Author archive

Crime and Punishment and Disappointment

By Michael

I received my share of spankings as a kid (this was the 1960s, when corporal punishment was still cool), but I had it easier than my friends whose parents used a belt, a paddle, or worse (childhood bruises were still a parental prerogative, at least in my neighborhood). For most situations as I grew older, though, disappointed words from my parents, or even a disappointed glance, would do the trick. Sometimes I took awhile to catch on – once my mother gave me the silent treatment for a full week before I realized I’d forgotten to cut the lawn – but eventually I would get the message.

The simple goal was to make me feel guilty. If I didn’t know the exact source of my guilt, I should feel guilty anyway, just in case. Sooner or later I would do something that warranted remorse, so I might as well put my tail between my legs and get in proper form for it.

As an adult, I’ve shaken off much of my burden of guilt, though at odd moments I realize that I still carry a child’s imagination in my fifty-year-old body. But now I’ve generalizedmy guilt.

Am I concerned that I haven’t worked hard enough? Guilty. Am I concerned that I’ve done too little as a husband and a father? Guilty. Am I concerned that I’ve done too little to make the world a better place? Guilty. Do I suffer from liberal guilt? Guilty (which makes me doubly guilty). If a cop were to pull me into an interrogation room and demand to know what I did last night, I would plead guilty – to watching a movie when I should have been editing a manuscript, researching a destination for a family vacation, and/or writing a letter to the governor. And then I would offer to cut the cop’s lawn.

Note: This is my final Criminal Minds post as a regular bi-weekly contributor. I’m looking forward to coming back often as a visitor, though, and in the meantime promise to remain guiltily criminal minded in all of my writing.

Pulp Hamlet

(By Michael)

                                    “Rip me! Rip me!”
                                                – Cora, The Postman Always Rings Twice

Ophelia:            Rip me. [Hamlet rips her blouse.] Again . . . again. [He does, he does.]


Hamlet:             That was either my sixteenth-century fingers, or your sixteenth-century bodice.

Ophelia:            My bodice, baby! Rip me! Rip me!

Hamlet:             I already did. I already did.

Ophelia:            You’re so hot. Let’s kill my dad..

Hamlet:             Polonius?

Ophelia:            He’s a perv and talks like an Elizabethan.

Hamlet:             So do you.

Ophelia:            I know. Rip me. [Hamlet rips her bodice.] I saw him in my bedchamber fingering my knickers.

Hamlet:             Oh man, I’ll stab him in the arras.

Ophelia:            The ass?

Hamlet:           The arras – the curtain. I’ll stab him when he’s hiding behind the arras.

Ophelia:            You talking Elizabethan?

Hamlet:             Yeh.

Ophelia:            That’s why you’re italicizing?

Hamlet:             Uh huh.

Ophelia:            Grrr. Rip me.

Hamlet:             Wait – Here he cometh.

Ophelia:            Grrr.

Hamlet:             What the hell? That’s mom’s bedchamber. What kind of kinky-ass . . . Hey, yo! Polo! Wassup with the Peeping Tom? You peeping on the queen-my-mother, my-father’s-brother’s-lover?”
Polonius [Clutching his heart]:               Sire, I assure thee –

Hamlet [Drawing his sword]:                 I’ll assure you.

Polonius:           Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Hamlet:             You talking like Ben Franklin, old man?

Polonius:           Be thou familiar but by no means vulgar.

Hamlet:             Wait a minute – That’s Elizabethan.

Ophelia:            Rip me?

Polonius:           Beware of entrance to a quarrel –

Hamlet:             Enough!

Polonius:            – but being in, bear it that the opposed may beware of thee.

Hamlet:              ENOUGH!

Polonius:           This above all –

Hamlet [Running his sword through Polonius]:    A rat!

Polonius [Dying]:          To thine own self be true.

Ophelia: [Regarding her fallen father]:    You killed him.

Hamlet:             Yeh.

Ophelia:            That’s hot.

Hamlet:             Yeh.

Ophelia:            Rip me.

Hamlet:             Later, babe. Right now, I got an uncle that needs killing.


"Mea Culpa"

By Michael

Mea culpa. No time this week. No excuses . . . but no time. So, I post a picture – just one – from the Edgar Awards Banquet last Thursday. We weren’t quite an all-Criminal-Minds dinner party, but three of us were there – Meredith, Hilary, and I – and we carried the Criminal-Minds spirit with us, whatever that might mean.

So, until next time –

Children’s Programming

By Michael

When I was a young kid in the 1960s, I hated most children’s television.

I did love the cartoons and remember my earliest ideologically-driven fight being with one of my four-year-old friends over which cartoon to watch: Popeye the Sailor (my choice) or The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show (his). Captain Kangaroo also was okay, but only because he had a bowl haircut that looked much like my own and had a friend named Mr. Green Jeans. And Bozo’s Circus was great, mostly because it aired from Chicago, where I lived, and the Grand Prize Game promised extraordinary riches to kids like me.

But Romper Room creeped me out. I could deal with saying the Pledge of Allegiance with a wild-eyed hostess and with the snack-time prayer, but I knew not to trust the Magic Mirror. The hostess would stare through an empty plastic ring and chant like one of Shakespeare’s witches,

Romper, bomper, stomper, boo.

Tell me, tell me, tell me, do.

Magic Mirror, tell me today,

Have all my friends had fun at play?

Then, of course, the hostess would claim to see the children in “Televisionland”: “I can see Billy and Tommy and Debbie and Susan . . . .” In later episodes, the kind of spiraling special effects that used to represent hallucinatory and mesmeric experiences in films would accompany the appearance of the Magic Mirror. I remember feeling relieved when the hostess failed to see “Michael.”

My mother claims that I liked Mr. RogersNeighborhood, but it aired only from 1968 when I was already seven, so I’m pretty sure that she either is mistaking me for my younger brother or is the victim of one of those swirly, spirally things you could get sucked into on Romper Room.

I like to believe that I had good taste as a little kid. I still prefer Popeye over Rocky & Bullwinkle, though flying squirrels have risen in my opinion. Bozo now scares me as much as Mr. Rogers, and I only wish I still had enough hair to wear it like Captain Kangaroo.

A Questionnaire for Psychopaths

By Michael

Have you always suspected that you’re a psychopath? A short questionnaire will tell you all you need to know.

1. Ants are:

(a) Fascinating social insects belonging to the Formicidae family

(b) Capable of carrying six times their own weight but no where to be found when you’re looking for help moving the living room furniture

(c) Tastier than Jiffy Pop when cooked with a magnifying glass

2. Children are:

(a) God’s gift to the world

(b) Funny little things that vomit when spun

(c) Tastier than Jiffy Pop when cooked with a magnifying glass

3. Adults are:

(a) The caretakers of the world

(b) Overrated

(c) Not nearly as tasty as ants and children

4. Psychopaths are:

(a) Manipulative, shameless, conning trolls

(b) Callous, dangerous, controlling monsters

(c) The best dinner guests