Thursday, January 26, 2017


Pac-Man debuted in the spring of 1980, though it wasn't until that summer that I played my first game in the basement of the old UBC Student Union Building.

Seventeen years earlier Harvey Ball invented the Smiley Face, which, according to the Smithsonian website, was intended to "raise morale among employees of an insurance company after a series of difficult mergers and acquisitions."

In the fall of 1987, when I was ill with cancer, I spent a lot of time at Vancouver's Cancer Control Agency, where my mother once worked as a cytologist (when it was known as the Cancer Institute in the 1950s-1970s). One of the therapies the oncologists used to treat sick children was to encourage them to imagine their chemo and radiation treatments as Pac-Man -- put there to eat bad cells. But for a young man who by then had equated Pac-Man with capitalist accumulation, it was too late -- I had to get by on cisplatin and vinblastine alone.

Ball's Smiley Face figures in the events that make up the life of Forrest Gump (1994).

Another film that features a Tom Hanks character as an inadvertent maker of faces is Castaway (2000). Here is my favourite scene from that film.

Never again, never again, never again...

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