Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Unsung!: Jan

Warning! This one is a gonna get gooshy.

Readers who have enjoyed my column for the past two years (and who hasn’t, really?* During this time, so many readers have sent personal e-mails and letters, detailing how this column and my previous column “Shitting on the Classics” helped them recover from dark spots in their lives: the ugly divorces, the deaths of loving parents and treasured family pets, and pulled them back from the abyss when, one night after too much soul searching and absinthe, they contemplated… Well, that’s just what I do. Glad this little column could help.) need to know about the unsung person behind the “Unsung!” column -- my wife, Jan.

Jan has copy-edited all of my columns thus far. When I say, “copy-edited,” I mean she has subjected them to her rigorous critical faculties as a professional writer and magazine editor. She has sent them through her personal “syntax and diction gauntlet.” She has made every single column better—much better. She is the “manuscript officer,” responsible for policing my work:
Copy-editing is a meticulous and trying process. Last week’s column on Heaven’s Gate is a good example. I tend to keep track of how long these columns take me to write, so that the bill I send Patrick at the end of the month will be accurate. The Heaven’s Gate column took two hours to write. (I do not know if that is slow or fast.) My point is that it took Jan and I two more hours to copy-edit. It was a laborious, process, fraught with anger and hurt feelings. Somewhere in the middle, we got divorced, then reconciled, re-married, and continued to work on the column. Plus, she also watched the movie with me, so while I put in eight hours to write last week’s column, Jan put in six! There’s a wife for you. At our current day rate of 23 cents an hour, soon Patrick will no longer be able to afford us. And by “us,” I mean “Jan.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote of the primary and secondary imagination when it came to the task of writing. “Primary imagination,” he observed, was the writer just getting all the thoughts on paper—the subconscious projectile vomiting on the page—“Get it out! Get the poison out.” The “secondary imagination” was the mind and process by which the writer molded the work into something other people could understand. In a very real sense, Jan is my secondary imagination. It is not that I lack the imagination; I lack the patience.

Jan fixes my grammar, and I am an English teacher. Jan will frequently pause and say, “What are you trying to say here?” This is a good thing—in last week’s column she found a section that seemed to be saying that I was IN FAVOR of animal abuse in movies, as long as the movie was good. That is NOT what I believe! Thanks, honey.

In Stephen King’s On Writing, he talk of an “ideal audience,” the single person for whom each writer is secretly writing. I remember reading once that Kurt Vonnegut always imagined his late sister as his “ideal audience.” For the longest time I thought that JoJo, the monkey-faced boy, was my ideal audience, after having been my imaginary friend while growing up. I now realize that my ideal audience is Jan.

Jan is not shy in telling me that a joke I have written is not funny enough. (She likes a show with jokes.) She will then help me come up with a better one. My favorite example of this (and yet another example of how self-deprecating she can be) is from a recent column on Shattered Glass. I wrote:

“Could it be that the sole reason I love this film is that it supports and vindicates one of the worst aspects of my own personality? I have a tendency to think the worst of people (just ask my thieving wife) and ascribe the worst motives to all the behavior that is going on around me…”

Jan is the one who added the parenthetical aside about my thieving wife, and SHE IS MY WIFE! What I am trying to say here is… she steals. Just kidding. She has peppered all these columns with her humor and her insight, and I just wanted to use the last column here to thank her for this seasoning.

THE GOOSHY STUFF: I love her to pieces. Marrying Jan was the single best decision I have made in my life. I cannot imagine my life without her. Jan has given me everything in my life that is good. She is my “movie buddy.” She has made for me, in the words of Sandra Cisneros, “a home in the heart.” We have been married for twenty-six years—not one day has been boring. Maybe one.

FUN GAME YOU CAN PLAY AT HOME: Jan did not copy-edit this column. I want it to be a surprise. How many mistakes can you find in this week’s column?

No one has been a bigger fan of and booster for F This Movie. Jan has attended screenings, sent columns to her friends on Facebook to spread the word, designed and ordered buttons for our Die Hard screening, spearheaded the drive to get us all commemorative t-shirts for the first F This Movie fest/100th podcast celebration, and the list goes on and on. Last fall, she gave Riske her pancreas!

And so ends “Unsung.” This is the last column. I like to do these in series of 52; it appeals to my OCD. 52 “Shitting on the Classics” and now 52 “Unsungs!” I may occasionally resurrect one of these back (I brought “Shitting” out of mothballs a few months ago, so enraged was I by The Great Gatsby) if something makes me angry enough, or I want to champion something.

I will be absent from this website for the majority of August. I will be back in September, gentle readers, with something that you are all really going to like.**

*If you haven’t enjoyed these columns, by all means, comment below. There is nothing I like better than criticism, except ice cream and sex.

**I cannot guarantee that you will like it.


  1. Just reading the title of this article made me start to choke up.
    I dont think I mentioned it in the Shattered Glass comments (which I subsequently went and watched for the first time...thanks for the tip), but the "thieving wife" line made me laugh out loud.

    This is one of the reasons I love this site, the heart on your sleeve sincerity so many of you show, and this article takes the cake.
    Here's to the JBs

    1. Thank you, Brad. That's nice of you to say.

  2. Thanks for the pancreas Jan! It's going to be a Comic Con exclusive next year.

    JB-now that I know the meaning, stop calling me JoJo.

    1. Can I still be glad that you left your home in Tucson, Arizona for some California grass?

  3. This is a wonderful and heartfelt send-off, and the column will be greatly missed. Thanks for all the recommendations and reexaminations of these hidden gems! And thaks to Jan for investing so much time, as well! Looking forward to your return and whatever surprise you bring back with you!

  4. This is fantastic, and so are you and Jan. Bree and I had a conversation a few days ago about how we think that you two are our future selves. We see an awful lot of ourselves in you guys and the way you interact with each other, and also including the way you describe you write your columns. I spend a few hours on the words, then we have lengthy editor's meetings in which my feelings get hurt; then I realize that she's right and has made something I wrote better. There is nothing in this world more valuable than the love of a partner who shares your interests and stretches your borders. I'm so happy that you two have each other, and I'm happy that you share some of that with us all.
    I love you guys.

    1. Heath-- Stop copying us and GET YOUR OWN MARRIAGE.
      Also, right back at ya, pal.

  5. Awww, really sweet article, JB, I've commented before about how lucky you are to have her (specifically regarding a certain collectible she lets you keep in the living room) and though you would never say as much, I know she'd say she's just as lucky to have you!

    I'll miss the column, JB - though I didn't always have a comment, I read every one and all have been added to my "Movies I Want to Watch Eventually When I'm Able to Get My Hands on a Copy or Find it on Netflix and Am Not Too Busy Making Other Lists with Unwieldy Titles and Hmm Maybe I Should Shorten the Name of this One" List. Unlike the "Shitting on the Classics" movies - all of those have been added to my "Hey I Should Probably Watch That Movie, I Think I've Heard Good Things About It, But Wait a Minute, JB Says It's a Piece of Crap So Now I'm Going to Avoid These Movies Like They're Adam Riske's Basketball Socks" List.

    Now that Jan has a brief respite from editing your columns, maybe she can work on editing my comments on this site. My material could probably use some punching up. And hey, if the stars should ever align in just the right way and my spousal equivalent dies in a tragic staircase accident and Patrick dies in a tragic boating accident and me and Erika get together but things don't really work out between us after a few years because I spank the kids too much and then my experimental 3-way marriage with Heath and his wife doesn't work out because I spank Heath too much and then you die in a tragic boating accident while we're commemorating the 10-year anniversary of Patrick's death at the site of the incident (which some thought suspicious but nothing was ever proven), MAYBE after all that, Jan will be looking for a new boy toy and we could hook up and I could enjoy all of your collectibles and her editing skills and whatever other particular set of skills she may have that I can only fantasize about.

    Thanks JB and Jan - I'm grateful for the opportunity to share in the fruits of your collaborations!

    P.S. I also really laughed at the "just ask my thieving wife" line from that column - brilliant!

    1. Sol--

      It means a lot to hear that you like the columns--

    2. Colour me "tantalized"! My pants you can just colour "brown".

  6. I'm just as sad to see Unsung! go as I was to see Shitting On The Classics go (which is to say nigh-inconsolable, I love these columns) but I can't wait to see what's next. Your love-letter to Jan was heartfelt, moving, and riddled with typos and syntax errors, proving every word of it to be true. Thanks for making me well up at work ya big lug.

  7. JB You are the film teacher I never had and always wanted. Get back from hiatus soon! Great article as well, you are a lucky dog indeed.

    1. Matt--

      Really nice of you to say.

      --Lucky Dog

  8. Now I see why JB didn't ask me to look over this column before turning it in: he knows I never would have let him send it! Thanks for all the great comments, F-Heads, especially the positive feedback on the column. JB feeds, vampire-like, on the life-energies of fellow film goers, and your kind words will ensure that after the August hiatus he will be fully regenerated and ready to knock your movie-loving socks off again. Thanks to Patrick for creating a site that would run this column, and fostering a community of readers that would respond so kindly. Sol, regarding your third paragraph, STOP READING MY DIARY. And to JB.... baby, you're the greatest.