrise on the Colorado River below Longhorn Dam by Ted Lee Eubanks
Sunrise on the Colorado River below Longhorn Dam by Ted Lee Eubanks

What is a theme? A theme to me should be the same as to you. An interpretive theme doesn’t differ from a literary theme. There is no need for a new definition of an age-old (Aristotelian) literary concept.

The theme is the main idea or underlying message of a literary work. The theme is a tool that unifies the various elements of the book or essay. A literary work can have more than one theme, although there is often a single theme that underlies the work.

Interpretive Jazz

Colorado River below Longhorn Dam, Austin, Texas, by Ted Lee Eubanks

If you aspire to being something more than a guide, or an usher, or a glorified bush beater, then you will need to provide a service beyond finding things. You will need to find meanings.

Every program or tour doesn’t need to have a theme. You can function as a guide for example, and themes may never cross your mind. Take bird guides. Bird guides can find, call, attract, and identify birds. As long as they can do the above, a bird guide will be successful. Birding clients demand little more than an expanded life list. This isn’t interpretation, though. This is guiding.

Short Fuse, Big Bang

Guerrilla interpretation confronts, pricks, and unsettles, using the panoply of media to cast interpretive messages wherever an audience lurks.

New technologies do more than advance society, they disrupt. Innovations create new applications and new markets. Often the innovation precedes the market. Fred Smith had to convince businesses of their need for an overnight delivery before he could market FedEx.

Innovations disrupt existing markets, technologies, and applications, displacing those that came earlier. The railroads began struggling during the Great Depression as automobiles and air travel gradually displaced travel by train. Digital cameras replaced film. Digital music is replacing CD’s, which replaced compact cassettes, which replaced 8-track cassettes, which replaced vinyl records. Each new medium erases the one before.