Comic novels: Zahra’s Paradise & My Friend Dahmer

Apart from a teenage Judge Dredd addiction I never was into comic books but in the past 2 weeks I’ve read two:  Zahra’s Paradise by Amir and My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf.

 Zahra’s Paradise is set in the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 troubled elections. At the peak of the violence I was monitoring twitter and other sites for Iranian and world reaction so many of the events described in the book hit home. But if you’re not a follower of the inner workings of Iranian power struggles then this book still works.

The drawings aren’t that sophisticated — fans of Alan Moore’s books and even early DC comics won’t be impressed by the rudimentary black and white inking — but as an introduction to the sheer hassle of daily life in Iran it’s a great tome. The story centres around a mother who tries to find her son after he fails to return home from a street demo. Bribes, humiliation and danger await around every corner as she peels away the layers of stifling bureaucracy. Not bad.

My Friend Dahmer is a tough one to put down. Not for the reasons you think. No grisly details of the serial killer’s exploits are in here, instead you get a very frank account of Dahmer’s school days from a guy who went to school with him. It’s quite clear that the author thinks that the system failed Jeffrey but he never quite strays over the line of saying that the killings were the state’s fault; it’s also obvious that Dahmer made the choices he made purely under his own volition and I’m pretty sure most people’s childhood featured kids from broken homes who hit the bottle too much too young yet still managed to avoid carving up hobos for kicks. Backderf has a nice turn of phrase and some of the pathos is achingly funny like when Backderf describes how Dahmer — future notorious serial killer —  got a date for the prom but he, the author, didn’t. Backderf’s revelation that Dahmer got high school approval from mimicking spastic movements of people with cerebral palsy  should be a warning to anyone thinking of mocking the disabled that this behaviour will put them in very bad company indeed.

RIP Marie Colvin

Reports coming in within the past hour suggest journalists Marie Colvin and  Remi Ochlik have been killed. This comes a day or so after citizen journo Rami al Sayed met his death from Syrian shelling. Like many media folks I tried several times to get hold of Marie over the past few days but comms were difficult, she sent this reply on Monday 20th:

“I’m back in Baba Amr, and the email and skype are working again, Thuraya is up and down. Would be happy to do a phoner any time this week. The latest is that the Syrian troops appear to be massing for a ground assault, although that has been the rumour for  days. They have attempted several forays and been driven back. Shelling and sniping daily. Sickening what they are getting away with. Although the freezing cold is what is now preoccupying me! Is the BBC sending anyone in? I thought Paul Wood did a great job when he was here.”


William Hague’s tribute:

"I am deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic news that Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik
 have been killed while reporting, with great bravery, from Homs in Syria. I offer my heartfelt condolences
 to their families, friends and colleagues as they face this devastating loss. 

"Marie Colvin embodied the highest values of journalism throughout her long and distinguished career as
 a foreign correspondent for the Sunday Times. For years she shined a light on stories that others could
 not and placed herself in the most dangerous environments to do so, including suffering injuries while
reporting in Sri Lanka. She was utterly dedicated to her work, admired by all of us who encountered her,
 and respected and revered by her peers.  Her tragic death is a terrible reminder of the risks that
 journalists take to report the truth. 

"It is also a terrible reminder of the suffering of the Syrian people - scores of whom are dying
 every day. Marie and Remi died bringing us the truth about what is happening to the people of Homs.
 Governments around the world have the responsibility to act upon that truth - and to redouble our
 efforts to stop the Assad regime's despicable campaign of terror in Syria."


Stob Ghabhar by Moonlight

At 3500 ft Stob Ghabhar commands respect in summer so a winter walk is definitely not  something undertaken lightly but in February 2012 there was a sort of weather ‘Quickening’ where a confluence of certain elements produced a window of about 24 – 48 hours of almost perfect conditions for a climb.

The photos below were taken by Scotland’s second-best landscape snapper and Colin Prior-worrier Andy Fair. They’re in sequence starting with the river shot just near the car park around midday which is late to be taking on a Munro but we wanted to hit the summit at around 4:30 pm to catch the moonrise over Rannoch Moor at around 5:05 pm (Andy lugged his heavy panoramic lens to capture that view). Temperatures were good to us: midday at ground level was an almost balmy 6 deg C, on the summit Andy reckoned on an ambient of 0 deg C with the wind chilling it down to -10  (we didn’t stay long) . . . upon return to the car at 8pm it was -2 deg C.

The descent was as good as daylight on the snowy upper third (snow+ moonlight in these stunning conditions = as good as daylight) and required some headlamp work on the grassy lower sections just to get us back onto the path by the waterfall. From there it was moonlight back to the car. To be sure, descending any hill esp. Stob Ghabhar in the dark is not advised but like I said, if you’re going to do a moonlit summit then this February was the time to do it. The irons were hot so we grabbed them . . .

View north west


Quite a few red deer around. Note salt lick at bottom -- he was tucking into it big time


View from mid-way south east ish. Warm.


Ptarmigan x 2. Are they good eatin'?


Ridge up to summit. Sun is just setting.


Tea time

Moonrise in the east over Rannoch Moor -- about 5 mins after sun set