Quests are a huge inconvenience. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, even if that person has experience. The problem is that people forget the pain and aggravation as soon as the quest ends successfully, and then they remember only the glorious parts. In this way quests are a bit like childbirth, even to the point of saying that quests often give birth to glory. Maybe.
―Amy Neftzger, The Orphanage of Miracles
Image: Sir Galahad, the Quest for the Holy Grail by Arthur Hughes, 1870
I think, in storytelling, people want to see triumph, and so it’s usually nice to start with failure and see someone somehow rise above it. People like to see people try. And they like to see people fail for comedy, and they like to see people succeed for the drama and emotion.
This world isn’t a battlefield. Someday you will realise how your success depends on a bunch of other people and that day you will be wiser. You will know how connected we all are.
Either we all make it or none of us does.
―Jasleen Kaur Gumber
Most people follow prescribed paths, trusting that life will be fulfilling. Sometimes an enterprising spirit and persistence have more success.
Born Robert Bruce Moser in Newark, Ohio in 1916, Bruce Mozert’s first job out of high school was that of a truck driver carrying coal to the northeast. Declaring himself “too sensitive” for that line of work, he soon moved to New York City to live with his sister, successful pin-up model and illustrator Zoë Mozert. She introduced him to Victor de Palma, a lead photographer for Life magazine, who recognized his enterprising spirit, hired him as a film developer and helped him get started in photography.
Johnny Weissmuller’s iconic Tarzan call
In 1938, Bruce was on assignment in Florida when he heard that Johnny Weissmuller was filming Tarzan in Silver Springs. The Florida Chamber of Commerce asked if he would visit the set and take some publicity photos. He jumped at the chance. At the time, underwater photos and film were taken from a inside a submerged barrel fitted with a glass window. This meant that there was only room for the film crew’s cameraman. Frustrated at not being able to shoot underwater, Bruce constructed the first known waterproof camera housing on the spot from scrap sheet metal and plexiglas, with a couple of nails for a viewfinder. His father and grandfather had been inventors. Bruce had been tinkering with machinery since he was a boy. As he would do over and over again in his life, he saw something he wanted to do and created the technology to do it.
“I went out in the backyard of Silver Springs one morning after I had made the camera case and I found an old inner tube. That was back when they were made out of real rubber. I fitted it on my arm and my arm fit tight. I attached it to the housing and took it down in the water. (“Tarzan” star) Johnny Weissmuller was there. They all laughed at me, but all 12 pictures came out clear. They ended up sending them to Hollywood.”— Ocala Star Banner, 2013
This was long before the Go Pro, folks. The photos were so good that MGM paid Bruce Mozert to use them in their promotions of Tarzan. He was encouraged to patent his invention, which allowed a photographer to get much closer to his subjects and make much better pictures, but he couldn’t afford the $900 it would have cost to do so.
Bruce Mozert with one of his later homemade camera housings
In the midst of this, Bruce fell in love with Silver Springs, famous for crystal clear lakes, streams and artesian springs. He was to be the official photographer of Silver Springs for four and half decades, excepting for a few years in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Never a snob, Bruce even ran a concession business in the park, taking photos of patrons. His staged publicity photos were sent out across the country as advertisements for what was, at the time, the premiere tourist destination in Florida. These shots required planning and direction, and Bruce’s imagination and work ethic were ideal for the task. Most consisted of glamorous young women– and the occasional brawny male– doing everyday things underwater.
Mozert’s work is lovely and good natured, with just a dash of whimsy. Much of it, while delightfully kitschy, seems a little dated, meant as advertising and filled with pin-up models and a 1950s sense of glamour (and sexism), but some pieces, especially the work he did with model Ginger Stanley, who was a stunt double for Creature from the Black Lagoon, have an artistic quality and clarity that remains arresting, even when compared with photography done on modern equipment.
Ginger Stanley in Underwater Ballet: Bruce Mozert/Three Lions/Getty Images
Ginger Stanley in Underwater Ballet: Bruce Mozert/Three Lions/Getty Images
Bruce would remain a pioneer and innovator in the field for many years, creating new camera housings, high speed underwater cameras, and lighting devices. Television networks and film companies required his expertise and hired him for underwater projects as a photographer, a film cameraman and consultant. Gregory Peck, Lloyd Bridges, Jane Russell and Esther Williams were just a few of the celebrities with which he worked. His images graced the covers and pages of magazines such as Life, Look and National Geographic. Another passion he enjoyed was aerial photography, which he picked up while in the Air Corps. He was known to take a plane up for shooting when he was in his nineties.
Bruce Mozert passed away last October at the ripe old age of 98. He worked in his studio, digitizing old film, until near the end. His is a truly inspiring American success story.
Want to read more about underwater photography? You can read our introduction to the subject here. We’ll have more on the subject later this week.
Is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We’re not exultant; but delighted, joyful; soberly astonished. . . Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No. . . and yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction. . . fulfilled a destiny. . . To struggle and to understand – never this last without the other; such is the law. . .
―George Mallory, Climbing Everest: The Complete Writings of George Mallory
Have you ever wondered what novels Charles Dickens might have written if he possessed a sunnier disposition? Meet Wobbly Barstool.
Jane Lowy‘s Wobbly Barstool puts a clever spin on the Victorian novel. The plot shares common elements with Dicken’s classic Great Expectations, including hidden and mistaken identities, adults scheming over the lives of their children, thwarted lives and passion, rough changes of fortune and jaw dropping revelations. Wobbly, Lowy’s hero, lives in the same world as Pip, but, due to his happy rural upbringing, he interprets that world far differently.
He’s a solid, simple lad, far from stupid, but not at all brilliant, raised by two solid and dependable parents, Horace and Nelly, in the pleasant hamlet of Restinstump. Some of you townies might find it dull, but Restinstump provides a calm and relatively idyllic alternative to London, which remains as Dickens painted it. The most heartbreaking moments of the novel concern a trip to London in which Wobbly’s father, Horace, has to work hard not to let the rough conditions of city life, especially that of poor children, drag him into depression.
Seven Dials, by Gustave Dore, 1872, depicts a busy London street full of shoe shops and swarming with children.
The Barstool family is ebullient, taking on whatever life gives them with laughter and twinkle in the eye. When Wobbly makes friends with an unfortunate orphan, Tobias, who is residing in the woods with a band of dogs, they take in the newcomer (and dogs) with open arms, as we know they will. This happy friendship and familial closeness will shape the bulk of the novel even as it is tried and tested.
Life gets most interesting for Wobbly, and for us readers, when the attractive and intelligent Prunella Baddonschilde appears in Restinstump, along with her best friend, Marigold. Wobbly is smitten with Prunella from the beginning, and he doesn’t waste much time in telling her so. She’s been raised in London and her mother has groomed her to marry into the moneyed class. Pru, as she calls herself, is far from thrilled at that prospect, but she’s not ready to rush into anything with an awkward coutry boy a few years younger than herself either. Echoing the desire of Pip for Estella in Great Expectations, Wobbly vows he will make something of himself so that he may win Prunella’s hand. A great many twists and turns ensue. There is even a sea voyage that culminates in several folks plunging overboard. Between unexpected events and extremely lovable characters, Wobbly Barstool is quite a page turner. I guarantee that there is at least one revelation you won’t see coming. Not everything is as clean and tidy as it seems.
The charm of the novel lies in its humor. Wobbly’s employment woes are hilarious, especially when a lonely older woman comes on to him, encouraging him to practice kissing her so that he’ll be an expert by the time he kisses Prunella. Unfortunately, her husband comes home unexpectedly and Wobbly is forced to escape, aided by a disgruntled goat. Humor can be very difficult to put down on the page and often falls flat, but not Lowy’s. Her dialogue positively sparkles. It is the comic qualities of the protagonists that are most endearing, from Wobbly’s almost empty-headed good humor and naiveté to Prunella’s terrible attempts at writing poetry. Many of the character names are worth a chuckle, including the Irishman Fewan Farbetween and, my personal favorite, the loathsome Harry Backanall. This is a book you read with a smile on your face.
While humor is the hook that kept me reading, the strength of the book lies in its characters, particularly Prunella, Wobbly, Marigold and Tobias. They suffer disappointments and betrayals, but are able, ultimately, to hold on to their faith in one another and make decisions that keep them from disaster. They do something that Dickens was loathe to let his characters do–succeed through self determination. Their definition of success is different from what many people of their era, or ours, for that matter, might espouse, having little to do with the grasping for social status or cash that so often motivates Victorian characters and leads them to their ruin. Turning their back on London and the Industrial Revolution, our heroes choose the farm life of Restinstump, where they feel a connection to the community, a cast of wonderful supporting personalities, people who inspire faith in the human race. It is the hint that we can make the same choice that gives the novel its power.
The naiveté of the young residents of Restinstump, as they seek a balance between their dreams, many of which are quite modern, and their love for their traditional community and peaceful existence, makes their choice possible. How many dreams do we deny daily out of a sense of practicality, out of a jaded view of the world? Life is a combination of our projections meeting reality. Sometimes we short change ourselves by expecting too little. That being said, if anyone else had tied the knot during the course of the novel I think I would have been overcome by the immense rosiness of outlook. But what a sweet way to be overcome!
If hot were cold and cold were hot
And time ran backwards too-o-o
I’d give a shrug and say, “So wot?”
For I’m head over heels for you.
If cats should bark and dogs meow
And horses start to moo-o-o
I’d think it just their usual row
For I”m head over heels for you.
from Wobbly’s Song
Wobbly Barstool, a winner of the BRAG Medallion for outstanding self published books,is a splendid first novel, one that makes you ponder human nature without realizing it. Houstonians, Jane Lowy is a local talent. You can catch her and her husband reading around town and, of course, at Synkroniciti Open Mics. For the rest of you, Wobbly is available as e-book or in hardcover.
When I was nine, I ran in a school race, and I suddenly realised I was in the lead. I looked at the finishing line, and just freaked out, then ran to the side as if I’d hurt myself. It was everything to do with fear of success.
Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them.
―Michael Michalko, Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking, from The Creativity Post, December 6, 2011
We often separate artists and athletes by stereotyping them: the artist is withdrawn and effeminate while the athlete is aggressive and masculine. The truth is that both athletes and artists are a mixture of different types, just like anyone else. Sometimes society creates very uncomfortable molds, but Canadian David Arrigo has broken through to become a successful artist who just happens to make hockey masks. He failed art in high school and dropped out of a graphic design class in college, but these setbacks failed to kill his creative urge. His career is personally satisfying and lucrative, and has also brought him in contact with many important athletes. David is an inspiration for those whose talents might not fit in with a classical artistic sense, but are vibrant within the context of modern culture. You can take a good look at his work on his website and read about his interesting career and philosophy in this article from The Glendale Star. Sometimes we create our own creative niche and sometimes it finds us.
Would you like to be more creative? Some common assumptions can chain our creativity and limit our experience of life.
Fragile Brain Shield by AllAllucinations with CCLicense
We have incredible minds. The mind helps us perceive and make sense of the world around us, constructing a worldview and processing information to support that view. For this reason, the mind can also be a powerful weapon of oppression. If we hold particular beliefs without any power of review or adjustment, we become easier to control, less independent, and less individual.
Here are some common assumptions which bind creative people, presented with some pop culture slogans for a little whimsy.
Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids! Creativity is only for artists.
Public Domain Image via Pixabay
From Fortune 500 companies to parents interacting with their children, everyone benefits from creativity and a sense of play. Projecting the attitude that “normal” people are hard-working and dull while artists are colorful children is a wonderful way to divide creative people from the masses and devalue both groups. Lean in, I’ve got a secret. You can be as creative and as playful as you want to be, wherever you are. I’m not saying everyone will like it, but the potential lies within you.
I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too… If you want to get ahead, you need to conform.
In any profession there are role models. They can be inspiring and wonderful people. Unfortunately, we tend to try and emulate their success by becoming their clones and submitting ourselves to the worst side of peer pressure. Trying to be someone else is an excellent way to be unhappy. Wouldn’t it better to be yourself, even when it means you don’t fit in?
No place for second best. If I can just be perfect, I’ll get the job.
Young people are advised to pick one thing in life, concentrate on it and try to be the best at it. This is a trap. Focusing on being number one at all costs will alienate your neighbors and destroy the moral fabric of your life. Cheating to win isn’t really winning; ask Lance Armstrong. It’s the simple things that we forget to be grateful for that are the building blocks of life and creativity… our families, our friends, our pets, nature… The list is endless. If we can’t enjoy these things, no amount of productivity or success will fill the void created by their absence. Why not be a dreamer and stay interested in people and the world around you instead?
Where’s the beef? Everything that isn’t “serious” is fluff.
To build and maintain a human body takes nutrients that come from different foods. Eating only beef for a week would not help us feel or be healthy. Some question whether beef is good for us at all. The body requires a more balanced approach. Is a human spirit any different? Go ahead, have a salad. I won’t tell anyone.
Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer Wiener… That is what I’d truly like to be… ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener… Everyone would be in love with me! Fame brings love and satisfaction, and with it greater artistry and artistic freedom.
Our culture idolizes celebrity. Conventional wisdom says if we reach more people and make them like us, we will feel better about ourselves. What we overlook is that, in order to “sell” ourselves to great numbers of people, we have to become a mass-produced commodity. Who really knows what is in a hot dog?
No pain, no gain. If it doesn’t hurt, it can’t be worth anything.
This isn’t to say that we should avoid pain at all costs. There will be things in life that hurt us and make us want to quit. I’m talking about courting pain. Some examples? The guy that exercises every day until his body screams for him to stop. The artist who thinks exacerbating her own mental suffering or loneliness will make her art better. The actor who thinks he has to be an alcoholic to play an alcoholic. Pain is there to get our attention so that we can do something about a situation that isn’t working. So if something really hurts, try doing it in a different way or not at all.
Leggo my Eggo! The success of other people poses a threat to my success.
Public Domain Image via Pixabay
Siblings get into arguments simply because of proximity. Maybe X is feeling a little tired and irritable when Y walks over. Pretty soon both are screaming at each other, “I hate you! You are breathing my air!” We like to think that we outgrow this behavior. The truth is that when someone is successful we tend to react as if there is a limited amount of success to go around and that person is bogarting it. Relax. Be happy for other people. When you have some success it is nice to be able to invite true friends to the party.
Sound familiar? At Synkroniciti we seek to free people from the chains in their minds. Would you like to join us?
In the near future, Synkroniciti will be announcing some new experiences available to our fans and readers, including web-based projects for those around the globe who would like to collaborate remotely, and workshops for those in the Houston area. We are very excited to take the next step in our journey.
Slogans are from Trix Cereal, Dr. Pepper, StockRunway, Wendy’s, Oscar Mayer, Jane Fonda’s Workout Videos and Eggo Waffles.