The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The Spy Next Door" (2010)

I understand Tarantino wants to direct a western next...and possibly set it during slave times. I have no clear memory of the last movie set in this era. Talk about a subject America is...hmmm, call it "reluctant to address." So much guilt, blame, and shame around the is fascinating that, apparently, 95% of white Americans are descended from immigrants who arrived after 1860, or never saw a slave. Wow. Apparently, slave owners just didn't reproduce. Some of those voodoo curses must have worked after all.


Saw "The Spy Next Door" over the weekend with Jason. Sad seeing Jackie Chan walk down the "Kindergarten Cop," "Pacifier" "Tooth Fairy" (and what was the one with Hulk Hogan?) route. Sadder still to realize that Chan is still making decent films in China, while Hollywood has basically never figured out what to do with him. Well, I kinda liked "Shanhai Knights" and "Forbidden Kingdom." And "Drunken Master II" will always exist...but "The Spy Next Door" was a C-. Sorry, Jackie, better luck with "Karate Kid." If, of course, you can explain that title...


One of the students over on the 101 purchased and is using Scott Sonnon's "TacFit" program. And skipped directly to Day 3. Excuse me: what part of "follow the instructions" do we need to say again? This is intense material fit for Spec Ops and SWAT units. Do you really think someone can just waltz into that level of physical preparedness? PLEASE be careful, and my suggestion is to do much less than you think you can do for the first ten days. Unless you are intensely physical already, you probably have no slightest idea what high-level tactical fitness is. This is arguably the most sophisticated system I've ever seen, but boy oh boy, do you need to approach it with respect.


I read a recent article about how we shouldn't make a list of the things we want in a partner, because needless specificity can...I'm not sure. Confuse and/or disappoint us? I can buy that. But if there are qualities it is vital for you to have in a partner (honesty? Passion? Emotional availability? Kindness? Intelligence?) I fail to see how it can hurt to raise these to conscious awareness. I clearly remember a lady who had had a string of short-term, intense relationships who complained that making lists "didn't work" because she still hadn't found a partner. I observed that her list didn't include one critical thing: the ability to sustain a bond. Amazing how we cheat ourselves of what we want the most.


Finally finished the basic recording for the new "Hero's Journey" course. Wow. Now THAT was intense. Had to structure and create seven trance tapes to integrate the material on an unconscious level. Been a while sense I've done something like that, but it's amazing how fast it comes back. Like riding a bicycle, I guess.


Jason actually attended his first Judo Class last Friday, and spent all weekend asking when the next one is. Jeeze, this kid is physical. Far more than I was as a kid, and I have to remember that, and be certain I have allies who can help me channel the energy. Never seen his so active for such a long, focused time. The people are so nice. This is one instance where it feels like a plan is coming together. I'd always said that if I could start my martial arts career over again, I would have started in Judo. At maybe the age of eight. So Jason is six, and doing it. Another thing I wanted was for him to study at a Japanese community center. And that's what I found. Sigh. Life is good. Sure hope that it works for him. Right now, I can threaten to withhold it as a means of punishment, and that's cool. But he cannot play "Judo" with kids at school. Cannot even touch them in a "Judo" way. I guess he can show them tumbling, and that would be alright.


Had a really laid-back weekend. Look forward to jumping back into my life...might take me a day to ramp back up, though. You guys have a good weekend?


Anonymous said...

Well, per the 1860 census data slave owners constituted just over 1.5% percent of the white population so it is entirely possible that the comment that 95% are descended from post-1860 immigrants or people who 'never saw a slave' is more or less accurate, especially in northern states .

Pagan Topologist said...

Spent weekend time with my wonderful wife (still a sort of newlywed; hope I stay that way forever.) We had been apart for three weeks because of snow and job-realted issues. We don't live together, so time we can be together is precious.

Steve Perry said...

Coming from hillbilly/Oakie/coonass roots, twarn't no slave owners in our family, so that's one liberal guilt I don't have to carry ...

Dan Moran said...

Sometime in the 70s there was a con man movie set in the south where the white guy kept selling his black partner, the black partner would escape, and then they'd move on together to the next town....

Can't recall the title or the actors.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Ultimately, any time you don't have barriers stopping it, people intermarry so that everyone is descended from everyone. Most of my ancestors weren't in this country yet at the time of the Civil War, and more than half of those who were here were in the North. But there's still that particular line that, when I traced back far enough, turned out to be slaveowners.

I doubt I'm unusual, among white Americans, either in having most of my ancestors nowhere near a slave back in the days of slavery, or in the fact that some of my ancestors turn out to have been plenty entangled with slavery.

Dan Moran said...

Steve Barnes,

The population of the U.S. in 1860 was 10% of what it is today. (31 million.) 384,000 were slaveowners. Multiply the 385K by 10 and you get 4 million (very roughly) people whose ancestors were slaveowners.

The current population of the U.S. with slave owning ancestors is roughly 1.3% of the population ... meaning 98.7% of the population doesn't have slave owning ancestors.

There are assumptions here -- the descendants of slave owners (who were not themselves slaves) expanded in number at roughly the rate of the society as a whole, for example. It also doesn't filter for the decline of whites as a % of population. Still, you use the 95% figure as if you think it's a ridiculously high number, and at first blush, it may not be high enough.

Steve Perry,

I wouldn't feel guilty even if I had slave owning ancestors. I feel guilty about the things I've done wrong in my life, and that's it. I completely reject the idea of associational or inherited guilt. My children are not responsible for my sins, nor I for my father's.

Dan Moran said...

If my mother ever sinned, I've never noticed it. She's a great lady. :-)

Bennett said...

I picked up TacFit as well, this weekend, so that's pretty much how it went. Hoo boy is there a lot of material in that series (I sprang for all the Extras, including the Diet plan too... be interesting to balance that with IF, or figure out what to do. There are fresh fruit and veggie only days, that might cut it... hrm.)

And it does take a certain mental discipline not to just leap into it, too. I've forced myself to start at Recruit, and /follow the instructions/. All of 'em. Scott Sonnon is very much a Man Who Knows What He's Doing, I gotta say. If I never thank anyone for anything again, I gotta thank you, Steve, for indirectly introducing me to his work. It's been a big boost in a lot of areas.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I'd suggest that the Slate article "Why We're All Jesus' Children: Go back a few millenniums, and we've all got the same ancestors" ( is relevant.

Since the days of slavery aren't a few millennia ago, the effect isn't going to be nearly as strong as it would be for Jesus (if he had any descendants), but it's still the case that small groups of people from a few centuries ago (say, convicted Salem witches, or people who came over on the Mayflower) probably have a larger percentage of the population descended from them along some line than just the percentage they made up of our collective ancestors at that time.

So the portion of the population descended from slaveowners would probably be higher than you'd get just from multiplying the 385K by 10. (The flip side of this is that probably a significant percentage of the white population of the US is also descended from black slaves along one line or another, via someone or other who managed to "pass." I'd speculate that that set of people is also probably well over 4 million.)

Dan Moran said...


Yeah, I know the principle. I, for example, having a little Spanis blood, probably am a descendant of Charlemagne. So is Barnes, most likely, though we almost certainly are related more recently than that as well. But you need to go back quite a long ways before this principle starts to become meaningful; having not done the math, I'm skeptical the ~7 generations since the Civil War are long enough to make a large difference in the ~1.3% number I estimated. Say it doubles it, which I doubt -- we still end up with the overwhelming % of white people not having slave owners among their ancestry.

This also doesn't mean that I, as a white person, didn't benefit from slavery/Jim Crow in some way. I'm broadly in favor of affirmative action because I think that it's true that I did. But it's a fuzzier relationship than Steve's 95% (which he presents as an unrealistically large number) would imply, for almost any white person selected at random.

Marty S said...

I'm not sure what all this ancestor stuff has to do with anything. Since I am Jewish I almost certainly have at least one ancestor who was a slave. I also probably share an ancestor with Jesus. All this has little relevance to who I am.

Anonymous said...

I don't know the exact numbers, but I do know my ancestry reasonably well. My paternal grandmother's family were the Grosses of St. Louis (i.e., they were French colonists in St. Louis back when it still belonged to France), and they might well have owned slaves.

The other three grandparents? Grandfather Schwarz, descended from Henrich Schwarz of Hesse who emigrated in ~1876. Grandfather Maloney, whose father fled Ireland in -- very roughly -- 1900 (we're not sure exactly when; he was in a hurry and our well-meaning relatives burned his papers, including letters from Jack London, after he died). Grandmother Maloney nee Brozovich, whose parents left Croatia in steerage around 1905 back when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

So, yes, some of us whites are primarily descended from post-1865 immigrants, and aren't just making stuff up.

And if you think that's annoying, just try talking to people who immigrated to the U.S. from India, east Asia or Latin America. You're not going to have much luck convincing them that they're all clones of Simon Legree.

--Erich Schwarz

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I'm not sure what all this ancestor stuff has to do with anything.

Not a lot, if we're thinking about some sort of inherited guilt. For all I know, Steve Barnes himself might have a higher proportion of white slave owner ancestry than most of the white people in this thread.

Also, if slaves had actually gotten those 40 acres and a mule, a century and a half ago, instead of another century of Jim Crow, I wouldn't feel any more responsibility over slavery than I think Turks owe me because half my ancestors were under their rule around then.

But that isn't what happened, and in fact, even those white people with no slave owning ancestors at all got a lingering unfair advantage. Any ongoing responsibility I feel has more to do with that ongoing history than with the fact that I managed to trace an ancestor on a particular line who in fact owned slaves.

On the other hand, if, say, it turned out that a lot fewer white people are willing to claim slave owner ancestors than ancestors who took part in the Underground Railroad (presumably also a minority of white Americans at the time, probably a smaller percentage than slave owners), then that would say something about how we like to romanticize our ancestors. And one could draw a similar conclusion if everyone's individual slave owner ancestors were ever so much nicer to their slaves than most slave owners actually were. So the accuracy of people's perceptions of their ancestors is of some interest, even if none of us can do anything about how well or badly our ancestors behaved.

Incidentally, the slave owning line did leave behind an account of the Civil War, written by a many times great-aunt of mine who was about twelve at the time, and it was interesting to read how she wrote about the family's "servant," "Aunt Sukey"; it was clear to me that she had no awareness of how her family must have looked from the "servant's" point of view.

Shady_Grady said...

I think 95% would be a little high. But 1860 is an arbitrary cut off year. What about the people that owned slaves from 1619~1860 and either sold them or lost them prior to 1860? What about the people that never personally owned slaves but invested in plantations or slave trading ventures? What about the people that were too poor to own slaves by the 1860's but made a living hunting down runaways or regulating slave movements? What about the folks who worked as overseers, slave breakers or manufacturers/sellers of manacles, whips and chains? What about the people that may have been indifferent to slavery but had no problem enforcing the Fugitive Slave act?

All these people had descendants and I would think that as such 200 years later the ratio is a little higher than some might think.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Shady Grady, you have a point, especially considering that slavery was legal in the northern states for quite a while.

On the other hand, there's been a lot of immigration to the US from Europe.

The true number might be more like 90% than 95%.

Steven Barnes said...

I tend to agree with Shady Grady. But I also think there is a far better chance that I have some white slave owner blood than the average white person. In fact, the Average American black would be more likely to "descend" from slave owners. Because, by today's standards, rape was epidemic. That said, not all "rape" was forcible--much was situational. A woman enslaved has few options to improve her life. Even if she seduces her owner, there is a level of power differential that makes it impossible to purely consider this a voluntary decision.

Mike Ralls said...

Keep in mind that in pre-colonial and early Republic days there were slave-owners in the North as well. Not many, but if John Pilgrim owned one slave in 1673 in New York, either his line went extinct in a generation or two, or a WHOLE lot of people are his decedents today.

There are no genetic markers for being a slave owner, but if we look at a comparable situation, quite large % of "White" Americans have some recent (last 400 years) African heritage as well. Not much, but light skinned "Blacks" have passed for White for hundreds of years now, they've blended into the general population, and their genes have defused and spread. Over time the number of whites who had at least one recent African ancestor increased and increased exponentially.
"About one-third of White Americans are of between two and twenty percent recent African genetic admixture, as measured by the ancestry-informative markers in their DNA.19 This comes to about 74 million Americans."

I would be surprised if less than 1/3rd of Whites couldn't find at least one slave-owner ancestor in the last 400 years.

Mind you, if you want to get very long term I feel confident in stating that every single human alive today has at least one slave-owner ancestor. I also feel confident in saying that every single human alive today has at least one slave ancestor as well. We are all the sons and daughters of the conquered and the conqueror.

Pagan Topologist said...

"~7 generations since the Civil War"

Speak for yourself. My paternal grandfather was born in 1849. His older brother was killed in the Civil War.

Edwina said...

To my mind one and all ought to look at this.