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  The Navigator: Summertime Blahs
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 23, 1998




Boredom is just so, well, boring.

That doesn't stop it from being explored ad nauseam on the Internet. In fact, the National Boredom Institute in Maplewood, N.J., has declared July Anti-Boredom Month. The NBI is not the usual kind of boring institute (the Web is wild with those – the Cato Institute, for instance); it's a plaything for a PR consultant named Alan Caruba.

"I've been having a world of fun since 1984," says Caruba, a self-professed "Boredom Guru." He now uses the World Wide Web to promote his institute, which mostly pokes fun at the celebrity culture.

On his site, you'll find a debatable list of the Most Boring Movies of 1997. Kevin Costner's "The Postman," which topped the roster, was "too long, too goofy and too pessimistic." "For Richer or Poorer," with Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley, was the most stultifying comedy – "trashier and stupider than most audiences could stomach." And in the Big Stars/Big Flops category, "The Fifth Element" and "Showgirls" were noted. As was "Buddy," in which Rene Russo was upstaged by a monkey.

Another section showcases the most boring celebrities of last year. The tally includes Ellen Degeneres, Paula Jones, Marv Albert and Kenneth Starr.

It's a clever idea, really, and one Caruba could really milk for mirth – the most boring cars, household appliances, pets, body parts. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, he began to take boredom a little too seriously. Ennui pay for it.

Incuriosity is detrimental to society, Caruba contends. "Boredom is an early stage of depression, estimated to affect 10 million Americans annually. It can suppress the body's immune system, making people susceptible to both mental and physical illness.

"The most common response is a whole range of self-destructive behavior that includes dropping out of school, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, eating disorders, and marital problems. Crime, including random acts of murder, is often a search for excitement as an antidote to boredom." Mercy! Can a 12-step program be far behind?

If the somber side of Caruba makes your eyes fog over, you might try some of the other boring sites on the Web.

Some enterprising guy named Eric has concocted a page called Bored.com. It's a page of intriguing links, including a site that automatically spells words from phone numbers and another that tells the strange story of a guy who deposited a junk-mail check for $95,093.95.

Another bored-out-of-his-gourd guy has created Planet Boredom, "a gathering place for all the poor souls with nothing better to do." The home page has a host of definitions. Boredom is, according to one contributor, collecting free America Online disks and making a mobile out of them. There is also a page of Deep Thoughts, a la Jack Handey. "If I were a vegetarian, I'd starve to death."

Matthew Vanderzee at Cal Tech designed NetBoredom. As antidotes to boredom, he developed pages keyed to these activities: "participate in a Salsa Drinking contest," "protest high school clubs" and "fill in white spaces in magazine advertisements."

He also suggests attempting to draw the perfect checkmark. He believes he's done it.

Another suggestion on the NetBoredom site is to "send creepy letters to people."

Hmmm. Maybe Alan Caruba is correct after all – boredom can be ominous.

Linton Weeks can be reached at weeksl@washpost.com

mouse CLICK: Olé Olestra After sharing the travails of one brave soul who spent a week eating chips with the Olestra fat substitute, you may discover that the author's point about fat that cannot be digested is hard to argue with. – Dan Pacheco

Surfing
Perturbations, pleasures and predicaments on the I-way
Just Say Aaaahhhh...
The following speculation on the nature of computer-written haiku is making the rounds of the Net:

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.
Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.
First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.
With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.
Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.
Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
VROOM For Every Taste
For those for whom a two-tone by Earl Scheib no longer is the height of car fashion, check out Art Cars in Cyberspace, a testament to the American love affair with personal statements. You'll visit parades of such cars as the 1972 Dodge Camera Van, sporting 1,705 cameras, many of which photograph its fans; the 1979 Cow-de-lac, featuring an Astroturf interior, feed and potato sack seats, and scores of cows on the exterior; the 1963 Ford TupperTime, festooned with hundreds of kitchen magnets, a picnic motif on the hood, and a kitchen setting on the trunk; and Marble Madness, a VW Bug sporting thousands of colored marbles. You also can check out a database of hundreds of famous and infamous art cars (organized by whether they are painted, sculpted, or adorned with assemblages of items); read an essay on how to make an art car; and discuss car art with Harrod Blank, who has written Wild Wheels books and produced movies on his hobby.– Edward F. Mickolus
Found something intriguing, improbable, insane or especially useful on the Net? Write it up and send it to Joel Garreau or Robert Thomason.
   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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