Santa Monica lifestyle

Everything about Santa Monica sizzles, from hundreds of funky shops and restaurants to more than three miles of white sandy beach, to the multitude of celebrities zipping into the local airport and out on Montana Avenue. The subject of popular songs, movies and television shows (“Baywatch” was one of many filmed here), the city has a vibe like no other. Hollywood haute couture meets surfer chic meets hippie casual, and somehow it all works. A word of advice: ditch the car and walk everywhere. Santa Monica is small and prides itself on being pedestrian- and environmentally friendly. You won’t need wheels at the auto-free Third Street Promenade, a stroller’s paradise known for its multitude of cinemas, restaurants and street performers. Or at the famous and historic Santa Monica Pier, home to tempting smells from fast-food stalls and the solar-powered, nine-storey high Ferris wheel that has long been a symbol of the city. If your feet start to fail, hop on the electrically powered Tide Shuttle, a bus service that runs along the beach offering great views plus a ride to the artsy Bergamot Station and the Santa Monica Museum of Art, or your next spirited Santa Monica destination.

RAND Corporation, nonpartisan think tank whose original focus was national security. It grew out of a research-and-development project (its name is a contraction of “research and development”) by Douglas Aircraft Co. for the Army Air Force in 1945. In 1948 it became a private nonprofit corporation. In the 1960s it expanded its focus to address domestic public-policy issues. Its mission today is to improve policy and decision making through research and analysis. It employs several hundred scholars in many disciplines. Its funding comes from government contracts, charitable foundations, private corporations, and earnings on its endowment. Its headquarters are in Santa Monica, Calif., and it has offices in Washington, D.C., New York City, Pittsburgh, Boston, New Orleans, Ridgeland, Miss., and overseas. Together with Blackwell Publishing, it publishes the quarterly RAND Journal of Economics (previously Bell Journal of Economics).

Activision was founded in 1979 by David Crane and Alan Miller—game designers who split with Atari over issues of creator’s rights—and entertainment executive Jim Levy. Their response was to create a company where designers would be an essential part of the brand identity, with the lead developer of a given title receiving credit on the game box. Soon after the company’s formation, they were joined by fellow Atari designers Larry Kaplan and Bob Whitehead. As the electronic gaming industry’s first third-party software developer, Activision immediately faced a legal challenge from Atari, which attempted to preserve its monopoly on games for the Atari VCS system. That suit was settled in 1982, but by that time Activision had already established itself as a thriving competitor in an expanding industry. Games such as Chopper Command and River Raid sported vibrant graphics and fluid gameplay, and Pitfall! represented one of the earliest examples of the platform game genre.

The success of Activision inspired a wave of imitators, and soon the market was flooded with games of dubious quality. Between 1983 and 1984 the industry collapsed under the weight of its own overexpansion. Activision weathered the storm by shifting its focus to the burgeoning home computer market, but the ill-timed acquisition of text-based adventure game publisher Infocom almost doomed the company. A corporate reorganization led to the departure of much of the company’s creative talent, including the last of its founders, and in 1988 the Activision name was abandoned in favour of Mediagenic, as executives attempted to rebrand the company as a multipurpose software developer. Mediagenic struggled to stay afloat, but a change in ownership and management in 1990 signaled a dramatic turnaround. The company renamed itself Activision in 1992, and it spent the next few years building on the successes of its past, releasing titles such as Return to Zork (1993), a graphic adventure based on a classic Infocom game, and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure (1994), an addictive platform game.

Activision acquired a new generation of talented designers, and it won critical acclaim with PC offerings like Interstate ’76 (1997), a stylish, funk-infused, 3D vehicle combat game that anticipated such later titles as Grand Theft Auto from Rockstar Games. The company also forged lucrative partnerships with independent developers. Although development costs for new games soared—a typical game cost millions of dollars to bring to market—Activision continued to post profits through the late 1990s and early 2000s. Activision and developer Infinity Ward launched the Call of Duty franchise in 2003, and the game immediately challenged Electronic Arts’ Medal of Honor series for supremacy of the first-person shooter market. Activision joined developers RedOctane and Harmonix Music Systems for the sequels to Guitar Hero (2005), a rhythm-based game that became a popular culture phemonenon. While future development of Guitar Hero titles was halted in 2011, other Activision properties remained strong. Call of Duty consistently ranked as one of the most lucrative franchises in electronic gaming, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon remained popular platform titles, and a remastered Tony Hawk Pro Skater added new life to the venerable skateboarding series.