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Christmas lights groove to 'Gangnam Style'

Not even Christmas lights are immune to a takeover by “Gangnam Style.’’

An Australian man and a Texas man have each created intricate Christmas light displays on their homes that are synced to PSY’s runaway global hit. Videos of their creations on YouTube have drawn plenty of attention, with the one by Australian Kym Illman receiving over 120,000 views and the one by Texan John Storms racking up more than 700,000 views.

“I spent a lot of time trying not to do it to ‘Gangnam Style’ because I thought the song was overdone," Illman told "But there was nothing else as catchy and unrelenting.’’ 

It took 41,000 bulbs, 2,000 programmable channels synced to his laptop and 200 man-hours by Illman and his family and friends to create the spectacle at his home, located near Perth in western Australia. This is the seventh straight year that Illman has created a Christmas light show at his house, but the first one for which he’s used a pop song instead of traditional fare like “Carol of the Bells.”

It’s also the first year in which he used “cosmic color ribbon,’’ a thin ribbon that allows him to program every single bulb on it to flash different colors at different intervals. It took Illman about 60 hours to program all the bulbs to sync to “Gangnam Style’’ in the way he wanted.

“It’s a labor of love,’’ he said. “It’s like a beautiful piece of art. The video camera can’t capture the dynamite of those lights. It’s way more spectacular in person.’’

Texan John Storms, who used more than 25,000 lights for his Korean pop-flavored Christmas show, echoed Illman's experience and told a local new station that it took him two weeks to put it together. 

Both Illman and Storms said their electric bills were only marginally higher for the month. 

“Everyone thinks it will set you back thousands and you get all these people on YouTube saying, ‘Look at your carbon footprint,’" Illman said. "But that’s not even close to true since the lights are all LEDs and less than 50 percent of them are running at any given time.” 

He has also raised more than $90,000 for charity over the past seven years by accepting donations from visitors. This year he is looking to raise money for an Australian rules football team in a country town where he owns a holiday home. As Christmas approaches, Illman said he will get as many as 4,000 people coming to watch the light show on a given night.

“Gangnam Style’’ plays as part of a three-song loop from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., and after that, people can listen to the song in their cars through a limited-range FM station in order not to annoy the neighbors with the constant music. There are also security personnel and parking to also limit any interference for the neighbors. 

Illman says the best part of the light shows is the fact that it brings people together. He recalled touching scenes over the years like a boy in a wheelchair who was mesmerized by fake snowflakes landing on his face from a snow machine during the light show. There have also been those who weren’t so thrilled when Illman didn’t cater to their demand to see the light show when they wanted.  

“One year a guy knocked on my door at 11 p.m. when I was sleeping and said he drove a long way and wanted me to turn the lights on, then cursed me out when I told him I wouldn’t,’’ Illman said. “Also, I never put the lights on for Christmas day because there would just be too many people, and a woman left a nasty note under my door one year.’’

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