Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Gaudy Christmas displays and tunnels where you can hide


Is it art?

I guess that's the fundamental question.

The question came to me when I saw an article in my Facebook feed. Yes, like many in the 21st Century, I spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling through Facebook on my iPhone. That is time that could be far better spent but damn you Zuckerberg, it's just so addicting. I'm in the process of moving more of my content to Twitter for various reasons, but I'm certainly not above the "scroll and lurk" of Facebook. But I digress...

I saw this article from Wired about light-up Christmas displays.

It made me stop and think of the lights my hometown would string up in the palmy days of my childhood. They were the big, bulbous kinds of bulbs all red, green, and icy blue. There would be four strings of such lights stretching from the needle of the county courthouse, forming a pyramidal shape. I remember staring at them at night through our living room window. Such cheering colors, the kind that all seemed to vanish when those solid white icicle lights became all the vogue.

Not that there is anything wrong with those or that color scheme. I've seen fairly elegant displays of white and blue bulbs that have accentuated the architecture of various cities. But to the point of the article linked above, what about the private displays of suburban homes? You know, the "maximalists" as the article calls the art movement. These are the people who toss up those often gaudy things that airliners might mistake for a landing strip? Those monstrosities that are less Santa's Workshop and more like the Vegas Strip threw up all over the house? Strobing, pulsing, flashing lights moving in sync to Trans Siberian Orchestra or something equally trite...sorry, I'm just not into it.

What does impress me is the amount of technology and know-how to pull something like that off. One of the suburban lighters from the article actually started in the 1980s when he linked his parents' Christmas light display to his Apple II in the garage. These days, it's a single board computer like Raspberry Pi, light sequencing software, LEDs that can change hue and intensity, and a sequencer. One of the Christmas enthusiasts has an FM transmitter so that passing cars can indulge in the music that accompanies the light movements. That is a big part of it, right? Getting all those cars to drive by real slow to gawk, really making the neighbors peeved. As if they weren't ticked already from all the flashing lights and noise. Then again as the article points out, it's no longer the auto traffic decorators are looking for as much as the viral hits on YouTube and Instagram.

As I said, duly impressed by the tech. Still not into it, though. Especially since I'm really not feeling Christmas this year. So where is there for me to go to avoid it all? Well as I read the Wired article, there was a sidebar link to a story that gave me an idea.

Hong Kong is running out of room. It has over seven million people in its tiny landmass. The average price of a home is $1.8 million. Therefore, architects and civil engineers are looking at ways to convert caverns and tunnels into living space. Read the article and decide for yourself, but I'm not so opposed to the idea. I could place solar panels topside and then run the power lines down into my tunnel home, far away from any neighbors and therefore free from garish Christmas displays and the accompanying noise. Plus, think of the go-kart races you could have in those tunnels. Really makes me wish I had put a bid in for that secret British tunnel that was for sale about ten years ago.

On second thought, this isn't a good idea. I've developed a very real fear of being buried alive.

That's a post for another time.

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