Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Breaking Blue

Breaking Blue
Greedy Green
Blind Black
Watershed White
Ovarian Orange
Populist Pink
Plucky Purple
Rash Red

Sunday, September 27, 2015

It's lonely at the top

I've been thinking a lot about heroism lately, reflecting on my long-held cynicism about the male heroes we are constantly sold in film, religion, sports and politics that don't match the reality of men I have known and studied for many years, and how it is we don't big up womankind in the same way but instead dumb her down, blame her and diminish her to make him - and Him - look better. 

I've blogged on this theme before, including in my last post, and you know my feminist cynicism well. But cynicism should be open to revision lest it become dogged and complacent. And I try to keep an open mind to having my eyes opened, as it were, to being proven not wrong exactly, no indeed, but less right, perhaps. 

Two films I watched recently, Everest and Foxcatcher, have given me some pause for thought on the subject of male heroism. We haven't time to go into the subject at any length here, but in sum I would say that if you want to get a truer idea of male heroism, watch films based on real events, such as these. 

Heroism (male or female) is defined as courage or self-sacrifice in the face of adversity or danger. I don't think climbing Everest qualifies as heroism in itself, especially if you leave loved ones behind who are counting on you to come home to help raise your children, as Everest climbers, mostly men, so often are, leaving wives at home to weep and worry. There is nothing self-sacrificing in this and as the adversity is contrived, of your own making, it is hardly courageous to overcome it. 

In Everest (spoiler alert) the Kiwi guide Rob Hall risked and lost everything; there was no happy ending for Hall and his pregnant wife left to weep into the phone and raise their unborn daughter alone. But... it was his work that took him up Everest, work which provided for the family - though his wife was/is a doctor so he did not carry the sole burden of feeding the family (just as well, as it turned out) - but that means he was not simply a self-motivated thrill seeker, but a responsible operator of a successful business doing dangerous work for himself and his family. There is a degree of self-sacrifice in that. 

But rather more heroically still, Hall died trying to save his weakest climber/client who had made two previously unsuccessful attempts at the top and this was his last chance. That climber died too, as did another client, the only woman climber, possibly in part because Hall was occupied with saving another, or at least trying to. He did get him to the top. So Hall was not entirely heroic here, though he did show self-sacrifice and courage in risking his life for another, even if he jeopardised other lives in the process and was likely in part motivated by commercial interests, as climbers pay to get to the top, not nearly there, and his reputation was on the line.

This half courageous, half reckless-risk-all-for-money-and-glory 'heroism' strikes me as a much truer representation of male heroism than the pure Hollywood heroism we're much more often subjected to with happy endings and women saved, not left to pick up the pieces of lives destroyed.

The same is true of the Mark Ruffalo character in Foxcatcher, a one-time Olympic gold medalist, who sacrifices all for his younger brother (whom he raised) but for the wrong reasons, or partly the wrong reasons we are left to assume, him being paid a small fortune to coach his brother to Olympic gold by the obscenely rich, but deeply flawed man who would end up killing him when he did not deliver the victory and glory he desired. 

This rich man struck me as another true male character we never see on our screens or even read about in our books, one who is more or less the opposite of a hero, all selfishness, insecurity and vanity, without any redeeming charms, who has to win gold and ultimately kill to feel like a big man. The world has met and suffered many men like this, not a drop of heroism in them.

Although this character is gay and tortured by a mother who doesn't understand his appetite for wrestling, a 'low sport', she describes it as, it is the vacuousness of his life of obscene inherited wealth that is his real undoing, and this again rings true for the money men running the world who effectively go mad on the power of being able to buy everything, including people and their devotion, though not their love, which is the kicker. 

Mark Ruffalo's character, by contrast, is (was) a loving husband and father, and indeed brother, and the quiet heroism of his life, outside of his Olympic wrestling glory, is the truth this film shows so well - he is not perfect - and again, a truth that is so often denied us in our fabricated heroes.  

It's lonely at the top, but it doesn't have to be, when 'the top' is not a mountain or a mountain of money, but the more modest achievement of giving and receiving love. If you have to choose between love, money and glory, and you probably will at some point in your life, especially if you are a man, a real hero chooses love.  

And on that note, I hope this blue cocoon is single - for her (or his) sake.        

Friday, September 25, 2015

Magic Malcolm

Two PM's, one politics
Malcolm Turnbull reveals plan to rid Australia of its "national disgrace" of domestic violence.

'Sixty-three women have been killed in Australia this year from domestic violence incidents, three in NSW alone during the last three days. 

Mr Turnbull said leaders have to make it a national objective for Australia to be more respectful of women. 

"Let's make it a resolution that Australia will be known as a nation, as a people, as a society that respects women", he said.

"We have to make it as though it was un-Australian to disrespect women."
Reported in NZ here

Good luck with that, Malcohn, Australia's brand new but all too familiar PM, who probably hadn't given a moment's thought to this 'national disgrace' - no worse today than it has ever been - until he claimed the top job, in part thanks to the rampant sexism that derailed, demeaned and eventually dismissed one of his predecessors from that very job, the country's first female PM, the exceptionally articulate, intelligent and justice-minded Julia Gillard.

Turnbull's ignorance of the complexity of the issue he thinks might be simply sorted with a wave of his Magic Malcolm man wand, would be endearing if it wasn't so embarrassing. John Key, Malcolm's mentor, did exactly the same thing here recently, pledging money - all that these right-wingers seem to understand - and making sweeping claims to end domestic violence with a wave of his magic man wand. It's not that simple. It's not like making money when you're a privileged white man, boys. You have to fight against resistance. You have to show humility and courage and endurance.

This is my subject: the systematic cultural disrespecting of women by men (a vital aspect of the problem that is rarely stated in simplistic anti-domestic violence campaigns like this one that are fronted by powerful men wanting to appear all things to all people; Mr Nice Guy) that leads to and underpins all male-perpetrated domestic violence, which is to say, 90+% of all domestic violence. Only it's not simply 'disrespect', it's a hatred of women that domestic abusers feel. It's misogyny. It's thinking men are the primary beings entitled to respect and control from and of women by virtue of being male. All domestic abusers suffer a profound sense of male superiority and rightful dominance over women, across countries and cultures. And it's no mystery where they get this sense of entitlement from. Male primacy is reinforced across culture, in sport, religion, film, media and politics. The arts, which the right-wing don't understand or respect, is the one field of human endeavour in which women are starting to be respected equally to men.

You can't expect to change all this cultural disrespect and misogyny with one wave of your magic man wand, Malcolm. Actions speak louder than words, indeed. But to be more sincere with your pledge, you could have acknowledged, for starters, that Julia Gillard's treatment by the Australian media was highly disrespectful to all women, even if you don't agree with her politics. You could have apologised on behalf of Australian men, and perhaps your right-wing colleagues in particular, for electing a leader (Tony Abbott) who showed such disrespect for the then PM that he dared tell her in parliament that her father, who had just died, had died of shame to see her become PM, she the first woman PM of Australia.

Tellingly, Abbott later thought he could wave his magic man wand and stop domestic violence in its tracks by saying 'Real men don't hit women.' Telling a woman her father died of shame - of her - is effectively hitting, Tony, you stupid sexist simpleton.

You, Magic Malcolm, who seem somewhat less simple than your predecessor, might also do well to acknowledge, once you do your research and find out the facts, that it is women, almost entirely left-wing women, who have been working and campaigning tirelessly and thanklessly in this field of domestic violence prevention and protection long before you came along with your pledge, and will doubtless continue long after. It is these women who have fought hard for the respect you say you value so highly, but have not bothered to talk about till now, since well before you were born, most often on a voluntary basis too, not amassing the $150+ million you have to your name.

You could also apologise for the childish backlash that has been waged against these women, by men's rights groups and others typically on the right-wing, who label these gutsy women's efforts to secure better legislation to protect women, better funding for women's refuge and other front-line services, more respect from police to enforce protection orders and stronger punishments for domestic abuse that sends a greater message of deterrence, all as 'man-hating', a charge always effective in undermining the efforts of compassionate and courageous women, fighting for change.

Until you do this, women will be disrespected, beaten and killed by men in disgraceful numbers across your country and all others. Because men, including you, refuse to change substantively, if at all, refuse to give up your male privilege. Refuse to admit you are not better than women. Refuse to admit you are often so much worse and he cause of unthinkable suffering.

Instead of empty platitudes and pledges, Malcolm, and John, you both might acknowledge your weaknesses and mistakes in not realising, before it was politic, what a serious issue domestic violence is. You might apologise to the victims on behalf of men. You could give thanks to the women working for change and admit that male arrogance and sense of superiority over women is the heart of the problem. On top of this, you could pledge to a new style of male leadership that embraces humility and equality substantively, not in easy, macho - I can fix everything if you get behind me - platitudes. That might be a start. It would certainly be a first for male politicians.

Disrespect comes from arrogance, respect from humility. And so respect is magic, just not the wand-waving sort.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

How to build a computer in ten easy steps

Step 1: Organisation

Step 2: Planning

Step 3: Food, drink and scissors

Step 4: Socks

Step 5: One worried cat

Step 6: Open the cage...

Step 7: Close the cage

Steps 8, 9 and 10:

Pay the credit card debt, tidy up for a year, and last, but by no means least, pray to the supreme motherboard in the sky that when the dust settles and the anxious cat can finally get a wink of well-earned sleep, there is an 'on' button that not only works but keeps on working for at least a year, by which time the technology will be entirely obsolete and it will be time to begin all over again.



Monday, September 21, 2015

What do Peter Carey and Lena Dunham have in common?

Well, yes; they're both award-winning writers. In fact Carey is touted as "Australia's greatest living writer". I don't know about that. He is a very good writer, certainly. But I am Australian, so...

Lena Dunham
 They are also similarly cheeky-geeky whites with BIG brains and bodies that - how to put this delicately - don't quite match up, though all bodies are equal, of course, just some more equal than others.

They have equally great smiles.

But this is not exactly what I'm getting at in asking what these two people of different ages, genders, nationalities, writing styles and career trajectories have in common. Rather, my purpose in bringing together these otherwise randomly matched people here, is to suggest that what they have most in common currently is me, or, to be more precise, the fact that I am reading their books simultaneously, as one does when torn between reading (and trying to write) quality, timeless, home-grown literature and cutting-edge, warts-and-all, female feminist memoir.

And, apparently, I am so torn, although I didn't exactly know I was until I found myself reading these writers' work simultaneously and not being able to settle into either book (Carey's Illywhacker, 1985, and Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl, 2014) for long, before feeling distracted by the other author, nagging me to make the switch back.

It's most unsettling I must say for someone with bi-polar tendencies as it is, and I would not recommend you try it at home. That said, I would recommend both books.

So, in conclusion, what these two writers have most in common is the fact that they are nothing at all like me, in knowing who they are and what they want. I have better legs, however; the ultimate asset for a writer.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Men and boys first

This short take, printed in September's issue of Time magazine, as the lead-in item to the refugee crisis in Europe - the cover story (of the European issue) - is deliberately misleading and misogynist.

The husband and father of the drowned woman and boys whose story sparked western sympathy and support for the Syrian refugee crisis, did not exclude his wife when he said all he wanted was to be with his family. He said 'children and wife' (my emphasis).

Time deliberately left the 'wife' out of the headline, as most all media coverage of the story has done, either not mentioning her drowning - probably as she tried to save her young sons while struggling with excess clothing-drag, because even when you're fleeing by sea woman must be covered up - or mentioning it in passing - 'along with their mother' - to make quite clear that her death is incidental or, at best, secondary to the death of her sons. Females - women and girls - are the second, incidental sex. So what's new.

What bothers me most is that all news agencies seem to know and accept this; to know that the death of young boys and their grieving father is a story, a tragic story, where the death of their mother is not; indeed her drowning detracts from the otherwise tragic story and is better not mentioned at all. That they know this, and would seem to be right, is evidence of the most shameless and widespread misogyny imaginable, worse - when you stand back and try to look ahead to a better world - than the refugee crisis itself, which is caused, after all, by the age-old battle for power, at any cost, between men that renders life nasty, brutish and short.

The Syrian civil war started as resistance to yet another autocratic man who forced his way to power against the will of the people. These power-mad, compassionless men, who also head up repressive religious orders around the world, will continue to find their way to power and wreak misery when they get there, as long as we continue to let them, by not speaking out about the perpetuation of male arrogance and pride by the excusing and reinforcement of misogyny when and wherever we find it, all over the world. We are all refugees looking for a brighter world until that happens.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Refugee in PM's clothing

New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, is the son of a Jewish-Austrian refugee. As well, his family was a substantial benefactor of New Zealand's once world-leading, generous and fair-minded welfare system, a system increasingly lamed by successive right-wing governments.

Key is right-wing and until that sad Syrian child drowned on a beach in Turkey, he, like his right-wing Australian counterparts pictured here, had not one cent worth of concern or compassion in their well-tailored pockets for the plight of Syrian, or any other refugees. But shame on Key especially, as his mother was a refugee.

Now he's done a U-turn on the refugee issue in response to the media attention and public outcry - not the long standing left-wing cause based on the values, over and above economics, economics, economics, of respect for human life - the same U-turn he did on the left-wing gay marriage initiative, originally opposing the Civil Union bill.

He promised, prior to his first election success, not to increase GST, a flat tax that increases inequality in an already much more economically unequal country than it has ever been in history, and increased GST the minute he was elected. He also cut taxes for the rich, this during an economic crisis caused by the rich. He sold off state assets to rich investors in the face of a public referendum result saying New Zealanders were 2 to 1 against the sales.

When he worked in investment finance, making his millions, he was known as 'the smiling assassin' for firing people, hundreds of people, with a smile on his face. And it's largely thanks to these sorts of honourable actions that he now boasts the dubious title of New Zealand's richest politician.

For good measure, addled by his easy-won power or the difficulty of keeping track of the lies, he pulls pony-tails, repeatedly, with his wife standing embarrassed at his side, asking him not to, as well as the owner of the pony tail. Still people - other than the grovelling-with-gratitude rich - continue to vote for the smiling assassin, falling for his Mr Moderate, boy-next-door act.

Today Australia, my former home land, celebrates their new PM, by likening him to John Key. Good luck with that, guys. He couldn't be any worse than Abbott, right? Wrong. If he's anything like Key, and I'm hoping for your sakes that he's not, he'll be worse than Abbott by being 100% more cunning. Watch your backs - and your pony-tails.  


Saturday, September 12, 2015

It all began with bloomers...

It all began with bloomers. And by 'all' I mean changes in women's fashion from more to less and less is more, and the resulting never-ending furore, at least in the west, over what women wear - or don't wear - as the case may be, and how that affects the bigger battle for gender equality of which women's fashion 'freedom' and self expression is but a part...(Prepare for an essay).

The bigger battle, surely, is for women to be fully respected and valued as equal human beings alongside men and not seen as the second sex, creatures of lower intelligence, morality and strength, who are born - second - to serve as men's titillating and obedient assistants, as almost all men of power with the self-proclaimed capacity to write and rewrite gender norms throughout history and across all cultures, have defined us - until now. Maybe. Some things never change.

Believe it or not these dashing 1850's "bloomers" that were named after American Amelia Bloomer who introduced the fashion, were radical and daring in their day, being a substantial modification on the full length, many layered starched skirts they replaced, giving women not only more freedom of movement but more choice - as opposed to no choice - about what they wore. The bloomers also did away with the mandatory long-waisted corsets worn so tight they rearranged women's internal organs such that medical professionals lamented what useless cadavers (corpses) women made for study. Hmm...

However, although the suffragettes of the day were some of the first women to wear these liberating bloomers, corset free, they eventually gave them up and went back to the the dresses and corsets when they saw how the bloomers had become more of a talking point at their rallies than their campaign for the vote. And so the bloomers went out of fashion for another forty years in order that those women campaigning for the vote could be taken more seriously. Was it worth it? Yes and no.

Eventually bloomers came back in vogue and with the help of two world wars and a second, and perhaps a third wave of feminism, campaigning for much broader freedoms for women, women's fashion went through a series of increasingly radical changes, largely from more to less, and from skirts to pants and, eventually, underpants, such that women in the west today are now more or less free to wear what they want in public. And what they want to wear, at least some of them, is very little indeed. Exhibit A: Miley Cyrus.

The question is: Is this apparent fashion freedom real and empowering for women? Well, yes and no, in my opinion. Miley looks happy enough in this picture and seems to be saying 'I like my body and I'm free to show it in all its feminine - if super-skinny-feminine - glory if I want,' which is her right to do. She seems free, even empowered.

On the other hand, some women, most recently, singer Chrissie Hynde, feel, and I agree to a point, that this near-naked exhibitionism that is increasingly favoured by female pop singers distracts from the music they produce and perform, such that women singers are not taken seriously as artists and even perpetuate a 'pornographic culture' beyond the world of music, if not 'asking to be raped', just as the first suffragettes worried that wearing daring bloomers distracted from their political campaigns.

For these reasons, Hynde also objects to these singers calling themselves feminists, which most of them do, though that is very much a recent development, with Taylor Swift doing a late U-turn on her previous denouncing of feminism, partly in response to our own Kiwi singer, Lorde, who hit the charts as an unashamed, and not so scantily clad, young feminist singer as recently as 2013.

Personally I think it's a good thing that young women are embracing the term 'feminist' more than they have done for many years, perhaps more than ever. But I do think Cyrus and others go too far to look sexy by drawing explicit attention to their genitals, bum and bust, which probably contributes to a dumbing down of their image and art, which in turn feeds the age old sexual objectification of womanhood such that women are seen as sex objects and nothing more. For this reason I, and I think a lot of young women too, prefer Lorde's version of free expression and feminism than the slightly knee-jerk, convenient and lightweight version of other young self-proclaimed, scantily clad, singing feminists.

At the same time, the 'asking to be raped' assertion of Hynde's is deeply problematic, not least because accused rapists are routinely let off if their victim was wearing anything less than a burka. The responsibility and blame for rape should be entirely on the rapist and this responsibility is something that feminists have been fighting hard to establish for SO many years, and are still a long way from winning. It's the ultimate uphill battle that women, much less young women, should not have to fight alone by deciding what to wear when they go out. Rape is not about what women wear or don't wear. Men must know this. Women should not have to cover up in public to stay safe from men; men should have to learn to respect women's right to look sexual - most young women don't need to do much to look sexual, after all - without this being seen as in any way inviting men's hands on their bodies, let alone an invitation to rape.

Meanwhile, in the music industry, there is a lot of pressure on young women artists to 'sex up' their image, and this industry is largely run by men. Some women artists have resented this pressure, not many have successfully resisted it, however. Lorde, so far, is a notable exception. So there is the possibility, even the likelihood, that Cyrus and her ilk are not really dressing, and undressing, for themselves so much, as a matter of choice and an expression of their freedom, but rather to please the male music execs who know that the less their young women artists wear the more records they sell. As Hynde says, they have become 'sex workers' of sorts. This is exploitation, pure and simple, and I think there is definitely reason for feminists - those who care about women's lasting freedom - including Hynde, to worry that this apparent freedom will come at the cost of the more lasting sort of freedom on which substantive gender equality is built.

Add to this the concern many feminists have about the prevalence of eating disorders in young women and its genesis in the increasing cultural pressure to be thin, a pressure that seems to have increased the less women in public have worn - and weighed - from models to actors to singers, and you have even more reason to worry, as a feminist, about the influence of the semi-naked, over-sexualised female pop singers of the day distracting a generation of girls from finding and fighting for their substantive freedom while they focus instead on what they look like and weigh.

In short, it's damn complicated for women, as it has ever been and possibly always will be. Certainly a totally happy marriage between female fashion and women's substantive freedom seems beyond our grasp still. But that doesn't mean we can't keep fighting for ways forward, especially those that don't divide women quite as much as Chrissie Hynde's recent outburst has done.

Personally, being slightly biased as a New Zealander perhaps, I think Lorde's example has the potential to lead feminism in a promising direction by suggesting to young women that they can be substantial and successful and sexy (and feminist) without having to be skimpily clad or, indeed, super skinny. And as she recently fired her management team, I am inclined to think - and hope - that she did this at least in part in resistance to their efforts to get her to conform her music and image to that narrower, skinny-sexy-girl-singer stereotype. She is a genius and a major musical talent, so fingers crossed this will be enough to secure her artistic freedom and success. I am holding my breath.      

Thursday, September 10, 2015

*This* is not ok

Shame on the New Zealand Herald for reporting the brutal killing of this woman, Tara Brown, by her partner - for now allegedly; but he had a restraining order out against him for past domestic violence - using this image and captioning it: 'Ms Brown was described as "a beautiful girl with a beautiful heart"'.  The woman was beaten to death at the age of 24, leaving a young daughter motherless, and she is portrayed by the country's leading newspaper, on the very day of her death, with her tongue stuck out. Fuck that.  

I have done doctoral level research on the cultural representation of domestic violence victims and can tell you that this kind of passive-aggressive woman-blaming and disrespecting is not only standard fare for all media reports on domestic violence and homicide in NZ as elsewhere, but it directly contributes to the cultural - and so legal and political - minimising of domestic violence as a serious and fundamentally misogynistic crime.

NZ ran a 'domestic violence is not ok' media campaign some years back (2007) to raise awareness of the extent of the problem, but it portrayed women as perpetrators as well as victims, missing the point entirely. This was a fundamental (and typical) obfuscation of the issue and wasted opportunity to speak directly to the problem that affects almost one in three families in the Western world and is the number one killer of women across the world.

Ashamed to be a New Zealander today.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Turn the other cheek

... especially if you're squeamish.

Earlier this year I brought you an image of my other cheek as it looked two-thirds of the way through a six-week course of treatment for skin-cancer (not the lethal kind). That image, which I also shared with my faithful Facebook 'friends', scared young children, encouraged my enemies and aroused the ire of my own, not so young children, who saw it as a disgusting and shameless piece of attention seeking. So I pulled the image. I know when I'm beat.                                                                                                                                                                     But... you can't keep a good woman down. And this time I'm bringing you my other cheek, further on through the same treatment, so not quite as disgusting, and exclusively for your eyes only, my faithful bloggees, bypassing my soft stomached Facebook family and hopefully my children, who generally don't read my blog. You're welcome.

And as a reward for your faithful and forgiving, non-squeamish viewership, I'm including an 'After' shot of that other cheek to show you the value of perseverance and to prove that science beats religion every time in delivering true 'miracles', if using slightly less glamorous and sexy methodologies.   

Friday, September 4, 2015

Too Fat to Fly

Okay. So after much painstaking research in pursuit of the ultimate book title, I think I've finally found it: Too Fat to Fly. Pity it doesn't quite work for my memoir, which is set mostly during my skinny years and only involves a small amount of flying. But it might work for later volumes. Something to keep up my sleeve - while there's still room, or until there no longer is.

But for now, 'Too Fat to Fly' is not a book title - though the awesome Too Fat to Fish is, which is a shame, because if it wasn't, I would have made that work for my memoir somehow, even though there are no fish in it, though there is a frog. Never mind.

But back to flying...

'Too fat to fly' is a reported recent judgement of a China Airlines carrier of one of its stewardesses who had, perhaps, been eating too much fish. The story is only hearsay and probably untrue, as most Chinese women tend to be so light they could fly without the aid of a plane, but you never know with the Chinese. Here's the Daily Mail news piece to make of what you will.

Then there's the Swedes - on this issue of being too fat, which I'm carrying on with because it is frankly much more interesting than finding a title for my book.

Now, I've sung the praises of the Swedes for exposing sexism where others deny, hide and make excuses for it, but in this account of one young former model in that long blonde land, it seems they are joining the sexist rank and file of men and women the world over who believe women can never be too thin and pronounce most of us too fat to film let alone fly. And as this account comes from the model's mouth, as it were, there is no denying its truth.

And I've said it before, sort of, and I'll say it again: if this girl is too fat for anything, then I'm a goldfish. And I'm not a goldfish, truly.

And there's another possible title for my memoir right there. 'I'm not a goldfish, truly': A memoir.' In all good book stores soon.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Title Trauma

My memoir is finally wending its way to the typesetters, but still without a title! This makes me feel naked and nervous, as if I've sent a child into the world without a name...

Not that this was my doing, you understand. The book had a title when I first submitted it to publishers nine months ago, but that title went out the window in the first phase of the editorial process. Why? The pubs never really said.

The title wasn't Beans, by the way. But perhaps it should have been; one word titles are all the rage right now and there is at least one reference to beans in my memoir, beans and just about everything else. Memoirs are like that; they're not really about any one clear thing, but lots of mixed up things loosely strung together by chronology, which is the way of real life, hence the difficulty with finding the right title amongst a multiplicity of promising possibilities - at least I think they're promising. The pubs seem to disagree, rejecting my twenty or so alternative suggestions in pursuit of the ONE right title.

Good luck with that, I say. Meanwhile, here's a link to a funny and illuminating blog essay on the perils of the publishing process, including the troublesome quest to find the right title, a quest that is apparently quite standard. I am not alone. Evidently writers can write stories, creating characters with names - even memoirists who invariably make up names to protect the privacy of their real life characters - but they can't title their stories to save themselves. Who knew? I didn't.  Indeed 'Who knew?' could be the title of my memoir...

Excuse me; I have to see a man (woman) about a dog (title).