This ancient string of Christmas lights has several sections that flash randomly and completely out of sync with one another, which I find somewhat unsettling. The bulbs get hot to the touch as soon as they’re plugged in – also unsettling (perhaps even alarming).

These lights are almost certainly a safety hazard on the tree. But if you shove them into a tangled pile on the floor instead and make a photo by purposely throwing them out of focus (and then unplugging them immediately, of course), they look kind of pretty.

Those who know photography (I am not one of them; I had to look it up) will have a name for this effect: bokeh. From what I can understand, it’s the quality – including the shape and softness – of the out-of-focus points of light in an image.

Apparently, there’s good bokeh and there’s bad bokeh. I started to read about the difference, but the bokeh connoisseurs were using words like diffraction and spherical aberration and catadioptric and I gave up because my head began to ache.

That’ll be a lesson (and a post) for another day.

Whether these lights are examples of good bokeh or bad bokeh, I don’t know. The important thing is that they’re not setting fire to my Christmas tree.


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