In the July 13th edition of the National
, page A2, there was a correction notice that caught
my attention. Normally, correction notices appear for one of
two reasons: one, to mollify the persnickety police (when Agnes
Maclean, 82, from Humboldt Saskatchewan writes to notify the
editors that prairie dogs are not - as reported - cuddly "canines"
but rather, marauding "rodents"); or two, to ward
off potential lawsuits ("the Post
did not mean to
imply that the Prime Minister is an incompetent crook. Just
incompetent"). But the July 13th notice was something different:
"Due to an editing error, identical horoscopes appeared
in yesterday's and today's National Post
. The Post
regrets the error." Nineteen words, no more; perhaps one
of the shortest correction notices ever printed. And because
the notice acknowledges an error in "today's" paper,
it is unlikely that either Agnes Maclean or the Prime Minister's
Office had anything to do with the correction. Still, somebody
at the Post
thought it important to fess-up. Why?
Because horoscopes, apparently, matter. Last September, the
Post went through a massive downsizing: 130 people
were fired, and all "fluff" (arts, sports) was excised
from the paper. Yet the hard-news-and-business focus lasted
but a few days before the Post realized that it had
cut too deeply. Almost a year later, all sections (arts, book
reviews, fashion and sports) are back in some limited form,
but it is worth noting what was first to rise from the ashes:
a page called Diversions, featuring crosswords, cartoons and
most prominently, horoscopes. More so than a dearth of news
on the luminaries of Lalaland or the stellar play of the Arizona
Diamondbacks, it was the absence of prognostications from
the planets that drove Post readers to protest. But
again, the question: Why?
To explore that question (if not answer it outright), I thought
I should let you know what my horoscope told me - via Georgia
Nicols at the Post - on July 12th and July 13th:
You are feeling so confident and so cocky lately, you are
actually prepared to part with your hard-earned cash. Thankfully,
our little loons are growing. Fat on the land? Go ahead and
And here's what really happened:
7:10 am: I have slept in. Dammit. This rarely happens - and
when it does, it is some cause for consternation (see previous
column). And my paper is missing again (see previous column).
My meager ration of cocksureness is gone.
8:50 am: It looks like I'm going to be late for work. Doubledammit.
No time to walk; better get out my money-sucking motor vehicle.
8:55 am: P3 Parcade. There sits my car, shards of glass everywhere.
Someone has broken into my lapsed-out-of-province-license
car; they have succeeded in stealing my maglight, my underground
parking zapper, my Eddie Bauer sunglasses and a few loonies
from the ashtray (my little loons aren't growing as promised
9:05 am: After a few minutes of shaking, followed by a prissy
stab at cursing, I ride the elevator to the main floor and
traipse into the superintendent's office. He encourages me
not to report the break-in, as upwards of twenty cars were
burglarized; he does encourage me to fork out $75 for a new
parking zapper. Zap, zap, zap goes my hard-earned cash.
9:20 am: I am speed-walking to work. Partly driven by feelings
of guilt for being late - partly because I'm trying to keep
pace with the angry, vengeful thoughts racing through my head
- I jaywalk through a red light. "Good way to kill yourself,
stupid" murmurs a heavy-set woman, obediently stationed
on the other side. I want to say something about fat on the
land, but I don't.
2:10 pm: My insurer confirms that I, not they, will be paying
for the break-in (nice little racket, the insurance business:
you collect premiums, then use this thing called a "deductible"
to get out of paying for 90% of all potential claims). So
go ahead, I tell myself, and spend (on credit). Buy those
generic power windows you've always wanted.
6 am - 11 pm: Feeling poor and depressed, I spend the whole
day in bed, reading my papers and eating banana chips. I have
no hard-earned cash left, but I am starting to get fat.
* * *
So my horoscope was a bit off. Then again, many astrologers
have long held that horoscopes should not be used to predict
the future, but rather to predict possible influences that
the planets might have on a person's life. When astrology
started with the ancient Greeks, it was as a means of knowing
when to plant and when to harvest their crops. Nowadays, horoscopes
represent the junk food of the newspaper pantry: an occasional
light snack for most readers, but a dietary staple for a prominent
group of malnourished addicts. Nancy Reagan, for one, hired
a full-time astrologer after the 1981 assassination attempt
on her husband's life: his job was to choose the best times
for the president to make a public appearance. (To the surprise
of nobody, there were no further attempts on Ronnie's life;
Nancy thanks her lucky stars for this, but a beefed-up secret
service complement - now larger than Toronto's police force
- should get some of the credit).
I am not an unadulterated astrophobe, however: as far as
the zodiacal world is concerned, I undoubtedly fit the stereotype
of a cancerian (sensitive, moody, a homebody). I simply chose
not to rely on planetary movements to plan my earthly activities
(inertia, and a healthy reliance on precedents, will suffice).
The editors at the National Post, on the other hand,
were worried enough about their astrological junkies getting
sucked down a black hole of misinformation that they decided
to run a preemptive correction notice on Page Two. If the
absence of horoscopes drove Post readers to distraction
last September, imagine how my recent discovery of this skipping
record - evidence (if any was needed) of a veritable "man
behind the curtain" - must have shaken their faith in
the stars up above.
It is my contention here - as it has been in past columns
- that newspapers are meant for weightier matters, and that
frippery is the domain of the instant-gratification media.
Still, amidst all the dreariness of daily news, perhaps there
is room for a Diversion or two; perhaps the beautiful illusion
of a life lived by horoscope is what gets some people through
the rest of their newspaper (and their day). Even I have been
known to enjoy an occasional slice of trifle with my morning
paper, so long as it accords with my very particular taste
buds. Here is what Sally Brompton at the Globe and Mail
served up for me on that fateful day, July 12th:
A lot of people will tell you a lot of conflicting things
today and there is simply no way of knowing who is telling
the truth and who is lying. Therefore you must ignore everything
that you hear and act only on what your inner voice tells
Mmm. Paranoia Over Easy.
is vague and sweeping.