Your Horoscope

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ARIES (March 21-April 20)

Be careful not to let your impulses get the best of you this year. Make an effort to deliberate consciously about decisions both at work and at home. A Libra in your life will help keep you sane. Late in the year, you will be incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

TAURUS (April 21-May 21)

Change is on the way in your life, chiefly in a professional sense. Taureans are generally calm and patient, but can also be hardheaded. Try your best to understand the situation and really see what’s going on. Also, be on the lookout for another big change involving your being incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

GEMINI (May 22-June 21)

Everyone around you will insist that you are doing too much, but you should strive to do more, while still keeping your focus. You’re going to want to do everything, but it’s important early in the year to take inventory and decide what it is you really want to do with yourself, keeping in mind that you will be incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

CANCER (June 22-July 23)

Now is the time for you to go on an adventure! Get out of your rut and find someone or something special to go after. You tend to be wrapped up in old memories and your emotional wounds, but make an effort to let that all go. A certain Virgo in your life will provide you with the opportunity for a new journey. But you better take it fast, before you are incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

LEO (July 24-August 23)

Tired of hearing about how bossy you are? Well, don’t give it a rest just yet, because this is your time to really take charge. You want to be in control of everything, and you should try to be, no matter how tired you feel. You’ll have plenty of time to rest after you’re incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

VIRGO (August 24-September 23)

Your aversion to anything hazardous to your health or sordid should be your cue to keep your distance from a careless Sagittarius who tends to be a bad influence. You’ll feel better about yourself and won’t have any of the guilt that’s such a nuisance all the time. It’ll be good to have your mind clear for the day you are incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the earth.

LIBRA (September 24-October 23)

This is the year that you’ll finally realize that, though you’ve gotten by pretty well on your own up to this point, you actually need someone to even out your life and account for your constantly shifting moods. You’ll have a particularly fiery disposition late in the year, around the time you are incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

SCORPIO (October 24-November 22)

Question the so-called compliments of the people at work; it is likely to turn out that they’re just flattering you. Don’t let them distract you from your real work, a spaceship designed to save a Pisces you know from certain doom. If you work hard enough, you’ll finish just before you’re incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23-December 21)

You’re often criticized for your inability to say no to anyone, but you’ll wish you answered in the affirmative the one time you don’t this year. You’ll know exactly what I’m talking about right at the moment you are incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 20)

Your constant worries about death will alienate you from friends and family. Unless you are careful, it could even turn into an obsession, and cause great worry to everyone who cares about you. Incidentally, you will be incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

AQUARIUS (January 21-February 19)

Excessive loneliness is your greatest fear, and you’ll be spending the first half of your year coming face-to-face with a situation that will force you to confront it. Try not to worry, though, as in the later part of the year you couldn’t be more a part of the crowd as you are incinerated when a gigantic asteroid collides with the Earth.

PISCES (February 20-March 20)

This will be a dramatic year for you, with more unfortunate hardships than you are used to. You will feel surrounded by know-it-alls at the first of the year, all of whom seem to be trying to tell you what to do. Later on, one of those know-it-alls will railroad you into getting on a spaceship for some inexplicable reason. You will come to know true pain when you discover that the spaceship is not equipped with a restroom. Thanks a lot, Scorpio.

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Never Respond to a Flyer Tacked to a Public Library Bulletin Board

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You have a new message, recorded today at 11:43 p.m.

[Beep]

Phone tag, you’re it! Thanks for responding to my flyer. The name’s Steve. Are you as excited about this year’s science-fiction book discussion group as I am? You’re the first and only person who called, which lends a nice symmetry, because I’m the only member of the group. Current member. We used to be bigger. But as with most things, I guess, it’s cyclical. Much like the Hindu concept of Time. Or a concealed pit with fire-hardened punji stakes at the bottom. Oh wait, that’s circular. At least mine is.

So, where are you at 11:43 at night? Do you go to the gym? What gym?

I’m expecting this to be a great season of sci-fi book talk. Yes, yes, I know. These days, people tend to do this kind of thing over the Internet. Call me old-fashioned if you will, but I prefer the give and take of live discussion. Person to person. Face to face. Boot to neck. Whatever. You just can’t get that from a chat room. Hey, this is weird, but I think there’s a chat room about me! Have you heard about that? Seriously, have you?

Okay, I need to get you up to speed on a few guidelines. Just so you know the ropes. I think ropes are important. I’ve used them on several occasions. Not quite as often as piano wire, though.

First rule — I mean, guideline. I assign the book we will read for each meeting. I’m open to suggestions. But I assign the book. That just seems to work the best. And don’t worry, I like to mix things up a bit. So our first book, say, will be something from the TekWar series by William Shatner. But next time, maybe Shadow Planet by William Shatner. I’ll let you know for sure next week. You’re going to be home, right? When? Maybe I can stop by and let you know in person. If you’re not home, I’ll just wait inside. Don’t worry about leaving a key.

We meet the first and third Friday of every month — at my house. In the coal cellar. Behind the water heater. You can thank the little lady for that; she doesn’t like me entertaining guests upstairs. And, no, I’m not married. The little lady is literally a little porcelain lady on my coffee table. Who talks to me.

[Two seconds of silence]

A week before each meeting, I’ll send you our discussion questions, which must be answered in advance. Now, you may have heard that questions like these don’t have a right or wrong answer. That’s not true. They do. They have one right answer. There are many, many wrong answers. So spend a little time on these questions, okay? This has been a bone of contention in the past, but I think by mentioning it up front, we’ll avoid any unpleasantness. And I promise: no more talk of bones! Huh- what? I’m on the phone! Sheesh. Excuse me a sec.

[Five seconds of silence]

Sorry about that. The little porcelain lady says I shouldn’t make promises.

On to the snack policy: I’ll be responsible for snacks. I take some trouble preparing them, so I hope you’re not the type to say “I’m not hungry” or “I prefer someone else to taste them first” or “What did you just pour into the guacamole from that secret compartment in your ring?” That gets tiresome, believe me!

Okay, then, that about does it. Welcome aboard! I’ll be honest; I was a bit surprised to hear from you. I thought the library took down all my flyers just a soon as I put them up. And it was a real hat trick to get this last one through. I guess they didn’t count on me hiding in the men’s restroom all night, did they? Don’t mention that to them.

Oh, one more thing. I assume you’ll be thoroughly prepared for a lively, positive discussion on the works of William Shatner. I hope you’ll display the level of commitment one would expect from someone who responds to a flyer that someone else crawled through ductwork to tack up. If not, I will be greatly disappointed. I’m just saying this to avoid what’s happened in the past. But, as they say, the past is buried. In my crawlspace. Now, come on, that’s just a little joke. I’m joking! But then again, there is a certain amount of truth in that, I mean, in a metaphori–

[Beep]

You have a new message, recorded today at 11:46 p.m.

Okay, I really hate getting cut off. Really. But that’s fine. You didn’t know that. We’ll have a discussion about my phone message policy next week. Behind the water heater.

[Beep]

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Missing: One Link

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The search for an ancestor that might link the human to the inhuman goes on, like the search for Jimmy Hoffa (some experts feel that when we have found the one we will have found the other). What did our remote predecessors look like? No one knows, but all the indications are that in a family portrait, you’d want them to be holding the camera.

The hominid fossil record is scant — mostly jaws and teeth — and even this slim evidence was compromised by the recent discovery that these fossils are actually false teeth which the early men took out at bedtime and forgot to put back in. How and why they also took out their jaws is still a mystery.

What we do know about ancient man we have gleaned by picking through his garbage and going over his quarterly financial statements, and by talking to a woman named Maggie who knew him well. Maggie was a charwoman who became a slightly charred woman during the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino fire in Las Vegas in 1980.

“Not only were his teeth false, but his beard, too,” she said to us as she beat a still-smoldering Persian rug with a bullwhip. “I met him here in Vegas during Reagan’s first presidential campaign, sure. He was a little guy, about five-feet-two, eyes of blue — both on one side of his head, unfortunately. He was old, real old…about two million years, tops. No wonder he always insisted on the senior discount. I think it was him that started the fire. He cried on my shoulder one time and told me he was sore as all get out because he had invented fire way back when and never saw a penny of the royalties.”

Maggie paused thoughtfully. “One morning he took the blueberries off his cereal, stomped the juice out of ’em and painted the walls of his room with a dead branch — pictures of bison and ritual sacrifice, you know, but cute, like a little boy would do. He was just like a kid sometimes, always sulking because he knew his cranial capacity was about half the modern average and he couldn’t wear a hat without it falling over his ears. Also, he walked like Walter Brennan, but I told him it would never change the way I felt about him — I still hated him.”

Did this early man possess a brow only a bit higher than that of a teamster, or did he approach the human norm? Well, I don’t want to imply that his skull was pointed, but if you threw him headfirst into a dartboard he’d probably stick.

He used no “tools” as we know them today, although he was apparently able to crack nuts with his forehead and saw down trees with his eyebrow ridges. In short, he closely resembled a Chicago alderman, except that he lacked the power of speech, as did his wife — which is about the only good thing we can say about either of them, bless their hearts.

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The Stupendoleum: A Visitor’s Guide

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Welcome to the Stupendoleum, the most ostentatious mausoleum and sepulchral monument known to recorded history. Unearthed in 1799 and used as a public defecation pit until 1923, it now stands fully restored in awesome testimony to the life of the monarch whose tomb is housed within, King Stupendicarchus of 4th-Century-B.C. Asia Minor.

This almost inconceivably large funerary monument was first described by Antipater of Sidon in his treatise “Affronts to the Gods” as “Affront to the Gods #1.” As Classics students may recall, the Stupendoleum collapsed under its own weight just three days after it was built. It is even more amazing, then, that this mighty necropolis appears before you now exactly as it did on the day of its completion more than two millennia ago — except for the massive, supporting framework of titanium girders. (Which are slightly radioactive.)

As you approach the Stupendoleum along the Grand Avenue, lined on either side by enormous statues of inscrutable sphinxes, ineffable monkey-faced elephants and incomprehensible winged platypuses, you’ll note that its grotesque scale really starts to hit home. It is this, the Stupendoleum’s shameless manifestation of hubris, that prompted Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger to write about it, Bruegel the Elder and Bruegel the Younger to paint it, and Frank Sinatra and Frank Sinatra Jr. to visit it.

As you can see, the exterior of the mausoleum is difficult to describe. It appears to be five gigantic, rectangular (?) colonnaded podiums stacked atop each other, crowned by a towering ziggurat of solid basalt, its walls crenellated with miniature ziggurats. This in turn is crowned by the gargantuan statues of Stupendicarchus and his far-from-beautiful queen, Preclampsia, in a ferret-drawn chariot, and these figures are themselves crowned by a large, stork-like seabird (possibly a stork) that just doesn’t seem to want to go away. [We have since determined the bird is also a statue — ed.]

Incorporating the worst of all ancient architectural traditions, the Stupendoleum is reminiscent of the stepped Pyramid of Zoser, the Palace of Sargon at Khorsabad, and a grossly oversized Stuckey’s. (An interesting side note: of the two or three manmade structures that can be seen from space, the Stupendoleum is the only one that astronauts refuse to look at.)

As you pass through the portico, please note the entrance gate flanked by two hideous, 50-foot colossi representing the ancient Etruscan twin demigods “Apathy” and “Petulance.”

Is your breath taken away? Then you have now surely entered the famous Hall of 1,000 Columns, a monumental hypostyle chamber (suffused with moderate levels of methane gas) consisting of 467 columns. All exposed surfaces are inscribed with a haphazard combination of hieroglyphics, cuneiform and Linear B, recounting Stupendicarchus’s weekly grocery lists for his entire reign. “Horrible to behold,” wrote Vitruvius, after beholding.

The stinging sensation you feel is a light acid rain that falls continuously from small, horrid clouds along the ceiling. Please make your way quickly (run) to the far end of the Hall (should take 25-30 minutes).

You now should find yourself at the entrance to the needlessly gigantic chamber containing the famous depiction, in freestanding marble statuary, of Stupendicarchus’s pilgrimage to Delphi. Moving from left to right, we first see the monarch, clad only in his trademark super-mini half-toga and coconut-husk helmet, putting a question to the oracle. In the next grouping of statues, the oracle cups her elbow and taps her cheek, formulating a response, while the king amuses himself with a yo-yo. Classical scholars have never determined exactly what the oracle’s answer was, but the next scene shows Stupendicarchus curled up in a fetal position inside a large pot, so obviously the news wasn’t good.

As you begin your trek down the kilometer-long, torch-lit passageway to the burial chamber, please avoid if possible the bottomless fissure at approximately the halfway point. Originally, the passage was to be lined with the flayed skins of vanquished foes, but since there was never any vanquishing, they just kept office supplies in here.

In truth, the reign of Stupendicarchus was never marked by even the smallest military victory or conquest, or any sort of achievement whatsoever. However, the king was described by ancient historian Philo of Byzantium as “fond of drink.”

In fact, Stupendicarchus’ sole triumph was in death. As is obvious from the shockingly massive burial tomb at which you are no doubt marveling this very moment. Inside lies the famed sarcophagus of white alabaster, encrusted with lapis lazuli and carved with nonsensical incantations from the Assyrian Pamphlet of the Defunct, the book that was Stupendicarchus’s spiritual guide throughout his life and was said to have brought him great comfort and peace of mind. The lid of this mighty stone coffin is formed by a sculpture of the great king himself, his hands folded serenely over his chest, each clutching a baby rattle, his death mask forever frozen in an expression that most describe as abject, craven terror.

So what can be said, ultimately, about the Stupendoleum, and by extension, the nature of time and the profound sweep of eternity? When one contemplates this grossly disproportionate shrine to the banal life of a minor ancient monarch, and the outrageous costs, financial and human, of reconstructing it, we hope you will not neglect to visit our gift shop. And come again soon!

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