Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Road Trip-Part 1: The "Scottish Play" and the Sensitivity of Initial Conditions to its Impact

I'd like to take you on a trip with me.  
I've already taken this trip.  And as the song says, "what a long, strange trip it was," too.  It took place at the end of summer, 1985.  It was after I graduated from college.  It was after my first professional gig as an actor outside of school.  With all the stuff I owned at the time crammed into my old Chevy Chevette, I was going to drive across the country, from Park City, Utah to Flat Rock, North Carolina, to see my sister get married, then go off into my new life of becoming a performing artist. 
It didn't quite happen like that.  Not by a long shot.  
This trip, which I refer to in my own personal history as "The Road Trip," it...  Well, it...  Changed me.  The handful of people I knew from before this journey that I've kept in touch with have all noted and mentioned it to me.  
I've tried several times to figure out how these changes took place, the buttons in my psyche that the Road Trip pushed.  I have a collection of unfinished stories where I attempted to pull some scene or moment from the Road Trip and use it as the representative moment for the experience.  None of those fictional attempts have been successful.  
So, I've decided to give it another try, here.  It will take us a while to reach our destination.  About six weeks, I'm guessing.  By the time I'm done, maybe...  Hopefully...  I'll be able to tell you what the Road Trip means for me.  If not, then maybe one of you can tell me instead.  
Like most strange little tales, the story of The Road Trip began on an dark and stormy night...
In June of 1985, I graduated, with honors, from Cal State Fullerton with a BA in Theatre Arts with an emphasis in acting.  A little name dropping moment: Marc Cherry, the creator of "Desperate Housewives" was in my graduating class.  We knew each other well and even once did a scene for someone's directing project where we danced together (I led).   
A week after graduation I was on the road to Park City, Utah.  I had auditioned for and had been cast in several roles in the Park City Shakespeare Festival.  Park City is a ski resort just east of Salt Lake City.  Today it's also famous as the site of the Sundance Film festival.  Two friends from school, Wendy and Erica, had also been cast in various roles in the festival.  
The play opening the festival was Macbeth.  I was playing the role of "Ross-plus."  I called it Ross-plus because in addition to the part of Ross, Tony, the director, gave me the lines for Angus and any other unnamed lord that was in the play.  Tony hadn't been at my audition.  He told me that if he had, he would have cast me in a much bigger role.  To make up for that, he was going to pad my part as much as he could and put me on the stage at every opportunity.  Thus was born, "Ross-plus."  
I enjoyed playing Ross-plus.  I played around a lot in making up the character, who would be seen talking with Macduff and then later chumming it up with Macbeth.  It gave Erica, who played Lady Macduff, and I a scene where we came up with this idea of a secret illicit affair as subtext that made it really fun.  This scene was followed by the one where Ross has to tell Macduff that Macbeth had his wife murdered.  Really dramatic stuff.  I also had a fight scene that wasn't in the script added for me, where I got to "kill" the guy who played the murder.  Very cool stuff.   
For the uninitiated, I think this is where I should point out that Macbeth has a particular history in theatre lore.  It's considered to be a "cursed" play.  It is bad luck to say the name of the play in a theater.  The safer nomenclature is, "The Scottish Play."  And the main character is to be called, "The Scottish Prince."  If you DO say "Macbeth" out loud, then you are required to leave the theater immediately and perform a ritual before you can be allowed back in.  The specifics of the ritual can change from theater to theater, and from actor to actor.  What I learned was that you had to go outside, turning around three times in place, spit, and then politely ask your colleagues to be allowed back into the space. 
There are actors who take this superstition and the attendant ritual VERY seriously.  At a previous Shakespeare festival I'd performed at, in Garden Grove, I was forced by one of the other actors to do this very same ritual when...  Something other than "The Scottish Play," slipped from my lips.  
Historical Note: There is actually a reason behind the superstition surrounding Macbeth.  Macbeth is, from a historical standpoint, the most popular play in the English language, having had more performances since its original opening than any other.  It was so popular that theaters that found themselves running out of money would stage a production in order to have an inexpensive, sure-fire "hit" that would bring much needed cash into their coffers.  Often this influx was too little, too late.  The theatrical world started to notice the growing number of theaters closing after a production of Macbeth.  It was from that observation that Macbeth's reputation as a "cursed play" began.  
All of us in the festival knew about this superstition, of course.  Should we open the festival with Macbeth?  With all these fight scenes, swinging these heavy metal swords that sparked and clanged, might not someone get hurt?  How would rehearsals go?  
They went well.  Very well, in fact.  Macbeth had one of the smoothest rehearsal processes of any show I can remember being in.  Wendy, who played Lady Macbeth, was wonderful in the role.  Erica, who was double-cast as Hecat, and I worked on our scene.  And I was running all over the place as Ross-plus.  I remember on dress rehearsal night, someone commenting about how well everything had gone up until that point.  "Guess there isn't much to this 'Macbeth' thing after all,  huh?" I believe they said.  
The next day, the storm hit. 
And it was a big one.  The largest thunderstorm to hit Northern Utah in umpteen years.  Somewhere west of Salt Lake City, one of its lightening bolts hit a power station.  The entire northern half of the state, including Park City, was in blackout.  
We were performing in a tent set up at the Park City Community Center.  It was starting to sprinkle when I made the walk from the condos where they put us up to the center.  By the time I got there, the tent was shaking and thrashing about from the wind.  There would be brilliant flashes of light, followed by rolling artillery blasts of thunder.  Some of our cast members, predominately Mormons from local schools, were huddled in the darkness, praying and crying.  
Guess we got all the Macbeth bad luck all at once.  
But there was no talk of canceling the show.  For one thing, we HAD a FULL HOUSE!  With every television and movie screen without power, sitting in the cold and dark to watch Shakespeare didn't seem so bad.  Everyone who had a car was asked to park it around the tent.  We used the car's headlights to light the stage.  
And the performance was...  Fantastic.  For one thing, everyone was keyed up.  And it FELT like we were in medieval Scotland, with the cold and the dark and the rain.  Every part of the play was elevated.
For instance, there's a scene early on, after Duncan, the previous king, is murdered by Macbeth.  Ross and Macduff are talking.  At one point Ross asks Macduff if he'll be going to Scone, where Macbeth is headed.  Macduff's response is, "No, Cousin.  I'll to Fife."  
This is a big deal.  It's the first indication that Macduff doesn't trust Macbeth.  It is an act of defiance and is tantamount to treason to go home instead of joining the king.  Brent, the guy who played Macduff, and I worked on scene a lot in the hopes of conveying the seriousness of his response to the audience. 
On opening night, this is what happened...
There was a lull in the storm when I made my entrance.  I'm talking to "The Old Man" about the previous night's deadly business.  The guy playing the Old Man didn't have to fake his shudder, it was freezing cold on stage.  
Brent, as Macduff, makes his entrance.  You can hear the wind whistling and whispering outside the tent, making the sheets flap and shake and the water trapped on the surface  of the tent above slosh about.  I feel the very real chill in the air eating into my bones as we talk about horsing breaking the stalls and eating each other, and murderous children fleeing the country.  
I look at Brent/Macduff.  He's only two feet away, but all I can really make out is his silhouette from the light of a Ford truck poking it's nose in under a tent flap off stage left.  I ask him, "Will you to Scone?"  
Brent/Macduff turns to face me.  It that resolve I see in his eyes?  Or is he struggling to hold it together against all the confusion caused by the storm.  "No, cousin," he says to me.  "I'll to Fife."  
Right after he says that, there is this HUGE crash of thunder.  It sounds like the sky has broken in two directly over our heads.  The whole tent dances like a convicted man hanging by his neck at the end of his rope.  
I take a step back.  I can see Brent's eyes are as wide as mine.  I wait for the sound effects to end to deliver my final lines and quickly leave.  
Back stage, when Brent gets back there, we immediately find each other and say to each other at the same time, "Did YOU SEE THAT?  YEAH, I was RIGHT THERE WITH YOU!"   
We got our reviews a few days later.  Everyone loved the show.  One paper said that if we could perform this well under such conditions, imagine how well we could do when we had everything in place.  That same paper later named me and Brent the two best performers over the course of the festival.  
That's where I started from when I went on The Road Trip.  I was young and confidant.  Sure of myself and my abilities.  I mean, if I could take the Macbeth curse head-on in the form of a blackout causing storm and turn into a positive, then NOTHING was going to stop me from getting where I wanted to be.  
Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Wendy, Myself & Erica, backstage during Macbeth - 1985

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Songs and Stories in my Head

Songs and Stories in my Head
Last week I downloaded a song I saw on TV.  It's called "Shiny! Shiny!" and is a duet with two J-Pop (Japanese pop music) singers named Aili and May J.  Here's a link for the video if you want to see it: "Shiny! Shiny!"
I downloaded it to my iPod before going into the office on Saturday morning.  By the end of the day I had played it over twenty time.  At one point, while stuck in traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, I began to imagine the people in the other cars stuck along side me giving me dirty looks.  Every time the song ended, I'd say in a AM Radio DJ's voice, "All Shiny! Shiny!, AAALLLL the Time!" and I'd tap the iPod's wheel to send it back to the start of the song.    
It's not the song itself that made me play it so many times.  I think it's a catchy tune, and for me you can't go wrong featuring two attractive Asian women in a video like that.  But more than the song itself, there was something else making me playing over and over again like that.
It was the story in my head that the song inspired.  
Some songs give me stories that are very straight forward.  "Little Victories," by Bob Seger is a great workout song, especially if it comes at the last five minutes of a cardio routine.  And "Already Gone," by the Eagles is the song I want playing in the background when I go into the boss's office to tell him I'm giving him my two weeks notice.  I've gotten my long awaited book deal, and I'm leaving.  Sure, he'll do what he can, offer me the long postponed raise, give me more benefits, anything he can do to get me to stay.  It'll be no use, though.  Because...  I'm already gone, you see.  
There are songs that for whatever reason, give me these really complicated stories to follow.  
"Son of Man" by Phil Collins from the soundtrack of the Disney version of Tarzan is one such song.  I loved the movie and bought the soundtrack for it.  Son of Man wasn't my favorite song from the movie when I bought it.  But something happened when I listened to the song that made me play it over and over again.
I saw a spaceship.  A big, beautiful starship, flying through hyperspace to some unknown destination.  Each time the song played, I would add details to the craft.  It was driven by these huge electromagnetic sails.  You can hear the sails deploying when the drums go "chunk-chuka-bang."  Instead of the wind, tachyons would strike the sails to drive the ship forward.  Striking the sales would cause the tachyons to decay into normal, sub-luminal particles.  Relativistic effects would make it appear as if the sails were shooting particle streams behind the ship.  
The story, a little music video, really, grew every time I heard the song.  The starship had a mixed crew, humans and another alien race, former enemies, that had been forced to work together to flee a greater threat to them both.  Eventually the song became the ending credits to the story I was seeing.  After successfully escaping their common enemy, they were now working together to find their collective way back home.  
I eventually created a comic book story called, "The Ulyssiad" from that scenario.  The aliens were the "Sirens," a race of bat-like creatures that could glide from place to place in the lesser gravity of their world.  And the ship, I decided, was traveling through something called "Sponge Space."  The sails, now called Higgs Sails, not only propelled the craft, but lessened the vessel's apparent mass to zero, allowing it to be encased in a quantum hypersphere and travel faster than light.  The Ulyssiad was never published, but all the back ground I created, Sponge Space, the Sirens, and Higgs Sails, formed the basis of the universe I'm working in with my science fiction stories.  I used one example of "diving" through Sponge Space in my story, Shadow Angel, which was published in Asimov's Science Fiction's September, 2011 issue.  
"We Weren't Born to Follow," by Bon Jovi has given me another mind-video to play with.  The song sounds like a perfect campaign song to me, the way Bill Clinton's campaign team used "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow," by Fleetwood Mac during his reelection bid.  An image came to mind of someone running for office, facing a crowd of cheering, banner waving supporters.  It looked like an election night crowd, when the winning candidate is about to make his victory speech.  He's trying to get the crowd to quiet down so he can talk, but everyone is too enthusiastic, too flush with victory to let the man they helped elect speak.  
I began to think about what sort of candidate I would want in this position.  Someone like, me, I suppose.  We all would like to see someone like us being elected as President, or Governor, Prime Minister or whatever Leader we happen to be picking.  
Facing the obvious, that it would take some sort of miracle for someone such as myself to get elected with the way politics is done in my country, I created such a miracle in my head.  
You see, there's a sea of nano-bots, tiny devices the size of molecules, covering the planet.  They communicate with each other.  Together they form a vast information gathering and computing entity.  It's intelligent.  Nothing can be hidden from it.  
And it speaks to the man who just got elected. 
That's how this man, a failed actor and would-be science fiction writer, is able to obtain the most powerful political office in the world.  He didn't suddenly use his access to the nanobot network to make himself wealthy enough to pay for television ads.  Not anything like that.  But he can hear the thoughts of his countrymen.  He knows what they truly want in their hearts, and what they are willing to compromise on to get it.  With the help of the nanobots, he can make near perfect plans that put him into the public awareness.  Even thinks that normally derail a campaign, the little embarrassments from his past that everyone has, are used to make the candidate appear to be more human, "more like me," to any potential voter.  
I haven't written this story yet.  I don't know where the nanobots came from yet, or what purpose they might have that the candidate serves.  It still resides in the, "that would be so cool if I could do that," realm.  I've not yet fleshed out the unintended consequences.  Not yet, anyway.
As for Shiny! Shiny!...?  I see lots of people gathered in a place I've never visited before with me holding something I never believe existed...
I'll leave it at that for now.  That story is still being written. 
But once I get it finished and it's published someplace, I will be sure to let you know.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

They have ads for that in the Enquirer?

Things have been running kinda rough recently.  I've had three of my stories rejected this week.  I'm getting buried with work at the office, having to work late almost every night.  I'm fighting and on-again, off-again, and now trying to come back on again cold.  The combination of work and sickness has made it difficult to get to the gym and work out, which I normally do about five to six days a week.  As a result, it's been harder to work off the stress of all the crap I'm having to deal with.  
Yesterday, I walked into the office of the woman who supervises customer service.  "I need to borrow your gun so I can shoot someone," I said to her.  She's a Russian woman who talks about how her life was better under the old Soviet Union.  I've accused her of being former KGB.  She laughs when I do that.  She doesn't deny it though.  
"Who vood you shoot?" she asked, looking up from her sandwich.  I noted that she DIDN'T deny having a gun.  
"The next person that looks at me wrong."  I looked out of her office window at the unit she supervises.  Everyone that I could see had their eyes glued to their computer screens, busily working away.  "Looks like your people are safe.  They're too scared of you to even take a break."  She laughed at that.  She didn't deny it, though.  
My Mom's side of the family is where I get my temper from, I think.  I was reminded of by something that happened years ago.  It started with a phone call from my great-aunt Isolene...
"Hello?"  I wiped my face with one hand while holding the phone's receiver to my ear with the other.  It was Friday night.  I got to sleep in Saturday, so usually went to bed late.  
"Erick...?  Take me home."  
"Huh?"  I shook my head to clear the sleep out.  "Isolene...?  Is that you?"  A few hours earlier I had picked her up from the retirement apartment complex where she lived and dropped her off at my Pop's house.  I rented an apartment from my grandfather that was behind his house.  My great-aunt stayed with Pop and his second wife, Louise, just about every weekend.  
"Yes.  I need you to come get me and take me home.  Do this for me now, please, hon."  
"But I just brought you there..."  
"Just come and get me now!"  She slammed the phone down hard.  
I looked at the receiver still in my hand.  Isolene, like her brother, my Pop, could be stubborn and opinionated, but she usually didn't blow up like that.  Pop would blow up.  Isolene tended to seethe.  I figured something must have happened and threw the covers back to get up and get dressed. 
Isolene was waiting for me on the back steps to Pop's house.  She had her heavy coat on, which she wore spring, summer, winter or fall, whenever she was going someplace.  Her bags were on the steps by her feet.  
"Take these, hon."  She gestured toward the bags as she made her way down the stairs, one painful step at a time.  "Put them in the car for me and take me home now."  The particular emphasis on the word, "now," was clear.  
I kept my mouth closed and did what she asked.  Sure, I was curious.  But I knew I'd hear all about it on the way home.  
As I put the bags in my car's hatch-back and then went to open the passenger door, I noticed Louise standing at the top of the steps.  She gave me a look, like she wanted to ask me an embarrassing favor, then looked toward my great-aunt.  
"Help me get inside, hon..."  Isolene's small, wrinkled hands gripped my wrist, hard.  "Get me home, now."  
"Close this door, hon," Isolene commanded.  I started to close the door after she pulled her leg inside.  I guess I didn't close it fast enough, because she reached out and slammed it shut herself.  
I looked toward Louise, standing on the back steps.  Her lips were pressed tight and her cheeks puffed up in frustration.  I gave her, "what do you expect me to do?" shrug and then walked over to the driver's side door.  
Isolene started talking before I pulled out into the street.  
"That...  Woman!"  It was a classic Isolene seethe.  Her lips were trembling with anger as she spoke.  "She thinks she is the mistress of us all.  Chuh!"  
"Something..."  I gave Los Robles a quick left-right look, then pulled out.  "Happened?"  
"Chuh!"  She let go of her purse straps long enough to make a dismissive gesture.  "Back home, in Belize, she would be my servant!"  
Not a direct answer to my question, but...  Yeah.  Something happened.  
"But...  You know, hon."  She extended her hand toward me, her finger crooked in the air like she was about to make a quarter appear like magic.  "There is something we can do.  Yes, there is something that can be done to fix her."
Fix her...?  I gave Isolene a side-long look.  "And...  What would that be?"  I braced myself for her answer.  It was probably not going to be good.
"Yes, hon.  I read about it.  In the National Enquirer, I did..."  
Nope.  Definitely in "not good" territory.  I braced myself even more.  "Oh-kay..."  
"We can do this thing..."  She snapped her fingers as she tried to remember.  Her hand suddenly made a clutching gesture as she did.  "Yes!  We can do this thing...  It is called, 'hire a hitman'..."  
"What?!"  I turned my head toward her in shock.  I looked back just in time to slam on my brakes to keep from running the red light at Orange Grove.
"Careful, hon, careful!  You need to look where you go when you are driving.  It is the law."  She patted my right arm in a supportive fashion.  
"Isolene..."  I took let out a gust of breath.  "You go to jail for something like that." 
"No, no, no...  It goes like this, see..."  She used both hands now, moving them back and forth like she was conducting an orchestra.  I imagined music like the shark theme from Jaws.  "We hire a hitman, you see, and this fellow, we pay him money, and then he kills Louise.  And...!  Our hands will be clean of it!"  She brushed her hands together, like someone brushing flour from them after baking in the kitchen.  
"That's still murder, though..."  
"No, no, no, hon...  After you give the fellow this money..."
"Yeah, yea...  He kills her, I know."  I actually looked around to make sure no one, like a pedestrian crossing the street, was overhearing her.  "But...  It's illegal to hire someone to kill someone."  
"What...?"  She seemed genuinely startled to hear this.  
"Yeah...  It's the same as if you pulled the trigger yourself."  The light changed.  I started forward.  I kept glancing toward her to see if it sunk in.  
She was clutching her handbag to her chest.  Her lower lip stuck out like a child pouting over having her lollipop taken from her.  
We didn't say much of anything after that.  I pulled  up to the front door of her apartment building.  I carried her bags into the lobby and set them by the elevator.  I asked her if she needed help carrying them up.  
"I will be fine, hon.  Thank you."  A look of concentration came over her face.  "And I will think on it.  I will think on it and let you know if I need you."  
I nodded.  I imagined another call in the near future: "Erick...  Please, hon...  I need you to take me to this place...  It is called a 'dive bar.'  There is a fellow there I need to meet.  Oh!  And we need to stop at the store that cashes my social security checks..."
I never got that call.  Louise stayed away from Louise and Pop's house for a few weeks but eventually started coming back.  
A few years later, Pop got sick and passed away.  Isolene, who used to be so fastidious about taking her insulin, ended up having one of her legs amputated due to complications from her diabetes.  When I went to visit her at the hospital, she dropped another bomb on me. 
"You're kidding!"  The words just popped out of my mouth before I could stop them.  "You're moving in with Louise?"
"What else can I do, hon?"  She made a little gesture with her shoulders.  The bulldog-like tenacity she shared with her brother was etched into the lines of her face, but those lines were softened by her weakened condition.  "I have to go somewhere.  And Louise, she says she will take me in."  She rolled over on to her side and stared at the wall.  There was nothing more to say about the subject.  
Isolene passed away herself before the year was out.  I don't know which bothered her more in the end; needing someone else to take care of her, or having that someone be the person she once thought of killing.  I guess that's one good reason to not hire a hitman.  The person you take the contract out on might be the only person who can help you later on.  

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Just a Misunderstanding, I'm Sure.

I didn't want to believe at first.  It was too fantastic.  A story that would make an editor at the Enquirer laugh in my face.  A person looking for President Obama's "real" birth certificate would tell me that I was wasting my time. 
But the evidence has become so compelling, so undeniable, that I had to break my silence.  As Arthur Conan Doyle once said through his creation, Sherlock Holmes, once you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable it might seem, has to be the truth.  
If you don't hear from me again after reading this passage, well...  You can guess what might have happened to me.  
It started one day when I was walking through the office and I overheard someone say...
"I'm not familiar with the crows in this area."  
Huh?  Crows?  Who took the time to get to know crows?  Except for a vet specializing in carrion fowl, why would anyone want to know a crow? 
I looked back at the young lady who had said this.  She had her cell phone out and was in the midsts of texting someone, sending them a message.  
"What?" she said when she caught me looking at her.  
"Nothing," I replied, continuing on through the office.  Crows.  Messages.  I shook my head.  It had to be a mistake, right?  
Then, later that same night, I heard someone raising their voice in the production office...
"I'm too damn much like you!"  
I stepped into the production room.  There were only two people there.  One was a tall Armenian guy who did our shipping.  He has his hair cut in one of those carefully designed and maintained cuts that is supposed to look like its a messy bird nest.  Or...  A crow's nest, maybe?  The other guy was a shorter Asian guy with a shaved head who work on records processing.  Two more different people there couldn't be.  
"Who's too much like who?" I asked them.  
They both looked at each other.  A silent message passed between them.  They looked back, embarrassed smiles on their faces.  
"Huh?  What are you asking?"  
I took a deep breath.  I felt like asking them if there had been someone else in the room just before I entered.  Or maybe...  Two other people who looked a lot like each other.  Too "damn much" like each other for one's sense of identity.  But something told me that the two before me would feign ignorance if I asked so direct a question.  
"Never mind..."  I sent a smile back at them.  I carried on, pretending that nothing was wrong.  All the while keeping my ears peeled.  
For a couple of days, there were no new clues.  I wasn't idle, though.  I looked up crows on line and recalled that druids thought them messengers from the gods.  Probably before the gods got cell phones with unlimited texting plans.  I also read about golems, a sort of pre-technology clone of legend.  
One news item caught my eye.  It was about the Border Monuments along our border with Mexico.  These tall, pyramid shaped markers were built and maintained by both countries to mark where the border between us is located.  But since the United States started building a large security fence that was approved by Congress, these monuments have become inaccessible.  You see, the fence is built wholly on the United States side of the border.  And as it was designed to keep people out, it does a pretty good job of keeping people away from the monuments.  
Keeping people away from these...  Pyramid shaped...  Monuments.  Huh...
The pieces were floating around in my mind, tantalizingly close to forming a picture.  The snippets of conversation continued to feed my desire to understand what was going on...
"She's the one in the bathroom..."
"Good morning, Crows..."  Crows again?
"I'll use my usual place in New Orleans."  
It made little sense to me.  Then, again in production, I overheard something that made it all come clear.  
"She's hiding Jobs.  That's all she does, is hide Jobs."  
Oh...  My...  God.  Suddenly all the pieces fell in place.  You can see it, can't you?  For those who can't, whose minds are too steeped in "reality" to see the truth, I will spell it out for you.  
My office has been infiltrated by a coven of Druidic witches.  They have moved north from their secret base, located an unknown depth beneath the pyramid shaped border monument on the San Diego border.  Safe from prying eyes due to the tall security fence they had their agents in Congress authorize, they have started the second phase of their diabolical plan, which involves the stealing of bodies of recently departed famous and wealthy people to build an army of zombie clones.  Their most recent acquisition has been the body of Steve Jobs, former founder and CEO of Apple Computer.  This was such a valuable acquisition that they have one of their members on full time duty hiding it.  Another, unnamed body, a female, is being kept somewhere in the woman's bathroom.  
How are they doing it, creating these clones?  That part is still unclear, but I suspect they've adapted some zombie-making principles they've learned from contacts in the voodoo world, one located in New Orleans, to create these creatures.
But they've hit a snag.  One of their creations, filled with the same individualistic genetic material that lead its predecessor to "Think Different," has rebelled from their control.  In a sudden burst of self-determination it cried out its decision to be its own person, to not be so much like its brethren, and fled.  The coven, seeking to recover their creation, are busy sending messages all over.  To avoid having their messages intercepted online, they have resorted to using their feathered messengers of yore.  But in their rush to capture the fugitive zombie, they have been forced to use birds that they don't know and are harder to control.    
This freedom seeking clone is the key to discovering goal of this druidic coven.  Normal police and government agencies would be unable to help at best, or infiltrated with druidic agents as the U.S. Customs Department already appears to be.  
It looks like I'm the only person in a position to find this runaway zombie clone and stop the nefarious plan of these druidic witches before it's too late. 
Writer's Note: If you've stumbled over this blog and this entry is your first time reading one of my offerings, please be assured that I'm not crazy.  One of my favorite things to do as a writer is to take what I thought I just heard someone said as if it were fact and not a mere misunderstanding and see what I can come up with.  This entry is an example of a week's worth of such misunderstanding.
So, if you happen to be a member of a druidic coven whose conspiracy resembles what I've written down here, please know that it's all just a coincidence.