Belgium – Moon Drops

Comic Creations

While Get Fuzzy is the Sip Advisor’s favourite comic and he doesn’t stray too far from that strip (although he loves him the occasional Garfield story), Belgium is known for a few animated legends that have recently been turned into feature film franchises. Let’s take a closer look at these works:

The Adventures of Tintin

First published in 1929, Tintin was created by the artist simply known as Hergé (real name Georges Remi) as part of a newspaper supplement. Tintin books have gone on to become big business, selling more than 350 million copies in over 80 different languages. The character is often described as a native son of Belgium, which is pretty good praise for someone whose best friends are a dog and an oft-drunk sea captain.

Have you ever wondered where the name Tintin came from? The character’s first name is actually Martin and Tintin is a common nickname for people named Martin in French-speaking countries. His dog Snowy is actually called Milou in the French comics, while the detective duo of Thompson and Thomson are named Dupont and Dupond.

Tintin Age

Tintin, a teenage journalist and detective, has travelled the world and even beyond it. He’s had adventures in the Congo, the Soviet Union, China, and even on the moon. If you wish to keep up with his globetrotting, you may be out of luck. Some of the regions he’s visited are completely made up, such as Khemed, Borduria, Syldavia, and Nuevo Rico.

The 2011 film release, involving movie moguls Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, sees Hergé actually appear in the opening scene as the street artist. A Tintin theatrical release had been in the works since the 1980’s, when Spielberg first crafted a script for the Belgian icon. There has also been a Tintin TV cartoon (the Sip Advisor’s first introduction to Tintin adventures), BBC radio show, two French live-action films, stage shows, and publicity stunts.

Belgium Balls

The Smurfs

Created in 1958 by artist Peyo (what’s with all these Belgian comic creators going by a singular name), also known as Pierre Culliford, the Smurfs are branded as Les Schtroumpfs, in French. Peyo came up with the word ‘schtroumpfs’ when he forgot the word for salt at a dinner party and made something up on the spot. Smurf is simply the Dutch translation of the word.

The Smurfs, thanks to their North American TV cartoon, become a pop culture hit in the 1980’s (Smurfmania had already hit the U.K. in the 70’s), spawning their own cereal (including a commercial starring a 13-year-old Jack Black), video games, songs, dance craze, theme park attractions, Ice Capades show, and, of course, lines of toys and other merchandise that kids just had to have.

bring-me-a-smurf

In the beginning, there was only 99 Smurf characters, but that number has risen over the years. Despite the growth in population, there are only three female Smurfs: Smurfette, Sassette, and Nanny Smurf… talk about a sausage party! Some Smurfs from the original comics never made the crossover to TV and film. These characters include Alchemist Smurf, Timid Smurf, Enamored Smurf, Finance Smurf, Lumberjack Smurf, and Navigator Smurf.

The Smurfs helped create modern zombies, thanks to a 1959 comic called ‘The Black Smurfs’ (‘The Purple Smurfs’ in North America). The story was about a Smurf being bitten by an insect, before going around and biting other Smurfs, turning them into aggressive, living-dead beings. This comic was released years before George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and featured the birth of Grouchy Smurf, the patient zero who never regained his full Smurf senses following the outbreak.

Belgium: Moon Drops

Moon Drops Cocktail

Belgium has been dubbed ‘Home of the Comic Strip’ and these panels are considered to be an important part of Belgian life. Next time the Sip Advisor is visiting, he will certainly sit down with a Tintin or Smurfs anthology and give it a read. Some Belgian beer will help with the language barrier!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail was simple, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The drops of Sherry floated on top of the drink, gave the brew a unique taste and made it look neat with that hazy red colour. Stella is a clean, crisp and easy to drink beer.

New Zealand – Pink Haze

Island Inhabitants

The Sip Advisor is a huge fan of New Zealand and it is perhaps the place I would choose to live if forced to leave Canada (it may happen one day!). I could become the country’s next big thing… and there are some serious high profile personalities to contend with. Here are some of the most famous citizens of New Zealand, affectionately known as Kiwis!

Kiwi Birds

Mrs. Sip’s sister (an avid reader) will love me for writing this piece on the kiwi bird, a national icon of New Zealand… so long as I don’t advocate for the mass consumption of the bird as a delicacy. The video game NewZealand Story focused on the adventures of Tiki, as he tries to save his mate Phee Phee and other friends, who have been abducted by a blue leopard seal. Kiwis live in pairs and mate for life, so Tiki and Phee Phee may have been together 25-50 years.

Kiwi Bird

AJ Hackett

An original bungee jumper and operator of the first commercial set-ups for the extreme sport, Hackett famously jumped off the Eiffel Tower in 1987, helping to popularize the whole concept. He also holds a number of World Records in the discipline. The Sip Advisor is a bungee enthusiast, completing my first jumps where else but New Zealand. I’ve even plunged off the Auckland bridge, dipping into the harbor far below and I have Mr. Hackett to thank for all of my thrills.

Sir Edmund Hillary

A distant ancestor of one Mrs. Sip, Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person (along with Nepalese guide Tenzing Norgay) to conquer the summit of Mount Everest. Forever grateful to the people of Nepal, Hillary spent a great deal of time there, setting up schools and hospitals to help the Sherpa people, through his Himalayan Trust foundation. The dude was knighted for his achievements, was viewed as New Zealand’s most trusted citizen, and is even on the country’s $5 bill.

Peter Jackson

The director most famous for taking on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and its Hobbit prequel series, Jackson has also worked on such notable films as King Kong and The Adventures of Tintin. Jackson is so fond of his homeland that he chose to bring the filming of the J.R.R. Tolkien books to New Zealand. Mrs. Sip and I visited Hobbiton, as part of a tour stop, but were more interested in grabbing a snack than posing in front of miniaturized doorways!

Peter Jackson

Lucy Lawless

Xena: Warrior Princess herself, Lucy Lawless was a perfect blend of strong and sexy when she starred in the mythological fantasy series. Lawless went on to appear in a number of other shows and has even launched a successful singing career. She currently has a recurring role on Parks and Recreation as the wife to Mr. Ron Swanson. If he can love her, then she should be in everybody’s good books!

Flight of the Conchords

Comprised of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, Flight of the Conchords began as a musical-comedy performance duo before venturing into the TV world together. The boy’s HBO show is extremely funny, with fellow Kiwi Rhys Darby joining in the fun as band manager Murray and Kristen Schaal as their lone fan. Sadly, it only ran for two short seasons, but in that time, they created a number of great songs, including Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor and Hurt Feelings.

Lorde

While I’m personally not a fan of this young artist’s work, Mrs. Sip can be caught belting out her tunes from time to time, and she should be commended for hitting it big at such an early age. Hopefully, she doesn’t burn out like other teen stars. Born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor (I can see why she shortened her stage moniker), Lorde’s first hit ‘Royals’ won her two Grammy Awards and she has enjoyed continued success with the song ‘Team’.

The Bushwackers

These rowdy New Zealanders were originally known as The Sheepherders, an ultraviolent tandem of brawling wrestlers, before they arrived on the scene of the child friendly World Wrestling Federation and became the goofy, loveable Bushwackers. Luke and Butch were known to do anything to win a match, from lick their opponent’s faces to use each other’s heads in a battering ram maneuver. The team even battled Steve Urkel and Carl Winslow on an episode of Family Matters.

New Zealand: Pink Haze

Pink Haze Cocktail

  • 0.5 oz Blackcurrant Liqueur
  • Top with Sauvignon Blanc Wine
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • Garnish with an Orange Slice

Also unique to New Zealand is Black Water Rafting, which Mrs. Sip and I participated in while visiting the country in 2008. In this activity, you explore the caves of Waitomo, repelling and ziplining into the dark depths, before floating downstream with vibrant glowworms lighting your route. You finish by scaling a small waterfall before returning to the surface.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink provided the first chance to use the homemade Grenadine Mrs. Sip and I concocted recently and it was delicious. The Sauvignon Blanc Wine from The Ned is a very interesting vino with a fruity flavour that’s hard to describe, but goes down easy. All in all, the cocktail was quite nice and enjoyable.

January 18 – Crouching Tiger

Counter Culture

I fell asleep during the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, despite the fact I thought I’d enjoy the fantastical martial arts film with a name that sounds like a wicked sex position. This is far from the first popular film (at least according to most of the world) that I have walked away from disliking. Here are the top five movies I refuse to watch, despite their large fan base:

#5: The Hunger Games

Okay, so I only saw the first entry of this series, but it will be hard for Mrs. Sip to get me to return for more. Sorry to drop a spoiler for those who haven’t seen the film, but I absolutely hated how they built up this entire competition for what seemed like forever, only to kill off half the competitors immediately. Then, the fact producers wanted the film to be PG-13 eliminated any chance of serious themes from the book being examined. And so, we slowly wound our way to the inevitable and predictable finish. The Japanese flick Battle Royal is a far better offering in the realm of kids being challenged to kill one another in the name of survival.

#4: Moulin Rouge

Good lord, Mrs. Sip loves her musicals. The Sip Advisor, however, despises any media that is largely based around singing. Tragically, I’ve been dragged to a number of films or forced to watch movies where even the simplest dialogue is crooned. I’m not talking about Disney or other animated offerings, but live action movies where song and dance drives the entire production. Back to Moulin Rouge, I’ve actually been outside of the cabaret club in Paris, France and even without entering, cold chills were running through my system and I suffered flu-like symptoms just being in its presence.

#3: Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit

Middle Earth is simply a place I don’t want to visit… and I definitely don’t want to get stuck there for six movies and 525 hours (running time is purely an estimate of Peter Jackson’s need to have super extended versions of his films). For most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mrs. Sip and I watched the DVD’s and I made sure a clause was put in our contract that we’d halt the movie half way through to take a break playing pool or throwing darts or something else to get me through the second half of the film. The tactic was not very successful with regards to my overall enjoyment.

#2: The Matrix

I just don’t understand these films and the truth of the matter is, I don’t really want to. When I saw the first installment many moons ago, all I could think about was how hungry I was. Thankfully, my McDonald’s feast afterwards wasn’t as disappointing as my cinema choice. Sadly, Mrs. Sip loved that first movie, so when the sequels arrived and we were now dating, I was dragged to midnight openings like I was some nerd who enjoys standing in lines for his entertainment. I only do that at Disneyland, thank you very much!

#1: Star Wars

Mrs. Sip was absolutely shocked when we started dating and I told her I had never seen the original Star Wars trilogy. She had grown up on the films and in short order, made me watch all three of the original releases. I’ve never really been a huge fan of science fiction. I think some of the concepts are neat, but in general, the whole space setting isn’t my cup of tea and too much fantasy and made up stuff irritates me. I must say, this was one of the few new experiences we shared that summer that I didn’t enjoy!

Super Saturday Shot Day: Crouching Tiger

Crouching Tiger Shooter

  • 0.5 oz Tequila (I used Hornitos)
  • 0.5 oz Lychee Vodka/Liqueur
  • Splash of Lychee Juice
  • Garnish with Lemon Wedge

Looking back at my list, not only are most of my selections popular movies, they’re god damn franchises, meaning I’m usually forced to sit through multiple movies I’d rather not see. Movies like Twilight and Titanic should have made the list, but I’ve actually been able to avoid watching any of these, so I’ll just leave them off and pretend they don’t exist!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
This shot was pretty strong, thanks to the Tequila and my choice to go with Lychee Vodka rather than Lychee Liqueur. I added the splash of Lychee Juice to try and lighten the recipe and that helped in getting the flavour across. A decent shooter, but nothing to go out of your way for.

October 19 – Zombie Guts

Brrraaaiiinnnsss

While zombies are meant to be scary and ignite fear within viewers of undead material, sometimes the genre can be flipped upside down and be used to portray romantic and comedic stories. Here are some flicks that eschew the typical Zombie story:

Warm Bodies (2013)

What happens when a zombie falls in love with a woman and feelings begin to return to an undead being? This is the question that Warm Bodies looks to answer. The zombie, known only as R spots Julie and is attracted to her. Having just killed her boyfriend and kidnapped her, he tries to make amends and the two slowly grow close. I loved Rob Corddry in this movie as fellow zombie M. His presumed best friend relationship with R is done quite well, given they’re non-communicative zombies.

Warm Bodies

A Little Bit Zombie (2012)

Steve, a mild-mannered HR manager is bitten by a zombie mosquito and therefore, he’s only “a little bit zombie”. Complicating matters is Steve’s wife-to-be, who’s gone all bridezilla on their upcoming wedding. That’s a pretty funny premise to me and although it’s not the greatest movie out there, it is a unique twist on the zombie film.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

According to Shaun, the safest place to take refuge in the middle of a zombie uprising is at the local watering hole. So, Shaun and pal, Ed, are charged with rounding up Shaun’s mom and girlfriend in an attempt to make it to the shelter of the Winchester Pub. After all, that’s where drinks, food, and good times can be had. This film launched the careers of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and others and is the first of the Three Flavours of Cornetto Trilogy (Hot Fuzz and The World’s End being the other offerings).

Army of Darkness (1992)

Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is back to fight the undead and this time, he’s got a boomstick (a shotgun) and chainsaw (affixed to his arm, of course) to keep him company. The third and final film in The Evil Dead franchise (as of now) is a cult favourite for its catchphrases, humour and cheesiness. There are plans for an Army of Darkness 2 to be released sometime in the future, with Campbell returning to his titular role of Ash.

Army of Darkness

Dead Alive aka Braindead (1992)

Directed by Peter Jackson (yes, the same Peter Jackson that has since gone on to make the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies), this zombie outbreak is caused by the dreaded ‘Sumatran Rat-Monkey’, which infects the mother of Lionel Cosgrove. Cosgrove now must care for his undead mother, while fending off his uncle who wants the family estate. The flick is full of wonderful gore, so much so that the uncut version is still banned in Germany.

Zombieland (2009)

The best part of Zombieland is the “rules” the viewer learns along the way, as Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock pursue freedom, Twinkies, and the Pacific Playland amusement park. It all leads to a final showdown between the weary survivors and the deadly zombies at the theme park, where creative kills come in spades. Although there was talk of a sequel and even a TV series, neither came to fruition, although a pilot was filmed in 2013 with the series later being rejected.

Drink #292: Zombie Guts

Zombie Guts Shooter

  • 0.75 oz Vodka (I used Pinnacle Strawberry-Kiwi)
  • 0.5 oz Bailey’s Irish Crème
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Grenadine
  • Garnish with a Candy Finger

Which movies would you suggest to the Sip Advisor to get his zombie viewing on? That way I can be as brainless as the undead beings I’m watching!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This is quite the process to make this shooter. Mix the Vodka and Lime Juice together before straining into a shot glass. Then, add drips of Irish Crème, which will curdle thanks to the Lime Juice and form the basis of the guts. Finally, add a couple drips of Grenadine for the bleeding effect. That’s what’s supposed to happen, but as you can see above, I had no such artistic luck. Still, things turned out okay and throw in a Candy Finger to complete the project.