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Portland’s Old Church Organ And Jeff Baker. He’s In The Shirt.


Jeff Baker speaking to Willamette Writers in Portland. That Portland.

As THE book and movie reviewer of record for The Oregonian newspaper, Jeff Baker goes Against. The. Grain.

Taller than expected, he worked the Old Church mic like a pro.

Could have thrown in a “Take my wife…please” and got away with it.

Willamette Writers came out strong for an hour of introverted reflections, on the who, the why.

You know, writer stuff.

What they got instead was a Steve Jobs launch event throwback, a focused speaker staying on topic.

Any writer standing up in the middle of Portland, Oregon is a score on BoomerPdx.

By what I saw, got there three minutes in, he opened well.

He had some rock and roll thing going. Had a beat. I heard it before I sat down.

He could’ve done three hours. A riveting three hours Grateful Dead style.

If you expected stage fright from a guy who spends so much time in the dark watching movies you’d be disappointed.

You expect a guy who reads and reviews books to struggle for words? He doesn’t.

Instead, Baker paints the picture of a reviewer’s writing life and invites you in.

How hard can that be?

Most likely too hard for you and me. The numbers:

Jeff Baker gets 500 books a week in his mail box.

100 a day is a boggling number. I see a shrink wrapped pallet of books.

From that pallet he reviews two or three a week.

How many books do you read a week?

The next time you’re in a library count the books on a shelf. If you get to 500 it’s a long shelf.

If he reads and reviews three a week, what happens to the other 497?

He’s got a connection with Powell’s Books where they pick up the review editions and credit them to a SMART account.

Not a smart phone, smart TV, or anything smart you’ve seen in a store.

Start Making A Reader Today helps K-3 students’ reading skills. Volunteers help kids read at their grade level.

Another feel good gesture from the rich and powerful?

Jeff Baker is rich and powerful? Are you? He’s committed to reading and writing. Are You? It’s like a super power when people make their reading connection. And he helps.

Sponsoring books at Powell’s for SMART members shows a guy who gets it.

A win-win deal sounds good. Good readers are foundation blocks and this is a win for all Oregon and Washington.

Once Baker mentioned SMART I knew he was the guy I hoped he’d be.

What does a reviewer decide to review?

Along with “what happens to the books”, this was another big question.

“You know how circles of waves move out when you drop a rock into a pond?” he said.

“The first circle is for local books and authors. The second for touring authors. The third is everything else.”

1, 2, 3? Clear as can be.

The Oregonian reviewer reads local material first? Score for Oregon.

In tones reserved for hometown Portland, Mr. Baker explained time. Book reviews come out in three months. Movie reviews take 8-10 hours total. He did a load of movie reviews on Friday.

More? The blogging. Jeff Baker said blogging feels so 2003. He writes 2-3 blog posts a day. That’s the job and he’s the one for it.

Getting further into decision making, Baker reminds that you can’t tell a book by its cover. Except when you’ve seen 500 a week for years and years you get better at it.

If you get past the cover, he said, you can decide to review or not by the first page. Maybe the first paragraph. Even the first sentence.

The number of books times hours in a day means you make fast decisions.

He is The Decider, which makes seeing and hearing Jeff Baker speak to Willamette Writers in the Old Church a double treat for this Portland baby boomer blogger.

Take another look at the top image.

What catches your attention, Jeff Baker or the pipe organ?

This might be the greatest backdrop in Oregon.

Some people show up to see the organ. No matter the speaker, the organ is always competitioin.

This night the speaker won.

Jeff Baker told stories from the literary front as one of the grizzled veterans in the transition campaign from hard copy to digital.

He read the numbers and stats for facebook, twitter, instagram. Is he a fan? He said Google + is already dead. Twitter is working on their new business plan, which means “How can we make as much as facebook?”

My numbers on boomerpdx back up the view of Google + and twitter.

The real question is how many good writers dropped out instead of navigating new territory?

He sounded like a geology professor of my undergrad days. At the end of his career, the man was being retired by his university.

The G professor said scholars either agreed with the theory of plate tectonics or found new jobs. There was no in-between.

Jeff Baker in the digital shift.

He asked who in the audience had a smart phone? Who had a Kindle? Lots of hands in the air.

Reading screens with readers.

The kicker was book stats: Most are sold in the last three months of the year and given away as presents.

A current novel costs maybe $28. Non-fiction around $16. The digital versions come in much lower.

What’s it mean? With 500 new hard copy books showing up at his door every week is ink on paper dying?

You make the call.

Last Baker insight: “Everybody needs an editor. They are your friend, not the enemy.”

Be sure to leave comments on structure and typos. Thanks in advance.









About David Gillaspie
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