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MARTHA SEZ: It’s a mad, mad, mad zodiac world

January 27, 2011
Biff friended me on facebook yesterday. I must say I was surprised.

The fact is, Biff and I have never actually been friends, although we used to date, years ago. The last time I saw Biff, he and his wife Rachel were shopping at a Wal-Mart Super Store where I was buying Halloween candy. Biff was staggering around, recovering from a near-death experience. He looked ghastly.

I think Biff likes the idea of having a large number of Facebook friends. He’s pretty competitive, and he respects quantity. Also, a recent news item has him shaken up, and he’s trying to regain a sense of personal control over his world by hashing things over with a lot of other people who he doesn’t necessarily have to bond with or have any real connection with. You know? This is just a guess on my part.

We’re not talking here about a serious matter like the shootings in Arizona, or the war in Afghanistan. We’re talking about astrology — the kind of fluff that news people come up with to keep the public entertained.

Biff doesn’t understand this.

“It has to be true,” he maintains, “or they wouldn’t be allowed to print it.”

That’s a good one! Does he know who he’s talking to? As a writer, I am the “they” he defends so credulously. It’s kind of sweet.

I must admit though that yesterday an ad got my attention when an announcer blurted out, in an upbeat, excited voice, “Are you between the ages of 40 and 88?”

I looked up expectantly from what I was doing — cutting snowflakes out of scrap paper, I believe—to see the words “FUNERAL SAVINGS OFFER! Blazoned across the screen. I changed the channel in a hurry.

What was bothering Biff — it was all over his Facebook page — was not his mortality, this time, but the fear that he was not in reality Sagittarius, the Archer, but a new astrological sign completely.

I researched it. Turns out that some troublemaking astronomy instructor has published an article proposing that, because the earth has wobbled on its axis since ancient Babylonians or Mesopotamians back in the Cradle of Civilization discovered the Zodiac, the old system we’ve been going by is out of whack.

According to Parke Kunkle, an astronomy instructor at Minnesota Community and Technical College, in order to rectify matters, everybody has to step back a sign.

This would would be fine with me, since I’m Cancer the Crab. The opportunity to start a new life as Gemini, the fun-loving, spontaneous, creative, unpredictable twin personality, sounds great. I think I’ll go to the South of France.

For Biff, though, it’s shattering. Accustomed to thinking of himself as the Old Straight Arrow, Sagittarius, out there at the beginning of deer hunting season with his bow, expert at darts, he now would be Ophiuchus, a new sign with a funny name nobody has ever heard of. Yes, Kunkle has suggested adding a 13th sign, Ophiuchus, to the Zodiac to bring it up to date. This is bad, because Biff is superstitious. Or “spiritual,” as his wife says.

Ophiuchus, pronounced “Oafy-oo-cuss,” is represented as a guy wrestling a big snake, like the kind that has escaped from pet shops in Florida and taken over the Everglades. This is not as good as a centaur with a bow and arrow, clearly.

I told the Biffster to relax. Much as I would like to think of myself as Gemini, this changing of the zodiac is not happening. Kunkle probably doesn’t even believe in astrology.

“Daily Mail” astrologer Johathon Cainer labels Kunkle “a jealous astronomer.” (Who knew astronomers were jealous of astrologers?) He calls Kunkle’s readjusted zodiac “a load of nonsense.”

Cainer writes that for many years modern astrology has not relied on charting the position of the constellations, but is more abstract. (What? How do they make predictions, then?)

Cainer further portrays Kunkle as either “willfully ignorant or mischeivous and malevolent,” showing that “the scientific community reacts in a bigoted way when faced with mysticism.”

See, Biff? Don’t pay any attention to Kunkle. He probably wouldn’t even believe in your near-death experience.

Wait, Biff is on-line. He’s not hung up on this Ophiuchus thing anymore. Now he’s all excited because a scientist named Satoshi Kanazawa conducted a study proving that the more attractive a person is, the more intelligent he or she is. I’m glad Biff is happy.

Have a good week!



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