Slick Video Commentary on Suburbia

The delightfully well-done video below doesn’t have anything to do with Seattle real estate specifically, but given that the Jonathan Coulton song (one of my favorites) is an amusing commentary on sprawling suburban life and American consumerism, it’s at least tangentially related. Enjoy.

Credit goes to Jonathan Coulton for the music and Jarrett Heather for the video.

Hat tip: BoingBoing

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    JAKE says:

    This made my day.

  2. 2
    YetAnotherTim says:

    Enjoyed this, and it reminds me why I don’t want to move to Suburbia.

    I’ve been reading this blog for a couple months since moving to Seattle from DFW for a job and because this is a part of the country where my wife and I have long wanted to live. We sold our house quickly by-owner, and thankfully, in my old college-town neighborhood (Denton, TX) we never saw the bubble or the huge declines. We were able to escape with some liquid equity, but home prices here are ridiculous compared to what we’re used to paying.

    Now I rent in upper Queen Anne while I figure our what to do next. I love it there. 10 minute bus commute to work in Belltown/Lower QA, great shops and restaurants in walking distance, good public elementary for my kindergartener… wish I could afford to buy there.

    We’ll probably start looking hard and making offers in Ravenna / Bryant / Wedgwood / View Ridge in the spring/summer. It seems to be a good mix of “affordability,” city conveniences, and decent public schools.

    Any other neighborhood recommendations? I haven’t really considered the south or west sides yet…

  3. 3
    YetAnotherTim says:

    Oh, and HUGE thanks to TheTim and all the great posters here. This site has been an excellent introduction to the market and analytical resource for me.

  4. 4

    Great song, and if you’re not familiar with Jonathan Coulton, his song ” Code Monkey” is brilliant as well.

  5. 5
    ray pepper says:

    Sorry Tim, that song did nothing for me……….I gotta stick with this housing song to tap my feet to:

  6. 6
    Scotsman says:

    It’s early, but I’m off to Applebees. What else is there to do?

  7. 7
    One Eyed Man says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 6

    So you’re the one who threw up in my yard!

  8. 8
    willcasp says:

    … all we want to do is eat your brains….

  9. 9
    hinten says:

    There is nothing worse than elitist harping on about how much smarter and hipper they are than the rest.

  10. 10
    hoary says:

    LOL! I just took down the flag above the door to put up the Christmas lights for the year! Love every minute of my scripted, consumerist, suburban fairy-tale.

  11. 11
    Da Buddha says:

    In the last week here in rural Mexico I have seen a five-year-old girl hit by a pickup truck on a dirt road and less than a block away, a puppy killed by another car that was parking in front of the small home where the puppy lived. The girl’s arm was nearly severed at the elbow and I tried my best to calm the family down as to not scare the girl any worse than she already was.

    You tell me — better than surburbia?

    How about we all give up our Westernized “excessive” luxuries and live like these poor folks in rural Mexico? IMO, the only reason people feel “empty” in Western civilization is because they do their best to do what the media tells them to do; i.e., take a crap on all religion. Give up your spiritual life and it won’t matter if you are king of the world or Gaya queen of the green eco-sphere — it will all seem like crap to you.

    The life of the hungry ghost… always blaming internal unhappiness on the “other” and a failure to realize that all external phenomena begins internally, first.

  12. 12
    Dirty_Renter says:

    hahaha…this song reminds me of my mother’s claim that my father had ‘convenient’ hearing to go along with his convenient memory.

    Here’s a song which defines the battle currently being waged in King county between home buyers & sellers:

  13. 13
    Chuck Ponzi says:

    Unfortunately, I live in Orange County, CA, which is 80 miles of suburbia.


  14. 14
    Still Anonymous says:

    I really regret not having the opportunity to pay $600K for a 400 sqft condo, street parking extra for evil car owners, that would allow me to further be able to look down on the burb types in between chasing the urinating hobos away from my doorstep.

  15. 15
    HappyRenter says:

    Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with living in the suburbs. Close relatives live on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s just idyllic out there, and when it snows it’s just like in a fairytale. However, the amount of time and money spent in keeping up the house is immense. Add to that that you constantly have to keep all sorts of reserves in food and gas when the power goes out and the roads are blocked for days after winter storms.

  16. 16
    EconE says:

    RE: hinten @ 9

    And the delicious irony is that a gajillion hipsters will download this song onto their I-pods, disconnect themselves from society while they scooter over to “PAX” so that they can further disconnect.

    A better song would be ‘Burning Down The House’ by Talking Heads.

  17. 17
    B&W NIkes says:

    Nice! The type is stunning, done by wizards! This one by Soundgarden is nice and ambiguous:

  18. 18
    Sparsecus says:

    The only guys who complain about “sprawl” and how bad suburbia is are people who don’t live there, professors of “urban studies”, corrupt contractors who want to build $400 Trillion dollar “infrastructure” and aging hipsters riding bicycles with red rimmed wheels who have to justify why they never got a real job and are serving gourmet cupcakes alongside community college students.

  19. 19
    Sparsecus says:

    RE: Sparsecus @ 18

    Oh, and here’s the original:

  20. 20
    voight-kampff says:

    yeah… take that you shop-vac having fascists!!!

  21. 21
    Hugh Dominic says:

    PRE: Da Buddha @ 11 – our choices are poverty or suburbia? I don’t see the connection.

    I grew up in suburbia. The only good thing about it was the feeling of cultural awakening that I had when I left it.

  22. 22
    Gene says:

    RE: Sparsecus @ 18

    I complain about suburbia, and while I don’t live there now I did for most of my life. I don’t fall into any of the other “complainer” groups you mention. The way most of current suburbia was designed and implemented is pretty much a disaster in the long term. In general – and there are exceptions – it isolates people from one another and requires cars to get most places. Cars are pretty darn expensive when you look at cost to own/lease, insure, fuel – not to mention the health related costs from emissions and the fact that typically suburbanites get less physical activity.

    Urban areas can and have been designed pretty poorly too, but the one of the reasons the cost of homes can be higher is that more people want to live there. In many cases urban areas are places that are more social, vibrant, and creative — places where people interact more.

    There is certainly a place for both, and definitely for rural areas, but we really can’t keep building suburbs (or cities for) the way we have been.

  23. 23
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Gene @ 22

    Pfft. Cars and suburbia as destructive elements in society are a worn out ’70’s meme. Cultural anthropologists need to update their villains. The new residence of evil, of isolation, of the disconnect from our humanity is even more insidious, transcending class, geography, religion, sex, and age. Yes, I’m talking about . . . video games and the internet. Gasp!

    P.S. Have you ever driven through western Washington, let alone western Montana, or Nebraska, Iowa, pretty much any part of the country more than 80 miles from one coast or the other? The amount of empty space is mind boggling. Six hundred miles of empty western Montana, let alone the Dakotas, etc. will convince anyone that room to grow is not an issue.

  24. 24
    Jonness says:

    By Scotsman @ 6:

    It’s early, but I’m off to Applebees. What else is there to do?

    Well, you could always provide us a great on topic post relating macroeconomics to the local housing market :)

  25. 25
    redmondjp says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 23
    You nailed that one, Scotsman!

    I live in Redmond down the street from a cluster of $750K McMansions built about 8 years ago right on top of each other, and I like to walk through the place every now and then. A couple of summers ago I did, on a PERFECT summer evening, about 70 degrees, one of those days when it should be illegal to stay indoors. And these houses have decks off of the master bedrooms and large porches with seating areas so there are plenty of places where people could sit and easily converse with their neighbors doing the same a few paces away.

    What did I see? Not a SINGLE person outside at all. Pass house #1, see somebody on a computer inside. Pass house #2, ditto. This whole “virtual community” on the internet has almost destroyed REAL communities, I can guarantee you that many of the people in that neighborhood don’t even know the names of those living within a few feet of them.

    Sad . . . On the flip side, however, when there is a major disaster or a big storm with no power (and hence no internet), THEN you get out and meet them!

  26. 26
    Chewy says:

    Building on the songs theme, how about ‘Subdivisions’ by Rush. I think it sort-of nails it.

    Imo living in the suburbs (meaning low density sprawl where SF housing is separated from all other land uses) is not a very attractive lifestyle. 15 minute drive, two miles to teh local big box complex to pick up some lighter fluid you forgot to pick up for teh BBQ on the drive home. Hour drive to work. No place to walk to. No amenities. all day Saturday cutting the grass. No interaction w/ neighbors cause the only thing you see across teh street is the front of their 3-car garage. No vibrancy.

    Not to mention the social costs in the form of higher costs (for everyone) for public services (fire and police due to longer travel times and the need to build more stations, road construction and maintenance, utility costs), air pollution, traffic congestion. loss of habitat,etc. It seems to me people have been told to desire this and many never stop to consider the pros and cons of such a lifestyle vs. city life. I do own a shop-vac though….Dang liberal hypocrite.

  27. 27
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Chewy @ 26

    ” I do own a shop-vac though….Dang liberal hypocrite.”

    Well that sucks.

    OK, sorry- I’m off to my room. . . Slow day.

  28. 28
    Sparcecus says:

    RE: Gene @ 22

    “it isolates people”

    Really? I guess the 100 people I was with last night in Auburn Peppertree in (which I drove to) were cardboard cutouts. And the 20 people at my advisory group meeting I was at on Monday the same. And the thousands at Southcenter. People? Not really…according to…you…

  29. 29
    Still Anonymous says:

    RE: Chewy @ 26

    I just don’t get the suburban “isolation” argument. Are folks in downtown Seattle just stopping each other on the sidewalk to yuk it up all the time? Of course not – they just ignore each other as they go about their business. I guess as an urbanite you can at least pretend that walking past someone = social interaction. And high-density living leads to people living all up in your grill, so it appears that everyone does put up the walls to push others back.

    If I’m overly-generalizing by saying “everyone,” well I think overgeneralization has been declared fair game since according to this thread, “nobody” in the suburbs talks to anyone else, “everybody” lives in McMansions and spends 6 hours mowing the lawn, makes 1-hour round trips to immediately purchase whatever $.99 trinket pops into mind, and is a cultureless rube. (Hanging out at the local brewpub doesn’t make you culturally erudite.)

    As for the bulldozing of the environment: I bet I have more trees on my small corner of the world than the average condo tower.

  30. 30
    racket says:

    RE: Sparcecus @ 28

    ” In many cases urban areas are places that are more social, vibrant, and creative — places where people interact more.”

    Yeah, Seattle Schools are much better than the ones in the crappy burbs. Your children can get culture, from the hobos in the park, or get ran over while playing in the street by a speeding Prius since you have no yard to play in.

    You still have to have a car because your kids can’t take a bus to their sports games.

    By culture you mean being immersed in people that can afford to pay $500,000 for an 800 square foot chocolate box.

    There is culture in the burbs, a sense of community as well. It’s not unique to urban areas. I would say the sense of community is actually less in urban environments.

    But honeslty, I think if you live in Queen Anne, or Magnolia, this song applies to you as well. Nothing really different from those neigborhoods, than the burbs except the commute times, and the house prices.

  31. 31
    Over Invested says:

    I agree with many of the previous comments in that this video is pure hipster garbage. The people who made it should focus their artistic efforts on something more meaningful instead of just regurgitating the same old tired sentiments that have been around since the 50s. One of the problems with the suburbs is that it generates pretentious, smug, ungrateful, privileged youth who are still working through issues with their upbringing and mommy and daddy at the age of 40.

    Not all of us with kids can afford a downtown loft or a house on Capital Hill. And I seriously doubt those who made this video would feel comfortable living in, say, downtown Oakland, North St. Louis or Detroit.

    Shame on you Tim for featuring this video on your site and thereby giving credence to its message. I thought Seattle Bubble was a site that gave a unbiased view of real estate in the Seattle area and not a short-sighted editorial on where people choose to buy their homes.

  32. 32
    Racket says:

    Anyone buy the cheap shop vacs at lowes on black Friday?

  33. 33
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Racket @ 32

    My neighbor got one, $30, down from $100 or something? He was pretty excited- but then we live in the country, where shop vacs are a survival necessity. And our idea of a project involves more than just putting out the Brie and crackers.

  34. 34
    EconE says:

    RE: Racket @ 32RE: Scotsman @ 33

    If you don’t need a wet/dry vac, I recommend the 4hp Metro Vac n Blo for about $200.00

  35. 35
    Scotsman says:

    RE: EconE @ 34

    Yeah, that’s nice! I like all the car specific attatchments.

  36. 36
    Peter Witting says:

    IRE: YetAnotherTim @ 2
    I’ve owned in View Ridge since 1994. Great neighborhood, solid 1948 house with view of downtown, close to the right things (downtown, the U, freeway access) – but affordable? Dunno on that aspect. Living in Seattle is incredibly expensive.

    You might also consider the north part of West Seattle, which is similar in many respect to View Ridge.

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