In humour, the want to stay fresh and unique should always be present. If you steal jokes or concepts, you are deemed a plagiarist. If your topics lack originality, you are uninspired.

What separates a good comedian from a great comedian is how well they can make relatable events extraordinary and how they communicate its amusement and uniqueness without losing what the audience identifies with. Peter Unwin’s newest novel, Searching for Petronius Totem, finds this balance with Hamilton flair.

The basic premise is grounded and simple. The main character, Jack, retreats to a rooming house in Hamilton, then sets off across the country find his life-long colleague who has disappeared after his memoir was revealed to be filled with lies. There is also some understandable tension between Jack and his wife, who will likely shoot him on sight should he ever return home. Nothing is too out of the ordinary when it comes to a premise, and would make a decent novel with that base to work with.

However, the more substantial situation at hand is what will likely catch your attention. The world is being taken over by a multi-national Fibre-Optic Catering business that creates chicken-like food matter that flies. It is absurd.

“There’s a certain sort of repetitive quality to novel writing now. It tends to tell the same story with the same degree of earnestness, and I definitely did not want that. I wanted something that broke the mold,” said Unwin.

It works because of the attention to detail given to the basic premise. Even aspects as seemingly minor as the main characters being from Hamilton and a decent portion of the book taking place in the city have consistent influences throughout the novel. The dialect, how each character is perceived and the mannerisms of those characters are all affected.

“There’s a hierarchy of hipness or something about where we stand. Hamilton’s sort of gloriously outside of that hierarchy. Middle finger, we don’t care where we stand, we’re the Hammer, and this is us.”

As Jack travels across the country, this manages to come up time and time again. The reputation that Toronto and Ontario has plays into the book’s humour on top of these mannerisms.

Even though Hamilton is portrayed as being outside of that hierarchy, there remains resentment when people misinterpret where the characters are from or stereotype them as a result. It becomes a clever and realistic gag that comes up consistently in the middle of preposterous situations.

“People are proud of where they’re from regardless of how small the town is or how ugly. And that sort of pride in place, like when Jack goes to Vancouver, he just thinks Vancouver is a backwater. He’s from Hamilton. It could never be as good as Hamilton.”

This attention to detail remains present in its absurdity. This Hamilton influence continues to be a key factor in larger-than-life situations. It becomes a way of interpreting edible flying mechanical chickens as a metaphor, and most of the humour can hit home even when it does not initially feel like you can identify with it.

“To a large extent, the book is about things coming to an end, like a dystopia, end of the world type of book, getting there. And also, in a sense, the end of the novel or the death of the novel. You set this within Hamilton, it’s fair to say it has this reputation that’s passed now, is a city that’s suffered from this breakdown in industrialized industry.”

Honestly, it is unknown if someone outside of southern Ontario or Canada would find the novel funny. While you could relate through other points, this is a home-grown and tailor-made novel for its audience, and it is unapologetic about being locally focused.

It is not for everyone. However, considering you are reading an Arts & Culture article in a student newspaper that attempts to cater all of its content for the students of McMaster and the Hamilton community, it is likely that you will like it.

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Dear (insert name),

I didn’t believe in love at first sight until I saw you on Tinder. Unlike the twenty-or-so good-looking people I had swiped right before you, I felt butterflies in my stomach when I came across your selfie. Something felt different. Although I’m unsure whether this odd feeling in my stomach was because of you or because of my strict fresh-pressed juice diet, I knew from the get-go that you were special. Now, two weeks since I sent you that coy greeting on Tinder, I am so happy to say that you’re the first person I call when I feel like hooking-up. It’s scary for me to say this but … you’re my main hang.

Looking back, our first date feels as though it was just yesterday. I remember feeling lonely after making gluten-free pain au chocolate at the local café that day. After my then-main hang failed to respond to my text, I decided to hit you up instead. To my content, you responded promptly to my proposition of Netflix and Chill. You took my breath away when you opened the door to your apartment; the interior was so familiar that I thought I might have hooked-up with your roommate before. Thankfully, the similar decor was just a coincidence. I want you to know how much I still think about that day. It was so good – the “chill” part, that is.

I’m so happy to be in a low-key, casual, non-committal partnership with you. It’s amazing to be with someone on the same wavelength. We’re both smart, progressive people. Unlike those who opt for traditional dating and committed relationships, we consider cost-benefit analyses and the low risk, low investment model of hooking up. With the Canadian dollar at the lowest it has ever been, it is imperative for people to be more financially conscious. Can you imagine being someone whose idea of a date is dinner and a movie? The cost-benefit of that scenario is so skewed, not to mention how much time that date would take up. All we do is buy someone a drink at the club and bam-shabam! We’ve sealed the deal. The cost of our “dates” is one drink and maybe an hour at the club, followed by a night of fiscally responsible hooking up. I cannot imagine life any other way, and I am so glad you feel the same. We are definitely what people mean when they say, “meant to be.”

Stability is so overrated. We both want freedom, we want excitement, we want new. And can you imagine the FOMO you’d have otherwise? There is a never-ending stream of singles to choose from. I cannot imagine being with one person for a long time rather than cycling through lots of suitors quickly. That sounds so stagnant. But I’m so glad I’m at this temporary pause with you. You are the perfect person to be temporarily stagnant with.

I know we’re not, like, together or anything but it felt weird to just not say anything so I’m writing you this letter as an indication of how much I enjoy your companionship. There is nobody else I’d rather lie in bed and look at my phone next to at this moment. It’s like I was playing a game of darts at the new craft-beer-exclusive pub down the street; I kept throwing darts and eventually one stuck. That dart is you. You stuck. I can’t see you becoming unstuck anytime soon. Would it be optimistic of me to say that I can still see us together at the end of next week? I know that’s a long time, but that just goes to show how special you are to me. None of the other people I’m flirting and hooking up with right now make me feel the way that you do. I hope that makes you feel special.

This letter really isn’t a big deal and it doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to, obviously. I’m having a great time just being what we are right now. (Do you want something though? I’m totally open to whatever. It’s chill. I’m cool. If you do though, shoot me a text and let me know. If you don’t, you know. Whatever.)

Anyhow, swiping right on you was the best decision I’ve ever made. Happy Valentine’s Day.

With like,

(insert your name)

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Aquarius

(Jan. 21 - Feb. 19):

You are going to watch a cute dog video. You will find it hilarious and your day will be brightened. But this is a lie. You’re still going to fail your exam.

 

Pisces

(Feb. 20 - Mar. 20):

Don’t eat fish. It’s cannibalism and you’re going to have mad gas and diarrhea in your exam. And then you’ll be on Spotted @ Mac and your asshole friend is going to tag you.

 

Aries

(March 21 - April 20):

You are blessed with ability to cram this month. Please save all your studying for the 15 minutes before the test for maximum effect.

 

Taurus

(Apr. 21 - May 21):

Take a shower, not because it’s refreshing, but because you reek of sadness and failure. Also you smell like shit. Please have some consideration for the people around you.

 

Gemini

(May 22 - Jun. 21):

The gods are shining a warm light on you this month. Feel free to wear shorts and tank tops outside. It’s not cold. Your mind is simply still adjusting.

 

Cancer

(Jun. 22 - Jul. 23):

Now is definitely the time to pick up a new hobby or skill, like knitting scarves with pictures of cats or how to hack into the school system to set off all the fire alarms.

 

Leo 

(July 24 - Aug. 23):

People will be really empathetic for you this month. You should definitely just try crying on the floor outside your professor’s office.

 

Virgo 

(Aug. 24 - Sept. 23):

Your Netflix account is going to freeze. Maybe try “Study N’ Chill?” Nothing like some hard textbooks to get you sweating.

 

Libra

(Sept. 24 - Oct. 23):

Mind planet Mercury is in retrograde (or anterograde? I’m not sure) which means you’re going mess up on your test. Guess you’re out of luck.

 

Scorpio

(Oct. 24 - Nov. 22):

You love telling people that you’re screwed for exams when you’ve made all your notes. Please refrain from telling people this, not only because it makes you a douche, but also because someone’s gonna spit in your food.

 

Sagittarius 

(Nov. 23 - Dec. 21):

You actually still reading these? Christ, stop procrastinating. Get your shit together.

 

Capricorn

(Dec. 22 - Jan. 20):

Your computer’s going to break randomly and all your notes will be lost. Don’t bother trying to back your files up; your usb is also going to combust.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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The other day I came to your store to buy a seven-dollar venti low fat extra whip salted caramel mocha with coconut milk, and the biggest outrage wasn’t the price or your misspelling of my name again, but rather the fact that your cup was just plain red. I couldn’t believe it. #RedCupGate is real.

I mean, I forgot what your cups looked like in past years (I’m pretty sure Jesus on the cross was on the cup last year?), but this is definitely an outrage. I can’t believe that you are against Christmas. What did Santa ever do to you? By the way, you sure as hell ain’t getting a gift from him this year (just like every past year, but that’s cause you’ve always been a bad boy).

These plain red cups are so offensive. Look at it. It’s just red. The colour of blood. It doesn’t matter that you have gift cards that say “Merry Christmas,” Christmas tree ornaments, Christmas CDs, a Christmas blend, and snowman cookies. How dare you say “Happy Holidays” to me? You must say “Merry Christmas.” I don’t care about other holidays. The Jews can get in line. Hanukkah can wait, because Christmas was here first.

There are just a few of us on the #MerryChristmasStarbucks bandwagon right now, so my hope is that this letter will go viral and all the Christians around the land will rally to the cause started by Joshua Feuerstein (praise be). Most of them right now are being good Christians, spreading their faith, and being nice contributing members of society. But it’d be better if they all just dropped what they’re doing and boycott a cup. Thankfully, a lot of people out there are extrapolating the beliefs of my small dissenting group of extreme fanatics to be representative of all Christians, which makes things easier for us.

Christians, if you’re reading this, the plan is to go to Starbucks, pay them money so you can get a drink that says Merry Christmas on it, and then post it on social media so that everyone can see it. We need everyone to be thinking of Starbucks and joining us in buying more drinks from this hellhole. Only then will they learn their lesson.

Alternatively, we can do what Donald Trump said, and boycott Starbucks. Then we can take all the money saved from not buying your drinks to build a wall to push back those dirty Mexicans.

Taking a page from Joshua, I’m also going to exercise the second amendment and bring my gun to Starbucks the next time I come. In fact, I’m heading to Wal-Mart right after this. Wait. We’re in Canada. Damn it. Screw this place and its polar bears.

This isn’t over you Satan worshipping bastards.

Praise God,

The Best Christians

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By: Mike Nisiak

Megan Amram is a writer on Parks and Recreation who got started in comedy through Twitter, with gems such as “Dolls teach girls very unrealistic body standards. A Russian doesn’t have to have many tiny Russians inside her to be beautiful” and “our scariest president was probably Rushmore, because he has four heads.”

Now, she has released her first book, Science... for HER!

Science... for HER! is a satirical science textbook in the style of Cosmopolitan that helps women learn many (not many) scientific facts. Amram marketed the book to women with the selling points that women’s brains aren’t biologically constructed to understand scientific concepts, and women’s tiny hands aren’t biologically constructed to turn the large heavy covers of most science textbooks.

Just for full disclosure: I am not a “HER!” Fortunately, my lack of X chromosomes didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book. I thought it was incredibly funny. The jokes are very absurd, but always carry with them a strand of intelligence. It quickly becomes apparent that Amram crafted the book with extreme precision.

Beyond being funny, Science... for HER! acts as a clever social commentary. In the same vein as Stephen Colbert’s conservative character, Amram taking on the perspective of a Cosmopolitan writer emphasizes the absurdity of how our society views women. Reading this book has shown me more ways that sexism is present in our society than any feminist literature ever has.

These feminist ideas come in articles such as “Women with Jobs?!” in which she ponders whether women should work or not, pointing out that this question remains one of history’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Her opinion is that women should not work outside the home, stating “it’s Steve Jobs, not Eve Jobs.”

At one point, Amram shows what women scientists like Marie Curie and Elizabeth Blackwell look like without makeup. It feels so demeaning of these women and begs the question of why I didn’t get this feeling when I’ve seen comparisons like this about celebrities?

Overall, this book is very entertaining. But more importantly, it made me question my innermost assumptions about gender. I feel like this book has made me a better person.

I would’ve given this book an even higher rating, but I felt uncomfortable purchasing this book at the bookstore because of its “girly” cover. Perhaps Amram should consider releasing a version with a black sleeve over the cover, maybe with some flames or skulls or something.

By: Em Kwissa

Ah, post-Thanksgiving – the time when the honey-dipped optimism of summer makes way for the cool gray reality of autumn. The time that brings to an end the idealism of hometown hookups and vacation exploits, finding them far less attractive when faced with distance, obligations, and even just generalized staleness. A time of beginnings that bring endings. A time of turkey dumps!

So, right in time for the end of the summer fling or the three-year relationship that won’t survive the start of university, for all you evolved and civilized once-flame-now-burned people who are still friends on Facebook: A guide to the modern breakup, from the people watching it all unfold from the sidelines of your social media.

 1. Post constant status updates on Facebook and Twitter, preferably ones that can be accompanied by pictures of your face and/or body.

Obviously you’re handling this whole thing with maturity and grace. You are not emotional or really thinking about your ex at all, so the whole idea of taking some personal time to heal and move on is clearly for people who are Not You. Time to assure everyone that you’re doing well. What better way to do that than with pictures of your face and body? Look how cute and fun you are! You are clearly loving the single life! This barrage of staged photographs of you smiling in a bathing suit / in spandex / in a towel while you’re “At the beach!” / “At the gym!” / “Just relaxin’ today!” is neither transparent to your ex nor annoying as fuck to everyone else.

 2. Accidentally run into your ex.

Get dressed up and go out. Maybe go to places you used to go as a couple. Maybe go places you know your ex loves. Maybe go places you heard Julia say your ex would be. Better make sure you have a great pair of jeans on. Not that you have to prove to anyone that you are a total catch. You will just be chilling with your friends.

3. Catch up with old friends.

You know, the ones you never spoke to or saw for ages because you were too busy dating someone. Call them up! Let’s hang out! It’s not like you were at all crummy or neglectful! Take tons of selfies together! Look how many friends you have! And you know, you always wished you were closer with your ex’s friends... They seemed really cool. Well, breakups are a great time for self-improvement. Get out there and make friends, you! This won’t be weird at all.

4. Keep everyone updated on your every passing emotion throughout this process.

Sure, it’s a raw, emotional time, and your mind and heart are going to be changing every two to five minutes, but that’s why they made mobile apps. Why have an actual conversation with someone when you can just shout your feelings at everyone from your co-workers to your grandparents? It’s better this way. No one’s going to comment on a public Facebook post, “didn’t you say really awful things during the breakup?” or “do you think you’re maybe being a bit dishonest with yourself?” or “your poetry is really bad.”

5. Keep trying to “work things out” with your ex,

even though that is something people do to prevent a breakup, and you are, in fact, broken up. Give your ex that highly comprehensive list of character flaws you compiled. Dredge up all that old crap you never talked about when it was actually happening. Keep tabs on them through mutual friends and social media. If you’re going to stay friends, you’ll want all this out in the open. You’ll want to have it all worked out. And who wouldn’t want to be friends with you? You’re really nice until the chips are down and things get difficult, at which point you react the way any reasonable adult human would – by being mean to people you supposedly care about. Fair trade, right?

Ana Qarri
The Silhouette

While the Student Union is trying to convince you to #DiscoverYourCity, I’m here to convince you that if you’re looking for a romantic getaway it’s time to #DiscoverYourUnderConstructionCampus.

With a variety of fenced off areas, dug out pavement, and safety hazards to choose from,  you could really give your date that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ it’s been missing.

If you are starting your day of romance on Main and Emerson, your first stop should naturally be the beautiful new addition to our campus: that slightly awkward hill that was once densely vegetated.

Slowly walk around the hill before you take a seat on one of the benches. It is completely understandable if you hesitate to do so due to the jaw-dropping architectural design of these masterpieces. The tiny seat dividers found on the benches will serve as a reminder that you need to get to know your date before getting serious. It’s all in the bylaw.

Have a great conversation with your date while enjoying the serene sounds of Main Street West.

After life stories have been shared, start walking towards the student centre. As you approach the front doors, point out the location of the future Starbucks – a place of historical significance. Soon, the ability to walk through this hallway without making uncomfortable body contact with someone else will become a thing of the past, remembered only by those who lived to see both eras.

Walk to the MUSC Atrium where you will find the fireplace. Take a seat with your date, and observe the movement of Mac students. Think that this is nature at its best and give your date a knowing smile. They’re probably thinking the same thing.

The next stop is (obviously) the nuclear reactor. You can’t miss this one. It stands tall on the west side of campus as a constant reminder of death to those who fear heights. The university has conveniently placed a picnic table next to the reactor building, acknowledging the frequent use of this location as a romantic spot.  (Pro-tip: the strange structure of the General Sciences Building makes for some good hidden make-out spots. Proceed at your own risk.)

If your date is still sticking around, you’ve got yourself a keeper. At this point, the route you take is totally up to you. If plants and mosquitoes are your thing, head down to Cootes. If you haven’t had enough of construction zones, take a walk to the Wilson Building and pay a visit to the statue by MDCL. If you want to look at the blue skies of Hamilton, there’s the Ten Acre field.

The possibilities are endless. McMaster is your oyster.

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