REAL ASTROLOGY For an Unreal World

Aries (March 21-April 19): In the magazine Stone Shoes, novelist William Vollman suggests that just about the most important and enjoyable thing in life is “doing something that's a complicated, tricky problem for you that you don't know how to solve.” Vollman is famous for his ability to sustain a high level of intensity, so he probably lives according to this principle most of the time. The rest of us may only be able to manage that in spurts. I've got to say, though, that the coming weeks could very well be one of those spurts for you.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): According to “Harper's Index,” no women appeared on the cover of any newsweekly magazine in 1995 unless they were a princess, murderer, or model. Research on 1996 isn't complete yet, but early data indicate a similar pattern. I will broach this prediction concerning 1997, however: At least three non-royal, non-homicidal, non-fashion-doll females will smash the embargo, and they will all be Tauruses. In fact, there's a 50-50 chance one of these women will make the leap during the next four weeks. As for the rest of you Taurus women: Seek an equivalent breakthrough soon. Taurus men: Prod your inner female into cracking an inner glass ceiling.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Long ago in the English town of Kidderminster there was a holiday called “Lawless Hour.” Held between 3 and 4 p.m., it gave celebrants license to hurl cabbage stalks at each other with impunity. I would love for you Geminis to borrow that tradition this week. Your somber expression and grudging attitude of late tells me that you desperately need a goofy release. Instead of “Lawless Hour,” though, let's call it “Slap-Happy Hour,” and designate it for next Monday between 3 and 4 p.m. Seeing as how cabbage stalks are hard to come by these days, how about if you substitute whipped cream and maraschino cherries?

Cancer (June 21-July 22): Both Freud and the fundamentalists are right. Repression is a good thing when it involves the stifling of dangerous impulses. If you feel like slapping your boss over the head with a broom, for instance, it's better if you stop yourself. On the other hand, both Freud and the fundamentalists are wrong, too. Repression of healthy desires that threaten no one is a downright sin. For example, you can't imagine what glorious strokes of fate you might abort this week if you fail to heed impulses to careen in the direction of more extravagant pleasure.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22): It'll be a bad week to purchase toys made by political prisoners in China or pants made in Salvadoran sweatshops. It'll be an equally terrible week to try curing a blue mood with a shopping spree or to ransom your future for the sake of a passing fancy. It will, however, be a spiritually correct time to say “What have you done for me lately?” to a money-sucker who's on the verge of becoming a full-time parasite. It'll also be a perfect moment to fix stuff that isn't quite broken yet.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Like listening to reggae music in an elevator, you must now learn to accommodate juxtapositions of funkiness and artificiality. Like a medical technician whose job it is to give a queen a colonic irrigation, you've got to find a way to be graceful in inelegant situations. Like Jack Ryan, who designed missiles for the Pentagon and also created the Barbie doll, you should be primed to show your artistry on both battlegrounds and playgrounds.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): When she was a teen-ager, my friend Babushka used to wear curlers to bed every night so her hair would be bouncy when she went to school the next morning. Naturally this was grossly uncomfortable. It was hard to find a position on the pillow where the cylindrical metal gadgets wouldn't gouge her skull. What motivated her to endure? Her mother's war cry was an important prod: “Beauty must suffer!” I've always thought that phrase had far-reaching metaphorical implications beyond its obvious meaning. And now, as you Librans struggle to bring more grace and lyrical power into your life, I'm tempted to offer it up to you as a temporary mantra.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Every day, you wade through a teeming babble of information. This cloud of noise coming at you from the media is so vast and relentless that it's a miracle you're ever able to filter out the tiny percentage of data that's truly useful. All too often, of course, you end up absorbing a lot of the nonsense that surrounds the pithy clues you need. Over time, this takes a toll. It becomes harder for you to know what you really want, as opposed to the hyped-up fantasies that have insinuated themselves into your subconscious mind. That's why I recommend periodic media fasts, during which you abstain from all radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and movies. The next five days would be a perfect time for you to do just that.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Sagittarian Walt Disney was famous for saying, “I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I've ever known.” In a related vein, my old Sagittarian lover Molly once told me, “I'd much rather argue with you about quantum physics and Hegelian philosophy and the politics of health care than waste our time talking about all our trivial little feelings.” And then there's my Sagittarian friend Darren, who's fond of joking, “Why worry about today when the future is so much more interesting?” While I'm able to appreciate the charm in all these testimonies, I must inform you that they're the worst possible role models for you right now. As I see it, your astrological assignment is to do the exact opposite.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): David Hellerstein has reported that Prozac hikes serotonin levels in monkeys, thereby boosting their tendency to push other monkeys around. In response to this research, scores of CEOs all over the world have taken to popping the magic little pills as well. But I'm here to tell you, Capricorn, that you won't need Prozac to increase your serotonin flow anytime soon. The planetary alignments seem to be doing it just fine. Are there any social settings in which you'd like to strut and show off and exert greater dominance? It's high time to pounce.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): The X-Files' Dana Scully recently reminded Fox Mulder of a wise insight he'd once spoken, and when I heard it I immediately felt a fervent urgency to convey it to you: “A dream is an answer to a question we have not yet learned how to ask.” Nothing else I could tell you this week is more important than that. Your night dreams will be more vivid and useful than they've been in months, and your daydreams will be full of hot leads that could help uncover the juiciest questions of the year.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20): The scene: a mother and her 8-year-old daughter at a restaurant. The girl says to the waitress, “I want a hot dog, french fries, and a Coke.” The mother doesn't acknowledge this declaration. “My daughter will have the bean salad, plain yogurt, and grapefruit juice,” she asserts. The waitress turns to the girl and asks, “Do you want ketchup with it?” The girl beams at the waitress and muses to herself, “She thinks I'm real.” The moral of the story as far as you're concerned, Pisces: Make sure that in the next few weeks you hang out as much as possible with people like the waitress.

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