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"Where the hell were you last night?" Mel's accusatory tone cracks across the space between our cell phones. "You were supposed to watch Project Runway with me." "Mel, now listen, this is important stuff," I say, vamping for time as I concoct a story. A story that doesn't start with me saying, "Well, I was really tired, and it was warm at Ben and Grace's, and I was in a big comfy chair, and I was lethargic from eating Thai food and donuts." What I say is, "There were pirates."

Pirates? I question myself at the improvised premise. Where are you going with this one, Captain Stubing?

"Pirates?" Mel asks.

"Pirates," I start out. "They fell upon Ben and Grace's house. We were watching Lost, and I was in that comfy chair next to the fire, but for you, for you, Mellie, I opened the front door to go to your house, but outside were pirates."

"Yeah," Mel says. "It was cold outside and you wanted to doze off in the comfy chair is more like it."

"Nay!" I surprise even myself with the olde English, but I'm in the zone, and I roll with it. "Nay! One big fellah with two eye patches and a silver sword lunged toward me and screamed 'Aaaaarr!'"

"Two eye patches?"

"He brandishes a sword at me and you're worried about fashion?"

"Look, if you didn't want to come over then all you had to do was say no," Mel says, and I can hear the pitch in her voice change because she was smiling. "Why would pirates be in Hillcrest, anyway?"

The answer, "There's buried treasure," falls out of my mouth before I can even think the words. "They came ashore for the treasure under Ben and Grace's house. I had to run inside and slam the door so they wouldn't get in. Then I had to pretend to watch Project Runway with Ben and Grace so the pirates wouldn't be tipped off."

"Oh, you a-hole!" she screamed. "You couldn't go out in the cold and drive the six blocks to my house to watch the show with me, even though you PROMISED we would hang out."

"You'd rather I went to your place and sacrificed Ben and Grace's safety. They could've been kidnapped! They could've been killed! I'm a hero!"

"You're a dork!"

"HERO!"

Click. Dial tone

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK:

THE COMMERCIAL ISSUE! YAY!

Ad: Monster Ballads

Where seen: VH1 Jumpstart

The Internet is the devil. In years past, had I seen an ad for a bad compilation album, I would have ignored it on principle that I don't buy music from the television. When I saw this commercial last week, sentimentality delivered me to my eighth-grade summer, and I ran to my computer. A few seconds later I stood with headphones on and my arms up like I had planted a flag atop Mt. Everest, and I was sing-screaming "YOU'VE GOT TO FLY! (fly high) FLY TO THE ANGELS!"

Ad: Oxi-Clean products

Where seen: Late night Comedy Central

These are the commercials where that guy with the beard is simultaneously smiling and yelling. So many questions come to mind. Why do you yell at me, sir? Why are you smiling? How did you get your job? How do I make you stop? Would my hands fit neatly around your neck so that my thumbs were on your Adam's apple and my middle fingers on your spine?

Ad: Dodge Pickups

Where seen: Monday Night Football

Two low-rent mullet heads are tooling down the freeway when one yells, "I smell a Hemi!" and jumps to a rig that is carrying Dodge trucks. The peckerwood then unveils the pickup and yells, "I knew it! I knew I smelled a Hemi!" Oof. Dodge really nailed down its demographic with that one: pale crackers with off-kilter endocrine systems in sleeveless T-shirts. Why not just sell their trucks stock with a flesh-colored scrotum hanging from the rear bumper and a sticker of Calvin taking a leak on the word "Girls"?

Ad: Fidelity Mutual Insurance

Where seen: The Price is Right ; Turner Classic Movies

An old woman puts change in a parking meter and says, "Wouldn't it be nice if life were like a parking meter? I could just put a couple quarters in and live longer. Life isn't like that." Really? Thanks for the lesson, Fidelity, because until you had informed me of my folly, I was totally under the assumption that sowing and harvesting, the delicate interrelation of the tiniest dandelion to the tallest giraffe, and the ironic, starlit, azure night that watches us all rut and crawl in the mud and sticks WAS EXACTLY like the popup clockwork mechanics of a municipal fare collector.

Ads: Febreze, Renuzit, and Glade plug-ins

Where seen: every channel, all the time, every program

Here's a disturbing trend. The competing air fresheners are locked into an escalating arms race of which company can release the most products for masking odors in your home. First of all, that stuff is nasty. Those puffs of warmed stink that come out are a surefire way to contract a migraine, and it's most likely an agent of cancer. Second, YOU'RE nasty. Instead of taking your trash out and washing your dishes, you plug a cartridge of Lysol into the outlet above your cat box. You deserve the searing case of trots you get from that canister of Agent Lemon you've got percolating next to your pile of filthy socks.

Ad: Microskills, ITT, Devry

Where seen: Maury Povich , Buffy the Vampire Slayer , any program on Spike

These stilted ads usually feature a petty girl who's jealous of her high school friend who graduated from the vocational school and is "already making money in the nursing field," or a guy who was a roofer and went on to become an IT administrator. What they don't show is the ivy-covered brick walls, the pampered professors, and the good-old-boy, cardigan, skull-and-bones acceptance policy. Sure these "big schools" have a low rejection rate, that is, if "daddy" is an alumnus. "Mister Olivieri, we regret to inform you..." INDEED!

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