July 31, 2004


Q: What do you call the large morass of on-line journals choking the internet these days?

A: A big blog bog clog

[Okay okay, just thought I'd share something really stupid! 8^)]

Posted by pamwagg at 09:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 28, 2004

Updated Political Ditty


By Pamela Spiro Wagner (

Your father, George W, said he stood for
All those thousands of pinpoints of light
As his son you incessantly prosecute war
Do you think that your star shines so bright?

If you wanted, George Junior, to do anything
You could end world famine and hunger
Yet the rich you make richer than Croesus the king
And the poor will not take it much longer

Your invading campaigns haven�t made Iraq healthy
To the Afghans you�ve only brought grief
You�ve stolen from poor peoples, made your friends wealthy
Which seem like the acts of a thief.

Your Homeland Security program�s a bust
For we don�t feel a bit more secure.
Pre-emptive war, torture, do not induce trust
While The Patriot Act is manure.

You�re the president, George, though you weren�t a fair winner
You�ve said you�re a good man and true
You claim you�re reformed and no longer a sinner
Doing only what Jesus would do.

But ask Him, whenever you talk to your Father
Just how one can tell wrong from right
It isn�t that hard (we suspect you don�t bother),
Preferring your power and might.

Your own bit of shine has grown dimmer and dimmer
Till you can�t see the woods for the trees
It barely glows now, all that�s left is a glimmer
But your conscience is clear and at ease.
Isn�t that what you said by decrees?
Those ag�in you are all enemies?
Stand with Jesus and do as you please!

The people, George, know that you�re not a good man,
that the White House deserves a new resident,
So in this year�s elections we�ll do all we can
To vote someone else in as president.

Posted by pamwagg at 04:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 27, 2004

Poem for WTC survivors


by Pamela Spiro Wagner

I wasn�t there, I�m sorry.
I would have helped if I could
but I was at home, watching television,
eating a tuna fish sandwich or orange sherbet.
I was answering the phone, opening the mail,
I was still in bed sleeping.
My life is quiet. I stay home mostly.
I solve crossword puzzles, I read,
I play with the cat.
I don�t go out often
though I do sometimes long for company.
I guess you know what that�s like, now,
the hunger that starts deep in your fingertips
penetrates to your bones, how you ache
for the touch of some other human being�
Ah, here I am telling you my troubles
as if they compared to yours.
But you see, that�s what happens
when you haven�t survived such awfulness.
I didn�t feel the weight of calamity on my skin,
I didn�t smell or hear or see anything
but what the cameras packaged
for my little screen.
I wasn�t there. I will *never* understand.
You must accept this: you are alone
in your terrible particular knowledge.
It is yours, a burden
I cannot share.
I�m sorry. I�m sorry.
I wasn�t there.

Posted by pamwagg at 03:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 22, 2004



By Pamela Spiro Wagner

Thirty years ago, I took the natural history course purely for exercise. I figured, what better way to stay in shape than to get credit for it? At the time, I couldn�t tell a maple from an oak, let alone one old weed from another, and it wouldn�t be easy. But just to keep off the flab would be a benefit in its own right. Since the prospectus promised daily field trips, no mention of love or awe or wonder, the last thing I expected was a miracle.

Showing up for the first day�s trip, I wore old tennis shoes, of the thin-canvas Keds variety. I had no idea L.L. Bean�s half-rubber hiking boots were de rigueur for a course of this kind. What god-awful-ugly shoes just to walk in the woods! I thought in horror. Right then, I realized I�d made a huge mistake and it was too late to change my mind -- I�d have to stick it out for the whole semester. I knew for sure I was going to be more miserable getting �exercise� than I ever would have with my thighs turning to mush safe in the college library.

The teacher, Miss G, took off stomping down the path and we tramped on after her. I was last, straggling behind, half-hoping to get lost so at least I could head back to civilization. Before we�d gotten far, she halted, peering intently at something near her feet. She waited for us to catch up and gather round her, then pointed at a weed. �Heal-all. Prunella vulgaris,� she announced sternly and without passion. �Vulgaris means 'common.' Learn both names, genus and species. Be forewarned, �Heal-all� by itself will not be an adequate answer on your quizzes.�

She stepped aside so we could take a better look. As instructed, one by one the class dutifully wrote down a description and the two names we�d been given. I was still at the back, waiting my turn without the least enthusiasm let alone the anticipation of what, in those days, we called a �mind-blowing� experience.

�Come on, now, don�t be shy. Step up and look for yourself,� Miss G scolded me, pushing at my elbow to propel me closer.

Finally the clump of students cleared out and I had a better view. For some reason, I found myself actually kneeling in front of the weed to look at it close up. Then it happened. As if the proverbial light bulb flashed on over my head, I understood what Miss G meant when she�d said: �Weeds are only wildflowers growing where they aren�t wanted.� Prunella, I know now, was no more than a common mint, found in poorly manicured lawns or waste ground. Yet, with its conical head of iridescent purple-lipped flowers and its square stem � on impulse, I�d reached out to touch it and discovered an amazing fact: the stem wasn�t round! � Heal-all was the single most beautiful thing I�d ever seen. The world went still--there was only the flower and the realization I�d fallen in love.

Since one of my other courses concerned the history of early Christianity, I knew immediately what had happened. Like Paul on the road to Damascus, I�d been struck by unexpected lightning and converted. I put away my notebook, knowing I wouldn�t need to write down a word, knowing I�d never forget "common Prunella" as long as I lived.

There were many other miracles in my life after that, but none came close to the thunderbolt that knocked me flat that afternoon when I saw, truly saw, that homely little mint for the first time. �Sedges have edges but rushes are round and grasses have nodes where willows abound.� Yes, I learned such mnemonics, which helped me as much as the next person when a plant was hard to identify. But I discovered in myself an amazing feel for botany that was like sunken treasure thousands of feet beneath the ocean. Once I knew it was there, I had merely to plumb the depths, more or less subconsciously, and gold would magically appear.

I went walking in the woods every chance I got and carried Peterson�s guides with me even into town, checking out the most humble and inconspicuous snippet of green that poked through the sidewalk cracks. The first time I came out with a certain plant�s genus and species before Miss G told the class what we were seeing, she looked at me oddly. I began repeating this performance until once she even allowed me to argue her into changing her classification of a tricky species. If I still hung back behind the group as we walked, it was no longer from reluctance. I was simply too caught up in looking at each tree to keep up the pace.

By December, as the semester was coming to a close, Miss G had begun using me as her unofficial assistant, asking my opinion whenever there was a question as to what was before us. Oh, I confess, I never did get the knack of birds--it was the trees and wildflowers that stole my heart entire.

At the end of the semester, we received course evaluations in lieu of letter grades. I opened mine eagerly, expecting praise. Instead, Miss G was terse and unenthusiastic: �Pamela faithfully attended every field trip, but for most of the course she failed to share her insights and established expertise with the rest of the class.� End quote. "Failed to share her established expertise"? What was she talking about? Did she think I�d already known everything she taught us? How could she not understand what she�d done for me, introducing me to little Prunella, how I�d learned everything I knew *after* that moment, not before?

It was the worst evaluation I�d ever been given, the injustice of which struck me to the marrow. I went to her office to explain and found a sign on her door saying she�d been called away on a family emergency and would not be returning until the next semester. But *I* wasn�t returning for the second semester. I was transferring back to my original school.

I caught my ride home, spending four hours crammed into the back of an old Volkswagen with three other students, wordless with indignation that reverberated on and on in my mind. How could she think such a thing? I couldn�t stop writing and rewriting a letter of protest in my head as the highway flowed endlessly beneath us.

I did write the letter, finally, explaining all she�d awoken in me, emphasizing my *new-found* joy and amazement. At the end of March I got a reply, but no apology or hint that she understood her misunderstanding. Not even appreciation for my gratitude towards her and what her course had done for me. Just a brisk, no-nonsense note, little better than a form letter. I had the impression that she didn�t quite remember who I was, that I was just another faceless student writing to her about a natural history course she�d taught perhaps forty times in her long career as a teacher.

Whether she knew who I was or even recognized what she�d done for me mattered little in the end. What did matter was that when I met homely little Prunella I discovered the whole world in a common weed and it changed my life.

Posted by pamwagg at 08:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2004

Grey Crinkled Paper #2

I wrote this a year ago or more, but the contents remain or have recently grown in importance, to me at any rate. My apologies to any, like PK, who might have received a version of it by e-mail at the time I wrote it.

MANIFESTO or Grey Crinkled Paper #2

First, personal business: the voices are back, music especially, but also the old �password� voice running along, like a TV show's "audio crawler." This is very distracting, even the music, yet at times, as commentary, it seems much more truthful than what is said by those whose voices are "real" or at least non-hallucinatory. I know I saw some show with my friend Joe that illustrated what these voices are like, within other contexts and in other times, but we�ve both forgotten which show it was (perhaps Star Trek �Voyager�?). As I wrote in my entry on "Voices," the movie, LULU ON THE BRIDGE, gives a brief but helpful example of the more muted, confused babbling form they sometimes take, as when, for example, Harvey Keitel is walking along that wall at night...

In any event, the �password� voice is my one-word short-hand for the way the voices sometimes sound to me: 1) monotone 2) stage-whispered 3) secretive yet as if imparting a truth others should not hear.

That said, let me explain what they talk about:

Grey Crinkled Paper, first of all, which must be spelled grEy not grAy, though the reason for this particular spelling is unknown to me. How it came to be part of my life was, as I belive I wrote in the first Grey Crinkled Paper entry, at age 16 or 17 when my body inflated like a Macy�s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon and my hands turned blue, which was the most important thing about the experience before the vision, revelation -- what have you, something that cannot be truly verbalized -- came to me in the words: Grey Crinkled Paper. It was what I understood to be a kind of holy trinity, very much like Father, Son, Holy Ghost, or Newton�s 3 laws of thermodynamics, or Einstein�s three: 1) the special theory of relativity, 2) the general theory and 3) the (never discovered) unified field theory.

Now, there are complications to this, because once I can get the problem of GCP solved at least in this world, I will be freed from the Supermetal Canister into which I was placed as punishment for some higher dimensional crime. Meanwhile, onto the walls of this canister are projected in All-Sensurround the �reality� of this 3-D earth-world, while electrodes, implanted in my skull, impart knowledge of cosmic history as well as of a �personal life,� consisting of "memories" as well as their significance.

(The other way to free myself, apart from solving the problem of Grey Crinkled Paper, would be to surgically remove these electrodes, which would be painful, but which would prove my worthiness to be welcomed back to those higher dimensions...)

To continue from previous paragraph:

�.which means that people �here� are actually no more than the equivalent of movie projections, only apparently real. When I am liberated, all of them will, along with the world and the rest of the canister�s projections, end, pfft!--with no more suffering than Humphrey Bogart "feels" when �Casablanca� finishes for the umpteenth time.

The �Canister� is made of �Supermetal� which has always been explained to me as �Titanium/Uranium." Whether this is a feasible earthly metal alloy or simply the English equivalent for something there we have no concept for I don�t know.

Involved with this are the Five People. They 1) are not in themselves stable as persons, that is in their appearances; they will take on a body when convenient and leave it when it is no longer useful, without the real �person� ever being aware of it, 2) these bodies are disguises, ever-fluid and changeable at will. For example, there was one security guard when I lived in supervised housing at the old nurses' dorm at the hospital that I knew was one of the Five People, and he knew I knew, which led him to torment me openly: bugging my room, video-monitoring me, giving me non-verbal messages whenever I passed him. I recognized him, and his face stayed the same that entire year, but as soon as I moved out, he left that body and now I no longer know where he is or in which body he is hiding.

I have had for some time now a vague suspicion that the part-time social worker in this building may be one of the Five People, if not the very same one�but the same one or anther it scarcely matters... 3) what I know of these Five People is little except that they used to be controlled by my father and were utilized to monitor me, and therefore theoretically they could be used to eliminate me at any time. However, my being the messenger of Grey Crinkled Paper might attentuate this power, making it impossible for someone-- whoever is behind them, whoever is controlling and sending them --to actually kill me.

Who or what these Five People are, why they are, where they come from, these non-human beings (emphatically not �aliens�) is not very clear to me right now beyond this. One thing I understand is that like most things in this context, they too must have some connection to the higher dimensions and Grey Crinkled Paper.

Grey Crinkled Paper BTW is a concept and is neither grey-colored nor paper-y nor crinkled. No single word of it can be taken separately to signify anything without the other two.

However, Grey Crinkled Paper doesn�t mean anything either, not even to me. It is only a message of supreme importance. It just is the vehicle, the memo given to the messenger who happens to be me, and until it is understood by all, can be understood by none and cannot be utilized as it should be to achieve world peace. The problem is that in order for anyone to �get� the true meaning, it must be translated 22 times by 22 native speakers of 22 different languages or dialects, two of which *must* be Arabic and Farsi (I don�t actually know if this last is a written or spoken language, moreover, I didn�t know what the word meant at all when I was first given the information and assignment at age 16).

This part is critical: The translation of Grey Crinkled Paper must be sequential in time and space and must be done without reference to or help from the original transfer-er of the message (ie me). You can think of the translation process like this: it's as if someone were to say �the quay of Normandy� and another person heard it as �key of Norman Dee� and then translated this into his or her native language. Such a misunderstanding is inevitable and it is not a error but is the entire point. Like the telephone game that kids play in which a phrase, whispered from child to child, comes out transformed at the end, so too will GCP be transformed. While the child's game�s message may be nonsense, in the 22-link chain of the Grey Crinkled Paper translation, the end result will make a sense that everyone will instantly understand and appreciate. In short it will reveal the true meaning of the phrase rather than obscuring it.

Can you understand this? The one necessary part of this process is the final translator in the chain, who must be a non-native speaker of English, who therefore would have no inherent drive to make "sense" of what he or she hears. She would only innocently convert what she is given into the English words she knows, which would turn out to be the final message, the Truth.

This is all so far focused in the Middle East, but not all the languages or dialects (so far as I can determine) need to come from that area. I know only that Farsi and Arabic *must* be among them.

Why the movie THE MATRIX is so important is related to all the above: this film takes Reality (ie GCP), which it has sucked out of my head, and converts it to a Concept, a falsification by definition, which is the first insult. But then it proceeds to distort this into fiction, to make it comical and falsely profound. Finally, it garners huge profits and a wide fan base for its makers, which is a triple or quadruple whammy against me, not to mention the sort of sacrilegious mockery no one would dare perpetrate against Catholicism or Islam or Judaism. The movie is indeed amazing, I agree, especially insofar as it gets certain things right, like the character of Morpheus, played, as you may recall, by Lawrence Fishburne. But the inaccuracies soon multiply and it begins to infuriate me even as it mesmerizes me to see anything like it made public. What amazes me still is that the movie was made at all, and apparently without fear of the disavowal and disrespect I know I�d have been treated to had I propounded the very same Truths.

That�s all I have to write about these subjects for now. But these are only partial thoughts and not the whole matter by any means.

Posted by pamwagg at 04:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 08, 2004

Newspaper article

I realize this is "cheating" but a friend found this 1998 article in the Hartford Courant (which published it under another title) when he was cleaning up his apartment, and he brought it up for me to reread. I thought that even though the specific circumstances have changed, and the article in that sense is dated, there was enough that remains relevant even today to show it to interested readers. In fact, given recent developments, I was amazed that I was the author, since it seems hard to believe I could write something as cogent today. Whatever is the case, I hope reading it here will prove helpful and/or useful.


by Pamela Spiro Wagner

We may never know, or at least never fully comprehend, what short-circuited synapse, what blip of corrupted information or neurochemical glitch inside the brain drove Russell Weston to gun down two Capitol police officers this July, or Michael Laudor to murder his fiancee only weeks earlier, and with her his unborn child.

Laudor was a Yale Law School graduate and activist on behalf of the mentally ill, and seems to be a man for whom adjectives like �brilliant� and �charismatic� crop up as reliably as Homeric epithets. Weston, in contrast, seems to have been largely unemployed and undistinguished, except as a loner with certain bizarre beliefs. Both men, long diagnosed with schizophrenia, had stopped taking medication. It also seems likely, at least in Michael Laudor�s case, that if he�d had adequate medication levels in his blood, Caroline Costello would be alive today, and Laudor a free man.

But why would someone so prodigiously intelligent, with such a promising future, stop taking the pills that were so essential to his well-being and sanity? Why would anyone? For Laudor, it wasn�t from lack of �insight,� as the shrinks like to say; by 1995, he was speaking openly about having schizophrenia, even in an interview with the New York Times. He knew he was ill and must have known, intellectually at least, the risks he was taking.

The information about Weston is sketchy at best, but it is clear that he had little effective follow-up after his discharge from a Montana state hospital.

I can�t speak for Laudor, much less for Weston, but after more than 20 years of struggling with schizophrenia, I�ve learned that the waxing or waning of symptoms is often as unpredictable to patients as to physicians. Relapses are usually caused by many factors but my guess is that Laudor�s relapse was induced by his success. Easily overwhelmed by stimulation or ordinary stress, as are many people with schizophrenia, and not recognizing his limits, or not accepting them, he may have over-extended himself, with tragic consequences.

Hold it! I can hear the objection: Most people occasionally over-extend themselves, yet they don�t commit murder.

But by at least one criterion, Michael Laudor and Russell Weston are not �most people�: most people don�t suffer from schizophrenia.

Although it doesn�t seem that Weston had any opportunity to try the newest medications, Laudor was taking risperidone, one of the new antipsychotic �wonder drugs.� He appeared normal, more or less unimpaired. But because he was so competent, people may have forgotten the shadow cast over his life by an incurable mental illness that even the best drugs treat imperfectly.

Schizophrenia is a brain disease, as anyone who is up to date will tell you. But the brain is the seat of the mind and the mind the source of one�s self and of all that makes us human. To suggest that such an illness, with its profound impact on a person�s mind and sense of self, is a biochemical imbalance no more troublesome than diabetes, is to invite cruel, though unintended and unforeseen, consequences. Russell Weston Jr. coped largely by keeping to himself. But the same was not true for Michael Laudor, who seemed to be outgoing by nature and to enjoy the spotlight. But because effectively treated schizophrenia can be controlled, and therefore concealed, the impact of the disability it inflicts is frequently discounted.

Imagine, if you can, that you have schizophrenia, as more than 2.5 million Americans do. The older �typical� medications, most of them similar to Thorazine, are not only less effective, but often produce side effects like the infamous �Thorazine shuffle,� as well as tremor, dry mouth, weight gain, an excruciating physical restlessness, and for some, the disfiguring disorder known as tardive dyskinesia. I suspect that Weston, like many, found this �cure� worse than the disease, if he believed he was ill at all.

But imagine that after years of illness, a new medication alleviates the worst of your symptoms, as it seems to have for Laudor. If you�ve always been a high achiever, you push ahead. Soon there�s a lucrative book proposal, a million-dollar-plus movie deal. You�ve gotten engaged, your fiancee is pregnant and you�re being hailed as a role model for all mentally ill people, a source of inspiration and hope. And yes, it is a thrill, it�s huge, it�s exciting and you would do it all, if only you could...

But the same miracle drug that helps you function makes you tire easily, gain weight and sleep more than you�d like. Maybe you feel you can�t ask for a breather because if others cope with the pressure, you should be able to as well and if you admit to being less than capable, you�ll disappoint people who are counting on you.

Wondering how you could better manage to live up to the demands success has imposed, it occurs to you -- as it will at some point to most people with schizophrenia -- that if you temporarily stop taking your medication, maybe you could catch up, get some work done. At first, you cut back on your pills just a little, but it snowballs until you�re no longer taking any. Whether you�re Michael Laudor or Russell Weston Jr. the stage at this point is set for disaster.

If something can be learned from these tragedies to help avert a �next time,� it may lie, first, in acknowledging the often agonizing side effects of standard medications, which are inexpensive and therefore the only option for most cash-strapped state hospitals. Then society needs to acknowledge that if the side effects of medication *feel* intolerable, the likelihood is enormous that patients -- with or without �insight� -- will stop taking them, and be reluctant to return to treating physicians for fear of being forced to do so.

And finally to recognize the terrible irony of Laudor�s situation. While the �public� celebrated him as a shining exemplar of what a person with schizophrenia can achieve, it seems simultaneously to have treated him as if he no longer suffered from mental illness at all, and certainly not from the serious but less visible vulnerabilities that come with the package. In short, he was acceptable as a �schizophrenia poster boy,� but only so long as he wasn�t noticeably schizophrenic!

Russell Weston Jr. and Michael Laudor have a chronic illness that by its nature can obscure one�s judgment, including the ability to evaluate one�s own mental health. Sane as he apparently seemed until a few weeks ago, Laudor was not �in recovery,� he was �in treatment.� Weston was as isolated by his illness as by Montana�s wilderness.

My sense, and my sorrow, is that both might have been better served by someone who more vigilantly monitored the build-up of stresses, both external and internal, knowing how schizophrenia works, how the sufferer is often the last to recognize when enough is enough.

(I welcome any public comments on this piece, but readers who prefer to communicate privately may contact me at

Posted by pamwagg at 07:52 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 04, 2004

Notice to Readers

I hope to continue adding to my blog in the coming weeks and months, but I did want to notify readers (lest they worry) that 1) due to an active case of neurological Lyme disease, which so far has been unresponsive to antibiotics, even when taken in a protocol that necessitates 3 different AB's simultaneously, including a weekly IM injection of hard-to-find Bicillin, and 2) because my sister and I are hard at work with our editor at St Martin's Press revising and editing our book manuscript, which we hope will be finished in a month or so (all things being equal and proceeding on schedule without unforeseen delays) I may be "silent" for longer periods than I would like.

I will do my very best to keep up with entries here, but since my stamina is not very good, and my first priority, besides my health, is the book, I do want to warn you guys that I might not write for a while. I do intend to continue here, but I might have to allow myself a hiatus until the end of August in order to deal with these other matters without getting completely overwhelmed.

I hope you will continue to check my blog site for new additions, in case I do have the time to write, but in case I don't until September, rest assured that, as a certain body-building actor-turned-governor is famed for saying: I'll be back!

Thanks to each and every one of you who reads WagBLOG!

Posted by pamwagg at 07:32 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack