Saturday, November 29, 2008

Traveling from Indy back thru Columbus to home, we took a small diversion to see the 6 pm lighting at The Clifton Mill -- and it is the most amazing kitschfest i have ever seen anywhere.

OK, i haven't made it to Wall Drug yet, but it's on my bucket list.

From now to Jan. 1, if you've got a chance and you're around I-70 and Springfield (just east of Dayton) around sunset/early evening, it's worth a ten mile side trip and $10 a head ($8 Sunday to Thursday) to wallow in America's finest holiday season schlock (my son says the chili dogs are good, which they oughta be at $3.75).

Plus, the mill actually works, and you can buy a sack of buckwheat pancake mix.

Friday, November 28, 2008

This is both funny, and not-funny -- having watched a mall die while living in West Virginia, and now watching Indian Mound Mall go on life support (some vital signs, but a few extremities and internal organs shutting down), you see how a downtown can go into hibernation and come back, but a mall is like a shark.

If it stops moving through the waters of commerce, it dies, from the head down, and the rot isn't pretty.

What are some new business models for a mall? Churches in the former anchor store spaces? Remodeling into senior housing on one end? I'm not kidding -- they need some ideas beyond the newest tchochkey outlet . . . unless Les Wexner figures out how to make us all believe we need another overpriced personal care product in 43 varieties to stave off bankruptcy: "Follicles, Defoliation, and Finance" might do it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Faith Works 11-29-08
Jeff Gill

Old Fashioned Means Many Things

Last week many of us sang the Thanksgiving classics, “We Gather Together” and “Now Thank We All Our God” and “Come, Ye Thankful People Come.”

These aren’t songs the ad business folks have figured out how to co-opt.

They not only come with a fair amount of theological content, but they swing with a heavy load of archaic imagery – tares cast out, grain put in a garner, “first the blade and then the ear,” before the whole shebang “doth appear” to “lay down in store.”


Even those among us who actually live their lives around a harvest season and know what a harvest home looks like (usually needs sweeping daily) don’t call any building on their farmstead a garner, and tare weight is a cryptic label on a scale readout unless you’re in charge of setting pricing.

Never mind, because this time of year makes singing about grain and corn and sheaves feel right at home in our harvest homes, cornucopia stuffed with fruits and gourds as a centerpiece until the Christmas decorations come out.

Thanks to the election and the near monopolization of the airwaves by political spots, we didn’t start getting slammed with Christmas (koff) Holiday season ads until, oh, Nov. 5. Which is about two months later than it’s been the last couple years.

The Lovely Wife and I have noticed that there’s a bit of a theme to the ads on TV this year, or at least in the tube we’ve seen – nostalgia.

Traditional scenes, and classic music, with a focus on family and fun and snow that seems to us a shift from what had become (in this household’s perspective, at least) a rolling attempt to out-cool the competition during the “Holiday (koff) season.” Edgy music, surrealism with red and green tones, and a general effort to stretch the boundaries of you might still consider “oh, an ad to buy stuff for Christmas.”

What we’re seeing now is a wide range of commericals that all aim at a fairly narrow band of 70’s era musical variety show sets, all of whom have an Andy Williams clone in them wearing a striking sweater (yes, that trend is his fault – age 80, still wearing them in Branson) that stands out against a stark white set, among other colorful people mainly organized into recognizable family groups (young couple, young family, older couple with a teen, elderly couple beaming at them all).

Christmas music for some years now has been “officially” limited to “Deck the Halls,” “Ring Christmas Bells (sans words),” and “Jingle Bells,” so I understand why some ad agencies went with 50’s finger snapping hipness just to get out of that box, but this year we’ve climbed back into the box and put a big honking red ribbon on it.

Is this the economy? If so, how does that logic flow? Are ad buyers less interested in taking risks in a tanking economy? Does the TV ad trend mean that traditional is safe (well, duh), and it pays?

It does seem safe to guess that all sorts of families, traditional and non-traditional, will be looking for safe, cheap, simple ways to celebrate the season in the way they’re used to, or remember being used to, or would like to learn how to do in the first place.

Thursday night is the downtown Newark “Sights and Sounds” tour, which you can learn more about at A family can learn a little about local traditions around Advent (starting tomorrow!) and the Christmas season for very few dollars and much enjoyment, with the Courthouse Square lights anchoring it all for free.

Also at no cost is the Granville Candlelight Walking Tour, next Saturday Dec. 6 with various events from 1:00 pm through 9:00 pm all over the village – see for sites and times of various musical and performance venues. Most all are free, but lots of chances to spend money if you want!

And that Saturday is also “Christmas in the County” down at Infirmary Mound Park from 6:00 pm through the evening, no cost but much merriment for all, including the legendary Christmas pickle.

Is your family thinking along more traditional lines this Christmas season? Are those of other faith traditions doing things differently in their different observances through the end of 2008? Drop me a line and let me know; I’d love to share those ideas with our community.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your traditions at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So, a lovely mountain pass in the Swiss Alps. And a scene from memory of . . . Licking County?

Ellen Hayes, in her 1920 book "Wild Turkeys and Tallow Candles," said of her growing-up years just before the Civil War that, as a much older woman, a professor at Wellesley College, she had been on the Grand Tour of Europe.

It was in passing through the Furka Pass, seen above (click to enlarge), that she was struck with how much the scene around her felt the same as how she, as a child, viewed passing through "the Dugway" alongside Raccoon Creek, bending around the hill now sliced off by Rt. 16 heading east into Newark. The sense of scale and wonder to young eyes, and the expectation of adventure beyond the bend around the river, a steep slope on your left hand, made her feel a sudden direct link between that experience long before and her travel in that moment.

And now i think of that connection almost every time i zip around that bend at 55 mph, the "vale of Newark" opening up before me. Can you see it? Or more to the point, can you feel it?