Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), marks the end of the festive time--Carnival--after the Epiphany and before the fasting and prayer season of Lent. In English-speaking countries, it was often called Shrove Tuesday. "Shrove" is the past tense of "shrive," meaning to confess and obtain absolution. (You can also say "shrived.") Partridge says that "shrive" is from the Old English "scrifan" meaning to prescribe a penance on. So if you haven't done your penance, you better hop to it. It is Ash Wednesday after all--no more partying until Easter!
I just finished COWARD, the first volume of Marvel's CRIMINAL, a noir comic series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It's brilliant stuff, and I can't wait to read the rest. I was introduced to Criminal via a short piece in Dark Horse's Noir collection, which I blogged about recently. The storytelling is so crisp and sure-handed, nothing seems out-of-place, and it deftly works in flashbacks and character development along with action. The protagonist of the story is a professional thief with a powerful instinct for self-preservation. As a result, he's a meticulous planner, obsessing over the smallest details in order to avoid personal risk. Our "coward" is more than willing to walk away from a payday if he thinks the job is too dangerous. Naturally, he gets involved in a scheme that starts to spiral out of control, and his personal loyalties and his fanatical adherence to his own "rules" are put to the test. The inks and colors are first-rate, adding a brooding, danger-laden atmosphere to the story. These guys are one hell of a tag-team and I suggest you go out and buy their stuff. I also recently read their pulpy, villainous super-hero tale INCOGNITO, which is also terrific. Both books re-imagine the rich landscape of American pulp, action-adventure, crime, and noir fiction in a post-modern world. The fact that they are beautiful visual art pieces as well only makes them more appealing!
The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere--the winter solstice--is about six-and-a-half weeks behind us. In just about six-and-a-half weeks from now the vernal equinox will mark the start of spring. We sit right in the middle today, the "cross-quarter" point on the calendar that is celebrated in this country as Groundhog Day. Brigid of Kildare had her feast day yesterday, and Imbolc is reckoned tomorrow. In Punxsutawney, the eponymous Phil reportedly saw his shadow, meaning "six more weeks of winter." I'm a skiier, so I don't mind. But I was thinking that Pennsylvania is on the other side of the country, and we could use our own little fellow here in the State of Jefferson. I propose we select a rock chuck in Montague and call him something like "Malachi." We'll have to be quick about it, of course, as the poor creature will likely be blasted to smithereens by an alert 12-year old with a .22 as soon as he pops his head out of his hole. But at least it would offer a better local forecast, don't you think?