Which leads me to an important question. Given the fact that visions of nihilism and apocalypse seem to be extremely cool and becoming cooler every day, do you really want to be getting your horoscopes from a geeky optimist like me? Be forewarned that in 1996 I will try to sell you the preposterous notion that good things are more likely to happen to you if you believe they will.
Taurus (April 20-May 20): Are you familiar with "Breathe Right," that strip of tape the football players wear across their noses? It's supposed to facilitate breathing by "reducing airflow resistance." I tried to get the manufacturer to sponsor your horoscope this week. The company refused, but I'm making its product your metaphor of the week anyway. You see, Taurus, you should be reducing "flow resistance" in every area of your life right now. You should be pushing hard for fewer constrictions, wider horizons, and lots more breathing room.
Gemini (May 21-June 20): Recycling should be the central metaphor of your life this week; the raison d'etre; the modus operandi. I'm not just talking about getting your cans and bottles to the ecology center, either. You should examine every ancient thought, every moth-eaten emotion, every antiquated project for evidence that it might be crushed or compacted or melted down and turned into rich fodder for a future dream.
Cancer (June 21-July 22): One of my favorite poets, Cancerian Robert Haas, once mused, "All interesting works of art say the opposite of what they started out to say." Though that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it does appear to be applicable to you now. During the next 12 months, I predict that you will be becoming a more interesting work of art every day, and it will have much to do with the fact that you'll be turning the story of your life in a radically different direction.
Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): Last year had certain metaphorical resemblances to the time when you first passed your driving test. The beginning of this year will have lots in common with the three months after you first got your license. Think of it like this: You're official now; you're bona fide. And yet you're also very green, virtually a virgin when it comes to using your newly minted skills under real-life pressure. May I suggest therefore -- speaking symbolically here -- that instead of heading right out to the crazed freeway or the manic downtown, you cruise on the sparsely traveled back roads until your experience catches up with your new credentials?
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): If you're a typical Virgo, your health has been chronically iffy and delicate forever. Sometimes you appear to be an incorrigible hypochondriac. Other times you seem to be a courageous champion putting up a brave fight against all the bugs you're assailed by. I predict all that'll change later this year, as the energizing planet Mars launches a toning program that'll have you in your best shape ever by the spring of 1997. In the meantime, to prepare yourself, upgrade your education about all your health issues.
Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Dear Smart Consumer: We are pleased to inform you that you have been definitely confirmed as having a place on the list from which our prize winners will be selected. There is no catch. You are under no obligation to buy our "Bless This House" Good Luck Astrological Medallion for an unheard-of low price of $49.95. Whether or not you order the medallion, you may definitely receive one of the following fine gifts for your home: a 65-piece set of Tupperware; 12 embroidered towels; a year's supply of air freshener; or a completely impossible-to-put-into-words, divine boost to your domestic bliss.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): According to my astrological research into your anatomy, the part of your body that most urgently needs more exercise is your jaw. Let's brainstorm about how you can take care of this. I suppose you could eat lots of rare steaks and pork chops without using a knife and fork, forcing your mandibles to do more than their usual share of ripping and tearing. And I imagine you could get more aerobic action by chewing big wads of gum. But what I really had in mind was for you to do more gabbing and chatting and yakking. How about it? Get out there and schedule some talkathons. Arrange dates with good listeners. And say what you mean about 10 times harder than usual.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): My $5-an-hour advice is blunt, predictable, and only takes a few seconds to impart. It goes as follows: "Never try to be something you're not. Find out what you were made to do, and do it with all your might."
On the other hand, my $1,000-a-minute wisdom is complicated, ambiguous, and difficult to convey in less than two weeks of storytelling. Here's just a hint of it: "Sometimes you get very interesting results from trying to be something you're not. Going against the grain may tweak you in such a way that you'll have a special grace when you eventually get around to doing what you were made to do."
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): As I muse and meditate on where you're at right now, I'm drawn toward a place in West Africa called Cape Three Points. It's located at the one spot on the globe where zero degrees latitude intersects zero degrees longitude. It just so happens that Cape Three Points is also situated exactly at sea level -- meaning its elevation is zero. As I see it, this place is a perfect metaphor for your own current state of affairs. You're at the triple zero point, baby. You're starting from scratch -- in all the best and most challenging senses of that term -- in three different ways.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): There aren't any bad guys, really. Those who seem to be bad guys are simply so hypnotized by their own pain that they can't stop being nasty until their pain bottoms out. For that matter, there aren't really any good guys, either. Those who seem to be good guys are merely serving their own selfish interests, even though they might be hiding behind altruistic rationales. Under the circumstances, my friend, the best you can do is do what you do so well, which is to treat everyone with democratic equanimity. Play no favorites; take no sides; be the unflappable peacemaker.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): Within the space of a mere two months, three slow-moving planets have shifted signs. (Uranus this week, Pluto in November, and Jupiter two weeks ago.) A mass migration of this magnitude is a rare astrological event. It presages radical mutations for all of us. You Pisceans, with your highly tuned antennae, are no doubt abuzz with anticipation, sensing that Something Very Big is about to happen. Please remember, though, that Very Big does not mean Very Bad. In fact, keep this cosmic law in mind: To the degree that you obsessively seek safety and self-preservation, they'll elude you. To the degree that you welcome the wild, wild future, it'll never hurt you.