Bump the Lamp

Bump the Lamp photo

Despite not looking for a personal motto, one recently found me, and it has cast a shadow right in front of my eyes for almost my entire life. What is that motto you ask (or possibly inferred from the title)? Well I'll tell you.

Bump the lamp.

That's right. Bump the lamp. It has nothing to do directly with the appliance as much as it has to do with an animated rabbit named Roger, he of the still incredible movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. As any self-respecting movie connoisseur would tell you, that title is not a question.

So what does it mean to "Bump the Lamp?" In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the cartoon world is blended seamlessly with live action. Hence, in the world of the movie, cartoons exist on the same plane as humans. Since it was made in the late '80s, the animators could not do this using computers; they had to draw all the characters, frame by frame and cell by cell.

In one scene, our main human, Eddie Valiant, is handcuffed to Roger, whipping him along by the ears in a room dimly lit by -- you guessed it -- nothing but a ceiling lamp. In the scene, Eddie is constantly bumping into the lamp, causing the light in the room to sway and shift.

For the real people and objects in that room, the light moved around them naturally, but for an animated rabbit, it's not that simple. The animators had to meticulously draw shadows, both ones being cast onto him and the ones he was casting, for each and every moment the lamp was bumped.

For almost three decades, I didn't realize this incredible attention to detail. The filmmakers could have chosen not to literally bump the lamp, or just not worry about animating Roger's shadows. But the fact is they did bump the lamp, and they did animate Roger's shadows, and that's just one of the many elements that make this film one of my all-time favorites.

To me, "bumping the lamp" means being true to myself, finding the integrity in all that I do, and most importantly, not being lazy just because being lazy would be easier. In almost all cases, if I choose the lazy route, I would know something wasn't done to the best of my ability and that would eat me up inside.

That's why when it comes to my own efforts, if I don't achieve what I want but I did everything I could to achieve it, I find I am rarely if ever disappointed in myself. Conversely, if I did something half-assed and didn't give it my all, I know I am responsible for my own actions and would not hesitate to admit that I could have, and should have, given a greater effort.

There are of course times where I think something I'm doing or working on is good enough, but that tends to be when there will be no shift in my disappointment-to-satisfaction ratio. But I find that by embracing this notion of "bumping the lamp," I give myself a little push (pun so very much intended) that moves me forward and helps me say to myself, "Hey! Stop not doing it and start doing it."

Like I said, I have seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit many times before and had never even realized the intricate attention to detail in this scene, but that is kind of that point, and fits into another phrase I hold dear, and that's "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all." I first heard that one from Futurama (more nerd references!) but its meaning for me is a nice compliment to 'Bumping the Lamp'.

The long and short version of why this resonates with me has to do with my job. The long and short version of my job is that I write, design and edit online learning for computer software. The long and short thing is, I have to pay particular attention to detail in a lot of what I do, even though the users won't notice that I changed an animation length by only 0.1 seconds, or I added a small image to make one part consistent visually with the next. It looks seamless to them, but had I not taken the extra bit of effort to try and make something as perfect as can be (from my point of view at least), not only would my own integrity be slightly lost, but they also might notice that something is wrong or amiss (or "a mister" when it should have been "a miss").

To remind myself of "bumping the lamp" at work, I put a sticky note on the top left of my computer monitor (that I can see as I write this) that simply says, "Bump the Lamp." I'm sure that was no surprise. I love that those three little words can have such great influence and inspiration for me. It tells me to be true to myself, not to cut corners and to make sure everything I do I am proud of, even if others don't consciously know it.

For those who have read my blog posts in the past, there are most likely dozens of jokes that you didn't catch or understand, and while I will say, your loss, I will also say, I don't mind. The fact is that while I love that you are reading this, my ever faithful (or brand spanking new) Oy! reader, I write these for me and then I share them with you.

From time to time, I'll go back and read my old posts. When I do, I always feel a sense of gratitude that I stayed true to my tone and voice. I make myself laugh with the jokes you may have missed and that's because even before I was purposefully bumping the lamp, I was nudging it aggressively.

For a much more eloquent explanation of "Bumping the Lamp," check out the video that first brought the concept to my attention. This video explains it way more good than I ever could.

Adam Daniel Miller photo 3
Originally from Chicago and well, still living in Chicago, is Adam Daniel Miller -- a lover of writing, a voiceover enthusiast and an overall funny guy, according to his mother. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa Undergraduate Writing Program where he ... Read More

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