What has San Diego contributed to American culture?

by on January 2, 2013 at 12:08 pm in History, The Arts | Permalink

In honor of the AEA meetings I was going to do “My Favorite Things San Diego” but frankly I came up with what is more or less a total blank.  Eddie Vedder?  I like Tom Waits.  Lots of athletes.  What else?

San Diego, by population, is the eighth largest city in the United States.  Yet it seems to have had hardly any cultural influence.  What gives?

Movie, set in: Almost Famous, or perhaps A Day Without a Mexican.

End of story, unless you can tell me more.  I’m sure to enjoy the weather, though I’ll look longingly at Tijuana just across the border.

1 john personna January 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm

The Spirit of Saint Louis was built by Ryan Airlines in San Diego, California,

2 msgkings January 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Anchorman, arguably the funniest movie ever made.

But that’s a movie set in and about SD, not made by SD natives (I don’t believe). As far as someone from SD contributing to the culture? http://tourguidetim.com/blog/2008/list-of-notable-san-diegans/

Raquel Welch, Annette Bening, Bill Walton…it is a thin list.

3 Willitts January 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Something we can agree on.

4 msgkings January 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Common ground! Gotta start somewhere… 🙂

Reminds me of Bruno (the Sasha Baron Cohen character) trying to broker Mideast peace starting with the shared regional love of hummus.

5 William Gadea January 2, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Not even the funniest movie made in San Diego! That would be Some Like It Hot.

6 msgkings January 3, 2013 at 1:38 am

Hey, big ups to Some Like it Hot, my favorite post Marx Brothers black and white comedy….but I still gotta pick Anchorman…

7 rz0 January 3, 2013 at 9:46 am

Might have been made in San Diego, but in the plot, the murders are in Chicago, and the hotel is in Miami.

8 William Gadea January 3, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Quite right! I don’t know about the rest of the movie, but the scenes from the last half were shot in the Del Coronado hotel in San Diego.

9 Andrew' January 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Simon and Simon? Or at least their crossovers with Magnum P.I.

10 Andrew' January 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Then again, your favorite thing San Diego could just be…San Diego.

11 RR January 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm


12 Willitts January 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Which of course, in German, means “a whale’s vagina.”

13 Henrico Otto January 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Setting for Three’s Company.

14 kiwi dave January 2, 2013 at 1:13 pm

that was just a rip-off of Man About the House (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_About_the_House).

15 Adrian January 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm

That was Santa Monica.

16 Mark Thorson January 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Comic-Con yet.

17 Dangerman January 2, 2013 at 1:06 pm

This was immediately my first thought.

18 Gabriel Rossman January 2, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Sea World.
I’m not kidding, it has two other locations and did a lot to establish a sort of mainstream eco-tourism.

19 Uhaf Gottabekittigme January 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Sea World. Eco-tourism. Good one!

20 V January 2, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Paging Steve Sailer…I think he has a oft stated answer to Tyler’s question

21 msgkings January 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm


22 RR January 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm

He would probably say : the fact that its on the right side of the border!

23 John Durant January 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

How about defending American culture? San Diego is like the bouncers and security guards at concerts and museums.

24 Joel January 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Defending it from what? Mexico? The pacific ocean?

25 me January 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

ahem, has no one here heard the phrase, “there goes the great hitter that has ever lived”?

26 msgkings January 2, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Just another sports guy to Tyler perhaps. But I tip my cap, nice reference.

27 utah street January 2, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Ted Williams grew up on my street and his house is still standing at 4121 Utah St. Anyone else think that the baseball field down the street should be named Ted Williams Field?

28 Orange14 January 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Hoover High School baseball field is named after him. My mom graduated Hoover four years after Teddy ballgame did and was in the same class as Ray Boone who had a decent MLB career.

29 geez January 4, 2013 at 7:51 am

The fact that Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn share a strong connection to San Diego is slightly awesome

30 NNM4 January 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm


31 msgkings January 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Also, SD is 8th largest in population in the city limits, but that’s because it’s one of those sprawling sunbelt cities with most of the people it its metro area in the city itself (like Austin TX or Jacksonville FL). It’s only 17th in the list of metro areas.


32 kiwi dave January 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Beat me to the punch.

33 Adam Calhoun January 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm

No no, that’s more or less a complete list. Except maybe add Tony Hawk, and maybe something about surf culture happened here?

If you go to National City you can find some cool old bars/restaurants that Hollywood celebrities would visit when needing an extra stop before/after a Tijuana visit.

And why not go to Tijuana? That’s what the free nights are for.

34 Dave January 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Anchorman, clearly. Also Traffic, which is partially set in San Diego because its proximity to the Mexican border makes it ideal for drug dealers. And Top Gun, I think.

35 joris January 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm

some great punkrockbands coming out of san diego. rocket from the crypt were/are probably the best known. drive like jehu is earlier (and some of the same people) and more obscure but probably my favourite.

36 slothtosser January 3, 2013 at 11:44 am

great call on both. i was worried this could devolve into a discussion on ratt.

37 John Durant January 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Frank Zappa spent his adolescence in San Diego, where he joined his first band.

38 Orange14 January 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Not true, Antelope Valley HS was where he formed his first band.

39 Diego January 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm
40 Ben Hughes January 2, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Saying San Diego is the eighth biggest city in the country overstates the cultural importance you *would expect it to have* because the city borders are wide – it’s distortionary in the context of this discussion. Technically San Diego is bigger than San Francisco, but no one has been to both would reasonably conclude San Diego seems like a “bigger city”.

41 Ahrash January 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Raymond Chandler spent the later portion of his life in San Diego and he actually died in La Jolla. What is widely regarded as his best novel (“The Long Goodbye”) was written there.

42 celestus January 2, 2013 at 12:57 pm

8th biggest city is misleading, obviously, as it must have been nowhere near the 8th biggest city 20-30 years ago.

As for cultural contributions…no Carmen Sandiego references yet? I must be one of the younger (or, gasp, older) commenters here.

43 libert January 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Don’t be surprised. The rest of the commenters are simply gumshoes.

44 David January 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm


San Diego has been in the top 10 since 1980. It’s importance is definitely overstated by its size rank, though. It’s really basically a big Navy town, a big college town, and a big border town rolled into one, with a lot of suburbs all included inside city limits.

45 celestus January 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Dang. I’ll get the Moron Bat.

46 Thomas January 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Cameron Crowe/Fast Times at Ridgement High. (It’s possible to think Ridgemont is set in suburban LA, not SD.) Fast Times more than Crowe, though Crowe has certainly had some impact outside of that work.

The 8th largest bit significantly overstates SD’s size. Look at MSA size instead, and you’ll see they’re just above Tampa. I’m guessing they’re having about the same cultural impact.

47 albert magnus January 2, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Tampa also has produced a lot of popular atheletes, but none that compare to Ted Williams.

48 David January 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (i.e., Jurassic Park II)

49 Max January 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm

It’s the birthplace of naval aviation. That ought to count for something.

50 JWatts January 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm

“It’s the birthplace of naval aviation. That ought to count for something.”

I assume you meant US naval aviation. But even in that case it’s not really correct. Virginia was the birthplace of naval aviation. I would say that San Diego was the crib of naval aviation.

“U.S. naval aviation began with pioneer aviator Glenn Curtiss who contracted with the Navy to demonstrate that airplanes could take off from and land aboard ships at sea. One of his pilots, Eugene Ely, took off from the USS Birmingham anchored off the Virginia coast in November 1910. Two months later Ely landed aboard another cruiser USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay, proving the concept of shipboard operations. However, the platforms erected on those vessels were temporary measures. The U.S. Navy and Glenn Curtis experienced two firsts during January 1911. On January 27, Curtiss flew the first seaplane from the water at San Diego bay and the next day U.S. Navy Lt Theodore G. “Spuds” Ellyson, a student at the nearby Curtiss School, took off in a Curtiss “grass cutter” plane to become the first Naval aviator.”

51 tt January 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm

maybe you should leave the city before you insult it

52 Peter Garst January 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm

The zoo and the wild animal park, in addition to sea world. That’s why my family visited.

53 Chris Brooks January 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm

The Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture was developed in San Diego as the design aesthetic for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915.

54 babar January 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm

i remember seeing an official sign that said “END SCENIC DRIVE” during a visit to SD

55 vanderleun January 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm

“San Diego, by population, is the eighth largest city in the United States. Yet it seems to have had hardly any cultural influence. What gives?”

Well, take a look at the demographic and reflect that the majority of San Diegans come from a culture whose most notable contribution of late is the bouncing car.

56 Noumenon72 January 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Look at the demographic yourself. San Diego is 77% white, 5.6% black.

57 TGGP January 5, 2013 at 11:20 pm

White persons, percent, 2011 (a) 77.0%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino Origin, percent, 2011 (b) 32.5%
White persons not Hispanic, percent, 2011 48.0%

So vanderleun and Noumenon72 were both wrong. One didn’t bother to look up the data, and the latter is either ignorant as to who “bouncing cars” are associated with or failed to notice their category in his link.

58 Jan January 2, 2013 at 7:14 pm

VD, you gonna take that?

59 OneEyedMan January 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Introduced the fish taco into the USA, or at least popularized it.

Top gun.

60 hippdoghipp January 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Yes on Fish Tacos.
And Top Gun.

61 vanderleun January 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Oh yes…. add to that the burrito, aka “tomorrow’s turd today.”

62 kiwi dave January 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm

A couple of points to bear in mind:

1. San Diego might be the eighth largest *city* by population, but it’s only the 17th most populous metropolitan area in the US. Given how arbitrary city definitions can be, MSAs are more relevant in determining how much cultural heft we should attribute to a city (city in the colloquial, not legal sense). Like San Antonio, the fact that San Diego’s city boundaries take up a lot more of its hinterland than many other American cities tends to make its city ranking misleadingly high. But since we tend to attribute things that happen in outside parts of metro areas to the core city (e.g. things happening in Cambridge get attributed to Boston; Burbank and Beverly Hills to LA etc.), the MSA should matter more.

2. San Diego, like some other sun-belt cities, was very small pre-WWII and experienced extremely rapid growth in the post-war decades. Possibly these new cities haven’t had the time or the historical roots to develop a distinctive and notable culture (e.g., in 1950, San Diego was the 31st biggest city: http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0027/tab18.txt, and was only 18th in 1960: http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0027/tab19.txt; into the 1970s it was smaller than Indianapolis and Milwaukee).

3. More generally, I suspect San Diego is subsumed into a LA-dominated southern California culture that it is not really independent of.

(also, I will second Anchorman.)

63 lemmy caution January 2, 2013 at 2:05 pm

“I suspect San Diego is subsumed into a LA-dominated southern California culture that it is not really independent of.”

I agree with this. San Diego is not that far from LA. LA is probably the cultural center of the world if you go by cultural products that people actually consume.

64 Chad January 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

With weather that nice, who needs “culture” to stay entertained?

65 Brian January 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm

This says it all.
oh, and don’t forget the fish tacos!

66 Luke January 3, 2013 at 10:48 am

So, basically the municipal equivalent of the “restaurant full of beautiful smiling people” from An Economist Gets Lunch?

Also, does Dr. Seuss count? Geisel was born in MA, but wrote most of his well-known children’s books in La Jolla.

67 Careless January 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

ok, that sounds like a good one.

68 max January 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Stone Temple Pilots are often thought to have come from Seattle, but in fact are from SD.

69 Sammler January 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Stone IPA.

70 Kunal Patel January 2, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Yup. The leading craft-brewery in the world and probably one of the major drivers of the microbrew movement that has bubbled up the past 10 years.

71 Donoby January 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Yes. And also Green Flash, Port, Alpine and AleSmith, to name a few. The West Coast IPA is America’s contribution to beer culture,

72 Jacob AG January 2, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Invisible Children is headquartered there.

There’s also this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otIjo9Wyslg

73 CC January 2, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I came here to post that.

74 Ben January 2, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Depends on your opinion of Louis Kahn, but the Salk Institute is pretty renowned architecturally.

75 boba January 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

The Salk is in La Jolla.

76 Gimlet January 2, 2013 at 8:07 pm

La Jolla is an unincorporated subdivision in the city of San Diego.

77 lemonverbena January 2, 2013 at 8:11 pm

La Jolla is a neighborhood in San Diego.

78 TyGuy January 2, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Somebody’s got to be nobody. The quality of a nation is dtermined by it’s nobodies, not it’s somebodies.

79 Vanderleun January 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm

And they got a pretty spiffy and tidy Mormon temple right by the freeway!

80 vanderleun January 2, 2013 at 1:27 pm

“The quality of a nation is determined by it’s nobodies, not it’s somebodies.” That’s soooo racissssst!

81 Peter Schaeffer January 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm

“What has San Diego contributed to American culture?”

CDMA of course as in Qualcomm. The history of CDMA is more complex of course. However, Qualcomm did commercialize the technology.

Is technology culture? American culture? I would say yes.

82 TexasCardinal January 2, 2013 at 3:09 pm


Technology and innovation has to be seen as part of culture. They interact.

US has, in general, lagged in mobile technology. The origins of the recent renaissance by US in mobilte technology has to be traced back to Qualcomm’s successful commercialization of CDMA (which became the basis of both flavors of 3G mobile technology, not forseen by Nokia etc. during 2G days).

This added mobile hardware technology into the technology catalogue of California …. creating a bunch of innovative entrepreneurs and helping Apple etc. for example. So, it can be argued to have helped in maintaining the “culture of technological innovation” that California is known for.

83 Peter Schaeffer January 2, 2013 at 5:09 pm


How about Project Orion? La Jolla is close enough to San Diego to qualify. See http://discovermagazine.com/2005/feb/grandest-rocket-ever#.UOSv76z-3jU

84 Gimlet January 2, 2013 at 8:16 pm

La Jolla is in the city of San Diego. La Jolla isn’t a city – it’s more of a designated community or something.

85 Peter Schaeffer January 2, 2013 at 11:50 pm


Good point. Makes Project Orion even more part of San Diego.

86 Tyson Brown January 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Does the setting for “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” count as a cultural contribution?

87 Widmerpool January 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Carne asada fries.

88 lemonverbena January 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

California Burrito! (carne asada, fries, guac/salsa inside a burrito). + Burritos in general.

89 Moira Mac January 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Hello! Motherf*cking San Diego Comic Con! I get the chills of anticipation walking down the Gaslamp district just thinking about the convention. It’s there where I found myself walking behind Stan Lee. It is there where I stood only 8 feet away from the Original Mr. Spock. It’s where Mark Hamil and Kevin Conroy held a panel for Arkham Asylum before anyone gave two shits. And this city has one of the most beautiful skylines ever. Seriously. Stand on the top of the Hilton Parking Structure and you’ll see…

90 Scott Miller January 2, 2013 at 1:38 pm

SD has a great disc golf course that is immaculately landscaped and manicured like a regular golf course (at least it was 10 years ago when I visited). Fantastic weather and fantastic course.

91 Winthrop Bastin January 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I’m glad you haven’t found anything you like. We are full up anyway. As I say to every tourist I meet: “Welcome to San Diego, now go home.”

92 Eric S. January 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Denver and Portland called and want their zippy slogan back.

93 Anon January 2, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Urbanized area is a much better measure than MSA, which has to respect county boundaries. Look at the Las Vegas or Riverside MSA, for example. SD is 15th in urbanized area population.

For culture, SD is, along with Denver and Portland, the most important craft beer city in America.

94 Kelly January 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm

California burrito / carne asada fries
Fish Taco
Dennis Conner / America’s Cup racing

95 Jesse F January 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Great, now I have “Kokomo” stuck in my head. 🙁

96 Arik January 2, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Some I’m surprised haven’t been mentioned:

Ocean beach, which was and still is an important hippie waypoint.

Surfing, especially the beaches in la jolla (see beach boys references)

The earliest European contact in the west coast (see cabrillo national monument, and old town which has become over touristed)

Tuna (home of the major canned tuna manufacturers)

The border crossing to Tijuana (the busiest?)

Major military presence with several large bases in town.

Scripps school of oceanography (maybe the most important oceanography school alongside woods hole in mass)

97 Orange14 January 2, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Tuna industry has been gone for some time now. Military has been wound down as well (Naval Training Center was closed in one of the first base closure approvals).

98 Bradley Gardner January 2, 2013 at 1:57 pm

My favorite things San Diego:

1. The Zoo – Mostly because it has one of the largest captive bonobo populations in the world.

2. The Beer – Stone brewery is solid, and there are others. (Though it’s definitely not my favorite beer town)

3. Proximity to Mexico – A plus for the cuisine.

The town has nice beaches if you like that sort of thing. I don’t.

Tom Waits is from East of Los Angeles not San Diego.

99 Bradley Gardner January 2, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Though it seems Tom Waits went to High School there.

100 Diesel January 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Holy Crap. You complain about lack of culture in San Diego and gaze longingly at TJ? TJ – home of woman vs donkey shows and knocking shops on every corner…..if that’s the culture you like it splains a lot 😉
What’s the old line – Nobody is FROM San Diego – it’s a city of immigrants (legal and otherwise) so most of what goes on around here came from other places. But in its defense . . . .
San Diego’s World Famous Zoo & Animal Park
Scripps Institute for Oceanography
Sea World
Veronica Mars (that’s a stretch, but KRISTEN BELL!!!!!)
Jim Croce
Pizza Port, Stone, Karl Strauss, Green Flash, Lost Abbey etc
Old Globe Theater
Many shows that end on Broadway start in San Diego
blink 182
Tom Waits

101 Go Kings, Go! January 2, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Best selling authors Marcus Luttrell and Mark Owen wrote extensively about their time in San Diego. Mark Owen’s No Easy Day supplanted the execrable Fifty Shades of Grey as NYT #1.

The Coronado 4th of July parade might top all the others.

In the same vein, S.D. is the only West Coast pro-military town left.

102 ralph ruben January 2, 2013 at 2:25 pm

San Diego attracted talented people like Jonas Salk, Leo Szilard, Jacob Bronowski and Francis Crick. And the Navy SEALS train on its beaches. Moving to a beautiful area, quietly pursuing your own interests while helping mankind is a fine contribution to American culture. It’s a great model patriotic town.

103 Howl January 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Best answer of thread.

104 Jed Sundwall January 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Three cheers for this response.

105 Jacob Grier January 2, 2013 at 2:26 pm

The regrettably short-lived TV show Terriers was set in San Diego (about private detectives, not the dogs; the name likely contributed to its failure to find an audience). Smart, fun show from FX, but only lasted a season.

106 David S January 2, 2013 at 2:27 pm
107 Greg Ransom January 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

What’s more America than the culture of Marine boot camp, Navy Seal training, or Top Gun?

What is your definition of ‘culture’?

108 wiki January 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Hotel del Coronado was the setting of Some Like it Hot.

109 Tommy Wilson January 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Try writing a history of American aviation without San Diego.

110 wiki January 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Has no one mentioned the del Coronado as the setting for Some Like it Hot?

111 Erin O'Connor January 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Craft beer. Balboa Park, which includes the zoo and a dozen other museums big and small/free and not-free, and the Spanish Colonial Revival architecture already noted. Uptown San Diego (the neighborhoods of Mission Hills, University Heights, Normal Heights, North Park, South Park, Hillcrest) is underrated by many SD region natives. It’s where the public transportation is most reliable (though it only covers a fraction of the area it once did), the food is approachable and excellent, and you can actually walk to everyday venues like the grocery store, post office, library. And the parking isn’t too sucky.

112 Doug January 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Slightly Stoopid
Blink 182
Stone Temple Pilots
The rolled taco, aka taquito
Del Mar Racetrack
Old Globe Theater
Joan Embry
Jack in the Box
Top Gun
Surf/Skate/Beach culture in general

113 Corey January 2, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Cheripan, an Argentine steakhouse in Tijuana a short cab ride from the border, is one of the best Argentine restaurants in North America. I strongly recommend a visit.

114 johnshade January 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Much of “Some Like it Hot” was shot at the Hotel del Coronado, which is close enough.

115 Paul January 2, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Two major things: Beer and zoos. It was mentioned in your other threads but San Diego is really one of the most outstanding beer capitals in the U.S. Between Stone, AleSmith, Ballast Point, Coronado Brewing (those are the biggies but there are many smaller equally profound brewers) there has been a lot of experimentation going on here. I’d venture to say most of it has been unsuccessful but that’s what experimentation is about. But get some Stone Vertical Epic 2012 while you’re here and you’ll regret not having discovered them sooner: beer that a wine snob could appreciate.

The Zoo and Wild Animal Park (the WAP changed its name but I can never remember what it’s called now) should be considered a national treasure for what it has done to promote species preservation, especially for the California Condor and pandas.

Maybe you can add in the military (Top Gun was filmed here back when Miramar was Navy but now it’s assigned to the Marines) but that’s going to bleed into what I think is the real character of San Diego which takes a little unpacking.

I’m a fairly active live theater-goer and about 8 years ago the San Diego Rep sponsored a play that was meant to be an homage to San Diego. After the show, the cast and crew (including the director and playwright) stayed after to take questions. They basically admitted that if you just changed the name of some of the landmarks referenced in the play, the play could take place just about anywhere. So, you’re not the only one who has struggled with San Diego’s identity.

Since then, I’ve taken it as a truism that San Diego has no innate identity. I know of only 2-3 native San Diegans. By comparison, I know 6 Rhode Islanders. I’m from Los Angeles. My wife is from Korea. One good friend is from Utah. Another good friend (native San Diegan) now lives in Utah. Most of the mexicans I know weren’t born here but commute every day from their home in Tijuana. So, we’re a city of non-natives who maybe we’ll die here, but maybe not. Many of us move around. Some of us move around a lot. If you think about a bus or train terminal, it seems busy but they really are quiet places of little drama and character. Few stay and invest, lasting influences aren’t being generated anew, and the good ideas that maybe are created here are going to go elsewhere where they can be more successful (except perhaps bio-tech and Qualcomm, but such industry hasn’t been the stuff upon which culture is grown). So, we surf on the edge of the city, play a little downtown and the suburbs but otherwise live quiet sleepy lives, and perhaps we’ll move on to better things. it’s a place that would make Dashiel Hammett invent murders just to make things more interesting… but that was 70 years ago so you know that not much has changed.

116 Gimlet January 2, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Speaking of live theater, La Jolla Playhouse always had excellent shows back when I lived in La Jolla in the 90s. Excellent little theater, right there on UCSD campus.

117 Russell L. Carter January 2, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Vernor Vinge.

Interesting that the set of commenters here are unaware of him, as his politics are right up your (not mine) alley.

118 Willy January 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm

carne asada fries (more or less what it sounds like), a big chunk of the skateboarding industry. Let’s not forget that Mike Judge went to UC San Diego.

119 Gimlet January 2, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I thought Judge’s dad was a physics professor at UCSD?

120 FE January 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Perhaps the locale is so naturally perfect that the inhabitants see no need to generate culture. But I doubt anyone will top this put-down by Joe Queenan in Spy Magazine: “Omnia California, to paraphrase Julius Caesar, is divided into three parts. To the north lies San Francisco: cultured, affluent, gracious, refined, environmentally sensitive, ethnically harmonious. To the south lies Los Angeles: vulgar, bursting with cupidity, violent, racist, ferociously noncerebral, ecologically flayed. Hideous. Farther to the south lies San Diego, which has a zoo.”

121 Orange14 January 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Best climate in the USA – very little rainfall to spoil outdoor activities, moderate temperature and humidity. I grew up in the absence of air conditioning and we only needed a little bit of heat in the winter.

122 Bill Marder January 2, 2013 at 3:49 pm

“Some Like It Hot” started in Chicago but ended happily in San Diego.

123 Chris White January 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm

The Cat in the Hat? Green Eggs and Ham? How The Grinch Stole Christmas?

124 msgkings January 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Nice one. That has to be the main cultural person from SD, Dr. Seuss.

125 Barkley Rosser January 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Probably only place with a museum in/on an aircraft carrier, USS Midway. Also, the zoo may be the best in the US and one of the best in the world.

126 Rob Sickel January 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Blink 182! Jason Mraz! P.O.D!

127 CG January 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm
128 axa January 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

james ellroy’s noir, violent & fictional universe started in San Diego: http://www.insidesocal.com/sgvcrime/2008/06/24/the-geneva-ellroy-murder/

129 jawajames January 2, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Dr. Seuss.

and back in the day (like the 90s), San Diego was the meth capital of the US.

Phil Mickelson and Scott Peterson played on the same high school golf team at Uni.

130 David Youngberg January 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I suggest the Russian-Georgian restaurant Pomegranate, located in University Heights. My fiance and I love it and we’re currently trying reverse engineering their carrot and beet salads. The lobio is also good.


131 Sunset Shazz January 2, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Does V.S. Ramachandran count? Excellent as neoroscientist, as well as epistemologist of medicine.

132 Sunset Shazz January 2, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Does V.S. Ramachandran count? Excellent as neuroscientist, as well as epistemologist of medicine.

133 David January 2, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Assuming you include La Jolla within San DIego, Dr. Seuss spent the latter half of his life in La Jolla and wrote most of his children’s books then, including Cat in the Hat.

134 Howl January 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I suppose the real answer is that, no, in comparison with New York, Chicago, DC, San Francisco, and LA, San Diego is not a cultural powerhouse. It draws the comparison because of its size. But San Diego is fundamentally different.

At heart, San Diego is not a bustling metropolis. It’s a sleepy little beach town that only really blossomed with WWII. If you come in expecting London, you’ll be disappointed. If you come in seeing it for what it is–a beautiful beach town that expanded because of the Navy, Marine Corps, and a great science university–you’ll get the feel right.

As far as what San Diego does well, well: the Navy does good things out in the Bay (and especially on the beaches of Coronado). The Marine Corps does good things at Pendleton and Miramar. The smart kids do good things up at UCSD. The cute kids do drunk things over at SDSU. The sports teams always suck, but we forgive them, especially when the Raiders are in town.

San Diego is not a city big on “culture,” but it is a lot of fun. Go to the San Diego Zoo (or, even better and less packed, the Wild Animal Park/Safari Park). Go tour the USS Midway, parked out in the bay. Go give some of your money to our local sovereign nations out at Viejas/Sycuan/Barona. Stroll through the amazing Balboa Park. Eat some carne asada, and watch the sun go down from the cliffs of Torrey Pines. Lament that you aren’t in San Francisco, then count your blessings that you’re not in Tampa or Dallas or Salt Lake or Phoenix.

135 ap January 2, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I learned all I needed to know about brutalist architecture just by walking by Geisel library at UCSD.

136 TropicsM January 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Well it deserves more than a straight dismissal but its not the most exciting town. Still, it has its own set of tribalism http://tropicsofmeta.wordpress.com/?s=pocketing+diversity+ and there is always Legoland in Carlsbad http://www.kcet.org/socal/departures/landofsunshine/intersections/building-nostalgia-disney-legoland-and-southern-california.html

137 Peter Schaeffer January 2, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Winter is the wrong time of year to visit San Diego. I suggest Del Mar on July 4th.

138 Steven Kopits January 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Obviously, James Hamilton.

139 curmudgeonly troll January 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm

General Atomics

Some Beach Boys lyrics

The gateway to Tijuana

140 curmudgeonly troll January 2, 2013 at 5:32 pm

actually Some Like It Hot was filmed at the Del Coronado, as a stand-in for Palm Beach and The Breakers (or something)

141 Paul January 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Surprised this hasn’t been mentioned: Tony Hawk

142 Willitts January 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Communist-Free Coronado.

143 Miramar Pendleton January 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Culture? We don’t need no stinking culture! We have the best violence the human species has ever seen! Aircraft carriers, nuclear missiles, drones killing half a world away, Blackwater, bad ass Navy Seals. If it wasn’t for San Diego, all those guys from your town who joined the Marines would still be living there. What more do you want?

144 Steve Sailer January 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm

San Diego is central to the evolution of 20th Century zookeeping. The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the Wild Animal Park were highly influential.

Mt. Palomar was the world center for astronomy for a couple of decades after WWII.

In general, lots of scientists and technologists. Not as many as the San Francisco Bay, but way out ahead of the national average.

Lots of culturally talented young people grow up in the San Diego, but usually wind up in L.A. for their careers For example, Gore Verbinski, Oscar-winner for “Rango,” grew up in La Jolla, son of a Polish refugee nuclear physicist, but moved to L.A. for his punk rock and movie careers.

Conversely, famous L.A. figures, such as Raymond Chandler and Joseph Wambaugh, often live in northern San Diego County.

It’s really too much part of greater Southern California to have all that distinct of a profile.

145 Steve Sailer January 2, 2013 at 7:03 pm

For movies filmed in San Diego, the amazing Coronado Hotel stars in “Some Like It Hot” and “The Stunt Man.”

146 Steve Sailer January 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Hang gliding at Torrey Pines.

147 Adam Calhoun January 2, 2013 at 7:29 pm

On further thought: perhaps the list should include science; this place really is special for that.

As noted above, Louis Kahn’s masterpiece is the Salk Institute, and is an architectural masterpiece.

Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) moved to La Jolla after WW2 and wrote many of his greatest works there, like The Cat In The Hat. The UCSD library is named after him, and the Geisel Library is indeed special architecturally.

148 Renee January 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Second generation San Diegan. El Indio by the airport (India Street at Washington, I think) is excellent take-out Mexican. Balboa Park, Zoo, Wild Animal Park, beaches, the weather. But given the crowds who continue to come here, it’s best if these things were kept a secret. So yeah, go to TJ. (And if you do go, I sincerely wish you the best of luck.)

149 Doug January 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm

It pains me to say that I think El Indio’s best days are behind it…

150 Jonathan January 2, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Had a good fish taco today at a tourist-trap kind of place. Maybe that’s another potential Cowen rule: if the ersatz culinary output isn’t too bad, that bespeaks a true quality for the more Cowenesque authentic places. My first day wandering around San Diego…. seems pleasant enough. Maybe the pleasantness makes cultural contributions impossible.

151 David Moye January 2, 2013 at 8:21 pm

As a native San Diegan — a fifth generation native — I can offer these examples.

1. Architecture. The 1915 Worlds Fair was instrumental introducing the Spanish-Mediterranean architecture that is common in the west coast.

2. Food. San Diego is home to taquitos and the Caesar Salad was invented a few miles south in Tijuana.

3. Frank Zappa lived here and was inspired to create his doo wop classical hybrid while here.

4. Theatre: The city is a place where innovative theatrical shows debut here before moving to Broadway.

152 DCBILLS January 2, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Geez, SD is among the best in several categories. Best climate in the 48. Many memorable restaurants, great seafood. Try the Pacific red snapper. Ocean Beach really is a trip, just don’t plan on killing a lot of time there. Nice horse track just north. Great nude beach (Black’s). Spectacular scenery, La Jolla Cove for example. If you must, Tijuana can be visited. Big parking lots on the US side. Park and walk over. Avenida Revolucion is the center of activity. Nice dog track. Safe enough but not recommended. If you don’t want to go, I’ll be happy to take your place.

153 Jeff January 2, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Clearly none of you ever lived there. San Diego’s greatest cultural contribution is, of course,
The Chicken.

154 Paul Hrissikopoulos January 2, 2013 at 8:36 pm

The opening of Citizen Kane, Poltergeist Girl (RIP) & the only known footage of Jean-Luc Godard on the beach in tight clingy bathing trunks.

155 Tyler Cowen January 2, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Read what I asked for and I would say that you all, taken collectively, have failed to establish the case.

156 cthulhu January 2, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Sometimes just existing is enough.

157 David January 2, 2013 at 9:28 pm

From Wikipedia:

Fank Zappa
Tom Waits
Jonas Salk (late in life)
Mitt Romney (late in life)
Sally Ride (late in life)
Regis Philbin (briefly)
Gregory Peck
Michael Medved
Ray Kroc (this seems to me the most important)
Dennis Hopper
Tony Hawk
Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
Wyatt Earp (late in life)
Robert Duvall
Dinesh D’Souza (as an adult)
Cameron Diaz
Terrell Davis (personal favorite)
Ted Danson
Cameron Crowe
Annette Benning
Billy Beane

158 cthulhu January 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

San Diego is sort of like the slightly nerdy and shy girl (or guy, depending on your tastes) who stays in the background, but once you ask her/him to dance, turns out to have the nicest eyes and most sparkling smile you’ve ever seen, and when you dig deeper, knows how to prove theorems in multivariable calculus, cook a tasty ahi steak, play a ripping blues guitar solo in the mixolydian mode, catch the point break at Swami’s, discuss the finer points of all of Raymond Chandler’s novels (or Ted Geisel’s children’s books), and be a willing partner in the hottest sex you’ve ever had. You’ll fall in love and never want to leave (at least, until you try to scrape together the down payment for that house on the bluff in Del Mar). But you won’t understand what it’s all about until you ask for that dance…

159 Steve Sailer January 2, 2013 at 9:44 pm

San Diego County is home to a huge number of celebrities. However, most of them moved there after striking it rich. I suspect that people who grow up there are about as likely to become celebrities as in most pleasant secondary cities, but they seldom become celebrities in San Diego.

Only a few celebrities grew up there and stayed there while becoming famous (e.g., Phil Mickelson).

160 Nick January 2, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Mitt Romney is a current resident. Also, fish tacos. Up to you which is a greater contribution.

161 Larry Siegel January 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Nobody mentioned Dr. Seuss?

162 Andy January 2, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Dr Seuss was from La Jolla/San Diego.

San Diego is undoubtedly the micro/nano brewery capital of the country.

World class surf breaks.

San Diego is one of the top three biotech regions in the country.

163 Steve January 2, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Eddie Vedder is actually a pretty good contribution.

164 SD Native January 2, 2013 at 11:41 pm

in addition what’s already been mentioned….
Dr. Seuss (notice how the trees around La Jolla Cove look like his drawings)
Air Coryell
Cameron Crowe and Ridgemont (eh, Clairemont) High
La Jolla Playhouse

165 somaguy January 2, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Telecom and wireless, especially through the 1990s

Craft beer: see Stone. Also Pliny the Elder was invented in Temecula.

California Mexican


Some of the best Vietnamese and Japanese I’ve had outside Asia, especially for the dollar.

166 Kurt Schuler January 2, 2013 at 11:53 pm
167 The Hat on the Cat January 3, 2013 at 12:35 am

Surely Tyler of all people isn’t forgetting the inventor of green eggs and ham!? Dr Seuss wrote most of his books while in La Jolla.

168 Gray January 3, 2013 at 12:47 am

I think these haven’t been mentioned yet: Dr. Seuss (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr_seuss#Later_years), Shamu.

169 Veracitor January 3, 2013 at 1:21 am

Movie: THE STUNT MAN (Peter O’Toole, Barbara Hersey) by Richard Rush.

170 Carneasada January 3, 2013 at 2:29 am

Go see a show at the Old globe theatre in Balboa Park.

171 Viola Dace January 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

Only a San Diegan would think the Old Globe world-class theatre. It’s a joke in a fakey building.

172 "Syntropic" Swanson January 3, 2013 at 12:21 pm

That “joke” attracts well known actors and playwrights, and has been the launching point for quite a number of shows which have had successful Broadway runs and tours. Same is true for the La Jolla Playhouse.

173 mkt January 3, 2013 at 2:44 am

I’ll second the mentions of the Hotel del Coronado in “The Stunt Man” as well as the Old Globe Theater.

And there’s UCSD — Robert Engle and the late Hal White aren’t enough? And the campus has about the most interesting architecture and pubic art of any campus that I’ve been on.

174 Steve Sailer January 3, 2013 at 2:49 am

I count eight Nobel Laureates working in La Jolla between UC San Diego and the Scripps’ Institute:

UCSD Faculty Winners of the Nobel Prize

Currently, we have five UCSD faculty who are recipients of the Nobel Prize.

Year Won Recipient Department
1995 Paul Crutzen Scripps Institution of Oceanography
2003 Robert Engle Economics
1990 Harry Markowitz Economics
1995 Mario Molina Chemistry & Biochemistry
2008 Roger Tsien Chemistry & Biochemistry

Scripp’s Institute Nobel Laureates

Three of the Institute’s current faculty are Nobel Laureates:

Kurt Wüthrich, Ph.D., 2002 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, “for his development of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for determining the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules in solution”
K. Barry Sharpless, Ph.D., 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, “for his work on chirally catalyzed oxidation reactions”

Gerald M. Edelman, M.D., Ph.D., 1972 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, “for (his) discoveries concerning the chemical structure of antibodies”

175 Steve Sailer January 3, 2013 at 2:51 am

Tyler writes:

“End of story, unless you can tell me more. I’m sure to enjoy the weather, though I’ll look longingly at Tijuana just across the border.”

Dear Tyler:

Thanks for all the hard work you’ve done over the years to make America less like San Diego and more like Tijuana. As another contributor to this noble cause once said: “Mission Accomplished!”

176 Jim Hebert January 3, 2013 at 3:04 am

You might’ve missed the fact that two of the most renowned regional theaters in the country are in San Diego. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these shows:

La Jolla Playhouse: “The Who’s Tommy,” “Memphis,” “Jersey Boys,” “Spring Awakening” (all are Tony Award winners as best musical, and all had developmental or pre-Broadway productions at the Playhouse); plus “I Am My Own Wife” (Pulitzer and Tony-winner); “Peter and the Starcatcher” (currently on Broadway); “Hands on a Hardbody” (opening on Broadway this winter) and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (recent world-premiere musical that also may head to Broadway); many others.
Old Globe Theatre: “Into the Woods,” “Damn Yankees,” “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” (Pulitzer Prize), “The Piano Lesson,” “Two Trains Running” (the latter three all pre-Broadway productions of plays by the late August Wilson); “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”; “A Catered Affair”; “Allegiance” (recent musical about the Japanese-American internment; likely headed to Broadway); many others.

In other areas of culture (just thinking aloud here), some that haven’t been mentioned include visual artist John Baldessari, musicians Sara Watkins and Jewel Kilcher, and, of course, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, longtime La Jollan and namesake of the eye-popping central library at UCSD (he also wrote a few children’s books, I hear).

As is the case with any vibrant cultural scene, though, what’s important about it is what it gives to the local community. There’s plenty of intriguing art-making happening here that’ll likely never travel beyond the boundaries of San Diego. (I think of the Playhouse’s production last year of “The Car Plays: San Diego” – a series of amazing, mostly locally written 10-minute plays staged inside actual vehicles.)

Not really the city’s fault if you’ve never heard of this stuff; it’s there if you care to look beyond cliches.

177 colin January 3, 2013 at 3:59 am

It astounds me that Tyler didn’t mention Blink 182.

…Sorta seriously, there’s a good argument that that’s San Diego’s defining cultural contribution. In any case, they’re very representative of what San Diego has helped contribute to American culture, as is Tony Hawk. For lack of a better term, “skateboard culture” has for some time had an obvious influence on the under 20 set. PacSun, Hollister and Abercrombie remain institutions in wealthy suburban malls afaik. It’s probably waning now and it certainly was never especially sophisticated, but that combination of pop punk and extreme sports could definitely be called San Diegan, at least in part.

There’s also probably some commentary to be made about how a lot of San Diego’s culture doesn’t get exported. It’s a fairly provincial town in my experience. E.g. they seem to know they’re supposed to be disdainful of hipsters but they’re not clear on what exactly they look like. Coincidentally they have the same attitude toward weather below 45 degrees.

178 John January 3, 2013 at 8:18 am

WD40? Qualcomm? Marion Ross?

179 IVV January 3, 2013 at 8:44 am

Comic Con, Hotel del Coronado, Stone Brewing Company, Sea World, San Diego Zoo.

180 Viola Dace January 3, 2013 at 9:30 am

The reason San Diego is a cultural wasteland is because it’s not a real place. It’s a desert that’s been pimped out to serve the random fantasies of the people who move here. There is no indigenous architecture, food, literature, music other than of the native peoples who’ve been shoved out to their casinolands. The only city creeds are greed, development, and fake palm trees that don’t belong here. Imagine living in a place where the only thing people talk about is how great the weather is, and even that’s a kind of lie, especially if you live close to the beach. However, there is one spectacular item of note: the Salk Institute. A far, far second item is D. G. Wills Bookshop in La Jolla.

181 Thom January 3, 2013 at 9:45 am

America’s defining beer style, the West Coast IPA.

182 Aretino January 3, 2013 at 10:44 am

L Frank Baum supposedly wrote The Wizard of Oz while staying at the Del in nearby Coronado. The hotel has a small exhibit about this. A number of his books contain references to Coronado and La Jolla.

183 "Syntropic" Swanson January 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm

It is exactly for comments/opinions such as this that the 1915 Panama-California Exposition was created and held during the entire year, followed up by an add-on International Exposition in 1916.
San Diego 2015: Celebrating a Century of Creativity, Building Toward a Millennium of Sustainability creates the Opportunity to showcase to this blog writer and the World how the San Diego Region (founded 1769) has influenced Creativity over the last 100 years while bringing together creative minds from around the World to showcase how creativity has significantly changed out world and is now seeking solutions toward sustainability.
You want a tour of locations and events that have led to cultural, economic, and environmental changes – or to meet people that are making discoveries that will fundamentally change your future?
I’ve chosen to live in San Diego since 1958, and continue to believe that you haven’t seen its rise to global significance yet. Perhaps my efforts surrounding 2015, leading up to the Region’s 250th Birthday in 2019, will change not only this blogger’s impression of San Diego, it will change many others.
After all, the 1915 Exposition was not the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair, yet the actions back then led to San Diego as a Navy home port and attracted new economic investment to the Region – doubling population within 3 years.

184 Sebastian H January 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I’m not sure what cultural influence means here, but San Diego was instrumental in changing animal treatment from the circus/animals in cages model into the modern zoo/animals in habitats model.

185 Al January 3, 2013 at 12:43 pm

there’s a growing “wireless health” movement in the San Diego area (alongside of the large biotech research community). ok, maybe that’s not “culture” but these are increasingly useful science/engineering fields.

186 Vincent January 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Amazing that there seems to be only one comment about theater in San Diego. Yet many, many great and famous productions have originated here.

187 Michael Caton January 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

In general I agree. The biotech scene here is much more innovative than the Bay Area owing to being mostly small pre-clinical companies. Beyond that, there’s not much. San Diego is not a place people come to in order to work hard.

188 bmcburney January 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Ted Williams is a good answer and, of course, Jim Morrison went to HS in Coronado.

189 Michael Caton January 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm

The comment about 8 Nobel winners at UCSD is well-taken and that’s not nearly well-known enough. Until 2-3 years ago UCSD actually had more than UCSF, UCLA and Stanford put together, then UCSF got a few more. At the same time the intellectual life of UCSD remains separate from the life of the city in a way that’s hard to imagine with this level of research institution anywhere else. Fortunately I’ve seen signs that this may finally be changing.

190 Larry Siegel January 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm

The intellectual life of the University of Chicago is also pretty far removed from the life of the city. Most Chicagoans confuse it with University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago State, or Chicago City Colleges. The U of C doesn’t really stand out until you get well out of town, say, western China or southern India, where it’s one of the 8 or 10 U.S. universities where ambitious parents would consider sending their kids.

Harry Markowitz lives in San Diego.

Sorry to hear that Hal White is no longer with us. I just saw him a few years ago. He wasn’t very old.

191 Monica sighed... January 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm

In H. L. Mencken’s “The Sahara of the Bozart”, he writes,

“Some time ago a colleague of mine printed an article deploring the arrested cultural development of Georgia. In reply he received a number of protests from patriotic Georgians, and all of them solemnly listed the glories of the state. I indulge in a few specimens :
–Who has not heard of Asa G. Candler, whose name is synonymous with Coca-Cola, a Georgia product?
–The first Sunday school in the world was opened in Savannah.
–Who does not recall with pleasure the writings of . . .Frank L. Stanton, Georgia’s brilliant poet?
–Georgia was the first state to organize a Boys’ Corn Club in the South-Newton county, 1904.
–The first to suggest a common United Daughters of the Confederacy badge was Mrs. Raynes, of Georgia.
–The first to suggest a state historian of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was Mrs. C. Helen Plane (Macon convention, 1896).
–The first to suggest putting to music Heber’s “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains” was Mrs. F. R. Goulding, of Savannah.
“And so on, and so on. These proud boasts came, remember, not from obscure private persons, but from “leading Georgians”—in one case, the state historian. Curious sidelights upon the ex-Confederate mind!”

The comments on this thread have a similar tendency. Everyone who brings up “Anchorman” strengthens the impression: pleasant climate, nice beaches, but you’d better bring something to read.

192 Eric January 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Navy SEALs have been important as of late. The carrier that dumped UBL into the sea was based in Coronado too.

193 nonsensename1 January 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Not to be overly cute here, but it sort of depends upon how expansive our definition of “culture” is. During WWII hundreds of thousands of troops from various branches of the service or supporting the war effort shuffled through San Diego (as well as greater SoCal).

The exposure to a different type of climate and life that San Diego provided lead to hundreds of thousands of these men and women to leave Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania and start new lives. It meant they moved into ranch houses designed to take advantage of indoor outdoor living (which is now fairly ubiquitous). Every day being 72 and sunny leads to an ease of life which seems to make people generally more laid back. It creates a different type of culture and way of life.

Does San Diego have the musical culture of a New Orleans or the literary culture of New York? Of course not. Is putting french fries in a carne asada burrito or giving the world Ted Williams, Kevin Mitchell, David Wells and Ricky Williams a huge cultural advancement? Maybe not. But it is true that San Diego played a part in a Westward shift of our nation and that this shift changed how large parts of our population lived and acted and this culture has been exported to the rest of the country.

You can argue that this is just as much attributable to LA as San Diego. And it is indeed true that the way effort funneled through LA as well and more people settled in LA than San Diego. But LA is different. People go to LA to strive – to make it big in Hollywood or be in a major market.

San Diego has a particular cultural vibe that people are thinking of when they think of California cool. When Tom Wolf wrote about surfing culture it was San Diego surfers. When kids in Boston buy a video game or clothing from a skater of snow boarder they are buying the ones endorsed by San Diego surfers and snow boarders (Tony Hawk and Shaun White). And when homeowners enjoy a home easily melding indoor and outdoor living they are emulating the design the greatest generation funneling through Linda Vista identified as having advantages over the more formal layouts they grew up with. And I think that has to count for something when we talk about culture.

194 Blakester January 7, 2013 at 2:52 am


Trying to figure out what the columnist’s definition of ‘culture’, I think, made this process trickier than it should have been. Quite frankly, I feel the definition has been morphed to suit the needs of the author. Is San Diego a huge generator of national trends? No, but most of don’t give a s*&% about that. We live here because we want to live here. As a native but not lifelong San Diegan, the Old Globe and La Jolla Playhouse are huge contributors to both the local and the national (and eventually, international) culture. San Diego did not invent theater, nor did NYC invent opera, writing, or art. Doesn’t mean we don’t have our contributions. Oh, and Qualcomm, Karl Strauss (the true beginnings of the great SD beer revolution), and we have a tremendous biotech industry – leaving out Jonas Salk completely. I get most of his significance came before he arrived in SD, but what a footprint. And I dare anyone to discuss climate change without mentioning Scripps (SIO). I also love visiting the local museums, and the best in the world zoo – not far from where I saw the Ramones play when I was in college.

And the beaches. Check out Torrey Pines State Park. Where else has anyone seen a native Torrey Pine? No, not a cultural touchstone that will trigger others to plant the trees (they won’t take – they like coastal SD and an island off Japan), but for those of us familiar with SD, the Torrey Pine is a very recognizable, local tree (we only have about two native trees, so we’re fond of them – the other is the Coast Live Oak).

I am lucky in that I live in La Jolla at the moment (benefit of parents having bought early), and am looking at moving to Clairemont. To me, both of those locations, but really the proximity of those communities, is an essential definition of what San Diego is.

I would also like to call BS on fish tacos not being a SD contribution to US culture. Did SD invent? No. But fish tacos have been in play in SD since 1983. Yes, fish tacos would have eventually spread throughout the US – but we’re 30 years in, and the boom is recent, so I think SD (and Rubios in particular) deserve some credit for fish tacos in the US.

Is San Diego a great definer of cultural trends? Probably not. But we don’t really care. It’s taken the rest of country 50-plus years to figure out Mexican food (as best as you could have figured it out – all of my LA friends think the food is better down here) despite the fact that Mexicans have been making this food for hundreds of years. So, welcome, US to fish tacos. We’re glad you finally made it, even if we didn’t invent it.

195 pollycharlie January 3, 2013 at 9:25 pm

No one mentioned Jewel. I want to make sure the place where Jewel got famous is mentioned. It’s important.

196 Jennifer Imazeki January 4, 2013 at 1:51 am

Apparently most of the above commenters equates ‘culture’ with movies… But to focus on a different art form: San Diego has two of the best regional theater organizations in the country. Both the Old Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse have sent numerous original shows to Broadway, many that ended up with Tonies. And Balboa Park is an incredible urban park, similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Having grown up in the Bay Area, and lived in LA for several years, I always find it interesting how everyone overlooks San Diego but for those of us who call it home, that’s usually just fine.

197 John Mansfield January 4, 2013 at 9:56 am

The San Diego Chicken seemed to raise the stupid and annoying level of sports mascots nationwide.

198 Ben January 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Visual artists: Deborah Butterfield, Allison Schulnik, David Reed…. *Niki de Saint-Phalle (died there)

199 Herb Levy January 5, 2013 at 8:11 am

Because I know you have an interest in modern and contemporary “classical” music, Tyler, you might should also note the music department at UCSD which has been a center for many composers and performers of recent music as either faculty or students, including artists as varied as Chaya Czernowin, Charles Curtis, Anthony Davis, Paul Dresher, Mark Dresser, Tom Erbe, Robert Erickson, Diamanda Galas, Aleck Karas, Pillip Larson, Philippe Manoury, Pauline Oliveros, Roger Reynolds, Steven Schick, Rand Steiger, Bertram Turetsky.

200 Larry Siegel January 6, 2013 at 3:54 am

Niki de St. Phalle’s stunning piece of public art at UCSD, the “Sun God.”

The rest of the Stuart Collection at UCSD. Some magnificent, some ordinary.

The Birch Aquarium, a masterpiece of architecture in harmony with its surroundings.

201 Larry Siegel January 6, 2013 at 3:55 am

@Herb Levy: Also Joseph LaRosa, although he’s a classicist (Bach) not a modernist and he has departed for paid employment at a university in Louisiana.

202 JLonsdale January 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm

A large amount of surf culture, Dr. Seuss and Caesar salad.

Considering its size it seems like it should have had a larger impact, but many of the things it did were caught up in the general “Southern California” theme and Los Angeles gets credit for “Southern California.” Also, most people who want to work in an area that impacts culture would default towards living in Los Angeles over San Diego.

203 David January 8, 2013 at 2:02 am

In no particular order. Some mentioned before:

Dr. Seuss
Top Gun
Some Like it Hot
Iron Butterfly
Taco Bell
Jack in the Box
No Fear
Jack LaLanne
Silk Stockings
Almost Famous
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Blink 182
Microbrewery Capitol of the Western Hemisphere.
Qualcomm (has a chip in your phone I bet)
Comic Con
Salk Institute

204 David January 8, 2013 at 9:35 am

How nice of Wordpress to ignore my line breaks. Males the list so easy to read. Not.

205 Ric January 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Cultural contributions / icons of San Diego. Just a few…
1. Um, Balboa Park!?! The largest urban cultural park in the nation – bigger than Central Park. 15 museums.
2. Star of India – oldest still sailing ship in the world and former immigrant ship taking folks from Great Britain to/from New Zealand before the big boats
3. The Berkeley – the beautiful old ferry that used to take folks from the East SF Bay to/from SF.
4. 55 playhouses in San Diego.
5. Stingaree (aka Gaslamp Quarter) – beautifully restored 1800s buildings all over 4th, 5th, and 6th Ave.
6. Hotel del Coronado – a beautiful 1800s hotel whose architecture has been ripped off around the world
7. Like they said above – Comic Con is the premier launching vehicle for SciFi/Fantasy movies and television shows
8. Like they said above – Craft beer is among the best. My relatives from Atlanta fly out here just to check out the breweries.
9. Like they said above – San Diego Zoo is among the best in the world.
Outside of Boston, NYC, SF, and DC, I’d put our culture up against any other city in the world. Yeah, I’m talking to you LA.

206 Chris Reed January 8, 2013 at 6:19 pm

When San Diego is the biotech capital of the world during the coming biotech/nanotech revolution, maybe Tyler will do some reassessing.

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