Unlike many other newspaper articles, this one admits upfront that it reeks of boredom.
Fortunately, boredom has a scintillating side. In addition to being the official personality provider for Al Gore and Gray Davis, it helps keep the U.S. economy afloat and sometimes causes arctic explorers to dress like women.
However, experts say boredom is wreaking havoc on society, fueling everything from extramarital affairs and drug addiction to coronaries and car accidents.
"Boredom doesn't get a lot of press," says Century City psychologist and attorney Rex Julian Beaber, "but it is profoundly destructive."
Curiously, boredom seems to be a modern ailment. The word didn't even exist in the English language until after 1750, says Patricia M. Spacks, author of "Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind" (University of Chicago Press, 1995). "If people felt bored before the late 18th century, they didn't know it," she writes.
Once the concept had a name, it became universal. Philosophers ruminated over it. Teenagers whined about it. And psychologists churned out a blizzard of research.
"When we are bored," one scholar concluded, "our attitude toward time is altered, as it is in some dreamlike states. Time is endless, there is no distinction between past, present and future. There seems to be only an endless present."
One of the more unexpected findings is that the best cure for boredom might be ... more boredom.
Or wearing a polar bear costume. In the war against monotony, people have tried all sorts of unusual remedies.
In 1819, an arctic expedition led by William Edward Parry staved off tedium during the long winter by staging amateur plays in which crew members dressed as women and polar bears. Other icebound expeditions formed accordion orchestras, wrote irreverent newsletters, held beauty pageants using pictures from magazines, opened snowy casinos and attended costume balls in gowns sewn from signal flags.
"Early explorers learned that boredom was their worst enemy," says Jack Stuster, an anthropologist and author whose Santa Barbara firm, Anacapa Sciences, has consulted with NASA on ways to reduce monotony on long space flights.
If Parry and his men were around today, they'd have a lot more diversions at their disposal -- videos, CDs, cell phones. But they might not be any better off. One of the great ironies of modern life is that "in an age when we have more entertainment available to us than ever before, there seems to be an epidemic of boredom," writes psychiatrist Richard Winter in the new book "Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment" (InterVarsity Press).
Winter and other commentators believe society is so saturated with movies, TV, video games and advertising that people are losing their sense of wonder.
"Just as a drug user develops a tolerance and needs larger doses to achieve the same effect, so too have we developed a tolerance to amazing events," concluded a 1999 survey of consumer attitudes by Yankelovich Partners.
In the video-game industry, jadedness is a constant enemy. To boost a game's "replayability," designers throw in secret rooms and other curveballs to create a new experience each time the game is played. But the novelty soon wears off, says Rick Giolito, who produced the "Medal of Honor" video game for Electronic Arts. "Every year, the players expect more and more and more. If you came out now with a game that looked like it was made three years ago, they'd say it's boring."
The same is true of pornography (a century ago, the sight of a bare ankle made hearts pound), movie special effects and TV game shows.
Part of this is natural. "The human brain is wired to be attracted to novelty," Beaber says. "Very shortly after we are exposed to something, it loses its power to move us."
But some observers say the mind's built-in bias toward the new has been twisted into an obsession. Our culture has let novelty and entertainment invade nearly every corner of life, says anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, a visiting professor at Harvard and the daughter of anthropologist Margaret Mead.
"Taking a shower, brushing one's teeth, eating a bowl of cereal [and] hundreds of other peaceful activities have been tarted up with flavorings and music and gadgetry, so that after a brief period of novelty they become not bland and comfortingly familiar but irritatingly boring," she writes in "Peripheral Visions."
In a speech given some years ago, Bateson recalled her young daughter complaining that "breakfast is boring."
"Who taught her that breakfast should be unboring?" Bateson wondered. "Mr. Kellogg and Mr. Post have taught the American public that breakfast should be a thrilling meal at which things snap, crackle and pop."