Posted by: thezedword | March 14, 2011

The scariest words you’ll ever hear as a father…

“Dad, good news.  I’m going to be on The Real World!”

Posted by: thezedword | October 13, 2010

Marching Band, part deux

Last month I wrote an article for the Daily Trojan about the USC Marching Band appearing in promos for the new Hawaii Five-O (  I wrote a second piece that was to accompany that article, about how things have changed for Art Barnter, the Spirit of Trojan director who has some new challenges to face in his 41st year on the job.

The article never ran.  So, here it is:

Most people would retire after forty years on the job. Not Dr. Arthur Bartner. At seventy, he just started his fifth decade on the ladder as the director of the Trojan Marching Band and his legacy is as storied as that of the football team itself. When he first arrived on campus in 1970, the Spirit of Troy was regarded as one of the worst in the country. Now it performs in over 350 appearances each year, schlepping their instruments some 15,000 miles.

The band has become a fixture outside the walls of USC in sports, playing at the Olympic opening ceremonies, the World Series and the World Cup. It’s made a mark on entertainment, having appeared in a handful of movies and over 100 TV shows, and earned the nickname Hollywood’s Band. At the intersection of sports and entertainment, the band’s there too. In 2007, members posed, in uniform, with models in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Even Bartner admitted, “This band is a rock star in it’s own right.”

The new season brings something new for Dr. Bartner. The 2010 school year is one of beginnings for USC, with a fresh president, athletic director, and head football coach.

Change, Bartner insisted, is a part of every season. “It never stays the same. And it can’t stay the same. Every year you get new student leaders, and every year you get about 100 new freshmen. So the top and the bottom are all new kids,” Bartner said. “And the tunes change. The shows change.”

The band has incorporated rap into their routines over the years, and will soon debut the addition of electro in the form of Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400.” They’ve also started playing the Jaws theme when the Special Teams takes the field. The idea came from Special Teams coach John Baxter.

“[Baxter’s] into the whole thing. He came over and taught us the shark thing. I mean, he taught the band. I can’t remember the last time the coach came over and taught the band a cheer,” Bartner said.

Baxter, along with Defensive Coordinator Ed Orgeron, who Bartner says is really “the rah-rah fire-up guy,” replaces a connection between the coaching staff and the band that left with Pete Carroll.

“You’re getting a whole new coaching staff, with a whole new philosophy,” Bartner said. “I mean, this is not Pete Carroll anymore.”

Carroll’s relationship with the Spirit of Troy was unique for college football. He regularly visited the band during its practices, and tried to rally as much Trojan spirit in them as in his own team.

Though he has visited practice with Barkley, Kiffin hasn’t approached the band with that same enthusiasm.

“Where Lane might not be as rah-rah as Pete, there’s other guys on the coaching staff that have filled that void. So, the relationship is still very strong,” Bartner said. “We’re about as close to our football team as any band in the country.”

Bartner has no plans of climbing down off the ladder anytime soon though.

“I used to fret about that. I don’t fret about that anymore,” Bartner said. “When it happens, it happens, when you lose the spark, or you can’t get up the latter, but I don’t worry about that anymore.”

Instead, he’s given up other responsibilities, from guest conducting to adjudicating, even a directing summer college band for Disney. “I said in my twilight years, I’m just going to concentrate on USC. I’m just going to have fun at USC,” Bartner said.

While he does, he can only strengthen his own legacy, and that of the Spirit of Troy.

“I wanted the band to be more than a field band. I wanted it tied to the football team. I wanted the band to be the hub of the university,” Bartner said. “Now we’re all encompassing. I think it’s cool. I like it. And the secret is, the kid’s like it. I could take a gig and if the kid’s don’t want to do it, then you have no band.”

Posted by: thezedword | October 13, 2010

All the colors of the Peacock tail

For a brief time over the last two months I wrote for USC’s newspaper the Daily Trojan.  As part of my duties as a staff writer, we had to do regular blog posts.  I wrote two, and for reasons I still don’t entirely understand, neither were run.

So, I present to you, the second, about NBC’s ambitious fall slate, and how the network blew it:

NBC started this fall season with an admirable goal: to create a line-up as colorful as their peacock tail. At first glance, they succeeded. Freshman series Outlaw, Undercovers, Outsourced, and The Event all featured minorities, and not just as a “token ethnic.”

— Outlaw pairs an African American with a Latino at the top of a legal team.

— Black actors from Germany and England play the married spies at the center of Undercovers.

— No doubt trying to capitalize on the success of Slumdog Millionaire, a majority of the cast on Outsourced is of South Asian decent.

— The Event boasts a Japanese-American government agent, a Latino extraterrestrial, and an African American as a Black Caribbean President of the United States. That last one’s a nice touch; it’s a demographic rarely represented on TV outside of Dexter’s Lauren Velez.

Unfortunately, when the new programs actually hit the air, they ranged from bland (Outsourced), to disappointing (Undercovers), to implausible (Outlaw), to unoriginal-but-has-potential (The Event).

This week’s episode of The Event improved on the last, and word is it will only get better over the next few weeks. Hopefully, the same will be true for tonight’s Outsourced. The success of these shows could lead to more minorities on network television in the future. What NBC and other networks needs to take away from the Peacock’s fall slate is that while it’s important to put a diverse cast in front of the camera, it’s just as important to put have shows that are actually worth watching them in.

Posted by: thezedword | October 13, 2010

Rockin’ the suburbs

For a brief time over the last two months I wrote for USC’s newspaper the Daily Trojan.  As part of my duties as a staff writer, we had to do regular blog posts.  I wrote two, and for reasons I still don’t entirely understand, neither were run.

So, I present to you, the first, about living in the suburbs in Los Angeles:

My name is Zach Cannon. I’m 25-years-old.  I have a confession. I like the suburbs.

I’m new to this city. This is my first semester in my graduate program, and I moved into a cute little cottage thing in Burbank a month ago.

Sure, it’s far from campus. Yeah, it can get hotter than hell. Despite that, it’s an undeniably nice place to live.

There are two trains that can zip me down to Union Station, and from there, the USC Tram drops me on campus. All these trees keep the sidewalks shaded and my apartment cool in the afternoon. And, most of all, it’s safe.

I learned this when FedEx bungled my delivery requests and left half-dozen boxes containing all my earthly belongings on my front step. They sat for five days before I flew into L.A. The boxes went untouched and undamaged.

The common complaint levied at the suburbs is the uniformity that apparently defines them.

That may be true of the newer suburbs, the cookie-cutter homes built around artificial lakes and golf courses. Settle in an older suburb, one developed over the last fifty years, and there’s something from all styles and for all demographics.

For those who like retro, there are old duplexes and single-family homes. Some boast stables converted into garages, antique wooden stowaway ironing boards, or driveways paved to fit Model-Ts. Want something a little newer? There’s no shortage of townhouses, apartment buildings, and condos.

Compare that to downtown, where the barred windows protect apartments in two categories: cramped crumbling quirky commodes, or recently remodeled urban chic residences. Hip and cool, perhaps, but I prefer being able to go out for a run after dark, park at the movies for free, or just sit in my small yard.

That’s right, I have a yard, and an herb garden.

Some may call it domestic, some may call it dull, but to me, this suburb feels like home.


That's right, a yard!


Posted by: thezedword | July 3, 2010

My autobiography

For this self-indulgent, pat-myself-on-the-back post, I present an autobiographical essay I had to write after being award a scholarship to USC:

Born under a blue moon in July of 1985, Zach Cannon was raised in Miami Springs, Florida.  Over the next 18 years, he’d attend Springview Elementary, where he had the honor of being a Safety Patrol his fifth grade year, and Miami Country Day School, where he swam competitively for six years.  In 2003, he enrolled at Florida State University to study Athletic Training and Sports Medicine.  After two-and-a-half years, he realized he actually liked the classes he was taking for his Film Studies minor more.  He changed majors to Media Production and Creative Writing, degrees he’d eventually obtain with Cum Laude distinction.  At the same time, he wrote for the school’s newspaper, the FSView, winning local and national awards, and worked for campus housing as a college equivalent of a Safety Patrol: The Resident Assistant.

Following graduation, he lived for a year in Wellington, New Zealand.  Even though his bags were very heavy when he boarded the plane, he took with him his love of writing.  While there, he split his days between teaching swimming, working for Weta Digital, and writing spec television and feature scripts.  He made some friends too, with whom he competed in the country’s 48-Hours Film Competition.  They were voted the Audience Favorite and won third place.  He returned to the United States in the fall of 2009 with one goal in mind: to obtain an MFA in Screenwriting.  While going through the application process, he completed the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s Television Writing Workshop, and moved to San Diego, where he is currently the Assistant Manager at a swim school.  In the fall, he will attend his top choice for graduate programs: the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.

A child falls on the concrete deck of our pool. Instead of scooping him up, his father remains seated on the bleachers, points, and laughs at his son.

21-year-old Omar: How old do you think I am?

6-year-old Nathan: Forty-three.

21-year-old Omar: Jaiden, Nathan thinks I’m forty-three.  How old do you think I am?

7-year-old Jaiden: Forty-three!  Holy cow, that’s the channel Nickelodeon’s on!

Posted by: thezedword | July 3, 2010

The gun show

Kiara: Show me your muscles.

[Little kid flexes his bicep]

Kid: My muscles have muscles!

Posted by: thezedword | July 3, 2010


Dana: Where are you going on your vacation?

Kid: Yellowstone!

Dana: Won’t you be afraid of the grizzly bears?

Kid: No, I know karate.

Posted by: thezedword | June 13, 2010

I’m the one without any hair on the right

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