California – Cable Car

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. The Golden State is going to be a tough stop, as there’s so much to choose from for each category. California is home to film, TV and music production, as well as a hub for technological developments. Its population rivals the entire country of Canada, so suffice to say, there’s a lot going on:

Motto: “Eureka” (“I have found it”) – Are you sure you don’t want to hide it again!?

Food: You could have an entire buffet – or at least a multi-course meal – stocked only with food items invented in California. For an appetizer, there’s the California Roll or a Cobb Salad, followed by a main course of either a Cheeseburger, French Dip Sandwich, or California-Style Pizza. For dessert, you could enjoy a Popsicle, Hot Fudge Sundae or Rocky Road Ice Cream. And why not finish the meal with a Fortune Cookie.

Drink: California is known for inventing its fair share of popular cocktails, including the Martini. Both San Francisco and nearby Martinez claim to be the birthplace of the drink, which has been called “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet” and “the elixir of quietude”.

Martini

Site to See: As someone who has spent quite a bit of time and money travelling to California for the sole purpose of going to Disneyland, I have to pick the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ as my choice here. Of course, the state seems to have something to offer for everyone, ranging from wine regions and beaches to tourist landmarks and other theme parks.

Street: San Francisco hasn’t seen much love in this piece yet, so I will choose Lombard Street for this category. The infamous winding route, featuring eight hairpin turns, has been used for car chases in the movies What’s Up, Doc?, Magnum Force and Ant-Man and the Wasp. Apparently, during peak times, driving the road can be preceded by a 20-minute wait and a reservation system may be used in the future.

TV Show: So many TV shows are set in California, with every genre getting some coverage: family sitcoms The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saved by the Bell and Full House; teen dramas Beverly Hills, 90210 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as well as spinoff Angel); mysteries Perry Mason and Columbo; adult sitcoms Arrested Development, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and Two and a Half Men; adult dramas Sons of Anarchy, Entourage and Weeds; and even horror shows Fear the Walking Dead and a couple seasons of American Horror Story.

Movie: Same goes for movies, with some of my all-time favourites being California-based. This includes Die Hard, Anchorman and Reservoir Dogs, among too many to name and many more I still need to watch.

Disneyland

Book/Author: John Steinbeck, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath, was born in Salinas. Much of the writer’s work was set in California, including popular titles East of Eden and Of Mice and Men.

Fictional Character: I have to go with the eccentric Bluth family from Arrested Development. Teenagers Zack Morris (Saved by the Bell) and Marty McFly (Back to the Future) almost land in the top spot. Mass murderers Chucky (Child’s Play) and Ghostface (Scream) also call California home, so be careful.

Fictional City: Parts of real-life California seem fictional, but if I don’t pick Sunnydale from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, Mrs. Sip may never forgive me. The show’s entire seven season run takes place largely within the community, where Sunnydale High School is located directly above the ‘Hellmouth’. Spoiler alert: to close that dimensional portal, the city of Sunnydale is destroyed and the Sip Advisor doesn’t have to watch the show anymore!

Actor/Actress: Most folks who want to become actors end up in California. Those born in the state comprise a who’s who list of Hollywood royalty. This includes: Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Ben Affleck, Dwayne Johnson, Will Ferrell, Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Jodie Foster, and Marilyn Monroe, among many others.

Sunnydale

Song: With apologies to runners up Hotel California (The Eagles) and California Dreamin’ (The Mamas and the Papas), every time I’m about to land at LAX, I have to play California Love by 2Pac and Dr. Dre. It just gets me in the right spirit and ready for all the fun at my fingertips.

Band/Musician: Another tough choice, but given this band’s history – and playlist – I have to go with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The group was formed in Los Angeles and so many of their songs are California-based or inspired. Honourable mentions go to NWA, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, The Beach Boys, and The Doors.

People: Between Apple and Pixar, Steve Jobs brought a lot to the world around him. From personal computers to the iPod, iPad and iPhone, many people use the devices Jobs helped to create on a daily basis. Sadly, Jobs died in October 2011, aged 56. What he would have developed in the later years of his life, we’ll never know, but most wish he had the chance.

Animal: California is an animal actor’s haven. Many furry stars were trained in the state, including Mr. Ed, Lassie, Old Yeller, Buck from Married with Children and even the Taco Bell Chihuahua. SeaWorld San Diego was also home to infamous orca Shamu.

Chilli Peppers

Invention: Barbie dolls were invented by Ruth Handler in Los Angeles, and named after her daughter, Barbara. Ken dolls came later, named after her son. Debuting at the American International Toy Fair in 1959 (used as Barbie’s birthday), the dolls have been a hit since, launching the Mattel toy company, and becoming a global phenomenon and feminist icon.

Crime: While there are many crimes California is known for, I have to go with one that captured the attention of the entire nation and much of the world. In 1994, former NFL star O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. O.J.’s surrender to police turned into a two-hour low-speed chase across Southern California, with 95 million people watching on TV. The trial that followed was a media sensation, dubbed the Trial of the Century, resulting in O.J.’s acquittal.

Law: In California, “sunshine is guaranteed to the masses”. So, when that rare day of inclement weather comes, who pays the price for such a disturbance!?

Sports Team: California has five baseball teams, three football teams (with the Raiders leaving to play in Las Vegas for 2020), four basketball teams, and three hockey teams. Most popular among those squads is likely the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the NBA’s most important franchises. The Lakers have won 16 NBA championships in 31 finals appearances.

Barbie Real

Athlete: Amongst some all-time greats, I have to go with athletes who changed their sports. There, you have Billie Jean King, who brought women’s tennis to the forefront with her Battle of the Sexes matches. There’s also skateboarder Tony Hawk and snowboarder Shaun White, who made their extreme sports mainstream viewing. Finally, we have Tiger Woods, who despite his personal problems, made golf more popular than it’s even been.

Famous Home: There are so many notable abodes in California, there’s even tours of these manors and other dwellings. The Playboy Mansion, though, may take the cake for world recognition, as a place of lavish parties and debauchery. Hugh Hefner’s pad is located in Los Angeles, where the 29-room estate has been “permanently protected” by the city, basically deeming it a historical landmark.

Urban Legend: Used as inspiration for American Horror Story: Hotel, the Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles has had a long history of violent incidents and guest suicides. Rumoured guests have included Elizabeth Short (aka the Black Dahlia), shortly before her murder; serial killer Richard Ramirez (aka the Night Stalker), perhaps during his spree of terror; and fellow serial killer Jack Unterweger, said to possibly be copying Ramirez while visiting L.A. from Australia.

Museum: Winchester Mystery House, in San Jose, was the former home of Sarah Winchester, widow of gun maker William Winchester. Following the death of her young daughter and William’s passing, Sarah was advised by a psychic to move west and never stop building her home there, or she would be haunted by the spirits of those who died at the hands of the guns her husband had made his wealth from. Until Sarah’s death in 1922, construction continued, resulting in staircases that lead to dead ends, as well as trap doors and secret passages.

Mansion

Firsts: Given my affinity for McDonald’s, I have to salute the fact the first ever restaurant for what would become the chain, was opened in San Bernardino, in 1940. Decades later, McDonald’s became the world’s largest restaurant chain and today serves millions of customer each day, across the globe.

Company: I think here, you have to go with film and broadcasting companies, which provide us all with so much entertainment. The Walt Disney Company, Universal Pictures, MGM, Netflix and Warner Bros., among them. There are also tech companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google, who do the same.

Events: California has endured gold rushes, earthquakes and much more. What truly gave the state its identity, though, was the film industry coming to settle in Hollywood. With Thomas Edison owning a number of patents regarding movie development, many filmmakers came to California to dodge the fees that came with that. Studios sprouted up soon after and the rest is movie history.

Miscellaneous: Video games haven’t received much coverage in these posts yet, but it should be noted, California has one of the largest industries for gaming. Activision Blizzard, Atari and Electronic Arts have all set up shop in the state where arcade games were invented. Heck, one of my favourite childhood cartridges, California Games for the NES, was basically an electronic ad for west coast life.

Cable Car

Cable Car

  • Rim glass with Cinnamon and Sugar
  • 1.5 oz Spiced Rum
  • 0.75 oz Triple Sec
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Garnish with an Orange Twist

This drink was created in 1996 by Tony Abou-Ganim to celebrate the Starlight Room in San Francisco’s Drake Hotel. The Sidecar variation intrigued me because of the use of Spiced Rum. My cocktail was a little too heavy on the lemon juice, but I enjoyed the Cinnamon/Sugar rim and would try the concoction again.

Japan – White Mountain

Gamesmanship

Simply put, without Japan, we wouldn’t have the video games we know and love. Companies like Nintendo, Sony, Sega, Taito, Namco, Capcom, and Konami all originated in the land of the rising sun and gave birth to many of the most popular systems, games, and characters ever. Here are some little known facts about those great gaming corporations:

Nintendo

Nintendo has provided my favourite gaming systems growing up and even into my adult years. Titles starring the likes of Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, and others have made me a fan of the company that began operations all the way back in 1889 as a trading card enterprise. Nintendo even ventured into the love hotel business in the 1960’s, as well as a block building product meant to compete with LEGO. One of Nintendo’s first big releases, Donkey Kong, prompted legal action from Universal Studios, as they believed the character was too close to King Kong. Nintendo won the case, claiming the King Kong story and characters were part of the public domain. Finally, the company was a one-time owner of the Seattle Mariners… can you imagine a mascot Mario warming up in the on-deck circle!

Nintendo Raising

Sega

Originally a manufacturer of pinball machines, Sega entered the video game console market with the SG-1000 in 1983. While I never owned a Sega system, it was a treat to occasionally try exclusive games on it while visiting friends who owned them. Sega’s mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog was originally to have fangs, be in a band, and have a human girlfriend named Madonna, but those features were removed. Unlike Nintendo, Sega chose not to censor the bloodshed in the violent Mortal Kombat game, creating the Videogame Rating Council in response to the controversy that followed. After failed systems including the Saturn and Dremacast, Sega left the console world and became a game developer for other platforms, such as Nintendo, which is exclusively getting Sonic the Hedgehog releases.

Taito

Broski Sip and I loved a number of Taito games, particularly Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands. When a collection including these titles was released for PCs and other consoles in 2005, we were quick to snatch it up and spent hours reliving our childhood memories (and frustrations!). As a company, Taito moved from vending machines to jukeboxes, before finally settling on arcade games. In 1978, Taito released Space Invaders, which is one of video game history’s most popular titles and one which launched the ‘Golden Age of Arcade Video Games’. Today, Taito has been incorporated by Square Enix (developers of famous titles such as the Final Fantasy series) and operates a number of arcades throughout Japan, known as Taito Stations. I miss arcades, although I can’t say I ever frequented them.

Sony

Sony entered the video game console market when Nintendo ditched a partnership between the two to distribute a CD-ROM drive that would work with Super Nintendo systems. Sony decided to continue down the path they had already started and in essence, Nintendo created their own competition when Sony released the Playstation to compete with the Nintendo 64. The company’s name comes from ‘sonus,’ the Latin word for sound mixed with the slang term ‘sonny’, which for the Japanese meant smart and presentable young men, an appearance founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka believed they exhibited. Of course, we also recognize Sony’s branding from their Walkman and Discman music delivery devices and in other parts of the world, Sony even has financial institutions under their umbrella.

Sony Box

Namco

Namco originated as operators of children’s rides on the roof of a Yokohama, Japan department store and entered the arcade game business in 1970. In 1985, Namco would bid to purchase the struggling Atari for a whopping $800,000, dwarfing other offers, such as Sega’s $50,000. Namco’s Pac-Man, released in 1980, was one of the industry’s most famous creations, although the game could also be cited as a cause of the 1983 Video Game Crash, as Atari rushed to release the game on their home console and it failed to sell as well as hoped. Namco had plans to compete with the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis in the late 80’s and early 90’s and released the SuperGrafx console, which was another failure. In more recent years, the company has entered the amusement park business, as well as merged with Bandai in 2005.

Capcom

Capcom’s biggest title is arguably the Street Fighter series of games, which produced one of the most legendary gaming myths of all-time. In Street Fighter II, when you were defeated by Ryu, his taunt of “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!” was mistranslated to read “You must defeat Sheng Long to stand a chance.” This caused many players to theorize that Sheng Long was a hidden character in the game. Capcom eventually included the character in games years later and background graffiti in Wreck-It Ralph states that “Sheng Long was here!” Other popular series produced by Capcom include Resident Evil, Mega Man, and Devil May Cry. Capcom titles have been cited as some of the worst video game to movie adaptations ever, although the films are commercially successful.

Konami

While they have produced an extensive and memorable video game line-up, their Blades of Steel hockey release will be forever cherished by anyone who had the privilege of strapping on those virtual skates. The company’s name translates to “be creative” and they have certainly followed their own credo. Konami has dabbled in everything from health and fitness clubs around Japan to trading cards, anime, slot machines, and a slew of other products. Konami is also recognized for their Castlevania, Metal Gear, and Silent Hill franchises and even the most popular cheat code of all-time can be attributed to the company. Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A was usually good for some bonus power-ups and extra lives, which were usually necessary.

Japan: White Mountain

May 8

  • Rim glass with Coconut Shavings
  • 2 oz Sake
  • Top with Milk and Pina Colada Mix

While I’ve never been the biggest gamer, I definitely have a place in my heart and mind for video games. Last year, I did a two part series on my favourite releases ever and it was a wonderful trip down memory lane. You can check out those articles here and here.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (??? Sips out of 5):
xxx