America would be a pretty boring place without the credit card. Each year, millions of people get to spend countless hours piecing back together their credit score after their cards get stolen, hours that would otherwise have been wasted watching Everybody Loves Raymond reruns and the Our House: True Hollywood Story. And on top of that, poor collegians everywhere are suddenly given an endless and obligation-free source of income to finance that late night Busch Light 30-pack or that late night pornographic web site password.

So far be it for me to criticize the institution of the credit card. After all, I wouldn’t have seven empty cans of Busch clanking around my feet and a lifetime subscription to But in addition to removing our need to have actual “money” to satisfy our various indulgences, one specific credit card seems to have also removed our capacity to use the creative sectors of our brain.

One Dallas Cowboys Loss: $7,000

Seven Montreal Canadiens Losses: $15,000

Breaking the kneecaps of the worm and still collecting the $22,000: Priceless

Thanks, MasterCard. Thank you so much. And since sarcasm is difficult to convey on a web page, I don’t mean “thanks” in a “Thanks for the Mercedes, Dad” kind of way, but rather in a “Thanks for running away with a senorita named ‘Mercedes’ and ruining my fucking life, Dad” kind of way.

To my recollection, MasterCard launched this campaign twelve years ago and has had at least three different variations of the spot running on at least five television stations at one time. The premise of the campaign is simple: First, list a couple of items and their estimated retail value (I would like Bob Barker and company to investigate the veracity of their price listings, however.) Secondly and finally, give a swift a groin shot to the heartstrings with a tender item in life that you simply could not put a price on, or as some might say, “priceless.”

Commercials in general annoy me. Two articles in the Microscope already address this issue. But left to their own devices, they only annoy me in thirty second intervals. However, it’s when the commercials saturate the airwaves so densely that the impressionable consumer can’t remember how to think without them that I begin to really get angry.

I like watching sports. This isn’t an ADD moment either, so keep reading. A very common thing in sports broadcasting is to show the crowd and any signs that they may have brought to the game. I would really enjoy this if they showed signs like “Bill Parcells is a homo” and “I wish Bill Parcells was a homo” but they don’t. Instead, they usually just show some bozo with a Mastercardesque sign touting that his tickets cost $70, his hot dog cost $8.50, and that the Red Sox beating the Orioles on Fox MLB Saturday is “Priceless.”

That crashing sound you just heard was the values of the Mona Lisa, the Gutenberg Bible, and kicking stump of Tom Dempsey falling through the floor.

Thanks to MasterCard, everything is priceless these days. I usually reserve superlatives like that for stuff like weddings and the Power Glove, but apparently now we have to throw in Trailblazer double-doubles and the Miller Lite post-game report as well. I don’t like this development.

In addition to this phenomenon being uninspired and redundant, it also takes up a lot of space needlessly. Rather than reporting on the price of your frankfurter, just tell us that you think Brian Urlacher’s sacking ability is really good. In fact, I’d much rather see a “Brian Urlacher is good” sign then something ripping off an already lame television commercial.

The internet is littered with this scourge as well. I’m sure you are all shocked that something that requires little thought or talent would proliferate on something as pristine as the World Wide Web, but it is my unfortunate duty to inform you that this is going on. Rather than showing the picture of the drunk guy with his pants down and writing your “hilarious” MasterCard parody of it, it would be a lot easier just to say, “This douche bag pulled down his pants and now I bet he regrets it.” It’s not going to turn away any of the people viewing the page for comedic value, and it will take away the distractions for those viewing it for homoerotic pleasure.

I’m a fan of captions. I’m not a fan of MasterCard novels masquerading as captions. I like the approach of the following sequence a lot better:

This beast just ate Santa Barbara

This has a scrotum

This is one spectacular afro

I am encouraging all of you to put down your petitions to bring back Surge soda for a moment and tap into something more creative. And if you still feel the need to send your fifth letter to the Coca-Cola Corporation in as many days, consider doing it without listing the carbonated addiction’s inability to be priced.

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Earlier this week, Firaxis released Sid Meier's Civilization IV. Socialites across the nation breathed a sigh of relief, realizing that computer nerds from coast to coast would soon be barricading themselves in their computer rooms for the next six months. But that sigh of despair you heard moments later was from the nation's females, as they realized that a certain irresistable male Leonardite was about to join their ranks.

I have yet to purchase the game, probably holding out for a Christmas gift in place of the usual small artillery I request. But rest assured: I will eventually own it because if Sid Meier made it, its hermit-making powers are going to be unearthly.

Knowing that my wild and sordid love affair with Civilization III was about to come to a cataclysmic end, not too different than the messy public breakup I had with Civilization II, I decided to give the old girl one last solid whirl. Arming myself as the Persians, for their silky connotation and Immortals on the prowl, I took to conquering the world.

I encountered my bumps and bruises early on. The Russians and their hideous empress, Catherine, took to invading me before I had built up any defenses. Naturally my fears were allayed a bit when the Russians enlisted France as their ally in this war of conquest, ensuring that their campaign would bog down in a flurry of pastries and tampons. A subsequent enlistment of British muscle by Shah Xerxes crippled the French and a few centuries later, strongholds from Moscow to St. Petersburg were flying whatever the hell kind of flag the Persians flew.

I was in a bit of a quandry, however. Our shared war had obliterated our enemies and we had acquired great power. But the problem was, the British were more powerful than me. We being the only two countries left on our continent, I decided to sign a mutual protection pact with them and began wooing Queen Elizabeth with my smooth diplomatic charm.

Ally in hand, I was about to sail an armada to India and while Gandhi was sitting in the street, burn the palace down and take both vittles the country possessed. But just as my ships were sailing, the Egyptians landed in the colonial territory of my empire and declared war. All hell broke loose as the world came to my aid and I went hunting in Egypt.

Soon, I had landed in Egypt where I was ruining the hopes and dreams of every sphinx-loving child. And in a really shrewd move, I had seduced the incredibly bodacious Cleopatra and was getting busy in the royal chambers in Thebes while my infantrymen were shooting people's heads off in Alexandria.

Soon after, though, the game bogged down in a mess of cleaning up pollution and moving battleships, so I threw in the towel. The Chinese were decimating the Egyptians and we were all scooping up their land. It would have been interesting to see what empires ended up with what cities, but it would have been even more interesting to see what Cleopatra's and my love child would look like, assuming of course she didn't get run over by one of my tanks before giving birth to the little bastard.