Tie Fighters and cultural unconsciousness

tie_fighterI spend a lot of time thinking about language, even when buying presents for my kids.

This year I got the Lego Tie Fighter for my son (deep down the toy is for me but I believe we have kids so that we can continue our childhood into adulthood).

For most of my life I have thought why George Lucas and his cohorts should decide to call it the Tie Fighter instead of the H-wing Fighter. Afterall, the rebel fighter is called the X-wing Fighter because of its shape.

My conclusion is this: the H-wing Fighter just doesn’t sound good. There is nothing unconventional about the letter ‘H’ (X is such a rarely used letter it makes it sound mysterious). But the question is why ‘Tie’? My theory is that is looks like a bow tie and a Bow Tie Fighter will not cut it either. So the shortened form Tie Fighter sounds cool even though it has nothing to do with its function.

If this be the case then the name betrays its twentieth century roots. I mean I don’t see Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker or Yoda sporting one in any scene.

In short, in the very distant future in galaxies far far away bow ties are out.

Cinema and academic research

I have a love-hate relationship with movies. Some days I hate it to the max. The pointlessness and waste-of-time productions that consists of most films. Then some days I love it when I come across a great piece of cinema.

One of my favourite films Kinema no Tenchi (The World of Cinema) is directed by Yoji Yamada of Torasan fame. The film revolves around the Shochiku Film Studios, the largest of the Japanese film studios, at the transition from silent films to ‘talkies’ in the 1930s. This was also a period in world and Japanese history when Nationalism was at its peak before the onset of Second World War. In it is a scene which Shimada, an assistant director, is talking to Odagiri, an old high school buddy, who is part of the anti-National ist movement. The latter is on the run from police for revolutionary activities. In the house scene, Odagiri, is telling Shimada about how reinvigorated he becomes when he sees a movie particularly ones Shimada had helped made. In those troubled times going watching a film is his one comfort. But Shimada still young and naive of the ways of the world cannot grasp the significance of Odagiri’s words.

Hope is what is all we need. Without hope there is no looking forward to a brighter future.

Ironically Shimada, in his open-hearted generosity to his friend, is implicated as a anti-Nationalist and thrown in jail. It is here that he learns of the suffering and the fight of the people who are branded as anti-Nationalist. But the most important lesson he learns  is that it is the films that give people hope.

In a way when I write my papers, put forward my theories, I am trying to make the world a better place, trying to make a positive difference to the world. If I didn’t have this thought in my mind I could not proceed. The little knowledge that I add to the world I hope will make a contribution to our understanding. I may not see the fruits of my labour but that the knowledge of the seeds of my efforts will make a difference is all that I need to continue in my research. The struggles of writing a PhD are struggles not unlike Shimada’s or the world of cinema.