Luckily for Aleki Taumoepeau, a New Zealand man, love might be bottomless but the ocean is not. Over a year ago, Aleki, a newly-wed ecologist, was conducting an environmental sweep of the Wellington harbor when he accidentally dropped his wedding ring into the water. His wife Rachel remembers:
“It flew off into the air and everyone on the boat was looking at it and said it was like a scene from Lord of the Rings in slow motion.”
Many people would probably have heaved a sigh and given it up for lost, but Aleki was determined to find the ring. He tossed an old anchor overboard to mark the spot, noted the GPS coordinates of the catastrophe, and hoped for the best. His first opportunity to look came three months later, when he returned to Wellington for a conference.
Borrowing some equipment, he attempted a dive but the conditions were poor, and his coordinates, it turned out, were faulty. But did he give up hope? He sure didn’t. Over a year later, with his wife and baby watching on the shore, he made the trek out one more time. This time, aided with some new coordinates from Google Earth and Niwa, he actually managed to find the anchor, with (surprisingly enough) the ring shining next to it. What are the odds that he would find that exact spot?And the chances of the ring not having shifted position, gotten covered by sand, been eaten by a fish, and so on and so forth?
Perhaps what’s most noteworthy is that this man was so determined to find this specific ring that his wife gave him on their wedding day.The article in The Dominion Post mentioned that Aleki’s wife had offered to buy him a brand new one.Things are just, you know, things.So what might explain his fixation on finding this exact object?
I wonder if they used some variation on the wedding vows one often sees in movies and TV shows, where the officiator pronounces, “May this/these ring(s) be blessed as the symbol of this affectionate unity,” and the bride and groom declare, “I give you this ring as the pledge of my love and as the symbol of our unity and with this ring, I thee wed.”
It’s possible to underestimate the power of these kinds of symbols; obviously, Aleki’s love for his wife is not only bound up in the ring.But it was, apparently, important for Aleki to have that specific ring imbued with those specific emotions present in his life; important enough to have him brave the Wellington harbor waters a full sixteen months after he lost the thing.
Or maybe he just felt foolish and/or superstitious losing his ring just three months after getting married. Either way, his dogged quest for the One True Ring should bode well for his marriage.
The aspiring actress told an operator: “I can’t breathe. I’ve been stabbed. Please help me. I’m dying. He’s stabbed me to death.”
There’s something about the murder mystery that holds a unique place in our popular lore, from Hitchcock to Agatha Christie to CSI. Such mysteries are fun and intellectually diverting in a removed, antiseptic way.
In this popular genre, the victim’s words from the grave are a persistent, haunting plot element. There’s a peculiar resonance to such soliloquy, straddling the final line between life and death, just waiting to be listened to, and parsed endlessly.
On that last fateful phone call, the police operator asked the dying actress who did it. The actress, Amy Leigh Barnes, replied clearly:
“My boyfriend . . . I’m going . . . I can’t see.”
In the real world, aspiring actress and glamor model Amy Leigh Barnes was murdered by her boyfriend Ricardo Morrison. The sentencing Judge told Morrison:
“You controlled and abused Amy over a period of months. It was a sustained campaign of prolonged physical, emotional and psychological abuse.”
Barnes, who was from Manchester, England, had just turned 19.
His mother, Melda Wilks, a police officer herself, was acquitted for letting Morrision wash his bloody clothes at her house after the murder.
In the real world, domestic violence is more brutal, less tidy, and far less clever than in murder mysteries.
I write this post while watching Bones, a procedural crime/odd couple buddy TV show about a (female) prosaic forensic anthropologist and a (male) cocky FBI agent. It’s a show known for grisly murders, quirky characters – and a dark sense of humor.
But it only works because it’s not real.
I’m not suggesting that there’s anything inherently wrong with enjoying light murder mysteries. Life is full of such uneasy dichotomies, after all. I only suggest that it sometimes makes sense to step back and drop the fiction that dead bodies represent little more than plot points along the way to that last, fiendish twist.
In real life, there were plenty of clues to Amy Barnes’ death. The odd thing is that these clues were revealed well before her murder. As the London Times reports:
The jury heard that she was often seen in bars and clubs frequented by professional footballers [soccer players], some of whom she dated. Morrison resented her friendships with other men …
“For the past seven months, Ricardo’s been hitting me, locking me in rooms with him so I can’t go out, putting knives to my throat, telling me he’s going to kill me, putting pillows over my face,” she wrote [in a text message to a friend].
On the morning of her death, she texted another footballer, saying that Morrison had punched her and slammed her arm in a door.
I wonder what their response would have been had she confided that her car was being broken into, or that someone had stolen her ATM card. How long would it have taken her friends to advise her to call the police, or to even do it themselves on her behalf?
[L]ess than a month before he knifed Amy to death, Morrison attacked five women, butting and punching them in the face at a London nightclub.
In real life, such warning signs are so common that we, both individually and collectively, often do little to “interfere.” Serial batterers like Morrison come out of the jails and go back to their familiar bars and clubs and parties. Thus even when our police and courts do their job, and emphasize not only punishment but offender treatment (see our latest article on the Rihanna/Chris Brown situation), there is often scant social pressure to contain and ostracize such tyrannical behavior.
Confronting delicate issues is never comfortable of course, especially in a group or on a team. I remember in college reading about a freshman, Mark Seeberger, who died of alcohol poisoning in a fraternity hazing ritual. I happened to play rugby (for the University of Texas) with one of the fraternity guys who was drinking with the freshman the night of his death. I asked my teammate about it, two days later, at practice. My teammate, who played right next to me on the line (Inside-Center to my Fly-Half) nonchalantly demurred “the lawyers told us not to talk about it.” His comments indicated a general attitude that the dead kid simply couldn’t hold his liquor – a kid who had been handcuffed in the back of a van and “asked” to drink 16-18 ounces of rum.
I never said anything else to my teammate about this – despite my horror at my teammate’s casual response and my general strong feelings about Texas fraternities. No one, of course, was ever prosecuted for this death (The operative fact against prosecution seemed to be that the kid’s hands were handcuffed in front of him, not behind him, so that he actually put the bottle to his own mouth).
In part, I said nothing because there was nothing more to be done. Also, when playing rugby your very physical safety often depends on how quickly your teammates get to you while you are in a ruck or a maul – so I did specifically ponder whether saying anything at all to this jerk might make him just a little less eager to help me out in such situations.
But I wonder, looking back, if I would have said or done anything had it been an ongoing, volatile situation rather than the aftermath of a tragedy. Would I have had the courage to confront someone, or even to take more direct action on the hope that it might make a difference? I simply don’t know.
My question in this case is not why the police were absent, but whether his friends, and hers, were as vigilant as they could have been when faced up close with a dangerous and unstable situation. This tragic crime was, after all, reasonably foreseeable.
One reason for the possible inaction of Barnes’ and Morrisons’ wider group of friends and acquaintances may be that in most societies it is a greater taboo to be a victim of domestic violence than to be a habitual perpetrator of it (see our article about rape in South Africa).
The natural corollary to this flawed social contract is to allow this particular type of criminal behavior to proceed mostly unchecked until it’s too late. Why do we continue to stand by and let this happen?
A new study finds that objects don’t bring you happiness, but buying experiences actually may:
“[E]xperiential purchases, such as a meal out or theater tickets, result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality — a feeling of being alive.” According to psychology professor Ryan Howell, “Purchased experiences provide memory capital. We don’t tend to get bored of happy memories like we do with a material object.”
So maybe we’re just spending for the wrong things? A 2006 study among college students found high happy marks for “social affiliation,” but “no connection with happiness” at all from passive pursuits such as video games and television.
And for those who just can’t decide if they’re happy or not, The happiness test by Susan Quillian may not have all the answers, but it is both thought provoking and mercifully brief.
Some of the factors are obviously intuitive. People tend to divorce more when:
They have already been married before.
Their own parents have been divorced and/or separated.
They have troubled finances.
But many of these factors are intriguing, even surprising. Divorce is more common where:
The husband is either more than 8 years older than his wife or is less than 25 years old when he marries.
The wife wants children much more than the husband does.
One of the spouses already has children before getting married.
The husband is unemployed.
One spouse smokes and the other does not.
What doesn’t correlate one way or the other to divorce? How many kids a couple has, how long each person has been employed before marriage, and the wife’s employment status after marriage. Read the whole report here.
Why must we cast Chris Brown as either a cynical villain or a wayward soul seeking heroic redemption? He is neither evil incarnate nor a paragon of virtue. He is, in fact, just an angry and confused young man trying to clean up his act.
Chris Brown is just 19, and we should hope that he has insight and strength to break out of this destructive cycle, instead of passing it on as an unintended legacy to his own offspring. Let’s not write him off just yet. But in the mean time, it’s troubling to hear the rumors that he and Rihanna are reconciling. Like or it, in our society Rihanna is an inevitable role model for young women.
And she can do better.
On June 22nd, he plead guilty to felony assault, and received five years probation and 180 days community service of cleaning graffiti and roadside trash (not giving public speeches about domestic violence, or some other cushy gig). He was also apparently ordered to stay away from Rihanna. And of course, Brown has domestic violence treatment to complete.
Although, to the chagrin of some, Brown avoided jail time, he did plead to a felony. In fact, his punishment is arguably tougher than what a non-celebrity with no criminal record would receive for a similar assault. Moreover, forcing him to do six months of demeaning manual labor was an apt punishment for a privileged multi-millionaire entertainer.
Yesterday, July 20, Brown released an apology video on You Tube in which he said, in part:
“Since February my attorney has advised me not to speak out even though ever since the incident I wanted to publicly express my deepest regret and accept full responsibility. I felt it was time you hear directly from me that I am sorry.
“I cannot go into what happened, and most importantly am not going to sit here and make any excuses. I take great pride in me being able to exercise self control, and what I did was inexcusable. I am very saddened and very ashamed of what I have done. My mother and my spiritual teachers have taught me way better than that….
“I have told Rihanna countless times, and I am telling you today, that I am truly sorry and that I wasn’t able to handle the situation both differently and better.. I hope that others learn from my mistake. I intend to live my life so that I am truly worthy of the term ‘role model.’
Was the apology written by his lawyers/handlers? (most likely; so what?)
Is it enough? (of course not)
This line of questioning seems to pretty much miss the point. While it is impossible to see within someone’s soul, the apology is pretty unequivocal – note the words “ashamed,”“deepest regret,”and above all – “inexcusable.”
No, it doesn’t go into any detail about exactly what he admits to – but the whole world knows about that already. We’ve seen the nasty nasty pictures. And, duh – he just plead to felony assault. There’s a reason our criminal justice system is public and relatively transparent.
While an apology itself is clearly not “enough,” it’s exactly what we should expect from any struggling 19-year old seeking a way to get past this maelstrom. More importantly, to all the tabloids and fans who argued that Rihanna was somehow at fault for getting brutally beat up, Brown’s video sends a clear message that there is no excuse for such thuggish behavior.
But as anyone who works professionally with domestic violence issues knows, DV casts a very long shadow. Helping someone escape from the cycle of violence – be they a celebrity or a mailman – involves balancing punishment and treatment, personal responsibility and the possibility of future redemption.
Like all young kids who make serious mistakes, Brown has a long hard road ahead to make his desired changes stick over a lifetime. Domestic violence treatment itself is no picnic – just ask the clients I have had who flunked out, sometimes more than once.
Getting through treatment, doing humiliating public service, and answering to a probation officer for five yars will be enough of a challenge for this troubled young man, without the added weight of playing the part of a dubious role model.
So let’s wish Chris Brown the strength and determination to put his personal demons to rest, at least enough so that he may be able to start a family of his own free of violence and intimidation.
Brown appears – at least from news accounts – to have taken the first tentative steps towards sustainable personal change.
Sometimes you might write an e-mail to get your thoughts down right.
Jefferson apparently sent the fateful email 6 days before the wedding, which was to take place at the New York Mandarin Oriental. According to the New York Daily News:
Nichols, 29, immediately called her family and friends to alert them of the ill-timed news, [but] the basketball pro waited much longer.
“He called about two hours before the wedding. It was nuts,” said one Jefferson pal.
Although Jefferson never showed up to the hotel, he made sure to give his best friend his Black Amex credit card, with which the guests made good use of during the night.
A jilted Nichols, who was “not entirely caught off-guard,” checked into the hotel and was upgraded to a suite on the 45th floor overlooking Central Park on what would have been her wedding night, according to a source at the hotel.
Now that last part”s just sad.
Jefferson disputed reports that the wedding cost $2,000,000, saying it was in fact less than $500,000. And in fairness, Jefferson says that after canceling the wedding he also paid Nichols a “six-figure” settlement. Jefferson explains that Nichols is his “best friend” and that:
I’m not trying to buy her off. She has a lump sum to help her move on.
Though Jefferson has gotten plenty of grief from folks who don’t seem to appreciate this act of generosity, he does have a big fan in Howard Stern. In an interview with Jefferson, Stern declared:
People should say you are a hero. And I’m not making a joke. This is what we should admire in our society, that he is taking marriage seriously and he’s saying, ‘Listen I’ve got real doubts here.’ . . . This is what men should do. This is what women should do. Be honest with the other person.
Honesty perhaps. Good timing not so much.
In some ways, I actually agree with Stern. Not that Jefferson’s a hero, but that people should talk about their doubts more before getting married, be more honest with each other about these doubts.
It’s never easy, of course. But if your relationship can’t handle this kind of blunt discussion, you probably shouldn’t be getting married anyway.
He had the body of a porn star. He would disappear mysteriously for days a time. Jason Brake even had the name of a porn star.
But Haylie Hocking believed him when he said he was a personal trainer. She believed him when he said that his mysterious weekend trips were just to visit gyms with his trainer clients. And she happily accepted the expensive jewelry he gave her.
She even said yes to his marriage proposal.
The Daily Telegraph reports that 27-year old Hocking of Bristol, England had planned a church wedding and a lavish country house reception.
Then a friend of Haylie’s, while planning her bachelorette party, saw Jason Brake in an online porn site movie. Haylie canceled the wedding, declaring “I don’t know if I will ever be able to trust a man again.”
Jason’s response was, well, what you might expect from a duplicitous porn star:
“The sex side is purely for the camera, but Haylie did not understand I was only acting. I am sorry and did not want to hurt her. I still love Haylie and would have stopped doing porn if she had asked me to.”
Yeah, dude, you’re a real romantic. She didn’t ask you to stop your line of work because you never told her about it.
(Retired football star, husband, and father of four Steve McNair was murdered on July 4th, 2009, by his 20-year old girlfriend who then shot herself.)
It was always easy to root for Steve McNair.
A Mississippi boy who played college ball for a historically black college many football fans had never heard of – Alcorn State. A calm-headed leader who smoothly handled the extraordinary pressure of being drafted third overall in the 1995 draft by football-mad Houston.
McNair was the consummate professional who solidified his team, the Titans, as they moved from Texas to Tennessee. He then made the pro-bowl three times, and became the co-MVP of entire league, and led the Titans to within one yard – one yard! – of taking the Super Bowl into its first overtime.
It was no small thing to be a pro black quarterback in a southern city in the late 90′s, in a league where many coaches and owners wondered – not that privately – if a black man could succeed at quarterback in the NFL. As Tom Curran writes:
He was the first black quarterback to really be accorded the respect that his physical ability, leadership skills and mental toughness demanded ….
[Doug] Williams was hailed as a trailblazer when he won a Super Bowl with the Redskins. Yet McNair cleared a more difficult obstacle. He was the first black quarterback that a team built itself around and tethered its fortunes to from Day 1. It probably isn’t a coincidence that, once it became clear McNair was the real deal, quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb, Akili Smith, Michael Vick and Vince Young were suddenly top five selections.
I am a huge Seattle Seahawks fan, but I always rooted for Steve McNair no matter what. You just had to.
And now it seems he may have been, in his personal life, just a garden variety ass, who wanted what he wanted when he wanted it, until he found something else to want.
I heard some friend or teammate or something on the radio talking about how McNair was a class act who didn’t deserve this. And while I don’t believe that anyone deserves to be murdered, for any reason, I was struck by the glossy outrage of this eulogy. I have enormous sympathy for McNair’s four young sons, and for a wife who apparently had no idea of his affair until hearing of the grisly murder-suicide.
But the evolving facts paint a less than pretty picture of a cad who also happens to be a hero of mine:
Kazemi introduced McNair to her family, and told them that he would imminently be divorcing to start a new life with her. But Robert Gaddy, a long-time close friend of McNair, said he knew nothing of any such plan. And Mechelle McNair says she never knew about Kazemi at all.
The morning of July 4th, Kazemi shot McNair 4 times, while he slept, once in each temple, and twice in the chest. Nashville police believe that Kazemi then positioned herself so that she would die in his lap. Instead, perhaps fittingly, after shooting herself in the temple, she fell to his feet.
My prayers go out to McNair’s wife and children, and Kazemi’s own family, who have already endured great tragedy. I feel saddened, but more mixed about the man who seems to have acted off the field like the stereotypical jerk who expects to get away with it because he just always has. A man who was apparently comfortable with a pristine public image that masked a pattern of boorish behavior.
McNair’s image in Nashville was that of a classy, regular family guy who played tough on the football field while giving his heart and soul to charitable activities. Well, he was definitely a rugged quarterback who took his team to the Super Bowl. And by all accounts, he did wonderful stuff with his charitable foundation. All of this stuff was covered by
television cameras at every turn. McNair helped build houses, ran youth camps, even picked up a chainsaw himself to help a town clear debris from a tornado. But somewhere along the way, McNair was also hooking up with the 20-year-old waitress and partying heartily with her in Nashville …
In my three decades of experience covering professional athletes, a famous football player seldom turns 36 and suddenly decides to start fooling around on his wife. It’s been going on a while. Plenty of people in Nashville had to know — had to know — that McNair was not everything his image portrayed him to be. But they allowed the image to thrive.
McNair, by all accounts, conducted his affair as an open secret, in restaurants and bars, with which the fawning press was breezily compliant.
The shortest comment I’ve read is a tweet from actress Holly Robinson Peete (21 Jump Street). Peete also happens to be married to retired NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, with whom she has four children. Gotta hand it to her, she definitely call it like she sees it, and talks like someone who is aware of her self-worth:
In my heart of hearts, I suppose that at some level I see, and even appreciate, the karmic directness of this tragedy, the physics of action and consequence, the whole thelmaandlouisiness of it all. If the various news reports are accurate, McNair seems to have cavorted with a pretty, and pretty insecure, troubled young woman. A woman with a limited sense of self-worth, who was content, at least for a while, to be the plaything of a rich and famous man. An undereducated waitress at Dave & Buster’s restaurant, she was dating the most famous athlete in the entire state of Tennessee.
Kazemi, for her part, seemed comfortable with the attention she received for her obvious physical attractiveness. Her Facebook page – the image she publically presented – included numerous photos of her cleavage and her new Escalade, including one of her lounging on the Escalade in a bikini. A wild-eyed innocent victim she was not.
In some ways, such liasons are simply an honest market of supply and demand. Society typically rewards money in older men and beauty in younger women, not so differently than in a Jane Austen novel. And however McNair may have treated Kazemi, and whether or not he actually told her he was divorcing his wife, his attentions to her could only increase her perceived “market value” by other rich and/or famous men.
In other words, these arrangements happen for a reason, that is at some level mutually beneficial, at least for a time. Even the consequence of this case, though extreme, is not really unforseeable. People often play at games without fully understanding the stakes. Indeed, the very danger of such clandestine relationships may carry part of their attraction for all concerned.
What is clear is that both McNair and Kazemi made a series of increasingly poor decisions.McNair partially gifted her a Cadillac, apparently leaving it to her to make payments on a waitress’ salary. Kazemi started selling her furniture before there was any concrete plan for co-habitation. And oh yeah, she drove a high profile car while she was wasted (McNair of course let her; he was the passenger).
McNair probably never imagined that Kazemi was capable of violence more akin to a drug cartel assassination than to Romeo and Juliet. He may not have even had a clue as to just how desperate she had become. Kazemi, for her part, was somehow surprised that a man who would cheat on his wife so effortlessly with her would also cheat on her. Remember the old addage “If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you.”
The funny thing is that despite all his selfish and thoughtless actions, McNair will still always be a hero, just a hero whose magical powers erode once he hits the sideline and takes off his helmet. I never cheered for Air McNair because of his charity work or his family man persona – I never even heard any of that until he died. I cheered for him because of how he played football, with brains, and strength, and guts to spare. He played football like the game was meant to be played, without drama, without complaint.
In America we seem to have a hard time with such complex dichotomies. We lionize our heroes of sports (and politics too) past any rational relationship to their sphere of expertise and accomplishment – then tear them down mercilessly for not living up to our Super-Sized expectations off the field.
I love sports in part because of the purity of how it defines excellence. Either a batter can hit a Felix Hernandez fastball or he can’t, either a quarterback can thread the needle between the linebacker and the safety or he can’t – there’s little point to arguing after the fact. Even with all the money and glitter and controversy, sports remains unsullied for me. This is why I could care less about Alex Rodriguez’ numerous dalliances (Madonna or otherwise), but am pretty disappointed to learn that he cheated the game by taking steroids.
McNair was a warrior, and deserves every accolade – and the Hall of Fame – for all that he did every Sunday for 13 years, between the lines of the gridiron. So it’s not so much that his tawdry rakishness is forgivable. It’s just irrelevant. As a man McNair leaves behind a mixed record between professional accomplishment and personal dishonesty. But similar things could probably be said for John F. Kennedy, Ludwig von Beethoven, Pablo Picasso, Thomas Jefferson and countless others. And as a football player, McNair was simply a god.
If ESPN classic ever gets the rights to play old NFL games, I’ll happily watch the Music City Miracle game, then watch McNair lead his Titans down the field for the tying touchdown of Super Bowl XXXIV. I’ll be cheering as he passes to Kevin Dyson, as Dyson lunges for a goal line he’ll never make, the whole game a mere 12 inches or so out of reach.
Like Titan fans everywhere, and a little bit like Sisyphus, I’ll be thinking that this time, maybe, Dyson will stretch that elusive foot and score the touchdown, and that my hero will go on to win the Super Bowl he always deserved but never quite attained.
It’s still easy to root for Steve McNair. Just keep it between the lines.