Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Movie-making...same paroxysms as other media

By Don Keith N4KC

One of the better directors working today, in my opinion, is Steven Soderbergh.  I don't think he has made the same movie twice, and whether you like every single film or not, you can appreciate the thought, care and creativity each exhibits.  Here is a link to a speech he gave recently in which he assesses the current state of the film biz, and why, in his opinion, things are going the way they are, for better or worse.

As I read his comments, I also thought how much they apply to other media as well, especially the parts about picking talented people and letting them do what they do so well, and the marketing vs. research issues.

Soderbergh's opinions are not strictly about technological change--though that is certainly part of it--but I really enjoyed the benefit of his insight.

Here is the link:


Friday, April 26, 2013

Drive-by, self-serving post

By Don Keith N4KC

On the run these days, finishing up the editing process on my next book...and one about which I am extremely excited.  I'll have more on that--what I consider to be an IMPORTANT book, and especially for this particular year in Birmingham, Alabama--later.

For now, I just wanted to invite you all to take a listen to my interview about the ham radio book, RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO, that is now available for listening or as a podcast download.  It was conducted by Hap Holly KC9RP for "The Radio Amateur Information Network."

Hap did a good job, though to edit down my loud mouth to a 20-minute show required that it sounds like I never take a breath!  (BTW, Hap is a remarkable guy who has overcome a disability to do wonderful things.  Read his bio on the site.)

I also promise I will talk a bit more about my trip coming up soon to the world's largest amateur radio gathering, the Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio.  I will be doing signing events for the ham radio book and some of the other ones as well.  Plus I will get a chance to see up close some of the changing technology that will be affecting our hobby...and lots of other aspects of our lives.

Now, back to editing that new book!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Would-be Howard Stern jocks hit new low

By Don Keith N4KC

In yet another attempt by a team of morning radio hosts to attract audiences by shocking them to a greater extent than others like them who are trying to do the same thing, a new low may have been achieved.  Here is an excerpt from one trade publication:

ENTERCOM Active Rock KRXQ (98 ROCK)/SACRAMENTO has pulled locally-based syndicated  morning show ROB, ARNIE AND DAWN off the air for the rest of the week after they aired a bit WEDNESDAY (4/17) in which the hosts spoke about making a "top 5" list of reasons to hate BOSTON.
The hiatus follows criticism from crosstown CBS RADIO Sports KHTK-A (CBS SPORTS RADIO 1140)/SACRAMENTO morning host DON GERONIMO, who ripped the trio for the bit and for spending some of TUESDAY's show asking whether it was too soon to joke about BOSTON.

While 98 ROCK stuck with music in the show's absence, GERONIMO opened THURSDAY's show by playing clips of WEDNESDAY's ROB, ARNIE AND DAWN show, including joking about the "top 5 list" (with ROB saying that "that's how we express our solidarity with the people of BOSTON" and adding that he'd never been to BOSTON, and ARNIE claiming he could come up with nine things), discussing how a man whose legs were blown off while watching his girlfriend run could "hold that over her head forever," and asking whether it was too soon for jokes about BOSTON (with one of the three saying "no" while DAWN said "yes").
The hosts were also heard criticizing the NEW YORK YANKEES for playing "Sweet Caroline" ("that's disgusting") and OAKLAND A's fans for chanting "let's go BOSTON" in support of the stricken city (ROB saying "I'd have been standing with my hands in my pockets saying 'really?'") and PHILLIES centerfielder BEN REVERE for taping the words "Pray for BOSTON" on his glove.
Of course, the accused morning show team--on their web site-- defended their garbage-like attempt at humor and, instead, attacked the guy at the sports-talk station who took them to task in the first place.  They say, "The Nature (sic) of our show demands honest, noble, and real discussions and, at times, irreverence."  I guess I'm missing the "noble" part of this mess.
Ever since Howard Stern gained fame and fortune as a so-called "shock jock," others have been trying to do the same.  The only difference is that Stern is a talented man who actually knows what he can do, what is funny, and what is out of bounds.  Others--I dub them "amateurs" but they are most certainly not to be confused with "amateur radio operator" hobbyists--decidedly don't.
Chalk it up to desperation.  Stations put people on the air who try to be funny and topical, all to attract people who are either keeping a listening diary or carrying a personal people meter for Arbitron...individuals who will each statistically represent several thousand other people in their communities.  What they end up with are talent-less wannabes who are insulting, crass and embarrassing.  
I haven't heard this particular show.  And yet, I have.  I'd bet it sounds like so many others of the same ilk.  And very little like Howard Stern.

Sometimes such programming works.  If enough diary-keepers/PPM-toters get the word that, "Hey, you ought to hear what those jerks over on 98 Rock just said about Boston," then they get a temporary ratings spike.  It only takes a few Arbitron reporters to make a difference.  But don't the radio station programmers, personalities, and owners realize that spike is only temporary?  The morning team either goes bland and boring to cut down on the controversy and keep their jobs or they have to get even farther out there, becoming even more disgusting to try to hit a new level of "shock" and keep their "edge."  That's because they don't know how to be topical and funny any other way.  (Note that I see the same thing in TV shows, movies, and stand-up comedy.  I'm no prude.  I have no issues with pushing the envelope.  But crass-for-crass's-sake is not entertaining, nor is it taking the art form to any new, exciting places.  I enjoy Louis CK, Daniel Tosh, the "Bachelor Party" movies, and the like.)
Regardless, neither route is good for listeners and the sponsors who pay the bills.  
And it damn sure is not good for the medium of radio.

Monday, April 15, 2013

News release


Don Keith N4KC is not only a long-time and active amateur radio operator.  He is also a prolific best-selling and award-winning author with more than 26 published books to his credit.  His latest novel, FIRING POINT, a submarine thriller, has been optioned for and is in pre-production as a major motion picture and his next book, a stirring biography of one of the key players in the 1963 civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama, will be published in September 2013.

Keith also recently published a book about his hobby of choice, ham radio.  RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO includes material of special interest to newcomers, including easy-to-understand chapters on antennas, choosing a first station, and a tour of the amateur radio high-frequency bands.  There are also short fictional and satirical pieces that use humor or drama to show the various facets of the hobby.  The book counters the notion that Facebook, the web, Twitter, smart phones and other new technology have made amateur radio obsolete.  On the contrary, the author maintains, in its 100th year, the hobby is more vibrant and exciting than ever.

“I aimed the book at four different groups,” N4KC says.  “First are those who have an interest in learning more about getting into the hobby.  Second are those who are recently licensed and wondering which direction they want to go.  I also wanted to talk to folks who may have gotten a license a while ago but either never got serious or have lost the spark somehow.  And finally, I saw the need for a book that old-timers would not only enjoy reading but could use to pass along to others and do a little evangelizing about the hobby to friends and family.”

For those who truly want to help spread the word about ham radio, “Explore the Magic” and “Ride the Shortwaves” apparel and other items are available online at www.cafepress.com/shortwaves.
In its review of RIDING THE SHORTWAVES, QST Magazine calls the book, "...entertaining and informative...eminently readable by youth or adult, it covers the waterfront from why amateur radio, at 100 years of age, remains fun and relevant...and more to the point, what you need to enjoy and explore ham radio's magic."

The book has been available as a traditional paperback at all traditional and online booksellers (including the American Radio Relay League’s online bookstore) and as an e-book for Kindle users.  Now, it is also available in a digital edition for all e-reading devices, including Nook, Apple iPad, and Adobe Digital Editions, as well as in various formats for reading directly on computer screens.  Keith is also happy to give permission to ham radio clubs to excerpt a chapter of the book for inclusion in their newsletters.  Contact N4KC at don@donkeith.com to request the okay to re-print.
For more on RIDING THE SHORTWAVES, visit:

NOTE: Don Keith N4KC will be signing RIDING THE SHORTWAVES at the Dayton Hamvention.  He will be at the QRP ARCI “Four Days in May” event hotel, the Holiday Inn in Fairborn, OH, on Thursday, May 16, during the day.  Then he will be in the ARRL booth at times to be determined.  The book will be available for sale at the League’s booth throughout Hamvention.  Visit http://www.donkeith.com/index.php?p=4 for updates.

# # #

Friday, April 12, 2013

Books and e-readers and coffee mugs

by Don Keith N4KC

So, using modern technology, I am now a web entrepreneur.  Here's the path that has led me on this wayward journey into online capitalism:
A while back, I compiled some of the amateur radio articles I had written for the web site eHam.net and my own amateur radio web site and added quite a few more into a book I titled "Riding the Shortwaves: Exploring the Magic of Amateur Radio."  I believed (and have now had it confirmed) that there is a need for a book such as this one.  I talk about how the hobby--once thought obsolete in the face of the web, smart phones, Facebook, Twitter and the like--is not yet comatose.  In fact, amateur radio is enjoying a healthy boom, with more people licensed now than ever before, and lots of interest in combining modern technology with a hobby that actually led the way for commercial broadcasting, satellites, computers, and much of the modern tech stuff that is theoretically killing it.

Well, the truth is that most publishers have little interest in a book like this one.  Not even the American Radio Relay League, the amateur radio national organization.  They prefer only doing more technical books.  (I understand and am happy to report that they have ordered and sold a number of copies of my book in their online bookstore.  Thank you ARRL!  And they have invited me to do a "meet the author" event in May at the world's largest ham radio convention in Dayton, Ohio.  Thank you again, ARRL!)

As I have done with some other of my out-of-print and couldn't-find-a-publishing-home books, I published it myself as a traditional paperback through Amazon's CreateSpace service, which puts it on Amazon.com and also means it is available through just about all online booksellers.  It can also be ordered through the major book distributors by any bookstore or library.  Way cool!

OK, that takes care of the traditional paper book.  It's easily available if somebody wants to buy it.  But as you all know, e-books are rapidly taking over, with theoretically more digital copies of books being sold nowadays than paper.  Well, I also made "Riding the Shortwaves" available as an e-book through Kindle Direct Publishing.  The only drawback is that you can only buy the e-book through Amazon.com and only for their Kindle and a few other e-readers.  (Yes, there are programs out there like Calibre that enables you to convert a book from one format to the other, but how many people want or know how to do that?)

Enter Smashwords.  These guys can take a book and make it available in a variety of formats, including for Kindle, Nook, Apple iPad, Adobe Digital Editions (a free download for computers and smart phones), and even as a RTF, PDF or text file for reading directly on computers.  They have the whole deal set up so they handle the money end of things.

I spent most of yesterday formatting "Riding the Shortwaves" for Smashwords uploading, and wow!  Within five minutes of uploading the file, it was converted and available for purchase in all those varied formats.  They are a bit picky and keep hounding me to make modification in my book so it can become part of their "Premium Catalog," but again, I understand.  They work with Apple and some other big boys and, as noted, convert to a bunch of different formats, so they have to make sure the book fits their criteria.  At any rate, it is there and can now be purchased by anyone, regardless what device they use to read it.

So that gave me another thought.  Part of the idea of the book is to be evangelical about our hobby of ham radio.  What better way to show our excitement than with some premium items, based on the message of "Riding the Shortwaves."  So hello Cafe Press!

Yes, I know.  These guys have been around for a while, but it really is easy to set up a store and offer merchandise with logos, messages, or whatever.  Frankly, I couldn't even go and have stuff made just for me to wear as inexpensively as these guys do it.  The prices are just a tad high for most items, but I ordered some things before advertising them to make sure the quality was there.  It was!  The logos and screen print look fine and the clothing items I ordered for myself are first-rate.

Do I want to be in the tee shirt biz?  No!  I'm a writer.  But today, if you are a writer who wants to be read, you have to be your own promoter and publicist, too.  And if I can have people walking around at the big hamfests with my book cover and web site on their backs, and if we can all help promote ham radio, then I'm all for it.  Especially if I can do it at minimal cost and time.

And that is exactly what these types of vendors allow me to do.  Thank you, CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, and Cafe Press.  I hope this rapidly changing technology can continue to make things better for authors, publishers, readers, and whatever causes we all espouse.

Oh, and just for drill, here's the ad that is going up on my web site.  It will be fed by an animated GIF ad on the web site where some of the articles first appeared:

Move over eBay and Amazon!  I'm a web entrepreneur!