Friday, February 26, 2016


To you who not only read, but take the time to comment on Square Pegs, I want to say thank you, and also apologize for not replying to your comments. I can't do it, and I don't know why. I type replies, but they disappear. I do read your comments and appreciate them. I just wish I could figure out why I can't reply to them.

Caricatures V Characters

"Mr Chadband is a large yellow man with a fat smile, and a general appearance of having a good deal of train oil in his system." (Bleak House by Charles Dickens)

In literature, caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics or over simplification of others. Men do not have gargantuan noses or elephant ears. Neither do women possess bird faces and hourglass figures, but these descriptions paint potent pictures in the mind.

Used skillfully by authors such as Dickens, caricature can be very effective, but generally caricatures, particularly of main characters, are irritating to readers like myself who want more depth in the characters. I don't like superficial characters because they are not believable. If they are not believable, I cannot relate to them or connect with them. If I do not connect with the character, then I don't care what happens to them which in my opinion makes reading as worthwhile as staring at a blank wall.

Matthew Reilly's Jack West Jnr, who I met in The Six Sacred Stones, is a caricature. An implausibly gifted and powerful man who experiences credulity stretching good fortune. He is surrounded by people I have read about and seen in hundreds of other books and films. They are like cartoon characters who, as they get knocked off during the course of the never ending and unlikely scenes, arouse no more sympathy from me than if I accidentally crushed an ant under my size tens.

Another book I read recently was Memoirs of Pontius Pilate. Granted, the author Mills is dealing with an historical figure, but he nonetheless does a fantastic job of fleshing out a real person. There is almost no physical description of Pilate, but I felt that I knew him, and understood his actions. The man who sentenced Christ to death by crucifixion came across as a very sympathetic character.

I want to feel something when I read a work of fiction. I want to care. I want to love the hero or heroine, and hate the villain, but I also want to have good reason for doing so. Regardless of the setting, or the genre, if the author can make me care about at least one of the main characters, then they have won me. Whether they use caricature or characterization, or a deft combination of the two seems of little consequence.

On numerous occasions I have stopped reading a novel because I didn't care about, or even like any of the characters. 

What do you think? What is more important to you in a novel? Character? Setting? Action? Or something else?

* No criticism of Matthew Reilly is intended. He writes terrific action novels which just happen to not really be my cup of tea.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Oh! Excrement!

In some ways, I quite like birds of the feathered, small brained variety. Many of them are really pretty, and one cannot deny the grace with which they move through the air. Like many others, I admire the freedom birds have, apart from those locked in cages, that is. Birdsong can be very peaceful and pleasant, except if the bird happens to be a crow, or a vulture, or one of those raucous members of the parrot family. 

However, for all the praise which may be heaped on our winged friends, they possess a certain habit that completely dismantles affection for them.

My car was badly in need of a wash, and I cannot abide a dirty car. On a bright Saturday morning, I lavished its metallic curves with a sudsy massage and tenderly rinsed, then buffed it to a beautiful shine. To take advantage of the inviting weather, I then drove to the beach. On my return from the pleasurable interlude among the waves at Port Kembla Beach, I discovered an horrific insult had been inflicted on me and my car. Excrement. An unknown assailant had dropped a juicy bomb on the back window. (Thankfully the bombardment was not on the scale suffered by the car in the photo below.)

Birds are indiscriminate poopers and it really gives me the...feeling of strong annoyance.

There is, however, some admirable efficiency in the bodily waste disposal method of birds because they don't pee and poo separately. Mostly water, the excrement contains roughly 9% uric acid. Now I ask you: is that something we want landing on our possessions and our persons?

It is said that to be thus defecated upon by a bird, is to be lucky. This is surely the epitome of irony. What luck ensued from the senseless aerial assault on my car? What good fortune befell me following another occasion when I went out for my morning run, and had only traveled a hundred metres when something distasteful fell onto my nose and lips? What prize of good fate did I receive after a bird made a deposit on the front of my shirt while I was walking to work?

If birds could learn to not go to the toilet on me or my car, I might love them. But they do, and therefore I don't. 

So as to not be thought of as a grumbler, I have a solution. Modern luxury cars have sensors which activate the windscreen wipers when rain hits the glass. This technology could be extended to the whole body of the car which would flush off the offending goop immediately, while simultaneously shooting a jet of water at the damn bird. Get to work on that one tech boffins, and make sure you give me some credit for the idea.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Alexander the "not very good at all really"

With the exception of James Bond films, I generally don't rush to the cinema to see the latest movies. In fact, even if they interest me, I don't usually fly to the video store to rent them once released on DVD either. With so many other enticing forms of entertainment and the various and never ending duties of which life is comprised, I miss a lot of movies.

And so it was, that some 12 years after the release of the director's cut of Alexander on DVD, I finally watched it. My interest was prompted by the fact I had just read Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault which is a fictionalized account of Alexander III childhood up until the death of his father Philip II.

I had high hopes for the film. Oliver Stone is no mug director and I have enjoyed many of his movies.However, at the conclusion of the 158 minutes, I was very disappointed, and this is why:

1. The backwards and forwards through time narration had me lost at times and wondering why a straight lineal telling of the tale would not have sufficed.

2. The sound production, perhaps best suited for the cinema was such that I could barely hear or understand what the actors were mumbling.

3. The preponderance of scenes which featured nothing of obvious import to the story, like the numerous 'feast' or party scenes in which the characters exchanged mysterious looks.

4. Angelina Jolie sounded like a drunk Russian, and all the Macedonians had English or Irish accents.

5. The omission of Alexander's first kill, and the inclusion of a suggested love scene with some bloke, but only a suggestion of the deep love between Alexander and Hephastion.

All in all, deeply unsatisfying. On a positive note the battle scene between the Macedonians on horseback and the Indians on elephants was breathtaking. My advice? Give Alexander a miss, and let's hope another director does justice to the tale of this most remarkable man.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: A stone for my head

Despite my best intentions to avoid the almost irresistible lure of the bright lights of materialism, I do occasionally fall victim to its polished seduction. When I saw the Miracle Blade advertised in an infomercial, I was gone: compelled to call and place my order before the full spiel had been delivered.

It has proven to be a good buy: a very high performing knife of which I am proud, but lately a new concern has arisen courtesy of more advertising. This time it was a radio ad which I heard on the way to work, and this time, unlike the aforementioned purchase of a fancy cutting tool, the need came before the ad. That is, I already knew I had a problem and one which needed urgent attention, before this radio commercial grabbed me by the ears and confirmed my desperate need for a new pillow.

The situation, it turns out, is even more desperate and dire than I imagined. My health is in jeopardy if I do not find the exact right pillow for me, and purchase it quick sticks.

Once a item of luxury, fashioned from stone, to keep royal heads off the ground and help prevent the unwelcome invasion of bugs into facial orifices, the pillow is now an everyday item of necessity for most of us who live in the padded extravaganza of relative affluence.

I have never, at least as far back as my memory reaches, been entirely satisfied with my pillow. I have accepted mediocrity, and what a price I have paid for my indolence with regards this vital piece of slumbering equipment. Now that I know, thanks to the radio ad for a major department store which I heard and received as gospel, I will be diligent in the pursuit of the perfect pillow. 

I am grateful that I have a selection of pillows at home, but the small and fluffy bedtime companion we all need, needs to be just right for me.Wish me luck in my search, and do share a little about your pillow. Are you satisfied?

Photo source:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: A 21st Century Mystery

In the digital age where everything is computerized and all tasks may be accomplished online as long as you can remember your login details, it strikes me as very strange that a simple thing like activating an internet service, could be so hard.

In the digital age of instant connection and immediate gratification how can a man be told that it will take 2-4 days to activate a phone line, and a further 4-10 days after that to connect the internet service?

iPrimus, an internet and telephony retailer, has been providing good service to us for over a year now except when it comes to relocating. We had a similar problem when we first moved to 2527, but I excused the delay because we were moving the huge distance of 20 kilometres. Our recent move, which resulted from a totally unexpected eviction notice, saw us transport all our worldly possessions to a new home three doors down from the old one. Yes, three doors: not even one hundred metres, and yet here we are, eight days in our new residence, without internet or any immediate prospect of it. We also don't have access to free to air television, but that's a different story.

February 4: I received a text message saying that a technician was required to connect the telephone and that one had been booked for the 18th of February. I called iPrimus, to say this was unacceptable and I was asked if I wanted to request an earlier appointment. I swallowed the large furry ball of sarcasm in my throat and said, 'Yes, please.' They're coming on Monday.

I am thankful for hotspotting. Although I only have 5GB of data on my phone, it should suffice until we have our internet service activated, if I avoid downloading videos.

I'm really mystified by the delay in connecting us to the World Wide Web. It's as simple as pushing a few buttons, isn't it? Or am I hanging my naivete out on the line for all to see? This could only happen in Australia, right? The land of exorbitant charges, and pitiful excuses for poor service.

Photo sources: