Z Outbreak

Zombie hunting used to be grueling business. I never thought I’d be a zombie hunter, but then again, I’m typing this on a square of light that sits in my lap. If you’d asked me a series of questions when I was eight years old, including “Do you think we’ll be able to walk around with phones in our pockets?” and “Will computers be tiny and connected to each other?” and “Are there such things as zombies?” I would’ve first asked you what a computer was (this was the early 1980s, remember), and second, I would’ve told you to give me that candy bar you promised me or stop asking me these ridiculous questions. Of course, there’s no such thing as zombies, lasers, robots, tiny phones, and laptops.

But here we are. I remember the TV segments, on the news, y’know, about the “outbreak” of 2010. To me it just seemed like all those other outbreaks that never really threatened us. There was one for every season, each as underwhelming as the next. There was the SARS scare where, I think, six people got sick. Then there was Asian bird flu and monkey pox and this and that. They were all so isolated and distant and feeble. So, three car salesmen got an exotic head cold in Sheboygan? Whoopee.

When the Z Outbreak happened, it was on all the channels. Oh, it was a big deal, but I never paid attention. What were there, four São Paulo “working girls” and a stock trader from Toronto who’d been infected? It was June in San Diego; I went bike riding on the boardwalk with friends and had sunset beers at World Famous.

Ha. Five months later I was on my balcony with an M1 Garand popping gray heads like birthday balloons. A year after that and I was just another pair of boots on the pavement, a zombie hunter for profit; I hand-wrote business cards on craft paper and passed them out in “gray zones” or at the release line outside of the Qualcomm quarantine stadium, “the Double-Q.”

It used to be tough. Got a pair of gloves with a deep set of Z teeth marks in ‘em; never got me, though, never busted the skin.

None of that anymore. It’s all just mop-up now. Hardly any work left for a pro zombie hunter.

That’s fine by me. I’d just as soon watch TV and have a beer.


Thursday, January 22
Out of Sight
WGN 5:00 p.m.

Jennifer Lopez called the other day to promote her new movie, which is being released on laser disc to juvenile halls everywhere. “Ollie, I know you’re very important and muy macho...can you help me promote my new project?” she asked. To which I replied, “Hey! You’re still alive! That’s neat!”

The Office
NBC 9:00 p.m.

This show makes me wistful for my days of working in an office. I remember all the characters: there was the guy who’d stuff a roll of toilet paper under his arm and march right into the john after lunch; the guy who made forts out of copier paper; the guy who’d while away afternoons at his desk drinking wine coolers and squeezing a ThighMaster. Okay, fine, those were all me...ah, but we had fun.

Friday, January 23
13: Fear is Real
CW 9:00 p.m.

I’m creating a new show about people getting the living daylights scared out of them. In the first half, a group of travelers drops on my doorstep: a blueberry pie, a can of Skoal, a bottle of mint schnapps, a CD of Queen’s greatest hits, a camouflage miniskirt, a nickel, and three Viagra. In the second half of the episode they come back for the nickel.

Saturday, January 24
Killer Bees: Taming the Swarm
Discovery 9:00 a.m.

Beehives are quite a bit like Renée Zellweger’s head: they share a similar shape and noise, and you know you’ll run screaming and might get stung, but you just can’t help yourself — you have an uncontrollable urge to smack it with a nearby branch.

Ultimate Fighting Championship 91: Couture vs. Lesnar
Spike 9:00 p.m.

WOO! Ice the beer! Call friends over! Two muscular, sweaty, hairless men just can’t seem to get enough of each other’s crotches!

Sunday, January 25
Radioactive Paradise
Science 8:00 p.m.

I’ve got a question for the Science channel, perhaps the best question ever asked of science in human history: what the hell is a pimento? And while we’re at it: why are they so popular with — almost inextricably linked to — the olive and exactly nothing else? Why aren’t there, say, pimento omelets or pimento burgers, or, I don’t know, pimento jewelry? Here’s a little-known fact about pimentos: Matt Damon’s brain is almost exclusively made from them. Now that’s science-y!

Monday, January 26
Private Screenings: Ernest Borgnine
TCM 8:00 p.m.

You know what’d be cool is if this is like an old people’s version of Jackass. Put some woman who worked as a hairstylist during the Great Depression onto a baking sheet and lube up a stairway. You can have your walker with the tennis balls on the front and your big wraparound sunglasses after you jump this bike into a hog pen, Grandpa. Hyeaw!

Tuesday, January 27
American Idol
FOX 8:00 p.m.

I hate it; it makes me sad when I’m finished, but I can’t stop myself from watching American Idol. In that regard, it’s very much like masturbating at the dentist’s office.

Wednesday, January 28
Lie to Me
FOX 9:00 p.m.

Okay, you asked for it: your new show is interesting! I can’t wait to see it! I rode a unicorn to Gumdrop Mountain once! You’re a fine actor and not at all reduced to doing television work after a failed film career! You haven’t given up your dreams! I ate a koala once! I enjoy making out with hobos! (Whoops, that one’s true.)

Thursday, January 29
Hardball with Chris Matthews
MSNBC 9:00 p.m.

Since the big election, I’ve been trying to keep up with politics and current affairs by watching opinion and commentary programs. I like Olbermann and Maddow, but this one irritates me. Why does this old lesbian have to yell at everyone she invites onto her show?

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