Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Divination Standby

My horoscope is inexcusably awful today. It's like the stars aren't even trying. Quoth Yahoo!'s personal astrologer:

"Your day will be somewhat dictated by the whims of someone who is in authority."

This horoscope sucks on many different levels:

1. Well, duh. An authority figure will tell me what to do? What other bits of advice do you have for me, Zodiac? The amount of daylight hours will be somewhat dictated by the temporal distance from the summer solstice?

2. What sort of action am I supposed to take now that I possess this crucial bit of information? I thought the point of knowing your future was to plan accordingly. I am just as helpless now as I was before I read it.

3. I understand that horoscopes have to be vague by nature; if it said "At precisely 5:33 EST you will receive a call bearing bad news about your career, but this can be avoided if you ask to do a job no one else wants," and nothing happened, or it was my day off, then the whole credibility of the practice could be called into question. But still, this one doesn't even bother to specify if the whims are good or bad. In fact, it doesn't even say that I'm going to be told what to do. Just "somewhat dictated" by the whims of authority.

So after I read this, instead of just saying "How the hell can anyone take astrology seriously?" like everyone else on the planet, I think to myself, "I could write a better horoscope than this. Surely Yahoo! could afford to hire an actual writer." And after 10 seconds of brainstorming I came up with:

Sagittarius: The powers that be may feel the need to rein you in. An acquiescence on your part, even if it is only temporary, may be the best course of action.

Here's why this is a much better horoscope:

1. Excitement. "Powers that be" "rein you in" "course of action". These are exciting, dramatic phrases that lead people to believe that their lives are much more important than they actually are, which is priority one for any horoscope.

2. Good advice. The message of this horoscope boils down to "Hey stupid. Do what your boss tells you to." Following this horoscope will likely lead to continued employment.

3. Vague, but applicable. What was I thinking of when I read this? The fact that I've been pulled over 4 times in the past five days for a missing head lamp. Perhaps making an appointment to get that fixed would be wise.

4. Vocab words. Do you feel smarter? I do. Because no one wants their horoscope to insult their intelligence.

This led me to believe that perhaps my true calling is "astrologer", but then I choked when I realized that writing horoscopes would require thinking up 12 such lines, plus a birthday forecast, every day for eternity without repeating. How could one go a week at this without running out of ideas? Would you have to go back and check all of your archives to make sure you didn't accidentally forecast death and destruction for Libras for seven straight days? How do actual horoscope writers deal with this sort of thing without becoming overtly snide or otherwise compromising the Very Serious tone that horoscopes are written in?

And then it occurred to me. Good horoscope writers would have to have a system to make sure they didn't get tedious with their predictions. They'd have to have some pre-determined method for chosing to forecast about love, work, friendships, or personal accomplishment, with good or bad implications, and with warnings or suggestions. The idea that horoscopes might actually be the result of an intricate and arbitrary system independent of the intricate and arbitrary system that it's supposed to be representing fills me with some strange sort of satisfaction, somehow. Does this merit further study? Perhaps.


BerryBird said...

Holy crap! You've been pulled over four times in the last five days? That must be getting old. I've only been pulled over once in my life and I just about crapped my pants. I think I'd have a heart attack somewhere in there before I got to the fourth time. Sooner or later they'll actually catch you doing something wrong.

Incidentally, that one time I was pulled over was also for a pdiddle. The condition really must attract a lot of attention. I was living in a tiny town of 200 people where they simply did not sell headlights and in the process of driving to a bigger town 30 miles away where they did. I was also speeding, but I don't think they would have bothered pulling me over had both headlights been functioning.

The horoscope is definitely telling you to get that shit fixed.

Juliane said...

There are actually only two astrologers in the whole world who write the horoscopes for the common media. They take turns, one writing a statement and the other "dressing it up" w pretty words and tone which subtley suggest doom&gloom or happy surprises. It's a game they play; how to turn "Today, a familiar person will talk to you" into "Today, an authority figure in your life will bring you unwelcome news" or "Today, someone you admire will give you personal attention." Fun, no? Also, they keep a database of all the predictions and recycle the ones they used in France last year, for example, in Canada this year.

Hope this helps :)

Andy said...

There are only two astrologers in the world? Seriously? Guess that's not a career a person just walks into.