I am a connoisseur of infomercials.

Those of us who suffer periodic problems with waking up at 2 a.m. and not being able to go back to sleep know about a world of entertainment that those who sleep well don't. Infomercials.

I'm especially fond of the ads that feature any type of cooking device. A conical-shaped cooker that looks like a spaceship that can cook a steak from frozen to perfection in minutes is just irresistible. It also might explain why I eat in the middle of the night.

Ron Popeil is 78 now, but his company, Ronco, gave birth to direct-to-consumer marketing through television as cable TV was in its infancy.

The idea was simple. Buy up cheap TV time during the middle of the night and on weekends when stations couldn't sell the ads anyway.

What do you do on television for 30 minutes when you own the slot? The answer is you sell whatever you want. And people bought it. Lots of people.

My first recollection of being completely enamored with an infomercial was The Pocket Fisherman. I didn't fish then and I don't much now, but there was something impressive about watching a well-dressed businessman suddenly stop his sedan on the side of the road, whip out and unfold a small fishing rod, and begin catching fish that were so large, they're normally only found at a state fish hatchery.

I'm still not sure what he used for bait.

Back then, I watched it because I was young and stayed up all night. Now, I watch infomercials because I'm old and stay up all night.

Without a doubt, infomercials have come into their own. They even have awards for them. The Electronic Retailing Association gives Moxie Awards each year. Completely appropriate since "Moxie" means "Force of character, determination, or nerve." And if you think about it, it does take a lot of nerve to believe you can sell a spaceship cooking device to an insomniac for three easy payments of $33.33.

Mine should be here on Tuesday.