House Measles?!?

I love Christmas lights, most of them. The blue LEDs mess with my vision and can be a touch overwhelming in large masses. And I am a firm believer that you can have too much of a good thing. People in the Texas Panhandle take a keen delight in decorating their houses for Christmas (and cars, but that’s a different story) and I am happy to walk around the neighborhoods and appreciate their time and effort. We decorate Redquarters, usually in multi-colored stripes. Which my sibling and I used to mess with, changing the timers so some faded in and out, some flashed, and some flickered on and off up and down the length of the strings of lights. The people across the street must have wondered if they needed to see a neurologist.

Over the years I’ve noticed different fashions in house lights. Plywood cut-outs of Santa and reindeer, or snowmen, or manger scenes, or angels, are always pretty popular, but their numbers come and go over the years. They seem to have peaked about 10 years back and are fading. Eight years ago it was icicle lights. These were short sub-strings of lights dangling from the main run that draped the edge of the roof or gutters and looked like icicles. They are lovely if 1) they are white or a solid color, although there’s one house that still sports multi-colored strands that look like beaded fringe. And 2) if they are not tangled up. The Panhandle winds put an end to the popularity really quick, after the fourth time someone had to get up on a ladder and untangle the fringe. A few die-hards keep them around still, and they are very pretty.

Then the inflatable stuff appeared, just after the mechanical reindeer. Wire frames in the shape of reindeer were wrapped in white lights. They had a small motor in the neck (usually) sometimes the torso, and the reindeer bobbed their heads up and down with slow dignity, or reared up and settled back. Yes, you know exactly what some teenaged yahoos did. One house then surrounded the deer with an electric fence. Problem solved. Inflatables appeared around that time, ranging from mildly tasteful snowmen to enormous snow globes, ten-foot-tall Santas, and M&M candies in festive garb. And now dinosaurs. With Santa hats and carrying gift boxes. Sigh.

2014 was the Year of the Ornament. Solar-powered globes and snowflakes hung from the trees, or poles in the yard. They looked fantastic for two or three hours after sundown, on sunny days. But they started fading rapidly after that, and never really glowed that much on cloudy days, it was a cool idea but the technology’s not quite there yet. I have not seen any of those back this year, thus far.

This is the year of the laser projector. Alas. The device looks like a black canister, tipped slightly up, and shines a pattern of red and green dots on trees or houses, or both. In theory, you stick the stake into the ground, point the projector, plug in the cord, and voila! No mess, no fuss, you’re decorated and good to go. Except . . .

. . . projectors tipped to low shine in the eyes of pedestrians and drivers and are a (literal) pain.

. . . projectors tipped to high have lazed aircraft.

. . . One color vanishes against the brick or dark material of the house, leaving it with sickly spots.

. . .the spots are too weak, and the house looks ill.

. . .the spots hit the house and trees next door.

. . . over-sensitive security lights wash out the colors every time a car goes past.

I am not a fan of the laser projector. There are enough bad examples around that I’ve called the condition “house measles.” You need a pale house, no competing lights, careful aiming, and a few tasteful colored accents for the things to look decent. Stick-flick-and-go does not seem to work, despite the ads on TV.

Which reminds me. I need to go tweak the timers on the house lights. I’m trying to get the tree to fade out while the outdoor lights flash on. Dad Red will never notice.

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