The man responsible for teaching me the difference between consonants and vowels died in July at age 79. Ed Flesh, a game show art director who worked on "The $25,000 Pyramid" and "Name That Tune," was best known for creating the "Wheel of Fortune" wheel. When "Wheel of Fortune" taped its first pilot in 1973, the show was called "Shopper's Bazaar." The wheel stood vertical and was made from cardboard and paint. It was Flesh's idea to enlarge the wheel and lay it horizontal.
Like many immigrants, I learned English by watching television. I was 6 years old, our family had just landed in Toronto, and the first image that popped up on our television was this sparkling, polychromatic wheel with dollar signs and lights circling its perimeter. I was hypnotized. For the next three years, I did not miss a single episode of "Wheel of Fortune." It was, for a long, unhealthy while, the most important thing in my life.
Decades later, the wheel has caught up with technology -- it now weighs 2,400 pounds, is 7-and-a-half feet in diameter, and uses a plexiglass LED system that can display millions of colors. But the message it delivers remains the same: Life's a game of chance; sometimes you hit the jackpot, sometimes you go bankrupt and vowels always cost $250.
-- Kevin Pang