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Pab Sungenis Posts

There’s Got to Be a Mourning After

After a much longer writing process than I ever would have imagined at the beginning, I finally typed the last words of dialogue from the two characters that have haunted my brain for the past nine years. Crush Story is at last complete, and I’m starting the querying process that I’ve always hated so much.

And yet, as I prepare for my next project (which is currently going to be called The Unbearable Lightness of Beowulf) I find myself still dealing with the characters whose stories I’ve just put to bed.

Granted, I’ve had these two boys essentially living in my head for nine years, and the concept for a decade before that. Maybe they presume they’ve earned squatter’s rights having taken up that space for so long.

Or maybe it’s a situation where I’m finding myself in mourning for these characters who shared my life for so long and now are no longer around. Is my imagining what Jason would do upon finding himself up against the main antagonist of the new book a form of denial? Do I still need to go through anger, bargaining, and so on before I can finally put those characters behind me?

Still, I am going to have to find a way to, if not evict them from my brain, push them off to the side so I can make room for Daniel, Ollie, and the other characters whose story now needs to unfold.

If there are any writers out there with any insight on my situation, I would love to hear from you. Are you mourning your characters after you’ve finished their story? Or are they still living in your brain after all this time?


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The Great Vowel Deception

Once you get past rote memorization and singing along to Mozart’s most nototious composition, most likely the first thing you learn about the English alphabet is that it has 21 consonants and 5 vowels.

This is a blatant lie.

Even though some will hedge their bets, implying that one or more letters are actually dual-purpose and “sometimes” act as vowels, the hard fact is that there are really only 19 consonants in English, and seven vowels: A, E, I, O, U, W, and Y.

The Sounds of W and Y

While some folks will insist that W and Y are usually consonants, the fact is that what we think of as the consonantal qualities of those two letters actually comes down to the laziness of the average English speaker; W and Y are vowels and it is slurring of their sounds that makes English speakers think they are consonants. W is a vowel representing the sound usually written in English as “oo” and Y is a vowel equivalent to the Greek letter upsilon, roughly equivalent to the long sound of the letter “E.”

Don’t believe me? Let’s try a few examples.

We’ll start with W, since that’s the one people have the hardest time with. Many people think that it’s only a vowel in Welsh words, like “cwm” or “crwth.” Yes, in those cases W’s status as a vowel is easy to see. But they are not the exception. In every case, W is pronounced like “ooh.” That’s because it is, as its name tells us up front, a double “U.”

Now let’s consider the word “water.” Say it aloud. Now consider it spelled “uater.” Say that word aloud. Now say it quickly. Now quicker. You will find the “u” slurring along with the “a” sound to create what you’ve come to think of as the “w” sound. It also works with two “o’s” representing the u sound.

It works for any word starting with W: wash (ooash), wet (ooet), west (ooest — in fact, the Spanish word is oeste pronounced the same way we say it with an “e” on the end). In every case where W starts a word, it’s an “oo” sound which blends in with the following vowel. It’s only because English tongues have gotten so lazy that we think of this slurring as a distinct consonant.

And when W is in the middle of a word? It’s usually forming a diphthong with another vowel. “Saw,” “sow,” “power,” “sewing,” “Hawthorne.” In each case the W is a part of a diphthong, not a distinctive sound.

Now let’s try Y.

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that both letters are relative newcomers to the Alphabet. The Romans called Y “Greek I,” and in Castilian Spanish it’s still called “i griega” as a result. And every word where we call Y a consonant, it’s actually an “i” sound at the beginning of the word that gets a little slurred: “ies,” “iak,” “iacht,” “ioke,” “iouth, “iankee doodle,” “she loves you ieah ieah ieah.”

So it’s time we finally admitted the basic fact of the matter. English has seven vowels: “A, E, I, O, U, W, and Y.” No “and sometimes” needed. Period.

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The creepiest radio show in history

In anticipation of making new posts here I’m sharing some posts from my old “PaBlog” that until now have been lost to posterity. This one is from March of 2011.

In a forum I take part in about British television and radio, there have been veritable paroxysms of joy about reruns of a particular “old time” radio show (although the BBC produces the genre we like to call “old time radio” to this day) that I think has to be the absolute creepiest thing ever broadcast. It’s called The Clitheroe Kid. Your typical smart-ass-kid family sitcom, the type that’s usually a dime a dozen, the Clitheroe Kid ran from 1957 until 1972.

You read that right. The star, Jimmy Clitheroe, played a mealy-mouthed smart-assed punk kid for 15 years. And if Clitheroe hadn’t killed himself on the day of his mother’s funeral he probably would have kept on playing it even longer.

You see, Jimmy Clitheroe had a thyroid condition. As a result, he never grew taller than 4-foot-3 and his voice never broke. This allowed him to keep playing the kid role long after he became an adult.

Creepy so far? Yes, but as the Ginzu Knife man says “wait, there’s more.” You see, the radio show started in 1957, but Clitheroe was born in 1921.

That’s right. Jimmy Clitheroe started starring in this ridiculously long running radio show, as a punk wise-ass kid, at the age of 36.

Before you go bringing up Gary Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis, two other actors with medical conditions that kept them short and relatively childlike, remember that both of them actually were children when they achieved fame on television; Coleman was 10 when Diff’rent Strokes debuted and Lewis was 12 when Webster came along. They actually were child stars. Clitheroe was a very short man with a high pitched voice (which became even higher through affectation) playing a kid all his life.

If you want a comparison, let’s use Gary Coleman as an example. If he had pursued the same career path that Clitheroe did, Diff’rent Strokes would have debuted in 2004, with Coleman still playing 10 year old Arnold Drummond. And (presuming he didn’t die as he did last year) he would keep playing 10 year old Arnold Drummond until 2019. Everyone else on the show would move on or die as the case may be, but Coleman would still be shuckin’ and jivin’ with “what you talkin’ ’bout…” lines playing a middle-aged 10 year old into his 50′s.

What little I’ve listened to The Clitheroe Kid, it strikes me as pretty much run of the mill fare for a 1950-something radio sitcom. The jokes are very much music-hall in delivery and the plots are formulaic. The character of Jimmy is one of the most annoying brats in broadcast history and you just want to haul back and smack him. If I didn’t know Clitheroe’s story, I would just find the show lackluster and irritating. Knowing that all those nasty remarks are coming from a guy who was right around my age when he was making them is like shoving two fingers down the throat of my good taste, hoping to purge the program (excuse me, this is the BBC we’re talking about, so programme) from my memory.

And that, my friends, is the creepiest thing in broadcast history.

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