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Thursday, 12 November 2009


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Mike, I love this. First, it's great writing, and second, I see myself in it.

For alomost 40 years an albino gorilla could be seen in Barcelona, Spain.
He was the only one ever seen in the world, and some kind of pet for the Zoo and the whole Barcelona.
No ahabs in Barcelona, as much as I know

In the meantime... http://www.anthonygibson.com/photo.php?id=28

I saw a "punk" squirrel once... He was a regular brown squirrel. He (or she) just somehow happened to have a bleach-blond tuft of fur on it's head. I'm not sure how something like that would occur, maybe some sort of partial albinism, but it certainly was there.

Funny enough you chose a quote from Moby-Dick which I knew from a book I read early this year: "Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment" by Jed McKenna. He uses quite some pages on Moby-Dick, and he claims the book is actually Melville's tale of his spiritual awakening. He speaks of the "mask" of the physical world, and of the prisoner's need to "strike through the wall" to what may seem like nothing, but actually it's this world which is nothing.
The white whale is not a goal, it's a barrier, the last one.
McKenna's interpretation is clearly not well known yet, at least it's not yet mentioned on Wikipedia.

(Note: if anybody is curious about McKenna's book, I recommend to start with the first one, "Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing".)


Your white squirrel looks like an escaped lab rat.

If I'm reading the analogy correctly, we, your readers, are the crew,

"....a crew, too, chiefly made up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals..."

In which case, put me down for a "mongrel renegade".

This was the best thing I've rad on TOP in a while. Loved every word.

Oh, and btw, glad to see your muse has returned.

Well, Ahab, you need the right harpoon.

That's why some of us have and carry with us pretty much everywhere a small sensor camera with decent zoom range.

You can go on and on about the mythical perfect DMD. You might have had it with you, but at 40-50mm eq., you'd still be cropping like crazy.

Is the IQ of my current, 1/1.7" sensor, belt pouch camera as good as a 4/3 or APS sensor? Nope.

Would a pic of Moby Squirrel with 210mm eq. IS lens on it be better than what you got? Yup.

I keep trying to get excited about the µ4/3 cameras. but when I realize how big they are with a decent zoom on them, my interest fades.

Like Gruesome's bag, my pockets and belt can only carry so big a camera. Once it's on a strap around my neck or in a bag, it's a whole 'nother ball game, and it just isn't there often enough for the unexpected opportunity.

It appears the G11 does raise the bar at least a notch for small sensor IQ, and it does marry the beloved twist and tilt LCD of my A650 with the look and build quality of the G series. I do want the added WA. but is 140mm eq. on the long end enough?



I've read some 1,000 books or so in my life, many of them fiction, and I've only ever been unable to finish two. Moby Dick was one of them. I got halfway, and I really wanted to finish it, but I just couldn't carry on; will to live lost, and all that.

As for the albino squirrel, I'm glad for two things: that you didn't have to lose a leg for it, and that you shot it with a camera instead of a harpoon.

This photo should qualify you for membership to the prestigious WSSA (Worldwide Squirrel Shooters Association).


WSSA Member #249

Isn't writing a blog wonderful? One day you have a serious technical discussion about a new camera system and the next you can write a Lake Wobegonesque article about the white squirrel.

Try that in a magazine!


PS, "The Grapes of Wrath" is pretty easy reading, and well worth it. It will change your view of things the next time you cruise down I40 towards California.

Nice post, I enjoyed reading it.

You must not be very redneck. You didn't aspire to making a post-mortem photo of the rodent prior to cooking it for dinner.

Another vote that it's a rat.

Or a mexican pet:

I used to think albino squirrels were the most fearsome neighborhood sight until I spied a jet black squirrel while walking to the bus one morning. Black as night and swift as lightning. They are both most certainly agents of The Devil though I'm not sure why He sees fit to terrorize a quiet Minneapolis neighborhood.


Ever the Pentaxian, are you? Shooting squirrels with your camera.

And Proust is pretty easy once you get into a little bit. Just be sure to read the 1st volume in Lydia Davis's wonderful new translation (the rest are hit and miss).


I too have struggled with some of the classics. My current wrestling partner happens to Melville's finest, but unlike you I have a good corner man: Stewart Wills. I'm listening to him read to me in the LibriVox audiobook, which is freely downloadable from http://librivox.org/moby-dick-by-herman-melville/ Thoroughly recommended.

What a great story Mike. I really hope you get your squirrel. And, of course, I'm sure you will share the capture with us. My 'white whale' is really black, as in crows. While certainly not rare or hard to spot I have yet to take any shots I liked, not with a machine gun approach with my DSLR or shooting up a roll of tri-x in the Pen F. But, like you I won't give up. Least ways not while I still have bread crumbs and knee pads.

Advice from Ruby, my Brittany Spaniel. Try letting Lulu tree the squirrel. The squirrel will then be more likely to come out on a limb and give both of you a good scolding.

It's definitely not a rat, guys. That's merely an illusion, created by my lack of squirrel-photographing ability. I've seen it whole and entire and reasonably close up on several different occasions, and, despite being clueless on a great many fronts, I do know a squirrel when I see one.


This is why my M3 has a belt clip. I never leave home without it either in my backpack (if I'm carrying that) or on my belt. Usually there's a spare roll of film or two in a pocket of my jacket. Be prepared.

Moose (and of course others): it's no DMD, but the Lumix TZ5 really does have a nice WA and long end, + the IS....

Woulda brought the squirrel up nice 'n' close.

Black squirrels can sometimes be seen in England. Stealth squirrels I call them. The strange thing is that I am not sure if I have actually seen them or just been told about them.

What I have seen is mice with fur that exactly matches the dark sooty grey around the tracks in the London Underground (subway?) where they live.

I'm not telling you what to do,but...

I ALWAYS have my Fuji F10 in a pocket, or fanny pack. It's near SLR quality. Don't leave home without it.

So, will the end come with the white squirrel charging you on the bike? "I got the shot, Martha!"

See, I haven't gotten that far in the book. Ahab's okay in the end, isn't he? He gets the whale, and some psychotherapy, and lives happily ever after in one of those captain's houses on the coast with the lookouts on the roof?


Good one Mike!

My personal White Whale, despite repeated attempts, is to finish Moby Dick. 3/4 best I can do. I can read history, bios, poetry, even John Sandford novels, other Melville, Conrad, just can't finish the White Whale.


I want to add that I'm honored to be in your company, unable to finish The Whale.

I am a regular reader of books on Daily Lit (http://www.dailylit.com) which emails you a page of your book every day. It makes reading the classics pretty digestible. I am just finishing The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf, and find that I am no longer afraid of her.

Oh man... white squirrels seem to make people crazy. Your squirrel looks like an albino, here in Brooklyn we have some non-albino white squirrels.


It seems that there are many places that take great pride in being THE home of white squirrels


And speaking of Melville


Do you think people leave Leica M3s on Henri Cartier-Bresson's grave in Cimetière de Montjustin?

When you offer a doubloon for the TOP reader who gets the first telephoto shot of the Great White Squirrel--that's when we worry.

Funny, I thought Moby Dick was a socially transmitted disease.....

I am shaking my head in wonderment.


You should wear a hat. A quick throw of your hat to the other side of the tree will bring the squirrel around to your side. Gently squeeze the trigger -- er, press the shutter -- and you've bagged your wee beastie.

Stop using that long distance flash attachment if you want to avoid red-eye.

Bravo! A wonderful piece of writing/cut and paste. You excel yourself here. Thank you.
PS Got one for The Ancient Mariner?

I started a photo-a-day website recently, so I've taken to have my camera with me all the time now. Just this week, on the way to work, I saw a fox trotting along the front yards of houses in a neighborhood near my office.

My first (photographic) reaction was to think that I'd never get a shot off. My second reaction (the one I'm training myself to have via the exercise of posting a daily picture) was to drive ahead of the fox, pull over, grab the camera and wait for him to come to me.

I took a couple of quick pictures. They weren't great, but I wouldn't have any pictures if I hadn't had my camera with me. (http://imagidiem.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/fox-found-349/)

Mike, you could perhaps take some shooting tips from the bbc.com readers...this was posted there less than a week back...http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/surrey/hi/people_and_places/nature/newsid_8344000/8344582.stm

Two worldly items of note. Lance is a cheat, talk to Floyd and white squirrels reside in abundance within the bounds of Exeter, Ontario. No big news on either accord but they are both still fun to watch, again and again and again.

About an hour from our home in Greenville, SC, on the way to our favorite campground in Pisgah Forest, we pass White Squirrel Lane. My wife and I always thought it was a funny name for a road... until the day a white squirrel dashed across the road in front of the car.

You might also enjoy this cycling memoir 'The Escape Artist' by Matt Seaton.

Squirrels are cute, frisky and intelligent. What isn't so well know is that they are cannibalistic, too.

With best regards to all.


Did you mean "mad" as in "angry" when referring to the whale? Or, as in madness? It seems as if it would be madness for a big whale not to attack a whaling ship that was trying to kill it. Just a thought.

Mike, Many years ago I lived in Texas City, TX and the town was "infested" with albino squirrels. Cute, and mostly harmless. We saw them often and occasionally someone would send a picture to the local paper which, having printed dozens of such shots in the past, simply stopped printing them.

For a pocket squirrel cam the 210mm long end of a G9 is the thing to have



Apparently off-topic but actually merely tangential comment: I used to be an avid reader of fiction, but in the last decade or so have been finding myself mostly reading only non-fiction, and among that, one of the most quirkily engrossing (and least expectedly so) tomes I've read was about that condiment we never give much of a thought to, salt. I'm just saying in case there are people here who don't feel like reading Moby Dick either. (The book doesn't feature any albino rodent, I'm afraid, however.)

No leaves on the trees with this Sony...

"Salt" is by Mark Kurlansky, the same author who wrote the book on cod that I linked to in the second paragraph. I believe I have all his books....


It is interesting, this "stopping reading fiction" thing. I am a man of a certain age and stopped about 5 or 6 years ago with only the occasional novel slipping through now and again. I blamed (attributed this to?) Atomised by Michelle Houellebecq at the time - it seemed the novel to end the need for novels, at least then. Now, I'm not so sure - I wonder if it has to do with having seen / heard / lived through enough of life that fiction is no longer needed, or, more prosaically, whether the ubiquity and speed of the internet has once-and-for-all nixed my attention span.

Another thumbs up for Jed McKenna's take on Moby Dick. One of the most amazing books I've ever read (but the Wikipedia cops won't allow a mention on the Moby Dick article).

what a wonderful story Mike! though as you were going through Moby Dick, I found myself thinking of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner...!

Abraham Lincoln read voraciously when he was young but more or less stopped reading as an older man.

I wonder sometimes if we are particularly receptive when we are driven to learn something, but then there comes a time when we have learned enough. Of course there are many examples of people reading into old age--even presidents! Jefferson, famously, had "a canine appetite for books." Montaigne, after an active and dutiful youth, retired to his chateau, surrounded himself with books, and wrote his Essays until his end.


OK so I only clicked on the first two dozen links in you story. Sorry! :)

(I read 'Salt' in two sittings. Like a good detective novel, only with with funnier deaths.)


If you ask me, Houellebecq is enough to finish not only novels but the printing industry. But that's just me.

As for "reading less fiction", I can't tell you why I do. I can, however, tell you that I find myself strangely as I age rediscovering a very child-like awe at learning just how reality can be.

Great story, well told. and a tiny part of me was hoping that your link to overfishing might even have been my own book the Hunting of the Whale ... but no matter.

Sorry to take this discussion off topic, but that picture is also a classic case of the camera being able to "see" better than the photographer. It's amazing that you were able to crop that much of the picture and still recognize the squirrel with that level of fidelity, down to the albino eyes.

I was wondering when someone would mention that. Are we already taking 24 megapixels for granted? The big Sonys really are awesome in that respect. Never ceases to amaze.


"Is it about a bicycle?"
('The Third Policeman' by Flann O'Brien)

For everyone who didn't finish Moby Dick, or who needs to catch up on their classics:

I also highly recommend their version of Lord of the Rings.

Mike, this story was a total hoot. I was having a cruddy day (engineer, can't figure out why the circuit card ain't workin'.) and stopped for a late lunch and looked up TOP.

This was much fun and really lifted my mood.

I also took the time to glance through, though I didn't read every word, all the other's comments before giving a piece of advice I learned from my Dad, an avid squirrel hunter (and eater).

When the squirrel you're trying to shoot, whether with camera or gun, is on the other side of the tree from you, quietly pick up a rock or stick and throw it past the tree. The squirrel then will often run around to your side of the tree. Then fire your weapon.

My Dad grew up poorer than poor, and always squirrel hunted with a bolt-action .22 that my Mom still has. The "throwing the stick" trick netted him many a meal in his life.

Again, fun story and thanks for sharing it so eloquently.

Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle.

By Dervla Murphy

Now that is a bicycle journey...

Lance Shmance

Great story and literary homage.

HT writes: "I used to think albino squirrels were the most fearsome neighborhood sight until I spied a jet black squirrel while walking to the bus one morning. Black as night and swift as lightning."

I can report that if you or HT were to visit Toronto, almost all the squirrels you would see (and there are a lot here) would be black, though there are some grey individuals, and I've heard rumours of unusual white squirrel sightings also. These black squirrels are a melanistic variety of the 'Eastern Gray Squirrel' species.

My favourite sighting was one morning upon leaving my house, I saw a flash of black followed by a flash of red. Once my brain had a moment to process the information, it turned out to be an angry cardinal chasing after a squirrel at extremely close range due no doubt to some sort of inter-species misunderstanding.

The 45-200mm zoom for your GF1 is a lovely, compact lens with a 400mm-e reach and stabilisation.
I know you don't use tele much, but maybe you could get into it somewhat. I like it, I like the flat perspective and how it picks out pictures nobody ever saw before because they don't see that narrowly.

Oh, a couple of examples here.

I was driving home the other day with my one of my girls. A squirrel darted out in front of the car and I hit the brakes. The squirrel realized his mistake and became panic struck. He reversed direction, stopped, reversed direction again, ran a few feet, stopped, reversed direction again and made it to the safety of a tree. My daughter and I turned to each other and simutaneously said, "Squirrel-brain".

One of those father/daughter bonding moments...

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