The planet Mercury is currently in retrograde. It’ll be that way for another couple of days. If that’s not enough, Mercury will be in retrograde again for a few weeks starting on August 30. Why that news should throw some people into a tailspin is the subject of a neat little animated film by animator Eva Hill and writer Cait Munro for New York Magazine. The video succinctly explains what the phrase “Mercury in retrograde” actually means and what significance people have placed upon it. In truth, the whole thing is based on an optical illusion. Mercury doesn’t just change directions a few times a year for the hell of it. It’s just moving so much faster than Earth that it occasionally appears to be headed westbound rather than eastbound. “In astrology,” the narrator explains, “Mercury rules communication, learning, technology, and travel.” That’s a mighty big caseload, even for an entire planet. So when the first rock from the sun seems to be going backward, certain people feel that “miscommunications, disagreements, and breakdowns” are apt to follow. But Mercury is in retrograde several times a year for a few weeks at a stretch. It’s nothing. Relax.

All of this may sound vaguely familiar to fans of director Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. There’s a fair amount of astrology talk in that film, though Saturn was deemed to be the scapegoat planet there. Saturn In Retrograde was actually one of the film’s several possible working titles, Hooper revealed in a DVD commentary. So to recap: Mercury in retrograde means cracked iPhone screens and spilled Starbucks cups, while Saturn in retrograde means being pursued by a huge man with a chainsaw through the backwoods of Texas. Neither sounds terribly fun. As an alternative, people may just want to take ownership of their own lives and decisions.

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[via Laughing Squid]