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A Future Without Omarr

January 11, 2003

Probably in hindsight we could have foreseen sad feelings over the recent predictable passing of Sydney Omarr, the longtime Times astrologer. Like astrology, he was intriguing, a Philadelphia native offering predictably vague insights into the future with hope and good nature. A Leo, Omarr's forecast for himself the day he died of multiple sclerosis was: "You will beat the odds." Many years ago Omarr changed his name from Kimmelman, added an extra "r" for exotica and redirected a fascination with magic's sleight of hand to verbs, nouns and the future he saw displayed in the stars as viewed from a Santa Monica apartment window.

Newspaper astrologer is not a job that opens often. For six decades Omarr found an audience of ready believers, from fervent followers who rearranged behavior to accommodate a promising nostrum (take flirtation seriously) to the skeptically curious who didn't care where Jupiter was but wouldn't mind timing tips on selling a house. Or stock. Or getting divorced. (Let go of losing proposition.)

Even if astrological forecasts appear next to the comics, they provide a predictable entertainment, like a galactic box score to check daily. And where's the harm in "Intuition works overtime" or "You may encounter future mate"? Unless, of course, you wink at the wrong person while working late. Or sell on the cusp of a surging market.

There is something in humans that seeks life's patterns, predictabilities, even when the soothing soothsayer is a 76-year-old blind, paralyzed grocer's son who dictated his famous forecasts from bed. Predictably, predictability provides comforting reassurance that even in a confusing, disconcerting world, things move according to a plan that someone somewhere can discern. If the shared prediction works, it's uncanny; if not, it's forgotten like Miami's sure Fiesta Bowl victory.

Who wouldn't mind a sneak peek at a future horse race, the stock market, marriage, life after death, traffic on the 405 at 5:04? We pay millions to psychics and fortune tellers. (Do you suppose business would sag if they were called misfortune tellers?) The Weather Channel devotes all day every day to weather forecasts, which are unerringly accurate about places you are not.

Companies predict growth. (You will profit from good news.) Teams predict winning seasons. (A coin toss brings good luck.) The National Weather Service forecasts that lightning fatalities will decline. (Avoid stormy settings.) And hurricanes will double. (Capricorn assists with new housing.) As ships sail, troops move and February nears, Mars is rising and the Raiders look strong. Shake off lethargy. Think for yourself. Your family counts on you. Here's another prediction to count on: No New Year's predictions will come true, starting with this one.

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